For more than 18 months now, the world has been in the throes of a semiconductor shortage. These electronic chips are used in numerous everyday devices including computers, network equipment, phones, TVs, automobiles, clocks, and washing machines. The scarcity has affected the availability of these products. Firewalls have not been spared.
What’s Causing It?
The drivers of the drying chip supply are diverse and include fuel scarcity and the increasing costs of ocean freight. However, COVID-19 is arguably the biggest one. As the pandemic swept through the world including the semiconductor manufacturing hubs of Taiwan, South Korea, the US, and China, factories shut down or scaled-down leading to supply chain disruption that the world is yet to fully recover from.
Semiconductor demand was 17 percent higher in 2021 compared to 2019
At the same time, there is soaring demand for technology equipment to accommodate remote work, homeschooling, recreation, and home entertainment. A US Department of Commerce study found that demand was 17 percent higher in 2021 compared to 2019 but with no commensurate rise in supply. Median semiconductor product inventory collapsed from 40 days (2019) to under 5 days (2021).
While the pandemic exacerbated it, the chip shortage predates COVID-19. As far back as February 2020, industry analysts were predicting a supply shortfall due to rising demand compounded by a scarcity of manufacturing equipment.
When Will It End?
The causes of the shortage notwithstanding, this has a far-reaching impact on the electronics and tech industry as a whole including network security. It is hampering access to firewalls.
So, when will it end? It’s difficult to provide a definitive timeline of when the issue will be resolved. Predictions range from months to several years. Demand for electronics goods is at historic highs. This is further compounded by the backlog caused by production delays.
It is only after firewall backorders eventually catch up as well as a consistent supply of computer chips is restored that firewall inventories will start to approach normalcy. As long as chip-making factories consistently stay open, the firewall shortage should resolve itself with time.
What Can You Do?
So, if you need a new firewall, what can you do in the interim? There are a number of options.
- Tap into the Secondary Market
Most businesses would prefer to purchase brand new IT equipment. With the firewall shortage though, many small and medium-sized companies are increasingly turning to the secondary market. The secondary market cannot completely escape a spillover of the demand affecting the industry as a whole but has so far remained largely unaffected.
You can get good quality used refurbished firewalls as well as other data center and network equipment. This may come in handy if you are overdue for an upgrade but cannot find a new product. Used firewalls can be a means of plugging the gap at a lower cost but without compromising performance and quality. Note however that even in this market, prices are rising rapidly due to demand.
- Plan for Longer Lead Times
If you are going to order a firewall, expect longer lead times between when you place the order and the day of delivery. A lead time of six months should be the minimum period you work with. Liaise with your technology vendor by sharing your upgrade plans as early as you can.
- Extend Life of Existing Firewalls
Hold off replacing your firewall where possible. Explore ways to extend its life for as long as possible without jeopardizing network security or business operations. This could be through firmware upgrades, parts repair, or parts replacement.
- Don’t Be Overly Fixated with Brands
It’s a difficult market so, to a great extent, you get what you get. You may have grown accustomed to limiting your procurement options to specific firewall brands.
Be open to other brands depending on what’s available
Perhaps this is because you had evaluated and judged these brands as demonstrating acceptable levels of quality and performance. For many businesses, though, the choice will lean toward the more recognizable brands. It’s a different time, even if temporarily. Be open to other brands depending on what’s available.
- Move to the Cloud
Move as much of your data, applications, workflows, and tools to the cloud as you can. This makes your business less dependent on an on-premises firewall. You can keep operations running smoothly and safely even when there are delays with procuring a new firewall.
The semiconductor shortage and firewall unavailability are a reminder that businesses cannot afford to assume there will always be an adequate supply of any product. Develop agility and resilience in your operations beforehand that serve as a buffer for unexpected disruptions. The scarcity of firewall supply should not mean you have to settle for weak network security. You can deploy workarounds that hold the fort until firewall supply is restored.
Don’t let your business be exposed to cyber threats. We can help your Denver area business identify network security risks and appropriate solutions. Reach out for a consultation by calling 1-303-282-4934 or contacting us.