What happens when your technology goes End of Life?

As a CIO or IT Manager, you may think you have a sensible road map for the replacement of your hardware and software. However, even the best plans can go awry when one of your vendors suddenly decides that one of your products is going End of Life (EOL).

Your strategy has been designed to maximise return on investment for the capital costs you’ve committed, but all that is swept aside when a supplier decides to stop supporting or maintaining a product.

We’ve seen a rash of these decision lately, as mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies have all taken their toll on product life cycles. So what can you do about it?

I’ve seen a lot of senior IT leaders who, when faced with the inevitable business disruption of migrating to a new vendor, decide to pay the increased costs to move to the newest version of the “EOL’d’ technology, taking a ‘better the devil you know’ approach to their IT investment. 

Up until now, there’s been little option – there is too much business risk associated with continuing to use products or software that are out of maintenance or support. However, it’s worth taking a holistic look at the technology in question. How stable is it? What value does it deliver to the business? And will replacing it with a new product be cost effective and deliver on your strategic goals?

Often Vendors claim that the new system will solve all of the ‘issues’ that you’ve experienced with your existing product over the past few years (all whilst paying them to fix the problems!).  My view would be that often, these claims are aspirational – and it’s rare that Version 2.0 products are more reliable than the systems they are replacing (and come with the added complexity of having to use the new products effectively).

The best course of action therefore is to step back, and take a deep breath, and take time to consider your options.

EOL means no more security patches or maintenance. That’s a scary proposition.  Is it possible to maintain the required level of security and operability to the product beyond EOL? Often that can be mitigated by turning to experienced third party support organisations who are familiar with the systems.  

If the product is still working well, and you’ve considered the pros and cons of investing in the recommended upgrade, or moving to a new provider – sweating the value of your original investment may be a worthwhile consideration. This option also buys you the time to make a considered assessment of what the future holds. This could include reviewing the marketplace, keeping your existing product running whilst you look at alternatives. I’d definitely include your existing vendor in that process, but have noticed that the upheaval and disruption involved in moving to a new system is not generally mitigated by staying with your existing provider, so don’t limit yourself to straightforward like for like replacement.

In conclusion, when a product goes EOL, immediate replacement is not always the only option. Often technologies still have considerable life left in them and it’s worth buying yourself some time and taking a step back to consider the options. Keeping your product supported and maintained by third part providers can be a cost effective way of sweating your assets and getting the most value from your investments whilst you re-evaluate your technology strategy.

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