EDS Changes Directions, Intends to Show Bias

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—Electronic Data Systems is choosing favorites.

In an announcement from the Gartner ITxpo, the $20 billion a year computer systems integrator said that it is forming an “agility” alliance that will create a computing platform based on products from: Dell, Cisco Systems, EMC, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Xerox.

Customers worldwide will be encouraged to use services based on this platform, said Robb R. Rasmussen, vice president of global alliances for EDS. In doing so, they will get the advantage of more support for the standard platform—and the ability to move more quickly to new features and services that are built to run on that platform.

Creating this EDS Agile Enterprise Platform is intended to drive down costs for customers, through scale and standardization.

However, fundamentally, it is a departure from EDS’ decades-old stance that it would act as an independent supplier of computing power from any source, not a single or handful of preferred sources.

“We are now naming a bias,” said Rasmussen. “But we will accommodate customers” who want to use products or services from a company that is not part of the alliance.

Notably absent from the alliance is International Business Machines. EDS was founded in 1962 by a one-time star salesman for IBM, Ross Perot. EDS was founded as an alternative to IBM.

At the time, IBM supplied complete computing systems, from software to hardware to services. It charged a premium for its soup-to-nuts mainframe-computer-based systems.

The EDS proposition to corporations was that it could achieve equal or better quality by providing an independent view and computing services from a wide range of suppliers. The company pioneered the field of “integrating” systems that involved mixing and matching products and services from many vendors.

Since then, EDS has competed with IBM. In fact, its primary rival in integrating systems or offering computing services for corporate customers is a unit of IBM known as Global Services.

As recently as the early ’90s, EDS and IBM Global Services were neck-and-neck suppliers of consulting, integration and managing of computing services. IBM now has taken a sizable lead in this market.Rasmussen said EDS will place 1,000 workers in an “agile development center” to create the new platform. About 200 of those workers will come from the partners it named.

A lab where the operations of the platform, design changes and the hooking of any particular application into it can be tested will open January 17, 2005, Rasmussen said.

In a prepared statement, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he expected the alliance would “take industry collaboration and innovation to a new level by applying the assets and expertise of key industry leaders and partners to a single vision.”

EDS is based in Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas.