New Desktops Ease Management, Maintenance

HP, Dell and IBM are rolling out systems that offer more than just the typical speed boost.

Responding to customer demands to provide more than the typical performance enhancements, OEMs are bolstering their PCs with capabilities that make it easier for IT administrators to manage and maintain desktops.

Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and IBM are each rolling out systems that not only incorporate the latest Intel Corp. Pentium 4 processors and chip sets but also address such issues as cost, maintenance and security.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., this week is launching its Compaq Business Desktop dc7100, a high-end PC that comes in ultraslim, small-form-factor and convertible minitower configurations. The PC offers increased security with its ProtectTools Embedded Security Manager, which combines hardware and software that includes a single interface through which IT administrators can manage authentication and encryption. It also includes Altiris Inc.s Local Recovery software, which gives users disk recovery in the event of a failure by enabling them to store approved system images. In addition, HP offers a 15-month warranty on the system image it ships with the dc7100.

The dc7100 also features tool-free housing and components for easier maintenance.

Dell is following a similar path. In addition to providing tool-free housing and components, the Round Rock, Texas, company offers a Stability Assurance Program with its new business-class desktops, the OptiPlex SX280 and GX280. The program guarantees a stable image for the systems for 15 months, and Dell will update the images if necessary, officials said.

The desktops, unveiled last week, come in four form factors that can use the compatible images.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., last week announced its ThinkCentre A51p, a desktop aimed at small and midsize businesses that includes IBMs ThinkVantage technologies for greater automation of such tasks as basic security and deployment.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about the Dell and IBM desktops.

The IBM Embedded Security Subsystem that ships with the A51p consists of an integrated security chip and IBM Client Security software that can manage multiple passwords through a single master password. In addition, the A51p includes a tool-free housing and a one-button backup feature called Rescue and Recovery that lets users restore data and settings in case of failure.

All these PCs incorporate the 915P, 915G and 925X chip sets that Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., launched last week. Among the key features of the chip sets are the PCI Express bus technology and support for faster double-data-rate 2 memory.

/zimages/4/28571.gifIntel is recalling a portion of the newly released chip sets due to a manufacturing error. Click here to read the full story.

For David Nardi, having a desktop that stays up and runs well is crucial.

"Speeds and feeds are just not that important anymore," said Nardi, senior systems administrator at The Yankee Candle Co., in South Deerfield, Mass. "Im still using a 1.4GHz machine. I know there are 2[GHz] and 3GHz machines out there, but its not the important part of the machine. The important part is what stays up."

Yankee Candle runs Dell PCs and "ghosts" the machines—it finds an image that works, then puts it on every PC. "Were looking to get the machine, get it to the users as soon as possible, get a stable image on the machine that we know works well and not have to deal with it much after that," Nardi said. "People are trying to run leaner now, and by running leaner, people wont be able to update their machines as much anymore."

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