November 15th, 2008
I used to buy Dell machines with the expectation that if there was a problem with them I was essentially on my own. For the price, that was OK and I bought them when that thinking was appropriate.
Very early Tuesday morning one of my inbound mail servers (a Dell PowerEdge 840) stopped responding completely. Since its failure wasn’t a critical problem (there are backups for everything that machine runs) I didn’t get to it until about 6pm Tuesday. It turns out the power supply had failed (the PS fan wouldn’t turn on and the PS put out no power at all). This particular server has been on constantly since new for just shy of 2 years. On Saturday it was off for the first time (due to an extended power outage) for 12 hours. I guess it got used to being on and failed in protest of being turned off.
Not in the mood for phone support hell, I tried Dell’s on-line support chat around 9pm. In 9 minutes I had a dispatch and case number and a power supply on the way. A tiny bit slower than the same conversation would have taken with HP but it was a simple “my power supply is dead, I’ve already tested it, it’s shot, send me a replacement”… “OK, it’s on the way” as I’m accustomed to with HP and not so much with Dell. So I’m happy, maybe I’ll start buying more Dell servers for semi-critical infrastructure.
Wednesday at 9:40pm I get an email from the support rep I had chatted with the previous day saying “the power supply is back-ordered, you should get it *next* Wednesday”. I reply that “a week for a power supply is a joke, HP would have one to me next day or the day after at the latest”. He responds, “Understood, I’ve noted your comments in my notes”. At this point I’m never buying a Dell machine for any non highly redundant server system again. The next day at work I spend $10k on some HP equipment that I was considering going with Dell on.
Shortly after buying the HP equipment Purolator shows up with my replacement power supply from Dell. It’s a refurb (like HP would be after 30 or 90 days), but it works and the server seems to be OK.
So, now I’m not sure if I’ll be buying Dell for non-redundant systems. It seems their support is getting up to par with HP but they have no idea about when you’ll actually get replacement parts (unless they do and complaining made it show up faster). I’ll likely keep buying Dell for grid computing clusters simply on a price basis. A failure of a cluster node is far less important than price and operating cost. Anything else though… I have no idea about Dell… I know HP is safe.