• United States

Dell designs for lower TCO

Sep 01, 20034 mins
Data Center

* Dell's strategy to lower the cost of owning Dell equipment

In this final article of my series on managing the lifecycle of your enterprise PCs, we’ll look at Dell. Dell has always been an innovative company in the way it builds and sells its PCs – even turning the whole industry on its ear with its “direct” approach.  It turns out that the company is also a leader in methods to drive down the total cost of ownership.

I talked with Greg Gibby, manager in the Relationship Client Product Group at Dell.  “The best way to reduce TCO is to implement best practices across the lifecyle of a client from planning, purchase, deployment, maintenance and replacement,” he explains. “Dell’s relationship products are designed to help enable best practices by designing products around four core values: stability, manageability, reliability, and serviceability.  Following best practices enables a customer to reduce the cost of keeping a PC for years.”

Dell was an early leader in designing systems that deliver stability and now the PC industry is starting to recognize the need for configuration stability as well.  Toward that end, Dell’s OptiPlex line of desktop PCs follows a stair step approach to the new technology curve and targets a 15-month lifecycle where Dell will keep the platform as stable as possible with the same drivers, components, and so on.  Fewer changes in configuration mean fewer images to maintain and spare parts to stockpile, and it eases the burden on help desk workers.

Next, having a system that is remotely manageable is critical.  Dell offers OpenManage, a comprehensive set of technologies, tools, and alliances based on industry standards, including the Common Information Model (CIM), Desktop Management Interface (DMI), SNMP, and Wired for Management (WfM).  Using these tools and technologies, administrators can diagnose, resolve and even anticipate problems, taking care of them quickly to reduce downtime and lower support costs.    

As for reliability of Dell PCs, Gibby says the company does enormous amounts of research and testing in its Austin lab to make sure the system doesn’t fail.  “Once we ship a PC, we don’t want to see it again until a customer asks us to gracefully dispose of it,” he explains.  And then there’s serviceability.  Dell pioneered the ability to service the PC in a tool less fashion, making it easy for a service technician to maintain or upgrade the PC.

There are a couple of areas where Dell offers unique features or services for PC lifecycle management.  For example, the company offers a service called Custom Factory Integration.  A corporate customer can develop a standard image for all its PCs it buys from Dell.  Then, each time a PC is ordered, Dell installs that image right on the factory floor, saving the time and labor of a technician or systems integrator at the customer site.  “We can maintain the image, or the customer can maintain it and send us changes as necessary,” Gibby says.  “Either way, we can set up the PC exactly as the customer wants it during the assembly process, and ship it ready to run when it reaches the customer.”

Dell is a leader in providing Asset Recovery services, or recycling.  What to do with hundreds or thousands of obsolete PCs can be a problem.  Dell offers to remove the old PCs and attempt to recover any residual value from them.  If there is value there, Dell credits the customer account toward the purchase of new platforms.  Whatever remains of the discarded PCs is safely recycled or retired.  And, the customer receives papers documenting that the data was deleted and how the assets were disposed of.

The Energy Star energy conservation movement is also important at Dell.  Part of the cost of ownership of a PC is the energy it draws.  The company has made big strides in reducing energy consumption in ways such as improving a PC’s sleep state.  All OptiPlex systems now ship with EnergyStar power savings mode as the factory default.  Such efforts can save about $200 per PC in operating costs over a three-year period.

The newly formed Dell Managed Services Group gives you the option to outsource your seat management or help desk functions.  Whether you provide your own in-house support or let Dell do it for you, following the company’s tried and true best practices over the lifecycle of a PC can really help to lower the cost of owning it.

Linda Musthaler is vice president of Currid & Company.  You can write to her at