System Builder Says Sandy Bridge Recall Helped Business

Puget Systems, a Seattle, Wash.-based system builder, says Intel's Sandy Bridge recall has actually bolstered its business.

Puget Systems this week began shipping custom systems running corrected Cougar Point support chipsets for Intel's Sandy Bridge platform. Jon Bach, president and founder of Puget Systems, in an interview with CRN, said the exposure that Puget got from the uncertain situation following the recall brought the company other business.

"Throughout this whole situation, boutique system builders have shown what we can do in terms of service and agility in bringing new and updated products to market quickly," Bach said. "So it's actually been a really good last couple of months compared to what we were expecting."

Bach said Intel handled the aftermath of the Cougar Point error as well as could be expected, providing necessary information and remaining responsive through trying times.

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"It's definitely been an interesting last two months," Bach said. "When the recall happened, we were gearing up for a slow two months. But the way we handled the recall -- we were able to give customers free SATA controllers and we offered to take back their systems until new motherboards came in -- really let the service aspect of our business shine."

Puget is leveraging Intel's Sandy Bridge integrated CPU-GPU platform on several PC models, including the Echo, Puget's small form-factor PC that offers low-power requirements and full 1080P HD video playback, and its completely quiet Serenity PC. Puget said it is also bringing custom systems based on its Deluge liquid-cooled gaming PC and its Obsidian desktop model. Puget customers can order the systems online using the Puget Systems online configurator.

"Our custom online configurator allows you to do almost anything you want with the components we carry," Bach said. "Those five systems are based on the kinds of components that our customers ordered over the last ten years, which we ended up segmenting into those systems."

Bach said many of Puget's customers specifically said they appreciated quiet computers and that Puget built the Serenity model, in that case, as a way to make the PC quieter. "You could look at those branded systems as a subset of our line," he said, "But when it comes to how they are produced, they're all built to order, they all go through the same assembly procedure and production process."

Next: Dealing With The Recall

Bach said Puget dealt with a period of two months of unrest in its product line, while it waited to update its current configurations with Sandy Bridge and kept communicating with both Intel and its ODM partner Asus. "In February we were told it wasn't going to be ready until mid-March, and we read into that that it would be April before we really started to see the volume we expected," Bach said. "So we were really pleasantly surprised that the fixed chipsets were ready by March 1st."

While Intel took a very cautious approach to the resumption of Sandy Bridge shipments, Puget communicated with end users in order to determine the best course of action in each case. "After the recall, we kept some of our products running on Sandy Bridge, and just disabled bad ports with the consent of our customers," Bach said. "Now we've refreshed everything with Sandy Bridge across our line. The only model of ours that is not affected is Genesis, which is a high-end workstation based on x58 technology."

Bach said the advantages of having systems running on Intel's Sandy Bridge platform are scalability and the combination of low-power and high-performance. "It's the best of both worlds," he said. "It's so scalable that I expect it to take over the whole product line eventually."

In addition, Bach said Sandy Bridge consolidates nearly all the heat down to the CPU, so that there is only one heat source that the system has to worry about venting out of the chassis, making it easier to manage.

Intel on Feb. 1 said it had identified and fixed a circuit design error in its Intel 6 series chipset, code-named Cougar Point causing degradation of 3Gb/s SATA ports over time. Some Intel partners reacted to Intel's handling of the Cougar Point flaw by giving the chipmaker credit for quickly identifying and fixing the problem, and offering a timeline for issuing replacements. Others said the situation had created a great deal of uncertainty and questioned how Intel could have resolved the issue and started producing fixed chipsets all within days of discovering it.

Intel the following week resumed shipments of Sandy Bridge products for PC system configurations that had not been affected by the Cougar Point error. Intel said it decided to lift the hold on shipments after extensive talks with its OEM partners on the subject.