An IT Director Goes Shopping

One way tanking dot-coms have of paying off their debts to investors is to sell assets through auction. And therein lies an opportunity for the savvy network administrator to pick up bargains.

MCP Magazine recently attended an auction to watch one such bargain-hunter in action. Brian Engelsen is the director of IT for Pagoo Inc., a company that specializes in voice-over-IP services. He attends many events run by DoveBid, which holds business auctions worldwide. In this particular auction, Engelsen hoped to pick up a Cisco switch or two.

At 8:30 a.m. on the day of the auction, Engelsen wandered through the offices of defunct Pandesic (a well-funded venture of Intel and SAP), evaluating the equipment for sale.

“The hard and fast rule I have for auctions is, I always know how much I’m willing to pay,” he said. “And I never violate the rule. I don’t care if it goes over by a dollar.”

Engelsen picked through boxes sitting in one office. “People should pay attention to the nooks and crannies... there might be little treasures hidden in the boxes.”

Pagoo runs a mix of Windows 2000, Windows NT, and Unix, “depending on the application,” Engelsen said. He comes to auctions to try to save money on equipment that’s been budgeted for already.

His research consists of getting a list of what’s being sold ahead of time and marking down what he wants. From there, he does research on what the equipment would sell for through the vendor’s resellers or eBay. He also arrives with a screwdriver, prepared to open machines to peer inside. His advice: “If it’s a desktop, it’s best to fire it up. Servers will more than likely work.”

By the time the auction began, the “factory floor” was jammed with people holding paper paddles showing their bid numbers. DoveBid also broadcasts many of its auctions through its Web site. If people are simply going to watch the action, they tune into the Webcast. If they’re going to bid, they also call by phone in order to manage their bids real-time.

Auctioneer John Rademaker expected several hundred people around the world to participate online. The company was selling about a thousand items and Rademaker said the auction would last about five hours.

“We’ll go fast. If we’re selling individual items, we’ll sell a hundred in an hour.” (The auction actually lasted about twice that long.)

In a situation where there are multiples of the same item, the auctioneer will announce “lot 100 through lot 129,” Rademaker explained. “There are 30 IBM 300PL 500s. They’re all pretty much the same. High bid can take as many as they want and whichever ones they want. The high bidder might take four or five. Then we say, ‘Who else wants one at that price?’ More of them go out. Then we say, ‘Ten left. Anybody else for individual quantities?’ Next, it’s bid times 10. You take them all.”

But the Webcast on this day created problems. When a participant bid on an item, he or she would click a button on the browser window; to cancel the bid, he or she would click another button. But there was a lag in the time it took for that event to be acknowledged by the auctioneer. For example, bidding on two Dell Latitude CXS PIII Slim notebook computers reached $2,400 apiece on the Web before the auction company noticed that its bidders had dropped out. At that point, Rademaker turned to those physically present and redid the bidding. The units finally sold for $925 each.

Six Compaq ProLiant 1600s with 512MB of RAM and 27GB hard disks sold for $1,100 apiece. Twenty-five Compaq disk arrays with between 24GB and 109GB went for $650 apiece; the high bidder chose which arrays he wanted from the bunch. Several dozen IBM ThinkPads sold for $650 apiece; when the bidding went into lot-sized quantities of eight, the price came down to $525 each. A Cisco Systems 7200 sold for $6,100; a 2600 series router for $1,900.

[To hear an audio file of auctioneer John Rademaker calling live and online bids, right-click this link and choose "Save As" from the pop-up menu. Or send e-mail to; put "Auction" in the subject line of your message.—Ed.]

By the end of the day, bidder Engelsen had lost out on a Cisco 6509 switch, lot 547. He’d set his limit at $26,000, but the bidding surpassed that, finally landing at $32,000.

“The overall pricing has been a little on the high side,” he concluded. But he’s confident that he’ll get what he needs at the next auction. “You have to be patient.”

To see a list of upcoming auctions, visit

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Aug 26, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

A "blind eye to anything that’s Microsoft" I would use stronger words than that. There are people who are just plain ANTI-Microsoft. Especially if they have a Dr. as part of their name. The ease of integration makes JAVA look like some kind of genetic experiment gone bad.

Tue, Aug 26, 2003 Keith Franklin Chicago

Hello All,

I am the person quoted from Empowered Software Solutions and the article has a typo. The actual change was from an application that had over 1.3 million lines of code to under 400,000 lines of code. I have asked for the article to be corrected, but nothing has happened.

Sun, Aug 17, 2003 shana oklahoma

You think they meant down to 400,000 lines of code?

Mon, Jun 30, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

what a crock of shit....1 million lines down to 400....I love .Net, but come on, just the designer generated code is almost 400 lines! ;)

Thu, Jun 5, 2003 Ram Mumbai, INDIA

There was reduction of 40%-50% of lines of code when compared to java vs .net but it's very unlikely to believe that Empowered technologies built an application (which is robust and extensive as they claims) in 400 lines of code that too 9 months.. can't believe.

Either the figure must be wrong or author of that case study must not be knowing with 400 lines of code how complex app can be developed...

.NET is powerful no doubt about it but over publicizing is not correct i believe.


No-one really wants to upgrade to it yet anyway. Its way to soon for most companys, maybe in another year or 2.

Wed, May 21, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Very frequently, the real choice isn’t .NET vs. Java; it’s Windows vs. Unix,” says Chappell

Very True. .NET is absolutely fantastic, but a lot of clients just throw a blind eye to anything thats Microsoft

Mon, May 19, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

It is possible that some are working on both the technologies

Mon, May 19, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Great article!
I don't understand the numbers in this paragraph...don't percentages have to add up to 100, not 125%?

A recent survey from Evans Data Corporation finds that Microsoft’s line of development tools – particularly Visual Basic.NET and C#.NET – lead the market in terms of toolkit choices among enterprise developers. The survey also finds that at this time, Java/J2EE has an edge in the enterprise, used by 70 percent of enterprise developers, versus 55 percent for .NET. However, .NET is expected to close in over the coming year, narrowing the margin to 83 percent versus 72 percent.

Sun, May 18, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous


Fri, May 16, 2003 Tim Los Angeles

I mean a typo, see how easy it is to make a mistake.

Fri, May 16, 2003 Tim Los Angeles

I think 400 is a type, most likely it's a 40% reduction in total line counts.

Fri, May 16, 2003 Michael Long Knoxville, TN

Where does the media find the drooling idiots like the buffoon from Empowered Software? 1 million lines to 400 - give me a break. While the lines of code can be reduced, this guy is either insane, has difficulty counting past 21 (for obvious reasons), or had a group of chimpanzees working on the previous version of the code.

.NET is a definite winner, but when the media gets bozos to toss out statements like this it bolsters the Java camps position by making the Microsoft world look like its run by idiots.

Fri, May 16, 2003 Glenn Detroit

This article refelcts my experience with the ASP.NET application I just finished for a client. The hierarchical structure of OS services and smooth integration of your application through Visual Studio.NET enables the application to become part of the computer system.
Another key benefit of .NET is the ease of deploying the application as well as updates. It is completely painless.
After 10 years of VB the move to C-Sharp was also painless and helps me to be more in touch with object programming.

Fri, May 16, 2003 James London

.NET Rocks!

Thu, May 15, 2003 Derek Canada

I don't think it's fair to characterize .NET as "nothing more than a set of APIs." Yes, the base class library is a giant set of APIs. But the .NET Framework provides an entire runtime environment with memory management, security, automatic marhsalling between the common type system and COM, etc. And the .NET Framework SDK provides a great set of tools for developers, including four compilers and wsdl.exe. Calling .NET a set of APIs is like saying Java is only a programming language. The .NET Framework is more accurately called a platform in the same sense that Java is a platform.

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