Sequent users ponder future dealings with IBM

Two years on from IBM's acquisition of Sequent, Sequent sites are pondering upgrade paths and their relationships with IBM.

State Insurance runs its core insurance applications and Oracle financials on Sequent's Unix-on-Intel box the Numa-Q, with Sequent's flavour of Unix, Ptx, as the operating system.

"We're a large Sequent site and we recently installed a Sequent Numa-Q box, which we ordered last year," says IT manager Elmar Gailits.

"We're not critically affected [by the need to migrate] in the short time frame, but we expect IBM to give us a smooth migration path. If that doesn't occur there are other opportunities out there. It's a competitive environment."

Gailits has been observing IBM's handling of Ptx through the Monterey project - a joint effort with Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) and Intel to develop an enterprise Unix (incorporating Ptx and AIX) to run on the 64-bit Itanium processor.

"That project has been disbanded effectively because of SCO's acquisition by Caldera, although a lot of the functionality of Monterey has gone into AIX [5L]," he says.

State Insurance was recently bought by Australian insurance giant NRMA for $A404 million but Gailits says there are no plans to merge the companies' IT systems. However, he wants to ensure the company's architecture remains as flexible as possible in the circumstances.

Meanwhile, at the lower end of the server spectrum, former Sequent customer Richmond decided to bypass IBM when upgrading.

Richmond, the country's largest meat exporter, with an annual turnover of $1.3 billion, was running its JD Edwards OneWorld ERP system on Sequent's Windows NT server - actually a rebadged NCR box.

When it decided to upgrade OneWorld it ran a closed tender between IBM and Compaq, its supplier of desktops and small servers.

Richmond decided to switch to Compaq mainly because of Compaq's Storageworks SAN solution, says IT manager Ian Bell.

"OneWorld is very I/O intensive and we're getting a proliferation of direct attached storage," says Bell. "We needed high-performance disk and a SAN seemed the way to go. IBM was just coming out with Shark but it was new at that stage."

Bell also found he no longer had the working relationship with IBM he had enjoyed with Sequent before the acquisition.

Given the size of the market, Sequent's New Zealand operation was a star performer for the company with local customers, including Auckland University, Westpac Trust, Richmond Meats, State Insurance and Internal Affairs. When it was acquired many customers expressed concern over whether IBM would be able to continue the close relationships that Sequent had built up with its customers.

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