Corporate Life 0 – Dell Precisions Are a Scam

I work as a lead software engineer in a small program in a very large corporation. We have the typical array of policies, practices, and (especially) bureaucracy pressing down on our little group. Our networks and corporate laptops are being “secured” to the point of being almost unusable. It currently takes about 5 minutes for my Core2 Duo laptop with 4 GB RAM to start up, mostly due to all the corporate software that has to start up before I can use it, and this same software makes my laptop run slower than an old Pentium M for many tasks. My little group is perpetually overwhelmed with tasking and we can’t afford to have unplanned downtime, something that’s becoming increasingly common as network resources go offline or corporate laptops break down.

Since I enjoy my work and I’m happy with my current colleagues, my only practical option is to create a team development network with non-corporate machines, basically eliminating our dependence on corporate IT for anything other than email. We already have a private development network with a small pipe to the internet so we just need to buy a bunch of new PCs capable of running Linux or Windows with multiple VMs and we’ll be all set.

We quickly got approval from our local management to buy the machines. Dell is our default vendor for PCs and it takes an act of Congress to buy another brand, so I priced out some mid-high end Dell machines that should serve us well for three to five years. This should be easy, right? If only …

The Dell PCs that best fit our needs are from the XPS line. They cost a little less than $1400 each for a Core i7 with 8GB RAM and a decent GPU, a large hard disk, and a decent 24″ monitor. I submitted my web quotes to our sysadmins so they could get us the corporate discount and complete the order. They came back to me after a week or two and said that since we are not considered a small or medium sized business, Dell will not let us buy XPS machines. Really! As a large corporation, we “have to” buy an Enterprise class PC – which leaves only the Precision and Optiplex models. The Optiplex models are optimized for ease of maintenance in a corporate network, and way overpriced for any other use, so clearly these are not what we need. The Precisions are “Workstation Class” PCs, whatever that means. We’ve had Dell Precisions fail after a few years, so I know Precisions aren’t inherently more robust than other models. Precisions are larger and heavier (and seem to be noisier) than the XPS models and also have less efficient power supplies, which is an issue for us since we are at our limit in available power consumption. The most obvious difference between an XPS and a Precision with the same CPU, RAM, and GPU is the extra $400 you have to pay for a Precision. Essentially this means that Dell thinks they can charge corporate customers much more than their home and small business customers for the same basic product.

The saga continues. After a couple months, our sysadmins are still trying to buy the XPS machines, but Dell representatives, either within our corporate buying group or Dell itself, are refusing to sell us the XPS machines we want. It’s more than a little absurd that a large corporation cannot buy a machine that I can buy straight off Dell’s web site. If I have to buy Precisions to meet our needs, I’ll do it, but I’ll start looking for a smaller company that won’t drive me nuts.

And don’t even get me started on the VMware Workstation 7 Upgrade license we bought from Dell 4 months ago and still hasn’t been delivered to our remote employee who needs it …

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