Technology Refresh – Obligation or Opportunity?

So, it’s that time again, technology refresh. The obligatory replacement of technology that is moving out of vendor support. As with so many things in life, you have the choice to approach this as a glass half empty or as a glass half full situation. Sure, you can see a technology refresh as an exercise in replacing what often appears to be perfectly good equipment that is ticking along and doing its job with a more current version of the same. But rather than seeing this as a necessary evil, I propose that you consider an alternative view. There are four key factors that can make a technology refresh an opportunity to truly improve your lot rather than just being an obligation.

Defined Business Need

The industry is full of good tools that technical folks could use to their advantage to make their days more interesting and less stressful. In the real world, these tools must address not just the needs of individual technical contributors but, more importantly, the needs of the business. Identifying the business justification for a new solution or technology can be one of the most challenging aspects of the introduction process and many initiatives, both good and bad, die on the vine at this point. With a refresh project, the business need associated with the technology is, and has been for some time, clearly defined and understood by the business. You may need to remind the folks that haven’t been directly involved with the solution about this, but the heavy lifting is essentially complete.

Budget in Place

Great, the business agrees that your project is important and relevant to their success. Unfortunately, you still need money to pay for it. We are all familiar with projects where stakeholders agree that there is value in the offering, but no one is willing to step up and put money on the table. This is often due to the existence of a myriad of other projects that also have stakeholder buy in and the fact that rarely can you fund everything so there is always a need to prioritize. As with defining the business need, in a refresh situation, a good deal of the heavy lifting is already done. As an “incumbent” solution, the line item in the budget likely already exists, at least for annual operational costs, and there is a general understanding of the concept of refresh or evergreen cycle budget requirements.

Doing More for Less

Progress is an amazing thing – capabilities that were considered cutting edge or ultra high performance (often with an associated ultra high price tag) in the past often benefit from improved performance and availability in the now. This translates to a number of benefits in a refresh scenario where your investment often provides both improved performance as well as enhanced feature sets for similar expenditure. There’s a reasonable chance that the feature you just couldn’t fit in the budget 4-6 years ago may now be a part of the stock offering during refresh. 

Address Emergent Issues

The benefits I’ve discussed so far are largely derived from the need to continue to fulfil an ongoing capability requirement. But the reality of life is that new issues emerge that either didn’t exist, weren’t apparent, or didn’t have significant focus at the time that a solution investment was initially made. The fact that your solution did not address these issues is not a shortcoming of the original purchase, just a result of emergent behaviour. Refresh time is a perfect opportunity to add coverage for these issues while, at the same time, continuing to provide the capabilities already present in the existing solution. It is an incremental process but one that transforms the refresh experience from simple like for like replacement of capabilities to an evolutionary path that improves your overall service in multiple dimensions.

A Real World Example

So how does this all play out in the real world? Let’s take an Infoblox DDI (DNS, DHCP, and the associated IP Address Management) refresh as an example. Defined business need? Check. There is no question that providing solid DNS name resolution, effective DHCP service, and the associated IP Address Management are just as key today as they were 4-6 years ago when the last Infoblox purchases would have been made. Budget in place? Check again. How about doing more for less? Check here too as the latest generation of Infoblox appliances provide more functionality (Reporting, Microsoft integration, DNS Traffic Control, etc.), ease of use (improved UI experience), deployment options (both physical and virtual), scale (including hybrid into the cloud), and integration opportunities than in the past. But it is in Addressing Emergent Issues that the opportunity of refresh truly becomes apparent.

In the time since you may have last installed Infoblox DDI, DNS has become a primary attack vector for malware in a way that it never was before, IoT has begun to stretch DDI performance requirements well beyond their historic levels, the mobile worker is redefining the way employees engage with their corporate networks, and the cloud revolution has driven the need for integration and automation at an exponential rate.

With available capabilities such as Advanced DNS Protection and Advisor, Elastic Scale, BloxOne Threat Defense, and Cloud-ready DDI, an Infoblox refresh cycle becomes an opportunity to address a multitude of DDI related emergent challenges you are forced to deal with on a daily basis. If you are one of the organizations facing an Infoblox refresh, I strongly encourage you to evaluate your current Infoblox DDI implementation (or take advantage of an outside assessment such as an Empowered DDI Assessment) to understand how you can make this refresh an opportunity rather than an obligation.