The topic of hardware replacement, trade-in, and upgrade options is rife with opinions, bad habits, and rules of thumb. It gets even more complicated when you consider how your choices are affected by your vendor's randomly changing end-of-life policies…
One thing's for certain - don’t let your hardware vendor answer the question for you!
So why am I asking this question?
Because recently a very happy customer asked us:
“Why on earth haven't we asked him to do a hardware refresh for 17 years!?”
Which sparked a lot of further conversations with the sales, support, and operations teams (some of the newer sales team members were just as puzzled).
But before I continue that story, and how it turned out...let’s ask some basic questions.
Why would you WANT a hardware refresh?
I’m talking specifically about a refresh here and not an upgrade i.e. replacing hardware with identical but newer hardware. I can think of a few possible reasons:
- You’re worried about hardware failure and managing potential downtime risk.
- You’ve just suffered a hardware failure, and it seems logical to renew both units (just in case).
- There is some concern about sourcing parts, or extending the warranty period.
- Because other people seem to do this at 5 years?
- Your vendor is forcing you to do it! Ouch!
Point 5 is shockingly common with many hardware appliance vendors like F5. And they do it purely to make more money out of their customer base. I think that's also why point 4 is sometimes seen as ‘best practice’ (best practice for whom I wonder...?).
Points 1 and 2 are about reliability, maintainability, and high availability. While critical, these things are already mitigated against as hardware load balancers are always deployed in pairs, and they are deliberately designed to be extremely reliable (load balancers still work even if the storage device fails etc.).
Point 3 is definitely valid and starts to become a factor at around 7 years (rest assured we will let you know if we really think it's an issue for you).
Loadbalancer.org never forces you to do a hardware refresh…
In fact, we try to never force you to do anything. We give advice and recommendations based on what we are both trying to achieve — zero downtime for you and your customers.
In fact, we don’t unnecessarily end-of-life any of our hardware or software...
We go to great lengths to support old hardware and software for as long as possible - because we find that's what our customers prefer. It costs us a fair bit of time and effort, but we think it’s worth the pain because we think that choosing a load balancer with no end-of-life (EOL) is very important.
What about a hardware upgrade though?
We are all painfully aware of how fast customers' performance demands grow, and sometimes you definitely need a hardware upgrade. However, load balancers are relatively simple devices, and even our lowest entry model the Enterprise 1G can handle 15 million connections!
I can think of two valid reasons for hardware upgrades:
- You need more bandwidth i.e. upgrade from 4Gbps -> 18 Gbps -> 48Gbps
- You need more SSL termination power (although I seriously doubt it)
That's why we let you upgrade network cards whenever you want!
Yes, you heard that right — 0ur flexibility is legendary (and something you won't find offered by other vendors). Not only do we have a 90-day money-back guarantee. But even if you've had the load balancer for a few years, we can replace the network card at cost price, or you can even buy your own — without affecting your warranty. You can read more about why we often recommend 25G in our blog: "Expecting growth? Get a load balancer that will always meet expectations".
Hang on, but what if I do want a hardware upgrade? Can I get a discount?
Yes, of course you can! And our sales team would love to give you a quote.
But, that's where we come back to our customer with the 17 year upgrade question…
After a long chat about our policies (but more importantly what the customer was planning for the future) we came to the conclusion that although he probably needed to upgrade to 25Gbps networking at some point in the next year or so — he didn't want to do the upgrade until much later because he was tied up with more important things.
He was therefore interested in just renewing support for a short time, and then maybe upgrading later. But he would prefer to renew the support for a longer term, to lock in the price, for example. In fact, could he guarantee the price of the hardware upgrade now as well? And could the hardware be delivered at a flexible time in the future?
And that's when someone said...why doesn't he just move to a hardware subscription? Doh! Why didn’t we think of that earlier?
We’ve had a flexible hardware subscription model for our enterprise partners for some time now, and we’ve recently expanded it to all of our customers. It’s shockingly simple and works just like the software subscriptions we are all used to.
We have lots of hardware subscription options, but let’s look at a simple example:
- Fixed $470 monthly per unit hardware rental for 5 years.
- 24/7 Technical Support and software license included.
- Hardware upgrades/downgrades can be performed at ANY TIME in the first 2 years.
- Full on-site Dell warranty included
- Contract can be terminated, upgraded or downgraded at cost.
- Software license can be transferred to virtual or cloud at any time with our freedom license
- Reverting to the perpetual license and support model is explicitly allowed if you change your mind!
1 x Enterprise 10G: $9,995
5 years standard 24/7 technical support: $13,200
1 x Enterprise 10G subscription @ $470 per month.
Including on-site warranty, software maintenance, and 24/7 support.
This second option is the one the customer has gone for, and they are very happy. They're still on the old hardware after 17 years, but they are planning the upgrade for July :-).
Have you got a vendor-forced upgrade or end-of-life story? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.