The End (of Support) is (Always) Near!

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I recently had a great meeting with a client to discuss their potential upgrade paths to migrate from their current solution to the next generation of a product. The client planned to then deploy the old solution into their disaster recovery site. While discussing the benefits of upgrading the solution I explained to the customer that one of the primary benefits would be a fresh start on the support lifecycle.

The client was intrigued. After a certain date in the near future would the manufacturer no longer support the old solution?

Yes, and no.

The manufacturer is still going to provide technical support for the product in the form of a helpdesk to answer customer questions and to offer assistance with configuration changes. The customer could also expect support in the form of hardware replacement for failed hardware for a much longer period of time than the software would be supported for.

Unfortunately the manufacturer will not commit to new software releases or bug fixes for the product after the end of support date for the software. The manufacturer might release emergency patches for critical situations, but such a release would be solely at the manufacturer’s discretion. This is a considerable risk for my client if the product was going to migrated into the disaster recovery solution.

Some members of the IT community will scoff at this practice, and may even suggest a conspiracy theory that the manufacturer is just trying to force customers into unnecessary upgrades. This is the logic of the uninformed. This is the kind of thinking that demonstrates that an IT consumer lives in a bubble that is formed by isolation and emotional knee-jerk reactions. Suggesting that a manufacturer is greedy is a warning sign to me that the client does not understand IT as both a practice and as a business. It also suggests that someone under budgeted for their IT needs, and now needs a scapegoat.

Luckily in this situation my client is not like that!

My client accepted that support would have to end for their current solution. My client had no issue with the support eventually going away. What my client was really asking was “How will this product’s support coming to an end impact my business?”

That is the sign of a true IT professional! My client understood that manufacturers cannot continue to incorporate new technologies into their products and at the same time guarantee that older models would be capable of leveraging those same technologies as they emerged. A 32-bit CPU cannot run a 64-bit operating system. A 1Gb network node cannot be expected to support services that require a 10GbE infrastructure. Manufacturers need to end support on older products, or else their older products’ support requirements will cripple their newer product offerings. Technology only moves forward!

Instead of wasting energy to complain about the product’s support ending my client started thinking of how their infrastructure was going to survive that support ending. My client is putting the business’s needs first, and is not interested in conspiracy theories of planned obsolescence. Which is why I feel that my client is a pleasure to work with! Even better though is that such thinking makes it much more likely that I will continue to work with this client for years to come, because this client is preparing their business’s IT infrastructure for the future and not last year’s budget.

Are you reviewing the support lifecycle for your mission critical IT infrastructure? Are you planning ahead to deal with the end of that support lifecycle? If so, you are an IT professional. If not, you are instead a consumer of IT products. There is nothing wrong with being a consumer of IT products, but you will have a much more rewarding career if you practice being an IT professional instead. Conspiracy theorists need not apply.

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