End Of Life or Beginning of Productivity?

By Michael Lynge On October 27, 2009
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The announcement that Agilent is taking the N2X platform to end of life (EOL) in 2015 raises questions about testing strategy for many customers. An EOL announcement is inevitably disruptive to schedules and possibly revenue, but often it causes people to refocus on issues that been unaddressed too long.

  • Support. The first issue that comes to mind when you hear that a platform you rely on daily is being discontinued is support. What happens when something goes wrong? How long will they fix it? Placing the EOL five years in the future gives you the feeling that you don’t have to worry about it right now. But the reality is that regardless of how far in the future support is dropped, it’s going to be a problem when it happens. The sooner you transition to a platform with a future, the less risk to your development schedules and delivery/deployment dates.
  • Alternatives. Every buying decision should include looking for the best solution, but frequently the path of least resistance leads to considering only the familiar. An EOL announcement often provides the inertia to do what should be done every time you invest in your lab – investigate all the options to make sure you have the best solution for your application.
  • New Technologies. A product going EOL in five years may support your requirements for now, but what about that standards committee draft that will be finalized in six months? Is there a plan to support it? Is there an aggressive development schedule to improve performance and support new technologies for the remaining lifespan?
  • Sunk Cost. In addition to the real expense of transitioning to a new platform, there’s the emotional barrier of sunk cost – the money already spent. The desire to leverage sunk costs creates resistance to change, but in an EOL situation, change is inevitable. The transition won’t be any cheaper or simpler a year in the future. In fact, if you face this decision now, in a year you could be in a much better position.
  • Automation. In the test and measurement world, investment in test automation is one of the most significant contributors to resistance to change, and also one of the most significant enablers for cost-savings and faster time-to-market. There’s no escaping the fact that the EOL product will eventually be inadequate for your requirements, probably well before the EOL date, and you’ll be forced to change. Whether it’s trying to port an API to an another platform (a risky proposition fraught with compatibility and interoperability problems) or transition to a new platform, it’s best to deal with that sooner rather than later.
  • Transition Plans. There are many considerations when building a transition plan, such as budget, disruption to existing development schedules, and how quickly test requirements outstrip waning development on the legacy platform. It is a mistake to allow a five-year EOL plan to reduce the sense of urgency. From all perspectives, an aggressive strategy for evaluating alternatives and navigating the transition is best.

An EOL announcement is usually unwelcome, but it can also be a wake-up call to find the best-of-breed solution on a platform with a clear future and a commitment to supporting technology at the bleeding edge. Not only will your productivity and reliability improve, you’ll avoid facing another EOL situation in the future.


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