Archive for 2017

  • Why an OEM maintenance contract isn’t always the best option

    Posted on: November 20th, 2017 by Joel Nimar

    OEM maintenance contracts may lose their initial appeal rather quickly, leaving companies to pick up the tab on expensive hardware repairs.

    Sometimes going straight to the source isn't the best way to address a problem. While common sense may indicate that manufacturers are best equipped to deal with issues with their own equipment, that isn't always the case. This is especially true when working with expensive and complex data center hardware. Original equipment manufacturers can make hefty promises regarding hardware upkeep and repair, but if you dig a little deeper into your OEM maintenance contracts, you will likely come across more than a few red flags.

    Maintenance costs add up quickly

    Ongoing maintenance expenses can eat up a big chunk of an organization's IT budget. In fact, ZDNet's analysis of a recent Computer Economics survey revealed that operational budgets have steadily increased while other IT expenditures like hiring new employees have tapered off. Two-thirds of respondents reported that they would be ramping up their operational spending in 2018 to keep pace with their needs. Even with that increase, more than half of the study's participants felt that their 2018 operational budgets were insufficient to support business demands.

    How much does it cost to just keep the lights on? According to Forrester, as much as three-quarters of a company's IT budget may be devoted to maintaining baseline operational performance. That leaves very little room for more innovative and strategic IT projects. It can be very easy for organizations to become buried in operational expenditures, putting out fires and struggling to keep business going.

    "OEMs are notorious for ramping up maintenance costs."

    OEM savings may be misleading

    With so much money tied up in data center hardware, businesses often look to their OEMs to handle maintenance needs and keep their equipment running smoothly. Many are enticed by the seemingly low cost of entry offered by OEMs, with initial manufacturer warranties and competitive pricing. However, it's important to read the fine print in any maintenance contract and fully understand how those costs and service levels may fluctuate down the road.

    OEMs are notorious for ramping up maintenance costs from year to year. As Data Center Journal contributor Kayla Matthews explained, OEMs have a vested interest in rolling out new iterations of their products on a regular basis to address potential security issues and protect their brand's reputation. That sounds perfectly fine on paper, but in action, it means customers are pushed to adopt the latest updates and the increased costs that go with them. That early low price point can become a thing of the past very quickly.

    Those expenses may be even more eye-popping if the upgraded equipment is incompatible with some existing components, requiring further investments in an organization's IT infrastructure.

    Vanishing Act: When OEM support goes up in smoke

    Another issue to be aware of is how OEMs handle end-of-life equipment, especially in terms of support. In most cases, manufacturers are unlikely to continue supporting hardware that has been phased out of production. From a business standpoint, it's completely practical – why spend resources maintaining outdated equipment when your organization is focused on the next generation of hardware?

    Companies that aren't quite ready to move away from their existing network or data center setup may be caught in a bind, however. They may not have the budget to invest in new equipment, but the alternative is relying on a technological foundation that lacks any kind of safety net. If something breaks down and needs repair, your OEM won't be there to help. Fixing IT equipment on your own will be an expensive proposition, and many organizations simply won't have the budget to cover such unexpected costs.

    vanishing-act

    OEM support can vanish without warning.

    Third party vendors offer maintenance relief

    Instead of relying solely on OEMs for hardware upkeep and repair needs, consider working with a third-party maintenance partner. TPMs are more likely to offer support for equipment that has reached end of life, allowing companies to continue using their legacy hardware until the time is right to make an upgrade. Businesses can get more bang for their buck with their available IT budget because they're not on the hook for any repairs and they don't need to invest in shiny new equipment because an OEM dropped support for their legacy infrastructure.

    Another key benefit to working with a TPM is you get one point of contact for all of your maintenance needs. Organizations that rely solely on their OEMs for support have to wrestle with different maintenance contracts from various brands and products across a large swath of facilities. Managing all of those contracts can be an immensely time-consuming process. Working with a TPM simplifies contract oversight and makes it far easier to determine coverage and make repairs when necessary.

    At the end of the day, TPMs provide a headache-free way to manage your maintenance contracts and ensure business-critical machinery continues functioning with optimal uptime.

  • PTSInet, our Cisco Smarnet Compatible Solution Raises the Bar

    Posted on: July 29th, 2017 by Joel Nimar

    PTSInet, Our hybrid cisco Smartnet™ and Smartnet compatible solution is getting better and better than ever. Pyramid Technology Services is pleased to announce, PTSInet Plus. With new features and benefits to totally support our customers and their mission critical networks. Our US based, Technical Assistance Center (TAC) is available for consulting services in addition to our Break/Fix, Advanced Replacement Parts and IOS updates to resolve hardware problems.

    Below are a few of the expanded offerings included in our PTSInet Plus:

    1. Assist with product use, configurations, adding or removing systems to the network and troubleshooting issues between all network devices.
    2. Manage problems according to the Cisco Severity and Escalation Guideline.
    3. Work-around solutions or patches to reported Software problems using reasonable commercial efforts.
    4. Network monitoring for an additional fee. Fault notifications.

    ‚ÄčExisting customers will automatically be provided this enhanced service at no additional charge.

    PTSInet service is also available to our Juniper, Enterasys, Brocade and HP Procurve customers.

    Call or email us for details. (978) 823-0700 or sales@pyramidcomputer.com

  • 3 Essential Features of a Legacy System Support Package

    Posted on: May 16th, 2017 by Joel Nimar

    More often than not, you don't have to decommission your legacy systems, but supporting that technology after senior IT personnel leave your organization can be challenging. When do your senior system administrators plan to retire? How much time will it take to train junior sysadmins how to work with your legacy environment?

    Depending on the answers you come up with, it may be more feasible to outsource legacy system support to a third party. Some third parties offer comprehensive legacy system support packages that consist of three services:

    1. Hardware Maintenance

    Ensure the third-party maintenance provider you choose maintains a well-stocked inventory of refurbished legacy system components and servers. If your infrastructure consists of particularly old equipment, such as Sun SPARC servers or HP AlphaServer Systems, the chances you'll experience an equipment issue are significantly greater than if you were running on modern equipment.

     

    Also, ask legacy system support providers how quickly they would be able to replace failed machines. Inquire as to how they diagnose system hardware for impending problems. How often do they run hardware performance tests? After identifying a problem, what sort of corrective actions do they take?

     

    Ensure the provider you select takes a preventative maintenance approach. According to a study from Jones Lang LaSalle, preventative maintenance can produce returns on investment of 545 percent.

    2. System Administration

    Chances are your junior sysadmins are familiar with Windows Server, but only a few may have experience with VMS, SunOS, or some of the older operating systems.

     

    System administration is a 24‚Äč/7 job. Your legacy system support package must include continuous monitoring and preventative maintenance services in addition to conventional system management responsibilities. OS update assistance, troubleshooting, patch management and other staples of the practice should be included.

     

    While some may consider disaster recovery and business continuity to be a discipline in and of itself, your legacy system support provider should include DR/BC as a part of its system administration package. The provider must demonstrate expertise in disk-based backup, recovery from multiple restore points, setting up 15-minute data snapshots and employing 256-bit AES encryption.

     

    In addition, seek providers who can deliver support for multiple OSes and applications. This capability demonstrates their ability to solve problems associated with various technologies.

    3. Software Support

    What sort of applications does your legacy system support? Are they custom solutions written in C or C++? What sort of hardware and networking resources do those applications require to perform optimally? Have end-users reported any issues with application performance? If so, could you please describe those issues?

     

    These are the types of questions your legacy system support provider should ask. Assess the provider's ability to:

     

    • Extend the life of legacy production applications.
    • Proactively assess issues to prevent downtime.
    • Stabilize archive systems.
    • Eliminate excessive application resource consumption.

     

    At the end of the day, you want to work with a legacy system support provider that operates like a partner. That entails speaking with your senior leadership on a regular basis to identify how legacy systems enable your business to reach its objectives. Providers that demonstrate this level of commitment can deliver quite a bit of value over the course of your relationship.

  • Why you don’t always have to decommission your legacy systems

    Posted on: April 26th, 2017 by Joel Nimar

    Most tech bloggers would argue that you should have decommissioned your legacy systems yesterday. In some cases, they may be right, but not always. 

    It's rare to hear arguments for maintaining your legacy applications, and when you do, they're typically "debunked" by nothing more than strong convictions – like the belief that migration is worth the cost. 

    Yet, there's a case to be made for the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Why should you stick with your legacy systems, at least for the foreseeable future? 

    OEM support isn't everything 

    One of the reasons why you may consider migrating your legacy applications from SUNSPARC-, HP 3000- or Alpha-based environments is that the OEM is ending hardware support. To be fair, that's understandable. The problem is, in situations such as these, you typically have to upgrade your servers, networking and storage assets if you want to stick with the OEM. 

    If you ever find yourself in such a situation, consider working with a third-party maintenance provider specializing in legacy equipment. Some of these organizations can actually save you between 30 and 50 percent in equipment and software maintenance costs, but how?

    Some third-parties not only provide annual maintenance agreements, but also undertake all system administration responsibilities associated with the legacy equipment, such as:

    • Managing environments based on OpenVMS, Solaris, HP UX, and other legacy OSes.
    • Performance tuning.
    • Continuously monitoring system performance and security.
    • Remediating issues remotely or on site.
    • Automating scripts to maintain asset health.
    • Scheduling comprehensive, automated reports of your environment.

    So when you partner with a third-party legacy solutions partner, you receive more than just basic break-fix services and call support: You augment your in-house capabilities.

    Argument to be made for maintaining legacy systems.
    There's an argument to be made for maintaining legacy systems.

    IT can still innovate over legacy systems 

    According to a survey from Avanade, the typical IT department spends 36 percent of its time managing and monitoring legacy systems. Survey respondents claimed such responsibility was preventing them from focusing on innovation. 

    This is one of the reasons why you should consider outsourcing your legacy system maintenance to a third-party that has the resources and expertise to do so. 

    With this in mind, decommissioning legacy systems isn't necessarily a prerequisite to enabling IT to innovation. For example, if a third-party undertakes all administrative responsibilities associated with your legacy environment, your in-house staff can allocate time to experiment with cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Azure or Google Cloud Platform.

    Maybe you want to see how an automation technology impacts your IT overhead or test how a cloud-based customer relationship management application impacts the sales team's day-to-day. Your network admins, developers and other staff members probably don't have the time to invest in such activities if they're trying to fix a bug in Solaris or diagnose a hardware problem on an Alpha server. Let someone else handle that.

    Migrating legacy apps isn't a picnic 

    If you're thinking of moving your Solaris-based legacy app to a contemporary environment, prepare for the possibility that the project may go over budget and exceed the established timeline. You'll probably have to rewrite much of the software's code. 

    Unless you're using a hardware virtualization platform or working with a third-party legacy migration specialist, there's a chance the project's costs may set you back down the line. Sure, you may get the application to the new environment, but after the fact, IT may have to table innovative practices for the sake of adhering to next year's budget. 

    In an ideal world, utilizing the latest and greatest technologies doesn't come with any headaches. In practical terms, however, getting to this point isn't easy. If your legacy systems allow you to operate competitively, there's no reason to run away from them. 

    Pyramid Technology Services has 25 years of experience providing cost-effective, innovative solutions for your IT systems, with a special focus on legacy equipment. We provide hardware maintenance, spare parts, and new and refurbished systems for the purpose of extending the life of your technology. You can reach us at sales@pyramidcomputer.com or (978) 823-0700.

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  • How legacy systems can enable IT to focus on innovation

    Posted on: March 1st, 2017 by Joel Nimar

    When regarded as a profit center, IT receives the human capital, time and financial support required to focus on innovation. Supporting legacy servers is necessary for sustaining business operations, but it doesn't allow CTOs to find ways to improve how their companies function.

    How can your IT department institute legacy system management practices that establish itself as a profit center?

    Find a legacy system support partner

    There are organizations specializing in legacy system maintenance, support and repair. These companies maintain inventories of HP Alpha, SUNSPARC, VAX and other legacy equipment, enabling them to provide spare parts and refurbish on-premises equipment as needed.

    When assessing legacy system support partners, ensure they can do more than replace compatible RAM and other components. Look for businesses that not only service on-premises systems but also:

    • Support multi-vendor environments.
    • Configure replacement servers to mirror your original environment's functions.
    • Develop strategies designed to extend the end-of-life of your equipment.

    Ultimately, a strong legacy system support partner replaces service from original equipment manufacturers. That way, you won't be forced into upgrading your hardware every four years or so. Most importantly, such partners free up the time and resources in-house IT needs to innovate and experiment with business-changing applications.

    legacy systems become a cost center
    Let your legacy systems become a cost center.

    Legacy systems reinforce the 'cost center' issue

    Despite the fact that IT can enable organizations to develop and launch new services, products and solutions, most executives view such departments as cost centers.

    According to CIO.com's 13th annual "State of the CIO" survey, approximately half of the 722 CIOs and IT leaders who participated in the study said their colleagues regard IT as "cost centers or service providers." There are three ways ways mismanaged legacy systems exacerbate this issue:

    • The business may rely on IT veterans familiar with maintaining applications running on SUNSPARC, HP 3000, HP Alpha or other legacy server environments. With regard to succession planning, the supply of young sysadmins familiar with such systems is limited. Therefore, talent possessing the requisite knowledge may be reaching retirement age, meaning the company will keep churning personnel.
    • Fiscally, maintaining legacy systems can be a burden. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that federal IT leaders planned on spending 76 percent of their 2015 budgets on upkeeping and running legacy systems. This situation is relatively common in the private sector as well, meaning IT departments lack the financial support to fund innovative efforts.
    • As business needs arise, developers make changes to legacy system codes. Decades-old applications contain thousands of adjustments that were either poorly documented or never recorded at all. In addition, the developers who applied such changes may no longer be with the company.

    Given the persistence of these issues, IT has the incentive to port legacy applications running on anachronistic hardware to modern infrastructures, but such endeavors often run over budget and fail to meet timelines. What's the cost-effective alternative?

    How to cost effectively port legacy systems 

    For the sake of argument, let's assume you're running an application on legacy SUNSPARC servers. The system itself is about 20 years old. Over the years, developers, many of whom have since left your business, implemented changes to the application.

    As spare parts for SPARC hardware become scarce and support for SunOS is difficult to come by, you need to consider porting the application to an environment running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. To achieve this goal using conventional methods, you would have to hire a team of developers capable of converting the application so it can run on RHEL. Projects such as these are known for exceeding timelines and going over budget.

    The alternative, unconventional option is to use a cross-platform hardware virtualization solution that emulates the SPARC environment. With this approach, an engineer would conduct an assessment of your application's infrastructure dependencies, and configure the platform to mirror the current infrastructure.

    Cross-platform hardware virtualization solutions run on standard 64-bit x86 computer systems while retaining SPARC-based code, from SunOS to the products associated with the operating system. Although the platform engineer, with assistance from your team, will have to make some minor adjustments to the OS, layered products and possibly the application, the changes won't be nearly as large as they would be in a traditional conversion approach.

    How does the emulator run on the x86 architecture? The platform uses a separate RPM installer to run over a standard Linux distro. In this case, the RPM installer would enable the cross-platform hardware virtualization solution to run on RHEL.

    Utilizing system emulators can run as low as $18,999, depending on the composition of your legacy architecture. These costs are minimal compared to application conversion endeavors, which can run into the millions. In addition, its emulators are proven technologies that eliminate much of the risk associated with code upgrades.

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  • On-premises or Cloud: Which is better for your company?

    Posted on: January 24th, 2017 by Joel Nimar

    cloud on Premises

    According to Microsoft, 86% of Small and medium businesses have some applications on a cloud service.  There are, in fact, a lot of good reasons to make the move. There are also cases where on-premises deployment is the best choice. How do you decide?

    Software requirements are a basic consideration. Does the cloud service's software meet your needs? Software as a Service (SaaS) is excellent when the right applications are available, but some businesses need more customization. You can look to the cloud to deploy specialized software, but you need to use Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) or Platform as a Service (PaaS).  If customization and close control are important, it may make more sense to use your own servers.  Are you subject to government regulations on how you handle your data? Is you are subject to HIPPAA, SEC Rule 17, SOC or other regulations make sure your Cloud service provider is compliant.

     Costs are always a consideration but should not be the only one. With a cloud service, you get a choice of a fixed monthly bill on a dedicated server or you can pay as you go and only get charged for the resources you use. Think of your electric utility. You can use electricity only in the rooms you are in and reduce your cost by turning off other lights. Installing on-permises software will have a higher up-front cost, but you can save money in the long run. If the number of employees using it increases, you may have to upgrade your license or increase server capacity.

    There are three basic cost models:

    • Pay as you go. You pay for the resources you use.
    • The hybrid model. You pay a monthly fee and get a certain amount of resources.
    • The dedicated or private model, where you pay for the exclusive use of a server.

    With the pay-as-you-go model, costs can be less predictable. With a hybrid or private service, you may end up paying for resources you don't use, but you know what you're spending.

    For small and medium businesses, cloud services may give the better economy of scale. Large enterprises can run data centers that match or even exceed a cloud service's efficiency.

    Security  can give the advantage to cloud or to on-premises, depending on the situation. Keeping data on an on-premises server, behind a strong firewall, can provide strong security. On the other hand, cloud providers' reputations depend on providing secure services, and they have become experts at it. Their buildings are physically more secure than the typical small office, they have around-the-clock monitoring, and they keep strong protections against malware and break-ins. Security is difficult, and putting it in the hands of experts has a lot going for it.

    A private cloud service, where you don't share resources with other users, is beneficial. The risks from a shared server are minimal, but a private cloud provides that extra level of security.

    Reliability is a key decision point when evaluating IT solutions. The cost of downtime to an organization goes beyond dollars and cents. It effects all parts of the organization and provides outside customers a negative view of the company when they cannot access there website, email etc. This is an area where cloud services win. They use multiple servers, datacenters and multiple data transmission carriers . The machines are subject to 24-hour monitoring. If anything goes wrong, staff members are there to fix it quickly. Only the largest enterprises can build data centers to match cloud uptime.

    Flexibility also counts in favor of cloud software services. They're accessible through any modern browser and from any location. Employees can work from remote locations and use mobile devices. On-premises software may be restricted to specific hardware or operating systems, and remote access requires coming through a VPN.

    In the end, you aren't evaluating "the cloud" against "on-premises", you're measuring a particular cloud service against the on-premises service that your business can maintain. Anyone can call a remote computing service a cloud service, but you have to look at its reputation, capacity, and level of service. A top-quality cloud service is the right choice for many businesses, but each case comes down to its own particulars. Large businesses or ones with specialized needs may find the on-premises approach works better.

    Partnership is the most important factor of all. Who you partner with and bring in to help make your computing upgrade (premises or cloud) maybe the most important factor of all. You need to choose a partner who takes the time to understand the unique needs of your business and has a breadth or product and services solutions to successfully help you make the transition you are looking to accomplish.


    Written by Joel Nimar of Pyramid Technology Services. A successful IT services and hardare provider for over 25 years. For thoughts, comments or assistance he can be reached at Sales@pyramidcomputer.com

  • Is It Time for a Network Upgrade?

    Posted on: January 21st, 2017 by Joel Nimar

    Network Upgrade

    By the year 2019, Cisco VNI predicts that there will be 11.5 billion devices worldwide. What does this mean? Well, it means:
     

    • We will be utilizing more than triple the bandwidth we had available a few years ago.
    • Statistically, each individual will have at least 1.5 devices in their ownership.

    Given that 2019 is less than two years away, what has your company thought of in regards to its network growth and/or future? Has your company thought of professional aspects such as:

    • Adding applications to its existing network?
    • Moving applications to the cloud?
    • Creating new mobile applications?
    • Utilizing video conferencing?
    • Utilizing cloud-based surveillance?
    • What does the forecast of the "Internet of Things" (IOT) look like at your company?
    • If your company is utilizing the tools listed above, are they putting an additional strain on your possibly slow network?

    If your company is on the receiving end of poor performance, power outages, or network reliability problems, your business is need of a network upgrade.  This can be especially true if your business is operating with older or ineffective technology.

    Experts agree that your business needs to plan a 50% increase (over its current bandwidth needs) to survive in the online market of the future. In addition to this, adding a network upgrade to larger projects (such as adding new mobile applications, moving to a cloud, or adding a VOIP system) is necessary for operation – without performance hiccups. Given that small additions to your company networks (such as wireless switches, edge switches, or core switches) every three years only keep businesses on the top of their game, a small step can put your business years ahead of the competition.

    So if you're looking to improve your worker productivity, work with better security, and offer faster bandwidth for your business/customers, a new network device is the answer. In addition to the previously listed perks, newer units offer better tools that prevent intrusions/hackers and require less hands on attention. The days of avoiding new, specific business applications out of the fear of crashing your network are over with a new network device.

    Thankfully, Pyramid Technology Services is here to refresh your network, review your security/performance, and make the impartial recommendations that your network requires for security, productivity, and speed. Contact us today (978) 823-0700 so you can stay on track in the future.