Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hello, world.

So I finally decided to do the Blog thing. Why, you ask, bother? Well, I was inspired. In a recent ComputerWorld article (May 30, 2005 - Vol 39 No. 22), Patrick Thibodeau quoted a Sun Microsystems executive as saying (about Blogs by CIO's)...

"If a few of those guys started [Blogging], you can darn well bet that we would be reading them. I sure would."

What this disconnected Sun executive doesn't realize is that not a lot of CIO's have the time, aptitude, or inclination to Blog. It's unfortunate, but true. They'll come along eventually.

However, CIO's are also usually very seasoned (at companies the size of those Sun is interested in), meaning the whole concept is a little foreign and possibly uncomfortable. The next best things to CIO blogs are the blogs of the people reporting to those guys.

That's where I come in.

I have assumed the moniker of ZEN Master, after having the title jokingly or lovingly bestowed upon me by coworkers at Novell Consulting. I am not the only ZEN Master any more than Phil Jackson would be, but I wear the title with pride. ZEN, for those who don't know, is a (brilliant) suite of products that - properly implemented - dramatically improve the ability of IT groups to serve and support their customers.

I've not worked for Novell for a number of years, but my career has been closely tied to the company and it's products for over a decade. I'm not a Novell bigot - in fact, I'm usually one of the first people to tell you where Novell's got it wrong and what I think they should do about it. Rather, I'm a fan of what works best. It just so happens that, in a number of cases, what works best are Novell products (although the instances of this being the case are dwindling).

The company I work for does about $1.2 - $1.5 billion in total revenue each year. It has offices in nearly 100 locations throughout the southwest, south, and east coast. All of the IT functions are centralized - there is no IT presence in any office outside the Headquarters. In many ways, we represent "worst possible case" for our vendors.

The upside is that this IT staff is good. Far above average. I should know, I've been around a bit. We regularly push the limits of every product we touch.

In short, if it works well here, it will work well anywhere. If it has a weakness, we'll find it.

For quite a while, my wish is that IT vendors would plan around environments like ours instead of the pristine, blue-sky lab environments that are so delicately crafted and maintained. There are probably 10,000 A+ certified techies that could build a Novell "Super-Lab" like environment to stress test networks and applications. Sure it wouldn't have the bells and whistles, but the point is this - figuring out how to provide services to a single campus or multi-campus enterprise is a walk in the park. Figure out how to make a product work well in an environment with as many variables as ours, and your product will work well anywhere.

The most annoying thing we find is that, most of the time, if a product doesn't work here, it's because the vendor has spent too much time focusing on all the wrong things. Usually it's something like a vendor who decided to include configuration options that look and sound neat, but are thusly architected in such a way that they cannot be implemented without additional hardware.

Try to deploy Patchlink in a 100-site WAN without implementing a new server or internet caching appliance at each and tell me how you fare. So much for increasing ROI, improving simplicity, reducing maintenance, etc. You're hopping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Apologies to Dell, IBM, HP, Compaq, etc...your business model shouldn't depend on the endless proliferation of crappy software. I think if software vendors spent more time figuring out how to architect their products so that they did not require more hardware, the world of IT Managers and vendors alike would be a happier place to live and do business.

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