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  1. #1

    Datacenter support cant tell me how much a KVM costs?

    So I needed to reboot one of my colocated machines into a different kernel, compile and load a kernel module (for a network interface) and then bring up that interface. So I called the datacenter support to ask if they could compile and load the module for me and inquire as to about how long that would take. On their website they say they provide Best Effort third party application support and 24/7 Phone Support with on site server admins so this doesn't really seem like a unreasonable request. I want to pay them for support and they're there to do it right?

    Apparently not.

    The support guy said that compiling and loading the module was dependant on "very many factors". The first "factor" he inquired about was what OS we were running--Debian. "Debian isn't a supported OS, we can't do that for you." What? I'm sorry you CAN'T do it? I thought you provided "Best Effort" support. This seems more like zero effort support to me. (I'm willing to provide step by step instructions but apparently they won't do that because they don't want to.)

    Ok, fine, you won't compile and load something for me no big deal that's what KVMs are for.
    "Can you hook up a KVM?"
    "Sure"
    "How much would that cost"
    "I don't know, this is the support department not the sales department, you'd have to ask the sales department tomorrow."
    Really? So if my server is exploding at night and you wont even try to do anything about it and my only option is to have you setup a KVM you can't tell me how much that will cost? What am I going to tell my boss when we get a rediculous bill for a KVM--the support guy wouldn't tell me how much it costs? Not good enough. Not only that but you're going to be a give me a snarky response to my question--a question I only asked because you wouldn't provide remote hands?

    Is it just me or is it pretty rediculous that the support guys can't tell you how much KVM costs? Not all situations where you'd need KVM are planned or happen during the hours the sales department is open. It apparently isn't a problem to have them hook up the KVM 24/7 you just wont know how much it's going to cost you until the next business day. Is this typical of datacenter support?

    My guess is that support is completely hit and miss, I've had great experiences with a small datacenter before (Joe's helped out when a hard drive in a RAID failed) and bad experiences with larger datacenters (one you've all heard of, I asked ahead of time if they could ghost a drive and replace it. They said yes. I provided step by step instructions with screenshots they tried it and failed saying "I don't really know linux, I'm a windows guy, I don't know what I'm doing, I messed it up somehow, I don't know what I did" and yet still billed me for it).

  2. #2
    The same thing happens in a lot of places, you're better off asking for a list of prices with all services offered from the datacenter so you know what you're dealing with.
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    I would have to say, at least they have 24/7 support. You could maybe persuade support to hook you up with a KVM for a few hours and then get the price in the morning.

    But that's up to them.

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    You would at least think they could give you an idea of the cost to hookup the kvm. And if you were going to provide step by step instructions to have them do it, it shouldn't be a big deal at all. We provide IP-Over-KVM & Remote reboot free to all of our co-location customers at no cost, and are hooked up 24/7. It seems this is typically not normal, especially with the larger hosts. Personally, I think it is worth the investment to them, as it would lower the number of support requests they get.
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  5. #5
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    Sounds like a case of the lazy admin. It blows my mind that there are colo's that can't run some basic commands or hook up a KVM when asked.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastServ View Post
    Sounds like a case of the lazy admin. It blows my mind that there are colo's that can't run some basic commands or hook up a KVM when asked.
    Depends on policy. Lots of companies don't give pricing to DC employees because its not their job to do it, and/or if its a short term thing who says he'll follow up and order the service. No signatures/orders no billing.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spudstr View Post
    Depends on policy. Lots of companies don't give pricing to DC employees because its not their job to do it, and/or if its a short term thing who says he'll follow up and order the service. No signatures/orders no billing.
    I'm not talking about pricing. I'm talking about the guy left in the dark because the tech refused to touch Debian nor hook up a kvm do customer could do it himself. I guess all techs are allowed to do in some DC's is push reset buttons.
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    Sad to hear about your problems, any chance you could let us know who this is? Just so we can eliminate them from our future comparisons.
    Not sure what to put here :-P

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    I'm not too sure who even charges for KVMoIP for colo customers.

    Most of the time, I request the onsite to hook up the KVM to a particular machine for a couple of hours and its done.

    Very lazy admin. But I wouldn't go with you all the way for the sales/pricing part - not his fault. Company might have policies preventing techs to disclose pricing. Most Companies do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FastServ View Post
    I'm not talking about pricing. I'm talking about the guy left in the dark because the tech refused to touch Debian nor hook up a kvm do customer could do it himself. I guess all techs are allowed to do in some DC's is push reset buttons.
    Depends on the quality of tech, some are mainly there to push buttons and eat a banana or two.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by litany View Post
    "Debian isn't a supported OS....
    Discussing this in another thread.... Debian is not enterprise and not everyone supports it. Good, and I mean good techs on average are proficient on 2 distributions and if they are not versed in Debian may be nervous about messing with it.

    As far as them not helping, think of it from a liability issue. Once they get their hands into your server they create some liability to not destroy your data. Think how upset you would be right now had they done the work and your server was inaccessible and all data lost.

    Find a datacenter that actually supports Debian and you will have an easier time. Or switch to Red Hat and be able to get support.


    Quote Originally Posted by litany View Post
    Is it just me or is it pretty rediculous that the support guys can't tell you how much KVM costs?
    This is an interesting situation. The tech is right, they (tech support) in most cases do not deal with sales and have no idea of prices and cannot provide additional services beyond simple hands on without permission.

    Best effort support does not mean they can provide full system administrator support after hours. In most locations after hours support is limited to simple remote hands for reboots and such.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by zendzipr View Post
    Discussing this in another thread.... Debian is not enterprise and not everyone supports it.

    This is an interesting situation. The tech is right, they (tech support) in most cases do not deal with sales and have no idea of prices and cannot provide additional services beyond simple hands on without permission.

    Best effort support does not mean they can provide full system administrator support after hours. In most locations after hours support is limited to simple remote hands for reboots and such.
    I was willing to provide step by step instructions so there isn't really any liability on their part and plus I would think that by my requesting support that would excuse them from things that aren't grossly negligent.

    It wasn't like I was asking him to quote me for extra collocation or I was looking to negotiate with him--support techs should be able to say how much their company charges for their common services. I see no excuse why this is not the case. They essentially cripple the value of your 24/7 service by not doing that.

    They "provide" 24/7 best effort support. Additionally I think what I needed would constitute as remote hands? I just needed the guy to push a few buttons in an order I specified while eating his banana.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by mooseweb View Post
    Sad to hear about your problems, any chance you could let us know who this is? Just so we can eliminate them from our future comparisons.
    If you want to PM me I'd be happy to tell you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by litany View Post
    I was willing to provide step by step instructions so there isn't really any liability on their part and plus I would think that by my requesting support that would excuse them from things that aren't grossly negligent.
    Doesn't matter. As soon as a datacenter technician touches the server it immediately places him (and the provider) on the hook for any damages that may occur (and any potential lawsuits). It does not matter if you "said that it's okay", it is not a "standard" activity (just about anything beyond a standard reboot is usually not considered "standard") and is, in most cases, considered billable work (and possibly puts the customer's data at risk).

    Quote Originally Posted by litany View Post
    It wasn't like I was asking him to quote me for extra collocation or I was looking to negotiate with him--support techs should be able to say how much their company charges for their common services. I see no excuse why this is not the case. They essentially cripple the value of your 24/7 service by not doing that.
    In many datacenters there is usually a small list of prices that the techs are allowed quote for services (e.g., reinstalls, hourly troubleshooting rates, etc.). Beyond that the techs normally don't deal with *any* numbers whatsoever and usually won't do anything and will defer the request to sales/billing/customer service (even if it is on the weekend).

    Quote Originally Posted by litany View Post
    They "provide" 24/7 best effort support. Additionally I think what I needed would constitute as remote hands? I just needed the guy to push a few buttons in an order I specified while eating his banana.
    This policiy is usually dependent on the datacenter, and may not be 100% consistent depending on the tech you are working with. If you were able to walk him through exactly everything that needed to be pressed (as well as covered any odd error conditions that may pop up) then it probably could have been done. However, the tech probably refused to support it because if you needed him to try to figure out anything that you couldn't walk him through, and if he lacked the knowledge to proceed (as well as the authorization to spend time researching the issue), then it goes back to the tech/datacenter liability issue.

    In cases like this it may be a good idea for you to invest in your own remote KVM equipment so that the most you have to tell the tech to do is "connect my KVM to server X and walk away".

  15. #15
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    I've never, not once, had a datacenter refuse remote hands work due to 'liability issues'. This is the first time I've ever heard that 'excuse'.
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    I don't think it's an excuse at all, it's an absolutely valid point. If you're trying to get a support tech to do something in an environment they're not familiar with, even if you provide them with step by step instructions, it's very easy to omit a step that's just natural to you (do a reboot at this point or something similar). I'm not saying such an omission would happen to *you*, but the possibility is there, thus (to me) it's understandable for the DC to want to protect themselves and their techs from such liability. I mean, say something in the instructions unintentionally causes the tech to screw something up. Who's then responsible for it? My opinion, if you ask to have work done on a server and the tech goes "I'm not really familiar with this, I can't provide support/are you *sure* you want me to continue?", you explicitly state that you will provide instructions and that if anything goes wrong, you assume responsibility. Otherwise, I wouldn't blame the tech at all for not touching your stuff.

    As for the "best effort" part, I think that's again dependent on the tech's knowledge. If it's an environment he's familiar with, "best effort" entails the tech doing whatever they know to get the issue resolved. If they don't know how, they're well within their right to say "I don't know this, I can't touch it". Certainly better than "I don't know this, but I'll try; oops, I messed up, your RAID array's now corrupt". On that note, as was mentioned before, Debian's not exactly enterprise. Among our clients, only a small handful use Debian; most use CentOS and Win2K3, and whenever we're asked to provide hands-on support, it's almost without exception on the aforementioned two OSes. It's by no means a good excuse =P, but given the liability issues mentioned above, it's valid enough, as I see it.

    KVM-wise though, I don't think it's the first time that DC has had to deal with hooking up a KVM-over-IP. I'm *sure* they've had to deal with a situation like this before; the way they handled it is *not* proper and they should've realized this/corrected it until now. Sales should provide after-hours techs with a list of the most common fees, so if anyone asks, the tech can at least go "you'll have to get an exact price from sales tomorrow, but you're looking at around X dollars an hour". Ideally, that price should be fixed or should have a well-defined and *public* ruleset governing it (if you use between hours w and x or condition a, it's $p, if between y and z or condition b, it's $q). Here at Scratch, we don't charge for KVM at all (for occasional use at least); our policy is pretty much "OK, here you go, but try not to take too long with it so if someone's server catches fire, the KVM's free to come to the rescue". Of course, we don't just have *one* KVM =P, but in case multiple servers suddenly encounter a problem, we have as many KVMs as possible ready for the justifiably panicking admins. Seems pretty fair to me, our clients seem happy with it as well =)

    Anyway, asking that you wait on pricing till the next day when you *have* to use the KVM seems like a sales strong-arm tactic to me. Don't blame the tech for it, they're just going on what they've been given. That DC should seriously consider revising their pricing info availability; the tech should be able to give an exact or at least closely approximate monetary value for the use of such services.

    I'm with you on the "snarky comment" part though =P. The tech could've been quite a bit nicer/explain the situation better.
    Last edited by gypsy; 08-29-2009 at 03:58 PM.

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    I can completely understand a technician not wanting to be responsible for installing software for a client in a Colocation facility, especially one that only offers remote hands, but to not be able to connect a KVM is ludicrous.

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    Quote Originally Posted by litany View Post
    bad experiences with larger datacenters (one you've all heard of, I asked ahead of time if they could ghost a drive and replace it. They said yes. I provided step by step instructions with screenshots they tried it and failed saying "I don't really know linux, I'm a windows guy, I don't know what I'm doing, I messed it up somehow, I don't know what I did" and yet still billed me for it).
    That is scary, could you PM me the company name? If possible?

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    The definition of remote hands is that they operate as a remote set of hands (and eyes). If they're unable to do that, they are not offering remote hands. End of story. It's one thing to not be able to "go compile this kernel for x OS", but another to not be able to tell the customer what they see on the screen and follows instruction on what to do next.

    I can somewhat understand not being given pricing, although I do not agree with it. Especially with colo, there are often special terms in the contract that techs will not be aware of. The fear is, that the tech could quote pricing for a particular service, that is supposed to be including in the contract, and the customer ends up being unhappy hearing what is quoted. However, a simple disclaimer such as "standard pricing for your service at this location is ..." would cover the bases well enough, and much preferable to the customer being in the dark about pricing, as is evidenced here.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastServ View Post
    I've never, not once, had a datacenter refuse remote hands work due to 'liability issues'. This is the first time I've ever heard that 'excuse'.
    If you are using an OS that the datacenter specifically says that they will support, then you should never run into that excuse. But if you use an "unsupported" OS and the tech assigned to your issue does not have the knowledge required to fix it nor the time to research it, they would rather err on the side of caution.

  21. #21
    I think that you should not avoid mentioning the company name in the public forum. After all, one of the best features of WHT is that we can get information on different companies by just browsing through forums. Also some people think they did not do something terribly wrong, so company may even benefit from this post in such cases . There is no such thing as bad publicity.

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    I don't think this is all that unusual. In my experience, there are two distinct types of datacenter service for colocation customers. One, generally for those companies that also offer managed hosting, dedicated servers, and/or other managed services, are much more interested in you using those services, it's part of their core offering, so they make it much easier to do so. The other does not make managed services part of their core offering and hence are much more limited in what they will do outside of basic button pushing, and these basic remote hands personnel are used by a variety of tenants who may have differing contract rates. Though this is a generality, this second group is mostly large, carrier neutral facilities. For instance, I worked with a company recently that had a half cab with an Internap reseller at an Equinix facility, as they couldn't go either direct to Equinix or Internap with that small of a space requirement. When using remote hands, they would use the Equinix onsite service (though it was a complicated system of contacting the reseller's support, who then contacted Internap, who then contacted the Equinix remote hands, who would then call the customer back), but for billing you're going through multiple parties in the billing chain, Equinix -> Internap -> Reseller -> Customer. I think the Equinix SmartHands rate was $250/hr for no commit at that facility, while I know Internap in an Equinix facility generally bundles in at least an hour of remote hands time for a single cab, and is something like $150 - $175/hr thereafter. The reseller may be at a different price to the customer. There are also tenants that commit to a block of X hours per month at a discount. Within that same facility, it wouldn't surprise me at all that some companies have a separate KVM rental option, and some don't; some charge just for the tech's time to hook it up and disconnect it, some also charge an hourly rate, some a flat rate, etc. In that situation, how is the datacenter tech going to know what you'll get charged?

    With regards to the liability, I suggest checking your Master Service Agreement or it's equivalent; any company with any sort of legal sophistication will limit their liability to a high degree (and oftentimes even beyond what is likely to be legally enforceable so as to simply be a deterrent). Even if remote hands isn't specifically mentioned, almost all these contracts limit the provider's liability exposure to either the remaining contract value at the time of the incident, or the total contract amount, so unless you can prove malicious intent, it's not like a customer will be able to collect some sort of large windfall in the event of a tech's screwup.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by hhw View Post
    The definition of remote hands is that they operate as a remote set of hands (and eyes). If they're unable to do that, they are not offering remote hands.
    Not sure how you fully define remote hands but here are some examples.

    Examples of remote hands tasks include: pressing a button, flipping a switch, hooking up a monitor and reporting what's on the screen, typing in commands that you supply, power cycling equipment, swapping tapes, securing cable connections, selecting items with a mouse, mounting equipment and escorting people to shared rack space. These tasks are generally things that anyone can perform and do not require special training.

    Remote hands services generally do not include configuring your equipment or doing anything that requires specialized knowledge or training. Anything above remote hands is a managed service that requires some coordination and hourly payment or contract that covers service.

    The OP was not asking for a simple command to be run but for a kernel to be compiled.

    I called the datacenter support to ask if they could compile and load the module
    That is not a simple task that anyone can perform. In many facilities, after hours technicians are often JR techs with less experience which would include not knowing how to compile a kernel. Compiling a kernel is a bit more complex than typing a few commands. It is time consuming and outside the scope of simple remote hands support.

    I am not certain from the OP's post but is this a single colocated server, leased server, cabinet, cage, etc? Does not really truly matter, prior planning would include KVM or serial console as standard build and OP would not be in this situation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zendzipr View Post
    The OP was not asking for a simple command to be run but for a kernel to be compiled.
    The OP did say, "I'm willing to provide step by step instructions" though it is not clear if those instructions were provided to the facility or not, nor how clear/detailed those instructions were. To me, this whole thing comes down to instructions, if clear instructions were provided there should have been no issue in following them, if they weren't then I can't blame the colo facility for the decision made if they were unfamiliar with the software.

    As for the KVM, I can see both sides. it would be your, the OPs, responsibility to have such things planned in advance, being aware of the colo providers overall pricing schedule, KVM procedure/availability, etc. On the otherhand, I can't imagine the support tech couldn't just look up the "list price" for KVM or be able to tell you if it was just billed as support time. The response itself was also a bit rude. From what I can tell though, he said he could hook it up, and did not refuse to do so, you simply got hung up on not knowing what the price would be.
    Last edited by KarlZimmer; 08-30-2009 at 02:59 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastServ View Post
    I've never, not once, had a datacenter refuse remote hands work due to 'liability issues'. This is the first time I've ever heard that 'excuse'.
    Considering we've had occasions where smaller customers threaten to sue us over following their specific instructions, I'd say a facility needs to either do absolutely nothing or accept the liability, backing up their actions with the directions/instruction of the customer.

    We had one customer tell us to remove hot swap drive #2 from his system and replace it because it died. We clarified that the numbers on the front of the chassis matched the labeling he was using and he confirmed. We removed the drive specified and it turns out the drives weren't labeled properly, which would have been the case when we received the system, and he began threatening to sue us for ruining his RAID array, etc.
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  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by KarlZimmer View Post
    The OP did say, "I'm willing to provide step by step instructions"
    Step by step instructions != simple command.
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by zendzipr View Post
    Step by step instructions != simple command.
    Whether the command is simple or complex is irrelevant. All you need is to be able to read or listen, and type. You don't need any special training to type in what's given to you.

    I've performed many such remote hands myself. Years ago when I first worked in a NOC, I setup BGP on 2950 EI's, when all I had done in Cisco IOS at that point was run show int. All I had to do was type out the instructions that were given, while on the phone with the customer reporting what I saw. I barely had any idea what any of the commands did, but the point was that I didn't need to.

    Even someone who's never touched Linux before can compile a kernel, if they can follow instructions. I compiled a kernel the first time I used Linux, as my purpose was to build a home router/firewall (you had to compile in ipchains back then). One good how-to, and a few hours later, I had a working setup with a custom compiled kernel.
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  28. #28
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    I think you guys don't get it at all. If the tech is unfamiliar with an OS, getting them to type in commands IS a question of liability. If the OP gives them a command that is just ever so slightly wrong and something bad happens it will be the OP claiming they are clueless and them saying I did exactly what you told me to do.

    I have had very knowledgeable people make mistakes and have done them myself.

    "Hey I know IOS I can follow instructions for CATOS" same company yet different commands and the possibility for errors goes up.
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