EMC EOL Explained: Part 1

Park Place Hardware Maintenance

Parker March 08, 2016

The EMC EOL terminology—acronyms for different end of life milestones—can be confusing. It doesn’t help that different equipment manufacturers use different terms for the very same stages of the product lifecycle. “End of life” for EMC is “hardware withdrawal” for IBM, and failure to search by the OEM-appropriate term makes it more difficult to find out what’s going on with data center hardware.

This two-part series will help customers sort out EMC’s EOL world and suggest what actions product owners will want to consider at each point.

Product Lifecycle Terminology

First up, let’s clarify some of the key terms related to the product lifecycle, at least as EMC uses them:

  • General availability(GA)– This is the date the product came on the market (excepting advance releases, such as for review purposes). Although this date will always be in the past for any product in the data center, it can still be helpful to know. EMC will generally commit to a minimum period after GA during which support will be available. Mark your calendars accordingly.
  • End of sale (EOS)– Sometimes called “end of availability,” this is the date on which the product will no longer be available for sale through the manufacturer or its channel partners. Of course, new stock may exist outside of EMC’s auspices, and used arrays can be found, but EMC will no longer market the system itself. This date may or may not coincide with end of life, but it is the latter (EOL) that is more important from an EMC customer’s perspective.
  • End of life (EOL) –Probably the most confusing of the terms, EOL is frequently defined as “indicating that the product is in the end of its useful life (from the vendor’s point of view), and a vendor intends to stop marketing, selling, or sustaining it.” EOL does not mean the storage system or other hardware is obsolete from the customer’s perspective. At EOL, EMC moves on in terms of R&D and marketing, but the company has not yet abandoned the product and its users. That being said, the EOL date does begin the countdown to the all-important end of support life (EOSL). For this reason, EOL is commonly mentioned alongside the introduction of the successor technology. For example, this announcement about new VNX products was accompanied by information about the wind-down of the Clariion and Cellera lines.
  • End of support life (EOSL) – This is the most concerning designation, because it is the date at which no further support contracts are available from EMC. As a rule of thumb, customers can expect EOSL to fall five years after EOL. But EMC may shorten or extend this period at its own discretion, based on spare parts availability, its perception of customer needs, etc. Although some new IT professionals become concerned about EOL hardware, it is actually EOSL implications they mean.

Want to figure out where your product(s) are on the EMC EOL timeline? Check out our EMC EOL list.

What to do at end of life (or end of sale)?

There are two key areas of decision-making regarding EOL products:

  • Purchasing –IT organizations will have different thought processes, and maybe even policies, related to purchasing equipment that is nearing EOL (or EOS). There are often great deals to be had on soon-to-be EOL systems, as EMC and its channel partners work to deplete their stocks. As long as the EMC customer is aware of the time frame for support and spare parts availability, there is really no reason to avoid EOL hardware if it fits the needs and budget. In fact, with the right third party maintenance provider, EMC customers coming late to a particular product party—or buying from non-EMC new or used equipment resellers—needn’t worry much about what’s going on at EMC with regard to the EOL countdown. Companies like Park Place will support the EOL equipment through EOSL and beyond.
  • Maintaining – For the data center, remote office, or other facility with an EOL storage system installed, EOL is not especially concerning. IT managers should make note that the product has been declared EOL and may want to identify the EOSL date, often announced at the same time. This will give the “do or die” date for either upgrading the storage appliance or making other support arrangements for it. But rather than sit back and wait, the IT organization should seriously consider alternatives right away. As R&D and engineering attention from EMC decline at EOL, so does the value of the OEM’s expensive support contract. A third party maintenance provider can generally match (or in the case of Park Place, beat) EMC on contract features at a price point that is 40% to 70% lower. Why wait to reap these savings?

What to do at end of support life?

First of all, don’t panic. EOSL is not the end of the world. EMC may be walking away from the hardware, but their decisions need not dictate customers’ reactions. At this point, EMC product owners should do the following if they have not already:

  • Assess the product’s fit for the environment and application. Is the EMC filer humming along happily? Are the demands placed on it much the same as when it is purchased? If so, there is probably no reason to upgrade it—and many reasons not to, including risks associated with using less proven products, the hassle of integrating and troubleshooting a new system, staff time devoted to training and migration, and yeah, an often high capital expenditure for the new array. Rather than taking the plunge with a new system, find a third party maintenance provider STAT!
  • Consider alternative uses. If the system is lagging behind current needs, a new storage appliance is likely in order. But consider a “hand me down” strategy rather than immediate shipment to the reclamation facility. Given their hardiness, older EMC systems can serve well for many additional years for less latency dependent applications, in a lab or remote office, or at a disaster recovery site. Although doing less mission critical duty, these systems still deserve quality support from an experienced provider.
  • Examine TCO and ROI. There will come a time when a large storage appliance is simply too space- and power-hungry to be worth the upkeep for a few paltry gigs (or terabytes) of capacity. However, many IT organizations are far too easily swayed by OEM claims of radical TCO savings on new equipment. They wind up compromising ROI on existing systems for a drop in the electric bill they never see. In fact, studies have demonstrated that each additional year of service life for a storage array returns $700 for every $1,000 in initial investment. It’s actually difficult to make up that difference and the CAPEX of a new system that provides only modest gains in size and efficiency. In other words, the EMC workhorse in the corner is probably more valuable than you’re giving it credit for.

In most cases, and EMC EOL or EOSL should be met by finding a third party maintenance provider. We’ll cover how to do that in Part 2 of our EMC EOL Explained series. If you can’t wait to read more about third party maintenance, however, you’ve got options.

About the Author

Parker, Park Place Assistant