I recently asked a question about a combination of disks & server which is not vendor-supported (link here), in short adding EOL disks from another vendor to servers currently in use. The setup was to be used for a low-cost dev/test environment.

Please don't answer here for the original question, answer about your opinion on questions policy.

Although it got answered successfully, it also got several downvotes and upvotes, and a comment discussion about the validity of questions for vendor-unsupported configurations. It seems there could be a confusion between unsupported and unauthorized.

Moreover, in my opinion tech questions about designing systems in a non-vendor predicted way should be valid as long as they cover a valid business need. It seems that to a lot of members, using a setup not offered by presales is not a valid question.

I strongly disagree with dumbing-down IT role to do just procurements and scheduled maintenance. As an engineer I consider it my obligation to explore ways to minimize company costs as long as the risks are explored and accepted. I'm also feeling I'm arguing the obvious. When you design something for business, vendor support is just another (important) parameter to consider, not what dictates the design. And for those systems which are offered by the vendors, there is always the official "vendor support" channel.

For software there is of course a consensus that the above is accepted. For example installing FreeBSD is valid, while it is not vendor-supported. (hotmail.com, a valid buisiness runs (or used to run) in FreeBSD)

It seems that SF prefers questions already answered elsewhere, in some manual or "best practices" paper, and are given here in better clarity. Questions that involve even a minimal design are considered bad.

EDIT: As there seems to be some confusion this question is only about unsupported as in "not officially manufacturer-supported", i.e. something that the manufacturer doesn't provide documentation for. It's not about unmaintainable systems or about absurd questions. Examples include:

  1. Unsupported O/S (i.e. installing FreeBSD or debian on a server which only officially supports Windows, RedHat, Ubuntu, etc
  2. EOL O/S (e.g. install an old O/S on a recent server in order to replace an ageing server which runs a critical app)
  3. Unsupported software (by the O/S manufacturer). E.g. a kernel driver like trueport
  4. Unsupported but protocol compatible parts (i.e. 3rd party memory, disks, etc) E.g.
  5. Unsupported but protocol compatible peripherals (usb/scsi/FC devices)

Most of the above are commonplace and I consider them valid.

  • Oh god, another downvote. Why is that? – sivann Nov 17 '15 at 9:01
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    Votes on meta have a different meaning to the main site: They are used to indicate agreement or disagreement. I didn't downvote you, but I do think that selling the drives on (after a secure erase) is probably the best idea. – Michael Hampton Nov 17 '15 at 9:03
  • @MichaelHampton I didn't know this about the votes. This is not a question about the drives, there is the original question for that. This is for the policy of SF about questions for setups not supported/predicted by the vendors. – sivann Nov 17 '15 at 9:08
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    The main issue I would say is that most of these questions are in a round-a-bout way duplicates. Why? Because most of the time the answer is there is a solution but it isn't worth the time, unless your hourly rates are abysmal a supported solution is cheaper. – Reaces Nov 18 '15 at 8:36
  • @Reaces yes you could say they are abysimal compared to the US – sivann Nov 18 '15 at 8:57
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    @sivann, if this is a config you are supporting on your own than its even less appropriate than others have answered. SF is about regular business management situations, not a kludge put together to build a garage system. – Jim B Nov 20 '15 at 0:18
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    @JimB Please don't be snoot with other people's budget and needs. I already explained the buisiness need. Of course the orthodox answer is to poor more money on a project, but it's not always the right answer. – sivann Nov 20 '15 at 11:38

If a setup is known to be unsupported by manufacturers and as such they won't support it, I don't see why we in particular and the internet in general should support it.

If you knowingly use an unsupported configuration then you're on your own. It's no different really than adding the latest version of $application to EL by compiling it from source, all bets are off.

It s difficult enough to help people without having to figure out if you are fighting an unsupported configuration or some real problem.

It seems that SF prefers questions already answered elsewhere, in some manual or "best practices" paper, and are given here in better clarity. Questions that involve even a minimal design are considered bad.

Oh, if only this were so - the number of crappy questions we get that could be avoided if the OP spent 5 minutes reading the documentation or searching SF or the wide internet rather than using us as a thinking service and expecting a personalised answer.

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    But Iain, I know I'm on my own regarding support if it is unsupported, that is stated beforehand! But this is a tech forum, not an official support channel. Noone is expecting support from SF. Why can't professionals be interested in an unofficial hardware configuration? What about unsupported software then? Would you consider as valid a question about legacy software that needs to integrate with a newer one? It's also unsupported. – sivann Nov 17 '15 at 14:22
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    If you know you're on your own, why are you inflicting your unsupported environment on other people ? Why would professionals risk their business on an unsupported environment? regarding legacy meta.serverfault.com/questions/8410/… – Iain Nov 17 '15 at 14:56
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    What people do you mean? The SF community? If you're talking about my buisiness I already explained about this being a business decision so this is a calculated risk. Or do you consider that we should never take calculated risks? In any case please try to think in general, not about the specific case.which could be indeed a bad decision. – sivann Nov 18 '15 at 8:09
  • Moreover all legacy is unsupported by definition. So you can't really discriminate. – sivann Nov 18 '15 at 9:01
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    @sivann Sure we can discriminate. This site runs on volunteers. If the volunteers agree that legacy software is on-topic, but messing up hardware by introducing stuff known to cause problems isn't, then the community has that right. – Jenny D Nov 18 '15 at 10:44
  • @JennyD (I meant it would be diffucult, not prohibited, I'm not a native speaker sorry for being vague). Okay, so let's sum up, questions for legacy or unsupported software seems legit while for hardware probably not. Do you agree? I have to point out that one of the main revenues of my company comes from supporting legacy hardware setups for various customers, like 1000+ VPNs built on EOL modems :-) – sivann Nov 18 '15 at 11:25
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    @sivann Let me put it like this: Legacy is (mostly) OK, even if support is no longer available from the vendor. Putting stuff together in a way that breaks the ability to support it, is (mostly) not. – Jenny D Nov 18 '15 at 15:37
  • Actually I'd argue legacy is mostly not OK, with a few exceptions, as most of the time you'll end up breaking something and not even Norton can save you. – Jim B Nov 20 '15 at 0:20

Moreover, in my opinion tech questions about designing systems in a non-vendor predicted way should be valid as long as they cover a valid business need. It seems that to a lot of members, using a setup not offered by presales is not a valid question.

I disagree with that.

  1. Serverfault is a Q&A site and should provide answers to common problems based on a good foundation.

Working in unsupported environments generates enough individual problems that the majority of professionals would never encounter.

  1. It's members are all voluntary with limited time. They are here, because they not only want to help, but to improve their own skills and learn a thing or two. Hence Serverfault relies on the precondition, that the questioneer exhausted all possibilities to fix the problem on his own.

If we allow questions about problems in unsupported environments, Serverfault may get flooded with questions, that won't be answered. This may lead to less traffic because nobody is interested in sites where there is a big chance that a question won't be answered, or there is no solution to ones problem.

A question based on an unsupported environment won't attract as many people to help, because what you learn will probably never apply to a professional working in supported environments. If you learn anything at all.

Above all, who would like to spend his time to figure out a problem, that could have been avoided in the first place? In many, many cases it would have been cheaper, to just invest in a supported environment.

  1. If we allow all questions that cover "valid business needs", than I guarantee, we will have questions like:

    "We need to install Microsoft Dynamics 2016 on out SBS 2003, but there was not enough space available, so we installed a tape drive and we have a problem to installing the database on it".
    Yeah, it's unsupported but our business is not generating enough money to invest in a new server, so we just need to stick with that plan!

In my opinion, Serverfault is not the place to ask such question. I am not saying that the question is bad and it might be a good question at another place in the internet. It just does not fit in what Serverfault wants to be.

  • 1. agree, 2. applies also to unsupported, 3. ok, this is an extreme example, this is not just an unsupported case it's just a ridiculous hypothetical question :-) If SF is not the place, then what do you think is the right place, because in my opinion SF is an ideal place. For everything else there is the official vendor support. – sivann Nov 23 '15 at 12:13

There's a gray wasteland between serverfault and superuser, where these kinds of topics dwell. It doesn't belong on SU because it's a business environment. It doesn't belong on SF because it's such a niche/specific-to-the-OP situation. SF admins primarily have a bias toward situations that are duplicatable. We try to buy hardware in identical batches and deploy them with identical images because to support "special cases" leads to madness. So possibly what you're seeing here is people wanting their support space to more closely mirror the work environment that makes it all possible.

In that light, it might be more clear that nobody (ideally) wants to insult you or your environment for the lack of funds. For the most part, our users don't understand (nor should they, really, that's why we're here) the reason why we won't support their Windows phone or why they can't attach their iPad pro to the corporate network. So there will be some whose hackles rise up when someone tells them SF should allow special case scenarios.

Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with an [unsupported] tag. I think it would solve all issues raised so far. But you could see how it would blur the lines between the sites, yes? I hope that makes the reactions a little more understandable. It would be great if people would react with grace and tact at all times, but people are people.

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    Please no [unsupported]. It's a meta tag, with all the mess that brings. – womble Nov 25 '15 at 23:29
  • The [unsupported] tag suggestion seems a good compromise, I also like the mentality explanation regarding the desire for repeatability. With the tag, If people don't want to see "hacky" questions , they can filter them out. – sivann Nov 26 '15 at 17:18

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