When to Decommission Old Networking Equipment

When to Decommission Old Networking Equipment

Wouldn’t it be nice to hire someone to decommission all of your obsolete equipment for you? Picture it being like one of those interior-decorating shows. A longstanding professional comes to your offices and takes you through it step-by-step. You’re guided through the audit process and immediately see how your LANs haven’t been properly setup. The expert also helps you sidestep the pitfalls of integrating the old with the new. Load balancing, eliminating unnecessary redundancy, and discarding the oldest equipment. Too good to be true huh? Wishful thinking aside, with the right guidance you can handle this yourself. So don’t worry. Getting your end-to-end network in order isn’t necessarily as hard as you might think. It probably won’t cost as much as you fear either. Here are some of the things you’ll want to consider when you’re planning to rid your network of old and outdated equipment.

Lifecycle Management

In 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. Aging & Obsolete Devices in a NetworkReplacing 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 Cycle

Network 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 equipment

3 Stages of The Network Equipment Life Cycle (1)Equipment 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 equipment

3 Stages of The Network Equipment Life Cycle (2)The 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 equipment

3 Stages of The Network Equipment Life Cycle (3)Obsolete 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 Future

Look, 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. 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.
  • Immediately
  • Six months later
  • One year later
Emergencies do come up that can take precedence, but it’s best to have a plan. That way if there are integration considerations, you’ll be ahead of the curve. If you have managers to contend with, make the argument for proactive allocation versus fire-fighting. Lost business due to down time is a very painful thing to watch and even worse to experience. If you’d like some help putting together an equipment upgrade strategy, reach out. We’re always happy to assist.
G.fast challenges

The Challenges With Replicating G.fast Speeds in the Real-World

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) competing with cable service providers are watching the development of G.Fast, a new xDSL technology that promises to deliver fiber-like speeds using legacy copper lines. G.Fast is the next generation of xDSL services that will benefit customer premises located near distribution points. The increased usage of cloud-computing, video streaming, and the awaited arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution (expected to increase Big Data) have further increased the demand for faster broadband speeds. Internet Service Providers are seeking newer methods to improve broadband speeds to rates that exceed 100mbps to remain competitive.  Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been able to deploy high-speed broadband using legacy copper lines with xDSL technologies such as ADSL and VDSL. But with G.fast, ISPs are hoping to achieve near 1Gbps speeds in shorter loop lengths. Receive a Complementary Consultation G.fast provides a wider frequency band than VDSL2. VDSL2 supports a frequency profile of up to 30 MHz. G. Fast’s frequency band currently supports 106 MHz profiles but newer generations of G.fast are expected to support 212 MHz frequency bands. These wider frequencies can provide near-gigabit speeds in laboratory settings.

G.fast Performance in the Real World

But the challenge for ISPs is replicating those laboratory results in real-world settings. Trial runs in real-world scenarios have successfully been able to achieve speeds of up to 330 Mbps. UK’s Openreach Telecom company has deployed trial runs in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and received favorable customer feedback.

G.fast Setbacks

Huawei notes that one of the main issues with G.fast is minimizing the total cost of ownership. G.fast is still a bleeding edge technology and access service providers are experimenting with ways to maximize the commercial viability for G.fast. G.fast’s higher frequencies overlap with VDSL and VDSL2’s broadband spectrum making it difficult for network architectures to support both xDSL access technologies. Providers are faced with another challenge: G.fast support for short loop lengths entails drop point installations. Huawei notes that these types of deployments are characterized by their low-port counts. G.fast Setbacks Broadband providers are considering expanding port-count, but at the cost of sacrificing bandwidth. A higher port count will increase the amount of lines a DPU binder supports, and hence, increase the complexity of vectoring processes. According to Huawei, “the vectoring complexity of G.fast is 6 to 12 times [more complex than] that of VDSL2 Profile 14a with the same port count”.  Nonetheless, the company remains optimistic concluding that “Over the next few years, vectoring processors that are more scalable are expected to become available.” Huawei also anticipates that G.fast deployment will be particularly difficult in brownfields that boast a large amount of VDSL2 subscribers.  ISPs will need to entice customers to upgrade to G.fast to be able to “re-farm… the spectrum to improve bandwidth after the VDSL2 CPEs are removed from the network”. Getting subscribers to upgrade can prove particularly difficult if they find their existing VDSL2 speeds satisfactory.

Reverse Power Feeding

G.fast will rely on reverse power feeding to draw power from customer premise equipment to power G.fast DSLAMs. G.fast has even shown to require less power than VDSL2 with energy-efficient features. Reverse power-feeding will help reduce costs for distribution point installations.

TDD (Time Division Duplexing)

G.fast will rely on Time-Division Duplexing or TDD to transmit data.  TDD uses pre-assigned time frames to alternate between sending and receiving signals. TDD gives ISPs the ability to customize the allocation of bandwidth between upload and download speeds and create asymmetrical profiles.  

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