What is Third Party Maintenance

Nicolas Ahiskali 23 April 2020

Third Party Maintenance (TPM) has been the subject of growing attention from IT decision makers during the last years.

In simple terms, TPM describes maintenance services provided by a vendor independently from the standard OEM channel. Depending on the level of service contracted, it can include remote and/or onsite support, spare parts logistics, proactive solutions like system monitoring, and more…

Why should I Consider TPM?

“As our clients look at various ways to optimize their IT cost structure, increasingly, third-party maintenance options for hardware support look like a no-brainer. The quality of third-party support options continues to increase, offering not only significant savings potential, but better global coverage.” Accenture Spend Trends Report, Q3 2014

Accenture published this statement in 2014, and since that time the trend for choosing TPM has grown exponentially. But what kind of advantages can we directly expect from TPM?

1. Cost savings

One of the most enticing benefits of using third party maintenance services, and one that initially draws most companies to consider using TPM is the prospect of significant cost savings compared to OEM maintenance.

No matter the industry, saving money and dealing with low budgets has become part of the daily life of every decision maker. And when it comes to the IT budget, hardware maintenance is one of the first items to be flagged as “non-strategic”. So, when a CIO can save over 50% on maintenance without making any concessions on the quality, choosing TPM is an easy choice.

2. Customization and flexibility

Two major issues people face when dealing with OEM support are the lack of attention they get and the impossibility of getting a service that perfectly fits their requirements.

TPM providers offer you a more personalized and human approach, as well as flexible solutions which enable the best possible match for your needs and your budget. The difference is also noticeable in the delivery and escalation processes, which are more direct and therefore more efficient.

3. Multi-Vendor service (MVS) and Single Point of Contact (SPOC)

When entrusting a TPM provider with responsibility for part of your IT infrastructure, you also gain the benefit of having only one point of contact and one single invoice for all the related equipment. By keeping things simple, you gain peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your core business.

4. Management of your infrastructure according to your needs

By programming in advance precise dates for the EOS (End-Of-Sale), EOL (End-Of-Life) or EOSL (End-Of-Service-Life), and applying financial uplifts on the maintenance of your older assets, the OEM will encourage you to constantly upgrade your hardware infrastructure, even if you don’t have any need for it. The consequences in terms of resources are ridiculous if this change is not actually needed: your investment from only a few years ago goes up in smoke, you need to train your teams again, implement the new systems and in some cases even pay an extra fee to recycle still functional assets.

However, when choosing a TPM to maintain your assets, even after their EOL date, will immediately cut the related costs while giving you more visibility for the years to come. Indeed, in most cases the maintenance pricing over the years will not increase, unlike those of an OEM.

5. Spare Parts Management (SPM)

For non-critical systems, you might only need a simple, cost-effective solution. TPM providers will offer you Spare Parts Management for a fraction of standard maintenance prices, enabling you to receive all the parts needed within a given SLA and replace them whenever you want.

Remote assistance or onsite engineers can also still be booked on demand, depending on your needs.

What kind of assets are eligible to TPM?

Basically, any Datacentre equipment can be eligible through a TPM service, if you find the right provider. From the smallest network routers to the biggest mainframe systems, all of your assets are worth taking into consideration.

Taking the example of a Dell EMC maintenance storage, a TPM provider such as Primenet is able to provide complete maintenance solutions for the latest and most high-end ranges such as Dell EMC Unity maintenance, Dell EMC XtremIO maintenance, Dell EMC VPLEX maintenance or Dell EMC VxRail maintenance.

Is TPM always the best solution?

While TPM is a valuable solution in a lot of scenarios, there are occasionally limitations that can only be overcome with OEM support.

The main limitation of the TPM model is the intellectual property related to patches, updates and firmwares, which can only be delivered by the OEM. For this reason, a mission-critical system which is still likely to receive such patches should remain under support with the OEM.

As soon as it reaches the EOL date, no patch will be released anymore. We then recommend that you update all systems to the latest available versions before terminating your support agreement with the OEM and then switch to the TPM channel.

Some TPM providers are also able to provide software support. This support will cover performance issues, configurations recommendations (based on vendor’s best practise). With customers who are not happy with their vendor support and prefer to use a TPM, the customer can choose a combination. The OEM will be on the lowest SLA and the TPM will be on the highest, but by combining this two together you are still saving money but enjoying a complete solution for less.

Take a look at our IT Maintenance section.

No way around

Something that a lot of IT decision makers do not know is that they are probably already experiencing TPM support.

Indeed, all the major OEMs are already using third parties to deliver their own maintenance due to:

  • Lack of physical presence in a given region
  • Lack of resources for their own EOL products (trained engineers and/or spare parts)
  • Lack of resources for multivendor products (assets originally from other OEMs)
  • So why contract support with the OEM if they are going to use TPM providers to deliver anyway?

How to choose my provider?

Now that you know the benefits of choosing a Third-Party Maintenance provider, the challenge remains of choosing the right provider to suit your needs. The key to making a wise decision lies in prioritization.

Every single TPM provider will have their strengths and weaknesses, and the spectrum of capabilities to assess them is wide. Make sure to ask the right questions and understand what your provider is doing by themselves, and what they need to outsource. The structure of their ecosystem will be critical in their capability to deliver what they are promising.

1. What are their technical capabilities on a given technology?

This first aspect is essential as this will determine how fast complex issues will be solved. If your provider has their own L3 team available, the reactivity in such cases will be high. Otherwise, they will need to escalate complex cases to the OEM or another partner, and your assets might remain down for a longer period, severely impacting your business.

For a TPM provider, being able to show technical certificates will be an additional guarantee that their engineers were trained by the OEM and have the required experience and skillset on a given technology.

2. What are their spare parts availability and logistics capabilities?

The next critical aspect that you need to keep in mind is the availability of spare parts and their logistical capabilities. Depending on the contractual SLA, your provider will need to have a dedicated warehouse and logistics capabilities to deliver the needed spare parts for every ticket. A central regional warehouse with a wide inventory is also a plus.

3. What is the Efficiency of the call flow and escalation processes?

The fluidity of the call flow process and efficiency of the escalation path is something that is mistakenly neglected by a lot of customers. Having a good experience and fluidity in the handling of your calls will help you reduce the workload of your teams. A direct and efficient escalation path will maximize the uptime of your assets by resolving escalated cases faster.

4. What is their Local physical presence?

To ensure an intervention within a contractual SLA, it is necessary to have human resources available close to the intervention sites. Whether these resources are directly owned by your provider or outsourced makes no huge difference, as the required skill set necessary onsite is quite restricted. As it is not possible to have experts for everything everywhere, OEM and TPM providers tend to centralize their L2 and L3 teams to increase their availability and support onsite staff remotely.

To get further information on how to choose and what to ask a prospective managed services provider, click here to refer to our related blog article from our expert Paul Godfrey.

Hybrid Support, the smartest way

In conclusion, adopting a hybrid solution combining the best of both worlds should be the way to go. This consists in adopting the right channel for every single asset depending on their EOL status and criticality for your business.

Your infrastructure will then combine the best of two worlds, optimizing your technical and financial performance.

EOL Mission-Critical Non-Critical Secondary