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Media server replacements: penny wise, pound foolish?

Created: 07 Jan 2013 • Updated: 22 Jan 2013 • 2 comments
Phil Wandrei's picture
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Pushing the Life Expectancy of Media Servers; Saving or Costing you Money? 

Are you “penny wise, pound foolish” with your servers? This expression came to mind from a recent IDC report1, Server Refresh Cycles:  The Costs of Extending Life Cycles1. The article stresses that “extending the life of servers too long can lead to an increase in operational expenses that could pay for investments in new technology.” In other words, spend the money to invest in a new server, and it will pay for itself from the increased operational costs that you avoid keeping your current servers up and running.  While the report addresses x86 servers, I thought it was very relevant to backup media servers and Symantec Backup Appliances. It highlights the benefits of the timely refresh of servers and costs of delay. Let’s examine how this applies to backup media servers and how Symantec Backup Appliances can provide additional OpEx and CapEx benefits. 

Timely Refresh of Servers

The IDC report highlights many organizations are pushing their servers beyond their useful life. Companies are keeping servers up to five (5) years, or longer, to match a typical depreciation schedule. While this may save CapEx dollars by deferring the server replacement purchase, it comes at the expense of greater OpEx costs:

  • Increased failure rates; IDC reports “extending  server replacement from three years to five years increases the failure rate by 85%”.
  • Incompatibilities between software and hardware requiring frequent patching.
  • Greater IT staff labor costs, typically the cost doubles when server hardware replacement is extended from three to five years.

It is for these reasons that organizations should consider replacing their media servers at the end of its useful life, rather than its depreciated life. The OpEx benefits can be significant and even CapEx savings are realized through the new server warranty versus on-going maintenance expenses.     

Over time, it becomes increasing difficult to manage the compatibility factors of a media server based on its core components; server, storage, OS, and backup software. For a server, it is often in the third year that the gap between the hardware and software compatibility begins to widen. To manage this gap and limit its impact on the backup environment, the Backup Administrator must manage a compatibility matrix and perform frequent patches to maintain the status quo and not allow performance degradation. Take away:  replace your media servers based on their useful life, not a depreciation schedule. 

A New Backup Media Server versus an Appliance?

When it is time to replace your media server, a Symantec Backup Appliance can provide even greater benefits over a build your own media server

  • Integrated software and hardware:  Symantec Backup Appliances are fully integrated and include the processing, storage, OS, backup software, and network connectivity. It reduces compatibility issues and the complexity of supporting each of these components individually. A single patch upgrades the entire appliance!
  • Optimized hardware and software for performance. Symantec Backup Appliances are performance optimized for backup environments, and are ready right out of the box.  This provides OpEx savings as Backup Administrators no longer have to configure, tweak, reconfigure, and do more tweaking to optimize their media server performance both at the time of the initial installation and over time. 
  • Provides investment protection through a longer useful life. Symantec Backup Appliances, as a fully integrated appliance, have a longer useful life over a build your own media server.  No longer is there a hardware and software compatibility gap that increases over time. Rather, the Symantec Backup Appliance remains in a consistent, optimized performance state through its useful life. 

It is important to understand the useful life of your servers, especially backup media servers. As IDC stresses, while it may be tempting to push servers beyond their useful life to match their depreciation cycle, there are increased risks and costs associated with it. When it is time to replace your media server(s), Symantec Backup Appliances can provide even greater financial benefits over a build your own media server.

 

Footnote

 

  1.  IDC Analyst Connection, Server Refresh Cycles:  The Costs of Extending Life Cycles, August 2012, by Randy Perry, Vice President Business Value Strategy, IDC #1356.    

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Andrew Wiggin's picture

I wonder if in a small environment (1-5 physical servers), where setup is not automated and things like SCCM are impractical, if the payoff for new server hardware still holds true - regarding all servers, not just media servers. Do other people think that enterprise strategies have too much influence on small/midsize IT practices? Or, do have people found that the best way to grow into a large business is to act like one (with respect to IT)?

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Phil Wandrei's picture

I do not think the issue of organizations keeping servers beyond their useful life is specifc to the size of the organization; enterprise, midsize or SMB. Rather it depends on how the organization views and values their staff's time. In other words, OpEx versus CapEx. 

If the company recognizes their staff's time as an operating expense, they will put a value on the time required to keep the servers running past their useful life. At some point, the staff time is greater than the cost of the new server as IDC highlights, and the replacement server is purchased. 

If the company does not recognize the staff's time as an OpEx, the cost of the new server is greater and the company will defer its purchase as long as possible. Typically having to replace the server when the maintenance costs are too great (maintenace is more than the depreciation on a new server), or compatibility issues force its retirement.    

Would like to hear from others on how their company determines when to replace servers.  

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