13 Nov What About Software?
Another critical issue is the availability of software, OS, patches, updates, firmware, and microcode. TPMs cannot provide these updates, only the OEM can license the code. But you should check with your OEMs licensing agreement as they do vary. If a TPM states they have an exclusive agreement with the OEM and can provide patches/updates, ask to see an agreement from the OEM stating this. The OEM is not in the business of giving special treatment to one TPM and taking sales away from themselves.
For software, updates, etc., you need to find the sweet spot when TPM fits best to provide adequate support with minimized risk. Gartner recommends
a blended environment. Such an approach would look something like this:
For the first three years of a device’s lifecycle, utilize the OEM for maintenance. The first three years is the time the majority of anything software related will be updated. This is when active development is ongoing.
After the third year, the OEM will most likely release new hardware and shifts software, firmware, microcode, etc. development to the new hardware. Then shift those devices to TPM. While the devices are still under OEM maintenance/warranty, consult with your TPM, determine a safe harbor, then download the safest current version of any software or firmware and then freeze the code going forward.
For most organizations, a safe, smart approach is to save a substantial amount of money on maintenance spending and redistribute the savings within the enterprise.
Chapter Eight: The IT Maintenance Ecosystem
What may not be apparent is that the network of field engineering platforms, supply chain parts logistics, backline engineers, contractors and outsourcing, etc. utilized by OEMs and TPMs alike have formed an ecosystem that is behind the scenes in your IT maintenance contracts. Of course, those of us on the inside of these deals have long known about all these relationships, but customers and onlookers may not be aware or understand what is going on with IT maintenance agreements.
This whole subject was brought to my attention around 2012 while working with one of our partners on a huge opportunity. The customer asked whether the partner provides support utilizing their own employees 100%, or do they contract to outsource components of their overall service delivery? Our partner responded honestly that they use a combination of employees, vendors, and contractors. The prospect’s response was “that’s okay.” They further stated, they actually view maintenance and support as a giant ecosystem where all the players are pulling from the same resources, like a giant IT maintenance pool. That’s when I started thinking of it in those terms, drilling deeper into understanding this truth, and explaining it to customers and partners in the same fashion.
This whole ecosystem works to your advantage as a user because many of us share resources or personnel that become proven experts or preferred providers. We know how to put together the right team, effectively utilizing the ecosystem that ultimately delivers quality maintenance and support at a great price point customers enjoy. Maximizing the ecosystem is a crucial competitive advantage as the industry has more and more downward pressure on price.
The interesting point is that the OEMs fully participate in this ecosystem. Digging deep, one could see that OEM maintenance and support utilizes some resources internal to the OEM and some with partners, outsourced contractors, etc.
For example, Dell/EMC dispatches Unisys field engineers (FEs). NetApp uses the company TSP for FEs. Cisco outsources parts of TAC and all FEs. HPE recently cut their FE staff, replacing them with outsourced FEs from Unisys. In 2018, Hewlett Packard Enterprise made the decision to outsource their FEs to Unisys and better utilize the ecosystem for their field engineering. This approach allows them to be more nimble and scale to the needs of the business instead of hiring on more and more W2 employees. This is just one example of how TPM and OEM IT Maintenance are part of a giant ecosystem allowing everyone to utilize the same resources.
The bottom line is everyone uses the ecosystem and pulls resources from the same pool. All OEMs and TPMs use a combination of W2 employees, 1099 employee/contractor, outsourcing, partners, field engineering platforms, supply chain, parts, logistics platforms, and backline support.
The key is how does the TPM provider utilize the various parts and pieces while delivering great support at a winning price point in a market space that is moving toward commoditization. Indeed, this becomes the art of putting together the right components to service you as an IT maintenance and support customer.