Workstations are frequently considered by businesses as a "specialty technology" that is outside of the usual technology refresh cycles. This blog entry will discuss the realities and myths about this perception.
Up front let me remind that this blog and its content are mine, and mine alone, and does not represent that of my employer.
Workstations are not desktops, no matter how you configure them. Of course, as a user you could add more disk, memory and graphics cards and improve the look and feel of the desktop , but at the end of the day- it is still a desktop. What you now have is a highly configured (and costly desktop). The fully loaded desktop as a workstation has been popularized by the belief that workstations are simply more costly than desktops. Admittedly in some cases this is true. However, new workstation technologies have lowered acquisition prices and dramatically improved the price/performance.
In my opinion, we are in a workstation revival where a lot of the preconceptions no longer work as we might think.
In one business that I worked with, we performed a cost build up of all of the components required to build up a desktop to become a "workstation". The cost build up yielded a $3,500 cost point. The key is that the team doing the building thought that it was "cool" to build their own and were quite proud of this fact (and they should be). Lacking in the comparison ,however, was to view new workstation technology as the baseline.
Using desktops as workstations still requires that the desktop lifecycle, which includes residual value, chipsets, application speeds, graphics and so on will be based upon a desktop architecture not a workstation architecture.
New workstations simply have more high performance features ranging from high resolution, speeds, operating systems (dual), parallels, form factors, collaboration tools, I could make this a lengthy list but my point in this blog is to suggest that if your business is using reconfigured desktops as workstations there may have been some changes in the market place (across all vendors) that in the context of this upcoming technology refresh cycle you may want to consider inclusion of workstations in this process.
User segmentation methodologies suggest that there should be an alignment to end user requirements to the suite of access devices, service levels, cost and risk. The workstation technologies lend themselves to such a process. Whether there are workstation segments (CAD/ECAD/MCAD/R&D/Software development/engineering, as examples), does the workstation footprint require low, medium or high capacity and graphics, one or more operating systems, and lastly do workstation blades address security issues. Workstation blades may have a common strategy to server blades.
I would be keenly interested in your feedback on this topic. Workstations tend to be retained beyond the 3 to 4 year in the field, so this technology refresh cycle may be yet another dialog businesses need to consider.