Intel boosts support for server resellers

Intel on Tuesday said it has launched an online resource designed to help thousands of resellers throughout North America, and eventually worldwide, configure customized servers for small and medium-sized businesses customers.

Called the Server Design Center, the interactive tool should help resellers in two main areas: figuring out what size server is appropriate for each customer and what components are needed to build it, and identifying which third-party components, such as network adapters and RAID (redundant array of independent disks) cards, have been tested and approved by Intel for use in its servers.

"We started selling server boards into this reseller channel about three years ago," said Mike Lafferty, manager of Intel's worldwide server channels program. "From the very first time we started selling them we got questions like, 'How big a server can I build? How many users can it handle?' "Resellers now can go to the Design Center and answer a series of questions about a particular customer's needs, such as how many users they want their server to support and how much redundancy they need. The Web site spits back a "recipe" for building that server, including what type of processors and I/O to use, how much memory to include, and so on.

To figure out which third-party server components have been approved by Intel, resellers in the past have had to sort through information in PDF files at Intel's Web site. That information is now available at the Design Center where it's easier to find, according to Lafferty.

The effort is aimed primarily at making life easier for server builders, but it could also benefit end users, Lafferty said. Resellers can share the results they get from the Design Center with their customers, providing some additional assurance that the server configuration they are getting is one that's recommended by Intel.

Intel has about 10,000 reseller partners across North America, Lafferty said, serving mostly small and medium-sized businesses as well as schools, universities, hospitals and government offices. While most of Intel's revenue comes from sales to large PC and server makers like Dell Computer Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp., the reseller channel accounts for a sizeable chunk of Intel's business -- as much as one-third by some analysts' estimates.

Intel executives highlighted the reseller channel as one of the brighter spots in its otherwise lackluster first-quarter financial report, issued last month. Revenue dropped 16 percent from a year ago, to US$6.7 billion, while net income before acquisition-related costs plummeted 64 percent, to $1.1 billion. [See "UPDATE: Intel Q1 income drops 64 percent," April 17, 2001.]The English-language version of the Server Design Center went live last week, at Intel plans to offer versions for other markets, starting with emerging markets such as India, Brazil and Eastern Europe, beginning in around the third quarter, Lafferty said.

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