IBM Servers: A Little ExtraBy Baselinemag | Posted 2004-09-01 Print
IBM's servers are worth paying more for, some say, because it has leading technology and service; others grumble that Big Blue runs like a bureaucracy.
IBM gets nods of approval for Intel-based servers designed with a keen eye for engineering detail, even if its systems tend to be pricier than rivals'.
The Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, Pa., swapped out Compaq servers two years ago in favor of IBM's. Ray Kase, the district's director of information technology, says his team evaluated IBM and Hewlett-Packard. The deciding factors, he says: IBM provided better integration between the servers and its own FastT networked storage systems, and the company seemed more technically astute.
"We felt very good about the experience we had with the IBM engineers," he says. "They were really trying to get to know our environment, asking very detailed questions." Kase says the district's 46 IBM servers have had "virtually no downtime, and we have 25,000 students and faculty who hammer those systems pretty good."
But some grumble that Big Blue still functions like an impenetrable bureaucracy. It's sometimes tough to locate the right people at a company with about as many employees (319,273 at last count) as the population of Tampa, Fla. "There were a couple of times when I had to scream at someone to get service," says André Mendes, chief technology integration officer at the Public Broadcasting Service, which was an early adopter of IBM's BladeCenter. Adds a top information-technology executive at a Fortune 500 company, who asked not to be identified: "Dealing with IBM is like dealing with the IRS. They're totally unresponsive."
Not everyone agrees with such assessments. In fact, IBM's highly responsive service puts it ahead of competitors, says Brendan Carlton, systems manager at the U.S. division of Huhtamaki, a Finnish packaging company. Huhtamaki's servers, for example, are set up to alert IBM of impending hardware failures. "A few times I've come into the office and there's an IBM guy there with a replacement hard drive," Carlton says. "And I didn't even know I had a problem." As for pricing, he allows that IBM is usually "a little bit extra. But I'd rather pay more because IBM service is second to none."
Meanwhile, Leo Hurtado, CIO of furniture retailer W.S. Badcock, which operates 330 stores in the southeastern U.S., says the IBM servers his company purchased last year were less than 10% more expensive than those from Dell or HP: "We're very happy with the price point."
IBM Operating Results*
* Fiscal year ends Dec. 31; YTD reflects first six months
Source: company reports
Total assets - $99.58B
Stockholders' equity - $28.83B
Cash and equivalents - $7.72B
Long-term debt - $14.42B
Shares outstanding - 1.71B
Market value as of 8/25 - $142.51B
**As of June 30, 2004, except as noted
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