Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Novell Support: Now even MORE behind a pay-wall!

I first ran into this on Bucky's Blog. Specifically, Novell is changing what non-paying users can get out of Novell's support options. The details are still being hashed out, but they made the mistake of running afoul of one of the major no-no's of support: Pay-for-patches, or at least the suggestion of it. They caught a lot of flack about that with requiring a support contract to use the auto-update channels for their Linux products, but this will go even farther and put even support packs behind the maintenance-contract pay-wall.

So if you're a NetWare customer that hasn't paid maintenance in umpteen years since your server Just Works (TM), you'll now have to buy maintenance if you want to apply the latest Service Pack. Or if your server is throwing abends that can be fixed with a patch that you learned about in the peer support forums, you'll need a contract to be able to access it. This was done intentionally to pull in these free-loaders into paid support, but it does represent a potentially steep cost that can catalyze more migrations off of Novell products. This will hurt the shoe-string IT departments more than the big-bucks one. And since that describes a goodly percentage of 'small businesses' this could be a major problem in the future.

What's causing some confusion is their intent to put some of the KB articles behind the pay-wall as well. As described by Novell's support-community coordinator:
FACT: Only about 8% of the TIDs in the knowledgebase will be closed off
for entitled customers. Those are the TIDS for the products under "General
Support" ( ). All other TIDS will
remain open to the general public. As products move from general support
to extended and self support, all TIDS will become public.
So the 20+ year history of NetWare TIDs will still be there as NetWare is nolonger on general support per-se, but TIDs about currently in support closed-source items like Novell Identity Manager and the entire ZenWorks line is another story. One beef I have about this is that even if you do have a maintenance contract, it means that anyone who could possibly search the KB for articles has to have:
  1. A login
  2. Their login associated with a maintenance contract
This doesn't always happen. I've had to add a few people to our contract so they can use the Customer Center to get license codes or register SLES machines against our support. But the large majority of our historic NetWare admins aren't on the contract because they haven't needed it. This move will force organizations such as ours to much more actively manage our Customer Center contract/username associations. That can be a lot of bother.

The end effect of all of this is that the value of 'peer support' is markedly reduced for currently-shipping products. Once upon a time Novell was a company that really encouraged peer support since it took load off of their support engineers, customers liked it since it was free, and it encouraged quite a lot of goodwill. Now they seem to have realized that this was a drain on the bottom line and are dismantling the system in favor of everyone paying for support. This destroys goodwill, as they're now learning in the support forums.


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