Some models of IBM’s flagship 3090 mainframe series are currently being withheld by the manufacturer, writes Hesh Wiener from New York. Users expecting deliveries are being told that their installations will be several weeks late, according to various sources. The most serious problems appear to be associated with the three-engine 3090-300E and the six-engine 3090-600E. […]
Some models of IBM’s flagship 3090 mainframe series are currently being withheld by the manufacturer, writes Hesh Wiener from New York. Users expecting deliveries are being told that their installations will be several weeks late, according to various sources. The most serious problems appear to be associated with the three-engine 3090-300E and the six-engine 3090-600E. If the problems persist, users may be forced to alter their plans. Further, IBM’s revenue and profit for this quarter could be threatened if the problems are not resolved in short order. Information provided by various sources indicates that the difficulties have spilled out beyond the two specifically affected models, that upgrades and complete machines are being delivered late across the 3090 line, although some shops report no delays. The models 300E and 600E are related: a 600E is essentially a pair of triadic 300E machines linked together. IBM’s other 3090s are built of single processors, dual processors or pairs of dual processors, and the dual-processor design has been field proven by IBM: its first 308X machine, the 3081D, was a dyadic computer. Similarly, quad processors have been successfully delivered by IBM since late 1983, when the 3084 was first sent to customers. The triple engine design, however, is new for IBM, and it has become available only with the E group of 3090s – and is significantly differerent from triple processors previously offered by the Japanese manufacturers. The three-processor Hitachi machines are logically simply lopsided four-processor configurations – dual-dual machines with one side crippled. IBM on the other hand has gone for a pioneering configuration of three equal CPUs under one copy of the operating system. Ironically, IBM just lowered the asking price for its three- and six-engine 3090s. On July 28, the 300E’s price was dropped by $150,000 to $5.6m and the 600E’s price cut by $600,000 to $10.344m (CI No 736). IBM’s entire large mainframe operation appears to have been thrown into disarray by these problems with two of its products. Upgrades of installed 3090s other than the directly affected models are now shipping 11 or 12 weeks from the time they are ordered. Deliveries of new 3090s can be made in less than a month in some cases, say various sources, but lead times are likely to stretch as IBM’s energy is drained by the crash effort to fix bugs in its two problem processors. If the hardware problems cannot be mended in the near term, IBM may have to delay not only deliveries of mainframes, but shipments of disks and other peripherals, too. Further, the expected introduction of enhancements to IBM’s key operating system for top-end mainframes, MVS/XA, could also be held back until all the hardware issues are resolved. Similarly, the long-rumoured announcement of faster channels may be predicated on IBM’s having a rock solid mainframe to hang them on. Most observers expect IBM to have the problems cleared up in a few weeks, and to catch up with most orders for all 3090s during this quarter. Should IBM experience delays into the fourth quarter, the company could face its third straight year of diminished profits, a record it is clearly hoping it will not set.