Oracle continues to make Sun customers miserable

Is Oracle doing this on purpose? Or has anyone who knows or cares about all that beautiful Sun hardware left the company?

I've been putting off writing about my ongoing saga with Sun Oracle, because I have yet to reach anything resembling satisfaction. But I can't stop myself from venting anymore. You simply would not believe how frustrating it is to get any kind of Sun hardware or software support from Oracle.

In fact, to put it succintly: You can't. At least, I certainly haven't been able to.

[ Paul Venezia's problems with Oracle support have dragged on since last March. | Feeling nostalgic? See InfoWorld's classic homage to Sun in this memorial slideshow. | Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or war tale from the trenches. Send your story to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

For the past several months I've been having problems with two Sun Unified Storage Servers. Most of these were related to bugs introduced into the newer versions of the appliance software -- problems like tens of thousands of spurious CIFS IOps due to a bug that caused a single workstation to generate thousands of IOps simply by having an Explorer window open to a share on the storage array. That bug was introduced in the same software update that fixed significant problems with the snapshot deletion methods and made replication work again since that was broken in a previous release. Oh, and that same firmware update also caused the array to spontaneously reboot every once in awhile.

But that's OK for primary storage, right? I mean, who needs storage that's available 24/7/365? Only anyone who runs a business....

Tickets were opened, phone calls were made, emails went unanswered, tickets were never closed. The problems were addressed at first with a binary patch that was apparently custom-made to address this problem (which sends up all kinds of red flags), but that re-introduced other problems. It became apparent that the support team has no idea what's happening. That really gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

I don't necessarily blame the support staff for this, because I get the feeling they've been gutted by attrition and poor management decisions in the wake of the acquisition. But even though I feel compassion for the poor souls with insufficient training and information to address what must be a deluge of complaints, I hold the bosses who are responsible for this travesty in contempt. There's no excuse for this level of disregard for customers who have paid handsomely for hardware and support contracts.

A while back, I wrote a little bit of fiction about how massively overblown support sites can cause many more problems than they solve. Oracle's new support site, which combines all Oracle and Sun products into one portal, is a perfect example of how to completely overdo it. It's 100 percent Flash-based (the company claims there's an HTML version, but I can't find it) and would not let me access any support resources for two weeks after the switchover. I even called in and was given a support ticket for this problem -- a support ticket describing how I couldn't access my support tickets. I was promised resolution within the hour.

Three days after that promise and two full weeks after I encountered the problem, I was finally able to take a look at the tickets I had -- some months old -- in the new support system. Talk about your Pyrrhic victories.

What's worse is that these units are great examples of Sun design and implementation: blazing fast performance, incredible management tools, a dazzling array of features, and all for a reasonable cost. Dealing with these problems is like having to take your Bugatti to a Ford dealer for repairs, knowing that they're just making the problems worse every time but you have no other choice unless you ditch the car.

When these storage units were purchased, Sun was Sun, Oracle was Oracle, and the quality of the support and the quality of the software was far better than it is now. The whole situation feels like a massive bait and switch. I can hope that there are improvements over time, but I won't be holding my breath.

The reality is that there's too much money tied up in these arrays to go elsewhere for now. They have to work; there's no other choice. So like Sisyphus, I and others like me are doomed to keep rolling that boulder up the hill, only to watch it skitter back to the bottom. IT is challenging enough without manufactured problems.

This story, "Oracle continues to make Sun customers miserable," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest in business techonology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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