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Dell's third-party support riles users

Dell and EMC have enjoyed a fruitful storage partnership since late 2001, but users claim that Dell's technical support for enterprise storage systems is not ready for prime time.

Dell and EMC have enjoyed a successful storage partnership since late 2001. But despite Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc.'s fast-growing storage sales and the shipment of more than 7,000 co-branded Clariion systems, users claim that the company's technical support for enterprise storage is not ready for prime time.

In fact, 21% of users who responded to a recent poll said Dell support could be more responsive to customers, and 43% said they won't be buying storage from Dell again. Howeever, 35% of respondents said Dell's services and support were as good as or better than that of other vendors.

One of Dell's customers has gone on the record with his dissatisfaction. Dr. Jeffrey Skolnick, director of the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics at the University at Buffalo, said Dell "lost interest" in his installation. "Unfortunately, the level of customer service and technical support that Dell provided was not what I had hoped for," said Skolnick. However, he stressed that while his EMC arrays were purchased through Dell, he has never had a problem with EMC's customer service. "Our interactions with EMC were extremely positive. This is by no means a reflection on EMC."

"I can name two [storage vendors] that can handle complicated configurations better than any branded channel. I can't say the same for IBM or Dell," said a systems analyst for a major West Coast media company who wished to remain anonymous. He said all vendors struggle with implementing complex storage configurations, but, if given a choice, he prefers vendors who specialize in storage.

The head of Dell's product communications team, Bruce Anderson, said recent customer complaints about Dell's services, including Skolnick's, are not entirely representative of Dell's overall storage customer base. "We're not hearing broad-based concerns about services capabilities," Anderson said. He added that users have a choice between Dell support, direct support from EMC or a combination of both.

According to Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Milford, Mass, the co-branded EMC Clariion CX 300, CX500 and CX700 storage arrays sold by Dell are getting easier for users to buy, install and manage, but unlike most of Dell's other products, its storage systems are not "plug, play and forget" just yet. "It's against Dell's model to have a very high touch customer service group. That is still required in enterprise class storage."

Duplessie isn't surprised to hear users gripe about Dell's storage support. "EMC has spent 20 years building a storage support group, and Dell has spent a year," he said. "If you buy tires at Wal-Mart you will get cheap tires and, most likely, no one who knows anything about them. If you go to a tire place, you'll pay more, but they will have the services to wrap around you."


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