Quietly and without fanfare, AT&T Global Information Solutions, the erstwhile NCR, is said to have begun restructuring itself from a hardware vendor to a software and services company. While it is intended to revitalise the century-old firm in light of current trends, the metamorphosis is also meant to advance the fortunes of the parent company whose name it now bears. In fact, an insider said, NCR’s new tag line Global Information Solutions actually sums up how AT&T will deploy the subsidiary to advance its own long-term telecommunications designs. Indicative of the reorganisation, AT&T Global some months ago quietly abandoned its worldwide divisions along small, medium and large product lines and set up a Platform Division under vice-president Mark Campbell, a Decision Enabling Solutions Division under vice-president Bill Eisenman and a Software Products Division under vice-president James Clark. All report through Tom Tang to senior vice-president Tom Mays, who in turn reports to chief executive Jerre Stead and is responsible under the new organisation for the development side of the house. The Platform Division is now responsible for all hardware including servers and personal computers along with all operating systems, distributed computing services and systems management. Software Products, on the other hand, is chartered to steer AT&T Global away from any specific hardware dependency. Software Products is no longer system-bound Stead has reportedly spent tens of millions of dollars on analysts and consultants who advised him to focus on moving information not boxes and recast Global products as customer information solutions. The advice capitalises on Global’s resources: its alliance with Ma Bell, its Teradata database technology and its historical strength in capturing financial information. (Global can trace every dollar we spend, insiders brag.) Software Products is meant to develop the middleware to achieve hardware independence: AppWare for personal computers, Top End for messaging between clients and servers, the object-oriented Co-operative Framework for business-critical distributed computing, electronic mail, X400 messaging, application development environments, tools and LAN Manager.
By Maureen O’Gara & William Fellows
Global has isolated five solution sets it wants to pursue as a corporation: workgroup computing, alias distributed computing; customer transactions, which represent its historical base in Asynchronous Transfer Modes and cash registers; business computing, alias on line transaction processing and downsizing; the information factory, alias decision support and data warehousing; and inter-enterprise computing, best described as the transaction management side of electronic funds transfers or the ordering process between a retail operation such a K-Mart or WalMart and its suppliers. Interestingly, Top End, which Global has discovered is used by 60% of its customers for messaging rather than the transaction processing applications it was intended to serve, is a common thread through most of these market segments, but obviously no one product holds all the answers. It is by weaving its middleware technologies together that Global hopes to create its next-generation products. However, Top End is also a good example of how AT&T Global is no longer machine-specific. Where only a few months ago Global was treating it as proprietary technology, it is now moving it on to multiple operating environments. The Software Products Division is also expected to help extricate Global from the dilemma of how to develop Unix without winding up in the poor house. Novell Inc, which looks to all the world as if it is abandoning source code sales, can’t be relied on to provide code, certainly not the kind of enterprise-critical software Global fancies, something a few steps beyond even mission-critical. By the same token, there’s no incentive to switch to Solaris and let SunSoft Inc mastermind development because Solaris is too workstation-oriented, and so too low-end. And collaborations such as the Org9
4 phase of the Open Software Foundation are completely untested. So it’s up to Software Products to engineer Global out of expensive and redundant research and development. In concert with Software Solutions, the Platform Division and the Decision Enabling Solutions Division, which is responsible for decision support, data warehousing and data repositories, are aiming their products at the same five solution sets. The marketing teams assigned to each of the divisions under marketing chief Bill O’Shea, are said to be interested in alliances with independent software vendors to generate third-party software to support the sets, and Global’s direct sales force is being retrained to do turnkey selling.