Regardless of things opening back up from following our last year and a half of COVID-19, this virus is still (and will continue) to have repercussions for years. One such consequence is regarding part shortages.
At the outset of the pandemic, hearing “shortages” conjured up mental images of household goods and medical supplies – toilet paper (what a wild time), cleaners, hand sanitizer, soda, medical gowns, and medical-grade facemasks. While availability of those items has rebalanced, laptops, monitors, docking stations, and GPUs started to fall short in supply. And now we’re seeing a delay in switches, servers, access points, firewalls, smartphones, and even cars.
For those of you who live near any auto manufacturer like me, you might see a sea consisting of thousands of cars or trucks that cannot be finished. Seriously, if you are local, go for a drive on I-71 by Sparta, Kentucky and see a mass of unfinished Ford trucks; the picture below doesn’t do it justice.
So, aside from the monitors and laptop screens (glass shortage), what do these products have in common? What are those Fords waiting on? Well, it’s something that is less than 1/1,000th the size of a car that is preventing Ford, a multi-billion-dollar company, from getting the next model year out: computer chips.
So Where Are the Chips?
Let’s go back to Econ 101. On your first day of class, your professor probably stated some variation of the core tenant of economics – “everything is scarce.” When nearly all technological devices in production require the same computer chip (albeit there are variations), the supply of these chips must keep up with the demand to remain in equilibrium. However, due to pandemic shutdowns, the raw materials were delayed, thus delaying the refining and production of the chips. In the meantime, demand for the chips never slowed down; if anything, it increased. Therefore, demand is drastically overwhelming the supply. As a result, the market must adjust to allocate the scarce resources, causing the long lead times and the price increases.
Where We Stand Now
As mentioned above, scarcity is causing price increases and protracted lead times. This is an industry-wide problem, with many technology manufacturers struggling to keep up with supply and cost. For a glimpse, here’s what Mirazon is looking at with our core hardware providers…
- Dell – Dell has been raising their prices every couple of months.
- Fortinet – Fortinet has a seven percent price increase slated for August 1 of this year.
- Ruckus – Ruckus has not announced a price increase, but rumors are that one is coming.
First and foremost, these are subject to change and vary depending on the configuration or build.
- Dell Servers – Servers are where there is arguably the most disparity. Some, you can get within a couple of weeks, while others are on backorder for months. Right now, the most prominent issues are with processors and BOSS cards.
- Dell Switches – The switches are in a similar boat as the servers where there is a lot of disparity. The N1100, N2200 and Z9264 models are all backordered through the end of the year. Aside from those, the other models are fairly available (within three to four weeks).
- Dell Laptops/Workstations – Laptops have the second-most variability as the models, processors, and specifically the screens all significantly impact the lead times. Some ready-made models are ready to ship; others can take months. In fact, one that I quoted this morning had a lead time of three to four months.
- Dell Monitors – Dell’s monitors are the clearest-cut product on this list. Dell’s lead times are at least one month, with some stretching into late 2021. Despite that, some models can still be found to arrive within a few weeks. Non-Dell monitors seem to have better stock, and if you are in a bind (such as having new hires), Amazon seems to have a pretty decent stock that can ship within a couple days.
- Dell Docks – Docks are in an interesting flux where the lead times recently changed across the board. As of now, one model is currently readily available, but the others range from one to two months. Those with power supplies (such as the Thunderbolt docks) have the longest lead times. If all you need is some extra ports for monitors, mice or a keyboard, again, Amazon, has some basic adapters in stock.
- Ruckus Access Points (APs) – Ruckus has multiple AP models, so I can’t get into all of them, but I will highlight a few. The R650s are widely unavailable, with lead times stretching into the end of this year. The R550s and R750s are substitute offerings. However, with added demand due to the subbing, the R550s are starting to have some supply issues as well.
- Ruckus Switches – This is where Ruckus is struggling the most. The ICX 7150-48P, our most popular switch model, have been hit hard. These switches have lead times stretching to the end of the year. It’s even beyond that if it is one of the ZP models. However, the 24-port options have some availability, depending on the model.
- Fortinet Firewalls and Switches – Fortinet has been extremely resilient, and we have not run into any products with long lead times. However, with the restraints on everyone else, we expect Fortinet to eventually experience delays, too.
Our Recommendations for Navigating These Delays
Stay ahead of it. Factor your understanding of these delays into your project plan. Work with us early on your specifications and help us get the orders in quickly so we can try to meet your deadlines. Keep us abreast of your due dates and allow us to work with our vendor contacts to get you reasonable delivery times to help you stay on track.
Be flexible – many of the lead time issues, especially in servers, storage, and workstations, can be remedied through tweaking the build. If we can’t find a way to reasonably adjust your spec, consider a different manufacturer. We are monitoring the lead times for every quote sent, so if we run into something, we will already be looking for other options that will meet your needs.
Shortages are expected to last into 2022. Additionally, there are rumors that the chip manufacturing companies were operating at full capacity before the pandemic, so not only do they need to catch up on a backlog, but they are also working to build new factories. Given that, I estimate that we will still be dealing with these delays through the middle of next year (at least).