“Call home” support has been standard in large arrays for 15 years. But Nimble Storage has kicked it up a notch with their advanced telemetry data from installed systems. It gives new meaning to the term “after-sale support.”

Talk to me
Their system gathers configuration details and more. Feature – such as snapshots and backups – use. Volume protection. Application performance. Updated every 10 minutes.

Here’s a partial screen shot of representative data:

Nimble now has over 4TB of customer use data. Customers opt in to the program. Over 80% have.

When a problem is detected, Nimble’s software creates a trouble ticket. Then a human gets involved.

It might be as simple as having more Ethernet links on one of the active-passive storage controllers, causing asymetrical performance. Perhaps a volume is not protected. Or the replication policy won’t meet RPO objectives.

Email alerts flag issues to customers. Nimble support engineers can login remotely for real-time troubleshooting.

But that’s not all!
Detailed information on usage allows customers to compare their usage to average usage. Nimble can also look at how customers with the most efficient utilization manage their systems, automating the documentation of best practices.

For example, backup: most customers are retaining snapshots for more than a month. Over 50% of customers replicate workloads for DR.

The StorageMojo take
This is what 21st century support should look like. The best infrastructure is invisible – until it breaks – and the best support keeps the infrastructure from breaking.

The bad news: customers don’t want to buy and manage storage arrays. The good news: they want fast and reliable access to their data.

The Apple model of “it just works” breaks down if the applications are too complex, as many data center applications are. But that doesn’t require vendors to throw all the load on customers.

Automating the capture, review and disposition of system data gives a vendor important advantages:

  • Perceived reliability goes up, a fact established with early phone-home experience.
  • A stronger customer relationship makes follow-on sales easier and is a competitive barrier.
  • The “virtual user group” of shared data enables users to get smarter, faster using their Nimble arrays.
  • The real-time remote troubleshooting gives customers help when they need it most – not 4 hours later.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. What other support strategies have you experienced that either worked well – didn’t? If you want to learn more about Nimble, I did a video white paper on Nimble’s architecture last year.