Thursday, February 26, 2015

How Nimble Storage Changed My Distaste for OEM Support

Background

At Great Lakes Computer, in addition to our systems integration and lab units, we have a Nimble Storage CS210 array that serves as our proof of concept unit. Before upgrading to a waterproof, crushproof Pelican 1730 transport case, we shipped our proof of concept array to a client’s location using a cardboard box, foam packaging, a pallet, and a trusted logistics company.

The departure trip went smoothly, but the return trip was fraught with peril! Not all of the foam packaging was reinserted with the array to begin with, and at some point the trusted logistics company accidentally dropped the pallet. After inspecting the package and filing a claim, we proceeded to inspect the array; minor scrapes and bruises, but no dents or severe damage to the unit.

Let the tests begin!

Waiting for a response on an insurance claim can be extended, so we made the most of the downtime and put the array through its paces. After completing initial POST, things were looking pretty good! We cleaned up the configuration from the proof of concept and connected the array to our lab network. We went about creating new volumes and mapping the volumes to some host systems. After creating partitions, we started some benchmarking software and executed looped scripts to create files of varying sizes, moved them to the volumes presented by the Nimble Storage array, and then deleted the files.

At this point it was a little after 14:00 and things were stable, so we moved on to other projects while the tests put the array through its paces. At 15:53 an email arrived in my inbox: Nimble Case #00XXX057: Disk in Slot 16 Reporting Failed on array AF-10XXXX.

My past experiences with support from other manufacturers led to the immediate feeling of, “I will deal with this later.” I would have to mentally prepare myself for the fiasco that is typical when calling an OEM support line; waiting on hold, describing the problem time and time again as I am transferred through the departments, and attempting to understand what the person on the other end of the line is saying.

As I continue the project I am working on, I receive another email at 15:57: a reply to the original. I opened the email to read,

     We have received a notification of a failed drive in the array GLC-POC210 (AF-10XXXX).

     Could you please confirm that this was not the result of maintenance and that
     the address below is correct for delivery of the replacement drive? […]

An easy enough request; I respond stating we were not performing maintenance and that the address was correct. Moments later I receive another reply from Nimble Storage support confirming that the RMA has been submitted and the replacement disk drive will arrive tomorrow morning. One more email arrives later in the evening to include the tracking number for the shipment.

Hardware replacement

The package arrives the next morning and we proceed to remove the contents from the box. A disk drive sealed in an antistatic bag, instructions for replacing the failed disk drive, and a return shipping label; everything you would expect. We swapped the failed disk drive with the replacement then navigated to the web browser based management interface. Inspecting the array via the management interface displayed the status of the disk drive and we could monitor the rebuild process.

We placed the failed disk in the packaging that the replacement arrived in, slapped on the return shipping label, and handed the package to our shipping department. A few days later we received a reply email to the support case,

     I checked failed HDD was replaced and array looks good.

     SSD Good: 4   SSD Fail: 0 HDD Good: 8 HDD Fail: 0 HDD Sync'ing: 0 HDD Spare: 0

     Drives absent: 0

    I am closing this case but please let us know if there is anything we can assist with.

That was it! The most simple support situation I have encountered. The support case was automatically created by the array and Nimble’s InfoSight engine; by replying to an email, we confirmed that we were not performing maintenance and verified the address of the array; we swapped installed the replacement and packaged up the failed disk. Nimble Storage has made me rethink how support, a service that exists to help you, should be simple, expedient, and hassle-free. Nimble Storage has indeed figured this out.

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