Have you forgotten the most important hardware spec? You’ve spent years conceptualizing and designing an innovative embedded project, device or system and are finally ready to start choosing the hardware that will power it. You start by creating a list of specifications and you are being diligent in ensuring that every component meets your requirements – don’t forget the most important hardware spec! It may not have made your list, or maybe you don’t realize that it needs to be addressed this early in the process. The scary part is, ignoring this key spec can have lasting ramifications for the future of your project.
Lifecycle is the Most Important Hardware Spec
Hardware lifecycle management is the process of assessing and planning for the overall design, roll-out and maintenance of IT infrastructure. In the embedded world, effective lifecycle management can be the difference between the success and failure of any project. While it’s often thought of as something to be addressed only after deployment, lifecycle management is important to consider long before the first component is ever purchased.
First Thing’s First – Identify Long Lifecycle Products
The biggest step you can take toward ensuring a longer lifecycle for your project is to identify and understand the lifecycle of the products you’re selecting for it. A motherboard with a, “three year lifecycle” may sound appealing, but if the board’s original release date was two and a half years ago you run the risk of developing on a platform that will soon be unavailable or unsupported by the manufacturer. Component lifecycle shouldn’t be a question reserved for the end of your project development, but should be a deciding factor in each and every hardware choice.
The Benefits of Establishing Component Lifecycles
Choosing an industrial PC involves so many factors that it can be overwhelming, even for the most seasoned IT pro, to consider everything. The complexity involved in identifying and purchasing the ideal hardware is part of the reason why it’s important to work with a reliable hardware provider with experience in matching a wide range of projects with the right computer system.
Lifecycle is one of those nebulous terms that gets thrown around frequently in the hardware industry, but it’s important to understand that the management process starts BEFORE the purchasing phase. Knowing how long a given manufacturer plans to continue producing or supporting a system or component can help your business better plan and execute its overall project goals.
Proactive lifecycle management will help you to:
- Improve Quality and Reliability
- Improve Forecasting
- Ensure Supply Chain Efficiency
- Effectively Plan For Hardware End of Life
Complicating the lifecycle management process is the sheer number of components that can impact the lifecycle of a given piece of hardware. It only takes a single manufacturer to stop producing their part of your complicated embedded system to throw your project into turmoil. Lifecycle management involves understanding the full scope of your project and being proactive in exploring alternative component options should something suddenly become unavailable.
What is a “Long Lifecycle” For an Embedded PC?
With the ever-quickening pace of innovation in embedded computing, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rely on embedded PCs and components to offer a long lifecycle. (Check out this article to learn more about the difference between lifecycle and life span.) Many motherboard manufacturers have gone from offering 5 year lifecycle promises to only guaranteeing 2 to 3 years of product longevity. Because of this, hardware manufacturers now must pick and choose their components carefully to ensure that the final project is sustainable following its introduction to the market.
Unfortunately, lifecycle is all too often forgotten when choosing embedded computing components, in favor of more highly-touted specifications like processing power, I/O or graphics capabilities. The reality is that product lifecycle, and effective lifecycle management can be just as important to the success of an industrial or embedded project.
Example: The Helix Series and the Karbon Series
Both the Helix Series and the Karbon Series were completely designed in house. When choosing components, we took into account our clients’ requests for a long lifecycle product of up to 5 years as well as their requests for high processing power, graphics capabilities and more. Many of our clients are using OnLogic hardware to create complex embedded solutions with machine vision, huge data processing requirements, and a need to be connected to the cloud on the edge. Once our clients commit to a piece of hardware, they need to rely on the availability of that hardware for as long as possible. We understand that swapping out a piece of hardware in an embedded solution can be a huge undertaking.
In building our Helix and Karbon series, we wanted to answer these requests. In the case of the Helix Series – you get a long lifecycle with powerful 10th gen Intel processing power in a compact form factor. Karbon users can take advantage of a long lifecycle for rugged edge computing, designed for reliability in the most challenging environments. Both series offer amazing features including GPU support that you can count on both today, and for years to come.
It should be noted that when component vendors offer lifecycle estimates, they always need to be taken with a little caution. That’s why it’s so important to work with a hardware provider who makes hardware lifecycle management a priority. Here at OnLogic, in the event of an unexpected End of Life (EOL) notification, we proactively offer our clients a suitable migration path for their hardware needs, eliminating production interruptions and taking the stress of supply chain management off of their shoulders.
Lifecycle management is a complex process, but one that’s vital to the success of any embedded project. Before purchasing hardware for your application, speak with one of our hardware specialists about which systems and components are the best fit for your lifecycle needs.
Note: This blog post was originally posted on October 8, 2017. It was updated for content on September 25, 2020.