True story: I sold my mainframe on eBay

CIO gets $40,000 auction bid for IBM zSeries system that cost him US$500,000 three years ago

An IBM zSeries mainframe that Palm Beach Community College bought for about a half-million dollars in 2005 was sold this month on eBay for US$40,000.

Mainframes and other IT systems "depreciate worse than cars," lamented Tony Parziale, CIO at the college in Florida. Parziale has moved some of the school's business applications from the zSeries machine to an Intel-based server that he said could deliver the same level of processing services at a much lower cost.

But Parziale's options for reselling the mainframe weren't good. He said that a state surplus auction would have drawn a limited buyer pool, potentially resulting in the zSeries system being sold for scrap. Meanwhile, IBM resale brokers offered him just US$15,000 for the machine.

Instead, Parziale decided to list the mainframe on eBay's auction site for a minimum price of US$30,000 in the hope that someone, somewhere might be interested. In fact, there was interest: the auction was completed Jan. 20, and Parziale said the winning bid was submitted by a company based in the Midwest.

He added that he doesn't know much about the buyer yet and that the sale has yet to be completed.

Corey Donovan, vice president of computer equipment reseller Vibrant Technologies, said cases of zSeries mainframes turning up on something like eBay are "pretty rare" -- partly because of the resale restrictions that IBM puts on the systems.

Indeed, Parziale said that he is still running the mainframe at the college while the buyer seeks certification from IBM for ongoing maintenance of the system. To get that, IBM will shut the system down and then recertify it, he said.

New certifications are required for other types of servers as well, but that process is generally less restrictive, according to Donovan. For instance, he said that IBM will simply inspect servers that Vibrant is looking to sell and certify them for resale.

Donovan wasn't surprised by the difference between the original purchase price that Parziale paid and the winning bid in the online auction.

The moment you open the box on a server, its value depreciates by 50%, Donovan said. And a 90% decline in value over three years "is pretty typical," he said.

But Donovan added that he does see increasing demand for used IT equipment, and he pointed to the sagging economy as a reason. "A lot of resellers out there are welcoming a recession -- a recession can really benefit us," he said.

The resale industry surged during a recession in the early 1990s, and then again during the dot-com bust earlier this decade, Donovan noted. Now, he said, resellers again "are looking forward to IT managers thinking about how they can stretch their IT dollars."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?