The Maintenance Gap
In case you missed it, one of Atlanta’s major Interstate bridges recently collapsed, causing our alternate roads to be flooded with traffic while the rubble is repaired. In the middle of the traffic chaos, I can’t help but notice a similar unfortunate trend between customers and OEMs. It seems they are always in a quandary during a refresh or technology update.
In the same way that the bridge collapse impacted drivers all over the state, a change in IT infrastructure in the data center also affects everyone in the organization. Thankfully, the result is usually a vast improvement on the original infrastructure (hopefully this will be true for our Interstate after repair, as well).
What happens during that period of flux? Well, there are a few scenarios:
A customer is moving from EMC to Hitachi storage. The OEMs, EMC and Hitachi, are each aware the transition is happening. During a gap in support, the OEM (in this case EMC), will overcharge as much as possible for support because there is no longer an upside in the account for additional revenue. I have had OEM representatives (direct competitors) ask for help with easing the pain for their customers as they migrate to a new solution. In this case, Hitachi is saying, “Josh, can you quote me support for this customer so we can get them over the hump and prevent EMC from overcharging them?” Of course, I oblige.
Here’s a typical question: “This migration to new technology is taking longer than expected, but I don’t need a full year of support during this time. Will the OEM be flexible?” The answer, for the most part, is no. Either they already secured your business, or you are actively transitioning to a new provider. Third-party support is a great fix for this, as companies like ReluTech can provide short-term or month-to-month contracts.
Getting a “Deal”
Many times, an OEM will try to sell something new to retain clients. Maintenance is coming up, so suddenly they offer the renewal for “free.” Be careful with this one, IT buyers. This a manipulative tactic of moving money around to distract the customer from actual spend. My advice would be to ask for pricing on the new system well in advance and then ask for the maintenance renewal quote independently. This will allow you to negotiate the hardware price on its own while still shopping out the maintenance renewal to a third party for ultimate savings on both sides. If the OEM claims that they will cover the maintenance at no cost, see if your price on the new box goes up. Even if it doesn’t, the OEM may try to hide the cost in PS work or licensing upcharges. Nothing is ever free, and third-party maintenance (TPM) is a great candidate to offset the hidden costs—if you leverage it properly.
Another scenario occurs when a customer leases hardware and needs to extend the lease another year because IT can’t decommission the hardware in time. If you’re in this boat, ask your leasing company for a TPM quote during your fourth year; otherwise you will be paying a pretty penny.
No question about it: Organizations focus on the future and new technologies, as they should. We often forget about the costly gap during the transition. Just like Atlanta was focusing on the new Braves and Falcons stadiums, the city neglected to keep expanding its roads in case disasters strike. These gaps are often the most expensive oversights involved in IT operations.
Give us a buzz, and we will be happy to educate you further on the best ways to clear the gap!