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333 posts categorized "IBM news"

March 06, 2015

10 years of blogging Rochester

On March 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post. Kiger's Notebook blogo 2x

It was my sixth year at the Post-Bulletin. I created the "Heard on the Street" column about three years before the blog began. 

More  than 6,200 posts, stacks of columns, mountains of tweets and many gray hairs later, I'm still here writing about business and things vaguely related to businesPhoto on 2015-03-03 at 18.11s in southeastern Minnesota.

It'syou, the readers, who make this career such a fulfilling and entertaining one. Thank you everyone for your feedback, criticism and support over these past 10 years. 

10 years of blogging Rochester

On March 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post.Kiger's Notebook blogo 2x

It was my siPhoto on 2015-03-03 at 18.11xth year at the Post-Bulletin. I created the "Heard on the Street" column about three years before the blog began. 

More than 6,200 posts, stacks of columns, mountains of tweets and many gray hairs later, I'm still here writing about business and things vaguely related to business in southeastern Minnesota.

It's you, the readers, who make this career such a fulfilling and entertaining one. Thank you everyone for your feedback, criticism and support over these past 10 years.  

January 28, 2015

Talk of layoffs rattles IBM workers

Talk of massive layoffs at struggling tech giant IBM hit the halls of Big Blue in Rochester today.

Lee Conrad, national coordinator of the pro-union group Alliance@IBM, said this morning that layoffs were being reported on IBM's campuses in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. However, he had not heard of any in Rochester.

"It going to be a bad day for IBM employees and their families," Conrad said.

IBM buildinglogoWhile no layoffs could be confirmed on the Rochester campus, IBM did concede this week that "several thousand" job cuts were coming as it refuted a Forbes column claiming 26 percent of the firm's employees would be laid off.

"IBM does not comment on rumors, even ridiculous or baseless ones," said IBM spokesman Doug Shelton. "If anyone had checked information readily available from our public earnings statements, or had simply asked us, they would know that IBM has already announced the company has just taken a $600 million charge for workforce rebalancing. This equates to several thousand people, a small fraction of what's been reported."

Shelton's comments were in reaction to a Forbes article by tech columnist Robert X. Cringely. Cringely recently reported IBM planned to lay off 26 percent of its workforce, about 110,000 people, in an operation codenamed "Project Chrome."

"I’ve been hearing since before Christmas about Project Chrome, the code name for what has been touted to me as the biggest reorganization in IBM history. Well, Project Chrome is finally upon us, triggered I suppose by this week’s announcement of an 11th consecutive quarter of declining revenue for IBM. Project Chrome is bad news, not good. Customers and employees alike should expect the worst," he wrote.

Alliance@IBM, put out a statement that it did not believe the layoffs would be as extensive as Cringley is predicting.

"The Alliance has no information that this is true, and we are urging caution on reporting this number as fact. But as you all know, anything can happen at IBM anymore, and this is the time of year that IBM cuts jobs," Conrad wrote.

He followed that note with another one on Tuesday, which said inside sources were saying this round of layoffs would occur today and Thursday.

In recent years, IBM has dramatically reduced its presence in Rochester. Once topping out at more than 8,000 employees in the 1990s, an unofficial data "snapshot" calculated 2,300 full-time IBM employees working in Rochester today.

Since 2008, IBM has refused to release specific employee numbers at its campuses. However, it is still considered Rochester's second-largest private employer.

IBM Rochester has emptied several buildings on its campus and leased them to tenants such as Charter Communications and HGST.

July 09, 2014

Does IBM have future in Vermont?

Here's a little chunk from a well-researched, long article written by Paul Heintz from Vermont's alt paper, Seven Days.

While there is no direct link (as far as I know) between the fate of the Vermont campus and the one in Rochester, this does sound familiar. For anyone interested in the what is happening with Big Blue, this is a pretty worth-while read.

You can read the full article at this link.

What we're looking at is a city," Frank Cioffi says, nodding at a sprawling landscape of industrial buildings, electrical transformers and storage tanks on the banks of the Winooski River.

The 59-year-old economic development guru steers his black Nissan Maxima toward a guard shack that stands sentry at the northeastern entrance to IBM's Essex Junction campus.

"We're not going to Bildebe able to get in," he says, pulling a U-turn and retreating from the fortress. "Security is watching us."

In more certain times, the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation president might easily escort a reporter through the 725-acre campus, which GBIC developed from farmland 60 years ago. But with Big Blue reportedly nearing a sale of its chip-making division to Emirate of Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries, IBM Vermont is on lockdown.

Even Cioffi, its loudest local cheerleader, is in the dark about what a sale might mean for the 4,000-plus jobs remaining at the facility. Like many, he suspects IBM will reveal its intentions next week when it releases its second- quarter earnings report.

"We're dealing with two public corporations that aren't going to tell us anything, because they can't," he says.

Clouds of uncertainty have lingered over Essex Junction for more than a decade, as the company has retrenched and its Vermont workforce dwindled from a 2001 peak of 8,500. But never have the skies above the industrial park looked so dark.Ibm-logo

As IBM repositions itself as a services-oriented company focused on cloud computing, it has jettisoned less profitable hardware operations. In January, it struck a deal to sell off its low-end server business to China-based Lenovo for $2.3 billion.

Though GlobalFoundries specializes in the very chip-manufacturing work conducted at the Essex Junction plant, reports in the financial press have indicated that the company is interested in IBM's patents and engineers — not its aging facilities.

May 14, 2014

Lost Cajun restaurant plans grand opening

Construction is cooking along at Joe and Theresa Peplinski's Lost Cajun eatery and the new Rochester restaurateurs have set a target date for their grand opening.
The Peplinskis are optimistic that their new Southern food place should be ready for a grand opening on June 28.

"It might be tight. There's still a lot of construction to do, but we think June 28 will work," says Joe Peplinski.

They are in the midst of transforming a 19-year-old former SuperAmerica convenience store at 2025 South Broadway into a Cajun-flavored cafe. The husband and wife also are working on hiring the restaurant's team of the employees to staff their new place.

Joe estimates that they'll have between 30 to 40 people on staff for the opening. They hope to be training employees at least by June. While they are starting to interview job candidates, the Lost Cajun still is accepting applications, which can be downloaded from its website.

05142014lostcajun2The menu will bring the taste of down-home Louisiana cooking to Rochester's cold-blasted taste buds. That means gumbo, chicory coffee, po' boy sandwiches, crawfish etouffe, shrimp bisque, fried okra and the sweet dessert pastry beignet.

The 1,900-square-foot restaurant will be able to seat up to about 55 inside and possibly 30 more outside.

After working at IBM for 28 years, Joe is finding the experience of opening a new restaurant very educational.

"It's a very exciting new adventure for us," he says.

March 31, 2014

Lots of construction cooking at Big Blue

Lots of construction is in the works on IBM's sprawling Rochester campus.

IBM buildinglogoSome final work still is underway in buildings 333 and 002 for Charter Communications. The cable-television provider is leasing those buildings to house an estimated $3.5 million expansion of Charter Business, its business-to-business division.

Charter says the expansion will add more than 140 jobs to its Rochester operations. The company is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for April 15 in Building 002 on the IBM campus.

While neither Charter nor IBM are discussing it yet, a permit also has been submitted to the city planning department for interior demolition of IBM's Building 005. Charter-business-logo

The permit describes the demolition as preparing the building for "Future Charter Business."  The value of this project is listed as $3.25 million.

Without information from Charter or IBM, it's unclear what this permit signifies. However, Building 005 is connected to Building 002, so it's possible Charter needs more space for its expansion and it possibly is leasing a third building from IBM.

HgstLook for more details about this project in the near future.

Meanwhile, HGST has construction of its own cooking in one of the buildings it leases from IBM. Western Digital's HGST, formerly owned by Hitachi, is working on a Crossfit workout center and locker room. That project is valued at $325,900.

Big Blue also has some construction in the works on its Rochester campus.

A permit has been filed for an "acoustic chamber upgrade" valued at $195,000 in IBM's Building 020.

October 17, 2013

IBM's Watson + Cleve Clinic and Mayo + Optum

Improving healthcare is an ongoing project, particularly here in Rochester.

Here are a couple locally linked tidbits I came across this week about efforts that are using technology to attack this issue.

IBM-Watson-Jeopardy-500x285First, everyone remembers IBM's Jeopardy-playing supercomputer Watson. Much of its development occured here in Rochester. I remember the UMR hosting a big viewing session for local business leaders and Mayo Clinic execs, so everyone could watch the celebrity computer answer Alex Trebec.

These days Watson is specializing in helping doctors at the Cleveland Clinic. They announced some developments this week.
Ibm-watson-david-ferrucci-2IBM Research unveiled two new Watson-related cognitive technologies that are expected to help physicians make more informed and accurate decisions faster and to cull new insights from electronic medical records (EMR).

The projects known as "WatsonPaths" and "Watson EMR Assistant" are the result of a year-long research collaboration with fa culty, physicians and students at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. Both are key projects that will create technologies that can be leveraged by Watson to advance the technology in the domain of medicine.

• WatsonPaths explores a complex scenario and draws conclusions much like people do in real life. When presented with a medical case, WatsonPaths extracts statements based on the knowledge it has learned as a result of being trained by medical doctors and from medical literature.

WatsonPaths can use Watson's question-answering abilities to examine the scenario from many angles. The system w Watson2orks its way through chains of evidence -- pulling from reference materials, clinical guidelines and medical journals in real-time -- and draws inferences to support or refute a set of hypotheses. This ability to map medical evidence allows medical professionals to consider new factors that may help them to create additional differential diagnosis and treatment options.


Of course, Mayo Clinic's involved in many projects to improve medical treatments and healthcare in general.

One such project is the "strategic research alliance" Mayo Clinic formed in January with OptumHealth, a technology and consulting division of the Minnetonka, Minn.-based health insurer UnitedHealth Group.

Together they launched Optum Labs in Cambridge, Mass. Optum Labs CEO Paul Bleicher spoke about what they are doing at a conference this week.

Mayo_optum_690Optum Labs will use claims and clinical data to answer pressing health questions. It will use a database that includes 149 million patient records from UNH, electronic medical records covering 5 million lives from Mayo Clinic, and 12 million electronic medical records from Humedica.

Speaking at the recent StrataRx conference in Boston, Optum Labs CEO Paul Bleicher, M.D., Ph.D., said Cambridge, Mass.-based Optum will use advanced analytics and data visualization techniques to support research and innovation projects that will improve patient care and lower cost.

The new partnership of Mayo Clinic and OptumHealth also represents a source of new opportunities for healthcare entrepreneurs, said Bleicher, who expects new health IT companies to emerge from this effort. "That is one of the goals," Bleicher said. "We want to develop technologies and innovations that could be spun off into companies, in collaboration with venture capitalists."

He said Optum Labs is actively seeking other partners and "accepting applications from anybody doing research who is willing to do so with complete transparency, in a non-commercial fashion." The mission is "very public, publication research that will advance the cause of healthcare and anyone who participates." Influencing healthcare policymakers is also one of the goals, he said.

ViewMediaAnother priority of Optum Labs is enlisting "new partners who will bring additional data of high value," Bleicher said. "We want other payers - and everybody - to be in the tent, because if all of the data is in one place, there is opportunity to dive deep into it." It will also be important that "the findings don't stay stuck in 'silos' but are distributed widely, so they become valuable for more than just a few organizations."

The cost of some of the projects Optum Labs undertakes could be shared by National Institutes of Health grants or by partnering with life sciences or IT companies, Bleicher added.

Mark Hayward, administrator of Mayo Clinic's Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, said there will be "information technology that will come out of our labs that will spin off new technologies and methodologies."

October 08, 2013

IBM leases Rochester buildings to Charter

IBM is leasing two buildings on its Rochester campus to the cable-television provider Charter Communications.

Both companies confirmed Monday that a lease agreement has been signed. After some retrofitting, Charter is slated to move into the 333 and 002 Buildings on the IBM campus along U.S. 52 North.

"We will maintain our current locations in the Rochester community, located at 3993 Heritage Place N.W., as well as the local call center, which is located at 5720 Bandel Road N.W.," she said.

IBM333She declined to provide further details.

A permit for interior demolition work  in the 002 Building, filed by Benike Construction of Rochester, specified that the work is being done for a "future Charter Business" office. Charter Business is the division of the cable company that sells Internet and telephone services directly to businesses.

The 002 Building was the home of IBM's blood donation center on the main level with offices on the second.

IBM confirmed the lease agreement but declined to provide other details. Spokeswoman Mary Welder did point out that leasing unused space on the campus was not something new for Big Blue.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies has leased space there since IBM sold its hard-disk drive unit to Hitachi in 2003 for $2.05 billion. It's located on the west end of IBM's campus.

The 333 Building is located farther west than the 114 Building. It's near the power plant and utilities area. That two-story building is primarily an open warehouse/industrial space with a mezzaine level.

IBM's sprawling presence in Rochester has shrunk in recent years due to a series of layoffs and a shift of its local manufacturing operations overseas.

The technology giant closely guards the secret of how many employees work here or at any other individual site. During much of its history in Rochester, IBM would report its local workforce numbers at the end of every year. The last annual IBM workforce count was on Dec. 31, 2008, when the company reported that it had 4,200 employees in Rochester. Unofficial estimates place today's employment at 3,000 or less.

In April,  IBM moved its final employees out of the last 100,000-square-foot space it had leased in the "White Buildings", also known as the 41st Street Professional Campus. The 435,000-square-foot 41st Street campus, which is near IBM's main site, was originally built to house Big Blue's employees, but they were no longer needed as IBM's employee count shrunk.

September 09, 2013

IBM to drop 110,000 retirees off its health insurance plan

This is certainly an interesting shift that should impact a large number of Rochester retirees.

On Dec. 31, IBM is dropping all of its Medicare-eligible retirees from its health insurance coverage.

Maybe I should check with the Rochester IBM retirees group for some comments about this. Wonder if anyone would say anything on the record.

Here's some from an article by Spencer E. Ante of the Wall Street Journal:

International Business Machines Corp. plans to move about 110,000 retirees off its company-sponsored health plan and instead give them a payment to buy coverage on a health-insurance exchange, in a sign that even big, well-capitalized employers aren't likely to keep providing the once-common benefits as medical costs continue to rise.

The move, which will affect all IBM retirees once they become eligible for Medicare, will relieve the technology company of the responsibility of managing retirement health-care benefits. IBM said the growing cost of care makes its current plan unsustainable without big premium increases.

IBM buildinglogo-----

In notices signed by Chief Health Director Kyu Rhee, IBM has told retirees in recent weeks that to keep receiving coverage, they will need to pick a plan offered through Extend Health, a large private Medicare exchange run by New York-based Towers Watson & Co.


"Cost increases under our current retirement group health care plan are no longer sustainable for you," IBM said in the notices. "Health care costs under IBM's current plan options for Medicare eligible retirees will nearly triple by 2020, significantly impacting your premium and out of pocket costs," the notice said.

August 29, 2013

Scraps of IBM news on servers, chips

Here's a sort of round-up of IBM news tidbits. They are mostly about the chip and server struggles, but I end on a brighter note about the Power8 chips. No word on how all of this could directly impact Rochester, but I am pursuing a story what the Power consortium means for the Rochester campus.

• Here's the take from the IDG News Service in PC World on the latest server sales report.

The server business continued to slide in the second quarter with worldwide revenue and unit sales down, IDC said Tuesday.

Revenue was down 6.2 per cent to $11.9 billion in the second consecutive quarter of year-over-year decline, as demand for servers continued to soften in most geographic regions, the research firm said. Unit shipments were also down 1.2 percent to 2 million, after also falling in the previous two quarters.

5115638122_5bf17912ccThe highest fall in revenue was in midrange systems, which dipped by about 22 percent year-over-year, while volume systems had a 2.4 percent revenue decline and revenue from high-end systems dipped 9.5 percent in the quarter ended June.

IBM held the number one position in the server market with a 27.9 percent share of revenue, but its share was down from over 29 percent last year. The company’s server revenue fell in the quarter by 10 percent year-over-year because of low demand for System x and Power Systems. IBM’s System z mainframe running z/OS, however, had a third consecutive quarter of growth, with revenue up by 9.9 percent year-over-year to $1.2 billion. The mainframe accounted for 9.8 percent of server revenue in the quarter.

• Here's some from a gloomy overall commentary from EE Times' Silicon Valley Bureau Chief Rick Merritt with the headline "IBM's Last Stand in CPUs?"

The Open Power Consortium could become IBM's last stand in microprocessors with huge implications for the future of Big Blue.  

Years ago, IBM took a shot at the mainstream PC market when it forged its PowerPC alliance with Motorola. Intel won, and the partners retrenched into the embedded market with the consortium. These days, their embedded partners -- LSI, Freescale, and others -- are all shifting to ARM cores.


IBM buildinglogoExacerbating IBM's woes, the company appears to have been designed out of at least two of the three next-generation game consoles where it once provided its Cell multicore processor, ASIC technology, and other goodies. Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's Playstation 4 both use AMD's cores. The muscular, custom console processors once were significant drivers of process technology and profits for Big Blue.

Now IBM is left to defend its main stronghold, the high-end server. This, too, is under siege.

These days the massive scale-out datacenters of web giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are increasingly driving server technology and volumes. The x86 rules here along with an emerging streamlined style of design that's in opposition to the muscular scale-up style IBM practices for its classic customers in banking, government, and scientific markets.

Even in the Top 500 Supercomputers, IBM's old turf, it is losing ground to scale out designs using Nvidia GPUs paired with racks of x86 systems. Now Intel is coming on strong here with its own multicore Xeon Phi, which some say is offering higher performance, lower cost, and easier development than Nvidia GPUs.

In the coldest cut of all, Amazon recently won a deal to supply computer services to the CIA, encroaching on the business of IBM's federal systems division, the bluest of Big Blue business units. Like everyone else, the government is under pressure to try out cloud computing services such as Amazon to reduce cost.

• On a more upbeat note, IBM rolled out its new Power8 chips at the Hot Chips conference this week. Timothy Prickett Morgan covered it for The Register and IT Jungle.

Big iron sales are still generating $6bn to $7bn a year for IBM - which is enough to justify designing its own Power processors and building its own wafer baker.

At the Hot Chips conference at Stanford University on Monday, some of the chief architects behind the Power8 electronics were on hand to show off the feeds and speeds of the next-generation motor for the company's Power Systems lineup.

Significantly, the Power8 chip is also the foundation for Big Blue's OpenPower consortium - an effort to make it easier to hook networking, accelerators and other features into Power processors by allowing third parties to license chunks of intellectual property in the style of ARM Holdings and its RISC cores.

Ibm_power8_die_shotIBM announced the OpenPower effort earlier this month, with GPU maker Nvidia, network chip maker Mellanox Technologies, motherboard maker Tyan, and advertising moneymaker Google all lending their support to the cause.

Whether or not the OpenPower effort gains traction remains to be seen; the Power8 is so clearly engineered for midrange and enterprise systems for running applications on a giant shared memory space, backed by lots of cores and threads. Power8 does not belong in a smartphone unless you want one the size of a shoebox that weighs 20 pounds. But it most certainly does belong in a badass server, and Power8 is by far one of the most elegant chips that Big Blue has ever created, based on the initial specs.