Unisys. Unisys. Unisys. No, we can't quite rememb . . . Oh, that's right - the company that sells hardware and services. Some of you might not be old enough to remember Unisys, but that's okay because there's a new Unisys for you to explore. Where the old Unisys sold hulking servers and offered services, the new Unisys sells …
EMC can't be bothered to send out engineers to look after its Clariion boxes (not as much money as the Symmetrix etc), so they get Unisys to do it. So for the past few years I've had to suffer the company we've rebranded Unipiss as sometimes they are totally useless...
You don't remember...
..that Unisys = EMCC (Univac) + Electronic Research Associates + Remington Rand + Sperry + Convergent Technologies + Varian + Burroughs + (a bunch of other tiny companies swallowed without trace) ?
A bit of history
When Sperry & Burroughs merged in 1986 to create Unisys, they make one of the biggest players in mainframe area (in fact was 2nd after IBM) so the term 'tiny' doesn't fit for this name.
I thought they have ditch Service Division, at least in US, from July2007 not to mention India outsourcing...
Many years ago, the Word spell checker didn't recognise "Unisys". It suggested 'anuses' as a possible alternative.
I worked at a little cmos ic company around the corner from a big Sperry facility that got renamed Unisys during my time in silicon valley. The building (in my memory at least) was 2 blocks long, black or dark gray with a stripe (red?) at the top. How do you lose something that big???
OS neutral ! pah, remember : they are in bed with the devil!
Price of progress
is a big bonus for a marketing executive. here's how this works:
you start with a pure-technology company, then gradually replace everyone who has decision-making authority with someone nontechnical, preferably with a sales, marketing, or "pure management" background; an MBA would be nice. make sure none of them understand technology AT ALL, and all of them are risk-averse.
this is how you turn one of the biggest movers and shakers in the computer field into...well, i'm not sure what they do that is distinctive, and and no one i know has any idea, either.
therefore, it must be a slow news day, as there is a story about Unisys here (a fly in my soup?). kind of like a story about a cat stuck in a tree, in The Economist.
Should have been Bunivac
after the Burroughs/Univac merger. What a shame, maybe they would still have been no. 2.
With vague memories of a first job in "real IT" - 2 months as operator on a Sperry 90/30 (storage tube display as console... wow).
The Unisys blade servers are just re-branded Dell 2.0 anti-(yet-so-similar)-HP-BladeSystem blade servers and enclosures. You can even pick out the Dell hard drive carriers in the product shot on their site:
UNISYSss Big Red Stripe
Now your all being unfair, for years I had a big stack of UNISYS branded boxes containing a full set of Netware manuals. They were so big and chunky (and black with that cool red stripe thing going on) that they made an excellent stand for a SUN workstation in the one corner of the datacentre....
Ah, the "roaring 90's", them were the days ;-)
Unisys - Run by Smiffy of The Bash St Kids
Unisys have many great products, a gazillion processor cycles in the business and abso-bloody-lootly no idea how to market what they've got in any way, shape or form. They also have some clunky wince-inducing stuff they put on the front page of their brochures. Go figure. Now, it seems, in a brilliant marketing move, they've hired Vogon poets to write their press releases. Typical.
Their 2200-family series ran to what passes for my mind as the bestest recovery environment I've come across before or since, but do you think the company could sell it at a time when the IT world was begging for that very thing? Could it buggery.
Let's face it, the only reason they became widely used in the UK was that ICL were even worse at customer relations and drove vast numbers of would-be 2900 purchasers into the arms of (then) Sperry Univac with their attitude in print over the future of George.
Unisys could invent perpetual motion tomorrow and their stock would fall in the following month after the marketing campaign for it was launched. If ever a company needed rescuing from itself, it's Unisys.
I blame the move from valves to those new-fangled transblister things.
I worked for these pointy-haired types for a while
The small company I worked for was swallowed up by the Unimonster ( they forgot to guarantee the brain-trust all of whom left in a month... nothing was left a year later except the smoke from $100m). I spent a week or two at the PA headquarters, where engineers worked two and three to a standard cube on wildly out-of-date PCs. The machine room was bigger than my home company. The executive suite area had special hall carpeting, soffit lighting, and cheesy fake steel doors, which were shut all the time. The rest of the building had the original tattered orange carpet from the 1970's.
I quit for a new job a couple of weeks later, and there is no Unisys on my resume.
Then and now
I remember when Unisys merged with/took over Burroughs. Their slogan then was 'The power of two' (See, in those days they had these really switched-on marketing people who could come up with subtle in-crowd type slogans like that.)
Anyway the huge poster outside the mega-HQ on Hanger Lane had been amended to read 'The tower of poo.'
How things change.
I worked for them also
We liked to refer to our senior strategy as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The ex-secretary of the treasury, with a truly inflated opinion of himself from signing money, essentially did a hostile takeover with Sperry's own cash and resources. A personnel bloodbath ensued. Including at least one suicide.
No one who actually had an idea what we did bought the idea that the economies of sharing processes had merit. Everything about what was produced by the two companies was completely different from each other. Even to the parts level.
Sperry had a lot of cash, and owned huge amounts of real estate (factories, HQ, etc.). Everything was sold and many times leased from the buyers. Debt incurred was astronomical. The direction moved from a technology based Sperry (though in a really large number of instances, dismally managed) company to complete BS. With Sperry at least we could fix things for customers. There were direct paths to the guys that actually knew how to do things. That was fixed by the merger. I understand that at takeover the UNIX port to the existing mainframes was canceled as not being useful. Unisys would have been years ahead in providing real MIPS, storage, etc. for UNIX servers. It could have been transformational.
The retirement plan was gutted. Free health care for life became an option that eventually cost more than the entire retirement benefit.
But on the other hand, please keep buying Unisys stuff to try and avoid our loosing all retirement benefits.
Blast from the past
Sperry was my first IT job. Exec 8, Fastrands (whale-size rotating drum storage). 36-bit words in sixths! Fantastic! But then Sperry got acquisition-crazy. Sort of like having IBM buy Lotus.
It's not on my resume either.
What a relief!
For these last Ahem! years, it seems I was not alone in trying to fathom out the meaning of all that marketing doublespeak! .
Burroughs destroyed another company
I worked in New England before I moved to Minnesota in the late '70's for a job, and a year later, there I was looking at a Univac mainframe, wondering where to put the bloody coal to keep it running (Why did it have all those silly lights?!?).
Years later, after hemorrhaging money, Burroughs management, having destroyed that company, looking for new sources of body parts, bought us, and the fire sale continued. When they ran out of buildings and people to sell off, they sold my division to a company, Loral, that then sold itself to Lockheed, and we all finally lived happily ever after. There is still a Unisys facility next door to my building, and I think that folks who work there sold their spare kidneys and redundant children to help the company's bottom line.
on the other hand...
I work for Unisys and I joined them after working for some of the other Giant System Integrators and in my experience I find working at Unisys the only place so far I can feel remotely proud to have worked for.
Here I've found people who are exceptionally good at what they do, people who pride themselves on the quality of the work they do. The difference here compared to the places I've worked before (IBM, Accenture, and CSC) is that every project I've worked on the philosophy is integrity and professionalism. I have worked in teams that put in huge amounts of unpaid overtime in because of their attention to detail above and beyond the call of duty; contractors even get into the spirit of things.
The company get a lot of repeat business because our customers generally are delighted by the level of service and expertise they get.
The one thing that I think my company does not do well is detailed in the article - we're not as accessible to the media as we should be. I have cited this as a problem for a considerable amount of time, it's not like we're boasting but some of things I've seen us do and achieve really should be making waves in the media. We've done some exceptional work with Microsoft Exchange 2007 which has caused Microsoft to change their internal expectations of the product but do you the general public hear about it? Unfortunately not, at this point but a core of people within the company do understand that we do need to be more accessible despite our schedules and that is something that is coming.
Every company has it's issues, no one of them is perfect nor do they claim to be. In cases like the post above it's like the old adage "bad news travels faster than good news"
They Just Don't Get It
I too worked for "Big Red" and was a senior manger in my cluster. I come from an applications background and became very frustrated with Unisys because, to be blunt, they don't get applications. They bang on about apps and services but afer all this time they are still just a hardware company - well maybe a hardware and data centre company, but NOT an applications comany!!!
Everything is geared around selling "tin". It is literally "How can we sell more ES7000s?". At one senior management meeting I sat next to a sales director who asked "do we do applications?"
I attempted to build an low-cost outsource based application development and support practice but was blocked at every turn by the old Unisys high cost project based practice. Biggest problem was our low cost model meant we could charge out at 50% of what Unisys had traditionally charged. So my team would effectively undercut another part of the business. This other part of the business and low utilisation and huge cost overrun issues so their charge out rate kept increasing - unfortunately the market wouldn't meet their demands. I had a way to meet the market on price and kill our competition in the apps space. Sorry, "das is verboten" I was told. So, like many others, I left and setup in competition to the big U. Little by little Unisys (in my part of the world) a slowly being killed out of the apps market by small organisations set up by ex-Unisys staff!!!
Unisys should face facts and market itself for what it is:
2. Data Centres
4. More Hardware
5. Rebranded Networks
6. Even More Hardware