Desktop Computing Hardware Standards for Penn: 1996-97

Annual Update from the Office of the Vice Provost for Information Systems and Computing

Information Systems and Computing, in cooperation with the Penn community, annually publishes recommended and minimum standards for new desktop computers. The standards help hold training and support costs in check and make it possible for people across campus to work together. They clarify buying decisions and help in planning equipment life cycles. For "supported"desktops ISC provides specific training, documentation, and hardware and software problem diagnosis.

Highlight of Changes:

Most of the revised standard configurations are "freshness dated," with ISC support guaranteed until July 2000. ISC does not recommend mixing Macintosh and Windows computers within an office or workgroup, where a single standard is much easier to support. Desktop systems purchased under the previous standards will continue to be supported until their previously documented expiration. ISC will continue to review desktop standards each year in light of University needs and industry changes. As new desktop standards are issued, they too will specify support guarantees.

Support for Standard Desktop Configurations

There are two levels of standards: desktops for general-purpose computing (like e-mail, word processors and spreadsheets), and desktops for new administrative systems (like those used by business administrators and other administrative staff for Project Cornerstone). The standards for new administrative systems are somewhat higher than the standards for general-purpose computing. A machine that can access Cornerstone systems can handle general office functions, but the reverse is not necessarily true. Research and instructional computing may require more specialized machines.

The Computer Connection offers configurations that match the standards below. In addition, buyers with limited budgets may choose to trade off various components of a desktop system depending on specific needs: for example, memory versus additional hard disk space versus a larger monitor. Remember, it is easier to add additional memory or peripherals later, but some components (like a smaller monitor) cannot be effectively upgraded.

If your school or department is considering major changes or investments, ISC strongly recommends a consultation to weigh pros and cons in today's rapidly changing environment. Contact Noam Arzt, ISC Director of Information Technology Architecture (arzt@isc.upenn.edu; 898-3029). Up-to-date standards and additional information are available via World Wide Web (URL: http://www.upenn.edu/isc/ under "Information Technology Architecture and Standards").

All desktop systems should have important data backed up and be virus free. Additional information on system security can be found via World Wide Web (URL: http://www.upenn.edu/computing/home/menu/security.html).

Desktop Standards for General-Purpose Computing

If you are buying a new machine, here are the recommended standards, to be supported by ISC until July 2000. Buying the best computer you can afford usually pays off in extra years of service from the machine, so you may prefer to buy a more powerful configuration:

Desktop Standards for Cornerstone Administrative Systems

Cornerstone Systems have already begun to be deployed and will continue to roll out. If you are purchasing a computer at this time and expect to use any of the Cornerstone Systems (currently general ledger, purchasing, accounts payable, data warehouse and budget planning) in the future, buy the recommended standard below. If you do not plan to use any of these applications, see the General-purpose standard above. Buying the best computer you can afford usually pays off in extra years of service from the machine, so you may prefer to buy a more powerful configuration.

Purchasers of Macintosh hardware during 1996-97 should know that we cannot guarantee that such hardware will be fully Cornerstone-compliant for the duration of the usual four year support period. This is due in large part to uncertainty over the availability of client software for the Macintosh. Support commitments made in previous years to the Macintosh will be honored at least through their support guarantee dates. The July 1996 releases of Cornerstone financial applications (General ledger, Accounts Payable and Purchasing) can be accessed by existing desktops that fall below the standards described below, and even by terminals. The next release is expected to acquire the Cornerstone standard as well as other Cornerstone applications as they are implemented. Macintosh computers with Pentium DOS co-processors may be used, if properly configured to satisfy MS-Windows standards.

Fuller and continuing support for Apple products will be actively reconsidered during the coming year as we assess the availability of new systems and the future of Apple.

A more complete discussion of the printing strategy, including supported printers, for Cornerstone financial applications will be available shortly.

Desktop Standards for Existing General-Purpose Computing

The following minimum configurations for general-purpose office computing represent the general departmental purchase recommendations from three years ago. They will be supported by ISC for one more year only. Transition from these configurations as soon as possible to the new purchase standards:

Appendix: Laptop Guidelines

Generally, laptop computers cost more than similarly functioning desktop computers and lag at least a generation behind in technology. If you are planning to purchase a laptop to use as a primary desktop workstation it should comply with the appropriate general-purpose or Cornerstone minimum standard configurations.

Other than some slight differences in peripherals, support for laptop

computers is generally no different than for desktop computers. The following guidelines represent ISC's recommendations for laptop computer configurations:


Volume 42 Number 33
May 21/28, 1996

Return to Almanac's homepage.

Return to index for this issue.