IBM pulls up the ladder behind some supercomputer customers

As in it's stopped selling the ladders needed to clamber up and do maintenance. Thankfully the internet can help


IBM has pulled up the ladder behind customers of its Blue Gene/Q supercomputers.

A hardware withdrawal announcement dated June 8th, 2021 lists 53 products that Big Blue will stop selling as of September 30th, 2021.

Most are cables, old-school add-on cards, or racks.

But two ladders also make the list — namely the “Lift Tool and ladders, Blue Gene/Q” and the “Lift Tool and ladders, Blue Gene/Q, World Trade”.

IBM may be in decline, but the company retains its ability to document everything it does in extraordinary detail.

Which is how we found an IBM Canada sales manual update that offers some detail about the products.

“This feature delivers the US version of the Lift Tool, Ladder and Step Stool for the Blue Gene/Q system.”

“A lift tool is required for IBM to service the system. Failure to have at least one functional lift tool available in a location may result in delayed or prolonged maintenance times and additional maintenance charges.”

What's a lift tool? This IBM document shows that it comes in a crate and is designed to lift whole rack-mounted servers into position. A 2017 IBM price list [PDF] says a lift tool costs $6,108.

The ladder also appears to be an off-the-shelf affair. Our digging revealed that the ladder’s part number is 46G5947 and another IBM document uses the same part number and describes it as a “3 step Louisville ladder”.

As it happens, there is an actual company named “Louisville Ladders” and it offers a three-step model. You can check it out, here and find a very similar model on Amazon for about US$160.

Far from leaving users without a leg (or ladder) to stand on, IBM is surely within its rights to drop the lift tool and pull the ladder out from under its customers, as the Blue Gene/Q range was discontinued in 2015 and anyone still bothering to run them has had plenty of time to buy a ladder in the years since.

If you own one of the ladders, let us know if it has spiffy IBM branding or how you’re using it. You’ll do well to top one IBM recycling effort detailed in this marvelous blog post by Australian storage expert Antony Vandewerdt, who spotted an old IBM storage robot propping up a letterbox.

One last thing: Lousiville Ladders is all about safety and its motto is “Because work ain’t play”. Except when you write about lift tools and ladders for The Register. ®

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