If you work for a vendor and after reading this you feel that this entry is about your company, then you are right! And if you work for a vendor and after reading this you feel that this entry has nothing to with your company, then you are totally wrong!
I've been working in IT now for more than twenty years; I've done a variety of roles but a big chunk of my career has been running support teams and I've done this both sides of the fence i.e both at an end-user but also at a reseller. I know a lot of people who have worked in support on both sides of the fence and pretty much all of us have coming to the same conclusion; over the past ten years or so, vendor support has got markedly worse! Of course, it may be that we are looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses but I do not believe so. I would also say that this is pretty much across the board; this is not a storage problem but it impacts hardware and software support across the board.
There are a variety of reasons for this decline in quality and ironically, it is some of the services that we as end-users have demanded that may have driven the decline in service.
The Internet is a big driver in the decline of quality; there are huge amounts of support information and detail on line and we as end-users have demanded that the vendor support databases are put on line; unfortunately, this information is often presented in a manner which it is pretty much impossible to effectively search and you find yourself trawling through screens of unrelated sludge before you find the answer you are looking for. But because all of this information has been provided in a 'self-service' portal, this appears to have been used as an excuse to reduce the number of qualified people that you have in a support centre.
The Internet has also further enabled the stock holding questions from the support centre and having worked both sides, I know that these are holding questions in general.
1) Are you at the latest level?
2) Can you send me the logs?
3) Can you send me the configuration files?
Now all of these are valid questions in many circumstances but too often it feels that you are dealing with a robot who is working off a script! This is a Support Centre not a Call Centre; there is a difference! And my (and many other's) responses to the questions are
1) Why? Will it fix my problem? Where in the release notes does it talk about something even vaguely related to my problem? And if I'm in a really sceptical mood, can you send me the piece of the code which fixes the problem. And you realise that this is a live production system and just applying fixes is unacceptable, I will get asked all the questions I've just asked you by the change board. And if it makes it worse, it's my job on the line.
2) Why? Will that log help you diagnose the problem because I've already looked at the log and I can't see anything. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is when you have got a disk off-line and marked failed to be asked for logs from the array?
3) Which files do you want to see and why?
And often, I've already attached the information to the ticket already; so you asking for them again shows that you have not read the ticket or are just working off the script.
Constantly in conversations with our various hardware engineers from all vendors, we discover reductions in headcount, experience engineers being retired early etc and territory coverage per engineer being increased. We are not buying less hardware, we are buying more and there are more systems out there to go wrong. Now arguably, systems are becoming more reliable but there are more of them. And in the world of storage, we have lots of moving parts; disks spin, tapes spool, robots move and these are all things which wear out and break. Disks get bigger and the potential impact of a disk failure and the resultant rebuild times gets ever larger.
Talking to people who work in the support centres; it appears to be more important to keep the queue within the targets than solving the customer's problem at point of first contact. There is no longer time to do follow-up calls; for example, calling the customer who had the severity 1 call to ensure that they are happy with the fix.
This is just the tip of the ice-berg and I could rant on and on about this subject; I was ranting about the decline in service years ago and yet it really is not getting better. For example, I am personally aware of four companies this year who have experience major outages due to problems caused by vendor support; it may be that now I have a fairly high profile in the industry that people tell me their war stories but it seems we are on an upward trend.
I think it's about time that the vendors started to review what and how they are providing support (fix your websites or at least put a decent search capability on it, it is pretty awful that generally I find myself using generic search engines and the site: directive to search your site); it is also about time that they started treating support centre staff with respect and giving them time to do a great job.