Probably every network administrator knows this problem: How do I know what equipment in my network is going End-of-Life (EoL) and when?
This blog post discusses various aspects of this issue and offers some possibilities how the EoL problem can be solved using the newly updated EOL Lookup service from SolarWinds together with Network Configuration Manager.
Why Do I Need to Know the EoL Status of My Devices?
Basically, you need to know EoL status for planning purposes. Let's see why. The EoL process usually has a few common stages, although specific details may depend on the type of product and vendor:
- End-of-Life Announcement -- The vendor publishes an EoL schedule for a particular product (or product line).
- End-of-Sale Date -- After this date, you will not be able to purchase additional units of the product.
- Last Shipment Date -- Depends on the previous item. Not all vendors publish it.
- End of Software Maintenance -- No new bug fixes will be provided after this date.
- End of Hardware Maintenance -- There is no guarantee you will be able to obtain spare parts after this date.
- Last Date of Support -- This is the actual end of life. The product will no longer be supported by its vendor. Some companies offer support after this date based on a special contract.
For your business-critical production environment you obviously cannot afford to use unsupported products. You need your equipment to use the most up-to-date firmware version, have the possibility to order spare parts, have someone from technical support to help you troubleshoot problems, etc. That is why you need to check regularly which devices are going end-of-life and plan appropriate replacement. The planning is important not only because of the technical aspects but also because of budget. Imagine you have many pieces of certain hardware on your network and this hardware goes end-of-life; such replacement may require considerable investment.
How Can I find EoL Information?
Now we know why EoL information is important. The question is: How do I find it? There are two options:
Pay Someone Else
This is the easiest but also the most expensive option. Besides a big fat wallet you need a software tool that will create a complete inventory report for all your devices. Then you can send the report to the contractor and he should return back the list of equipment going end-of-life in a predefined time interval. This service may also be provided by the vendor, but then it is limited to the vendor's products. Additionally, the vendor and/or contractor may only accept inventory reports from his own asset management software, which can incur extra costs.
Do It Yourself
If you do not like the previous option, you can always manage the EoL information yourself. When you try to do that, you will quickly find out that it is not so easy. Let's take Cisco as an example. Their EoL summary page lists lots of products -- routers, switches, firmware, extension modules etc. However for many items, the EoL information is not actually included or the linked page does not contain the required details.
You must also realize that a device often consists of several parts some of which reach end of life sooner than the rest (e.g., certain firmware version). Last but not least, different vendors publish EoL statements in different formats or even require a partner account for access. Google may sometimes help but not in 100 % cases.
Why Is It a Problem to Get a Good EoL Report?
You finally managed to collect various pieces of EoL information and you have inventoried your devices. What comes next? Well, you have to match those two. And that is really not simple. On one hand, your device inventory may include data such as System OIDs or serial numbers that identify the model very well. On the other hand, vendors publish their EoL statements in terms of product names or some kind of internal codes. These pieces of information are not always exposed to the usual SNMP inventory data collection. The next section shows how our new EOL Lookup service can be used together with inventory data from NCM to get as much information as possible.
EOL Lookup and NCM
The EOL Lookup space does not have the ambition to replace the 100% accurate service that you can purchase from the vendors or professional services providers. It is intended as a tool for the do-it-yourself approach. How do you use it with NCM? First, you must select an inventory report that enumerates all your devices. Good candidates are 'All Nodes' and 'System Information of Each Device'. (By default, these can be found in the 'Node Details' category.)
Let's assume you want to find out the EoL status of the 'Core-3640' router. In the EOL Lookup tool, you enter the appropriate information:
and get the result:
You have various options how to record the EoL information for your devices, e.g.:
- Export the NCM inventory report in Excel format and add the information there. As you will probably have multiple devices of the same kind, you can group the result according to Machine Type and attach EoL data in bulk.
- Create a custom property and fill in the EoL information. Again you can select all nodes of the same type and define the EoL info at once.
You can watch the following video to learn about the EoL/EoS feature available in NCM: How To Use the EoL Feature in NCM - YouTube.