IBM confirms plans to sell Global Network

IBM is indeed looking to sell its Global Network and underlying infrastructure, which offers connectivity services to clients worldwide, the company announced earlier this week.

Sources familiar with the vendor's plans earlier this month said that IBM wanted to sell the network, but the company has until now been unwilling to comment officially. The global network is viewed both internally and externally as extraneous to IBM's core business.

The company never intended to provide a data services infrastructure, and started the network initially in the early 1980s to share data internally, said spokeswoman Tara Sexton.

"We were just forced to do that because there was no other alternative," Sexton said of the Global Network, adding that IBM customers also had a need for a data network infrastructure and so the company extended the service to external users.

The IBM Global Network provides leased-line and dial-up service to businesses in 900 cities in 100 countries and allows individuals to access the Internet from 1350 locations in 53 countries.

Now that telecommunications companies are engaged in a "frenzy" of updating analog networks to handle data traffic, there are plenty of alternatives and IBM has therefore decided to scrap the business. The company has been discussing the possible sale with potential buyers, including what IBM described as major telecommunications carriers.

Although IBM's role as an outsourcer has been growing, the company does not view the network infrastructure as key to that part of its business, Sexton said. Rather, the services end of the network is seen as critical and the company will continue to offer integrated outsourcing services, including content hosting and EDI (electronic data interchange), she said.