Intel provides a broad range of support for its motherboards. Phone support for end-users runs from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Monday through Friday. There’s the usual bevy of Web-based download resources, email-based support contacts, and live chat. Intel also provides and participates in a wide variety of support forums.
While Intel’s support through these channels is best of breed, the company starts to distinguish itself with such offerings as advance warranty replacement for channel partners. Most Intel motherboards have two-year warranties, and some, particularly in the Embedded Series, raise this to three years.
Businesses may find Intel’s Extended Life Product (XLP) program particularly attractive. In typical motherboard scenarios, a vendor will release a motherboard and support it for 12 to 18 months. If you buy toward the end of this window, you may find that support vanishes even within the warranty period. “Support” in this case means that the vendor has exact replacement parts available. If you need to swap a motherboard, the last thing you want is a near replacement that might be in the same series (or even has the same model number) but in fact uses different components that can lead to platform instability or outright incompatibility. Replacement should mean exact replacement, because the cost of downtime and troubleshooting for a business far exceeds any cost of actual component replacement. The XLP program means that Intel guarantees it will have full support and true replacement capability for at least 24 months after the point of purchase. The Extended XLP program, found on such boards as the thin Mini-ITX models, stretches this coverage period to three years.
Support isn’t always about fixing things that go wrong. This author has been involved with the PC channel (distribution, system builders, etc.) since the early 1990s and has seen first-hand how Intel has worked hard and devoted vast sums of money toward making sure that the industry preserves an independent reseller and solution builder network. This serves as a counterweight to the major multinational OEMS, such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, and the other well-known names. Big OEMs serve a vital role in the computing world, but the innovation and customization that springs from the channel is equally essential if far less publicized.
One of the ways in which Intel supports this channel is with ESAA recipes. As a system builder, there is a constant risk of burning loads of time and money pursuing configurations that turn out to be somehow insufficient. Industry standards don’t always guarantee 100% compatibility between components or optimal performance for the final solution. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have the resources to run through countless hours of trial and error to find a system design that’s sure to meet all objectives.
Knowing this, Intel started its Enabled Solutions Acceleration Alliance (ESAA) program. Authorized resellers and OEMs can tap into Intel’s ever-growing list of configuration recipes. What if you needed a graphics workstation running Autodesk 3ds Max 2010? It turns out Intel has two different ESAA recipes for this configuration, each based on a different Intel workstation board (specifically, the S5520SC and WX58BP). Many of the ESAA recipes focus on server solutions, since that’s where the program first spawned from, but there are also recipes focused on SSD and desktop/embedded deployments.
For example, one recipe targets a digital security and surveillance application. The solution builds up from Intel’s DH67CF Mini-ITX motherboard, using a Core i7 processor and Microsoft Windows 7 Embedded 64-Bit. Far more than just a list of ingredients, Intel’s ESAA recipe walks through a range of test reports, including thermal, acoustic, and ENERGY STAR 5.2 results.