back to article IBM CIO leaves for AWS – and Big Blue flings sueball to stop him

IBM has flung a sueball at Jeff Smith, its former chief information officer, because he's trying to go to work for Amazon Web Services. Big Blue filed a complaint [PDF] in a US district court in New York last week that says Smith “threatens to violate his one-year non-competition agreement by going into direct competition with …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asif AWS doesn't already know everything about IBM's cloud business from the thousands of ex IBM employees working at AWS already!

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Ha, yeah, if IBM didn't want people working for the competition, they shouldn't shed so many staff.

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    AWS a competitor for IBM? Really? I'd like to see IBM's figures to justify that they're even in the same league !!!

    1. Ducky1

      Do you doubt this is nothing but the truth....

      ...bcos everyone else does lmao

    2. uppland2

      Sales figures for 2017Q1 circulated in the press suggest MUSD 3500 for AWS, 1400 for M$, 600 for Google, and 500 for IBM.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. jdoe.700101

    Surely Mr Smith is not crazy enough to use company equipment whilst communicating with Amazon. If so, he probably deserves the attention of IBMs lawyers.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Indeed, and you'd have thought there'd be, oooh, maybe a log of which emails were sent from where to who,.... and that IBM would just look at those, instead of needing to inspect his devices,.... and if Smith had deleted all his emails,... maybe restore them from backup and have a look see?

      1. ArrZarr

        Are you accusing IBM of being Technically competent?

      2. fajensen

        That is not how its done. Bureaucracy always wants the victim to produce the very same information that Bureaucracy already has in full Hi-Rez, hoping that mistakes may be made in the process. Any inconsistencies can then be used as grounds for further investigations (and more bureaucracy) denial of service and other things that amuses the bureaucrats.

      3. Yes Me Silver badge


        His emails will certainly be saved on a company server too. But then, only if he did naughty things using his company email account. A CIO might just possibly know not to do that.

        Wiping your devices before handing them back to IT Support seems like normal prudent behaviour to me, although IBM did always claim that they drilled a hole in the hard disk anyway.

  4. eldakka Silver badge

    The complaint says Smith is one of “only a dozen” executives involved in top-level decision-making about IBM's next-generation cloud platform, has insider knowledge of IBMs security posture and was involved at the very highest level of internal discussions on IBM's transformation plan. If AWS can pick Smith's brains on any of those matters, IBM worries the cloud colossus will get an unfair advantage.

    Well, maybe they should have done more to keep Smith at IBM?

    You know, competed better on pay, conditions, etc.

    If they had of done that, made it such that Smith likes,wants and is appropriately remunerated to work at IBM, they wouldn't be having this issue.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, maybe they should have done more to keep Smith at IBM?

      I'd imagine as a very senior manager he was handsomely rewarded, far more so than the poor cannon fodder that Ginny keeps firing. And for once, I think I'm with IBM (first time ever!) in that long "non-compete" clauses are part of the game for senior executives. If he wanted the salary, perks and the power, then he chose to sign up and play by their rules.

      Complaining after the event that he doesn't think the rules should apply to him is just pathetic - if he didn't want to comply, he shouldn't have taken the role with IBM, or he should have chosen more wisely for his next career move.

      The big question is this, though: What skills would somebody senior from the struggling, screwed up mess that is IBM be able to bring to AWS? AWS virtually wrote the manual on cloud, and its a shame that they aren't competent to train and develop their own talent. Moreover, anybody promising who has just been passed over will likely move on in a game of musical chairs, and AWS will have the instability from bringing in somebody that the remaining AWS staffers have zero confidence or trust in. Looking at IBM's performance, they're probably right.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If he's joining AWS, as a customer I'm leaving AWS.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Complaining after the event that he doesn't think the rules should apply to him is just pathetic - if he didn't want to comply, he shouldn't have taken the role with IBM, or he should have chosen more wisely for his next career move.

        If he's already worked as a top-level mangler at IBM, he *already* believes the rules don't apply to him.

      3. eldakka Silver badge

        And for once, I think I'm with IBM (first time ever!) in that long "non-compete" clauses are part of the game for senior executives.

        I believe that in some states in the US, such as California, non-compete clauses are illegal and are not enforceable. That is one of the reasons for the early success of silicon valley, employees were jumping around from company to company, whoever offered the best deal, without having to wait out compete clauses.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    IBM cloud competing against AWS ? Not even sure it can complete my own "OwnCloud" set-up.

    Also, unless he did some useful local HDD wipes, that data can often be retrieved, however, if you reset the "User HDD Pwd" from their setting, do expect a call as the fools do not set a master password so cannot use the disk - yes happened ot me and threatened to bill me for a disk !

    As for the phone we all read the stories about how data can be easily reloaded after a wipe if you know what you are doing- and don't forget IBM tout their own software to monitor / ensure this kind of thing does not happen in a corporate environment. Guess he did not have that.

    Finally, he is a manager, and I don't know if he is techie or not, but I think not. On that basis I doubt he used multi level HDD wipe tools or did more than choose a reset of his phone from the menu.

    1. 9Rune5

      Re: Really

      "unless he did some useful local HDD wipes, that data can often be retrieved"

      In this day and age, I expect everyone with a laptop that isn't physically bolted down, to be using an encrypted file system.

      OTOH, a good IT outfit would probably keep the encryption keys on hand. But then again, stuff that you want to recover should already be stored on a server someplace, not on a disposable laptop. Hence the need for recovery should be nill.

      As another poster suggested: Check the server logs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Really

        IBM encrypt all their laptops.

        They also wipe them immediately someone leaves.

        They do keep backup copies of all files.

        This guy likely had a lawyer advise him on his commitments, though I seem to recall that his level has a 12 month gardening leave requirement.

        If the rats are leaving the ship, it's time to sell my shares.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Living in the past

    IBM seems to think it's still the only game in town.

    1. asdf

      Re: Living in the past

      IBM has been living in the past since the early 1980s. Just goes to show what a behemoth they were up until that time that they are still around even if fairly irrelevant these days.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pretty sure he knows nothing...

    At CIO level in a large company all you have is a spreadsheet with the amount of money you are allocating to what. Management is a useful skill, but all he can say is "IBM invested N million in a technology called X with the hope of Y". It's not like he's gonna fire up Bash and start typing stuff in Emacs...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pretty sure he knows nothing...

      It looks like AWS has successfully decapitated part of IBM.

    2. ToddRundgrensUtopia

      Re: Pretty sure he knows nothing...

      No, he prefers vi

      1. JLV

        Re: Pretty sure he knows nothing...

        XEDIT, you'll find.

  8. 240_240

    IBM should have negotiated with Jeff when he put down his papers. They have 90 days notice period, right? For 90 days IBM failed to convince him to stay with them, and now it starts suing him for a silly reason. Being at such a top position, he might have contributed a lot to tye company and got nothing from the company in return. I suppose he didn't like the pay or corporate politics and want to leave the company. I personally believe that this is a tit-for-tat for IBM's hire-n-fire policy

  9. mako23


    I can't blame him wanting to leave. Maybe he wants to leave so he can look himself in the mirror.

  10. O RLY

    Did IBM verify he signed his non-compete correctly?

    Because they've made that mistake before, in 2009, with an exec who went to Dell.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So he knows there plans for the IBM next gen Cloud?

    No wonder he left!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How would wiping his devices make it impossible to see what was emailed? You would think there would be some logging, vault, archiving system in place.

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