The Gateway server snapshot featured in last week’s Hardware Today presented a vendor making waves in the commodity server market. Gateways’ servers run the gamut from low-end 1-way Xeon towers designed for small to midsize businesses lacking an IS department, to more robust 4-way Xeon MP racks suited for departmental use as multiprocessing servers with mainframe-level error correction. These priced-to-move servers bring Gateway to a much more competitive sales level than was occupied previously by more-rudimentary and less-targeted server lines.
Gateway customers may be a varied lot, but Autobase stands out from the crowd. The vertical CRM solutions provider uses Gateway products internally to meet its operation and back-office needs. Externally, it takes on a VAR-like role, selling its software pre-installed on Gateway servers.
Gateway customers themselves are a varied group — almost as varied as the ways in which the servers are deployed. One customer that stands apart from the crowd though is Autobase, a company whose bread and butter comes from providing customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to car dealerships. Autobase uses Gateway products internally to meet its operations and back-office needs, and also functions in a VAR-like role, bundling low-end Gateway towers with its CRM software.
On the sales side, Autobase bundles various entry-level Gateway hardware options with its software. “As the nation’s largest automotive CRM software distributor, Autobase helps Gateway connect with thousands of small and medium-sized automotive dealerships nationwide,” Gateway vice president of SMB and professional channels Steve McAllister told ServerWatch. “Gateway ships servers, desktop PCs, and notebooks to Autobase, which then bundles Gateway hardware with its software and services to dealer customers.”
McAllister sees Gateway’s dedicated 24×7 support (which is actually through IBM Global Services) as a sturdy complement to Autobase’s robust, sales-driving CRM software. “Autobase software features powerful and interactive logbooks, letters, business planners, and statistical reports,” he said. “Ultimately, the software helps dealerships close sales by building and maintaining strong relationships with customers.”
To aid Autobase in this task, “Gateway backs up its PCs, notebooks, and network systems with dedicated support and services, around-the-clock, seven days a week,” McAllister noted. This has proven to be a fuel-efficient combination for Autobase; to date, it has having rolled out more than 100 servers, 200 desktop machines, and 100 notebooks with its software management offerings.
Autobase’s CRM software is available as a stand-alone offering, but the fully loaded version is a popular option. It bundles lightweight Gateway servers with software for more than 100 dealership customers. “Car dealerships are not the most technical-minded [firms] in the world, unless they’re very large,” Autobase Installation Engineer Eric Hinsch told ServerWatch, “so we offer to supply servers, printers, and, to a lesser extent, workstations.”
Autobase most frequently deploys its software on the 960X, a dual-processor, Xeon-based tower server. Overall, rack servers are a less popular choice. “You don’t have a lot of car dealerships who even know what a rack is,” Hinsch said, “but those who do will usually ask during our pre-installation conference call.” The servers ship with Windows 2003 based on OEM requirements.
|The 960X Tower
Autobase’s solutions vary in horsepower depending on the employee base, Hinsch explained. Configurations for 1-10 users, 11-25 users, and 26-50 users are available. Larger dealerships (i.e., those with 100 or more employees) typically occupy more than one building and require installation considerations beyond the norm. For these environments, Autobase recommends Gateway’s 4-way offerings, such as the 995 series; another option would be to run Autobase’s CRM software on already installed hardware.
Under the Hood
In addition to functioning as a VAR for Gateway, Autobase relies on Gateway servers to keep its business running. Gateway servers power many of the Indianapolis-based vendor’s operations and back-office applications. Autobase IT Director Dannie Stanley described Gateway servers as part of the company’s Windows 2000 back-end, complementing a homogeneous data center that includes Dell servers running Linux.
One 975 rack server is used for development, while another runs Autobase’s own CRM software for Autobase internal CRM. A 955 is used for testing, and an older Gateway 935 server model is used for human resources. Three “vintage” Gateway legacy servers are still trucking. The 7450R servers (which date all the way back to 2001) are from Gateway’s earlier, less-focused stab at the enterprise market are also used for the likes of Active Directory and network storage.