Q&A: 10 Questions For IBM Hardware Chief Rod Adkins

The man behind IBM's hardware strategy talks about future of the mainframe, the Power7 roadmap, the Itanium flap, and more.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

February 16, 2012

3 Min Read

Given its focus on reference designs for mobile chips, would ARM make a reasonable acquisition target for IBM's Microelectronics group?

I don't comment on how we're thinking about acquisitions. ARM continues to be a partner. In terms of an acquisition candidate, I'm not going to comment.

Oracle acquired Sun in 2009, giving it a full stack from SPARC processors to applications. Do you feel that puts you at a disadvantage in that Oracle can now fine-tune its Sun hardware for its own ERP software, like PeopleSoft?

We have a model where we work with a lot of application providers, and we maintain a close relationship with those providers during the development cycle.

Every client is not going to go down Oracle's path, and we want to make sure we engage with as many application providers as possible. Even without tuning, we run PeopleSoft better on our hardware than they do. Our approach to the stack is that we optimize everything up through the middleware, and we optimize for a broad number of partners.

What's your take on HP's selection of former eBay chief Meg Whitman as CEO--does it bring into question their commitment to enterprise hardware?

I'm not going to pick on Meg, but you can question many of their recent moves. They're very challenged right now with all of these leadership transitions. And they can't build a system stack because they don't have things like middleware and semiconductors. What they do invest in is ink. How does that drive advanced solutions like analytics?

Has IBM reaped any benefit from the very public squabbling between HP and Oracle over the future of Itanium-based servers?

At first we won a lot from Sun. Then in the third quarter and fourth quarter last year we saw it shift, and we were winning a lot from HP.

We had 350 competitive wins, worth about $350 million, and about 60% of those were from HP. [According to the latest numbers from Gartner, IBM's share of Unix server market revenue increased 9.2% year-over-year, to 49.8% in Q3 2011, while Oracle's share fell 3.8%, to 22.6%, and HP's share dropped 6%, to 22.2%.] We are not developing for Itanium.

Are companies spending on hardware again, or is the economy still holding them back?

In general, there is continued investment in hardware. At the same time, companies want to do more with less. The IT budgets are flat or slightly up, at best. 80% to 90% of IT spending goes to managing the infrastructure.

That's why we're focused on Smarter Computing--so that we can leverage technology to free up that spending so it can be spent on new systems that drive business innovation.

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About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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