MythBusting IBM Servers

I can’t get enough of MythBusters on the Discovery Channel. Adam and Jamie have quite possibly the best jobs on the planet and I fancy myself an aspiring MythBuster.

Today, when I was catching up on my reading (I know, I’m a bit behind), my MythBuster alarm went off. I was going through IBM’s earnings transcript and was struck by a comment that was made on slide 23. IBM seems to assert that more businesses are now moving from x86 servers to RISC servers.

I’m not buying it. And I have good reason to believe that customers aren’t either, nor are industry analysts, nor is at least one reporter and even one IBM’s own execs admits they’ve got some issues to resolve.

First, if you look at the most recent IDC server tracker data – x86 server unit shipments grew in the third quarter, as did revenue and shipments for blade servers. UNIX server (the category where IBM’s RISC servers reside) revenue and shipments, on the other hand, continued to decline. This shows that more businesses (and Dell’s customers, for that matter) are moving from RISC to x86, not the other way around. This seems only logical to me, especially in challenging economic environments.

Second, Timothy Prickett-Morgan over at The Register is skeptical about IBM's assertion as well. He says,

“Not so fast there. IBM's drop off in sales in these two areas might mean that IBM's competitive position in x64 servers and storage is bad. Or it might mean x64 customers are waiting to see the forthcoming "Nehalem" servers from Intel before committing to purchasing. It might mean that IBM stuffed its channel in Q2 and Q3 with x64 and storage gear and its partners just couldn't eat any more with the year ending as miserably for them as it most assuredly did.

Or it might mean the virtualization downdraft is hitting IBM's x64 server sales, since IBM has always sold relatively heavy x86 and x64 boxes to big enterprises. You would expect IBM to take the economic hit first when virtualization really took hold, reducing footprints both in the data center and sold each quarter. Mainframe and Power servers are already virtualized and have already seen the virtualization crunch.

And finally, I might be inclined to believe Robert Moffat, IBM SVP and Group Executive, Systems & Technology Group, who told CRN back in December that IBM “screwed up” the execution of their System X business, while rebutting some claims from HP’s CEO Mark Hurd comments on server market share.

So in my estimation, I call this claim BUSTED!

About the Author: Matt McGinnis