IDC’s crystal ball gazer-in-chief looks back with satisfaction before looking forward
Frank Gens, senior vice-president of International Data Corp, has been in London to deliver his annual soliloquy entitled Everything you need to know about IBM, DEC, and the industry in two hours or less. His discourse was nearer the four hour mark, but for the computer leasers and buyers of this world, it was time well spent. Gens began by reviewing his forecasts of last year (CI No 1,044), and proved that he is a crystal ball-gazer of some note. On IBM large systems, he predicted the G series for late 1989, or early 1990 release, possibly coinciding with the fibre serial input-output device. He also suggested that the fibre serial would be on G machines, but not on Es or base systems. As regards Summit, it will probably come in late 1990, and ship in 1991, although he says that IBM has every incentive to delay until the next ice age, and push people to keep taking 3090s. On mid-range machines, Gens claims to have met his Waterloo, but there are degrees of disaster. He had forecast that the 4391 was imminent, but IBM confounded his prediction, and didn’t release the thing. He claims that DEC’s Aridus CPU for the VAX 9000 is forcing IBM to add more power, and hence the delay. His storage predictions were equally accurate. The 3390 was due in July, but IBM cancelled it at the last moment, something he describes as a major embarrassment. Extended Function was due in the first half of 1989, Gens suggested the second half, and the current position is a new edition next year. The overall theme, he says, has been a long and extended schedule throughout 1989, and despite IBM’s need to drive revenues, it’s likely continue in 1990. Consequently, the Summit announcement is drifting farther out. Gens also addressed the price war that has been raging this year, and is fairly certain that neither side will call a truce. The recession in the US, now affecting the UK economy and likely to drift across the continent, has forced companies to concentrate on what he terms account control. In a slow market, account control is crucial, hence discounts and special offers have become the order of the day. According to Gens, IBM Financial Services is now little more that a marketing arm, and IBM manufacturing is offering heavily discounted machines in an attempt to disrupt the marketplace and facilitate account control. He recommends that users exploit this situation, and says that if all the leasing companies are grabbing business, then its up to the user to ensure they grab it on their terms. Gens acknowledged that we all know IBM doesn’t discount, but he did suggest the user heed creative terms and conditions. Temporary discounts, special situations, free services, loaners, trade-ins, and asset swaps are often euphemisms for what IBM says it doesn’t do. He cited the user that took advantage of an offer discounting the first installation of a particular machine at a special site. That one user took advantage 15 times. Another US user wanted to upgrade from a 600E to 600S, only to be offered a very good deal from Amdahl. IBM responded with the S upgrade returnable after three years.
Of Gs and disks and 4391s and whether the 3090S really is Summit, as some IBMers say
On systems in the 1990s Gens reckons the 3090 G series will be announced on October 24 or in the first quarter 1990. He believes that IBM has been delivering the G in specially primed S machines, which simplifies the upgrade process, enabling IBM to ship later this year. The new input-output device for the G and S Series may be announced at the same time, but Gens says such a major change is more likely to drift into next year. But is Summit already here in the S series? He sees similarities in that Summit will run ESA for the first two years and they will both have the new input-output architecture, but claims that neither S nor G will ever be upgradeable to Summit, and he compared it to the situation in 1981 when the same was said of 3080s and Sierra series. By 1991 he expects the IBM prod
uct line to comprise an enhanced G machine, Summit, and something upwards of 100 MIPS. On storage, Gens expects IBM to make an Automated Tape Library announcement in the near future. Despite the scorn heaped on offerings from Storage Technology and Memorex, he believes we’ll see an announcement before the end of October. The problems encountered with the 3390 disk drives, whereby surface material is coming off onto the heads, has made IBM adopt a prudent approach and ensure that all the bugs are gone before release. His advice to users is to hold off for as long as possible, or negotiate better incentives to take it. IBM says availability will be in the first half of 1990, Gens predicts the second half. The familyw[6e extended over the next few years to accommodate different needs and capacities. The 3390 A drive will offer 15Gb, and 22.5Gb in 3390 B drive. Phase two will see 7.5Gb in the A drive, and 15Gb in the B drive, with a standard configuration of one in the A drive and two in the B drive. He foresees the 3990 supporting the 3390 and 10 disk replacement over a six year life-span. Within two generations, Gens believes the mainstream device will be a 19 rack-mounted disk array. With 1.5Gb to 2Gb per module, it will offer up to 64Gb per rack. On the IBM mid-range, Gens offered the AS/400 F series in 1990, and a 4391 announcement in the first half of 1990, available in the second half. There will also be a high-end 9370 to kill the 4381 and prevent overlap with the 4391. Amdahl should back off the price war Turning to Amdahl Corp, Gens said he would like to see it backing off from the price war, and believes that shareholders may insist that it does so. However, it will only be a temporary respite since the rest of the bunch won’t back down, and Fujitsu is likely to exercise its option to increase its 49% share in Amdahl, and take more aggressive control of the company. He expects a 5990 kicker, and a subsequent offering post-Summit. On National Advanced Systems he believes Hitachi will consolidate its European outlets in 1990, only to lead the price war. It will answer IBM’s G Series in one of two ways. Either with a data in memory strategy, or with an AS/EX replacement. The first would mean putting 4Gb into the AS/EX, so that a 90 MIPS machine with ESA and the extra gigabytes becomes a 110 MIPS look-alike. The second strategy is to release the 40 to 50 MIPS Andromeda, also known as the K10. It is supposedly ready for next year, but if NAS goes to market before Summit, the K10 could be portrayed as old technology. Gens reckons that NAS believes IBM when it says that Summit won’t arrive until 1992, and consequently, will release the machine before 1990 is done. IDC has heard rumours of bids in Canada and Australia for the AS/EX with replacement clauses, which suggests the Andromeda is fairly imminent. In a neat piece of timing. DEC’s Aridus machine is due to be announced October 24, with delivery next year, and he says that IBM’s 4391 will offer no competition to the new 15 MIPS machine from DEC. – Janice McGinn