pile of trashed equipment

IT Strategy |

Fighting Consumerism in the Network

Each year, editors of Britain’s Collins Dictionary select a word of the year; the one word that they believe best epitomizes the global trends and culture of that year. The 2018 word of the year? Single-use. Let’s take a minute to unpack that.

From straws and water bottles to plastic bags and roughly one of third of the food produced ends up in landfills, the ocean or as roadside litter. Fact is, we live in a throw-away society. When things break—phones, cars, and even relationships, we replace them instead of fixing them. Most times, we don’t even wait till they break; the service life of more and more items ends as soon as a more attractive model is available.

Our penchant for waste, especially in the U.S., is prodigious and is fueled by unimpeded consumerism. Unfortunately, that consumerism isn’t limited to consumer purchases; it has become part of our business strategies as well, especially if you’re a manufacturer and particularly for manufacturers of technology.

Much is made about the concept of planned obsolescence: the design and manufacture of products designed to be replaced before they reach the end of their serviceable life. Apple is often held up as the poster child of planned technology obsolescence, with network hardware OEMs like Cisco mentioned as well. It is common for these manufacturers to announce the end-of-life retirement for popular switches, routers, servers and optical gear three to five years after being launched. In most cases, the components have at least another five years of productivity left when they are put out to pasture. Yet, too many network managers don’t question the decision; they simply follow the OEM’s network hardware lifecycle.

While the effects on the environment are well-documented (e-waste accounts for approximately 70 percent of all toxic waste created worldwide), the practice of throwing away perfectly good equipment promotes a culture of waste that undermines the viability of the enterprise. But what if, instead, network managers pursued a strategy based on optimizing value?

There is a growing trend away from the accelerated OEM-dictated purchasing cycle and toward a more value-based approach that extends the equipment’s serviceable lifespan. Working with certified pre-owned equipment partners, network managers accomplish two very important objectives. First, they can significantly reduce the CapEx and OpEx costs on hardware, including used Cisco equipment like servers, routers, switches and optical components. The typical purchase price of pre-owned equipment is 60 to 90 percent lower than new. Much of the increased price is an effort by manufacturers to recoup the cost to add new features, which the customer may never implement fully.

The second major benefit of purchasing pre-owned equipment is network reliability. Assuming the components are tested, certified and guaranteed to meet OEM performance specs before being shipped, it does not experience the out-of-the-box fail rate that plagues new components. As a result, this strategy enables immediate benefits in terms of lower maintenance costs and improve network reliability.

The longer-term benefits of a certified pre-owned purchasing strategy are two-fold as well. Finding an equipment partner you trust enables you to escape the artificially abbreviated OEM product purchase cycle and regain control of when and what you buy. If you are using a switch that you like, you can continue using it long after the OEM has stopped supporting it. Qualified partners, such as Edgeium who offers CCIE-certified OEM maintenance, support most previous-gen hardware and provide an excellent SMARTnet alternative. When a single switch reaches the end of its serviceable life, you can replace just the one instead of all of them.

Lastly, a certified pre-owned equipment purchasing strategy can, over time, help reverse the trend toward consumerism that eats away at the company’s long-term sustainability. It prioritizes corporate responsibility and maximization of existing resources over the desire to continually update to next-generation equipment simply because the manufacturer says so.

Encouraging IT managers and team members to critically analyze whether an equipment upgrade is the right decision ultimately results in smarter decisions in other parts of the network and enterprise, helping to reduce waste. Realizing there is a good alternative to following the OEM’s product roadmap is the first step in creating a more sustainable and successful business.

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