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"Safe" system hardware

Library Systems Newsletter [July 1997]

We were recently asked "what is the safest system hardware to buy?" The inquiry came from a library which did not define "safe," but made it clear that it wanted to avoid being stuck with hardware which might be abandoned by the original vendor and not supported by anyone locally. We have expanded on this criteria by defining system hardware as "safe" when:

  1. It is manufactured by a financially stable company
  2. The manufacturer has maintenance support within 100 miles of more than 95 percent of the U.S. population
  3. There is an active "after-market," third-party organizations which sell parts and service for the hardware
  4. The installed library system base is large enough that some other automated library system vendors will support the hardware for a customer which is migrating to its system even though it does not sell that hardware.
Using these criteria, the "safest" purchases are the Digital Alpha, Hewlett-Packard 9000, and IBM RS/6000. All three come from major manufacturers which have blanketed the U.S. and much of Canada and Europe-with maintenance support centers. In terms of overall market share: HP and Digital each have 23 percent of the mid-range systems market; IBM has 30 percent, but only a little more than half of that is the IBM RS/6000. There are hundreds of companies which manufacture replacement parts and thousands which offer maintenance for these machines. There are at least 1,000 of each of these product lines installed in libraries.

The SunSPARC/Ultra, which is now being offered by some vendors of automated library systems is also a good choice, although the company is considerably smaller than the "big three," therefore, maintenance support is not as widely available and the "after-market" is quitE small. Nevertheless, any company which has 17 percent of the mid-range market has to be considered a major player. Consider that all of the other companies in the industry combined have only seven percent of the market.

Tandem, which has been a minor player in the market for the last few years, is expected to benefit from a major infusion of capital as the result of its acquisition by Compaq. The combined companies will be larger than either Digital or Sun.

The statistics in this report were provided courtesy of VarBusiness Research.

View Citation
Publication Year:1997
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Systems Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 17 Number 07
Issue:July 1997
Publisher:American Library Association
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Notes:Howard S. White, Editor-in-Chief; Richard W. Boss, Contributing Editor
Subject: Computer hardware
Record Number:5570
Last Update:2023-11-14 18:15:30
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00