IBM is reaching out

There are some guys at IBM that have started to ‘get’ that whole “clue train” thing.
As a result, I have been given the oppertunity to talk directly to the IBM Xseries server team, on their website in particual and my experiences as a customer.

I recently posted about my initial experiences with IBM hardware and their website in particular, and these experiences where not exactly.. good.

I found very little about IBM in the blogosphere, so I felt that if I made IBM aware that I at least was posting about their stuff, someone at big blue might actually read it. I was aware of some names of IBM engineers though some of the redpapers and technotes they had published, so after some Googling, I sent a mail off to someone who seemed appropriate.

Came across your name in some relevant IBM documentation and tracked you down via Google. Hope you don’t mind my audacity 😉

I believe you have some amount of expertise concerning the issues I have posted about on my blog.

http://www.geekswithblogs.net/jemimus/archive/2005/07/26/48321.aspx

The standard IBM support channels turned up zilch for me, but I remain a firm believer in us engineers helping eachother out ocross the vast new mediascape we call the blogosphere 😉 It is in this spirit I send you this mail. I don’t expect a response, but if you do, prove to me that behind the PR facade of IBM’s unimpressive web-presence, are some real life people! 😀 I would love to hear your thoughts!

It was not long before I recieved the following response:

(email body published with permission)

Robert,
I don’t have a problem with people contacting me directly especially if they are IBM customers. As a matter of fact, you contacted the right person. I mainly deal with IBM customers (like yourself) these days in support of xSeries servers and BladeCenter but I was one of the original creators of UpdateXpress so I know just about everything there is to know about it.

I read your article. It disturbed me to read it but there is really nothing in there that is not true. However, I think I can help with some of it.

We have heard the same complaint from just about every customer about the IBM web site. We all agree that it needs help and we have several people looking into it to determine what needs to be done to make it easier to use. In the mean time, all I can offer is this web site. http://www.pc.ibm.com/support. This is the best way that I have found to get the latest and greatest updates. When you get to the main page, click on the “Downloads and drivers” link. From there select “Servers” from the Brand pull down and then select the machine type (xSeries 336 in your case) then click continue.

We are aware that the UpdateXpress CD is stale (out of date) soon after it is released simply because we release so many firmware updates. Because of that, there is a whitepaper (http://www-3.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/document.do?lndocid=MIGR-54034) that shows how to update the device drivers of the CD using UXLive that basically allows you bring the CD up to date. The UpdateXpress team is currently writing a whitepaper that addresses how to update the firmware on the CD to accomplish the same thing. I am not exactly sure when they are going to release it but it should be soon (I have seen the final draft). There is also a whitepaper (http://www-3.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/document.do?lndocid=MIGR-54033) that shows how to automate the firmware updates using the RemoteUX utility. The same thing can be done for the driver updates as well. Detailed documentation of the RemoteUX utility can be found in the HTML help on the UpdateXpress CD. To access the help, you can either fire up the GUI or simply start the index.html file on the root of the CD.

There is also a new piece of UpdateXpress called UpdateXpress Server which allows you download updates from the IBM web site and organize them into profiles. UXServer is essentially the replacement for UXLive and is much more powerful. You will find, however, that UXServer has some of the things that you complained about with UXLive such as it does not actually run or apply the updates and a few other things but overall, I think you will find it useful.

Specifically for the x336, the BIOS, Diagnostic, and RSA II code can be updated under the OS (either Windows or Linux). The flash actually runs under the OS but does require a reboot to take affect (the RSA II flash is immediate). The ability to flash the BMC under the OS is coming soon.

As far as the help desk, that should not have happened. If you happen to call the help desk and run into this again, please let me know what number you called and who you talked to so we can get to the bottom of what happened.

Not sure what to say about IBM Director or the EXP-400.

Glad to hear that you like the IPMI implementation. Stay tuned to that. There are bigger and better things coming…

I hope this email helped you.

Please let me know if I can help any further.

Thank You.

This response impressed me, especially how he more or less agreed that their website sucked ass in a lot of ways. What I found especially suprising is that I got such a casual and personal responce from such a massive corperation.

Now just to be clear, this is how it should be, but experience with large corperations often tells us different. IBM, or at least this part of IBM,  is making a serious effort to adress this very issue.. as the clue train guys said, “markets are conversations”.  Taking this to heart, IBM has started to engage us, the customers, in the most positive and constructive way possible. Mucho browie points!

Continued in future posts…


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