[Beowulf] A bit OT - scientific workstations - recommendations
landman at scalableinformatics.com
Thu Mar 9 11:00:04 EST 2006
Roland Krause wrote:
> This is not how things have worked in my experience. My experience so
> far is: First you call the vendor, you spend an hour on the phone
> rebooting the machine, checking the BIOS, explaining your problems, bla
> bla... Then, maybe, you get a RMA. Most of the time though the vendor
> will want to send you a replacement part that you are supposed to put
> in by yourself. Btw., DELL is one of the worst offenders I have ever
> dealt with in this respect.
In most cases, without an on-site support person, this is close to the
minimum service you can expect without paying for a service contract.
If you have a service contract, they want you to read back the serial
number, and some other things (5-10 minutes on the phone or on the web)
before they dispatch a person with parts (up to and including the entire
unit). With an onsite staff person, and we recommend this option in
specific cases when down time is expensive*, you can usually point them
to a failed machine, and say "go".
Another direction we usually use when our customers have limited support
staff's and are not interested in dealing with the support
questionaire's** is to have several cold spares sitting onsite. Or warm
spares. That is, since we argue that the units are sufficiently
inexpensive, you have several additional boxes that at a moments notice,
you can break into and setup (this part should be automatic), in order
to "fix" a problem, and you ship the failed box back to the vendor. If
you are really worried about down time, you pay extra for the cross ship
of the other box. You do not, and I cannot emphasize this enough, use
those boxes for anything other than support swap outs. In fact, if you
like, when you get them, load them, and then let them sit in a corner
*unused* with power. That way, when they are needed, the time to a
swapout and resumption of work is just a few minutes. This assumes BTW
that you store all your data/home directories on a server and not on the
There are many ways to skin this cat, but all of them cost real money.
You will not get good support unless you are willing to pay for it. The
better support you want, the higher the cost will be. At the end of the
day, a simple CBA may be needed to help define which level of support
you can convince management to pay for. The name brand folks have
fairly rigid support programs at the lower levels. If you are not
buying 10000 units from them a year, you shouldn't expect flexible
support. You will get the 1st level person who doesn't quite grok what
they are reading and asking you. You will get the 2nd level person (if
you are lucky) who will ask you to do more things and think about your
problem. Then you will get the RMA. This is what the big providers
will do unless you are buying them by the thousands.
While I usually agree with RGB, my experience (from both the consumer
and vendor sides) are that the smaller reputable shops will be willing
to work with you to design the support program you require. Just like
the large vendors, this will cost you money.
* good support contracts will run you 10-20% of the purchase price of
the system, per year. An onsite support person will run at a fixed cost
per year, and they won't be cheap. But this is the fastest method of
getting the best service. This should only be done when you start
losing lots of money per hour down. Financial houses are like this.
Transaction houses as well.
** which all vendors need to go through to get an idea of whats wrong,
its exactly like a triage ward at hospital, you don't admit the person
if they don't need to be admitted, though these days you rarely have a
knowledgable person on the other end, just someone reading a script
without much in the way of comprehension ... and it takes some learning
and finesse to get past them to the L2 folks who usually have some clue).
Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax : +1 734 786 8452
cell : +1 734 612 4615
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