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Dell server delays irk data center customers

Over the holidays, Dell delayed server shipments, and data center server managers are miffed. Will discontent give way to a data center exodus from Dell?

Some data centers report weeks-long delays in server shipments from Dell over the holidays, a problem that has at least one user considering new vendors.

"We ordered a few servers for our data center before Christmas, and we're still waiting on them," said Doni Katz, director of technical operations at the Deal LLC, a New York-based financial media company. "They were supposed to come in at the beginning of the month, and now it's the end of the month." A mid-Atlantic Dell reseller said he's still waiting for dual-processor PowerEdge servers ordered before Thanksgiving. "They shipped Friday. Dell has a huge backlog problem," he noted.

"Their first story was that there were no particular components at issue. The second story was that there were memory and hard-drive constraints. Their third story is that they were having problems bringing their new manufacturing facility online," the reseller said. "That's of particular concern because logistics and just-in-time manufacturing is supposed to be their forte."

This partner is evaluating other tier-one suppliers but so far remains in the Dell camp.

Another U.K.-based customer also reported a month's delay in server shipments. Dell did not return calls for comment, but several recent posts to its customer blog recount similar PowerEdge delay issues.

Beyond server delays
But the backlog problem goes beyond servers. At the end of December, customers of Dell's consumer products raised a ruckus, saying the Round Rock, Texas-based company had missed its estimated shipping dates, in some cases by weeks. At the time, Dell told customers that it was largely due to an influx of holiday orders and, according to one Dell blogger, "industry-wide constraints on some components [such as memory and larger-capacity hard drives]."

Logistics and just-in-time manufacturing is supposed to be [Dell's] forte.
A mid-Atlantic Dell reseller,
That issue has apparently spilled over to the enterprise side, with IT and data center managers wondering where their server orders are. Katz said that Dell did offer competitive pricing for the Intel-based boxes the company ordered, but that the delay in server shipping is holding up IT projects such as expanding the company's Web stack.

"We're a Dell shop; we throw VMware on [these servers]," he said. "But if they can't come through, we might look somewhere else."

Gary Fenton, he director of the U.K.-based systems integrator Direct Path Solutions, expressed similar frustration. Fenton said that in December he ordered two servers from Dell at $7,000 a pop , but the delivery time increased to six weeks. He said that normally it takes just one week for Dell to build and ship products.

"Up until now I was under the impression that they deliver orders for business customers in seven to 10 days – at least they used to," he said. "They must have known about the supply problems before I placed my order, so it would have been courteous of them to inform me of the long delay on deliveries before or as I placed the order."

Fenton said he asked for the delivery to be done by the end of December so they could install them over the holidays, when system utilization is at a lull. He added that in the past, Direct Path has been pleased with Dell's servers, deeming them "extremely reliable" and saying company support "has been very good on the whole."

"So we are rather disappointed that our schedule has been pushed back by so much," he said. The CEO of a small Canadian software company voiced a similar concern. The CEO said he placed a server order in December, with the original delivery date scheduled for Dec. 21. He waited and waited, but the servers didn't show up. So he called Dell service, which said the servers were delayed until Jan. 7. Same thing: he waited around, but they didn't come. He finally received an email two days ago saying that they had been shipped.

"I was just disappointed that no one called to tell me," he said. "We're trying to make decisions about development around [Dell]. It's not what I would expect from someone like Dell."

Barbara Darrow contributed to this report.Mark Fontecchio can be reached at

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