At Unitrends, we get a lot of customer suggestions for new features and enhancements.  We spend a lot of time talking about them, understanding them, prioritizing them, and most importantly spending R&D dollars to implement and release them.  In the time since we created “Unitrends 2.0” back in 2009 until today, I think the reason our products and technology have allowed us to grow so quickly comes down to having amazing and brilliant customers – and a great support and engineering team that listens.  I know that our growth is driven in large part by customer referrals – people telling other people that we do a good job for them

With that said, this week we spent a few hours reading a detailed e-mail sent to David Monarch (David is one of our star level 2 customer engineers) by Brad Brundage.  I wont’ go into the details – but Brad asked for a series of enhancements to our bare metal software in our Recovery-series and Unitrends Enterprise Backup products.  The best news was that many of these are in beta in release 7.4 and will be generally available later this month.  But not everything.  One thing Brad wanted was an integrated method of creating USB-based bare metal recovery media. As a result of this, we’re going to implement some new features Brad called out.  Brad deserves ENORMOUS credit for taking the time to be very specific on what he’d like and why – can’t stress enough that none of this happens without someone like Brad passionately caring about Unitrends enough to give us this feedback.  He’s the hero here. If you want an internal peak at the way Unitrends handles customer requests (outside of the standard RMS – Requirements Management System) – kind of thing, I thought that it might be interesting to see what happened – you have to read this e-mail thread from bottom to top.  The extended cast of characters are Sameer Kamat – our Recovery-Series/UEB architect, Joe Balazs – our VP of engineering for Recovery-Series/UEB/Unitrends Cloud, and Ken Smith – one of our top Windows developers.

From: Mark Campbell
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:39 AM
To: Sameer Kamat; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

Do you see anything else he wants we’re not doing?

 P.S. Thanks for the INCREDIBLE job here of responding to me quickly and accurately – sorry for any ignorance I’m showing.

From: Sameer Kamat 
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:38 AM
To: Mark Campbell; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Sorry for not articulating it better before. With the new version, there is no iso creation. There is a stock BMR ISO that has to be burned and it can be burned to optical media or to bootable USB keys.  That was the link I sent before.  We should be able to satisfy this customer’s request.

 From: Mark Campbell 

Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:34 AM
To: Sameer Kamat; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Sameer: Quick question.  You know that what they want is not only creating ISO’s but bootable USB’s.  We okay with that?

 From: Mark Campbell 

Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:32 AM
To: Sameer Kamat; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Super!  And we can get rid of optical on new desktops and save money and delight customers.  USB rules!  Thanks tremendously.  And even if we don’t have a UI for it, it’s okay sometimes to ask someone to drop to command line for a quarter until we get UI support.

 From: Sameer Kamat 

Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:31 AM
To: Mark Campbell; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 I will check if Linux version is available, pretty sure there would be tools on linux to do the same.

 I will also make sure documentation has it covered.

 From: Mark Campbell 

Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 4:53 AM
To: Sameer Kamat; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Sameer: Thanks.  Is Linux version available?  Are we including instructions on this in our UI/UX and documentation?

 From: Sameer Kamat 

Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 4:41 PM
To: Mark Campbell; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 We expose the ISOs through a CIFS share and allow the users to burn them from any workstation with any tool of their choice.

 Having said that, for this customer’s question, whether a USB key can be used as Bare Metal media, the answer is yes. The generic ISO in 7.4 can be “burned” to a USB key with any free software like www.isotousb.com. He can then use the USB key as the bare metal media.

 From: Mark Campbell 

Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 2:44 PM
To: David Monarch; Sameer Kamat
Cc: Joe Balazs
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Sameer: Thought we were looking at USB option as way to lower hardware costs by getting rid of optical drive?

 From: David Monarch 

Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 12:48 PM
To: Sameer Kamat; Mark Campbell
Cc: Joe Balazs
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 I know he is interested in the ability to use a USB drive instead is CD,  which would be a good option for a lot of our customers.

 ——– Original message ——–

From: Sameer Kamat 
Date:04/23/2014 12:46 PM (GMT-05:00) 
To: Mark Campbell ,David Monarch 
Cc: Joe Balazs 
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

The instructions  below are to create a Bare Metal media the old way.  The new way is to just burn a generic ISO and boot.

From: Mark Campbell 
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 12:43 PM
To: David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Sameer Kamat
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Copying Joe & Sameer.  Don’t know if this below is new BMR or old.  Can you investigate and let David know (copy me.)

 From: David Monarch 

Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:38 AM
To: Mark Campbell
Subject: FW: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Thought you might find some of this interesting.

From: BRAD
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:37 AM
To: David Monarch
Subject: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Hi David, […]

Comments

  1. With David’s help today we were able to figure out that the new Integrated Bare Metal option is not compatible with File-Level backups restored from an Archive Set. This is because currently when the File-Level backup is written to an Archive the Disk Metadata is not copied with it. That makes the new Integrated Bare Metal option unusable in a Disaster Recovery scenario where Archive Sets are used to rehydrate a physical appliance or a UEB. Initially he was told that this was by design, but he fought back on my behalf and was given approval to push this up to engineering to be changed. Guys like David are the reason Unitrends has the glowing Customer Service reputation that it does.

    1. Cliff: Thanks for the note. I love our support also. Of course, they were a lot better a year or so ago when I was personally leading the group (big smiley face here – that’s absolutely *not* the case – these folks were great then and are even better now!)

      I had to chase down what was going on. First of all, not sure who said “working as intended” – but that’s *sure* not the case! What occurred was that there are some internal status bits for this new backup type that weren’t getting handled correctly by the archiving subsystem. To oompound our error, we clearly didn’t catch the original mistake that development made in our QA process.

      We should have a patch out next week to fix this permanently – and our development and QA teams are both doing RCA/CLCA (root cause analysis and closed loop corrective action) work to ensure that mistakes of this type don’t occur again.

      Thanks tremendously for taking the time to write!

Comments are closed.