Dell uses Google Earth to enhance services

Dell on Wednesday unveiled support services, including a tool that uses Google's mapping technology to give IT managers a 3D view of how the server maker is handling technical support issues.

Called Platinum Plus, the package is the result of more than US$200 million Dell has invested in services and support during the last few years, says Teri Smart, director of worldwide services at Dell. It also marks another step in Dell's efforts to reduce complexity in data centers. Dell's server launch earlier this month focused on reducing maintenance headaches, as well.

Platinum Plus replaces Dell's Platinum service and continues to give enterprise customers round-the-clock access to a dedicated account manager, but it also brings a number of significant enhancements to give IT managers more control over their IT environments, Smart says.

One of those enhancements is the Enterprise Command Center Real-Time Tracking Window, which gives customers Web-based insight into the five command centers Dell operates worldwide. The service is built on top of Google Earth, says Smart.

"It's a nice visual way to see everything that is going on," she says. "Our Platinum Plus customers will be able to have this on their desktop with their service dispatches showing."

After gaining access through a secure logon, customers will be able to zero in on specific company locations to see the work order number, the type of service being requested, how long the call has been open and the progress toward resolution, she says.

"It's a way for IT executives to manage their dispatches without picking up the phone," she adds. "The mystery is gone."

Another new feature available in the Platinum Plus service is Operations Performance Benchmarking, which lets customers compare the number of service calls, the length of time to resolve those problems and other service metrics with their own company's historical performance, as well as with the performance of other companies in the same industry or in the same geographical location.

"This is all part of control. It's what we mean when we say we want to help customers reduce complexity and gain control," Smart says.

Other features in Platinum Plus, which is available now starting at about US$1,000 per server, include 24/7 hardware warranty support, 24/7 software troubleshooting, 24/7 access to Dell's 15 Enterprise Expert Centers, emergency dispatch and standard four-hour (with the option to reduce it to two-hour) on-site service troubleshooting.

Dell is hoping the Platinum Plus services will help it attract enterprise customers, which today make up about 85 percent of its business, Smart says. Dell's services business has been growing by about a third annually for the last three years, expanding from about US$2 billion in revenue in 2003 to around US$5 billion today. Services account for about 10 percent of Dell's overall revenues, Smart says.

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