Stories by Tom Pullar-Strecker, BusinessDay

IBM sends hardware, engineers to Christchurch

IBM has sent two truckloads of computer equipment to Christchurch and flown in five engineers and spare parts from Australia to try to ensure businesses affected by Saturday's earthquake can get working as quickly as possible. Sales manager Phil Patton expected companies would need to replace broken computers and monitors, but thought it would be tomorrow or the next day before the scale of any problems became clear. IBM began readying the supplies hours after the earthquake struck, "so we could be on standby and ready for customers, without knowing what they would need". Hewlett-Packard had staff and supplies "available on standby" if needed. Patton said it was not yet clear when staff would be able to return to IBM's Hereford St office. Telecom offered to fly some staff out of the city for the rest of the week so they could work while its office, also in Hereford St, remained closed. Spokeswoman Katherine Murphy said the focus was on supporting Christchurch staff. Tait Electronics managing director Frank Owen said about 80 percent of its 630 staff were back at work yesterday. A few ceiling panels collapsed and computers "toppled off desks", but its manufacturing and customer support services were operating normally. From its Harewood headquarters, software-maker Jade runs computer systems for companies around the world. Chief innovation officer John Ascroft said Jade went to backup power and there were no service interruptions. Engineers inspected its building and Ascroft expected staff could return to work tomorrow. Christchurch internet provider Snap reported no damage to its $2 million Sydenham datacentre. There were reports of some Sky Television set-top boxes giving up the ghost. Company spokesman Tony O'Brien said calls to its contact centre had increased but it was coping well, indicating problems were not widespread. TelstraClear spokesman David Courtney said all but three of its 80 telecommunications cabinets were back on mains power by yesterday afternoon, but about 800 cable customers were without broadband and pay TV. Telecom said its fixed-line network and both mobile networks were performing well. Some equipment was still being powered by portable generators.

HP and IBM absent from cloud computing panel

Hewlett-Packard and IBM – the world's top two computer companies – have failed to secure a place on a panel of suppliers that will advise government agencies on cloud computing. Internal Affairs' Government Technology Services branch will instead seek advice from Kiwi companies Datacom, Gen-i and Core Technology and the New Zealand arms of multinationals Datacraft, Fujitsu, Google, Microsoft and Unisys. Spokeswoman Amanda Duncan says the "supplier advisory panel for government cloud computing guidance" will meet once a month and provide technical advice to government agencies. Thirty-six companies responded to an invitation to sit on the panel. Ms Duncan says the successful firms will "absolutely not" be at an advantage when bidding for government tenders. They will have an "opportunity to meet people", but there may be no cross-over with staff running tenders, she says. The panellists will not be paid for their advice. Internal Affairs will next week issue a request for information from companies that could supply IT infrastructure "as a service", including datacentre capacity and computer power and storage on demand. A similar initiative in Australia is forecast to save its federal government A$1 billion over 15 years. A 2008 survey indicated government agencies then spent $1.94 billion on ICT. Agencies rated Hewlett-Packard and IBM third and fourth, respectively, in the top-five outsourcing firms they were likely to do business with, behind Telecom's Gen-i and Datacom. Fujitsu, Unisys and Microsoft are among multinational technology companies that have maintained a high public profile in the New Zealand technology sector. Managers from the three companies have regularly commented on public policy issues and technology trends. Hewlett-Packard merged in 2008 with EDS New Zealand, which was once the dominant supplier of information technology services to government agencies. IBM spokeswoman Kate Woodruffe says it has nothing to say about its non-representation on the panel. Hewlett-Packard New Zealand also declined to comment but pointed to a May statement by the company that said it believed cloud services were "largely an additive" and would not replace existing technology-enabled services. Fujitsu New Zealand managing director Stuart Stitt says it views the panel as a good opportunity. The company is continuing to investigate building a datacentre in Wellington on which it has flagged it may spend about $15 million. Another successful adviser said the panel had a Kiwi flavour. He was surprised IBM and Hewlett-Packard weren't on the list and would have been shocked if they had not applied. Internal Affairs had made it clear it wanted to see "thought leadership from the industry", he says.