back to article IBM servers crashed in Q4 – just sales, not the mother of all outages

IBM's worldwide server sales took a turn for the worse in Q4, declining by almost a third as the dust settled on the Z mainframe refresh rush. The latest stats from Gartner show server vendor revenues climbed globally by an estimated 17.8 per cent in the closing quarter of 2018 to $21.8bn, and all of the major players reported …

  1. defiler Silver badge

    There's just no reason to buy IBM

    We have a fleet of x3550 m<something I can't remember right now>, and the hardware is no better than the HPs or Dells I've used in the past. And when I had to raise a high-priority support call regarding overheating CPUs, apparently our 8-hour response was 8 "working" hours, despite the fact that we had 24x7 maintenance on them. Then nobody actually attended the machine for a week! I'd shoved it into VMware Maintenance Mode, so so damage done there, but we were down a resource for all that time.

    Guy turned up. Inadequate thermal paste from the factory. He also said the other CPU was looking a bit light. He fixed it and went in its way, with much cooler temperature readings.

    The end of the story? Not likely! Next time I was in the datacentre, I was performing CPU upgrades on a couple of machines, and saw first-hand the inadequate thermal paste on the machines I was working on. So that was sorted out during the replacement. I then went through the remaining machines and re-pasted them all. Finally got to the one that had been "fixed", Decided I might as well, and opened it up. Then spent about 30 minutes cleaning out thermal paste that looked like it had been applied with a shovel.

    Do our fleet of IBM servers work? Yes.

    Do they work as well as the HP or Dell equivalent? Yes, I reckon so.

    Would I buy IBM in the future? Hell, no.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

      you're talking about IBM x86 servers, which are now Lenovo servers. IBM exited this business several years ago and sold what remained to Lenovo.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

        Yup. What struck me about the article was that it's comparing chalk and cheese. If the mainframe business relies primarily on replacements when a new generation of H/W becomes available - which is what's implied - then clearly it works in a very different way to Intel servers. The expectations of the stock market and pundits should be adjusted accordingly.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

          The stock market pundits understand this -- at least, the ones that follow IBM with any degree of seriousness. It's the journos looking for a tasty headline who don't (or pretend not to).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

          so what you're saying is that IBM isn't growing their business - all they are doing is selling replacement and upgraded kit to existing customers?

          Probably true on the mainframe side: I don't come across a lot of businesses that are looking to wade into the mainframe world - but I don't know if the power business is flat, down or has growth.

          Intel servers - x86 - also has cycles based on refreshes and launches, but they aren't as dramatic as the mainframe cycle.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

            And will continue to decline as traditional mainframe shops move their workloads off the mainframe onto the cloud, or local linux boxes.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

              The IBM server business is more than just mainframe, although that is a major part of it's revenue because of the high value of the individual systems.

              There are also the Power systems, AIX and i, and the OpenPower systems.

              It is clear that the AIX systems are being slowly migrated to Intel, even though there are (IMHO) good reasons to keep using AIX if you can stomach the higher cost, and IBM i (aka OS/400) is, like the mainframe, based on replacement of existing servers.

              IBM was hoping that the OpenPower side would start being used in cloud-scale datacentres, as they've make it VMware aware so that it fits in better with the controllers for Intel systems, but at this time that market looks like tough going. They are a bit late into the market, and even if it does take off, many of the systems will be supplied by other OpenPower Foundation members.

              It is clear that IBM will continue to milk mainframe, and probably continue marketing Power kit (because of the synergies between modern PowerPC and mainframe processors, allowing shared development costs) until it stops delivering a suitable return, but don't expect it to grow the market significantly.

            2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

              >And will continue to decline as traditional mainframe shops move their workloads off the mainframe onto the cloud, or local linux boxes.

              But to be fair how were IBM to know that this personal computer stuff would be invented and used by business

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

            "so what you're saying is that IBM isn't growing their business - all they are doing is selling replacement and upgraded kit to existing customers?"

            It's what the article's saying - and then comparing that to a different market.

      2. defiler Silver badge

        Re: There's just no reason to buy IBM

        Yeah - just realised you're quite right. I'd forgotten it had all gone over to Lenovo.

        Still, I'm not going to let that get in the way of a good IBM moan. Especially when these affected servers were all IBM-badged.

        Lunch-beers. That's what'll sort it!

        1. returnofthemus

          Re: Affected servers were all IBM-badged.

          Given that it has been sometime IBM retreated from the Intel x86 server market, could it be possible that those rather old machines you are running, were possibly surplus stock?

          I wouldn't have thought that thermal pasting cpu's was a modern day practice?

  2. Daniel von Asmuth


    Why are both minicomputers and mainframes now labelled as 'servers"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      you still using bubble memory, paper tape and punched cards?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        I'm still using 'core' memory and sold state 'disks'

  3. tcmonkey

    I'm confused - what is it that IBM actually sells these days, and is anyone actually buying it?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Now we're getting into the deep mysteries of life.

    2. whitepines Silver badge

      Well, they do sell the only modern CPU that doesn't come with baked in backdoors, so that's something. Power servers from various OEMs are relatively new (e.g. Raptor, Tyan, Wistron, etc.) and are really pushing the open systems / open firmware angle. These are the same line of CPUs in Sierra and Summit.

      Or you can keep buying buggy Intel/AMD systems with mandatory backdoored firmware required via hardware signature checks. Just remember, they have no responsibility when your data flies out the window, see EULA...

      I would definitely stay away from Lenovo or even IBM badged servers though -- they're all Chinese rebrands without the open firmware advantages and shoddy hardware half the time.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The two fastest computers on the planet are IBM ones.

      The fact that Big blue doesn't sell commodity kit isn't a mistake. There's no money in it, so they don't do it.

  4. Long John Brass Silver badge
    Big Brother


    Read something a short while ago discussing why modern companies are so obsessed with growth; The argument was the way that taxes were calculated for Dividends .vs Capital gains. Maybe it's time to rethink tax structures such that this idiotic driver for ever bigger ever faster growth in share value gets taken behind the wood-shed...

  5. scotronic

    pSeries - too powerful for its own good

    AIX / pSeries customer here. The workloads we used to run on 6 CEC frames run comfortably on 2 CECs now so maybe the performance is IBM's worst enemy?. 96 cores * 4Ghz hyper-threaded handles the load. Expensive but revenue is over a million / hour so perfect hardware is critical.

    1. -tim

      Re: pSeries - too powerful for its own good

      We used Sparc hardware but we don't have a workload to justify one new machine, let alone 3 redundant systems. The new base system has something like 4 million times the processing power of the first million dollar Sun machine I used.

      I guess the Meltdown and Spectre aren't an issue for the fortune 500 or else sales of non-x86 systems would be up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pSeries - too powerful for its own good

      I recently did a survey of the Power servers we're running where I'm currently working.

      CPU power is the least of our worries. We're currently only using between 30 and 50% of the installed processors in the P770s and E870s that run the most critical part of the environment.

      Because of serviceability issues with the Power 7 servers, we have to replace a P770, and spec'ing up E950 and E980 systems, the E950 can only just provide the required I/O and memory, and the E980, has to be configured with more system nodes (albeit with reduced processors installed) to be able to provide the memory and I/O, leading again to unused processor resource.

      The current enterprise grade Power servers are just too powerful for most organizations (expecially when per-processor licensing is being used on software), and the other servers (S and H) either don't provide the large memory footprint and I/O requirements or provide expensive features (like attached CAPI co-processor support) that we don't need.

  6. Randall Shimizu

    IBM's Z-series has some huge advantages that no other platform offers today. The Z-series mainframes offers end to end encryption down to the processor level. Z-series is also capable of running 2,000,000 simultaneous docker containers. No other platform has this level of security. IBM is having huge success in the financial sector with the Z-14.

  7. devTrail

    Hardware or software problem?

    Maybe IBM would do better if they didn't try to use their machines as a wedge to place their consultants in the data centre.

    The days when they were a power able to take over entire data centres are just a memory of the past.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Hardware or software problem?

      Having to employ an IBM consultant to tell you what IBM parts you needed was their main business innovation

  8. luis river

    RedHat bet

    After buyout RedHat october 2018 by eat part Linux server market... incredible figures by IBM last quarter. What happened? The world dont will propertied Tech?

  9. janella-barmer

    I had my websites and on IBM. Then i just recently moved out

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