Colgate taps IBM for hardware infrastructure

Colgate-Palmolive Co. is giving its IT infrastructure a good scrubbing.

The company has chosen to standardize its hardware platform on IBM Corp. products to establish what it hopes will be a solid, scalable and reliable foundation for its IT infrastructure development in the coming years.

In particular, the giant maker of consumer products wants to support the expansion of its already broad implementation of SAP AG's enterprise resource planning applications.

"As we keep growing and implementing more SAP systems, and the server and storage requirements continue to expand, we want to move with IBM on these investments," said Ed Toben, Colgate-Palmolive's chief information officer (CIO).

Colgate-Palmolive began a global implementation of SAP R/3 applications several years ago, and now has between 8,000 and 9,000 SAP users in 51 countries, but it continues adding new SAP applications, Toben said.

SAP makes high-end applications that large businesses use to run their operations, such as payroll, inventory, supply chain, order entry and human resources. Large SAP implementations, such as Colgate-Palmolive's, require robust hardware.

"Their decision (to choose IBM) was driven by their SAP requirements," said Gary Lancaster, IBM worlwide vice president of sector sales for the eServer pSeries. "They wanted their environment to be more reliable; that was their prime objective. They also wanted to lower their total cost of ownership, and they needed platforms that would scale with their ambitious vision for SAP."

Colgate-Palmolive made the decision to switch to IBM hardware around September 2001, but the companies decided to keep the news under wraps until the migration was advanced and progressing successfully, Lancaster said. "It's going very smoothly," he said.

The migration, which began in November 2001, is by now well under way, and already Colgate-Palmolive has seen a 40 percent performance improvement when compared with the previous systems, Toben said. The company measures the performance by taking into account dozens of variables, such as system response times and report generation, he added.

Colgate-Palmolive's decision to jump to IBM hardware was taken as part of its normal process of hardware updating, Toben said.

"It's not a case of everything being moved out and IBM moves in. This is our normal replacement cycle," he said. "It's not a Big Bang approach."

Toben and Lancaster declined to say which vendors got the boot in favor of IBM. Lancaster said two competing vendors are affected: one on the server side, the other a provider of storage products.

The migration involves IBM pSeries servers, better known as the Regatta line, TotalStorage Enterprise Storage products, better known as the Shark line, and desktop and notebook PCs, as well as systems management software from IBM's Tivoli unit.

Most of the servers will run IBM's AIX flavor of the Unix operating system, but some will run Windows from Microsoft Corp. On the storage side, Colgate-Palmolive plans to create storage area networks, according to a joint statement from both companies. IBM hardware will also support the company's data warehouse, which is expected to grow to 50 terabytes of data.

Colgate-Palmolive expects to finish the hardware switch between the end of this year and the beginning of 2003, Toben said. The servers supporting Colgate-Palmolive's SAP platform are housed in a U.S.-based data center and in a back-up site, Toben added.

Toben and Lancaster declined to give any financial details of the deal.

Colgate-Palmolive used IBM products for its hardware platform but dropped it for another vendor in the mid-1990s, Lancaster said.

"(After that) we maintained a relationship with Colgate, but it wasn't a broad relationship. We worked hard to win their confidence back, and this deal is a culmination of that effort," Lancaster said.

For IBM, based in Armonk, New York, getting this nod from Colgate-Palmolive is an important endorsement in the SAP universe.

"The reason we're so excited about this is that Colgate is known throught the industry for their quality implementation of SAP. They are leaders in deploying SAP and for driving it to their business advantage, and IBM is very proud to be associated with Colgate because of that leadership," Lancaster said.

Colgate-Palmolive, based in New York City, had revenue of US$9.4 billion and about 38,000 employees in fiscal year 2001. Its products include oral care products, such as toothpaste, personal care products, such as deodorants and shampoos, and household cleaning products, such as soaps and bleach.

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