The other day, I was reviewing a maintenance quote with a customer for support on some Dell servers and EMC storage. After answering several questions about our capabilities and what would be included in their coverage, I decided to ask one of my own: “When are these systems going off manufacturer support?”

The reply:

“Almost two years from now.”

OK, maybe that should’ve been my very first question.

You may be wondering the same thing I was wondering… “Why were we having the call and discussing the price two years out?!”

Well, it turns out a competitor of ours had shown up a week earlier and simply asked for “a list of data center assets, preferably a spreadsheet.” Essentially, we quoted two years in advance because a competitor voluntarily quoted two years in advance.

What amazes me the most is that our competitors show up and immediately ask for a list of “assets,” and I can’t help but assume this inspires very little confidence in a customer. Not surprisingly, many of these same competitors fall short when it comes to anything besides basic hardware replacement.

Suppose you’re a customer who’s tasked with getting two maintenance quotes from third parties so that you can save money vs. OEM pricing.

  • Vendor A asks for a “list of assets” and talks about how competent his guys are when it comes to replacing a hard drive. Vendor A sees each of your systems as a metal commodity.

  • Vendor B has a conversation with you and asks about the systems in your environment, the applications and customers they support, your depreciation cycle, and your strategy when it comes time to decommission. Vendor B sees your systems as the backbone of your business, only to be entrusted to experts.

Now imagine seeing a completely foreign error message in your GUI at 7 p.m. Do you want to be calling Vendor A or Vendor B right now?

Many aspects of the data center are being commoditized these days. Enterprises are doing things like moving to software-defined storage, self-supporting x86 servers, or moving entire environments to the public cloud.

To me, though, the idea that third-party maintenance is a commodity is one that needs to be rethought.

The happiest consumers of post-warranty support are those who would rather save 50 percent and experience little-to-no drop-off in coverage, rather than those who are simply looking to maximize savings at all costs.

If your expectations of third-party maintenance are so low that you only anticipate the occasional replacement part, it may be time to change vendors. If you’re looking into third-party maintenance for the first time and the vendor asks for an equipment list before they ask you anything else, it may be time to run.

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