I’ve been able to spend an interesting few weeks examining both how Dell goes about procuring technology and building it’s systems, especially within the Enterprise Product Group and to some degree storage.

Some good things, some bad things, some just are what they are, out of time to market and business necessity. One of the early things I think I want to drive is an effort to create a stanard set of IT Management T&C’s. Think about it, any major company wouldn’t deal with another major company without understanding and agreeing T&C’s for things like payments, legal, disclosure, IP and so on.

While small companies find the level of detail in these T&C’s an unfair burden, they do help in so much as they establish a baseline for how the company acts by default. There are always special cases.

I’m thinking that it is increasingly important from an in-band and out-of-band management perspective that we have the same. If you want to bid for business from Dell to build a device, server, storage, etc. then you ought to be able to find out what our baseline operational requirements are. In mostly cases these ought to be standalone from a given server build, from the baseboard design for the next server, the management console for storage etc.

So thats what I think I’m going to tackle first, a framework of API’s, Protocols, Transports etc. that we can support. I’ll classify each of the major initiatives we have underway, either they are tactically important and we’ll support for the foreseable future, they are depricated and we’ll stop using/supporting them at a given point, at which time they’ll be superceeded or replaced by xx or they are no longer supported or being developed and no new funding or projects will be undertaken using them.

Declaring how we’ll support the various technology platforms will be good for our customers. They’ll have a clear roadmap and be able to see where we are on for example standards implementations; Hopefully it will also reduce the number of protocols etc. in use and standardise around a smaller subset. It will also be good for the OEM’S and Partners we work with. they’ll know what we are going to ask for in RFQ’s, and will be able to influence our thinking ahead of time, and will be able to skill and tool-up before we ask them to bid/build for us. Finally, it will be good for Dell, we’ll be able to build libraries of re-useable assets to handle the specific API’s, protocols, transports etc. and re-use these as much as possible across different products. Also, it will put us in a better position with respect to testing and tooling.

Of course, as far as possible the T&C’s as it were, will be industry standard(s). Some of these will have to be, de facto, they are what’s being built and used today. One of the things I’ll be giving some serious consideration to will be Intel’s Active Management Technology or AMT. While it appears to address a number of the key areas you’d want to tackle, but depending on it would put us in a difficult position with respect to AMD processors, which don’t have the same function, implementedthe same way.

Interesting times, am definately enjoying the new job. Thanks again for all the best-wishes.

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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society ( I'm an information technology optimist.

I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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