Top 7 Factors that Drive Successful Server Transitions In An OEM Environment

If you are shipping a product based on an industry standard PC platform, such a 1U or 2U rack mount server or an embedded client PC, you will have to deal with transitions on that hardware. What with new CPU, storage, communications technologies, and rapid advancements in power efficiency, density, and expandability, you cannot expect those soon-to-be antiquated computing platforms to be around forever. Technology is advancing at a very rapid pace these days and trying to stick to the old tested gear is risky. The supply chain can experience challenges. Warehousing old gear impacts reliability and could force refreshing stored components, like batteries or moving parts that age poorly when sitting around for too long. Your partner suppliers must move forward at some point.

So what can you do?

If you accept my premise that transitions are unavoidable, then you could work with your developers to write their code to handle transitions more elegantly. Perhaps a virtualized solution is the ticket. Or, maybe building on top of a standard OS using basic generic drivers could help. But ultimately, you need to prepare for the inescapable transitions all hardware platforms experience from time to time.

Here are a few pointers we’ve learned in Dell OEM Solutions from our many customers over that past 12+ years:

  • Plan ahead– Work closely with your partner/supplier to understand the roadmap well in advance and align the necessary resources to start working on the hardware transition before the old platform near EOL.
  • Study the business– Prepare for the EOL of the current platform early and make sure your partner/supplier has as accurate a forecast as possible to ensure you do you experience a short supply situation.
  • Communicate often and clearly with your partner– Reasonably consistent interaction with your partner/supplier will ensure everyone is prepared for what is coming. Even the smallest nuance, like a deal your sales team is working that could require immediate shipping of a large number of units, could be managed appropriately if the partner is aware of the details.
  • Ask for help– If your partner/supplier has services or assistance they can provide to reduce the load on your developers and testers, take advantage of it. The manufacturer of the hardware should know what to expect when the new products ship and they might be able to advise and assist your development team and reduce any surprises.
  • Buy test gear immediately – Once launched, get some sample test gear into the development labs immediately. Ensure that engineering resources are scheduled to start working with the computing platforms when they arrive and schedule regular meetings so the progress and any unexpected issues or risks are exposed early so everyone can start working on resolutions as soon as possible.
  • Embrace improvements– It may be out of the initial scope, but new products often have improvements and features which could improve the solution you sell. Better performance, new storage options, lower power consumption, management features, and even customization choices being introduced might add value to your solutions in the marketplace. Being ahead of your competition is usually a very good thing.
  • Evaluate stronger partnership – Your partner/supplier may have additional services and capabilities which could improve your business model and a transition period is a good time to evaluate what they can do for you. Perhaps the partner can make building and shipping your solution globally easier by doing it for you instead of you old model of exporting to out of nation customers. Perhaps they can provide more efficient, higher quality, and more consistent integration services for you. If you have to make changes to the hardware, consider the assistance your partner can offer. Your own resources might be better used on developing core intellectual property or inventing new technologies.

Ultimately, transitions are only as painful as we make them and lack of planning is often directly responsible for the most difficult transitions. A development model focused on avoiding transitions is going to have a much higher cost of hardware sold as ultra-long-life products are generally costlier and often require substantial warehousing and inventory risk. Working closely with your partner/supplier can dramatically reduce the transition pain.

Dell OEM Solutionsoffers well managed transition assistance through many different avenues. For over a decade customers have taught us which pains can be reduced and which are unavoidable. By putting together a comprehensive program of platform roadmap planning, transition guidance, engineering resources, and end of life scheduling has helped us mature into the OEM partner we are today, a leader in OEM hardware appliances, embedded COTS hardware, and complex industry solutions.

If you are interested in what Dell OEM Solutions can do for you and make your previous transition pain easier, please contact us here.

About the Author: Franklin Flint