By Joe Rankin, Cisco Specialist & Subject Matter Expert

Quite frankly, it’s likely that you or your network admins are buying expensive Cisco support when it’s overkill for a portion of your asset base. But how many of you walk around with a deep comprehension for which assets are end-of-life and, more importantly, which are end of software maintenance?

You have enough to do every day to maximize security and ensure stability/resiliency – probably not much time for having deep awareness for asset categorization by age and life-cycle. But is that single-vendor solution (Cisco) really the best use of your operating budget if 25% of your assets are not receiving any software support, troubleshooting or new patches?

While Gartner has loosely estimated that 20-22% of any hardware environment is post-warranty, that may or may not be true for your environment. How hard would it be to find out, categorize, or even identify which assets are not benefiting from full Cisco support? Second, is it possible to quantify the savings value for any category of older product, before going too far down the path with an independent support firm?

If you believe you may be overpaying, but don’t have the personnel to help with the analyses, our Cisco Support Team can be very helpful, efficient and as consultative as you choose – with zero risk and no commitment required to conduct such an analysis.

End of Software Maintenance Dates are Key

Yet most companies don’t collect or retain such information for asset management considerations.

The one thing that I’ve learned is that if Cisco is consistent about anything, it’s their inconsistency. This is true with their pricing models, their support for older assets, the availability of T&M for aging assets and so on. In such cases, does your single-vendor approach hold water, even if you agree with me a little?

Let’s dive in and explore. My team and I welcome the opportunity to share best practices for older assets, while ensuring the integrity of the environment you’ve worked so hard to build. Visit our Contact page, provide a few details and let’s get the discussion started: www.sscs.com/contact.

#TPMExpert #ExpertTPM


Joe Rankin, Cisco Support Specialist, SSCS

This year will be Joe’s 7th year with SSCS Global IT Services. Prior to joining the company, Joe worked at the Houston-based Cisco TAC for nine years, as a lead for the IOS Hardware Team, and played an integral role in Knowledge Management.

Joe is a self-described “tech geek and fix-it nerd” with target hobbies relating to home satellite technology, new computer builds, home theater design and build-out. He is a puzzle fanatic enjoying them all, including Sudoku.

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For those whose Cisco support agreements coincide with Cisco’s fiscal year, today is a very good day to begin your analysis. If your agreement is not slated for renewal until calendar year-end, I would suggest beginning your examination 60-90 days in advance.Cisco Equipment

Why is such an analysis even important? We find, more than ever, that companies are engaging in multiple tactics to improve IT cost optimization. In fact, many companies that have never gone through such an analysis of their Cisco support agreements often discover significant numbers of their asset portfolio that are not benefiting from expensive Cisco support. Here’s an example: If assets are not benefiting from software support or software maintenance because they have reached “stable state,” why would you pay rates that include such support? Companies that are willing to analyze their asset base and consider the growing credibility of the independent hardware support industry are often surprised by the magnitude of the potential cost savings.

How does one get started?

Ultimately, you’ll need an analysis of all your Cisco assets, identifying which assets should stay with Cisco support, which ones are eligible for independent hardware support and, finally, which ones are “borderline” and worthy of a strategic discussion. We have a Cisco Solutions Team that can help you with the heavy lifting – and a few nuggets of equally helpful education. With their support, they will help you by reviewing, categorizing your asset list and then reviewing their findings with you. They will even provide noble, unbiased guidance about those “borderline” assets. Several from this team worked for a decade or more on Cisco’s TAC desk – they know the “ins and outs.” These good people make it all easier than it might sound.

When our clients realize the monies they are paying for Cisco support, compared to the few times they access Cisco’s TAC for software support/troubleshooting, curiosity is piqued and they readily embrace information relating to support alternatives – like independent hardware support.

Network admins are most concerned with stability and resiliency. These admins have already invested efforts to build stability around their hardware assets. They often ask themselves, “Why should I change/upgrade when my environment is stable and I can keep expanding my stable environment?” Additionally, the cost of additional expansion switches are dirt cheap today, compared to when they were purchased 3-4 years ago.

Like you and your team, our guys really like to solve “puzzles.” Your Cisco support strategy is not a complicated puzzle, but you’ll appreciate their process and their logic as you work together to analyze your current asset base, your current support plan and cost, then collaborate with you to ensure stability while driving down your operational expenses. We truly welcome your call!

#TPMExpert #ExpertTPM


Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

This year will be Mark’s 23rd year with SSCS Global IT Services. Beginning in sales, he was promoted to Vice President, Sales & Marketing, now responsible for all global sales activities, brand recognition, inbound/outbound marketing and primary messaging. In his previous employment in management with Ritz Carlton, Mark was highly influenced by their industry-leading customer service program, as influenced by the standards of the Malcolm Baldridge quality awards.

In his spare time, Mark is engaged is numerous activities with his daughter, plays the bass guitar and is a vocalist with a band and his church choir.

Every year, organizations task IT professionals with increasing efficiency while cutting costs. To cut costs, you must determine where the bulk of your budget is going. With the ability to consume up to two-thirds of your budget, looking at IT support contracts is a great place to start. Many companies struggle to find the best quality and most cost optimized support solution for their data center equipment.

Significant cost benefit combined with significantly increased levels of service are a major reason companies are exploring ways to transition to third-party maintenance (TPM) multi-vendor providers. Depending on your types of equipment and locations, it may be TPM providers can cut costs by as much as 40-60% compared to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) extended warranties. This is where SSCS can help. TPMs do not have the same overhead cost that OEMs do, and so your money is directly applied to the cost of delivering service. TPMs provide a better result for a lower cost.

The OEMs business model is based on a regular (nearly constant) cycle of product refresh. And they coerce business into buying the latest technology whether they need it or not. Moore’s Law states that capacity and speeds double every 18 months, but that has certainly slowed down, and in some cases come to a halt. But still, pressure to buy new equipment from OEM sales departments remains in place. This coercion can come from arbitrary end-of-service-life designations, rising charges, punitive “gotcha” policies, and other means.

Many businesses are resisting this pressure and are opting instead to explore the TPM industry to support their still viable infrastructure. SSCS provides value by extending usable equipment life and holding support charges steady/lower for more predictable year-over-year support costs. By focusing on service instead of re-occurring hardware sales the client’s needs, SSCS provides customer centric policies, attention to detail, and maintains a dedication to superior customer service and long term value.

Getting hardware maintenance support for servers, storage and network equipment from a TPM partner can help IT managers either maintain more systems or reduce their operating budget. This can prove valuable to the IT teams who do more, with less. Third-party maintenance can be the difference between comprehensive and cost-effective hardware maintenance coverage and OEM maintenance that bleeds your budget dry.

#TPMExpert #ExpertTPM


Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

This year will be Mark’s 23rd year with SSCS Global IT Services. Beginning in sales, he was promoted to Vice President, Sales & Marketing, now responsible for all global sales activities, brand recognition, inbound/outbound marketing and primary messaging. In his previous employment in management with Ritz Carlton, Mark was highly influenced by their industry-leading customer service program, as influenced by the standards of the Malcolm Baldridge quality awards.

In his spare time, Mark is engaged is numerous activities with his daughter, plays the bass guitar and is a vocalist with a band and his church choir.

Myth #1 – The OEM field engineers are more experienced than Third Party Maintenance providers.

The reality is that most hardware OEM’s send new hires to training programs and send them out to practice their new skills – in YOUR data center. Third Party Maintenance providers like SSCS only hire seasoned field engineers with real-world experience in multi-platform environments. Our field engineering staff average 12+ years of hands-on experience and are heavily trained in complex trouble-shooting across multiple product lines to better identify issues no matter where they originate.

Myth #2 – The OEM will respond faster than Third Party Maintenance providers.

The reality is that the OEM is a very large, public corporation with many moving parts and a focus on selling more hardware.  After the initial service call is placed, inquiries are often moved through a long queue starting with the lowest skilled workers first. In fact, many OEMs locate their call centers overseas to reduce cost.

Before an engineer is dispatched, customers are often required to perform a lengthy problem-solving process and apply the latest firmware. If it seems like the OEM tries to avoid dispatching a technician, they do!

SSCS maintains a US-based call center with immediate access to our experts. Instead of passing customers down the line, our professional call center orchestrates the problem solving by engaging our regional service delivery managers and local technical staff who are intimate with your facilities and equipment.

Myth #3 – Third Party Maintenance providers use lower quality parts or don’t have the same access as the manufacturer.

Third Party Maintenance providers have an incentive to provide parts that will not fail and a mutual desire to keep equipment running at all times. The reality is that most OEMs don’t manufacture their own spare parts and are often limited to certain suppliers. Our extensive networks of qualified and thoroughly vetted VARs, resellers, and part manufacturers ensure we always have alternative sources – including the manufacturer.

Myth #4 – The OEM has the same maintenance priorities as a Third Party Maintenance provider.

The reality is that most hardware manufacturers are primarily in the business of selling new hardware. Most of their money is spent on R&D and Sales & Marketing – leaving support and service lower on the priority list.

A Third Party Maintenance provider has no bias for any hardware brand and we are not valued by Wall Street based on quarterly new hardware sales. Our focus is strictly to keep your equipment running and reliable for as long as you choose to use it – which can often be FAR beyond the OEM end-of-service-life designation.

Myth #5 – The OEM support is less risky than a Third Party Maintenance provider.

When your equipment is under warranty there is no question that the manufacturer is the only logical provider. But is the manufacturer always the safest option after the initial warranty?

Let’s examine what makes any service provider more “risky”:

Perceived Risk Reality With SSCS
Won’t respond quickly Support is all we do, our entire company is focused on solving your technical problems
Won’t be able to get the parts needed After 28 years and hundreds of thousands of replacement parts, SSCS clients have NEVER been told that we cannot find a part.
Third Party company may go out of business SSCS was founded in 1988 and has provided support continuously from day one. Being public and being huge does not guarantee stability – just ask any number of now defunct tech companies
Won’t lose my job if I stay with the OEM No but you might if your boss finds out you could have saved over 50% and received better service!
The OEM has more knowledge to solve issues We welcome a test – one of our clients challenged us and we found the issue in 4 hours, the OEM took 3 days. That’s what we do.
Won’t have access to patches or security updates Yes you will except in very specific cases, those are scare tactics by an OEM sales person. Let us explain how we can keep your equipment running and safe.

 

Bigger is not always better, and the manufacturer is not always the best option for support.

#TPMExpert #ExpertTPM


Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

This year will be Mark’s 23rd year with SSCS Global IT Services. Beginning in sales, he was promoted to Vice President, Sales & Marketing, now responsible for all global sales activities, brand recognition, inbound/outbound marketing and primary messaging. In his previous employment in management with Ritz Carlton, Mark was highly influenced by their industry-leading customer service program, as influenced by the standards of the Malcolm Baldridge quality awards.

In his spare time, Mark is engaged is numerous activities with his daughter, plays the bass guitar and is a vocalist with a band and his church choir.