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’ve created a list of specifications and are being diligent in ensuring that every component meets your requirements. But there’s one important hardware factor that may not have made your list, or that you don’t realize 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.
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. 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 has a realistic lifespan 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.
The 5-Year Lifecycle of the ML210G-10
When choosing components for our new ML210G-10 Thin Mini-ITX system, we took into account our clients’ request for a longer lifecycle product. As a result, the ML210G-10 offers an expected 5-year lifecycle, an increasingly rare attribute in the embedded industry.
Many of our clients are using OnLogic hardware to create complex embedded systems. In building our new ML210G-10, we wanted to answer their request for a thin Mini-ITX system that they could 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 grain of salt, but that’s why it’s so important to work with a hardware provider who makes 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.