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It's Not Your Father's Unisys

  Executive Interview published in DM Review Magazine
September 2003 Issue
  By Val Latzke

One look at the history of Unisys Corporation, a worldwide information technology services and solutions company, will engender impressions of endurance, stamina, tenacity and perseverance. You don't survive the depression, two World Wars, the dawn of space travel and countless inventions if you don't put forth a good offering. However, Don Montgomery, program director, business intelligence at Unisys, cautions that the company has not reached its strongest technology point to date by resolutely sticking to one formula. Like Coca-Cola, which also had its start in 1886, the formula has been tweaked.

Unisys was created in 1986 through the merger of Sperry and Burroughs companies. The 1997 election of Lawrence A. Weinbach as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Unisys Corporation initiated the formula shift. Coining the company's current motto, "services- led, technology- enabled," Weinbach guided Unisys in its most notable transformation to date. Before 1997, Unisys was a hardware company -- the purveyor of the biggest, most reliable mainframe. It was technology, it was engineering excellence, it was supreme technology excellence. However, those that moved on from mainframes lost track of the company. Weinbach transformed the company that everyone thought of as a mainframe company into a company that, since the end of 2001, has more than 75 percent of revenue from services. Weinbach introduced the service culture at Unisys. He remade Unisys as a services and support company, completely changing the company's identity. Today, the company is not strictly mainframe-oriented, or technology-oriented for that matter. The company combines expertise in systems integration, outsourcing, infrastructure, server technology and consulting in six primary vertical markets including financial services, public sector, communications, transportation, commercial and media.

While business intelligence (BI) is obligatory in today's business, Unisys does not exist for technology's sake, but rather for the sake of their customers' goals. Montgomery elucidates, "We're services-led in that we don't approach any client challenge or objective with the intent of beating it to death with technology. Instead, we approach client challenges or objectives as a trusted advisor to provide customers with the best solutions. We help our customers achieve their financial, customer satisfaction or operational objectives. Our technology helps them accomplish these objectives. Our job is helping our customers use technology to achieve business goals."

Because there's a huge gap in business intelligence separating what technology can do from what organizations are prepared to assimilate, plan, grasp and leverage, Unisys offers Technology Consulting Services (TCS) to help bridge this gap. TCS visits customers before they make a decision to procure or implement a BI solution. TCS hosts workshops and planning sessions with the customer to determine how the organization can leverage the technology and how the organization would change with the implementation of the technology -- forcing the customer to break free from where they were in their existing business processes and realize the benefit of the technology.

The technology component of Unisys is the Systems and Technologies Unit -- created to leverage the historical enterprise hardware strengths of Unisys for enabling client business solutions. This unit creates the technology enablement, the platforms, the operating environments and documentation sets that help their customers use their technology to achieve their business objectives. Business intelligence servers from Unisys, specifically Unisys ES7000 servers running Microsoft SQL Server 2000 with Windows/ Intel architecture, represent the best means for enterprises to gain the benefits of large-scale business intelligence for all levels of the organization by leveraging best-of-breed application providers, databases and scalable Windows servers.

Why is Unisys the best means for enterprises to gain the large-scale benefits of BI? It's a simple matter of economic value. Preferred buyers' lists often include Dell or Compaq, HP, IBM and Sun. However, the staggering reality is that a RISC/UNIX architecture costs three times as much to own and operate as an Intel/Microsoft architecture. Unisys ES7000 was the first Intel/Windows-based server to scale larger than eight processors, and remains the leading scalable Windows server with up to 32 processors available in a single ES7000 server. This is too much for CIOs and certainly CFOs to ignore. "What we stand for at Unisys," says Montgomery, "is bringing business intelligence to the masses with Windows/Intel economics that deliver the same performance and scalability as UNIX/RISC-based platforms at 50 percent lower cost."

The Windows/Intel economics that Montgomery is referring to are a function of the billions of dollars Intel invests in R&D; and their much larger economies of scale at the chip level and the processor level. On top of that is Microsoft's investment in Windows. Montgomery notes, "Between those two companies, they put approximately $8 billion a year into R&D; -- Sun can only invest about one- sixteenth of that." He explains, "IBM has the PowerPC chip. While HP has their PA-RISC and now Itanium and Sun has the SPARC, these processors are proprietary. The companies can't put more than a few hundred million dollars into R&D; for those products. On the other hand, there is Intel. Intel puts billions of dollars into R&D;, and they have much bigger economies of scale. Additionally, Microsoft invests heavily, and Unisys R&D; works with Microsoft Enterprise Platforms including Windows, Windows 2003 Datacenter edition, SQL Server 2000 (both 32-bit and 64-bit). Unisys invests multiple hundreds of millions of dollars every year in R&D.; Economically, the RISC-based boxes cannot compete. We're in for a sea change. Just as it was with client/server picking off the minis and the mainframes, the Windows/Intel boxes will now pick off the UNIX boxes."

Unisys also maintains other critical partnerships so that their customers can deploy BI solutions from entry level to massively scalable enterprise systems and do so with the best-known leaders in the BI industry while enjoying the economic benefits of Unisys ES7000 scalable Windows servers with Intel processors. Along with Microsoft and Intel, Unisys' Partners in Excellence for business intelligence include SAS, Information Builders, ProClarity, Business Objects, SAP and PeopleSoft.

"Our value proposition," says Montgomery, "is all about enabling all of the knowledge-workers in an organization with improved information access and better decision making. We unlock the data jailhouse with cost-effective large-scale BI. We are turning data -- SCM, ERP, SFA, CRM -- into actionable information - a concept we call 'modern alchemy' because it sounds like turning lead into gold."

The success they've enjoyed with the new formula includes Unisys client references running Windows at 99-plus percent availability. As Montgomery notes, "This proves that you can do a production Windows system gaining all that economic benefit and not lose a beat - - or should I say, a bit?" Additionally, Unisys is the only technology company that's met Wall Street expectations for the last 10 consecutive quarters. However, the success and opportunities don't end there.

Montgomery reports that the Itanium 2 processor from Intel in combination with Microsoft Windows 2003 Data Center Edition (64-bit) will dramatically change the complexion of the data warehousing market. "With 64-bit SQL Server on Unisys ES7000/400 Itanium 2 servers, we're able to deliver four distinct advantages: nearer to real-time reporting; richer, deeper analytics; high performance, high concurrent user load, large scalability and large data volumes; and significant -- 50 percent -- economic advantage for the previous three performance benefits when compared to those workloads on RISC/UNIX platforms."

Unisys Corporation

Publicly Traded NYSE: UIS
Number of Employees: 36,000
Revenue: $5.6 Billion
Net Income: $223M, $0.69 EPS
Number of Customers: 4,000+
  • 200+ Newspapers
  • 200 Airlines
  • 100 Airports
  • 1,500 Government Agencies
  • 2,200 Financial Services Companies
  • 90+ Telecom Companies

Another significant opportunity for the company is found in data mart consolidation. Montgomery notes, "When we visit potential customers, everybody's got economic issues. We talk to the marketing people and the management people; we start to reaffirm and recognize that they've got 12, 14 or 15 data marts running, each with a server, each with an administrator, each with some level of backup. They've got to dedicate huge amounts of resources to the support of these marts." For these customers, Unisys reviews their objectives. They want to save money -- everybody does. They want to get control of their computing resources and get them into a central place in the IT organization. Unisys explains that they can consolidate these data marts to a single instance. "If you use what we bring to market, which is the scalable 8 to 32-processor ES7000 Server, you'll be able to take all the administrative costs and put it into one box, which includes the all the backup, the operations and the management. We reduce costs and provide customers with a single version of the truth. They've got the warehouse. They've got the ability in all those departments not only to see their own data the way they still want it, but to do multidimensional analysis with financial and customer records and operations and inventory. Kevin Strange of Gartner will tell you that data mart consolidation yields a 50 percent cost reduction and a 500 percent business value improvement," asserts Montgomery.

"Data mart consolidation is a poster child for our approach. It's all about changing economics," emphasizes Montgomery. "That is what we're here to do. We're here to completely overhaul the economics of large-scale business intelligence. We do it by bringing Windows and Intel economics into what used to be a closed book." So far, so good. Says Montgomery, "Customers are voting with their wallets, and it's working out."

Don Montgomery, program director, business intelligence at Unisys.

Don Montgomery

Last Books Read: Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert and The Cycle of Leadership: How Great Leaders Teach Their Companies to Win by Noel M. Tichy and Nancy Cardwell
Favorite Movie: Bull Durham
Favorite Entertainer: Monty Python
Most Entertaining Game: Chess
Dream Car: Dodge Viper RT/10 (red, of course)
Perfect Vacation Spot: Cape Cod
Most Admired Individuals: Right now, each of my three brothers. My brother Tom is working to overcome some recent health issues and remains strong and focused on his family and his work throughout the process. My brother Doug and his wife Kathleen have twin boys who are eight months old, and they're staying upbeat and happy even with the lack of sleep and the incredible workload. My brother Mark has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but he remains the most positive person I know. Their "real life" challenges dwarf anything that I am faced with right now, and I admire them for how they face every day with their positive attitudes.
Favorite TV Show: HBO's On the Record with Bob Costas
Favorite Sports Team: Boston Red Sox
Hobbies: Softball, music, cooking, prowling Irish pubs and brewpubs, and following the trials and travails of the Boston Red Sox via satellite.
Favorite Types of Music: All types of music except opera and disco. I have eclectic play lists on my Nomad MP3 Jukebox that might have, for example, The Kinks, Duke Ellington, Ian Drury and the Blockheads, Pearl Jam and Johnny Cash played one after the other. I also played drums for a number of bands in the Boston/Worcester club scene in the '80s.
Favorite Food: Cheeseburgers
Favorite Beverages: Coffee in the morning, Diet Coke during the day, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or a great microbrew now and then, and "Don's secret margarita recipe" for hot summer weekends and Jimmy Buffett concerts.

Unisys, like Coca-Cola, has changed its formula for the better (Coke no longer contains extracts of cocaine as it once did). Yet Unisys Technology Business, like Coca- Cola, remains true to its roots -- there are approximately 10,000 Unisys mainframes still in use today. In fact, Unisys grew their mainframe business last year. However, they're not afraid to try new things to achieve even greater success than Coca-Cola. (Remember Coca- Cola's OK soda? Didn't think so.) In its dual capacity as both a services and technology provider, Unisys may be a critical business intelligence success factor for many companies today. While Unisys can lay claim to inventing business intelligence with their earliest computers -- their UNIVAC used data to predict the outcome of the 1952 presidential election hours before the polls closed (the first time a computer was used to turn data into actionable information) -- the company has embraced and evolved the world of BI. Like Coca-Cola, Unisys is classic.

The History of Unisys Corporation

1886- American Arithmometer Co.

1905- American Arithmometer renamed Burroughs Adding Machine Co.

1933- Sperry Corp. formed.

1946- ENIAC, the world's first large-scale,general- purpose digital computer,developed at the University of Pennsylvania by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly.

1949- Remington Rand produces 409, the world's first business computer. The 409 was later sold as the Univac 60 and 120. It was the first computer used by the Internal Revenue Service and the first computer installed in Japan.

1950- Remington Rand acquires Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp.

1951- Remington Rand delivers UNIVAC computer to the U.S. Census Bureau.

1952- UNIVAC makes history by predicting the election of
Dwight D. Eisenhower as U.S. president before polls close.

1953- Remington Rand introduces UNIVAC 1103, the first
commercial use of random access memory (RAM).

1955- Sperry and Remington Rand merge to form Sperry Rand.

1976- Sperry introduces first cache memory disk subsystem.

1986- Sperry and Burroughs merge to form Unisys Corporation.

1992- Unisys forms unit to deliver IT services.

1994- Services and solutions become the company's single largest business.

2000- Unisys begins shipping ES7000 servers - the first in the
market to take advantage of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server's support for 32- processor scalability.

2002- Unisys launches ES7000 Business Intelligence program with Partners In Excellence (Microsoft, Intel, SAS, SAP, ProClarity, Avanade and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Intelligence.

Val Latzke is an editor of DM Review magazine. She can be contacted at valerie.latzke@sourcemedia.com.

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