Sweating assets: how to power business growth without new kit

by | Sep 20, 2022 | Infrastructure Solutions, Insights, Professional Services

By Marius van Vuuren, Senior Technical Specialist at Breakpoint

In a lot of organisations, IT is having a tough time right now: business needs innovation, new apps and digital transformation right now, but there isn’t the budget, or the new kit you need to support transformation is held up by component shortages and delays.

The silicon shortage and supply chain issues are making order lead times longer than ever. In South Africa, we are hearing of organisations waiting up to nine months for some components and up to a year for complete systems. Even when the new kit arrives, migration can take some time, meaning that you effectively don’t have that kit available yet.

You don’t have to put innovation on hold while you wait for new equipment to arrive or get up and running optimally. With some careful planning, you can sweat your assets, repurpose existing infrastructure and lean on the cloud to support business and its changing needs.

How long can you sweat it?

We’ve all seen networking equipment sweated until it doesn’t work anymore, which could be up to 15 years. But for servers and other equipment, you’re taking a real chance if you’re running it for longer than five to seven years, even under ideal conditions.

It’s a fact that if it moves, it will break, so older and legacy equipment with moving parts is questionable as a mission-critical system once it’s out of warranty.

However, with some planning and a good supply of spares, this equipment can still prove useful as a testing environment, or for backup or duplicate backup.

Quick wins

The simplest way to sweat assets is to share the problem – if the equipment is fairly current, buy additional support from your vendor, or from a third-party support service offering Rand prices.

Plan for the worst and prepare for failure. Generally, things will break at 11 o’clock on a Friday night when the main tech guy is on holiday and has no phone reception. A big concern is ensuring equipment will have minimal business impact if it breaks, so it is important to set it up to be fault tolerant. Having a ready supply of spares is important in a high-pressure environment, so we recommend in-housing your own spares.

To get the compute and storage capacity your business needs on a budget, or while awaiting new kit, we suggest rearchitecting, repurposing and shifting where possible. Shift older archived data to low-cost cloud storage, for example. There are trade-offs in terms of access speeds, but this will buy you capacity on your production systems while still keeping you compliant. You could also move non-critical data from newer equipment to older equipment – even doing so in duplicate for peace of mind.   Move archive data to tape or slower devices, object stores or deep stores, and optimise capacity by compressing and deduplicating it.

Where legacy networking equipment is no longer able to support advanced flash arrays, consider creating legacy-only networks for environments with lower compute needs. Do not – and we can’t emphasize this enough – be tempted to cobble together components for a quick ad-hoc fix. In the world of IT, once it’s in, it’s in, and it won’t come out again. This will add to your IT debt – all those things in production that you will fix or change later, but never get to do as you find it hard to manage and risky to change, and then one day it comes back to haunt you. 

The inflation rates of IT debt are currently unknown,  but it is well known that when you pay your first instalment you’ll wish you did it right the first time.

Where you have a skills crunch and don’t have the resources to do more than keep the lights on, a managed services specialist like Breakpoint can help you achieve enhanced functionality through rearchitecting, cloud migration, and data compression and deduplication. Where the business has financial constraints, we can also help balance the trade-offs and help architect a cloud environment that meets the business’s strategic needs – within budget.