Desktop Computing Recommendations for Penn:
|Figure 1 Recommended Minimum Configurations for New Machines|
|Hardware||Processor||Pentium or Athlon (1.0 GHz)||PowerPC G4 (533 MHz)|
|Memory (RAM)||256 MB1||256 MB1|
|Hard Disk||30 GB (20 GB minimum)||30 GB (20 GB minimum)|
|Monitor & VRAM||17-inch CRT
16 MB VRAM
32 MB VRAM
|Sound||Sound Blaster compatible||Built-in|
|Miscellaneous||1.4 MB floppy disk
8/4/32 CD-RW or 6X DVD-ROM
ZIP 250 drive
|8/4/32 CD-RW or 6X DVD-ROM|
ZIP 250 drive
|Support Period||Until July, 2005||Until July, 2005|
|Today's Estimated Price||$1,650 - $1,800||$2,400|
|Operating System||Windows 98/ME/NT 4.0/2000 Professional2||Mac OS 9.1/X3|
|Network Connection||On-campus||10/100BaseT Ethernet||10/100BaseT Ethernet|
|Off-campus||PPP (56 Kbps V.90 modem)||PPP (56 Kbps V.90 modem)|
ISC's Performance PC Buyer's Guide offers quarterly purchase recommendations for new systems that meet or exceed these specifications.
Given the continuous rapid change in computing technology, and the significant price difference between high-end and mid-range system configurations, many departments find that purchasing a new system based on last year's recommendations and replacing it in three years by June 30, 2004 reduces purchase and support costs. See the section below on Strategies Related to Total Cost of Ownership.
Penn's new administrative systems (e.g., Business Enterprise Network systems such as BEN Financials, Data Warehouse, and future systems in support of research and student services) are based on Oracle's Network Computing Architecture (NCA), which relies on Java to deliver content to client desktops. Currently, the Java environment that supports NCA is only available for the Windows platform. Although a Macintosh with Virtual PC can run the current Windows Java client, Virtual PC is not certified by Oracle; support for NCA on the Macintosh is therefore not guaranteed. We hope that in the future NCA will work with Mac OS Runtime for Java.
New and updated BEN applications planned for rollout in Fiscal Year 2002 will require systems that meet at least the 1999-2000 Desktop Recommendations. Existing desktop systems that do not meet the 1999-2000 standards should be replaced by the time these new applications are rolled out. New systems that meet the recommended Windows or Macintosh configurations described in Figure 1 above should be sufficient to support administrative applications until June 30, 2005.
NCA applications are best used at high display resolutions (1024x768 or higher recommended, 800x600 minimum) that will support the large window sizes without scrolling. When choosing monitors be sure to specify a size that will support these resolutions comfortably. For further discussion, please see ISC's Monitor & VRAM guide.
Several distinct categories of notebook computers are available, each designed to suit the needs of a particular class of users. Generally, laptop computers cost more than equivalent desktop computers and often lag a generation behind in technology. Also, given the physical conditions they are often subjected to, laptop computers generally have a shorter useful life than desktop computers (typically three years or less). Therefore, ISC is providing support for three years for major brands of laptop computers that meet the configurations in the Laptop Computer Purchasing Guide, which was developed to help you in determining which combination of features will best serve your needs.
The following minimum configurations represent the general-purpose recommendations from three years ago. They will be supported by ISC for one more year only.
Users with systems that do not meet the 1999-2000 Desktop Recommendations (Pentium III, 128 MB RAM, PowerPC G3, 128 MB RAM) should plan to replace those systems before July 2002.
Minimum configurations for existing machines - Supported until July 2002 ONLY
|Hardware||Processor||233 MHz Pentium II||233 MHz PowerPC G3|
|Memory (RAM)||64 MB||64 MB|
|Hard Disk||4 GB||4 GB|
|Monitor & VRAM||17-inch color SVGA, 75 Hz refresh rate, 2 MB VRAM
(15-inch, 1 MB VRAM minimum)
|17-inch color, 75 Hz refresh rate|
|Miscellaneous||1.4 MB floppy drive
ZIP 100 drive
|24X CD-ROM |
ZIP 100 drive
|Support Period||Until July, 2002||Until July, 2002|
|Operating System||Windows 95/NT Workstation 4.0||Mac OS 8.x|
|Network Connection||On-campus||10BaseT Ethernet||10BaseT Ethernet|
|Off-campus||PPP (33.6 Kbps modem)||PPP (33.6 Kbps modem)|
Note: while these systems are supported by ISC until July 2002, new BEN applications planned for rollout in Fiscal Year 2002 will require systems that meet the 1999-2000 Desktop Recommendations. In cases where users of administrative applications have desktop systems that do not meet the 1999-2000 standards, please plan for a system replacement by that time.
ISC continues to support a four-year replacement cycle, but given the continuous rapid change in computing technology, and the significant price difference between high-end and mid-range system configurations, many departments find that a three year cycle reduces purchase and support costs. Departments interested in purchasing systems at lower cost are encouraged to use the 2000-2001 recommendations published last year as a guide, with the understanding that those systems will only be supported for three years. The Value PC Buyers Guide offers recommendations for current systems that meet 2000-2001 specifications.
Choosing between a three- and four-year strategy for requires an understanding of local school or center computing needs. The following case studies illustrate how two different strategies may be appropriate in specific settings.
Case Study 1 - Administrative department that supports twenty-four staff desktops
A three-year replacement cycle will require purchase of eight systems per year, which at current pricing (~$1,300/system) will result in an annual system cost of $10,400. A four-year cycle will require purchase of six systems, which at current pricing (~$1,725/system) will result in a total of $10,350. A benefit of the three-year cycle is a reduced chance that the operating system and application software purchased will need to be upgraded during the life of the system.
Case Study 2 - School that supports faculty with high-end desktop computing needs
In cases where some users need the most powerful desktop systems available, a managed two-tier distribution strategy may allow units to get the most from their investment at both ends of the life cycle. In one strategy employed on campus, power users get new high-end systems every two years, with the replaced systems passed down to users with less intensive computing requirements for the second half of their four-year life cycle. This strategy requires the added support costs associated with the mid-life trickle down, but maximizes the value of the equipment over its useful life.
Leasing may make sense as a way to manage purchase and reduce total cost of ownership in cases where desktop equipment needs to be refreshed on a two-year life cycle. This is particularly true if systems cannot be redeployed as they are replaced. This strategy may be appropriate for some campus computing labs.
Buyers with limited budgets may choose to purchase less expensive configurations (in particular, less RAM initially). In such cases, an upgrade may be necessary during the life cycle of the desktop computer to ensure four years of useful life. Buyers with limited budgets may also 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 easy to add additional memory or peripherals later, but some components (like a smaller monitor) cannot be effectively upgraded.
ISC recommends purchase of extended warranties where departments are not prepared to make repairs themselves, especially beyond the first year or two of a computer's useful life.
If you are considering migrating from one desktop system to another (e.g., from Macintosh to Windows or from Windows 95/98/ME to Windows NT/2000) you should carefully plan for this action. At minimum, consider changes that will need to be made to the LAN server in the department, software license costs, and file conversion costs. The level of expertise you have with the new operating system is also an important factor, and you should plan for training costs if appropriate.
Based on past experience, it is possible that 256 MB RAM will not be enough for the full four-year life cycle for both Windows and Mac OS workstations. Whenever possible, buy RAM so that some slots are available for future upgrades.
While ISC expects support for recommended operating systems to persist through the four-year life cycle of the desktop recommendations, that may not always be possible. Be prepared for the possibility of an operating system migration during the next four years.
While ISC continues to support Windows 95, it is becoming increasingly difficult to support. Microsoft has announced that they will no longer be supporting Windows 95 as of December 31st, 2001.
Low Cost PC's Not Recommended
Price reductions resulting from market competition and continued technical innovation make definition of "Low Cost PCs" a moving target. It is generally true, however, that computers priced in the bottom 20% of the current range compromise some combination of performance, reliability, compatibility, or expandability to achieve the lowest possible costs. Compatibility with recommended network products is a particularly important consideration at Penn.
Bearing in mind that you get what you pay for in most cases, and that the costs associated with supporting these systems typically outweigh the actual purchase price, ISC recommends that "Low cost PCs" not be purchased for general use.
The Value PC Buyers Guide offers recommendations for competitively priced systems that are compatible with Penn's network environment and are widely supported on campus.
The Computer Connection offers Apple and Dell configurations that match the recommendations discussed above.
ISC provides information on supported products.
Acquisition Services provides information on purchasing desktop computers (requires PennNet ID and password).
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 John Mulhern III in ISC, email@example.com; 573-3567).
All desktop systems should have important data backed up and be virus-free. Additional information on information system security can be found at http://www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.
For more information on off-campus network connection see http://www.upenn.edu/computing/remote/.
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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