When Outsourcers Run Your Infrastructure into Obsolescence

17 July 2014 | By John Merryman

ImageThere’s an interesting trend with storage infrastructure outsourcing, where outsource vendors on-board capital assets and then gradually run them into the ground. You see this over and over, especially in long-term out-sourced environments (IBM, EDS/HP,Perot/Dell,EMC, etc.) – the onboarded hardware/software estate (which is rarely in great shape) evolves into a living graveyard over 3-5 years. The root cause boils down to contract economics:

  • Outsourcer strikes a deal, commonly ‘your mess for less’ and onboards assets and management responsibilities
  • Contract is structured around data volume / growth metrics (nothing to do with efficiency)
  • Legacy designs are grand-fathered in and ongoing growth is cobbled onto existing asset base
  • Over time, the asset base ages, hardware reaches end-of-life and software runs out of support
  • New technologies mean architecture and planning work, not typically budgeted for as ‘project work’ in outsource contracts
  • New technologies require upgrades and migrations, again not typically budgeted for due to competitive price pressures
  • And time marches on and the outsourcer keeps up with operational needs, and architecture/planning is best-effort based
  • The problem with offloading infrastructure assets to an outsourcer is that there’s absolutely no incentive for the outsourcer to run lean or maintain a modern estate. The result is at first, negligable, but over time incredibly risky. Here are some observations of the down-side to letting your infrastructure run into the ground:
  • Operational risk – mean time between failure metrics are only published for the duty-cycle / life of devices, not the after-life!
  • No disaster recovery – when your asset base is out of support, non-standardized, and new ’0ne-offs’ are added to the mix, disaster recovery is a long-shot
  • Skills drain – so if the people supporting the living museum of hardware/software never learn anything new, are you really getting service or are you paying the bill for ‘not so innovative’ people and services?
  • No way out – there is absolutely a breaking point where upgrading no longer becomes an option, and your only choice will be a costly and potentially complex ‘green-field’ deployment

Bottom line – it’s best to own your infrastructure and pay other companies to run it. If you can, hire good architects and planners, and worst case, hire them on a project basis. This way, you can at least control the design and potentially avoid a mess, while applying contractual pressure to the outsourcer to innovate and use modern technology.

For more information or to discuss this further, feel free to contact the GlassHouse Technologies team.

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