The Trouble With IBM

Why customers are breaking up with IBM

In the summer of 2012, five American technology companies bid on a project for a demanding new client: the CIA. The spy agency was collecting so much information, its computers couldn’t keep up. To deal with the onslaught of data, the CIA wanted to build its own private cloud computing system—an internal version of the vast fleets of efficient, adaptable servers that run technically complex commercial services such as Netflix. For the agency, the power of the cloud was tantalizing. “It is nearly within our grasp to compute on all human-generated information,” the CIA’s chief technology officer, Ira “Gus” Hunt, told a gathering of industry leaders earlier that year, calling it “high noon in the Information Age.” For the bidders, more was at stake than a piece of the lucrative federal IT market. Whoever won the 10-year, $600 million contract could boast that its technology met the highest standards, with the tightest security, at the most competitive prices, at a time when customers of all kinds were beginning to spend more on data and analytics.

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