• When? May 2-3, 2016
  • Vendor? Palo Alto Networks
  • What? Visit to the support desk of Palo Alto Networks

My colleague Samuel Adelaere and I visited the Technical Assistance Center (TAC) of Palo Alto Networks in Amsterdam for a two-day TAC Exchange. This privilege is given to a limited set of Partners whose support teams work closely together.

We were warmheartedly greeted by Ilija Aleksov, one of the support engineers’ team leaders. He gave a short introduction about the structure of the different teams, clarified their way of work and left us in the capable hands of L2 and L3 engineers. The goal was learning on the job.

A day in the life of a L2/L3 engineer

I was teamed up with Victor Cappuccio who guided me through a day as an L2 engineer. I was interested in the different types of documentation available to them. The most valuable source of information proved to be SalesForce which they use as ticketing system. A global search through all cases easily brought up related information and possible fixes. Unfortunately for us, access to this database was of course restricted. The support engineers also had some tools at their disposal to help analyze and extract information from Tech Support files.

Victor also showcased the Palo Alto lab which consisted of about 10 racks filled to the brim with PA7000, PA5000 and PA3000 series. A whole automated system of IP addressing, switch configuration and config import made it easy to replicate the customer’s environment.

The biggest non-technical eye catcher was the cultural diversity of the team. Next to one native Dutchman, the whole world was represented: Macedonia, India, Russia, Romania, Bosnia, Germany… This contributed to a pleasant vibe and some weird English accents.

Conclusion

What did we learn from our two day TAC exchange? Palo Alto Technical Support Engineers are well trained, informed and skilled, but in the end do the same job as us. And in that we share the same struggles and frustrations. They are not Gods with almighty powers, although some of them may look like one.