The current chip shortage has dominated headlines since the start of the pandemic. Semiconductor chips are essential for powering the modern world, and when the demand for them exceeds the supply, countless industries, from automotive to appliances, are affected.
The IT industry has been hit especially hard. Without an adequate supply of semiconductor chips, hardware vendors have struggled to provide customers with the IT infrastructure they need. To give you an idea, Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal was recently quoted saying, “The supply chain has never been so constrained in Arista history… we now have to plan for many components with a 52-week lead time.”
It’s a problem that, unfortunately, won’t be going away anytime soon. According to Forrester Analyst Glenn O’Donnell, the semiconductor chip shortage will last through this year and extend into 2023, at the very least.
But even if the semiconductor shortage were to miraculously resolve itself tomorrow, we still wouldn’t be in the clear. There’s a larger issue at play; companies’ crippling dependency on the globalized just-in-time supply chain. It’s a risky game to put so much faith in a supply chain operating with no margin for disruptions. It only takes one disturbance to cause a devastating ripple effect; we all remember when the Suez Canal became blocked last year by a single cargo ship, causing an estimated $54 billion in trade loss.
This is not the first time disruptions in the supply chain have negatively impacted IT, and it certainly won’t be the last. Companies need to face the reality that it’s time to start doing more with less.
For most companies, this will mean ditching the “rip and replace” 3-year refresh cycle mindset when it comes to their IT infrastructure, for the simple fact that it may not always be feasible. Naturally, this same principle also applies to updating storage hardware.
Historically, in times of no supply chain issues, many companies refreshed their storage infrastructure every three to five years. Now, as workloads scale out and services consume more data and more compute power, replacement has accelerated. Then COVID hit and turned the world upside down, resulting in reduced semiconductor forecasts. Chips ordered months or years in advance set the pace of production, and if those forecasts are wrong, then supply shocks the industry and it can be difficult to rebalance. And, wow, this time they were wrong…so very, very wrong. Unable to source components, companies are trying to find ways to extend the life of their infrastructure to stay ahead in turbulent competitive markets, while also improving performance and reducing cost, along with their carbon footprint.
The silver lining of the chip shortage is that it pushed companies away from the “rip and replace” paradigm and toward something more sustainable and reliable. By retrofitting their existing systems, organizations can reap the benefits of high-performance storage that won’t falter should there ever be an issue with the supply chain.
Aside from being more reliable, this approach supports a long-term strategy to more efficiently process more data while it’s being generated, while also improving data center economics across the board. Let’s be real: not every company can afford to fully replace its storage infrastructure every few years. This is especially true in the wake of the pandemic. Additionally, there have been diminishing returns on what the next generation of infrastructure can provide. Several years ago, replacing your system might’ve resulted in a notable improvement in storage capacity and processing. But today, those gains may not be as significant. Because of this, it makes the most sense for companies to focus on how best to optimize their current investments versus scrapping them and starting over.
Another benefit of this paradigm shift is that it’s guiding companies to become more green; (data centers demand a massive amount of energy). Sustainability has been a key topic of conversation in recent years, and companies are seeking out ways to reduce their carbon footprints. Tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have made significant efforts to be more green, but it’s something that all companies should be thinking about. By opting to enhance existing storage infrastructure, organizations can greatly reduce their impact on the planet without sacrificing performance.
When it comes down to it, shorter IT infrastructure refresh cycles are not a sustainable (or the only) way to cope with data’s growth and value-creation. New solutions that let companies scale-in their existing infrastructure to become more dense, have longer life-cycles, and process data efficiently while also reducing their exposure to supply chain risk are driving the decisions that IT leaders are making. In our constantly changing world, it doesn’t make sense for companies to depend on a tightly wound supply chain that can—and will—be disrupted.