Roughly 85 percent of IT managers polled by Forrester said they would hold onto networking infrastructure longer, but vendors retire products prematurely in an effort to force customers to upgrade. In a response that may seem familiar to anyone who’s ever been pressured into buying a maintenance contract—either by an enterprise vendor or a major electronics retailer—over 80 percent of the 304 respondents said they don't like the misrepresented cost savings, new fees, and inflexible pricing models—but buy the products anyway. The poll was commissioned by Network Hardware Resale, which—just by the way—would like to sell you a third-party maintenance contract. The company services network hardware from a variety of vendors, playing mainly in the server market. One of the survey's interesting points is that IT decision makers aren't willing to contradict the vendor. The uncertainty seems to come from the fact that the vendor may in fact be right—and a customer who contradicts what they're saying may end up shouldering the blame if the equipment goes south. It's the "you never got fired for buying IBM" argument, applied to the networking space. The problem, of course, is that the vendor often works for its own agenda. "Vendors set the end of life agenda resulting in the sometimes unnecessary and expensive replacement of IT equipment—that still carries market value and has 20 plus years mean time between failures," Forrester found. The survey also found that around 79 percent of IT organizations buy new switches and other networking infrastructure every one to five years, based on estimates and guidance that the vendors themselves provide. Only 21 percent told Forrester that they solicited bids from third-party contractors when discussing maintenance, but 80 percent suggested they would seek out and use those contractors if the prices were lower. It wasn't clear, however, what role quality played into it; third-party vendors like Network Hardware Resale will naturally claim that they offer the same level of quality, while vendors themselves will claim that if they built something, they should service it. (Some third parties also resell the original maintenance contract, and try to layer their own services on top of it.) Sheldon, not surprisingly, said that most networking companies focus on servicing their newest products first, and the quality drops off as the products age. Forrester offered several recommendations, including not paying for software upgrades if possible, and soliciting third-party contracts. Possibly the most useful piece of advice was to buy based on value metrics that included longevity. Still, the longevity of a piece of equipment is just one of the concerns customers face; there can be some compelling business cases through regular upgrades of the total infrastructure, from servers down through to routers and switches. Forrester may offer some reasonable advice regarding longevity, but data center operators should enter negotiations with a game plan in mind, anyway.   Image: Kjetil Kolbjornsrud/