The field of third party maintenance is not new. But its application to server, support, and networking systems has been less publicized and discussed than other third party IT offerings. If you’re a CIO, CTO, data center manager, IT director, or anyone responsible for IT hardware technology, it is essential to understand this highly affordable option for keeping key equipment operating at peak performance over the long-term.
Before we get into the whys and wherefores, as we will on this blog, let’s be sure we’re clear about what third party IT hardware maintenance actually is.
Most IT professionals will be familiar with the support contracts provided by the original equipment manufacturer or OEM, whether that be EMC or Cisco or other vendor. When purchasing a given piece of IT gear, customers are usually offered the option of pairing it with a one- or three-year extended warranty or contract. Given the financial investment that IT hardware represents, most IT managers will sign on for this service and may renew it several times over the years until end-of-support-life (EOSL) is declared.
Third party hardware maintenance is an alternative to such OEM-based support at any point in the hardware lifecycle. It is delivered by other, non-OEM companies. In most but not all cases, third party support contracts will be equivalent to or better than the offerings of the OEM in terms of SLAs and inclusions. And some companies will add features and service to make it an even more attractive option.
Importantly, third party maintenance brings competition to the support market, which was previously monopolized by OEMs. By offering greater choice, third party maintenance providers are helping to drive innovation in IT support, lower costs, and enable customers to break free of the OEM stranglehold on support and upgrade timeframes.
It’s O/S, Software, and Firmware Support, Too
Although we’ve been speaking specifically of third party hardware maintenance, it’s important to realize that the service is not as limited as it might sound. The terms “third party hardware maintenance” are used to distinguish support for server, storage, and networking equipment from third party software support for such applications as SAP. The latter has garnered substantially more coverage, but it’s a different part of the market with different pros and cons.
Because of the terminology, some customers assume that hardware support providers will deal exclusively with component failures and spare parts. Not so. The best third party hardware maintenance providers also handle the O/S and other software and firmware associated with system configuration, operation, monitoring, and so on. For a NetApp Fabric Attached Storage (FAS) device, to take one example, assistance with ONTAP issues, not to mention SnapDrive, SnapMirror, SyncMirror, SnapVault, SnapShot, SnapManager, FilterView and FlexShare, would be included.
So there you have it, third party hardware maintenance at its best is a comprehensive solution for supporting IT equipment in a data center, lab, remote office, or disaster recovery facility—or ensuring quality upkeep of gear spread across the enterprise. It’s generally lower cost; Park Place’s prices, for example, are typically 40% to 70% lower than the OEM. Yet there are compelling features that can make it a better answer to an IT organization’s support needs.
But that’s only the tip of the third party maintenance iceberg.