Volume 21, Number 43 -- December 3, 2012

IBM To Charge For Lapsed Hardware Maintenance

Published: December 3, 2012

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

For many years now, IBM has charged a maintenance after license fee if you have a bit of its software that you have let fall off Software Maintenance. This after license fee is basically back maintenance that IBM thinks it is entitled to because you didn't help pay for the support costs for a period of time, but now you want all of the cumulative benefits of Software Maintenance again.

Now, IBM is going to do a similar thing with hardware maintenance, and it is called a "reestablishment fee," hyphen not included. As you can see in announcement letter 612-042, starting April 1, 2013--this is no prank--IBM will charge you a fee if you let your hardware maintenance on Power Systems or System x servers or Storage System storage arrays lapse. The fee will be based on how many days you have let the device lapse over maintenance prorated against a full year of maintenance. So if you are off hardware maintenance for 90 days, you will pay 90 divided by 365. The fee caps at a year of back maintenance, if I understood this tersely worded announcement correctly.

The letter says this as well: "IBM reserves the right to change, modify, or withdraw its offerings, policies, and practices at any time."

I have a couple of thoughts about this. First, as is generally IBM's practice, it is giving you ample warning. Specific machines were not outlined in the reestablishment fee announcement, which would have been more helpful, but you can't say you didn't get warned. And now you know that if you let your hardware maintenance lapse when the Great Recession got bad, now is the time to get it re-instated and thereby duck the reestablishment fee.

The second thing I want to say is that, generally speaking, hardware maintenance is a sham. The least reliable components in a server are its disk drives, which are spinning and which absolutely fail thanks to wear and tear and heat. The funny thing is that disk drives come with a five-year warranty, but server makers give a one- or three-year warranty.

The third thing that irks me about hardware maintenance is that server makers also don't allow you to get maintenance for pieces of the server--you have to do the whole thing or nothing. I get that they have to make money somehow, but this is not logical. What if I buy better components, such as SAS disks instead of SATA drives? What if I have it in a nice climate-controlled data center instead of tucked in some closet where it is baking or some warehouse where it is covered in cardboard boxes and dust?

What is also frustrating is that maintenance seems to follow the inflation rate, not Moore's Law, even as technology gets better. What maintenance really seems to be about is an easy, and wickedly profitable revenue stream that can cover costs when a vendor really screws something up and has to do a recall. Remember those faulty 10K RPM SCSI disks from IBM's Hungary factory in 2001? Maintenance covers nightmares like that.

The only thing worse than paying for hardware maintenance is having something break and wishing that you had.


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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Victor Rozek,
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