Certain PC-based hardware appliance solutions are extremely sensitive to change. The software may require very extensive testing and qualification anytime a CPU is altered, the BIOS is upgraded, or a new NIC firmware is promoted in the factory. Dell obviously needs to occasionally update the BIOS or firmware of a system to add features, improve quality or performance, or address errata. For a solution sensitive to change, this change is not usually required since testing was already performed and no issues were found. If a new BIOS were accepted it could require hundreds of engineering hours to qualify the update and thousands of hours of testing to ensure the update doesn’t break the solution in every potential deployment situation.
In the OEM team we have studied the issue of platform change, what is required and what is optional, and as a result offer customization in the factory for customers willing to pay a fee per unit to flash the BIOS and Firmware to a previous version and hold that version until there is some hard requirement to update. Over time demand for this service grew to the point we started looking into building it into a larger program to meet the needs of the solutions highly sensitive to change. We call the results of that effort the OEM XL Program.
Caption: Changes during sales life: Dell OEM XL vs. Standard Dell vs. Competitor
Products in the OEM XL Program, among other things, do not experience nearly as much change on the core, image impacting aspects of the system, such as CPU, Chipset, BIOS, Firmware, Embedded Management, and such as compared to standard systems not in the program. In addition Dell OEM provides proactive notification of any changes to those core features at least 6 months prior to promotion in the factory. This assurance to our OEM customers results in fewer qualification and testing cycles for the end solution and thus can significantly reduce the cost of shipping, selling and supporting a solution based on Dell hardware.
There are several other change management and lifecycle issues we have addressed with the OEM XL Program, but the ability to assure stability of the shipping platform is extremely effective in reducing the cost of doing business for OEM customers.