IBM clears name in GSIS system crash

By Karen Flores, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at May 31 2009 01:26 PM | Updated as of May 31 2009 09:50 PM

Officials of IBM Philippines finally broke their silence regarding their alleged liability in the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) system crash.

In an exclusive meeting with ABS-CBN News on Friday, IBM officials made it clear that the company does not have any contractual obligation to support the state-run pension fund manager, saying that IBM is merely an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to one of the technology vendors engaged by GSIS.

"If you look at the project, we're really nowhere near it...How can we establish the root cause if we don't have a contractual obligation to them?" IBM said.

An OEM is a producer that provides a certain product to its client, who in turn proceeds to customize it before distributing it to its customers. In this case, IBM is an OEM to business software solutions firm SAP by providing a database management software called IBM DB2.

According to IBM's website, the company has worked with SAP for more than 35 years in offering solutions that help governments integrate processes and systems.

SAP, in turn, is involved with systems integrator Questronix Corp., who leads the whole project with GSIS. Questronix has been a business partner of IBM for over 20 years, as mentioned in the former's official website.

For the GSIS project, IBM said the software they provided is tasked to manage the fund manager's records and loans. They said, however, that IBM DB2's performance is based on how it is used by the agency or company in charge of handling the software.

"We don't know how DB2 is customized. [There are] so many things involved in an SAP application project," IBM said.

"We only work through SAP, Questronix. [Still,] we're more than willing to talk to them (GSIS), fix solutions," IBM added.

IBM blamed for system crash

Earlier, GSIS demanded IBM to provide a permanent fix to the DB2 software and to shoulder expenses caused by the "inherent defects" of the software to the fund manager's operations.

GSIS said the IBM software had started showing problems last year, particularly in handling voluminous chunks of data. In response to this, IBM then upgraded its database system purportedly to enable it to handle unlimited volumes of data.

But GSIS said the upgrade only worsened the problem as the database began mishandling data. The GSIS system eventually crashed two months ago, paralyzing major operations of the pension fund manager and resulting in the slowdown of its claims and loans processing.

IBM, however said that a system can crash in many ways. "When all data is stored in a single container instead of multiple destinations, a crash will occur unless they spread the data out."

"Corrupted data can also cause the system to crash, this is called a 'bad page.' An application, a disk, or even data itself can be a source of corruption," IBM added.

According to Elamparo, IBM already knew of the problems of its software almost a year before the system crashed. IBM, however, said GSIS only advised them about the crash last April 9. "We have nothing to do, much less aware of, previous crashes."

The company also denied the pension fund manager's claims that even Questronix and SAP pointed the blame to the IBM DB2 software. "Questronix hasn't established the root cause. They didn't blame IBM. GSIS should evaluate their processes," IBM explained.

"This issue has caused damage to the company. [GSIS] said IBM is responsible, but we don't even know what the root problem is. They made it look like we were very involved. They never came to IBM," the company added.

Still, IBM said it is willing to have an amicable discussion with GSIS so the issue can finally be settled. "As much as possible, we don't want to say anything against our client. GSIS is still our client."