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Dell boosts servers, support

New versions of the firm's mid-range servers are due Monday, and it vows to emphasize consulting and client services.

Dell is acting more like IBM and Hewlett-Packard every day.

On Monday, the company will release new versions of its mid-range PowerEdge servers, a product rollout that will complete a global refresh of the Dell server line.

The PowerEdge 4300, which will succeed the 4200, will range in price from approximately $4,500 to $12,000 and contain up to two Pentium II chips, said Scott Weinbrandt, director of server brand marketing at Dell. Earlier this year, Dell came out with a new workgroup server, the PowerEdge 2300, and a high-end Xeon-based enterprise server, PowerEdge 6300.

However, to increase the market share for its servers, Dell is going to increasingly emphasize consulting and client services, the same sort of ancillary services the traditional vendors have used to secure customer loyalty. Dell also will be developing tighter relationships with third-party integrators such as Electronic Data Systems.

"We're hiring more account executives and more system integrators," said Weinbrandt. "We're also deploying more on-site teams to customers like Boeing, MCI, and Wal-Mart."

The increased emphasis on consulting reflects Dell's changing status in the server market. In 1996, the company ranked ninth in the U.S. market. Now the company holds the No. 2 spot, right behind Compaq, with a 20 percent share, said Weinbrandt. To accommodate server manufacturing, Dell is currently constructing a dedicated server assembly facility in Austin, Texas.

The more complex nature of servers generally means that customers require a greater degree of assistance than desktop buyers. Hence, Dell is in the process of strengthening its ties with consulting firms such as EDS and system integrators, he said.

Historically, these service providers preferred to deal with the IBMs of the world, because they could also make money reselling hardware. Dell, however, has changed that, asserted Weinbrandt. Customers have become accustomed to ordering direct.

In any event, Dell also will allow these companies to resell Dell products.