back to article IBM slices heavy axe through staff in the US

IBM axed a wedge of workers today across the US as part of an "aggressive" shakeup of its business. Big Blue was due to lay off some staff at its Global Technology Services (GTS) wing in America back in January. That headcount chop was postponed, with the cuts being pushed back to this week and with more than GTS workers …

  1. QuiteEvilGraham

    Just so long as they don't fuck up z/Series, z/OS and DB2. IBM are just as bad a services company as anyone else. Peerless as a technology company though. It's getting damned hard to figure out what they are up to these days.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      I'm not sure they have figured it out themselves yet. Sure, lots of strategic this and strategic that in the press releases, but what is the strategy?

      "Where do you see yourself in five years, IBM?"

      1. GrumpyOF

        Why doesn't Ginny Just Ask Watson for strategic advice?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Watson's advice..

          Ginny: What should I do Watson?

          Watson: The same thing I told you yesterday

          Ginny: I'm not leaving...

          Watson: :(

          Watson: Same time tomorrow?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      IBM lost its way when it caved in to Microsoft and canned OS/2. It has been floundering about trying to work out where it should go since then.

      Just hope there are some very very large organisations using z/OS and DB2 or that will be gone as easily.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, the mainframe was and is to this day, IBM's best product.

      1. Fungus Bob

        "the mainframe was and is to this day, IBM's best product."

        No, that would be the automatic sequence calculator

        Not sure if the sailor was standard equipment, tho...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You wot mate?

      "IBM is aggressively transforming its business to lead in a new era of computing,"

      but then: "Jobs are being shed at IBM's Cloud Managed Services...."

      We need better cloud -> Lets fire all our cloud people...


        Re: You wot mate?

        You don't actually think that IBM managed services is really a cloud offering, do you?

        1. NoneSuch Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: You wot mate?

          The "Cloud" portion of their services is the NSA datacenter in Utah.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You wot mate?

        It is difficult to find anything in IBM which is not rebranded as cloud... SVC is cloud.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You wot mate?

        Jup. That has pretty much been the strategy, fire the people who actually understand the technical side of Things.

        Also much easier as a Manager with a non technical education, to bully a 22 year old 'Young professional' with a bachelor in business administration who's main skills are excell on user level, and being active on social media.

        // Jesper

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      H-1b scum alert

      Easy to figure them out - they are an H-1B employer. They are filled with incompetent but cheap IT staff. Simple as that.

  2. John 104

    Effing H1B

    Nothing against foreign talent, but when talented people are axed and visa holders get to keep their jobs, only for less pay, I get really pissy. Just wish there was something that could be done about it. However, the laws are made by elected officials. Officials are elected by way of back room pay offs by the companies who hire the H1B folks in the first place. So not much hope.

    1. KeithR

      Re: Effing H1B

      "Nothing against foreign talent, but when talented people are axed and visa holders get to keep their jobs, only for less pay, I get really pissy"

      Welcome to capitalism.

      1. Fungus Bob

        Re: Effing H1B

        "I get really pissy" "Welcome to capitalism."

        The origin of the term 'trickle down economics'....

        Mine's the one that's soaked in (hopefully) my own urine.

        1. s5PGmU

          Re: Effing H1B

          That made me laugh. Have an upvote!

    2. naive

      Re: Effing H1B

      Wishing the IBM employees who lost their jobs, the best in finding new employment.

      Good thing is they now have the opportunity to stop this corporate outsourcing greed destroying American jobs, by voting for the right candidate.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Effing H1B

        As someone who has been both an IBMer and a customer, the problem for IBM is that many of their solutions are VERY expensive. Some of the IBM solutions are VERY good, but not all of them.

        This has enabled other IT service companies to provide expensive solutions to customers in competition to IBM.

        Unfortunately, IBM management think the solution is to stop developing VERY good solutions and instead just driving down the costs of their existing solutions in the hope that they will become more competitive. It has sort of worked (see financial results) but the short term gains are at the expense of the long term future of the business. In the meantime, their competitors continue to develop better products...

        i.e. for cloud (IBM's next big thing...), what does IBM offer to distinguish them from AWS/Azure/a big hosting provider like Rackspace or Sungard? OK, what does IBM offer other than a significantly more expensive solution AND immaturity in the cloud space...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Effing H1B

          what does IBM offer to distinguish them from AWS/Azure/a big hosting provider like Rackspace or Sungard?

          Nothing. But Gini will be getting a big bonus (c$13.3m of options for 2015) on the back of all the sackings, and because those are locked in for a few years, she has to keep the company in business and solvent to reap her rewards - but longer term growth beyond her options vesting date doesn't matter. Cue sackings, high prices, and reduced investment in long term growth products.

          Regarding people like Rackspace, they've got a mere $3bn market cap. All Gini and her overpaid greedster C-suite colleagues need to do is tweak the IBM dividend down a bit, or up the IBM debt mountain (net debt around $46bn) and they can buy them without a thought. Then its a case of cut staff, cut development, increase prices, and report the results as "growth". When they've hollowed out whoever they acquire, it is a case of rinse and repeat. Wall Street don't care, they take a cut each time an acquisition goes through, and so long as the Federal Reserve keep printing money, the share price might keep going up as part of the state+corporate Ponzi that passes for wealth creation these days.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Effing H1B

            Exactly. He was mixing some categories... AWS/Azure are similar... Rackspace partners with the cloud providers (hyperscale, like AWS/Azure) and provides managed services.... I'm sure Sungard has a service, but really on the cloud radar.... IBM is trying to compete with the hyperscalers, but it is unlikely to work. They should probably take the Rackspace route.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Effing H1B

            A little late responding, but regarding the hosting/cloud categories:

            - AWS is largely new solutions/develop from scratch to give you availability, but is the clear leader for cloud hosting in terms of a mature, rich feature set.

            - Azure is the MS friendly cloud option. Not as mature or feature rich as AWS, but continuing to deploy

            - Rackspace/Sungard give mature, scalable hosting packages that are likely to compete in the Enterprise space that IBM is targeting. Sure IBM could buy them, but they have already brought Softlayer and buying another hosting company to provide data centres (IBM might already have a few...) or staff to layoff (cynical but true...) may give your share options a few more years to mature, but little else.

        2. Valiant

          Re: Effing H1B

          >> ? OK, what does IBM offer other than a significantly more expensive solution AND immaturity in the cloud space...

          Mandatory billing in US dollars only!

      2. GeorgeHilman

        Re: Effing H1B

        I have been around for enough decades to know better than to place much hope on anyone who might run for office, such as Mr. Trump, who met with the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, last August. Are these two "old friends" or now new friends?

    3. Mark 85

      Re: Effing H1B

      There's also the bit about "long-term employees" getting the axe. A lot of companies dump employees beyond a certain number of years because the pay and benefits cost the company profit. In the very short term it works. The loss of experienced people who know the systems, etc. will always come back to bite the company later.

      And yeah.. the H1B is just a means of boosting short term profits. No loyalty, no reason to go the extra mile for the company. A pox on this.

      1. a_yank_lurker

        Re: Effing H1B

        @Mark 85 - I am one of the more junior programmers in my group with my current employer. With any large code base and system there are plenty of moving parts that take a long time to fully learn. The long-termers are invaluable as they know how the moving parts interrelate and often why is done that way in the dark ages.

  3. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    Just a footnote about H-1B workers: it may be that a reason that contributes to why an individual with an H-1B doesn't get the chop is that, by definition, they have a limited shelf life: when the visa expires, they're gone. So bean counters may have included H-1B workers in the calculations, but left them off the mass firing because they'll be gone in a few anyway, and doing it this way avoids paying severance / having them on staff for 90 days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure your right and this is what happens in an environment where no citizens job is safe. America has made it far to easy to get rid of staff, so the cuts hit there hardest. All non-local staff should have to go first.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        yes but

        Its a double edge sword though. When its tough to get rid of bad employees you tend to see higher unemployment rates as employers become gun shy about hiring and employers do things like requiring detailed transcripts of high school grades for an employee with two decades of work experience. Compare some of the unemployment rates in continental Europe with the US. You may have less job security for any one particular job but its often far easier to get another job.

      2. joeldillon

        You're assuming employees are fungible. If an H1B guy is genuinely being employed because there's no-one local available who can do the specific job he's doing then he probably shouldn't be getting canned.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          because there's no-one local available who can do the specific job

          The US has in round numbers 8m unemployed, 6m involuntarily part time workers, 3m discouraged or marginally attached workers, and in total 94m adults not in the labour force.

          I'd suggest that if there's no locals to do the job, its either because the employer either isn't trying very hard, or because they are knowingly failing to pay a credible salary, or not offering training to do the job.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just a footnote about H-1B workers: it may be that a reason that contributes to why an individual with an H-1B doesn't get the chop is that, by definition, they have a limited shelf life: when the visa expires, they're gone

      Yes, then they hire a new crop of temporary workers who've already been trained in newer technologies and save money by starting them out at lowest wage.

      In the olden days, companies would have seen the value of retraining long-term employees to use the new technologies, but those days have long gone.

  4. cjcox

    IBM is just being IBM, no surprise

    IBM is *not* the company most people think it is. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite of their propaganda. Very sad.

    With that said, they patent everything (including junk). They are well armed for a patent Wold War... and the patents give them the ability to acquire pretty much anyone they want for whatever price they want. And while there have been glimmers of hope with many junk patents getting thrown out as they are used by smaller companies, one has to wonder if big blue's pockets are deep enough to silence the parties that would dare take a close look at their patents even if under dispute.

    Anyone I know that was "good" has long left IBM and I can honestly say, IBM doesn't care at all.

    So.. in a way I guess I'm saying "Who cares?" Let IBM continue to be IBM... seems to be working really well for them. :)

    ... building a smarter planet through attrition...

    1. asdf

      Re: IBM is just being IBM, no surprise

      The only difference is the stock buy back target is no longer explicit.

    2. Mpeler

      Re: IBM is just being IBM, no surprise

      Anyone remember the "good" old days when IBM meant "I've Been Moved"?

      I had a former colleague who was on the fast-track at IBM, whose manager came to him on a Friday and asked if he'd be able to move to another place (state) as part of a promotion.

      He replied that he'd like to talk it over with his wife (sounds reasonable to me.....).

      The manager then said he could pack his desk, as opposed to packing his bags.

      This was about 45-50 years ago, so some things haven't changed. Sometimes I think "The HP Way" was more marketing than reality, although it was MUCH better when Bill and Dave were around.

      Too bad no-one cares about "corporate knowledge" anymore. Could be why most corporations are tanking. Seems we "wrinklies" do have skills and knowledge worth keeping.

      And the highly-paid "management consultants" out of Dolittle & co. fresh out of school have a bit to learn. Who knew?

      In any case, all the best to those who have been cast aside and adrift, and to those left behind who will have to divvy up the extra work, whilst waiting for the next round.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Outsourcing jobs to the lowest paid talentless fuckwit.

    Their cloud is shit.

    Their servers are shit.

    Maybe the management should be first to go.

  6. a_yank_lurker

    Move along

    IBM is just another dinosaur lumbering towards death. The announcement is just weasel words from the management weasels.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK employees should do a web search for "redundancy pay precedent" to see if they can get a better payoff than that on offer.

    1. Secondrule

      Re: redundancy in the UK

      We can & we do. By law.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is sad, but IBM does this every year around this time. Like clockwork. It is just part of the strategy.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

      A Clockwork Orange?

      1. Eltonga

        A Clockwork Orange?

        A Clockwork lemon in this case.

      2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: "A Clockwork Orange?"

        Yep. A "bit o' the old in-out" to long-term employees...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the only end of IBM I see is the AIX and Power servers. From what I can see, these are being neglected, the quality of support these past few years is awful, and that includes field service who can't fix stuff after repeated visits per numerous anecdotes from folks I know.

    a/c because, well, just because.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, sadly IBM just considers systems the past.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, POWER does still kick butt, and much of the good local support people are still here (We still throw a party for the gang here once a year). But the business model for POWER is changing.

      And as an IBM customer, I agree that support is a shadow of what it once were. We are throwing out IBM products, not cause the product isn't great.. but cause the support sucks. We had a WW IBM VP here as a part of his tour of europe. Our story to him was.. we are dropping this storage product.. why.. the support isn't good enough.. it sucks.. you moved it to OUTSOURCING COUNTRY X.. and now the support sucks. Sorry, and no we won't be buying the new product Y, cause we don't trust your support anymore.

      AC... cause I used to Work there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, I used to work in IBM systems. Your complaint came up time after time. The customers were all essentially saying the same thing, we like the products and your support is awful. These are the root problems:

        1) People think when they are speaking with an IBM VP that they are speaking with someone in charge of something. Usually that is not the case. IBM has an army of VPs and all of them are, at best, sitting around a table of 20 people when things are decided. They may not be in the loop at all.

        2) Systems group doesn't own their own support. They are Global Services' internally customer. Global Services is... well, you know. When Systems group gets this bevy of complaints about support, they take them to the VP in charge of services and no action seems to take place.

        3) Outsourcing/Offshoring. That has undoubtedly caused a lot of the support issues for the reasons offshoring outsourcing doesn't work in general (skill gaps, bureaucracy run amok, language barriers, just the inherent difficulty of passing a complex problem from one person to the next). You cannot even say that this offshoring thing isn't working well at IBM though.

        4) Just general attrition and people caring less. A lot of the talent has left, one way or another, and the morale is pretty low. If someone thinks IBM is the greatest company in the world they are going to do a much better job than if they think they are getting hosed by IBM. In aggregate, morale makes a huge difference. The military understands the role morale plays and they can shoot people who try to leave... why IBM doesn't get it is beyond me. There is just a focus on financials at IBM and not the same focus on delighting the customer.

        A lot of these issues are the same at any big company, not really specific to IBM. The major difference is morale. You need employees who are motivated enough to work around things, simplify things, push stuff through the operational nonsense to get it done. It would be nice if companies wouldn't set up the operational nonsense in the first place but it is never going to happen because some operational VP sees risk everywhere which needs to be documented and handled. No one ever considers the risk of not getting anything done or getting it done so slowly that you lose in the market.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I really enjoyed working at IBM. I'm not just complaining for the sake of complaining. I hope IBM is able to turn itself around and become the company it once was again... but the first step is to accurately diagnose the problem and I don't think that has been done.

  10. niksgarage

    So sad

    I started work at IBM when they were nearly ten times bigger than their nearest rivals, who were DEC. I left them more than ten years ago, and even at that time, I had dodged the axe a few times to last that long. I have been happier, have been better paid since and I have found the freedom to focus on what I am interested in. Please can those people who are fearful of their jobs going have the confidence to take the money and run, go work for somewhere else where your skills and experience will put you in good stead. IBM is a great place to be from.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So sad

      Haha, "IBM is a great place to have worked" is what someone told me when I originally was hired by IBM (implication being that it is not a great place to work).

      There are definitely some downsides about IBM, constant layoffs, low salaries, idiots become managers (IBM), constant reshuffling of the deck.... I will say that I like and miss how process driven IBM is... people might complain about that, but I miss the organization.

  11. MikeT123

    Offshore fallacy

    4 years ago I suffered this problem, I trained my IGSI replacement, under a cosh from my incompetent line manager, then subsequently lost my UK role after long-standing career service spanning 2 decades. I resent the comment above about this happening only to bad employees, as I left amidst a mass talent exodus. I do find it ironic that Bangalore is now suffering the same strategy no doubt at the hands of the same bean counter..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Offshore fallacy

      Well, I sat in a more strategic architectural position. And I used a LOT of time cleaning up after IDC (International Delivery Centers) FooBars. And it was idiotic, my job was to do 'high band' IT strategy 'stuff', and I ended up cleaning up after people who didn't know what the f*** they were doing. I mean .. servers coming up without processors cause the people in the IDC had rather thay buy more capacity, had just activated 'trial and buy' processors.

      Or people doing cut and pastes from the documentation on procedures, and then not understanding that when you included a leading # (Root promt in an unix Shell) in a command like "# chlv -...", then .. didn't get executed, and .. well..

      Or people who didn't understand how to setup VMware so a whole transition into a datacenter went belly up with corrupted databases and all.

      So lets just say that when my manager fired me, when I attended what was supposed to be meeting about how I was to plan a maternity leave and doing a project for one of the Lab's at the same time.

      I was actually glad, I had 7 months of pay in which I didn't have to work, was free to take another job and got a fat bonus.

      Had my first job offer the next day.


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When will they acknowledge that the offshore mentality is strategically wrong!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When customers stop demanding services at ever cheaper prices?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In Bullshit Mode.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DB2 midrange is also dead

    And IBM murdered it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DB2 midrange is also dead

      Are you talking about iSeries?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IBM the stock buyback machine

    What strikes me is that the hot thing in the big it world " hyper-converged systems "

    you here/read a lot of HPE, Dell/EMC, Nuatinx, Cisco even Oracle and not a word about an IBM solution

    Which is strange with there experience they have in the mainframe ... they have to be the number one in this market...

    Crazy that they cannot translate their mainframe stuff in to a software-suit for x86 like vmware, nuatinx, etc are doing and making a lot of money

    (based on my reading here on the register ... so I could be complete wrong .. )

    but the IBM management are more wall-street brokers than IT engineers :

    sad sad

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IBM the stock buyback machine

      Yeah, they had the PureFlex, now at Lenovo. IBM basically punted on that market and x86 in general. I think the management's thought was/is that all of this is going to cloud in a few years anyway, so lets focus on cloud and not the intermediary hyperconverged step. I can't say I disagree with that take, but their cloud story is also faltering. They could easily be left out altogether. It does put their entire systems portfolio into legacy mode. AIX and i will hang around, but they are not going to grow again... IBM has stated that they expect the Power line to continue to decline. Mainframe is mainframe, shrinking by like 1% a year. Not going anywhere fast, but not going to grow either. Storage is in the most trouble as IBM really only does block based subsystems, which are losing relevance in the face of hyperconverged and, ultimately, cloud.

  16. Qassam ElShawarma


    90 days to clear desk and find new work + 1 month severance pay = ... let me see - 4 months severance pay.

    That doesn't sound very bad.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    More evidence that IBM =

    Indian Business Machines!

    IBM solutions are generally pretty expensive, but I can't believe that recurring rounds of layoffs are the answer. They've been doing this annually/bi-annually now for what, 15 years?? Any sign of a light at the end of the tunnel that does not signify an oncoming train?

  18. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    This from Schlock Mercenary

    Historical Note: 21st-century readers may be confused by what appears to be an IBM logo on what appears to be a conventional toilet. This depiction is neither an attempt to slight the fine business machines made by IBM, nor to malign toilets.

    In the late 28th century, the old Earth corporation, International Business Machines lost its trademark to a much larger, more powerful, intragalactic corporation. After all, by that time Earth's "IBM" was making outmoded processors that were still huge by galactic standards (nearly the size of an eyelash!), while the mighty galactic IBM, "Intragalactic Bowel Movements," was making top-of-the-line toilets for spacecraft.

    Intragalactic BM put up with Earth's little computer manufacturer for centuries before initiating the suit. They tried for over 130 years to resolve the trademark dispute out of court, but finally the Bowel Movement company decided not to take any more of IBM's crap.

    The tide of public opinion was in favor of Intragalactic Bowel Movements. After all, Earth's "IBM" made cold, impersonal machines, but IBM had form-fitting, self-sterilizing, heated toilet seats going for it. With successful media blitzes ("Gotta B.M.? Think IBM!" and "Where do you want to go today?") and the help of a few hundred Partnership Collective attorneys, Intragalactic Bowel Movements sued the relatively tiny Earth company, and took the trademark.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No direction

    Current UK IBMer here.

    IBM have a real problem. All their products are what I would call "platform" products. DBs, storage, app servers, messaging, integration tools, runtimes, all the stuff that partners/customers use to build their own solutions on top of.

    20 years ago this was great and the products were generally considered best-of-breed. Since then, with the gradual rise of internet and cloud, OSS and mega-providers like Google and Amazon, many of these platform products are now available cheaply or even for free online. Even Watson (which I put about 2 years ahead of current OSS equivalents) is going to get caught up pretty quickly.

    The product I work on is currently under threat from a popular OSS alternative. Whatever we do, we're going to get undercut by our competitors. One "solution" was to move it into the cloud (the current strategy-du-jour), but that is only catching up with the comp, not providing anything on top. And even then we can't possibly match them on price.

    IBM have acquired a lot of new IT companies who have always worked in the cloud. TBH, this is the only way IBM will survive. Up til now, these new companies have been allowed to operate fairly autonomously, which is good. IBM need to jettison The One True Process (tm) and allow itself to organise more like a federation of technology groups.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No direction

      The problem is management culture. To be quite frank, the majority of the people in IBM management don't really understand the business they are in, and they don't understand just a fraction of IBM technology. And the ones that do, understand the business, are so busy fixing problems that they are stuck in the lower levels of management.

      My last job inside IBM, I ended up with my first line manager being a gym teacher, and my second line was a naval officer. And all they cared about was the internal political game. And there were just to many 'fast track' political correct Guys in the technical leadership community, that also only played the political game.

      So all real innovation that was wasn't liniar with a low incline rate, so that the intelectual challenged managers could understand it, was quickly put Down with a big Axe.

      I did my first IBM cloud platform project back in 2000, it was a SaaS project, where us lead tech people were allowed to do it right, hence build a PaaS and an IaaS beneath the SaaS offering. Make a supporting self service portal, software distribution system. 3000 pages of documentation and 30K+ lines of code. And as the local Global Services depardement at the time didn't have a decent toolset for incident management etc.. A friend of mine also coded a rather solid Toolset in Notes.. yes.. notes.. which they insisted on.

      Now the problem with this project was that it basically was disruptive innovation. So after it was finished, it was basically canned, due to internal politics.

      And I have several more recent examples of this.


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    butter knife, not an axe

    A "heavy axe"??? Heck, there's so few people left at the company, they could use a plastic butter knife. And cutting down the management there would require rat poison and roach spray.

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