Uncommoditizing Third-Party Maintenance

The other day, I was reviewing a maintenance quote with a customer for support on some Dell servers and EMC storage. After answering several questions about our capabilities and what would be included in their coverage, I decided to ask one of my own: "When are these systems going off manufacturer support?"

The reply:

“Almost two years from now.”

OK, maybe that should’ve been my very first question.

You may be wondering the same thing I was wondering… “Why were we having the call and discussing the price two years out?!”

Well, it turns out a competitor of ours had shown up a week earlier and simply asked for “a list of data center assets, preferably a spreadsheet.” Essentially, we quoted two years in advance because a competitor voluntarily quoted two years in advance.

What amazes me the most is that our competitors show up and immediately ask for a list of “assets,” and I can’t help but assume this inspires very little confidence in a customer. Not surprisingly, many of these same competitors fall short when it comes to anything besides basic hardware replacement.

Suppose you’re a customer who’s tasked with getting two maintenance quotes from third parties so that you can save money vs. OEM pricing.

  • Vendor A asks for a “list of assets” and talks about how competent his guys are when it comes to replacing a hard drive. Vendor A sees each of your systems as a metal commodity.

  • Vendor B has a conversation with you and asks about the systems in your environment, the applications and customers they support, your depreciation cycle, and your strategy when it comes time to decommission. Vendor B sees your systems as the backbone of your business, only to be entrusted to experts.

Now imagine seeing a completely foreign error message in your GUI at 7 p.m. Do you want to be calling Vendor A or Vendor B right now?

Many aspects of the data center are being commoditized these days. Enterprises are doing things like moving to software-defined storage, self-supporting x86 servers, or moving entire environments to the public cloud.

To me, though, the idea that third-party maintenance is a commodity is one that needs to be rethought.

The happiest consumers of post-warranty support are those who would rather save 50 percent and experience little-to-no drop-off in coverage, rather than those who are simply looking to maximize savings at all costs.

If your expectations of third-party maintenance are so low that you only anticipate the occasional replacement part, it may be time to change vendors. If you’re looking into third-party maintenance for the first time and the vendor asks for an equipment list before they ask you anything else, it may be time to run.

Check out ReluTech Maintenance or get in touch with a maintenance expert now.