Colgate-Palmolive has chosen IBM to be its global provider of infrastructure technology.
Under the agreement, Big Blue servers, PCs, notebooks, storage and software will replace existing products from other vendors, primarily Sun Microsystems.
Although the deal was referred to as "massive" and runs to many millions of pounds, neither party was prepared to disclose the value. However, Sun is known to have had close to 50 servers and around 15Tb of disk storage installed.
The first phase, involving the global rollout of Colgate's SAP applications, began last November and will be largely completed by the end of the year.
It involves standardising on IBM eServer pSeries Unix servers and its TotalStorage enterprise storage servers, also known as Shark, along with IBM Tivoli enterprise management software.
Jim McGaughan, director of IBM eServer marketing, said: "Colgate wanted to wait until the proof of concept was completed.
"The company has now proved that [this hardware and software combination] has given it a 40 per cent performance improvement across a number of different variables."
One indicator of the magnitude of the order is a new central data warehouse that will be 50Tb in size. According to analyst Jonathan Eunice of Illuminata, this is at the edge of what IBM DB2 and SAP can accomplish.
"But Colgate is not betting on DB2 or SAP. It is betting on IBM doing whatever it takes to make it work, including optimisation of DB2," he said.
McGaughan added that ongoing equipment running costs was a major factor in the decision. He explained that IBM's Project eLiza work to produce self-healing and self-managing systems weighed heavily in its favour.
Eunice pointed out that every vendor acknowledged that it had not done a good job of making things easy to manage and run, and that they were all, including Sun, working hard to address this shortcoming.
"Nobody is there yet but IBM has some thought leadership and has a serious plan to improve this in the future," said the analyst.
He also believed that Sun's poor performance, and uncertainty over the Hewlett Packard/Compaq merger, was playing well for IBM.
Colgate will standardise on IBM notebooks and desktops using patented IBM ImageUltra technology which provides a way of managing all PCs to ensure that they are running the same software versions.
McGaughan explained that this produced a cost saving on maintenance of about £69 per PC per annum.
SAP has a long relationship with Colgate and currently manages its business operations in 51 countries which generate 90 per cent of the consumer care company's worldwide revenues.
It also handles around 94 per cent of all applications spanning supply chain, sales order processing and accounting and human resources, as well as the business data warehouse including customer relationship management software.
Increased availability for SAP data is planned through storage area networks and enterprise storage servers.
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