5 tips for prudent network hardware maintenance

Third-party maintenance and secondary networking equipment are becoming compelling propositions for business as vendors emerge to validate the industry with consistently outstanding quality, service and price.

Most networks typically contain a mix of leading-edge, current and older equipment. It is common for equipment to reach original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs’) recommended End of Life (EoL) state even though they are still functioning well in the network.

Research by Gartner shows that 79% of organizations refresh their wired networking infrastructure every five years because the OEMs tell them to. Forrester Consulting, meanwhile, found that 85% of organizations discard old networking equipment because vendors no longer support it.

“While you think you only have two options – to either upgrade as per the OEM’s directive or risk having no support – there are cost-effective options beyond these,” says Mike Sheldon, president and CEO of Curvature.

Hence, Gartner has recommended keeping networking equipment longer than OEM timelines. Below are five key considerations to ensure success in adopting alternative network equipment and third-party maintenance.

1. Stay ahead of the end-of-support game.

Begin with an in-depth assessment of the network. Identify growth projections, OEM support terminations, and areas to reduce operational costs. In particular, identify mission-critical and secondary network components. Plan for future application and network performance requirements. Analyze maintenance and support contracts. Investigate hardware alternatives, including current and previous generations.

This entails staying up-to-date with OEMs’ frequent announcements of EoL, end-of-new-service (EoNS) and end-of-sale (EoS) products. End of software maintenance releases and last date of support for these products are important too.

Doing so enables administrators to pick the right support and upgrading options − third-party network maintenance, traditional OEM support or self-sparing – to maintain critical network uptime. Strategically, it enables organizations to extend the life of existing infrastructure and control refresh and upgrade cycles to reduce CapEx and OpEx.

2. Don’t upgrade if you don’t have to.

Upgrading translates to a significant investment, plus hours of learning and training on new functionalities. Alternatives to upgrading become important when manufacturers announce EoS long before equipment upgrade or replacement is necessary. Forrester Consulting has reiterated this point, saying that “network equipment has considerably longer useful life, often longer than the OEM is willing to support the product” in a study conducted on behalf of Curvature.

3. Leverage a maintenance alternative and extend the life of your equipment.

“Maintenance agreements with OEMs are costly and do not always provide maintenance and upgrades for the hardware that customers are running … Customers pay a lot of money for service they never use,” states a Forrester Consulting report.

This explains the suitability of third-party maintenance services for equipment where software updates are publically available or are no longer in development. In typical networks, 70% of equipment falls into this category.

Apart from significant cost savings that do not compromise network uptime, a smart third-party maintenance solution should allow organizations to refresh infrastructure on their own timelines instead of the ones dictated by the OEM.

For example, Curvature’s NetSure hardware maintenance and support program makes this possible with the backing of global distribution centers that can reach every major market in 24 hours, forward stocking locations for 4-hour replacement, and an expert technical team.

Specific features include global 24×7 access to certified technicians with networking and infrastructure experience. A web-based proprietary Contract Management and Ticketing system enables customers to add and manage support contracts from any provider.

4. Turn used networking equipment into cash.

Trading in used networking equipment for cash creates a revenue stream that otherwise would be a recycling cost. Curvature’s Asset Recovery Program helps organizations recover value from used routers, switches, access servers and IP telephony products.

It alleviates the cost of storing excess, outdated or used networking equipment. Curvature will assess the inventory value, uninstall, pack and ship the equipment. Sellers get paid promptly in cash or with a trade credit into their Curvature account to purchase other equipment.

5. Pick a reliable hardware maintenance provider.

A trustworthy pre-owned equipment supplier should have a substantial inventory of popular products available for delivery the next business day across the globe. Curvature carries USD200 million worth of new and pre-owned equipment inventory, including Cisco, Arista, Juniper, A10, HP, IBM, Extreme and Brocade products.

Other important considerations in choosing a trustworthy alternative network equipment and third-party maintenance provider include stringent quality control and recognized quality certifications like ISO 9001:2008 and TL 9000; lifetime warranty backed by expert purchasing, testing and shipping procedures; and financial stability, credit rating, and good reputation.

Selecting a reputable company helps to avoid frustration and disappointment. As a good rule of thumb, used equipment prices average 70% of OEM list prices.

A good pre-owned equipment supplier should offer simple, coterminous contracts with flexible terms and options for payment in multiple currencies and modular pricing structure that supports multi-generation and multi-vendor network assets, including OEM EoL equipment.

Some of the largest opportunities are coming through OEMs’ own channel partners as more organizations become aware of the value of third-party maintenance and the useful life of networking products. “Customers are asking [OEM] partners for solutions and we are very willing to work with partners to help support items that OEMs have determined are end of support,” says Glenn Fassett, general manager for Asia Pacific and EMEA at Curvature.

While an OEM partner is not allowed to offer a competitive maintenance product for in-life equipment, it could work with a company like Curvature on EoL products.

This is a QuestexAsia feature commissioned by Curvature.