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6/30/2002
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IT Confidential

With less than a month before the launch of its SuperMontage trading platform, Nasdaq made a curious move last week: Stock exchange execs said that they're considering replacing the Hewlett-Packard high-end NonStop S86000 servers on which SuperMontage is based with Intel-based Dell servers, after Nasdaq's four-year contract with HP runs out. Only two weeks ago, Nasdaq praised HP's debut of an upgraded NonStop (which ended concern that the high-end transaction-processing system, formerly known as Compaq Himalaya, would be killed off). CIO Steven Randich says the uptime he's seen NonStop servers provide is difficult to achieve on any other platform.

But Randich isn't concerned about the apparent contradiction. NonStop is a reliable computer, he says, but it's becoming harder and more expensive to find talented programmers who can write for the proprietary system. "Total cost is a reason to move to a more open platform like Wintel," Randich says. Nasdaq based its three-year, $100 million SuperMontage platform on Compaq Himalaya servers. But Nasdaq also uses more than 600 Dell servers to run its Web sites and wants to see Dell computers take on a greater role at the exchange. "We're absolutely committed to Himalaya for the next three or four years," Randich says. "But we're also betting on Wintel."

Sam Wyly won't give up. The Texas billionaire--and thorn in the side of Computer Associates--last week filed a proxy statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that details five candidates Wyly intends to nominate through his management group, Ranger Governance, for CA's board of directors at the company's annual shareholders meeting next month. Wyly, who holds 100 shares of CA stock, with options for about 1.5 million more, according to a CA spokesman, seeks to replace CA's top management, including chairman and founder Charles Wang and CEO Sanjay Kumar. Wyly attempted a similar takeover last year but was defeated. This year, observers say, Wyly may have a better chance, given CA's financial troubles and the spectre of an SEC investigation. Wyly's proposed management team includes Max Hopper, IT veteran and former chairman of the Sabre Group, and Steve Perkins, a veteran software executive.

Construction company Bechtel last week named Geir Ramleth as its new CIO-his third go-round with the company. Ramleth, 43, managed financial systems for Bechtel in the '80s, and in the mid-'90s spun off its Genuity Web-hosting venture. Ramleth spent two years at Oracle in the early '90s, then founded Swiss telecom co-location company DigiPlex, which he left last year. Ramleth replaces former Bechtel CIO Hank Leingang, who's leaving after five years. Ramleth says his priority as CIO will be making a smooth transition from an outsourcing deal with EDS that Bechtel terminated this year. "Being very volatile in the way we come and go in many locations, it was tough for EDS to match up with the needs we have," he says. "We ended up doing 50% of the work. And when you do 50-50, you end up getting a very costly overlap."

Web-hosting company-and WorldCom subsidiary, client, and service provider-Digex said last week that it's cutting its workforce by 7%, or 86 workers, but hastened to reassure customers that the reduction isn't related to WorldCom's financial troubles. WorldCom holds a 61% share (and 94% voting rights) of Digex, and former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and CFO Scott Sullivan are listed on the company's board. ("There will probably be adjustments on that," a spokeswoman says.) Last month Digex replaced its audit and accounting firm (and WorldCom's), Arthur Anderson, with Ernst & Young. "We want to reinforce that we're an independent company, making progress to financial independence," the spokeswoman says. "To achieve financial independence, we have to manage to our current demand, not our optimistic forecast."

It sure was a lot more fun when people managed to make optimistic forecasts. Now optimistic forecasts are scarcer than dot-com millionaires-and don't look at me, I'm a pessimist by nature. Got an optimistic forecast? Or an industry tip? Send them to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about high-performance computing, proxy battles, or current demand, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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