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June 10, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

Hitachi Data Systems was exuding confidence at its Large Systems Directions seminar and worldwide satellite launch of the EX 310 and EX 420 mainframes (CI No 1,441). The company confirmed that the new machines have a clock speed of 8nS, and says that the uniprocessor performance is 50 MIPS. The 310 and 420 also have improved packaging and cooling technology. Thirty-six logic devices are packaged in a single field replaceable High Density Module, and customers can choose between two cooling options. One option interchanges most of the heat into customer-supplied chilled water via existing connections. The other option, not available until after first shipments, enables customers to dissipate the system heat into the computer room air via a closed loop radiatorsystem. The System/370-compatible vector facility will implement 171 instructions in a register-to-register architecture with 16 vector registers.


The mainframes appear to be deliberately hevily slugged, and Hitachi says that is partly because of false promises made in the past, and partly to develop a third technology platform. A quadratic version seems to be on the cards, and while the architecture could certainly facilitate that, HDS says it will wait for IBM and Amdahl to make their moves, although some sort of announcement is likely before the 310 and 420 are actually shipped. HDS says that the EX 310 and EX 420 have been very well received and it’s confident that the machines won’t rot in warehouses, but criticisms include the amount of floor space occupied by the EX 420. It covers 256.1 square feet and consumes 134 KVA. IBM’s 3090-600J only needs 228.3 square feet and 91.7 KVA, while Amdahl’s 5990-1400 takes up 195.4 square feet and 61.6 KVA. Software pricing is beyond the control of HDS, and it can’t say whether IBM will create a special category – thereby acknowledging that the processors are faster than the 600J – or assign the new machines to either category 50 or 60. If it goes into category 60, then IBM is acknowledging its parity with the 600J, and it becomes a Request for Price Quotation. That means users negotiate. HDS reckons IBM will announce software pricing in late September and that may well coincide with other IBM announcements. There seems to be a consensus amongst HDS employees that IBM can’t immediately match or outstrip the new EX models, so it will bring out yet another 3090 kicker to placate impatient users and tide them over until it can announce Summit. According to Brian Walker, senior vice-president and European general manager, the problems that HDS faced as National Advanced Systems, and the detrimental wrangling that took place between Comparex, Memorex Telex, and NAS have finally been consigned to history. He believes that customers want to deal with manufacturers, and that they regard Hitachi Data Systems as being virtually synonomous with Hitachi. Which is not far from the truth as Hitachi’s 80% shareholding means HDS is almost a wholly owned subsidiary.

By Janice McGinn

But it does pose the interesting question of where that leaves Comparex Informationssys-teme GmbH, Hitachi’s other main European distrib-utor. Rolf Brillinger, Comparex chief executive, has vowed to fight a price war with HDS if the latter appears to be encroaching on his customer base. The battle has actually commenced with his admission that the double dyadic will sell for $10m, whereas HDS is quoting $15m, and $12m for the triadic. Neither Walker nor Brillinger are particularly happy with the current distribution agreement, although Walker appears to have the upper hand. He refutes the suggestion that HDS will receive favourable treatment from Hitachi. But Hitachi is touting 310 and 420 deliveries in the first quarter of next year, while Comparex is looking to the second quarter for ships. It may just be a breakdown in communications between Tokyo and Mannheim, but, nevertheless, it seems less than equitable. So the problem that both Comparex and HDS denied ever existed isn’t going to disappear. However, Brillinger recently acknowledged the diffi

culties. He maintains that it would have been a mistake to pay $300m for NAS Europe, since it would have taken at least 30 years to recoup the money. But, he’s in no doubt that Hitachi’s distribution channels have to be rationalised. Both he and Hans Dieter Jonescheit, Comparex’ executive vice-president of sales, see some sort of merger as a possibility, but neither are prepared to expand.

Only one distributor

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Walker tends to be more forthcoming. He believes it would make sense to have only one distributor, and naturally believes it should be HDS. Yet the question remains of how that can be achieved. Some commentators are suggesting that Hitachi may buy Siemens’ stake in Comparex as a precursor to acquiring the company. Others say that sort of piecemeal approach benefits no one, and Hitachi should acquire Comparex outright. However, there’s no evidence that BASF wants to get rid of its 60% stake in Comparex, which remains profitable even if its year-end results published in March (CI No 1,391), showed a 33% decline to $18.8m on turnover down 1.4% to $806m. A third option is for Hitachi to withdraw the large CPU franchise from Comparex. It seems Draconian, but it wouldn’t be so disastrous since Comparex is very good at peri-phipherals, support, and service, especially in the German domestic market. Nonetheless, Hitachi Ltd is aware that existing customers could suffer if that happened, and Japanese companies are renowned for their level of customer care. Walker says that he would like to see Hitachi expand its manufacturing capabilities in Europe, but he emphasises that the distribution channels should be rationalised before then. As it exists, the situation is giving rise to rumours that Hitachi Ltd has placed a bid on the table, and Japan is merely biding its time while BASF prevaricates. Such speculation may benefit HDS, but by shrouding Comparex Informationssysteme in uncertainty, Japan is doing neither its distributor nor itself any real favours.

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