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Your Storage EoSL is Here: What Happens Next?

EoSL can be a four-letter word for IT managers. After all, those four letters stand for “End of Service Life.” It’s the acronym IT managers think means an inevitable increase in cost or choosing to keep equipment unsupported. But research says this doesn’t have to be the case. With some planning and the right partners, End of Service Life does not always need to mean, end of service.

What EoSL Means

No matter where you work, budgets are a reality and stakes are high. No one will argue that storage maintenance is vital to the protection and optimization of a company’s IT infrastructure. But one question to ask when it comes to EoSL is, “where is this upgrade pressure really coming from?” What does it really mean?

Since important aspects of your infrastructure are likely running on leading brands like Dell EMC, NetApp, and HPE, as they reach EoSL with the manufacturer, it may feel that only two decisions are available: upgrade or risk keeping equipment unsupported.

EoSL does not mean the end of service. In fact, endings can be opportunities for new beginnings entirely. It just takes an I&O leader creative enough to understand how to reframe the story. It involves someone who can think critically and who knows the right questions to ask. Over 70% of Fortune 500 companies are using TPM as a form of support in their environment. That signals a lot of I&O leaders have been willing to ask, “what if EoSL doesn’t need to actually mean end of service?

Storage Maintenance Checklist

What if instead of resigning themselves to manufacturer dictated upgrades, I&O leaders were to begin their EoSL review by looking at different approaches to storage maintenance? What if the review didn’t just restrict itself to vendor-supplied maintenance policies but took a wider strategy on?

Let’s start examining EoSL options by first taking the uncertainty (and dread) out of the equation.

Our reading found that Gartner has four recommendations that I&O leaders responsible for infrastructure modernization should keep on their checklist.

Gartner writes:

Recommendations – I&O leaders responsible for infrastructure modernization should:

  • Qualify TPM providers by using the due diligence script provided in this research before deciding to discontinue OEM maintenance.
  • Quantify the risks of forgoing microcode/software updates by charting update activity (updates/quarter) over the preceding two years.
  • Redeploy older storage arrays into non-mission- or non-business-critical environments to gain experience with TPM or to overcome resistance to its use.
  • Bring your arrays up to the most current stable hardware and microcode release levels before switching to TPM.1

Let’s break these down a bit more by taking a big-picture approach. What are some of the factors influencing storage upgrade recommendations?

Gain Leverage Over Storage Upgrades

According to the Gartner report,

I&O leaders who restrict themselves to vendor-supplied maintenance often find themselves doing infrastructure refreshes due to punitive vendor policies around post warranty support pricing that means keeping their systems on maintenance is more expensive than replacing them. These users also frequently find themselves in effectively sole-source situations because of an incumbent vendors’ ability to use maintenance waivers to create financial barriers that are too high for nonincumbent storage vendors to overcome.2

HPE, IBM, Dell EMC all have sales objectives influencing product lifecycle terms. In fact, Gartner states, “The useful service life of storage arrays, which is seven to eight years in clean data centers, is almost always greater than their planned service lives.3 So again, where is this rush coming from and who is it serving?

End of Service Life announcements mean that an OEM will stop offering technical and maintenance support after a designated date (or they will begin charging much, much more for those services). But EoSL doesn’t mean it’s time to queue up the funeral march for your existing arrays. In fact, upgrading is often not the most strategic option when it comes to EoSL management.

You should be able to maintain your infrastructure until your company’s needs outgrow it. You shouldn’t have to upgrade just because your vendor tells you it is time to upgrade. In fact, these “regular” budget-busting storage array upgrades are often not necessary.

You know your business best. You should be able to make these decisions without unfounded FUD clouding your decision-making process. Keeping in mind the Gartner Recommendations quoted above, this is where TPM can come into to play in I&O leaders’ storage maintenance strategy.

According to Gartner:

A core value proposition of TPM providers is lowering the maintenance costs of older storage arrays. Client inquiries and bid reviews confirm that the cost differential between TPM and vendor-supplied support is typically in the 40% to 70% range. As such, TPM represents a significant opportunity to reduce costs, negotiate lower rates from vendors and/or extend the useful service life of installed storage arrays.4

Third-Party Maintenance Benefits

Reduce costs. Negotiate lower rates from vendors. Extend the useful service life of installed arrays. These are the leverage that I&O leaders may not even know they have.

With a third-party maintenance provider, you can add capacity as needed, effectively extending the planned service life of your existing arrays.

Let’s break down three specific ways that TPMs can help I&O leaders realize significant cost optimizations:

  • First of all, any time you can delay equipment purchases and keep your older disk storage arrays in production longer, you are better leveraging the “useful life” of an asset.
  • A TPM service contract lowers the value of maintenance waivers, forcing your current vendors to more heavily discount their bids.
  • Plus, working with a TPM provider can help balance the negotiations with vendors, because you are not held hostage by your need for annual software maintenance as your microcode is considered mature.5

Additionally, a TPM provider like Curvature can offer you flexible contract terms, enabling you to ensure that your maintenance costs work within the constraints of your budget processes and planning cycles.

Storage SLAs and SLOs

Make sure to do your homework. Every company wants to maintain good relationships with their service providers and get the support and solutions they need. It is important to ensure that your Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Service Level Objectives (SLOs) are accurate and supporting your overall IT and business objectives. Always evaluate your workloads and systems before entering into a TPM contract.

For guidance on how to set your SLAs up for success, we recommend reading our whitepaper, IT Trends Report: New Approaches to Storage Maintenance and Hardware.

Some of the recommendations include:

  • An audit of your infrastructure to determine which workloads are mission-critical versus non-mission-critical
  • A review of microcode update activity for your arrays
  • Monetizing the delivery of value realized from your on-site vendor-supported activities

When considering third-party maintenance for your storage systems, remember all TPM providers are not the same. There are six key areas for vetting providers to ensure they can support your unique maintenance goals. Also, make sure they can support all of the platforms your infrastructure needs. You’ll remove significant risk by selecting a TPM provider with a proven track record with manufacturers like NetApp, IBM, Dell EMC, HPE, Hitachi, and Oracle.

Centralize and Simplify Your IT Support Vendors

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.

When you better align (and reduce) the number of vendors maintaining your storage, you can better align end dates. You’ll get quicker response times and reduced routing times, because you’ll have just one number to call when an issue arises. Curvature offers an easy-to-use suite of applications to help manage assets and create tickets. For a quick peek at how we deliver service to our customers, here’s an infographic breaking down the Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 and Level 4 support we offer: The Customer Experience.

If your EOSL date has been announced (or is rapidly approaching), now’s the time to explore Curvature’s Storage Maintenance Solutions. As the industry leader for independent third-party maintenance, we provide comprehensive break/fix support for an extensive list of platforms from manufacturers like Cisco Storage, Dell EMC, NetApp, Hitachi, IBM, HPE, and more.

Complete the form below to learn more about how Curvature can help you transform your storage maintenance strategy.

 

What's Your Storage Platform?

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[1] Gartner, Lower Both Storage Acquisition and Ownership Costs by Using Third-Party Maintenance, Stanley Zaffos, March 3, 2017.
[2] Gartner, Ibid.
[3] Gartner, Ibid.
[4] Gartner, Ibid.
[5] “IT leaders responsible for delivering a storage infrastructure with 24/7 availability historically default to vendor-supplied maintenance. However, many of these clients fail to notice that the mismatch between an array’s active marketing life and its planned useful service often results in microcode update activity falling off rapidly by the third or fourth year of their arrays’ planned five-year service life. It is this reduction in update activity that dramatically reduces the real risks of using TPM relative to vendor-supplied maintenance.” Gartner, Lower Both Storage Acquisition and Ownership Costs by Using Third-Party Maintenance, Stanley Zaffos, March 3, 2017.

 

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