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Why Product Lifecycle Matters: Lifecycle vs Life Span

By ·Categories: Tech Explained·Published On: August 15th, 2020·2.8 min read·

IT pros know the balancing act involved in standardizing computer hardware for an organization. Commit to a low-cost PC design with a motherboard that’s nearing retirement, and you could face a future without replacement hardware or firmware and driver updates. It’s a recipe for a potential maintenance and security nightmare.

Which is why IT managers should pay close attention to the published lifecycle for the systems and components they deploy. It provides a roadmap indicating the vendor’s commitment to manufacture, sell and support its products. The lifecycle defines when a product becomes available for purchase, when manufacturing will end, and when support will cease for products deployed in the field. In some cases vendors may cease mainline support, but offer extended product support for a time, sometimes at additional cost.

Product Lifecycle Visualized

Example of product lifecycle milestones, including general availability (GA), end of life announcement (EOLA), last order date (LOD), and end-of-life (EOL)

Product lifecycles are especially important to consider when deploying industrial or rugged PC (IPCs) in rugged, remote or unpredictable environments. Factory floors, remote infrastructure like pipelines, and vehicles, trains and aircraft are all examples of environments that can accelerate wear on hardware and components. By selecting systems with longer lifecycles, organizations can rest assured that they can source and deploy additional, or identical replacement hardware as needed. It also ensures that driver and software updates will be available for an extended period – a benefit for remote IPCs and gear that may be difficult or prohibitively expensive to replace.

What’s an appropriate lifecycle for an IPC system? That depends on a lot of factors, but a period of five to seven years is preferable. That way, if a workshop IPC finally succumbs to a diet of dust and metal shavings, it’s a trivial matter to replace it with an exact one-for-one replacement.

Lifecycle vs Life Span

Finally, it’s worth clarifying a bit of confusion around the terms lifecycle and life span. While lifecycle defines a manufacturer’s commitment to build and support a product, life span describes the expected useful life of a product in the field. So, an incandescent light bulb might work for about 1,200 hours before burning out – its life span – but the vendor’s commitment to manufacture that model bulb – it’s lifecycle – could extend to 20 years or more. While lifecycle is a pre-defined commitment from the manufacturer, the life span (or life expectancy) of a piece of hardware will be influenced by a wide range of factors ranging from how and where it’s installed to the intensity of its day to day use. As such, life span is a much more difficult metric to define at the time of manufacture or purchase.

The demands of industrial and rugged environments are unique and often unpredictable. As such, laboratory-defined metrics like mean time between failure (MTBF) do little to predict actual hardware life span when components are subject to heat, cold, vibration, dust and other use and installation-dependent factors. IPC hardware and components with longer lifecycles help organizations remain agile in the face of hardware challenges and ensure that deployed systems remain secure and up to date.

Understanding MTBF White Paper by Logic Supply

Note: This blog was originally published on December 20, 2016. It was updated for content on August 15, 2020.

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About the Author: Darek Fanton

Darek is the Communications Manager at OnLogic. His passion for both journalism and technology has led him from the newsrooms of local papers to the manufacturing floor of IBM. His background in news gathering has him always on the lookout for the latest in emerging tech and the best ways to share that information with readers. In addition to his affinity for words, Darek is a music lover, juggler and huge fan of terrible jokes.

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