City of Melbourne gets singular on the desktop

When you're in charge of buying 2,000 desktops should you go for an assortment of vendors, or stick to just one? City of Melbourne's desktop services manager, Ashe Potter, says using a single supplier is cheaper, easier and less hassle to manage.

When you're in charge of buying 2,000 desktops should you go for an assortment of vendors, or stick to just one? City of Melbourne's desktop services manager, Ashe Potter, says using a single supplier is cheaper, easier and less hassle to manage.

Three years ago, the City of Melbourne (CoM) council's 2,000 staff were using seven different brands of desktop PCs. Limited budgets had forced the City to stagger desktop upgrades, leading to what Potter described as a "conglomerate of machines".

"The major disadvantage of working in an environment with multiple suppliers is that you've got more hardware to support and more vendors to deal with. It becomes awkward in terms of developing a standard operating environment, so you create yourself more work internally, as well as all the hardware issues you encounter," he told ZDNet.com.au.

After releasing a tender which initially covered 600 PCs, CoM eventually introduced 1,300 Dell OptiPlex desktops to its operations.

Potter's other major goal in attempting to achieve a standard operating environment was to make it easier to support the 300 applications the council uses.

Support has been a critical issue for Potter who says he's experienced the best and worst support vendors can offer.

"I have worked in a lot of different places, and have dealt with all major vendors, so yes, support can be up and down for different suppliers," he said.

"It's a lot easier to get leverage with a single vendor and, from a hardware perspective, easier to get general support," he said.

However, he added, the so-called "leverage" users can gain over the supplier depends on making sure they have the right account manager.

Since the overhaul at the end of 2005, CoM has not experienced any major problems with the hardware, although Potter said CoM had acquired extra PCs as a fallback in the event a major crisis.

"Occasionally a desktop PC fails, but I do have buffer stock which counters major issues. You could say I like to be prepared," he said.

City of Melbourne rates cool over hot
The City of Melbourne's offices are located in the Council House 2 building in the heart of Melbourne's CBD. From an energy perspective, the design and engineering behind the building focuses on cooling rather than heating. Fresh air is drawn in from 20 metres above street level, cooled inside its 'shower towers' and then stored in a tank in the building's basement.

City of Melbourne's Council House 2 Credit: City of Melbourne

"It was the most 'green' building at the time but has since been superseded. Still, we had very strict requirements for what we could put in there. We could blow that out if we bought the wrong devices," he said.

Because of this, says Potter, the PCs were tested first to determine which ones complied with the building's requirements.

"I had to go through all the major vendors and said: 'give me your best model'. Because of cost, and the actual general operation of the model, and to be compliant with our systems and environmental standards, I had to do a full power testing," he said.

The tests, according to Potter, led to his decision to go with Dell, but since the machines are now over two years old, he will soon begin replacing them. Potter said he will likely buy new versions of the same PCs, but the refresh will be gradual.

While some State government departments only permit procuring hardware from companies that can take back and recycle it on behalf of the government. At council level this is managed internally, according to Potter.

"We have our own contract in terms of disposal so we don't say Dell has to take machines back. We make sure we take away or reuse them to avoid landfill. It's something that councils are extremely stringent about," he said.

The gradual refresh will also be a chance for CoM to start testing Vista against its set of applications which, if successful, will mean a rollout date around 2010.

"I'm currently going through the development phase of testing our applications against Vista. However, as I mentioned, we have a huge amount of applications in our environment and therefore it's going to be a long process."