RealTime IT News

Dell, the Ultra Service Provider?

Dell has earned a great reputation for aggressive pricing and prompt delivery of the latest computing technology. It's less well-regarded as a premium enterprise service provider but hopes to change that with today's announcement.

The Round Rock, TX computer giant has upgraded its Platinum service and support program to a new Platinum Plus program that provides the highest level of service to enterprise customers. The company is also adding two technology innovations to the service. The current Gold, Silver, and Basic support services remain the same.

The premium-priced Platinum Plus will probably only be of interest to a small double-digit percentage of Dell's customers, according to analysts. But those who pay will get broad 24 x 7 support, a technical account manager focused on their business and a standard four-hour on-site troubleshooting service, with an option to buy two-hour onsite service.

These features are not all new to Dell or other enterprise suppliers better known for their extensive corporate support, such as HP and IBM.

"In some ways, it's an expansion of services they've had for years," Eric Rocco, a services analyst with Gartner, told internetnews.com. "I think Dell is offering this as a rebirth of their services offering. It shows that they feel more confident about saying they can offer this on a worldwide basis in a standardized way. They want to beat the perception they can't compete at the high end with HP and IBM."

Dell is trying to further distinguish itself with two new features:

The first is called Enterprise Command Center Real-Time Tracking Window. The Web-enabled service provides customers with a kind of virtual enterprise command center. Much as companies can use the Web to track the status of an overnight delivery package, Dell's Real-Time Tracking Window offers a view around-the-world of the real-time status of open service dispatches.

In theory, the service could more clearly expose areas where Dell is not responding in a timely manner, such as service requests.

"When we showed this to some of our customers, they said 'Do you really want to share that much data? It could be a Pandora's box,'" Stephen Meyer, vice president of services at Dell, told internetnews.com. "But this is based on our belief that you can't improve what you can't measure and you need transparency to do that."

Analyst Rocco doesn't think Dell is taking too much of a risk by offering the service to customers with premium support. "Besides, any large organization already knows when the vendor hasn't responded in a timely manner," he said.

The system utilizes Google Earth Pro to create an interactive 3D display of the command center that users can quickly click through to identify problem areas. (Earlier this month Dell announced a mainly consumer-focused bundling deal with Google).

Dell is also now offering Operations Performance Benchmarking. The patent-pending methodology allows customers to compare IT performance metrics to historical results for other companies in the same or similar industries.

Dell is enhancing its support offering to what is already a huge services operation. For example, Dell said it manages more than 500 major enterprise migrations and consolidations and takes over 2 million enterprise support calls each year.

"Our services business has about a $5 billion annual run rate," noted Meyer. "It's one of the fastest growing parts of our company. If you broke it out, services would be a Fortune 500 company by itself."