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Technology lifecycle – is ‘old’ necessarily ‘bad’?



Andre van Schalkwyk |  Group Practice Manager Consulting and Assessments | Networking

Andre van Schalkwyk | Group Practice Manager Consulting and Assessments | Networking

If I’m completely honest, a central finding of our Network Barometer Report 2015 wasn’t much of a surprise to me. That is, not after four years of results showing pretty much the same thing: globally, corporate networks have aged a little more yet again. This year, 53% of all devices in our global sample were in the ‘ageing or obsolete’ category, up from 51% in the 2014 Report when it broke the halfway mark for the first time. It’s the highest percentage we’ve registered since the launch of the Report, which means networks are the ‘oldest’ they’ve ever been since we started checking up on them.

Should we hit the panic button? Are we about to witness a worldwide network crash that’s set to cripple global business and send us hurtling headlong into the apocalypse? No. Calm your engines. There’s no need to panic.

As the Network Barometer Report showed for the first time last year and emphasised with more evidence this year, the technology lifecycle – like most things in life – is relative. In other words, if you’re asking whether an older network is more risky and in danger of collapse (read ‘of causing outages and downtime’), the answer is that old chestnut: ‘it depends’. Our research, based on service incidents logged at our Global Service Centres, show that ageing and obsolete devices don’t necessarily fail more often simply because they’re old. In fact, our results show that it’s often current devices you should rather be worried about because all their manufacturing bugs haven’t been discovered and patched yet.

We also looked at the device lifecycle stages of all the network devices we manage on behalf of our clients. Our own breakdown of current versus ageing and obsolete devices is pretty much on a par with the industry’s – around the 51% mark. However, breaking that percentage down to split ageing devices from obsolete devices has shown something more telling. Of the more than 1.5 million devices managed by Dimension Data on behalf of its clients, only 5% were obsolete this year – a significant decrease from last year’s 9%, and also lower than the 9% of obsolete devices in client-managed networks. What this means is that we don’t tolerate obsolete devices in the networks we manage as much as client organisations would if they manage their networks themselves.

Why is that, given that obsolete devices don’t necessarily fail more often? It’s because of the trouble they can cause if they do fail. We know and understand the risks of not having vendor support. Remember, if obsolete devices fail, vendors will turn you away cold. You’re on your own (unless you have a services contract for that device with someone else). That’s the real risk.

At 46%, however, the proportion of ageing devices is larger in networks managed by us than in client-managed environments. So we have a stronger tendency to sweat assets for which vendor support is limited. Again, that’s because we understand the risks, and we know our own capabilities. The combination of our maintenance and support best practices and available, if limited, vendor support allows us a greater degree of confidence in managing ageing devices.

The question is, do you? How well do you know your network and all the devices you have working for you? Moreover, how well oiled are your support and maintenance processes to help you fix things when they go wrong? Again, don’t panic. A good place to start is to read the rest of our Network Barometer Report 2015 and compare how your networking environment stacks up against the rest of the world.