Lifecycle ManagementIn a recent study by Dimension Data, researchers found that networks are getting younger. That means managed IT teams are becoming more proactive about keeping their network devices up-to-date. As you move from one end to the other of a high-performing network, you’ll see more and more new equipment. Any aging devices you encounter probably have an end-of-life strategy already in place. In 2016, the percentage of aging and obsolete devices in networks fell from 52 percent [in 2015] to 42 percent. The figures for 2017 are still pending, but we bet that they’re similarly encouraging. Replacing a device that is ready to fail is a far lesser evil than replacing it after it’s already crashed. IT management professionals, in general, are taking this strategy to heart. In short, CIOs and CISOs realize that the cost of downtime far exceeds the expense of maintaining and replacing network equipment proactively. They are building replacement strategies into their budgets ahead of time. That’s making life a whole lot easier for their staff. So where do you start? Well, let’s begin by learning how to categorize your existing equipment.
The 3 Stages of The Network Equipment Life CycleNetwork equipment can generally be grouped into one of 3 categories. When you understand these designations, you’re 90 percent of the way there in your replacement strategy.
Current equipmentEquipment that falls into the Current category is still sold and fully supported by the manufacturer. Repair and replacement warranties are in full effect. Software and firmware upgrades will frequently show up in the customer inbox. Equipment that is "current" should be able to fully integrate with any other newly released, compatible products and product lines. This is the ideal for the IT professional, when it comes to fully functioning network capabilities.
Aging equipmentThe next phase in the network equipment life cycle --Aging equipment-- is also “good”. Sometimes, it can even be a blessing. If you sense that some of your favorite equipment is nearing the end of its purchase cycle, it be an opportune occasion to snatch up as many as you can before they’re retired from the shelves. Items that fall into this category tend to be things like your go-to-models of media converters, power supplies, extender kits, injectors, modems and even some switches. This would be equipment that has performed for you come hell or high water. It’s the stuff you just love. In short, you can rarely have too much of a good thing when it comes to backup network equipment. It never hurts to have a couple extra on hand. Whether they end up being used for an unexpected network expansion, or unfortunate equipment failures, they can sure come in handy. “Aging” equipment is past end-of-sale, but not end of life. No indeed. This means service agreements, or parts thereof, may still hold true. Online diagnostics may still be available, and customers may still receive periodic software and firmware updates. This equipment still has life to it. But the horizon, when it comes to repairs, may be looming. After that, the you’re-on-your-own phase begins.
Obsolete equipmentObsolete equipment is anything that has crossed the end-of-support boundary line. The manufacturer will no longer push firmware or software updates. By extension, it will often be harder to integrate into a network with newer equipment. You may still have quite some time before it actually “collapses.” But you’ll definitely want to have a replacement strategy in place for when that inevitably happens. Mind you, we’re not saying old equipment is bad! Not at all. But it does necessitate some additional vigilance and caution. Here’s the question you must answer. In the grand scheme, is your old equipment too high maintenance to justify keeping it? If the answer is no, don’t wait. Replace it.
Building a Plan for the FutureLook, we know that building a cohesive strategy for replacing outdated equipment isn’t particularly glamorous. But trust us when we tell you, it’s very important! If you don’t have any contingencies in place, you could easily find yourself in a situation where you have a whole line of products to replace with no equipment on hand. It can help to follow the 30-60-90 rule. If 90 percent of your network depends upon a device, it’s going to be far more important to replace in a timely manner. A 60% dependent device is similarly more important than a 30% device. So if you're strapped for time, aim to have backups on hand for 90% devices and at least a plan for what to do should a 60% device fail. Now that you have a basic strategy to help you decide what’s the most critical, you can map out a budgetary time frame. Make a replacement schedule and and stick to it wherever possible. Start by categorizing your “obsolete” (and occasionally “aging”) equipment into 3 timeslots for replacement.
- Six months later
- One year later