The clone war
Gene Amdahl quit his job at IBM in 1970, after the company rejected his idea for a more advanced computer. The principal designer of IBM's popular System 360 family of mainframe computers, Amdahl decided to start his own company. In 1975, he released his first IBM clone - a computer that was faster and cheaper than IBM's, and compatible with the same software and peripherals. The company was a success, and went public in 1976. IBM retaliated by slashing prices and announced the impending release of its own improved product. That successful counterattack ravaged the startup, and in 1979, Amdahl left the company he had founded.
Acquiring a new look
Eugene White came in as the new president, and immediately acquired Tran Telecommunications, a data communications company. In the next decade, Amdahl grew through further acquisitions and diversification. Amdahl bought Key Computer Labs, a scalar computing firm, in 1989. In 1995 and 1996, Amdahl acquired two information-technology service providers, TRECOM Business Systems, and DMR Group, a Canadian company. Computer services group Fujitsu took over Amdahl in 1997 (it already controlled a 42 percent stake), but allowed the company to run as a separate subsidiary.
Fostering client dependence
Amdahl's present strategy is to exploit its more lucrative support services arm. The company hopes to make the transition from a simple hardware/software company to a full-service technical "solutions-driven" enterprise. This does not mean, however, that it is renouncing its hardware and software roots. In 1999 Amdahl acquired the assets of a leading software company to reinforce both its software and services. Amdahl's strategy is to first supply the hardware a corporation needs, and then to offer related operational and consulting services.
Today, over half of the company's business comes from its support services. Spring 2000 saw the introduction of trustedanswer.com, Amdahl's corporate customer service web site, which provides 24-hour support for clients of businesses that utilize the system.
The next generation of mainframes
But growth in services doesn't mean that Amdahl has neglected its hardware business. In July 1998, Amdahl launched a Multiple Server Facility (MSF), which helps companies cut software costs by allowing users to partition their mainframe into multiple servers, then run separate applications on each section. Meanwhile, Amdahl's 1,075-MIPS Millennium 800 mainframes, which hit the market in late 1998, beat both IBM's OS/390 and Hitachi's Skyline systems in terms of pure processing power and capacity. However, users complained that the equipment performed at 15 percent below promised capacity. Amdahl responded by upgrading faulty machines to its next model, the GS2000. In 2000, Amdahl is planning to introduce the GS2000C, which will have a capacity of up to 1,600 MIPS, and the GS2000E, which will have a capacity of up to 2,000 MIPS.
Like any high tech company worth its salt, Amdahl posts its job listings on its web site. But employees reveal that "internal referrals generally hold more weight than someone coming in off the street." So if you know someone, use them - especially if you don't have much experience. "The key for recent college graduates is to have a contact who can be your 'champion,' otherwise you are just one of many applicants," says one insider. Amdahl also recruits on college campuses - check out the company web page for a list of the schools the company visits every year.
In most cases, there will be at least several "relaxed" rounds of interviews. Employees say they are "usually an all-day event for software/hardware people," though sometimes the interviews take place over two days. Luckily, "Amdahl doesn't take the hard approach - there are questions, of course, but not too many 'tests.'"
Insiders say "there isn't really a distinct corporate culture" at Amdahl. "It's very political at the higher levels," but at the departmental level, "it's very fragmented," and "each department has a small shop feel." This "family feeling" makes for "lots of fun," say employees. Insiders also seem content with Fujitsu's recent acquisition of the company. "We work very closely with Fujitsu developing products; we are, however, a U.S. company," says one employee. In addition to increased funds for R&D, sources report that "it's a fantastic time to be here as we change from a hardware/software provider to a solutions-driven company."
Dress your department
In the HQ and other corporate offices, say insiders "there is definitely a dress code - business casual from Monday to Thursday, and dress-down Fridays (meaning jeans and t-shirts)." In creative services and engineering departments, casual day is every day, and "jeans, T-shirts, shorts, etc." make their appearance.
Nominal diversity, decent bennies
"The company is very good to women and minorities at the lower levels," reports one insider, "and we have an Inreach program here specifically to draw minority employees and interns. However, the VPs and other high level people here are all white males." Minorities interested in climbing the corporate ladder be warned, "this isn't the place to be." It's also worth noting that "the average age of employees is higher than most of Silicon Valley. Salaries are standard for the industry, and the benefits package includes a 401(k) plan, child care resource and referral service, health care (including coverage for domestic partners), on-site fitness facilities and health services; and tuition reimbursement.
Hardware maintenance and operational services;High-performance servers; Professional and consulting services;A+ performance and productivity tools; OjectStar application development system;mainframes
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