Vendor support falls short


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More points of failure
The conventional wisdom for getting the fastest response to an outage is to have "one throat to choke," a primary vendor to call when things go south. Even though many companies try to limit the number of vendors in their environment, there will always be the need to support legacy apps, the desire to minimize vendor lock-in and the advantage of occasionally installing best-of-breed products. Any of these factors can result in products from multiple vendors.

To keep up with the pace of innovation, primary storage vendors are acquiring startups and forming partnerships with other companies to compete more effectively. There are some notable examples--EMC Corp.'s acquisition of Rainfinity, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s purchase of AppIQ, IBM Corp. buying DataPower, Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) partnering with Kazeon Systems Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. snapping up StorageTek--and the list goes on and on. As a result, even if you purchased all of your storage from one primary vendor, there may be as many as 10 different organizations within that vendor that need to diagnose your problem before a solution or workaround is determined.

"Client support tends to gradually decline once one company is acquired by another," says a storage manager working for a large manufacturing company.

The high turnover rate among primary storage vendors' support staffs also contributes to declining support levels. Good vendor support personnel

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won't hesitate to jump to another company to secure a better salary. Vendors under pressure to satisfy Wall Street will sometimes lay off staff to make their quarterly numbers, and acquisitions usually result in staff reductions to eliminate "redundant" positions. The movement of support specialists is a concern because even a support person with an extensive technical background will need time to learn the ins and outs of a new product.

"The tech support is getting really bad; it's frustrating that we know more of the answers up front than their people do," says a storage manager working for an educational services company.

This was first published in May 2006

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