IBM Global Services: Tangled Up in Big Blue

By Joshua Weinberger  |  Posted 2003-02-13

It's not as if IBM Global Services (IGS) is the underdog in the Linux market. Even though it wasn't the first one out there, once the parent company made Linux a priority, IGS has been tailoring many of its offerings for the penguin set—while taking great pains not to step on any open-source toes with its oversized feet.

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One IGS strength is the goodwill many of its clients have toward IBM itself. The PGA Tour has worked with Big Blue for more than a decade, says Vice President for Information Systems Steve Evans. "They understand our business and our applications," Evans says, which makes consulting contracts an easy decision.

Other customers focus mainly on the savings IGS can provide. Mobil Travel Guide Chief Information Officer Paul Mercurio was immediately taken by IGS's proposal that Mobil opt for IBM's Linux Virtual Services (LVS), which, he says, provides "substantial economic and operational benefits that ... no other entity offers." IGS's plan also allowed Mobil to focus on core activities rather than network operations.

And though IGS does offer a clear line of sight to the mother ship's Linux hardware—many IGS clients end up using the zSeries server platform and several have signed on with LVS—the division wears as a badge of honor its willingness to play the open source game, working within any Linux hardware and software configuration.

Mercury Insurance Group's Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Greg Schueman says IGS provided what he calls "a full surround" to his firm's Red Hat Linux deployment. IGS helped with a new clustering environment, and built custom kernels where necessary. Schueman says Mercury "looked at Red Hat consulting," but eventually decided that "IBM could get things done very quickly."

Unlike hardware and software, consulting's benefits are found in the individuals involved. Evans notes IGS's knack for "recruiting and developing people with good technological skill sets and good project-management methodology. They've been good at understanding my needs." Similarly, HON Industries Chief Information Officer Malcolm Fields places a great deal of emphasis on the breadth of IGS's human assets. "You really need quite a network to cover everything and not have a 6-hour drive—you need to have people where our factory is." IGS does.

Reference Checks

Executives listed here are all users of IBM Global Services' offerings. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Grede Foundries
Thomas Brockman
Technical Support Manager
Project: Purchased IBM's Integrated Facility for Linux to provide an additional processor for Linux on its IBM Multiprise 3000 mainframe. Despite being both an IBM Linux customer and a client of IBM Global Services (IGS), the company opted not to enter an IGS service contract for Linux.

HON Industries
Malcolm Fields
(563) 264-7076
Project: Furniture maker has a full-service contract with IBM Global Services, and is in the process of reducing its 50 HP Unix servers to perhaps a single one by the end of this year.

Mercury Insurance Group
Greg Schueman
(714) 671-6752
Project: Used IGS to build custom kernels that helped the California company coordinate the operations of 2,600 agents and brokers.

Mobil Travel Guide
Paul Mercurio
Senior VP, CIO
(847) 795-6721
Project: The guidebook and e-business travel company implemented Linux Virtual Services enterprise-wide in 2002, replacing a Windows-based server with an IBM zSeries running its database and other applications.

PGA Tour
Steve Evans
VP, Information Systems
(904) 273-3287
Project: Longtime IBM partner (and Linux user) used an IGS team to build its ShotLink system, and, later, retained IGS to develop its TourCast real-time data operation on Linux Virtual Services. Maintains an annual IGS services contract.

Company Profile

IBM Global Services
Route 100
Somers, NY 10589
(800) IBM-7080

TICKER: IBM (Parent company)
EMPLOYEES: 175,000 (division)

Warren E. Hart
Director, Global Offerings, e-business Hosting Services
Responsible for developing a new infrastructure service to run a Web-facing application, including bandwidth to servers; storage; security; middleware; and database software.

Samuel J. Docknevich
Americas Svcs. Executive, National Linux Practice
Helps clients design and deploy Linux; focuses on proving positive return on investment. Was part of IBM's e-Business Performance, Best Practices division.

Products & Services
Provides planning, development, and implementation of Linux applications and infrastructure services. Offers access to IBM's product line, including Linux Virtual Services—a form of utility computing that allows customers to tap into a managed server capacity, without the upfront hardware expenses.