VARs and Vendor Relationships – End of Life (EOL) Hardware in the Data Center – Hardware Life Cycle – Asset Management

Having a VAR and/or Vendor relationship is very important from a business perspective. Building that relationship is one of the things I think is most important and should be a priority. It’s a partnership. Build that partnership. It’s beneficial to have frequent meetings with them to stay on top of this like EOLs, EOS, road maps, future planning and migrations. Just sitting in a meeting to see “Where is this product going?”.  Technology is constantly changing and this means the hardware infrastructure is constantly changing. Vendors are making products obsolete within 7 years these days. It’s important to know when these products are getting close to end of life so you can start planning to migrate off of it.  There’s usually an EOL announcement.  This is when you need to start planning to get off that product.

It drives me nuts walking into an environment where the hardware is obsolete or the hardware is going obsolete in a year and there’s no plan to migrate off of it. Don’t get me started on not utilizing the technology within the products like HP’s Virtual Connect for example. I don’t think some people people understand how this all works and the importance of it.

This is such a huge risk to the company and can be easily avoided with some planning. It’s also crazy buying hardware/software from unauthorized dealers. Please don’t do this. You don’t know where these products come from but most importantly, they are not supported by the Vendor.

Why is EOL bad:
1. Compromised Data Security – this is a big one. You will NOT GET security fixes, patches and firmware updates.
2. End of 3rd Party Support – another important one. You will loose support from other vendors. Vendors need your environment to be on a certain level before they can even support their product. I’ll give an example below.
3. Decreased Productivity – older obsolete hardware will not run as efficiency as newer technology
4. Higher Maintenance Costs – you can sometimes get extended maintenance but you will pay for it and it’s going to be very limited
5. Problems with Scalability – tech is constantly changing for the better and you loose out in things like energy consumption, bandwidth upgrades, new features and services.
6. Non-Compliance – your IT infrastructure needs to be compliant with regulatory standards. Your hardware/software needs to be at required levels.

Obsolete/EOL hardware in your environment sets off a chain reaction of incompatibility and lots of risk to your environment. What I mean by this will be displayed below in an example.

Let’s say you have this environment:
HP C7000 with DL460 Gen6 Blades – Chassis EOL in 2019 and this Blade went EOL in 2016
HP C7000 with DL460 Gen8 Blades – Chassis EOL in 2019 and this Blade is EOL but some sites show 2021. We know for sure it’s retired.

Now just looking above, I know the HP C7000 is EOL from HP. (HP stinks at listing their EOL products so you have to search hard for it at times) It’s been around for a long time. I remember using HP C7000 10 years ago. I believe they’ve been around for around for 15 years. That alone should throw up flags.

The Gen6 blade is EOL from 2016. The Gen8 blade is EOL next year 2021 but retired. Here’s what HP says about retired products:

The products listed on this page are out of production, but may still be available through HPE Remarketing Services. If you are considering end-of-life or refurbished units from the HPE Renew Program

Now what the heck is HPE Remarketing Services:
HP helps extend the life of computer hardware through our repair and refurbishment programs

Does it really make sense to order Gen8 blades. NO of course not!  Why would you buy a server blade that expires in less than a year?  I also don’t want refurbished or repaired hardware in production.  Do you think authorized dealers will be selling Gen8 blades when they are retired? No of course not. If you’re buying Gen8 today, you’re probably buying gray market. You’re buying a product that is NOT supported by HP or other Vendors. You might be able to get the product before it goes EOL or retired but you’ll pay a premium for support and it could be limited support. But you still run into the issue where other vendors like Microsoft and VMWare won’t support their product on that old hardware.  Remember it’s a chain reaction.  You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you don’t get any support, security updates, firmware updates, etc…  You don’t want to be in this situation.  Please don’t put your environment in this situation.  PLAN and PREPARE for this situation.  I can’t stress this enough.

So getting to other vendors using the example above. Let’s say you’re running VMWare like a lot of companies. VMWare 7.x will NOT support Gen8 blades. Windows Server 2019 will not support Gen8 blades. Windows 10 will not support Gen8 blades. See where I’m going? If your hardware becomes obsolete, your software support goes away and this is a very bad. Next thing you know, you have production problem with VMWare and they tell you “Sorry we can’t support you because your on X version”. Production is down!  Imagine going to management and explaining to them we can’t get it up at the moment because we don’t have support for it.  You don’t want this. You want everything in production to be fully supported.

In the example above, it makes no sense to go to the last version of the blade which is 10 for that chassis because at this time it should be obvious that this system needs to go today. Don’t waist your time spending money and time migrating to Gen10. You should have migrated away from the HP7000 years ago. Plus you have to keep in mind that if you are going to the latest version, say Gen10, Gen10 might want you to be on firmware version X. So that means you need to get your firmware updated. Along with this are scheduled reboots. This means you could be bringing on new bugs. So be prepared. At the end of the day, you don’t want to get stuck in a bad situation. This could all been avoided. It’s not rocket science.

How could you avoid this?  You guessed it. VAR/Vendor relationships. You would have known the X product is going end of life on X date. We should start planning a migration plan now. The more you develop a relationship with the VAR/Vendor, the more they know your environment already so you’re NOT explaining things over and over.  They can help you prepare and plan to migration off the hardware before it goes EOL.  At previous places I worked, monthly, sometimes quarterly meetings were setup with our VAR.  We were able to properly plan to get off the hardware way before it reached EOL.

You could keep track of this on your own by constantly checking the site but I wouldn’t recommend it because the sites aren’t always up to date and your VAR/Vendor will give you much more accurate information. They keep up with the Vendor product lines.  Plus who has time to be constantly checking it?  If you don’t have a relationship with a VAR, then you should be checking your Vendors EOL/EOS.

One last note. ONLY BUY HARDWARE FROM AUTHORIZED DEALERS!!!! Or else you run the risk of seriously making your environment vulnerable! These products do not get support from HP.

The whole point of this post is to make sure you know your infrastructure environment. Document it, diagram it and most important keep track of its life cycle. Know when it’s time to migrate away from it because it’s going to happen. None of this stuff runs forever. This is the same for the network infrastructure side and software side.  Be prepared for it. Because if you don’t, you’re putting the environment is very bad situation.  This is not rocket science and real easy to do.

Some good links but all vendors should have something similar:
https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php
https://hpeserversoptionscompatibilitytool.itcs.hpe.com/
https://techlibrary.hpe.com/us/en/enterprise/servers/supportmatrix/windows.aspx
https://support.hpe.com/hpsc/wc/public/home
https://techlibrary.hpe.com/us/en/enterprise/servers/retired/index.aspx

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