IBM Rochester

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The sprawling IBM facility in Rochester, Minnesota.

IBM Rochester is the facility of IBM in Rochester, Minnesota, not to be confused with the IBM Global Services facility in Rochester, New York. The initial structure was designed by Eero Saarinen, who clad the structure in blue panels of varying hues after being inspired by the Minnesota sky, as well as IBM's nickname of "Big Blue". These features and the facility's size has earned it the nickname "The Big Blue Zoo" from employees.

The building was first dedicated in 1958, but has been expanded considerably since then. The mile-long facility is best known as the plant that produced the AS/400 computer system, which later was rebranded as the iSeries and now System i. RS/6000, now System p, and hard disk development has also occurred at the site at points in the past. Actually, PureSystems are mainly assembled at this site.[1]

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, although having been spun off from IBM Storage Technology, remains on-site, leasing otherwise unused space from IBM. Along with the Mayo Clinic, the IBM plant is one of the biggest employers in the Rochester area, reportedly numbering around 5,000 in 2002.

The AS/400 division at the plant received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1990. In November 2004, the facility claimed the top spot in the TOP500 list of fast supercomputers with a prototype Blue Gene/L system containing 32,768 processors. It clocked in at 70.72 teraflops. The manufacturing output of the site is so great that if it were a separate company, it would be the world's third-largest computer producer.

The IBM 5110 personal computer was developed and manufactured in the facility.

Groundbreaking for the facility took place on July 31, 1956. When it was first completed, there was 576,000 square feet (53,500 m²) of floor space. There is 3.1 million square feet (290,000 m²) today on the main campus, more than half the size of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Employment at the site has gone through several cycles of growth and collapse, but is over twice what it was in the 1950s. Rumors have appeared over the years suggesting that the structure was designed to look like a punched card from above, but this is more due to the facility's expansion over the years rather than an intention by Saarinen.

The plant, which is near U.S. Highway 52 in the northwestern part of Rochester, was recognized in 1990 by the National Building Museum as one of the significant contributions of IBM to the built environment of the United States, along with IBM's New York City headquarters and the IBM building in Atlanta, Georgia.

Site Features

  • Cafeteria
  • Bank
  • Medical Center
  • Courtyards
  • Convenience Store—Serves coffee, espresso drinks, and snacks.
  • Scattered Foosball and Ping Pong tables
  • Private Dining Rooms with Catering
  • Print Room
  • Mail Room
  • 18-Hole Disc Golf Course
  • Tennis Courts
  • Basketball Courts
  • Volleyball Courts
  • Grilling Pits/Picnic Areas
  • Softball Fields
  • Football/Soccer Fields
  • Outdoor Walking Path
  • Pond
  • Executive Briefing Center
  • Benchmark Center
  • Education facility with numerous classrooms
Closer view of IBM Rochester, locally nicknamed the "Big Blue Zoo".


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