Get on the same page for network asset management

Asset management has a major impact on critical capex and opex decisions, which is why you need end-to-end visibility of all network assets

Get on the same page for network asset management
Andrew Hart (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s an all-too familiar scene: The start of a new financial quarter signals yet another opportunity for CFOs and CIOs to debate the fate of proposed network equipment purchases, upgrades and support. If these two stakeholders are to come together to maximize the return on every IT dollar spent, it’s crucial they have a clear understanding of the shared IT value equation. For many, this is capex and opex through the lens of deferring or lowering capital expenditures without increasing operational costs. 

This approach typically includes a “sweat the assets” strategy for extending the useful life of stable network routers and switches. But first, you need to know exactly what’s deployed and supported under current maintenance contracts. Relying solely on OEMs to provide a full accounting of your network assets is akin to flying blind. Don’t get me wrong: While there’s great value in tools such as Cisco’s Smart Collector for discovering and gathering device-related data from all the Cisco gear in your network, it’s a place to start—not stop. 

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Traditionally, OEMs have no better handle on what’s in your network and what it’s doing than you do. To start leveling the field, you need an asset management plan. Otherwise you will continue to either overpay for or under support your network. Either way, your corporate network is at risk. 

From our experience, when most customers are asked to produce their list of network assets, the results typically are either from the Bush era (pick your Bush) or as incomplete as Schubert’s Eighth Symphony. Knowing you have coverage for your Cisco 6509 chassis is one thing—discovering at a time of crisis that your line cards and supervisors can’t be replaced is another. 

Hard lesson learned 

That’s exactly what happened to a major ecommerce customer where just seconds of network downtime could cost millions in lost transaction dollars. A massive power outage at one of its call centers caused line cards in some 20 Cisco 6509 chassis to fail. Because the status of the assets wasn’t current, it was a surprise to learn many of the affected line cards were end-of-life and couldn’t be replaced by the OEM. As a result, it became a major fire drill to get 75 replacement cards in place ASAP. 

Now, I realize asset management is neither cool nor fun—but it has a major impact on critical capex and opex decisions. What you really need is end-to-end visibility of all network assets, down to the component level. The best solution is to assign someone or a team, depending on the size and scope of your network, and provide automated tools to simplify tracking and managing of all devices as well as SMARTnet and other OEM support renewals. 

If procurement is managing contract renewals, then make sure someone from finance has a seat at the table alongside the network architects and managers responsible for network expansions, changes and upgrades. Leverage whatever tools the OEM offers, but assume full responsibility. 

Warning: You may be surprised by what you find. When a large pharmaceutical customer with an active M&A strategy decided to take back control of its network, they discovered nearly 150 separate, multiple OEM support contracts, many with complicated co-term arrangements and wildly varying SLA agreements. By taking a step back to analyze the situation, the company was able to determine a better strategy that included sweating some assets while refreshing others. (P.S. They saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by rightsizing support and avoiding premature network refreshes.)

As this year comes to an end, it’s time for finance and network operations to get on the same page when it comes to managing and supporting vital network assets. Armed with a complete view of what’s really deployed in your network, it’s possible to validate the optimal approach for supporting your organization while challenging the OEM support status quo.

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