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Sometimes, computing and electronic manufacturers get it just right. They create products that are so compelling, few people can resist their charms. Take Apple's iPod, for example. Its ease of use and tight integration with the iTunes software almost make it a no-brainer. And despite its price, consumers are responding, quickly snapping up the little devices.

Similarly, organizations that are looking to either upgrade or replace their current IT systems may make their decisions based on a single tipping point--a hardware or OS function that's so vital it encourages them to almost immediately drop consideration of other competitive products. One company that found such a tipping point is Alpine Electronics of America. When deciding on which platform to run its newly acquired SAP ERP application, Alpine chose the IBM* eServer pSeries* server over the Hewlett-Packard (HP) systems it had been using, even though both platforms are capable of running the software.

For Alpine, that single factor was users' ability to dynamically shift computing resources as needed on the pSeries server, a function not available on the HP platform at the time. As far as Alpine was concerned, this was in fact the tipping point, and now it has four pSeries servers in use that have replaced the HP boxes. And according to Vasile Giulea, IS manager with Alpine, "If I need more CPU or memory during month-end processing, I can take that from my development or quality partitions and use them as needed. Then, after month's end, I can simply put it back from where I got it."

By tapping into LPAR on pSeries servers, Alpine can add, remove or move system resources such as processors, memory, PCI Adapters and I/O according to the needs of the applications running on the server. Applications run independently on their separate partitions within the same server, allowing administrators to shift allocated resources between LPARs if necessary.

Sophisticated Products

Most audiophiles will recognize the Alpine name. The company is well-known as a leader in "mobile multimedia," as Giulea puts it, including automotive "components for digital audio/video media, playback and digital broadcast reception, and satellite-linked navigation." Its customers include both major automobile manufacturers and after-market automotive retail distribution of branded products.

Headquartered in Torrance, Calif., it has additional manufacturing and support offices located throughout North America, ranging from Alabama to Michigan to South Carolina to Texas, as well as Mexico and Canada. All of these offices are connected to the headquarters via a frame-relay network that ties into the company's back-office systems, including a new pSeries 670 server, which runs an instance of the SAP ERP application. In addition to hosting SAP, that same box also runs partitions for development and quality assurance. One of the partitions has eight CPUs with 16 GB of RAM, and the other two each have two CPUs and 4 GB of RAM.

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at

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