How to Avoid Unnecessary Hardware Refreshes

Oct. 6, 2021
How do you determine if a slated hardware refresh is really essential? Paul Mercina, Director of Product Management for Park Place Technologies, shares three key considerations that may help you avoid unnecessary IT hardware refreshes.

Park Place Technologies’ Director of Product Management, Paul Mercina, advises Voices of the Industry readers how to accurately identify when IT hardware refreshes can be safely postponed and sometimes even avoided altogether.

Paul Mercina, Director of Product Management, Park Place Technologies

Defining exactly when to refresh IT hardware remains a contentious topic. No organization can afford to fall behind its competitors, or to fail its business requirements or its applications by using inadequate data center equipment. Equally, no enterprise or SMB wants to waste intensive resources and overheads that frequently accompany ambitious refreshes without having compelling business reasons to do so.

Today’s uncertain public health environment causes IT even greater quandaries. Many organizations are limiting capital expenditures, and IT leaders are under increased pressure to balance budget concerns, maximize return on existing hardware investments, and trim their total cost of ownership, all while ensuring performance and reliability are optimized.

With so many factors to consider, how do you determine if a slated hardware refresh is really essential? There are three factors to take into consideration:

#1 Do an Audit and Consider Alternatives: First, determine which assets are deployed and what’s sitting idle. Although this seems obvious, audits at some of the most premiere multinationals have unveiled hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of unused servers hiding in data center corners. Avoid this mistake. Take the time to verify that the equipment inventory matches what’s on the floor. And make it useful by adding each model’s specifications, if not already listed. This information will guide the assessment of current hardware capabilities and unmet needs. Such an evaluation should include options for repurposing existing equipment to fill any gaps. Look at alternatives to new hardware outlays. For instance, the enterprise may be experiencing isolated transaction processing bottlenecks. IT planners in this case should weigh the differences between acquiring more powerful servers and purchasing public cloud “overflow” for elasticity during peak traffic periods.

#2 Don’t Believe the Hype: A detailed audit promotes an analytical frame of mind, but it must stand up against the sophisticated marketing campaigns designed to give the impression that new IT gear will alleviate every pain point. Following trends is for fashion, not efficient IT management. It’s vital to keep in mind that deploying the latest hardware, as attractive as it may seem, has downsides. Early adopters often experience more issues with configuration, testing, and deployment and wind up serving as unpaid product testers for the manufacturer. In fact, customer-identified flaws are a primary reason significant microcode updates are common in the first two years of product lifespan. Those who “buy in” later gain all the advantages of experience, without suffering through the bug hunt. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a refresh must be taken off the table for innovative new hardware, but there can be stability-related advantages to waiting.

#3 Secure Post-Warranty and Post-EOSL Support: If the first two tips can be boiled down to the ability to chart your own path, then the results can raise support questions. What if the right refresh cycle doesn’t line up with the one the manufacturer recommends? For instance, if a server is now end-of-service-life (EOSL) and the manufacturer won’t provide troubleshooting assistance, spare parts, or break/fix any longer, isn’t a refresh mandatory? The answer is “no.” Third party maintenance can step in to provide IT organizations with greater latitude to manage the product lifecycle their own way by minimizing support costs. In fact, many third party maintenance providers offer better-than-OEM support for about one-third of the cost. The price is commensurate with post-warranty hardware and makes extended lifecycles financially very attractive. Using high quality maintenance, reliability can also be ringfenced to mitigate any concerns about component failure in older equipment. Alternatively, seek out proactive hardware monitoring, which oversees systems 24/7 and alerts service engineers of any event at the earliest stages. With such a predictive solution in place, uptime actually increases in the later phases of the equipment lifecycle. Third party maintenance providers will support most post-EOSL systems, helping IT organizations avoid a hard upgrade deadline and keep equipment for as long as they prefer.

In summary, the watchwords for refreshes is to understand value over time and to plan smartly. Companies need to quickly maximize the return on the incredibly large investments they make in IT hardware. Equally, IT leaders should continue to examine how they can reduce capital expenditures on new equipment, especially in challenging economic times. The key objectives remain to minimize the total cost of ownership, and to plan precisely. Only undertake essential refresh projects when there’s a clear runway for flawless execution to deliver an immediate, positive impact. If the right choice is to slow the refresh cycle—and it often is—integrating appropriate support strategies, including third party maintenance, will help IT ensure performance and reliability while waiting on the right time to upgrade.

Paul Mercina, Director of Product Management for Park Place Technologies, oversees the product roadmap, growing the services portfolio, end-to-end development and release of new services to the market. Park Place Technologies simplifies the management of complex technology environments worldwide, with a network of parts to support data centers stored regionally, locally and on-site to allow for fast parts distribution and service to drive Uptime. 

About the Author

Voices of the Industry

Our Voice of the Industry feature showcases guest articles on thought leadership from sponsors of Data Center Frontier. For more information, see our Voices of the Industry description and guidelines.

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