Shedding Light on OEM Storage Support

Take a closer look at 6 common misconceptions about OEM storage.

  • The truth behind OEM coverage
  • Storage options to consider
  • Questions to ask before signing
oem storage support

Introduction

Managing the performance of your storage systems is a critical task. It must be done effectively to organize and protect your information while maximizing your investment. During the search, the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is helpful in finding a storage solution that is up to the task and your purchasing experience can feel like smooth sailing. As the warranty expiration date nears, however, you may encounter rougher seas. Perhaps there’s certain strong-arm techniques being used to push you towards buying new or a persistent call to replace your storage with the latest release, regardless of how your equipment is performing.

It’s not difficult to understand why the OEM seems to be the only option and the smartest choice for your storage support solutions. The best way to dispel this illusion is to educate yourself. The following fact-finding mission will help you rethink OEM and Third-Party Maintenance (TPM) storage options to ensure you are making the best decision for you and your company.

Six OEM myths to look at in a new light

5

Extending warranty support is too expensive; it’s  better to buy new.

5

Buy new when storage equipment is End-of-Life or End-of-Support-Life.

5

Only the OEM can make updates to storage software.

5

OEM storage support is always provided by an OEM engineer.

5

Training engineers is a high priority for OEMs.

5

The best service delivery is provided by the OEM.

OEM Storage Maintenance

“When your storage maintenance contract expires, the smart money is on upgrading to brand-new equipment instead of shouldering the high cost of post-warranty support.”

OEM Storage Support

OEM storage maintenance can be prohibitively expensive and can often make buying new equipment a more attractive option. However, all maintenance pricing is not created equal.

The OEM is in the business of selling hardware. OEMs are motivated to continuously sell you new storage, not to encourage you to hold onto older working gear. This may explain why post-warranty storage costs spike sharply after your 3-year contract runs its course. In contrast, buying new may seem like the reasonable and financially sound decision.

The cost of a new enterprise-level system is incredibly high. The endless research and quality built into storage equipment also makes it a good candidate for a longer lifecycle. To avoid choosing between high maintenance costs or an even higher new purchase price, you owe it to yourself to look beyond the most obvious choice (the OEM) for reliable storage support.

You can keep your current storage environment an additional 4-6 years for pennies on the dollar by moving your service maintenance to a TPM provider. According to Forrester, 80% of people are unaware that there are alternatives to OEM maintenance. Be aware – vet all options when it comes to your storage support.

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of people are unaware that there are alternatives to OEM maintenance

Takeaway:

Avoid the high cost of post-warranty OEM maintenance without compromising service or reliability by using a TPM provider.

OEM Storage Maintenance

“You must upgrade to new storage equipment once your current hardware reaches End-of-Life or End-of-Service-Life.”

OEM Storage Support

According to Gartner, the useful life of storage hardware is 7-10 years.

Let’s start with how the OEM uses the terms End-of-Life (EOL) and End-of-Service-Life (EOSL). EOL and EOSL both indicate the OEM’s move away from selling and servicing an existing system. As equipment goes EOL or EOSL, the OEM wants to switch you over to new gear, because their business model rests squarely on the sale of new hardware.

You can look at EOL and EOSL another way too. End-of-Life can also mean End-of-Development (EOD) – meaning that the equipment is typically in a stable release. The bugs are fixed, no future updates are needed. End-of-Service-Life is a fixed date when the OEM  will no longer offer its own version of support, but performance may still be dependable.

Due to all the moving parts in storage, it would appear to follow that the older a unit is, the less reliable it is – untrue! Drives are the most replaced piece of hardware in storage, so you can expect them to fail. But failure rates increase slowly as equipment ages. So at year eight, you can expect a similar rate of failure in your devices as you would at year three. Using experience and log histories, a TPM provider can proactively identify problematic drives and replace them to avoid disruptions. For most storage systems, proper maintenance means you can count on a level of reliability and performance similar to that of a new unit.

And while you may wonder about about parts availability for EOL and EOSL equipment, the fact is that TPM providers have multiple resource channels and supply lines to ensure access to the parts that will keep you up and running. TPM providers test refurbished parts to deliver reliable hard drives, service processors, controllers, power supplies, air movement devices, and many other commonly replaced components.

Eventually you will need to make a change to keep pace with growth or OS compatibility. The good news is that you can still avoid the high cost of purchasing the latest storage system. You can choose to upgrade or go with a newer (not the newest) generation that improves capacity and speed at a fraction of a brand-new unit price.

R

If your equipment is nearing or in an EOL or EOSL phase, it does not mean you are without support options and must replace it.

Takeaway:

Extend the life of your EOL and EOSL storage equipment without losing performance or increasing downtime by using a TPM provider at a fraction of OEM costs.

the useful life of hardware is 7-10 years - Gartner

Bonus Takeaway:

When the business need exists and you choose to replace your storage equipment, you can avoid extra decommissioning costs charged by the OEM. TPM providers often offer Asset Recovery services that include convenient pick up and secure disposal of retired equipment for little to no charge.

OEM Storage Maintenance

“Software updates are essential and should always be installed by the OEM.”

OEM Storage Support

Software updates aren’t always required to keep your storage equipment running smoothly. And though the OEM releases the updates, different parties can apply the updates for you.

Software/firmware/microcode concerns loom large for most data center admins. Perhaps you have even considered a TPM provider, but your biggest reservation is losing access to patches and/or software upgrades should you move away from the OEM. To put the software access question in the proper perspective, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Can I still obtain software/firmware/microcode updates if I choose to go with TPM for my storage maintenance?

In most cases, as the equipment owner, you can still legally obtain updates for your storage environment. If not, the TPM provider will work with you to find a solution to access updates. This can sometimes come in the form of OEM VARs that can legally provide access to said updates through their partner relationship with the OEM. It is often the case that having a maintenance contract with the OEM is not required to legally obtain these updates. To determine your access, a TPM provider would review your storage environment and advise you accordingly.

Do I need the latest level of software/firmware/microcode?

While there are legitimate reasons for being at the latest software/firmware/microcode—bug fixes, security concerns, need for compatibility with other pieces of the data infrastructure—there may be no real benefit to being on “the bleeding edge” of release levels for storage. Frequently new versions are not being released for equipment that has moved beyond OEM factory warranty. Many releases are put out solely for the ability to use new features or new types of hardware. If your environment is stable and not overly dynamic, then most times software/firmware/microcode updates are a moot point. This does not discount the need to address security concerns or usability issues, but other updates may not be necessary for you to continue using your existing storage environment.

Can TPM provide the level of expertise needed to do the “deep dive” type of analysis needed if an update were to cause an issue?

TPM engineer skill levels vary, but there are those who take the time to thoroughly vet and plan for supporting a product. These TPM engineers stay informed of known issues, bugs, technical bulletins, etc. Relationships with OEM VARs allow TPM providers to escalate to the same back-end, high-level support available for OEM field service engineers.

In short, a TPM provider may very well be just as effective or sometimes even more so at handling the tough problems and unusual issues that an ailed or buggy update can cause.

Takeaway:

Updates are often available even without an OEM warranty or maintenance contract coverage. These updates are not always necessary, especially for a storage product that is in a stable, established environment. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions—no two scenarios are exactly the same, but you may find TPM service is a viable option once you know all the facts about software/ firmware/microcode availability and necessity.

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Safety and security patches are always accessible

OEM Storage Maintenance

“Support is always provided by an OEM engineer.

OEM Storage Support

OEMs often employ contract workers to maintain their equipment. You may already have first-hand experience with a non-OEM engineer.

You might be surprised to learn that the actual number of OEM-employed service engineers is quite low. To keep their own costs down, the OEMs may farm out a majority of their break/fix issues to contract engineers. The experience these contract engineers have with the hardware may be limited, as well as their ability to resolve more complex problems.

Translation: You may not be getting service from an OEM  engineer, but you are still paying premium OEM rates.

If the OEM is comfortable engaging non-OEM engineers to keep your storage equipment running, it would follow that there is less risk to you in considering an alternative means of support (and cost) to find reliable storage maintenance.

Takeaway:

Why pay a premium for service that is available to you for less?

OEM Storage Maintenance

“Training for OEM service engineers is thorough, hands-on, exclusive and ongoing.”

OEM Storage Support

OEM “factory training” does not equate to “best in class.”

If your support engineer is an OEM employee (not a sub-contract engineer), his/her technical expertise does not automatically reflect a greater level of knowledge or skill. By prioritizing the development and sale of new equipment, OEMs tend to invest less in training and resources for support. Executing top-notch service can take a backseat to sales.

For engineers who can bring additional skills and experience to the table, you should be looking for a company with a business model that focuses on service. Downtime is too costly to go with second-best. Which is why with reputable TPM providers, your engineer not only has the ability, but also the extensive internal resources to successfully support a variety of OEM equipment.

Why does a comprehensive approach to problem-solving matter? It cuts down on delays. If the cause of the problem is in question, time is wasted on deciding who will fix it. An OEM engineer is only authorized to fix problems within certain parameters.  If the problem is with another brand of gear, the OEM engineer cannot step up.  In contrast, a TPM engineer is empowered to solve a broader range of issues that fall into the “gray area.” Downtime is the common enemy and all efforts are directed on returning you to a fully operational status.

Takeaway:

Training and experience build expertise. When you’re comparing your options, get the details. What type of storage training and experience does the OEM and the third-party professional have that can benefit your data center?

OEM Storage Support

“For the best service, you should always choose the OEM.”

This may have been true back in the ‘90s, but times have changed.

As you compare the pricing breakdown between the OEM and a TPM provider, you may wonder what the savings will cost you in terms of service and reliability. Along with the substantial reduction in expense is the significantly different approach to the service of your storage equipment.

A quick recap:

  • OEMs focus on selling you new equipment at regular intervals.
  • TPM providers focus on maintaining your post-warranty OEM equipment.

In the data center, you need more than just a cost advantage. You need service that translates into less downtime, fewer headaches and more flexibility to meet the demands you’re facing. The best solution satisifies your performance, budget and support needs.

Takeaway:

Compare your storage maintenance solution with an eye on service.

TPM providers can be cost-effective and service-oriented

Be a fact finder!

Don’t buy into the mindset that there is only one option that fits your data center storage needs.

In reality, Third-Party Maintenance provides you with a practical and beneficial alternative to standard OEM solutions. Before signing onto a brand-new storage equipment upgrade, base your decision on knowledge and analysis – take a second look at all of your options.

Be a fact finder!

Don’t buy into the mindset that there is only one option that fits your data center storage needs.
In reality, Third-Party Maintenance provides you with a practical and beneficial alternative to standard OEM solutions. Before signing onto a brand-new storage equipment upgrade, base your decision on knowledge and analysis – take a second look at all of your options.

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