Anyone that hasn’t performed a maintenance audit is likely spending more than they need to on maintenance. That’s money that could be invested back into your company’s digital transformation. But how and who should you engage to create such an audit?
As conventional thinking in hardware acquisition has changed, so have approaches to ongoing IT and equipment maintenance. Savvy IT leaders increasingly are turning to independent IT service providers for Third-Party Maintenance (TPM) options for greater flexibility, agility and cost savings.
For anyone who has yet to consider joining this groundswell, please answer one question: Are you paying too much for post-purchase support from manufacturers? And here’s the bonus question: Can you afford to pass on big savings?
Analysts say end-users can save up to 60% on average by introducing TPM to their maintenance regime.1 While the benefits start with compelling OpEx relief, that’s only the beginning. TPM also permits organizations to better calibrate manufacturers’ upgrade schedules to a cadence more acceptable to overarching business and budget goals.
Selecting a TPM Provider
TPM is gaining widespread adoption across companies of all sizes and vertical markets. In fact, 59% of the top 500 global customers use TPM providers to support some portion of their infrastructure.2But how do you know where and when TPM will have the biggest impact on your bottom line?
The best way to start is with an exploratory risk/benefit review. ClearView℠ is one of the most robust tools available, providing an unbiased view of the risks and benefits associated with incorporating an independent support strategy versus manufacturer support into your IT environment.
A ClearView Assessment is a three-step process. It begins with your hardware asset list. That list is audited item by item to generate a detailed strategy for each device. Those devices are then sorted by color code, indicating which should stay under manufacturer support versus which can and should be moved to a more cost-effective, independent support plan. It then evaluates how a customer currently uses their equipment and what their future IT strategy looks like in a manufacturer-neutral assessment. The final assessment results identify immediate opportunities for reduction in OpEx as well as scenarios where manufacturers are correct in suggesting upgrades versus where they may be suggesting premature upgrades. This sort of in-depth review, allows customers to decide what it right for their business, without outside interests swaying the results.
|Green||Curvature Support Suggested: Assets in this category can be moved to Curvature without forfeiting any critical component of support. These products are prime candidates because their firmware / software updates have either ceased or are available separately. We can provide support on devices well beyond the manufacturer’s End-of-Life date. Moving these items to Curvature support results in immediate OpEx reduction, extends the useful life of your hardware, and gives you more control of when you refresh.|
|Yellow||Curvature Support Optional: If you have standardized on a specific firmware / software version, transitioning items to Curvature’s support makes sense. These products have reached a steady state even though updates could still be released. Many manufacturers sell updates separately. Otherwise, you pay a premium for support while not using those updates and end up spending unnecessarily. Some products may have licensing constraints that could impact eligibility.|
|Red||Manufacturer Support Suggested (High risk for any TPM): Products in this category are dependent on their manufacturer for critical elements of service such as license, features, updates, or niche technical support. As these items progress through their lifecycle, they may transition into one of the categories above.|
Leading TPM providers welcome the opportunity to construct a detailed audit of your existing IT environment, along with a series of steps and recommendations for best implementing TPM best practices. The use of automated analysis tools like ClearView℠ can assist in defining clearly where TPM will create the biggest cost-saving opportunities while mitigating risk.
TPM can usually support a variety of manufacturers. Curvature’s own team can support a host of manufacturers globally including Cisco servers, the IBM zSeries, Dell EMC, Brocade, NetApp and Hitachi to name just a few. Regardless, in the vast majority of cases a hybrid maintenance strategy is ideal. This approach blends manufacturer and third-party support with the use of secondary market hardware and managed spares. TPM is not an option for every server or network asset, but it shines brightest when applied to devices that have exceeded manufacturers’ initial support periods yet still perform useful but not mission-critical duties. That said, not all TPMs can service all types of equipment either. Make sure any provider you talk to is transparent on the limits of their support.
As a rule, leading TPM providers also can help combine key information on inventory, software licensing, updates and end-of-life data that is critical for keeping operations running smoothly. Injecting the possibility of a move to TPM also provides a better negotiating posture when dealing with manufacturers on future maintenance extensions. At the very least, this practice should provide leverage that previously would be missing altogether when trying to strike the best possible deal.
TPM Reduces Vendor Ranks
With TPM, you can consolidate countless maintenance contracts under one global agreement. The result gives you greater insights into IT asset lifecycle management across your entire enterprise. Instead of grappling with separate contracts and inflexible options, companies can rely on experts in multi-generational, multi-vendor and multi-national support and service.
Moreover, the ability to right-size service level agreement with TPM ensures that top-notch support is delivered when and where it’s needed most, without paying too much or delivering too little. Independent support providers with centralized service portals, as well as tailored data center upgrade, migration and consolidation offerings, can enable you to respond quickly and effectively to a plethora of IT support demands.
Of course, the best way to know what’s right for your environment is to compare detailed TPM recommendations with manufacturer options to see how they measure up. It shouldn’t take too many calculations to validate a TPM strategy.
Dollars and Sense
Consider the dollars and sense behind the following example. After a $6 billion U.S.-based retail chain underwent a $28 million upgrade to 4,000 stores, the chain sought to do the same for its 1,000 stores in Canada. Taking an alternative IT approach that included TPM and secondary market hardware, the organization saved $4.5 million in CapEx and $1.75 million in OpEx—for a grand savings of $9.75 million over three years.
The necessity for keeping your IT environment running in optimal fashion is an ongoing concern, but one that should not come at ever-increasing cost. Introducing TPM to your maintenance mix can provide welcome budgetary relief while sending an indisputable message to manufacturers that forced upgrades and rising support fees will not be tolerated.
Want to learn more? Read about our own Maintenance Audit Tool, ClearView℠
 According to Gartner, “TPM contracts offer customers an average of 60% savings off of OEM support price lists. I&O leaders who restrict themselves to vendor-supplied maintenance may be missing an opportunity for significant warranty and post-warranty support cost savings.” Gartner, 10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Acquiring Servers, Daniel Bowers, 27 October 2017.
 According to Gartner, “TPM companies provide maintenance support for servers and other data center infrastructure independently from OEMs. This alternative to OEM maintenance is becoming more common in the hardware support market, with 59% of the top 500 global customers using TPM providers as a form of support in their environments in 2016.” Gartner, 10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Acquiring Servers, Daniel Bowers, 27 October 2017.
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