Dell promises major channel push behind new Precision workstations

SAN FRANCISCO – With the refresh Monday of its Precision line of workstations and four new models taking advantage of the latest technology from Intel Corp. and Nvidia Corp., Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) is also promising new channel programs and support designed specifically for workstation partners.

In a redesign Dell engineers say has been three years in the making, Dell took the wraps off four new Precision workstations today: the entry-level T1650, the mid-range T3600, the T5600 for space-constrained environments, and the high-end T7600. The new models will be available in May, and boast the latest Intel Xeon processing and Nvidia Quadro and Tesla graphics technology.

Workstations redesigned from the inside-out

“(These workstations) have been totally redesigned from the inside-out,” said Efrain Rovira, executive director of Dell Precision workstations. “When we think about the kinds of people that use these products they’re very creative people and they want to use a system that would be the kind of system they’d design themselves.”

* At the high-end, the T7600 is designed for power users with demanding modelling needs, and is priced beginning at US$2,149. It offers up to two Intel Xeon E5-2687W processors, a 1300 watt 90 per cent efficiency power supply, and up to four full x16 graphics slots which can power up to an Nvidia Quadro 6000 graphics card and two Nvidia Tesla C2075 processors at the same time.

* The T5600, priced starting at US$1,879, is a dual-docket system designed for space-constrained environments where users are working with complex 3D models and creating film and video content. It features up to two Intel Xeon processors, 128GB of quad-channel ECC memory, a choice of 635W or 825W power supplies and up to an Nvidia Quadro 5000 graphics card and Nvidia Tesla C2075 processor.

* The mid-range T3600 is designed for digital content creators looking for a one-socket system, and is priced beginning at US$1,099. Users can choose between the Intel Xeon E5-1600 or E5-2600 families, two power supply options, up to 64GB 1600MHz ECC or non-ECC memory and up to a single Nvidia Quadro 6000 or two Nvidia Quadro 5000 professional graphics cards, and an Nvidia Tesla C2075 processor.

* Finally, at the entry-level the T1650 is for users that want to run their professional application on a system designed and optimized for professional applications. It includes the latest Xeon processors, up to 75W for graphics and certifications from ISVs. Pricing is not yet available.

Building Dell’s workstation channel

While Dell has made progress in becoming more of a channel-focused vendor, the workstation space is one area where the vendor needs to do some catching-up said Don Maynard, senior product marketing manager for Dell Precision workstations. While Dell workstations have been available through distribution for some time, he said programs specifically for workstation partners haven’t been there. Developing those programs and recruiting partners has been a focus in recent months.

Maynard said Dell wants to support partners that commit to Dell workstations with a discount structure, support, and materials VARs can use with their customers. Part of the program will be close relationships with ISV partners, as Maynard said Dell recognizes workstation partners sell the whole solution including software, not just the box. Some new programs have already been launched, and a more formal workstation program within the Dell PartnerAdvantage umbrella is expected soon.

“With the new systems we’re bringing to market now and advantages in overall design and reliable memory, we think it puts us in a strong competitive position. We think we have a very solid value proposition for these VARs,” said Maynard. “Our offerings are more appealing than they have in the past, and we think there’ll be good customer demand for these products.”

Differentiating from the workstation competition

One Dell innovation the vendor is proud of is its Dell Reliable Memory technology. It looks for errors in memory, noting each error as it occurs and bypassing those bad sectors in the future to improve performance. When a single DIMM registers seven failures, a message is sent to the user to alert IT and consider replacing the DIMM.

In designing the new Precision models, Dell started with a blank slate and asked customers what they were looking for said Ken Musgrave, director of industrial design for the vendor. That led to features such as hard drives that can be easily removed from the front without opening the case, as customers are often swapping-out hard drives for transport or secure storage. The power supply also pulls out from the back for easy replacement, and carrying handles have been added on the top for portability.

“We saw what others were doing,” said Musgrave. “We decided we were going to have a theme where I can point to every part of this product and tell every user why we did that, and we’re confident that’s something we’ve achieved.”

While carrying handles, swappable hard drives and removable power supplies are among the innovations workstation rival Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) has already brought to Z-series workstations, Rovira noted said many of Dell’s innovations are unique. Precision users can remove hard drives from the front, while Z users need to remove the pop-off case side. However, HP’s drives are hot-swappable while Dell requires shut-down first. The Precision’s power supply can also be removed without opening the case, although only popping-off the case side is required with HP’s. He also pointed to more spacing between USB ports to more easily plug-in peripherals, and a tray on top of the tower for connected devices.

The biggest difference though, said Rovira, is that Dell wasn’t focused on aesthetics in its Precision redesign. HP hired BMW Group Designworks USA to assist with its Z-series redesign several years ago.

“Dell is focused on purpose-driven innovation,” said Rovira. “Take aluminum. There’s lots of places you can put it where it has no use. We thought the best place to use it was to make the handles really strong.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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