Why & Why Not Upgrade Your Industrial Computer Hardware
by Michael Bowling, on Jan 2, 2018 2:11:54 PM
First, congratulations on being able to sustain your application for so many years! Not many programs are able to successfully stay in production this long. Still, periodically it makes sense to review your industrial computer hardware to ensure that it will continue running for many years to come. How do you know when it’s time to prepare for the next generation hardware?
Let me help you by giving you 5 reasons why you should upgrade your industrial computer hardware. Plus, I want to give you one reason why you may NOT want to upgrade!
End of the product lifecycle - Your previous computer hardware supplier simply says that the end of life is coming, and you better hurry up and order while you still can. In fact, the average computer typically has less than a three-year lifespan…and many suppliers typically provide a 1-2 years lifespan. This is probably the number one reason why customers come to Trenton Systems with new hardware requirements in old applications. Trenton Systems' standard lifecycle is 7 years, but we typically go much longer. In fact, in the 28 years we’ve been in business our processor boards average an 11-year lifecycle!
Degraded performance over time - If you server hardware has been sufficient this long then you probably did a great job ensuring many years ago that you would have enough “head room” (CPU, RAM, etc) to last. Still, your hardware performance does continue to erode over time. IDC estimates this erosion is approximately 14% annually which can quickly add up. Similarly, your customer or your software team requires more of the hardware over time…not less. This means the demands on your hardware are likely growing which results in your application running slower and slower over time.
Increasing maintenance costs - We typically know the hardware that is most likely to fail over time. The worst offenders are anything with moving mechanical parts like fans, hard drives, DVD-ROMs, etc. For example, as the fans that cool your CPUs degrade, then heat in your system will continually worsen which also shortens the MTBF (mean time between failure). These repair costs eventually add up until you reach a point where it’s more expensive to maintain your old hardware than it would be to replace it.
Small gradual revision changes definitely add up - Most computer hardware manufacturers don’t talk much about revision control. That is because they want the flexibility of making changes along the way. These changes are typically done behind the scenes because they can shave costs that seldom get passed to you. Still, the result is that over the years a series of small changes to the industrial computer's hardware add up and may result in inconsistent performance in your specific application. After all, you spent a lot of time and energy testing and approving a very specific hardware configuration and somebody (sometimes an accountant or purchasing agent) makes changes without your knowledge.
Improved security and system management - There have been some significant improvements in security (e.g. TPM 2.0, secure boot, etc) and system management (IPMI, remote KVM, fan speed control, etc). Ensuring that your application has the proper security measures has never been more important and that is a curve you definitely want to stay ahead of. If you have any questions on security or system management please feel free to call one of Trenton's technical application engineers.
Your computer hardware provider will likely push you to upgrade because warranty is about to expire. Trenton Systems has a standard 5 year warranty, but we actually provide support beyond the first 5 years. Feel free to call our tech support group here in Lawrenceville, Georgia no matter how many years your hardware has been in the field. Unless you are worried about increased maintenance costs (check out Trenton Systems' modular blade servers for the best MTTR in the industry) don’t be pressured by your computer hardware supplier to replace perfectly good equipment because some piece of paper with a warranty written on it says otherwise.