Hardware life cycle approaches to save money, ensure network reliability

The right life cycle management approach when it comes to network hardware and data center cabling will help IT organizations do more while optimizing their budget.

Hardware life cycle approaches to save money, ensure network reliability
Martyn Williams/IDGNS

High-quality, reliable network hardware and data center cabling are requirements for a high-performing technology infrastructure and for a successful IT team that helps drive more business. It’s the life cycle for your network.

However, in these days of shrinking budgets and rising demands, CIOs, IT professionals and buyers are being pressured to do more while reducing costs. How can this be done?

Having the right approach when it comes to network hardware and data-center cabling is a powerful way to enable your IT organization to do a lot more while optimizing your budget.

The IT value within the life cycle

There are many nuances to a hardware investment that some organizations don’t take into account. The opportunity to reduce capital expenditure (CAPEX) spends exists, but it requires incorporating pre-owned hardware into the equation.

Using a blended solution of new and pre-owned hardware, where each makes the most sense in your infrastructure, creates a unique and potentially game-changing opportunity to maximize value in your investments. But too often, IT pros will fall into the familiar pattern of only buying new hardware, feeling that it’s a “safe” bet.

There is a prevailing concept around new hardware that it is highly reliable and features a low failure rate, much more dependable than pre-owned equipment.

On the other hand, a reputable vendor of pre-owned network hardware will test every one of the units it supplies for reliability. This fact actually allows quality pre-owned hardware offerings to boast lower failure rates than new.

Knowing this, it’s easy to see the value of considering pre-owned equipment. The hardware OEMs recommend you refresh your technology regularly, but the longer you maintain your infrastructure, the more capital you save for your organization. If the quality of your equipment can handle an extended life cycle, it makes sense to consider maintaining it for a longer period of time.

When to switch it up with switches

Using pre-owned hardware allows you to do just that. You can continue to upgrade to accommodate your needs and extend the useful life of the hardware investments you make, maximizing your ROI and lowering your TCO.

All that is required is a small shift in your thinking and your approach. Here is one example using, of course, switches.

Every network is comprised of different equipment and components. You have your core switches and edge switches. If you are like many, you may require more advanced performance or more robust features from a relatively small percentage of your switches. The rest of the switches you need might be used for connecting to desktops or something to that effect. 

Many IT professionals do what people have always done. They purchase the switches that are recommended by their manufacturer representative. Frequently, the recommended switches are newer switches with specs and features you probably don’t need to get the job done. It’s quite feasible that older, less-expensive switches would work fine.

But the fear of forced obsolescence creeps in. People end up buying too many switches and using them on things that are far from mission-critical. This is not the way to accomplish more while optimizing use of your budget.

Technology at your pace offers cost savings, flexibility

Once you validate pre-owned hardware as a legitimate, reliable option for your technology infrastructure, it opens up a new set of opportunities for you. The potential to save CAPEX is huge, and you gain a new ability to choose how long to maintain your investment.

You save money in two ways: both on the less expensive pre-owned hardware you do buy, and on the expensive upgraded equipment you don’t. And this money you save on hybrid hardware solutions can be used to improve other areas of your business. Smart investments like this allow you to strengthen not just your technology infrastructure, but your organization as a whole.

Whoever says a cable is just a cable is just wrong

When it comes to data-center cabling, the proper approach and thinking will also put you on the right path to achieving all of the above. The days of the old philosophy that “a cable is just a cable” are numbered.

The demand for higher speeds is increasing all the time. That’s not going to change. Using quality cables is becoming more important to support your network. However, like network hardware, costs are a concern. So, how can you have a smart long-term approach that offers performance, manageability and lower total cost of ownership?

The best way to do this is by implementing a future-proof, highly organized cabling system that meets or exceeds current cabling standards (such as TIA-942).

The ideal solution is a well-designed structured cabling system. The move from point-to-point cabling to a structured cabling system comprised of high-performance cabling is an investment that will reap many benefits.

Consider this …

The average cost, per square foot, to build and populate a new small data center can be challenging. The cost per square foot can range from $200 to $1,000, depending on renovations to an existing building or starting from scratch. While power and cooling are primary topics of consideration, cabling is also important.

It's so important that C-NET CDCDP Training reports the cost of cabling when building a new data center is 5 to 6 percent of the overall expense,when running point-to-point connections.

Why change from point-to-point to structured cabling?

Structured cabling solutions such as patch panels and port replication can be built into the design. Also consider cabling topologies such as spine-and-leaf and the ability to connect current generation optics (40G and 100G) and next-generation optics (200G and 400G). Layer-one cabling infrastructure provides the quality and performance necessary to make a company’s technology investments worthwhile.

Here are three of the most important steps to move your infrastructure from point-to-point cabling to structured cabling.

  1. Install patch panels near the data-center core or spine switches. Install patch panels near the top of rack (ToR) or leaf switches. This can also be accomplished using end of row (EoR) or middle of row (MoR) patch panels to connect a row back to the core or spine switches.
  1. Connect the two patch panel locations with backbone or horizontal fiber optic trunking.
  1. From each patch panel location, select the appropriate length fiber optic patch cord to plug into the optic.

Top quality components ensure performance and durability. However, a structured cabling system does so much more by easily allowing you to manage moves, adds and changes. Some even focus heavily on port replication — actually replicating the ports of large switching environments in one central patching area. These structured cabling methods remove the stress, mess, inefficiencies and risks that come with a point-to-point method.

The bottom line

When you implement a structured cabling system that meets or exceeds the cabling standards, you are improving all of your information systems because even the most amazing layer 7 applications rely on a quality layer 1 infrastructure.

One of the most important points to remember about this approach is that a proper structured cabling system will protect you for several future generations of technology upgrades. A high-performance cabling system that is easy to manage and makes you future-proof is a smart, cost-effective investment.

When you combine these two effective life cycle management approaches to network hardware and data center cabling, you ensure that your network is reliable. It’s this formula that will ensure your IT organization is accomplishing more with less.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022