SUMMARY: 3rd party service & maintenence? Opinion of Grumman?

From: Robert Freeman (
Date: Tue Jul 27 1993 - 03:42:10 CDT

Sun Managers,
    Thank you for your comments! Below are the comments of 3rd party
service & maintenence users, which I found to be quite interesting.
I have removed the names from the passages, as quite a few wished to
remain anonymous.

- Robert Freeman
  Systems Manager
  Electrical Engineering
  818 395 4805

I have no experience with Grumman. We use Honeywell (Industrial Control
Division) Both here in Virginia and in Irvine CA. We have dealt with them for
over 3 years in Virginia and about six months in Irvine ( Our company bought a
subsidiary out there) They have been competent,fair, easy to work with, and
flexible. I have no qualms recommending them to anyone.

We have a Solbourne system, and Grumman takes care of their service
plan. I have only been working with this system for a month and
a half, however, on the numerous occasions that we have had hardware
problems, Grumman has been prompt, courteous, and competent, which
is more than can be said sometimes for Solbourne itself.

Over in our lab, we have a contract with GSSC for our sparc shop for both
4hr and 24hr response time. We are pleased with hardware support. However,
on the Sun, it is sometimes difficult to isolate a hardware problem
from a software issue. In this case my Unix expertise got me out of the
hole where GSSC didn't have a clue. But if you need them to swap a board
or fix something (we haven`t yet) they're cheap and not bad. I think
they might even be better out on the west coast where you guys are than
here in NYC.

  I have used Grumman in the past for support on Solbourne systems. Results
  were inconsistent! At times they were very responsive and resloved our
  problems within a short period of time. On other occasions, I wondered if
  they really knew what they were doing. Board swapping does not always work...
  The big advantage is the cost savings. Whether or not it is worth the
  additional savings remains to be seen. If you are seriously considering
  changing support services, I would suggest meeting with the technicians who
  would be handling your site. The big problem here is the better technicians
  (Field Engineers) tend to move up the ladder rather quickly.
  What I am really looking for is one company who will handle all my equipment
  (i.e. HP, DEC, SUN, IBM), be prompt in their response, and have competitive
  pricing. Think I am dreaming??

Probably not what you wanted, but I will say that we use Computervision
(formerly Prime) Service. They've been doing our stuff (all of it,
except disk drives and memory, which we buy with long-term warrantees)
for about a year and a half, and for the first time in eight years of
doing this stuff, I can truely say that we are completely and utterly
satisfied. They're the only heads-up service organization I've *ever*
dealt with, and we've dealt with about four others in those eight years.
(Have you *ever* seen a service guy notice that something was broken,
put in the call himself, and then ask you when you can take it down so
that he can fix it? They do this kind of stuff all the time.) But then,
local offices being local offices, and there being about 3000 miles
between you and me... YMMV.


Sorry, no experience with Grumman, but have you reviewed Sun's latest
service offerings with your local rep? They have a new combined HW/SW
comprehensive maintenance plan for a fixed price per workstation, which
could be a money-saver, assuming you want to cover all HW and SW somehow.
Hardware configuration is irrelevant -- same price. Unlimited telephone
support (primary contact) for ALL Sun software running on the system.
Ask about the "Bronze" plan (for the technically semi-competent ;^).

We contracted with Grumman for our Sun server maintenance because of the
good experience we had had with them maintaining our Data General
equipment. I can't say I've been totally happy with the result. In
particular, watch out for sparing levels.


My own experience is that when cost ($) becomes the sole criteria in selecting a
support contract, the quality of the staff placed will be sub-standard
(everyone has to make a profit).

If you are having problems with your OEM service supplier, and have paid for a specific
level of support, you need to DEMAND satisfaction. Take it up the "food chain"
at Sun, until someone gets shaken up. This tactic is effective, and can be
enjoyable. Although you "shouldn't have to do this", it is usually necessary no
matter what company you go with. Remember, "the squeaky wheel ....".


I have three Solbourne systems (one server & two workstations) that
I have maintenance on. When I have a problem, I call Solbourne, but
if anyone comes out to do anything, a Grumman person comes out. My
experience with the techs on the Solbourne, is that they just "Easter
Egg" the problem and hope it goes away. So I would not recommend
them for Solbourne systems. (But then I would not recommend any
Solbourne system either - I inheired these).

               We use Grumman for support. Currently have in excess of 250 Sun
systems at this site. We have had good support and I can recommend them from
our experience.

        Questions I think you should be asking:

                1) Reference sites serviced by the local Grumman office.

                2) How many Sun trained engineers work out of the local

                3) Who is the sales person? Are they currently handling
                   accounts that have Sun service requirements?

                4) What type of sparing do they have and where is it located?
                   Does it already exist and supporting other Sun support

        Again they get a good thumbs up, from our experience, in servicing a large
site. They have not been without mistakes but have worked very quickly to resolve
the few problems we have encountered. Our sales rep. takes the "customer is right"
attitude" (even when we have been alittle too demanding). They get very high marks
in their attitude and ability to deliver service on every third party device we
could throw at them.

        My biggest concern would be if they are just trying to start the Sun
support locally or if they have already geared up.

        Call me if you would like more discussion, I'd be happy to give you a
verbal recommendation from our experience.


We used Grumman to support our sun servers for awhile. They're OK. That's
about all I can say about them. My biggest problem with them is that their
office was about an hour's drive from my office. They NEVER brought spare
parts with them, even when you could tell them exactly which part was bad.
They would come out, run diags, say I was right, we need to replace the
mumble part, then they would have to drive for an hour back to their office,
get the part, then drive another hour back to my office and replace the part.
Simple math will tell you how long it took us to get a part replaced.

1-2 hour(s) for the callback
1 hour drive to my office
1 hour diags
1 hour drive to get part
1 hour drive to my office
1 hour to replace part and bring up system

1   day downtime even if it's only a memory board

If you have to have a disk replaced, you then have to add the time it takes to do the formatting, analyzing, and file restores, which can add another full day of downtime. Then on top of that, they charge you for the driving time! I eventually came to the realization that it was a waste of time and money to keep them. Although they do good work, they don't bring spare parts with them. If they are located 15-30 minutes away from your office, you could safely consider them. However, since they are so far away from my office, it wasn't worth it to me. Although SUN costs more, they are only a few minutes away. With all the extra money we were paying Grumman for driving time, the cost isn't that much different in the long run, and our system downtime is less.

------------------- Another company you could consider for SUN maintenance is DEC. Yes, that's right....Digital Equipment Corp. They were also doing our maintenance for awhile, and they're good. Also more expensive than Grumman, but if they are located close to your office, it might pay you to check them out as well.

------------------- [I also got a note from Polaris who read my email request, and suggested we consider them.] ---------------------- We use them [Grumman] for our solbournes and they have worked out for us.


Thanks all! - Robert

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