Using Third-Party Maintenance (TPM) to Accomplish IT Infrastructure Goals

Summary: How can you use the idea of third-party maintenance to help you accomplish your IT infrastructure goals?

While maybe not readily apparent at first glance, TPM is an important arrow in your quiver to strategically plan out your infrastructure life cycle and allow you to meet your business goals, not your vendor's goals.

  • Jan 12, 2021
  • TPM, third-party maintenance
  • CXtec Team

One of the questions we hear a lot from our customers and prospective customers is, "How do I use the idea of third-party maintenance (TPM) to help me accomplish my goals of operating, maintaining, and getting the most life out of my infrastructure?"

If you’d like to understand this as well, this article is intended to get your mind thinking about how a carefully planned infrastructure strategy can be made more effective through the use of TPM and CXtec’s RapidCare® services.

What's In This Article?
How can you use the idea of third-party maintenance to help you accomplish your IT infrastructure goals?

• The Strategic Value of Third-Party Maintenance (TPM)
• Finding the Right Solution
• The Reality Today
• Removing Uncertainty

First let’s define third-party maintenance. Third-party maintenance is the nickname that the IT industry has given break-fix, post-warranty hardware maintenance service. The name comes from the idea that a third-party is providing the service.

A third-party is not an authorized reseller and there can be a lot of confusion around that. We are talking about the provider and not the seller. The third-party in this case applies to the service being provided, in that it is provided without OEM authorization by an organization independent of the OEM.  

A third-party maintainer does not use any OEM resources to deliver their service. Their first call help desk, backline technical support, frontline field support, and replacement parts are all independent of the manufacturer. There is no automatic escalation to the OEM with third-party maintenance.

While it may seem foolhardy to maintain a device without close alignment to the OEM, it is in fact sometimes the better, or the only, option for some infrastructure gear. This is because OEMs are constantly degrading and deprecating their support for products as little as only three or four years old.

The strategic value of Third-Party Maintenance (TPM)

Which brings us to the strategic value of our RapidCare TPM, specifically the way in which it can satisfy your strategic intent to maximize life cycle and return on investment for stable workhorse items in your infrastructure. Access layer switches, x86 servers, backup targets, and workgroup storage arrays are typically items that you require to just work, and work reliably for a long period of time. These are “set-it-and-forget-it" devices and are focused more on utility than performance.

Once you select the right tool for the job with these items, you might desire to get 7-10 years out of them. The problem is, of course, that the sales-driven OEMs would like to cut that life cycle objective in half. That’s why they send you strong and clear signals to refresh your hardware frequently, with messages imploring you to give your end users more power to get work done.

But when it comes to access layer switches, clustered x86 servers, backup targets, and workgroup storage arrays, there usually aren’t great leaps forward in business requirements that require exponential performance increases in them. No one can argue that faster is not better, but when it comes to business priorities does your organization really need to provide even more bandwidth to the desktop end user?

Same with backup targets. If you already have plenty of space, the backups get done so as not to impede network performance during the business day and you can restore as needed. Why do you need a better, faster, and more powerful backup target today? Why can’t what you’re using now last for another three or four years so that you can focus on improving the services that have a real impact on the growth of your business, and not on improving something that's not crying out for improvement?

The answer to that question is because the OEMs force the price of break/fix maintenance on that device to increase until you can’t maintain it in a cost-effective manner. They claim that the cost of support goes up because the manufacturing runs of parts have ceased and they need to retool their support resources to handle the latest and greatest products they are releasing.

That may be true for their business but that’s a choice they make to satisfy the demand for more hardware sales from their own shareholders. That influence should not force you as an operator to simply give in and upgrade your hardware as soon as the OEM arbitrarily decides it is time for the price of post-warranty maintenance to go up.

Many people understand this concept but can find no satisfactory solutions to avoid it. You know the game, but there are no other options or alternatives for you, the smart operator, to take advantage of.


Finding the Right Solution

The solution, as you may have guessed, is RapidCare TPM. The challenge with RapidCare TPM is that, admittedly, it is not a 100%, across-the-board fit for all infrastructure devices that you operate in your environment.

The loudest objection with independent TPM support is invariably around software and firmware access. Because many OEMs have tied access to the software and firmware updates for their older devices to paying for those aforementioned high-priced maintenance contracts, many infrastructure operators who are not willing to forego code updates to their devices cannot use RapidCare on their devices.

The second loudest objection is around licensing. Many manufacturers tie licenses to system board serial numbers, which means that the replacements can only come from them and must be from their authorized supply chains. (This is almost impossible to overcome and we strongly recommend that you explore this restriction with every prospective infrastructure purchase, to avoid dreaded vendor “lock-in.”)

The access to code issue really requires an understanding of the specific policies of the manufacturer for your particular device. Once upon a time, firmware and machine code updates were much more widely available to operators of infrastructure devices.

Years ago, manufacturer FTP sites existed that allowed free and anonymous access to code updates for infrastructure devices. It was part of an engineering pride culture at the companies who made the devices. The design and manufacturing engineers at these companies thought it best to give their customers access to the latest and greatest code so that their devices could operate at their best. In a lot of cases infrastructure devices hit the market without fully baked code that had NOT been rigorously tested.

The Reality Today

Today it is much different. Some OEMs still allow easy access to updates, but some now require paid support contracts. At some OEMs, different product lines have different policies and it can be confusing for an end user to understand them all and figure out what you are entitled to as an owner and operator of a device.

That’s why we at CXtec have studied all of these policies of all the major manufacturers and their most market-prevalent products and done all of the work for you. We’ve assembled end-of-software-maintenance dates, end-of-life dates and our knowledge of each manufacturer’s policies for each of their products to form a knowledge base that will help you understand what is a good fit for your specific infrastructure devices in your environment.

We can run your list against our knowledge base to produce what we call a RapidCare Fitness Assessment, which will provide you with a risk assessment of using RapidCare across your entire infrastructure environment. We will clearly identify the high-risk, poor-fit items and we will also clearly identify the low-risk, great-fit items. Combined with your own risk tolerance and organizational strategy, we can quickly help you figure out where RapidCare can help you reduce spend to cost-effectively maintain infrastructure and avoid forced price-increase refreshes. This will enable you to spend every OPEX dollar you have in your budget more wisely.

Removing Uncertainty

Once you take the uncertainty out of TPM by using RapidCare from CXtec, it becomes a valuable service to help you make strategic plans about your infrastructure. You’ll know which assets you can “sweat” or hang on to a few more years, despite all of the noise and bright lights coming from your OEM and OEM reseller pressuring you to upgrade.

This will help you make the decisions that are right for your business and not the decisions that benefit a salesperson and help the OEM meet aggressive sales goals. As a truly independent-of-the-OEM TPM service provider, CXtec is here to help guide you as you seek to accomplish that goal, doing the right thing for your business operation and investing your operational expense dollars wisely.