Amdahl claims SSA contract favors IBM

Amdahl Corp. charged that the Social Security Administration's multimillion-dollar mainframe buy unfairly favors IBM Corp. to the exclusion of other bidders.

In a pre-bid protest filed with the General Services Administration's Board of Contract Appeals earlier this month, Amdahl claimed SSA "virtually preordained" the selection of IBM for its Mainframe Acquisition Project (MAP) 2000 by requiring vendors to include in their bids a recently developed technology that is only manufactured by IBM.

The technology, Sysplex Coupling Facilities (SCFs), manages the workload among a group of mainframes, allowing only one processor at a time to access a database. It also makes the most efficient use of memory and allows for easy expansion.

Fewer than a dozen Sysplex systems are in operation today, a number that should grow to about 100 by the end of the year, according to the Meta Group, Stamford, Conn.

SCFs are a key component of MAP. Under the contract, which is expected to reach well into the tens of millions of dollars, SSA will replace 14 mainframes with five more-powerful mainframes at its National Computer Center, where everything from Social Security benefits to administrative programs are processed [FCW, Feb. 5].

SSA has required vendors to supply two SCFs at the beginning of the MAP contract and another two in 18 months. A total of six SCFs will be supplied over the life of the contract.

When first drafted early this year, the MAP request for proposals required vendors to base their bids on acquiring SCFs directly from IBM. After vendors complained, SSA amended the contract to give vendors a second option to obtain SCFs from SSA as government-furnished equipment. Under this option, SSA would price the SCFs based on the GSA schedule price.

Amdahl argued that the first option puts vendors at risk for possible costly delays and makes it impossible to match IBM's price for SCFs. The second option, Amdahl claims, would increase its bid by about $19 million.

Because SSA will use price as the primary factor in choosing a MAP winner, "the addition of [$19 million] creates a burden so enormous that it makes an IBM award a virtual certainty," according to the Amdahl protest.

A government official familiar with MAP disagreed, claiming Amdahl's added cost is closer to about $3 million because Amdahl will have its own SCF available in about nine months.

Karen Zucker, counsel for Amdahl, said Amdahl cannot base its bid on the company's SCF because MAP requirements do not allow vendors to include equipment that has not been field tested. Zucker also said that even if the cost difference is $3 million, that is enough to cost Amdahl the contract. Amdahl has asked SSA to place the SCFs in a separate buy that would be bid later this year.

Amdahl, IBM and Hitachi are expected to bid on MAP. IBM and Hitachi declined to comment. An award is expected this spring.

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