The reliability factor

It wasn’t so long ago that the federal government had a
reputation for buying lots of clone PCs, often of poor quality.

Reliance on cumbersome requirements contracts and policies that restricted buys to the
lowest price pro-

duced this result. Sometimes machines arrived still needing assembly.

Along came total cost of ownership, procurement reform, wide-open General Services
Administration schedule contracts, governmentwide acquisition contracts and online buying.
In a few years, a measure of market dynamics entered federal computer buying, and agencies
became partial to brand-name products, as GCN’s Bill Murray recently reported [GCN, Feb. 8, Page 1].

Even contractors that make their own PCs are reselling national brands.

You cannot draw a direct correlation between a vendor’s share of market and the
quality of its products and services. But looking at government buys, agencies’
choices tend to correspond with the market at large.

It’s possible to buy a good no-name clone, or a dog from a name-brand company. In
general, though, an established brand is a safer bet.

The current debate in many agencies is whether to go with some form of seat management,
or full-service leasing of computing resources. Seat management could mean a return to
widespread deployment of so-called white-box PCs. At the recent FOSE trade show in
Washington, GartnerGroup Inc. vice president William Maurer said that in large
private-sector outsourcing deals, contractors sometimes save money by using no-name
PCs—unless the customer specifies otherwise.

Two factors could work against a return to white boxes. First, although they’re
cheaper to buy initially, no-names usually don’t have as much residual value at the
end, and seat management vendors depend on a portion of their profits from the disposal of
turned-in machines. Second, poor-quality machines of any make drive up support costs,
which could cause seat management deals to be money losers.

No matter how your agency acquires PCs, you depend on those computers. If your agency
is considering seat management, make sure you get what you want.

Thomas R. Temin
[email protected]


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