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Retrofit or Start From Scratch? It's Not a Simple Choice

The U.S. Army is upgrading, recapitalizing and redeploying materiel, with electronics a key part of the process.

It seems like a simple choice. You need to upgrade a platform’s computing capabilities—whether on a ground vehicle, a fast-delivery ship, a signal’s intelligence airplane or in a server room—but some of the existing hardware still is salvageable. Rather than do a complete upgrade from scratch, it is possible to leverage much of the existing technology and retain existing racks, power supplies and mass storage in the retrofit.

It makes perfect sense: Why throw away parts that seem to be working? But a closer inspection might reveal a different answer. Let’s peel back a few layers and see why—and when—it might make sense to throw away existing equipment and start over.

You never know what’s behind the walls

As with a home contractor, when vendors perform a retrofit, there’s always one line left open on the contract because they don’t know what they’re going to find. The contractor might find termites, faulty plumbing or other damage. In the high-performance computing industry, initial testing to determine the viability of existing equipment can be time-consuming and costly as the customer pays for design services and fixes.

The Point of Presence (PoP) node acts as a mobile satellite communications link as well as a “healing” node for on-the-ground communications that become disrupted.

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Ben Sharfi

CEO and Chief Architect
General Micro Systems, Inc.

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