Purchasing Hardware

General procedures

Generally speaking, the goal of purchasing hardware (or anything, really) is to generate a Purchase Request to submit to Procurement. Procurement will look at the PR and, generally, create a Purchase Order which is then sent to the vendor.

When purchasing computing equipment, one should be aware of the rules regarding tenders and such - they're on the back of the PR form.

Procurement will send an email upon generation of the PO to the name listed as "Requestor". Faculty members signing off on equipment purchases can generally expect these forms (PDF format) to appear in their email within a couple of days of the PR being submitted (if they are listed as the "Requestor)

Something to keep in mind is that year-end for budgets causes things to become really crazy for Procurement (and vendors! - UW isn't the only business in town with that year-end) in the March-April timeframe, so allow for extra time for equipment to be both ordered and delivered.

How to make a purchase

Faculty have a number of choices when purchasing equipment. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • They make purchases less than $5,000 themselves on their personal credit card (or cash) and then get re-imbursed using their Professional Development fund
  • if they have support via the CSCF Research Support Group, they may request their Point-of-Contact obtain quotes on their behalf and create a Purchase Requisition
  • they may contact their administrative support person and fill out a purchase request for desired equipment


Purchasing Servers

  • What operating system? If you want to run anything other than Windows, some careful research into Linux or BSD support for hardware is warranted. Of particular note are things like SATA "RAID" cards (usually they have a driver component required for operation, which may not be ported to your os or distribution of choice) and network cards can sometimes cause problems too.

Purchasing Standard PCs

Purchasing Laptops / Tablet PCs

Networking Equipment




  • You probably don't want one.

Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS)

Rackmount consoles

Startech 1UCabCons and companion KVMs (8/16 port) that snap into the back of the console and require 0U added space. See:


for other options.


desktop KVMs

  • Note that some KVMs "emulate" a generic keyboard and generic two-button mouse so that machines don't lose their connection even when you switch away from the them. The problem is, though, that the systems cannot recognize a multi-button mouse or multimedia keyboard.
  • The Iogear MiniView III (GSC1712 or GSC1714) "emulate" and therefore do not support the multibutton mouse
  • The Iogear GCS104U and GCS102U do not emulate and therefore can support the multibutton mouse and multimedia keyboard

rack KVMs for machine-rooms

IP-addressed KVMs

  • Issues to consider:
    1. overall system size: a system to feed 40+ systems with 4 concurrent sessions can be $15,000-$30,000, not counting the cost of the cabling.
    2. the physical shape of the room dictates the length of cable runs. Remember that a 15m analog cable can be as much as $200 each. The alternative is to go to a "dongle"-based system which uses cat5 but needs a dongle per system. The dongles are $125+ each.
    3. client-side software requirements. Vendors typically orient towards the Windows/IE for their client-side requirements. Some will require client-side software to be installed, others are web-based. Some vendors charge a licence fee per client. In all cases there may be specific pre-requisites (IE, a particular version of a Java engine, etc).
    4. managed system requirements. Some people want USB, some want PS/2, some want VGA, some want DVI, some want Sun video, some want headless devices like routers.
  • Startech sells an IP-addressed 8-port KVM, model SV841HDI, that has both a native VNC server and a web-server control interface. It is VGA only, either USB or PS/2 (but not both) and analog cables (Startech "3-in-1" cables). The KVM cost is $1600, and the cables are ~$22 for the 6ft length. These will service within one rack. The 10ft cables are about ~$27 and will service across two or maybe three racks.


  • Black or Colour?
  • Laser or Inkjet?
  • print-only or multi-function?
  • network-attached?
  • postscript required (eg Mac)?
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Topic revision: r16 - 2006-03-28 - LawrenceFolland
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