New Year, New Start


Something’s missing on Cathcarts Corner, for the first time in 22-years, there is no IBM in the center of my CV. I’ll be starting in a new position at Dell on Monday 12th of January, as a Director of Systems Engineering, and Distinguished Engineer.

I enjoyed my time at IBM enormously; I got to work with some great people, on some great development and customer projects. My time came to an end though in Power Systems and more recently, data center networking.

In IBM, I’d never been part of a traditional development organization, rather, as my long time mentor and good friend Adrian Walmsley once noted, a poacher turned game keeper.

In my last four years at IBM, every project I’ve worked on has been subject to major compromise, cut-back and delays to accommodate another part of the IBM business, and I found that too frustrating.

My first project in IBM Power Systems was a great learning lesson. We spent 5-months looking at the software requirements for the follow-on processor to the p6. Presented with two processor designs, in the end we decided to go with the obvious one that built on the existing p6 chip, rather than a radical, highly multithreaded alternative.

After that, I failed to get any real software interest, either as platform function, packaging or, importantly in systems, or platform management function. Although some of my core recommendations are being built for the next generations of servers, it was obvious that the Power Systems team were still maniacally focused on dominating the Unix hardware performance at the cost of almost everything else.

I’ve no idea how different things will be at Dell. Unlike IBM Systems Group who have to solve every problem on four different architectures, and for a dozen or so unique machine type-models, Dell have their own challenges. I’m looking forward to helping solve them.

13 Responses to “New Year, New Start”

  1. 1 Joe Temple January 6, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Good luck, Mark. I wish you well, and enjoyed our time togehter at IBM. “You know where I live”.

  2. 2 Ludovic January 7, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Good luck Mark!

    All good things come to an end indeed…

  3. 3 Tom Maguire January 7, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Congrats! Good luck, though you don’t need it…

  4. 4 Martin Ferrier January 8, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Mark good luck in your new endeavours.

  5. 5 Steve Strutt January 9, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Good luck in your new role. Looks a challenging assignment. Will miss your comments on the machinations of the IBM machine, management and professions.

  6. 6 Martin Yarborough January 10, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Your reputation preceeds your employement at Dell. Welcome aboard and those of us at Dell are thrilled with your decision.

  7. 7 Mark Rittmayer January 10, 2009 at 11:38 pm


    Good luck with Dell…I to recently left IBM as the focus seems to be missing when it comes to just about every direction they are taking. I like Sam but hes no match for Lou.

    Eric schmidt is my next guess for an IBM CEO and when he arrives I’ll be back…and then you can return and we wont deprive you of priority again…

    Work Hard, Play Hard, and enjoy the wins !!!

    Mark C. Rittmayer – Former IBM player

  8. 8 Dell Employee January 11, 2009 at 9:42 am

    You joined the wrong company. All we’re doing at Dell is slashing and burning, we have no clue where we’re headed. No one I know supports Michael at this point, we’re all just hoping he and his cronies don’t send our jobs overseas. This place is turning into a garbage can.

  9. 9 Alessandro Perilli January 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Impressive move Mark,
    I wish you all the best for this new position.

    I’m sure we’ll have a lot to discuss about virtualization once you’ll have your seat at Dell…


  10. 10 cathcam January 11, 2009 at 8:44 pm


    I will do what I can to keep jobs with those most skilled to perform them, irrespective of location. Sadly, I can understand and have suffered exactly your frustration when business executive make balance sheet judgment on the value of jobs without understanding the cost.

    A programmer in India, China, Argentina or Poland is the same value as a programmer in America, England etc. the cost though is lower. Except that often really isn’t the case. The overhead involved in getting them up to speed, briefing them, supporting them, writing functional specifications and explaining them, building overly complex testing plans etc. etc. all problems associated with moving work to places where they have the notional, but not the practical skills or experience to deal with the task in hand.

    I doubt I will have much say in this at Dell. However, what I do think I can help Dell to do is to identify the unique value prop in what we are building for servers, and where we can and what we should build to maximize our ability to select components and suppliers, without having to incur additional costs to build custom code/programs/interfaces for each and every supplier.

    If you want to get in touch when I show up in the internal directory, I’d like to hear what else you have to say.

  11. 11 Pamela January 13, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Mark, I venture the opinion you will have a great time in your new pursuit and Dell the company will benefit from your contributions.

    Let’s have coffee! …and what about that dinner?

  12. 12 monique February 19, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    although little bit late, but i just want to say good luck

  1. 1 Dell Boosts Services With Purchase of Allin Unit - Bits Blog - Trackback on January 9, 2009 at 4:58 pm

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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society ( I'm an information technology optimist.

I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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