Negotiating hardware maintenance. Is now a good time to get a good deal?

IT industry experts believe now is a good time to get decent hardware maintenance deals, while IT managers remain divided on the subject of when is a good time.

Chris Morris, managing director of IT consulting and research firm Morris and Patryn, said IT managers have a negotiating advantage right now as it is the fourth quarter.

"The fourth quarter is always a good time for negotiations as the vendors are keen to get more revenue near the end of the financial year … or if you are doing a major hardware upgrade, for example putting in 1000 PCs, is a great time for a blanket maintenance upgrade."

Morris said with the Hewlett-Packard and Compaq merger awaiting confirmation, now is also a great time for negotiations.

"As an example, an IT manager could go to Sun and say the company has been offered a great deal with HP, are you prepared to match? It's all about leverage."

George Curtis, IT operation manager Australia of TMP Worldwide, sees "anytime is a good time to get a good deal when negotiating hardware maintenance", saying it is not so much choosing the 'best time' but it is how well you can negotiate.

Curtis said he negotiated a good deal at the end of last year and thinks vendors have proven themselves to be very flexible and always willing to accommodate fair and reasonable requests.

However, Steve Tucker, IT manager, National Jet Systems Group, said now seems to be no different to any other time, in terms of negotiating deals.

"There are still companies out there with servers that need support and a user base that needs support, so the pricing is still there. There's nothing special at the moment in terms of pricing."

Simon Gatward, general manager, Global Network Services (South Pacific Group), Unisys Australia, said now is a "very good time to negotiate for hardware maintenance plus, that is, over and above just a standard maintenance proposal".

"Vendors can add several other services as part of the agreement including, systems tuning, proactive monitoring, remote management, operating system support and application support.

"Given the increased reliability of most products, companies need to question whether mission-critical SLAs are required and whether certain aspects are needed in the contract."

Morris said having a single main agreement covering the whole enterprise is often better than managing a bunch of agreements, which have different SLAs.

"Achieving uniformity in agreements makes it a whole lot easier to manage," Morris said.

Hewlett-Packard declined to comment for this article. A spokesperson said to talk about how negotiable the company can be "is not a marketing message we want to [discuss]".

Geoff Johnson, vice president and research director, networking and telecom, Asia Pacific, Gartner, said IT managers should go for support rather than discounts when in negotiations for hardware maintenance agreements.

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