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EMC users iron out software bugs

As EMC moves further into software, its users are increasingly dealing with the same bug-fix issues that they would with any software company.

BOSTON -- As EMC moves further into software, its users are increasingly dealing with the same bug-fix headaches that they would with any software company.

Glenn Watson, a storage administrator, and Michael Marques, an open systems manager, who both work for Pershing Ltd. in the U.K., said they had plenty of headaches trying to implement EMC's Legato DiskXtender.

Watson and Marques described a bug that meant that a renamed file wouldn't be linked to the actual archived data. "It basically couldn't handle people renaming something if the data was already archived," Watson said. "Thus, any file that was renamed was orphaned. We spent a couple of weeks fixing the bug and finding those orphaned files. We had a painful month of January and February this year trying to get it to work.

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"We were disappointed to find ourselves in that situation," he added. "We went through quite a due diligence process before buying it."

In general, he said, "the last couple of years, the human process put into quantifying what the data is has been too much. The overhead in implementing it can be onerous; training engineers on all the disciplines of it, we can't have engineers out that amount of time, even if we wanted to spend that amount of money. "

With regard to services, he added, "Their support base in the U.K. is quite limited. Any project work takes weeks to get in an engineer."

Jorgenson said he wanted to see EMC's ControlCenter (ECC) management software become easier to use. "Setup was a lengthy process," he said. "EMC was on site one week configuring it."

Jorgenson said ECC was particularly difficult in terms of training new employees to use it. "Some people find it great that there are 10 ways to do the same thing in ECC, but it makes it difficult for someone who's new to it," he said. "Just being able to do something one way, the best way, would suffice."

During the EMC World show, EMC announced two new management features that will be made available through its PowerLink online support system, including an "Issue Tracker" that will keep track of known problems in EMC products and the history of any ongoing bug fixes or other issues for individual users. Another feature being introduced called the "Configuration Consultant", initially only for Symmetrix arrays, will contain EMC recommendations about microcode versions and updates.

"I've had to battle with it," Jorgenson said of Powerlink. While he said he liked that the Support Matrix for the interface has been updated, -- "now it's not just one huge .pdf., it's online and searchable," -- he has been stymied by other changes. For instance, he said, there used to be an education tab where he would keep track of classes and credits earned right on his homepage.

"Now there's a different way of getting to it," he said. "The changes can be frustrating."

Jorgenson said he was most intrigued by Configuration Consultant. "I have to adhere very strictly to outage windows for upgrades in addition to budget," he said. "With this, I can be better prepared to present a plan to management and say, here's where we are, here's where EMC thinks we should be, and here's what we should do."

According to David Gutschow, systems administrator for James Madison University, EMC's "Total Customer Experience" strategy is nice much of the time, but he wishes he could do more of the smaller stuff on his own. "I wish they had the option to let me replace parts myself, just send me the part," he said. "Right now, they send a CE [consulting engineer] down to do it for us."

He might be in luck. During presentations at EMC World, company executives alluded to news that Clariion users will soon be able to do a lot more configuring and updating of the product themselves with the next release.

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