Supporting the real world

May 8, 2007

Every so often, a vendor's support people tell me something like 'we are not going to investigate your bug report merely because you are running an unsupported configuration'. And by 'unsupported configuration' they do not mean 'something explicitly documented not to work', they mean 'some set of hardware and software not in our narrow list of supported setups'.

(Nor are the products labeled as being so fragile that they work only in certain limited configurations.)

There are two things I hear when vendors say this:

  • that the vendor is more interested in closing my support case than in investigating a situation where their product malfunctions.
  • and, more importantly, that the vendor is not interested in working in real world heterogeneous configurations, only in places that are willing to pay large sums of money for a security blanket.

The narrow list of supported setups that most vendors offer is invariably expensive and out of date. The only people in the real world who use completely supported setups are people with a great deal of money who feel that they cannot afford to take any risks, and so are doing as much as they can to mitigate them.

A vendor that demonstrates not very much interest in improving the overall quality of their product is one that fails to fill me with confidence. A vendor that is not interested in working in the real world is not one that I want to do business with.

(Technically we could factor in the risk of unavailable support versus the possible benefits of the product if everything just works. But I prefer to just not deal with vendors who've clearly indicated that they aren't interested in my business.)

Sidebar: what I expect a vendor's 'supported configurations' to be

Without strong and visible disclaimers to the contrary, I expect a vendor's supported configurations to be the configurations that they have actively tested and thus certify that it works in. Since they are carefully tested configurations, people who do not ever want to run into any surprises and issues that have to be worked through then use one of them.

I do not demand that vendor products be trouble-free even outside the supported configurations. I do expect that the vendor be willing to try to fix any problems that turn up.

Written on 08 May 2007.
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Last modified: Tue May 8 23:19:39 2007
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