By Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

While it is delightful to see a greater percentage of data center decision makers and IT procurement professionals choosing independent hardware support (third-party maintenance) for post-warranty hardware, we’ve witnesses far too many decision makers focus too greatly on price.

While this industry has deservedly earned a respect for service standards over the last 30 years, no longer are all third-party maintainers providing the same standards – the same service quality. Recent industry trends have caused several providers to shift their service standards so that they can effectively reduce their price. The unsuspecting buyer is then left with a termed agreement that creates an unhealthy level of buyer’s remorse.

Not every independent hardware support provider has reduced its service standards to reach the best pricing.

Parts & Logistics

Parts and Parts Logistics play an enormous role in hardware support and maintenance that meets the standards of your internal teams. “Stability” and “Resiliency” are directly attached to your service provider’s parts promise and hardware parts model. Another way to look at it, is that Mean-Time-to-Repair (MTTR) and “Met SLAs” are important to internal data center teams, yet can become areas of great angst if and when the hardware service provider has masked the reality of their parts model.

TPM (Third-Party Maintainer) vetting has become more important than it was ten years ago. Certainly, one should rely on insight from Gartner’s unbiased experts, such as Christine Tenneson. However, RFPs, RFIs and dialogue can greatly help uncover degraded parts plans, but also ensure vendors are providing an “apples to apples” comparison.

Here are a few great questions to ask during both the initial vetting and to again verify before the vendor is awarded your business:

1. Will you be transparent with us about the parts you keep nearby and within the agreement SLA? For example, if we gave you a random same of 10 or 100 models (with configurations), will you provide us a complete listing of parts stored within the SLA (assuming average travel times) for each model?

2. Will you be willing to accept random and unannounced audits of those facilities so we can verify your parts promise against the reality of your local inventory?

3. If you rely on regional depots for any of the less commonly used parts, specifically what is your logistics plan for getting those parts on-site within the SLA?

4. For any systems identified during the agreement term are found to require frequent parts replacement (e.g. drives), what will be your policy for ensuring the SLA is met? Will this policy exist in the final agreement? To save your field engineers time, do you ever keep parts on-site? What types of parts do you most often keep on-site? If kept on-site at our facility, what do you provide in order to ensure the integrity of what is technically your inventory?

5. If promised SLAs are not met, because of parts availability and not an act of God, what financial recourse will you build into the agreement? By what standards do you recommend we judge you when SLAs are not met as a result of parts kept at a depot, at a distance further than the SLA promise?

We see an incredible number of RFPs in a typical quarter. However, the quality of the questions surrounding parts and parts logistics do not always ensure that your standards for Service Quality will be met. Some of these questions create loopholes and gray areas, in which the sales solution manager can intentionally reduce service quality and become heroic to the client for having the lowest price. We would certainly like to help you end this kind of shell game.

#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.

By Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

While it is exciting to see a far greater percentage of global companies choose Third-Party Maintenance for hardware support of their post-warranty assets, there has been an increase in a disturbing new trend.

The New Trend is this: IT procurement staff are unfamiliar with the standards originally designed by Third-Party Maintainers to proactively earn the credibility they are now receiving. These very high standards were designed to meet or even exceed the standards offered by the OEM for warrantied hardware. Unfortunately, those new to IT procurement are unfamiliar with what to look for and resort ONLY to “lowest price” strategies, placing little-to-no emphasis on service standards designed to protect mission critical assets.

Measures to ONLY drive down cost have enabled some hardware maintenance providers to be less than transparent about what elements of their service will be sacrificed to accommodate reducing margins. This is incredibly dangerous for those accountable for the hardware and efficient data center operations. Shame on the hardware maintenance providers that do not push for transparency in such negotiations!

But, there also needs to be greater accountability placed upon those in procurement roles whom are currently unfamiliar with the original standards of the TPM marketplace. This accountability needs to address those in procurement who do not know how to correlate REQUIRED service components to critical assets verses PREFERRED service components to non-critical assets. A price-only focus is dangerously myopic! But, we’re seeing it every day!

If I were a CTO, CIO or CPO, I would want to make sure my IT procurement team had access to some basic education and were proactively taking advantage of any unbiased information/education available.

To be 100% transparent with the reader, we ARE a Third-Party Maintainer. But, we have done our very best to create a few educational components that are as free from self-serving bias as possible. We offer a three-part video series to address this very subject and to educate your teams on the most important issues to consider when choosing a hardware support provider.

It is our hope that you watch these videos, and then proactively share this blog (and all three videos) with your IT procurement leadership.

Here they are:

1. Third-Party Maintenance: A Competitive Pricing War (Part 1 of 3) (2:07 minutes)

Summary Description: If you’re familiar with Third-Party Hardware Maintenance and work in IT procurement, you might be surprised by the unintended outcomes that impact Service Quality when the greatest focus is placed on driving providers to their lowest price. Creating a pricing war may help drive down OpEx, but are you ready to accept what is likely sacrificed? Do you know whether or not these sacrifices will be made transparent to you by the provider?

2. Third-Party Maintenance: Balancing Cost, Risk & Service (Part 2 of 3) (4:52 minutes)

Summary Description: When choosing a Third-Party Hardware Maintenance provider, you are best served by fully understanding the basic elements of the service and the Service Quality standards that have made the industry a highly credible alternative over the last ten years. Do you know how to balance cost with acceptable risk and expected vs. acceptable Service Quality?

3. Third-Party Maintenance: Looking Beyond Lowest Price (Part 3 of 3) (6:22 minutes)

Summary Description: IT procurement professionals are traditionally incented by maximized savings. But, do you know what questions to ask to make certain that finalized pricing is not opening your infrastructure team to unacceptable risk? Sometimes “lowest price” initiatives can make sense, but other times such initiatives may be myopic. When you build a home, buy a car or hire for landscaping, you make no assumptions and know exactly what you’re getting before an agreement to buy is finalized.

There’s more information and education to come on this subject – you have my word on that!

#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.

By Rick Moller, Cisco Support Specialist & Subject Matter Expert, SSCS

Do you know why most of your industry peers are paying more for Cisco support than others?

Here are the Top 9 Reasons:

1. Unlike the typical data center infrastructure manager, the Cisco SMARTnet contract holder is often unfamiliar with hybrid support models and Gartner-recommended best practices.

2. The typical SMARTnet contract holder is driven by security/stability/resiliency sensitivities far more than cost containment.

3. Because they are driven by stability, the SMARTnet contract holder is unaware of the Cisco pricing trends associated with post-warranty assets.

4. Nor do they understand that SMARTnet’s greatest benefit (software) dwindles significantly at key dates after the warranty expiration.

5. Even if the SMARTnet contract holder resides within IT procurement, he/she is very unlikely to understand the most critical cost-savings trigger – End of Software Maintenance.

6. Few understand that expensive SMARTnet support is incredibly budget wasteful once software updates become FREE or are no longer available. Yes, FREE is one stage of the post-warranty lifecycle of many Cisco assets.

7. While 71% of Fortune 100 companies are using hybrid support models, SMARTnet contract managers haven’t yet gotten the message.

8. Most are unaware that a hybrid Cisco support model can generate 50-70% savings off eligible post warranty assets, or reduce their total annual Cisco operating expense by 10-20% by using a hybrid model.

9. Most contract managers are unaware how simple the independent support community has made the task of identifying assets eligible for independent support, then quantifying the savings. Most pure-play third-party maintainers have specialized Cisco teams and automation tools to complete this step for them in under one week.

As Gartner industry analysts, such as Christine Tenneson, will tell you, the independent support industry has ready-made tools in place to help you simply and quickly conduct an audit of your Cisco assets, identify which are best for independent support and the means to quickly quantify your savings potential.

It would be our honor to help you understand which assets are both eligible AND logical for lifecycle extensions and independent support. If you would like to begin a conversation with our Cisco Support Team, please submit your inquiry here: www.sscs.com/contact.

#TPMExpert #ExpertTPM


Rick Moller, Cisco Support Specialist, SSCS

This year will be Rick’s 8th year with SSCS and its Cisco Support Team. Prior to joining the company, Rick worked at the Houston-based Cisco TAC for eight years and played an integral role in Knowledge Management. Prior to the Cisco TAC, he held a sales position in the auto rental business.

Joe grew up in Houston and is an avid fan of all sports, but especially loves baseball and the Houston Astros.

By Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

While you may not yet be convinced of the intrinsic value or flexibility of the third-party hardware support industry, the times are changing. More than ever, your IT peers are embracing alternatives to effectively contain IT costs and increase their negotiating leverage within their OEM relationships. In fact, Gartner recently published that 71% of Fortune 100 companies are now using third-party support. Also, IDC published that nearly 50% of the world’s data centers are using third-party hardware support to drive savings AND receive greater flexibility in service.

“Understand Why 71% of Fortune 100 Companies Now Use Independent Hardware Support”
Summary Objective: For many companies around the world, data center decision makers are more frequently relying upon independent support for data center hardware assets – servers, storage devices and networking equipment. If the reader has previously resisted support models other than what is provided by OEMs, this white paper’s purpose it to explain why the trend toward hybrid support (OEM and Independent) models has grown so popular.

“Still Unfamiliar with the Benefits of Third-Party Hardware Maintenance?”
Summary Objective: This paper is specifically written for those IT decision makers or IT procurement members unfamiliar with the third-party maintenance industry and this industries’ potential for dramatic impact upon hardware OpEx (operating expenses). Any company, or industry, under executive mandates for IT cost optimization should be familiar with third party hardware maintenance.

“CIO/CTO Evidence: Enterprise Trends in Hardware Lifecycle Extension Strategies”
Summary Objective: In the last decade, more than 50% of Fortune 500 companies are embracing the promise of hardware lifecycle extensions and developing strategies to contain hardware costs, thereby proactively moving toward IT cost optimization objectives. Perceptions have changed, especially in the last five years, about hardware lifecycle extensions. Because independent hardware support organizations and secondary hardware resellers play a pivotal role in lifecycle extension strategies, this white paper directly addresses the use of these industries as a viable means to containing and optimizing OpEx and CapEx budgets.

“CIO/CTO Evidence: Financial Impacts from Hardware Support Strategy Remodeling”
Summary Objective: For those following mandates to contain current IT costs to have funding to address a growing list of business drivers, we believe that hardware support strategies hold the greatest potential to make the most immediate impact. For those open to support strategy remodeling, this white paper should help the reader begin to understand “why” and receive insights into “how much.”


#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.

By Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

Assuming you’ve already read Gartner’s report that 71% of the largest companies are now using independent (aka Third-Party Maintenance) support to effectively control OpEx, you may not have heard or read (from the same Gartner publication) that:

“70% of F100 companies purchased secondary hardware in 2016 | 57% of F500 companies purchased secondary hardware in 2016”

Gartner [ID G00327730]

As the research suggests, secondary hardware is a viable method of staving off an expensive OEM-driven tech refresh and controlling CapEx. We agree. In addition, the introduction of secondary hardware as an option, along with independent hardware support, is an incredible way of building negotiation leverage with your OEM. Building leverage is key to great negotiation.

Although these trends are headed in the right direction, in our opinion, there’s an element of the purchase process that seems as though part of the boat has been missed. There are still many companies that treat the hardware purchase (CapEx) independently of the hardware support purchase (OpEx). This is really quite odd to us! And it’s odd because you’re likely paying far more than is necessary.

When working with the OEM, don’t you insist on a “bundled” program when purchasing new hardware? Why not also do this for secondary hardware? It is our experience that if you are going to choose secondary hardware, that you should always insist that it be done as a “bundled” package to get the best pricing.

While there are hundreds of hardware resellers out there in a very commoditized industry, few of them also offer hardware maintenance, directly. Additionally, the reseller has built an infrastructure to support hardware sales – not an infrastructure carefully designed to offer mission-critical maintenance, rooted in service quality.

Instead of seeking out the hardware reseller for your bundled purchase, we believe you should bring your requirements to the “pure-play TPMs (Third-Party Maintainers).” Almost all hardware maintainers are already buying back-up parts from these resellers and have incredible negotiating leverage to get the best hardware pricing. Ask the TPM to be accountable for a bundled purchase and get ready to be amazed by the savings.

You can trust that the pure-play TPM has built an infrastructure to provide remarkable hardware support. But, the TPM that also directly sells secondary hardware has intentionally eliminated that indirect purchasing leverage that provides you the greatest pricing.

So, even though several independent hardware maintainers do not directly offer secondary hardware, it is your best choice to reach them for a bundled program and permit them to negotiate the hardware acquisition for you. Even more, the maintenance agreement becomes your warranty – a single warranty, one that puts the burden on the maintenance company and no responsibility on your company to battle a hardware reseller.


#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.

By Damon Yee, Sun/Oracle Specialist & Subject Matter Expert

In recent years, Oracle hasn’t formally published future (planned) End of Life or End of Service Life dates. Instead, we often learn about an EoL date the month it happens, which is unfortunate for Oracle’s clients who may be caught by surprise, and thereby forced to renew support with the OEM.

I’m only able to offer you data for known EoSL Sun/STK assets in recent years. Be sure to let me know if you ever discover a public Oracle web page the indicates EoL more than 60 days in advance.

Here are the Sun and StorageTek models that went EoSL in 2017 and 2016:

Sun Model  End of Support Life Date 
Sun SPARC T3-1 Server – 8 Core 8/1/2017
Sun SPARC T3-2 Server – 16 Core 8/1/2017
SunFire T5240 – 1 x 8C CPU 2/1/2017
SunFire T5140 9/1/2016
StorageTek 2530 Array 7/1/2016
Sun StorageTek 2510 Array 7/1/2016
Sun StorageTek 2540 Array 7/1/2016
Sun Netra T2000 – 4 Core 4/1/2016

When you have Sun or StorageTek hardware that has past EoSL dates, don’t forget that you need not pay expensive Oracle support pricing for these post warranty assets. Instead, look to independent support and what is known as Third-Party Maintenance. Savings of 50% or more are quite common.

Feel free to bookmark the EoSL Resource Library we’ve created at SSCS; or more specifically, the Sun EoSL Resource Library is also very helpful. If you discover specific assets which we haven’t listed in these resource centers, please alert us and we will promptly address.

Unfamiliar with the TPM (Third Party Maintenance) industry? Here are two helpful white papers we published this recent summer:

1. “Understand Why 71% of Fortune 100 Companies are Now Using Independent Hardware Support”
2. “Still Unfamiliar with the Benefits of Third-Party Hardware Maintenance?”


#TPMExpert #ExpertTPM


Damon Yee, Sun/Oracle Support Specialist, SSCS

This is Damon’s 8th year with SSCS. Prior to joining the company, Damon was an SSE with Sun Microsystems for 10+ years, a senior FE with Digital Equipment (DEC) for 5 years and a senior customer engineer with Wang Laboratories for 5 years. In all, he has 30 years of experience in hardware break/fix maintenance and systems troubleshooting activities. Damon has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology from City University of New York City College.

In his spare time, Damon likes to stay very active in hobbies including bicycling, home computer repairs and auto repair. Earlier in his career, he regularly participated in amateur bicycle racing.

By Mark Havens, VP, Sales & Marketing, SSCS

If you’re growing weary of tracking EoSL dates for your owned hardware assets, and doing so from individual OEM websites, you should know there’s a much easier solution – without the burdensome digging. Several independent support companies have EoL tracking details at their website, including SSCS. 

There are three HDS (Hitachi Data Systems) storage models heading toward EoSL in the next 12 months:

HDS Model  End of Support Life Date 
AMD 2500  9/30/2017 
AMD 2100 9/30/2018 
AMD 2300 9/30/2018 

 

Should you have any Hitachi hardware assets approaching EoS, don’t forget that you need not pay expensive Hitachi support pricing for post warranty assets. Instead, look to independent support. Savings of 50% or more often capture the interest, but it’s the remarkable service that keeps clients around for 10+ years.

Feel free to bookmark the EoSL Resource Library we’ve created at SSCS; or more specifically, the HDS EoSL Resource Library is also very helpful. If you discover specific assets which we haven’t listed in these resource centers, please alert us and we will promptly address.

Unfamiliar with the TPM (Third Party Maintenance) industry? Here are two educational white papers:

1. “Understand Why 71% of Fortune 100 Companies are Now Using Independent Hardware Support”
2. “Still Unfamiliar with the Benefits of Third-Party Hardware Maintenance?”


#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.

By John Kolkmeier, Director, Global Service Delivery, SSCS

Overwhelmed with tracking which assets are approaching EoL (End of Life) or EoSL (End of Service Life)? Several independent hardware support companies already track this data for you and do so much more logically than what is provided by the OEM. Several independent support companies have EoL tracking resources at their website, including SSCS.

There are several EMC storage models heading toward EoSL in the next 12 months. I’m hoping this quick-check list is helpful to you and your team:

EMC EoSL from September 2017 through July 2018

EMC Model EMC of Support Life Date
Symmetrix DMX-4 9/30/2017
Symmetrix DMX-4 950 9/30/2017
Symmetrix VMAX 10K 9/30/2017
Symmetrix VMAX SE 9/30/2017
Symmetrix VMAXe 9/30/2017
Isilon 108NL 10/31/2017
Isilon 36NL 10/31/2017
Isilon 72NL 10/31/2017
Isilon IQ36000x 10/31/2017
Isilon IQ72000x 10/31/2017
Isilon IQ12000x 12/31/2017
Isilon IQ5000S-SSD 12/31/2017
Isilon IQ32000x-SSD 12/31/2017
RecoverPoint Gen4 1/31/2018
Avamar Data Store Gen4 3/31/2018
Connectrix – Brocade AP-7600B 3/31/2018
File Management Appliance Gen 7 3/31/2018
Connectrix – Brocade DS-5100B (4G Switch) 4/30/2018
Connectrix – Brocade DS-5100B-8G (8G Switch) 4/30/2018
Connectrix – Brocade DS-5100B-EP 4/30/2018
Connectrix – Cisco MDS-PBF-4LR 4/30/2018
Connectrix – Brocade MP-8000B 5/31/2018
Connectrix – Cisco MDS-PBF-24-8G 7/31/2018
Connectrix – Cisco MDS-PBF-44-8G 7/31/2018
Connectrix – Cisco MDS-PBF-48-8G 7/31/2018

 

Should you have any assets approaching end of support, don’t forget that you need not pay expensive EMC support pricing once these assets go off warranty. Instead, look to independent support – both for the savings and the remarkable service. Often called Third-Party Maintenance (TPM), this industry of independent support companies can be an amazing resource.

Feel free to bookmark the EoSL Resource Library we’ve created at SSCS; or more specifically, the EMC EoSL Resource Library is also very helpful. If you discover specific assets which we haven’t listed in these resource centers, please alert us and we will promptly address.

New to the TPM industry? Here are a few helpful white papers:

1. “Understand Why 71% of Fortune 100 Companies are Now Using Independent Hardware Support”
2. “Still Unfamiliar with the Benefits of Third-Party Hardware Maintenance?”


#TPMExpert #ExpertTPM


John “JK” Kolkmeier, Director, Global Service Delivery, SSCS

This year will be John’s 29th year with SSCS Global IT Services. A graduate of University of Houston, Clear Lake, most of John’s field service career has been with SSCS. Having several years of experience in direct field service and break/fix maintenance for multiple OEMs and platforms, John was promoted to Global Service Director eight years ago. All global field support and OEM subject matter expertise reports up to him.

In addition to his deep levels of interest in data center support best practices, John is an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, committed to non-profit groups dedicated to habitat protections and enhancement. He is also an avid fan of all sports, with a great appreciation for golf.