The ability to develop and sustain trusted vendor partnerships is getting harder, especially given the stalemate that often occurs when flattened IT budgets collide with unrelenting pressure from vendors and resellers to buy the latest and greatest gear. Sprinkle in an influx of M&A activity disrupting IT environments, and you’re quickly confronted with a hodgepodge of equipment types and flavors that become increasingly complex and costly to manage and maintain.
Relief comes in a page from the IT playbook favored by Amazon, Google, Facebook and other hyperscale companies: Adopt an IT standardization policy that eliminates one-offs and random servers to achieve much-need consistency across your environment. For starters, standardize on three to five server configurations to save time while simplifying decisions regarding future purchases.
Your IT team will receive a welcome reduction in the number of models they need to support as well as a shorter list of vendors to rely on for service and support. Hopefully, working with a select few fosters friendlier and open relationships with vendors that are more interested in the long-haul gain than the short-term sale. This approach also makes testing, maintaining, diagnosing or troubleshooting easier and quicker.
Sticking to a handful of configurations also yields a smaller spectrum of potential problems. And when they do occur, you’ll be able to respond rapidly with familiar fixes. The same can be said for software updates; organizations can save a lot of time—and headaches—by reducing the number of different versions of software used in their servers and data center equipment.
Streamlined Choices Saves Time + Money
Streamlining choices through standardization not only saves time and money, it alleviates training requirements. As with any change, though, there will be challenges. Achieving standardization is not an overnight process. It’s best handled gradually and accomplished more easily with buy-in from your procurement pros along with alignment between finance and IT.
Getting CIOs and CFOs on the same page will yield a collective understanding of how best to overcome financial and technology challenges. Most important, securing consensus and commitment will set you on the most effective path to realizing better business outcomes.
After all, budgeting and buying cycles across your company must be in lockstep in order to achieve maximum business benefits. That’s why decisions regarding future operating and capital expenses are best tackled from a “we”—not “me”— standpoint.
With your sights set on the collective interests of the company, it’s easier to reach out to other departments and determine ways to consolidate equipment purchases and buy in bulk when possible. Acquiring servers in quantity, for instance, can produce more negotiating power when it comes to discounts and other value-added services.
Speaking of value-added services one opportunity often overlooked is what to do with old equipment. Depending on the vendor you choose, disposing of equipment doesn’t always have to result in an additional cost. TPM’s like Curvature offer IT asset disposition services (ITAD) to safely decommission and dispose of old or unused equipment. Curvature’s ITAD can turn old hardware into ways to pay for new equipment or services. Devices can be securely repurposed, resold, or recycled. Companies like Curvature who have a strong hardware resale business and expertise are in a unique position to offer additional value to their clients. As a resale provider, Curvature can become a potential buyer of ITAD clients’ enterprise hardware (that has little to no market value) as it supports our maintenance operation. Rather than being charged to have a company dispose of the equipment, working with Curvature for ITAD means a company’s old equipment can often help pay for its own disposal.1
While relying on one vendor reduces the competition, it may lower your ability to bargain. Here’s where IT leaders should enlist expertise from colleagues in finance as they know how to drive the best deal on competitive pricing.
Is Your Future In White Box?
That said, cost shouldn’t always be the No. 1 priority behind purchasing decisions. Plan ahead; constantly consider your next two or three moves. In that mindset, keep inventory and spares on hand for quick swap-outs. There’ll come a day you’ll be thankful you had a ready supply.
In looking ahead, think carefully about changing user needs and how your IT environment needs to evolve to address them. In this era of standardization and commoditization, not everyone sees the value of the myriad features offered by tier-one vendors, which presents an opportunity to deploy lesser-known and much more affordable options.
“For example, some Gartner clients report success using servers from lesser-known vendors for applications with less stringent SLAs than those deployed on servers from branded vendors.” 2 Low-cost servers also are a good fit for test and development environments, where a higher risk of failure is acceptable. Additionally, leveraging “white box” vendors also can give traditional manufacturers a wake-up call regarding better discounts.3
If you choose this route, make sure the provider has the resources to support your purchases. Augmenting the move with coverage from a provider of third-party maintenance (TPM) makes sense in many cases. TPM also comes into play when extending the lifecycle of workhorse servers and other hardware that hold value—and where components are available.
As we outlined in our post “When Do You Need A New Server?” moving to TPM after manufacturers’ initial support expires is a great way to extend the useful life of existing gear while achieving much-needed CapEx and OpEx relief.
So, pick your vendors wisely, standardize where it makes the most sense and think differently about how you approach IT equipment procurement and support. You’re bound to see a world of possibilities.
Want to learn more? Read the Gartner Paper, 10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Acquiring Servers
 By providing new and pre-owned hardware, maintenance and IT services under one contract, Curvature helps companies across the globe extend their asset lifecycle, decrease capital expenditures and free IT teams from the burden of daily support tasks and costly manufacturer constraints. Some of the manufacturers we support include, Cisco Servers, Cisco networking, Dell EMC servers, Dell EMC Storage, IBM zSeries, HPE servers, and HPE storage. We’re already a strategic partner for more than 15,000 organizations globally. Learn more by contacting us.
 According to Gartner, “One use case for such servers is test and development environments, where substituting a lower-cost server with a higher risk of failure is acceptable. Other Gartner clients have leveraged such vendors into higher discounts from their primary supplier. Outside of China, for example, including China-based OEMs such as Huawei and Sugon in RFQs is one way to drive down the cost of servers that would normally be sourced from multinational OEMs such as Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).” Gartner, 10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Acquiring Servers, Daniel Bowers, 27 October 2017.
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.