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Top 7 Things To Look For When Avoiding Planned Obsolescence in SCADA

By Ziad Alezabi

March 13, 2024

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I met a potential client at DistribuTECH in Orlando in the last week of February. His primary interest was avoiding planned obsolescence anywhere in his infrastructure.

Planned obsolescence is using equipment made from highly degradable material that doesn't last very long.

Planned obsolescence could be a strategy for some manufacturers to encourage repeat purchases from their customers in the short term.

The problem with that is that you will continually be forced into frustrating and expensive replacement or upgrade costs that will hamper your ability to grow.

There are several steps you need to take to find a SCADA & Telecom manufacturer that understands the value of long-term reliability and doesn't try to force you into a planned obsolescence trap.

Things To Check Off When Shopping for a Telecom System Manufacturer

  1. Reviews and References: Get in contact with current and past customers of that specific manufacturer. Can they offer you any insights on what it's like to work with them? Listen for facts (example: "they offer a great trade-in discount"), and ignore opinion statements (example: "those guys aren't good at what they do").
  2. Research: Research Telecom system manufacturers that are known for long-term reliability. Do they have a reputation for durable and future-proof solutions that speak for itself? Are customers of that specific manufacturer happy with their long-term relationship?
  3. Product Lifespan: Can you find reviews of the manufacturer's product lifespan projections? Companies that understand the value of longevity over planned obsolescence indicate their expertise in the field. A company that incorporates planned obsolescence is often young and inexperienced, which causes it to instinctively try and find a quick revenue stream instead of a reliable one.
  4. Upgrade Path: Does your manufacturer have a planned upgrade route that helps expand your infrastructure? A company that offers cost-effective upgrade options with great incentives is likely to be focused on your long-term device reliability.
  5. Standards Compliance: Make sure that your equipment being provided by the manufacturer keeps you standard-compliant. Some compliance codes that you need to be aware of come from the IEC, ITU-T, ETSI, NIST, ISO, EMC, FCC, and RED.
  6. Support and Maintenance: Does your manufacturer prospect offer great maintenance and support services? A manufacturer that offers customer support that is highly rated by other customers indicates that they don't want a quick turnover of product sales with individual clients. They most likely care about the longevity of your device because their equipment and service is their reputation.
  7. Contract Terms: Restrictive upgrade schedules are a red flag that makes it difficult to maintain or upgrade your equipment as you need to. DPS Telecom has clients that need to upgrade their equipment after 3 years due to infrastructure scale-up, and also some clients that upgrade their equipment after 10 years due to surrounding technology changing too much.

DPS Telecom's Upgrade History Promises Long-term Reliability & No Planned Obsolescence

My client wanted to be sure that DPS wouldn't force an "upgrade" to enable TLS 1.2 for his current NetGuardian (DPS Telecom's RTU) web interfaces.

If you run into a manufacturer that is willing to do that, you should recognize that it's not a one-time event. They will most likely keep forcing you to get certain upgrades to have access to better features.

I Gave My Client a Highlight of the NetGuardian's History Over The Last 20 Years:

In October 2007, DPS sold the first NetGuardian 832A G5. The initial development, as with most of our devices, was guided by needs that are often reoccurring among our clients.

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When equipped with an internal accelerator board, a G5 RTU supports SSL encryption for an encrypted HTTPS web interface. The previous G4 only supported unencrypted HTTP.

After 2008 the G5 became the new standard for new NetGuardian 832A installations.

The important part, however, is that the G4 remained available for clients that have been using it as a standard for 10+ years.

All users of the G5 had a total of 103 free firmware upgrades for its entire life cycle that spanned from 2007-2020.

My client understandably was worried about having to upgrade from a G5 to a G6 after only 5 years of dealing with DPS Telecom equipment.

I explained that they were at the end of a long life cycle when they purchased their equipment and that this is easily overcome with large, no-questions-asked trade-in discounts.

Why My Client Immediately Upgraded to the G6

DPS delivered the first G6 model of the NetGuardian in November 2021. This upgrade came about due to clients constantly requesting TLS 1.2 security and local MODBUS and SNMP processing.

The G6 also had a much faster processor than the G5 after 14 years of industry evolution. This eliminates the need for internal accelerator boards and also enables modern TLS 1.2 encryption that is often required.

Due to my client reflecting similar needs in addition to increased library storage and processing requirements, they went with the G6.

DPS Telecom Helps You Adapt To Changing Security Standards

DPS clients constantly find the world changing around their NetGuardians in the field due to them lasting anywhere from 10-20 years.

The "world change" in the last 7 years that caused our clients to upgrade to a G6 was the increasing prevalence of the TLS 1.2. This started when certain browsers refused to connect to older algorithms.

Our clients were encouraged by DPS Telecom's no-questions-asked 30% RTU trade-in discount offer.

After satisfying my client's final request of supporting custom security certificates for compliance reasons, they were happy with the conclusion that we reached and we've been providing them with in-depth documentation, as well as customer support that is actively helping them install DPS equipment.

Call 1-800-693-0351 or Email sales@dpstele.com

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Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi is a Application Documentarian at DPS Telecom. He reviews successful DPS client projects and reports on the best practices that you can use to successfully reach your own project goals.