My family recently moved house – for the first time in 8 years – and boy is it hard work. We only moved about a mile down the road, so the moving piece wasn’t so bad. It was the packing. And the unpacking. We’re still unpacking 3 months after we moved, and it’s amazing how much junk we’ve accumulated.
I was particularly amused to see one of our bookshelves, which contains… shall we say “assorted media”?
In the above picture we have a VHS tape, a Region 2 DVD (from the UK, not playable on US machines), Region 1 DVDs, a BluRay, various cassette tapes, MiniDiscs, CDs and some kind of mini video camera cassettes.
Do we use them? No.
If we want to listen to music, we ask our Google Home to play the music from our Spotify account. If we want to watch a movie we use Netflix. In fact, for many of these media types, we don’t even own a device capable of playing them.
(I’m actually really bummed about the cricket DVDs – I’d love to watch the 2005 Ashes again. I know that 98% of you don’t know anything about cricket – sorry about that. Now you know how I feel when people talk about March Madness.)
Cap-and-Grow or Rip-and-Replace. Or both?
The problem with my media collection is that we’ve taken a Cap-and-Grow strategy. When new technology was introduced (e.g. the DVD player in 1996) we didn’t get rid of any of our old collection – we just started adding new titles in the new format.
But unfortunately we were inconsistent and incompetent in this strategy – because over time we threw out the devices that could play the various disks and tapes, and just kept the media. Which we can’t use.
Most people don’t use the terms Cap-and-Grow or Rip-and-Replace to refer to their movie collection, but these are important approaches to consider when upgrading the technology in your network.
In case you’re not familiar with the terms, they refer to two different approaches when adding new technology to your network.
Cap-and-Grow: Description and Benefits
Cap-and-Grow means you keep your old equipment, but “cap” it – i.e. don’t add to it. For a class 5 switch this means you wouldn’t add any new subscribers to the old system, but when you add new services you’d use the new equipment.
The key benefit of this approach is that it’s safe. Don’t mess with what’s working. Avoid the hassle of a disruptive migration project, but still get the benefit of the new technology for your new subscribers.
Rip-and-Replace: Description and Benefits
Not surprisingly, Rip-and-Replace is the opposite approach – rip off the band-aid quickly and get it over with. Move all service onto the new platform as soon as possible and then throw the outdated technology in the trash.
Like with the band-aid, the logic here is that you accept the pain of the migration in the short term, but you reap long-term benefits by operating a single platform, which is simpler and easier for your staff, technology partners, and even customers.
So which is better?
Our personal recommendation is to do a bit of both.
- Start out with something more like Cap-and-Grow. Get the new platform into service with as little disruption to your existing network as possible. This quickly gives you the benefits of the new platform and minimizes risks to your existing service.
- But don’t stop there! Running two platforms side by side is inefficient in many ways, and in particular it can cause huge problems with staffing. It’s never going to be worthwhile to train someone on the old platform, but eventually your existing technicians are going to move to new jobs or retire, and then you’ll be left with a platform that no-one knows how to use.
- So yes, start out with a cap-and-grow approach, but then start migrating off the old platform. You don’t need to rush the process – just make steady progress until the job is done.
If it takes a year or so to complete the migration, that’s fine – you took things slow and steady but you completed the work. But if you introduced a new switch five years ago, and you still haven’t retired the old one, you might want to revisit your priorities.
(And of course, feel free to contact us if you want advice or implementation assistance.)