Several members of eWEEKs corporate Partner Advisory Board recently met with eWEEK Labs Jason Brooks, Peter Coffee and Debra Donston to discuss their organizations client-side hardware experience and plans.
Theres a lot going on right now in the client hardware space, with 64-bit systems, Tablet PCs, expanded Wi-Fi in laptops, some changes in handhelds and so on. Whats happening on the desktop and in terms of mobile computing at your organizations?
Gunnerson: In general, were looking at early next year as being a very conservative time for buying. And well do what we always do, which is go after the best-bang-for-the-buck machines. We dont usually buy the high-end stuff, and we dont usually buy the low-end stuff. We go for whatever the highest-performing, best package is for the price. Thats in the $1,000 range these days, where we would have been talking $2,000 or $3,000 a couple of years ago.
Youre talking about desktop systems?
Will you be purchasing any laptops this year?
Gunnerson: We will continue to purchase laptops where it makes sense, and then we try to make sure its a desktop replacement machine.
On the new-technology front, I personally really like the Treo 600. I think they finally have a telephone/PDA combo thats just about right as far as form factor is concerned. But I find it fascinating that whats called a "smart telephone" is now moving into the e-mail appliance area. People are looking at gateways to make that happen for them.
Nowicke: Last year, we took a severe budget cut, so we could not do the cyclical [system] replacement we usually do. We are looking to do it this year—at least one-third [of systems], if we can—but we stick with pretty much best-buy PCs.
Whats different is that were not buying monitors, which seem to last forever now. When we do buy monitors, we buy flat panels.
We do use laptops, but they make up only about 4 percent of our total installation. Weve got every kind under the sun.
Baradet: Generally, weve been recommending to folks that they plan on, at minimum, a three-year replacement cycle. Some departments that use their systems mostly for word processing are looking at going on a five-year cycle. Laptops are usually on two- to three-year cycles, especially for people who travel.
Were also using VMware. Were looking to take some legacy Windows NT systems that we cant get rid of quite yet and wrap them on Windows Server 2003 so we can at least get some measure of protection on the network side that NT doesnt offer. Weve also been using VMware to prototype some systems. The performance isnt always the greatest, but it lets us install the software and the patches and see what the interaction between them is.
Were also kicking around the idea [of using] telephony-over-802.11b devices.
Schwedhelm: Our organization typically does a one-third-per-year cycle, going through and replacing systems. This year, that part of our maintenance budget was cut in half. For those systems that do have to be replaced, we dont purchase any new computers; we build our own. When we build them ourselves, they rarely go down. Weve done that for the last few years.
And thats for how many end users?
Calabrese: It looks like we will be phasing out about 18 percent of our PC population.
During the last couple of years, weve sent out reports on an annual basis that break our PC population down into five categories—everything from Category 1, which is essentially, You bought it this current year, and therefore its a very viable computer, to Category 5, which is, You bought it four years ago, and its now a security risk and it needs to come off the network.
This year, we found there were no Category 5 machines. And there were fewer Category 4 machines than there have been in years past. Were a little bit ahead of the curve.