Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Tale of Two Analysts

Now some 14 months post-release, it's abundantly clear to all but the most severely dunderheaded IT wonks that Vista will be on the podium of the Microsoft Failure Grand Prix. Not sure exactly where it will stand relative to Bob and Windows ME, but it's certainly not distinguished company to keep.

As I had stated (not predicted, because it wasn't a guess), in January 2007:

The first (well, pair) indicated that IT Execs weren't sold on Vista, and questioned whether or not Vista presented a realistic ROI case for companies.

I'll save you some reading. IT Execs aren't sold on Vista because it doesn't present a realistic ROI case.

Well, it turns out I was right. To wit, rumblings from the very top of Microsoft have been felt in faraway lands as rumors of Vista's successor are being released, and hints that VIsta should have been aborted mid-term slowly escape.

Dell, HP, and Lenovo have all been pressured by their enterprise customers into providing Windows XP via downgrade righs beyond the June 30, 2008 deadline Microsoft imposed for halting sales of XP. That's right, customers would rather use XP - even if they have to buy a premium Vista license to do it.

I don't know about Steve Ballmer, but that's how I spell failure.

More interesting was the completely divergent track two of the "industry's leading" analyst firms took in penning recommendations to enterprise customers regarding Vista.

The Gartner group proclaimed that Windows is "crumbling". That's right, Gartner actually said something disparaging about a very prominent technology product.

Forrester, it appears, prefers the Kasey Kasim approach - keep your feet on the ground, and yada yada yada.

"Vista is an inevitability, for a number of reasons," said Ben Gray, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. He then ticked off several, including Windows XP's announced retirement and unsubstantiated talk about Vista's successor, Windows 7.

Mr. Gray invoked the wrath of Kahn in the comments section of this article. From being labeled as too ignorant to possibly hold the position he serves, all the way to questioning the integrity of Forrester. And rightly so. He is completely out of touch, and it is an embarrassment for Forrester to have this person writing on their letterhead.

One thing is perfectly clear - I was not alone in my view of how Vista would fare in the marketplace. It's done horribly, and Microsoft's attempts to pressure companies into using it have backfired. If they don't hit a home run with the next version of Windows, we may look back on Vista as the beginning of the end for Microsoft.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two For Two

Two proposals for projects and capital expenditures in my new role, and two approvals. I've had very valuable help from my manager in fine-tuning (or totally revamping) parts of the proposals so that they're appropriate for the audience. We've done very well it would appear...despite a very tight economy and conservative holders of purse strings, we've approved nearly $250,000 of new projects.

The exercise of doing both is something everyone agrees should be commonplace for CapEx requests. I've been able to show both proposals will save real money, providing enhanced capabilities for free plus generate a return. It took a little effort and brainstorming, but it was far from impossible.

A lot of techies know when they've found the right thing to solve a given problem...the challenge is to get them to put it into terms that make sense to businesspeople. Technology hasn't been about 1's and 0's for a long time. If you want to be a technology professional, you need to link technology solutions to business problems, and sell them in non-technical terms using real numbers. If you can't do that, well, there's probably a call center hiring someplace.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Internationally Known

What a great tool LinkedIn has become for me.

Like anything, you get out of it what you put into it. I've taken some time to dredge up the names of faces I've met throughout the 15 years I've been a technology professional, and have been elated to find so many of them on LinkedIn. Reconnecting and catching up with former colleagues has been quite a joy. I only wish that more of them were on the service; I hope I've not lost all contact with those individuals.

Interestingly, participating in the Q&A section of the site has allowed me to establish connections to individuals I'd have never otherwise met or known. In particular, I'm now connected to someone in the Netherlands, someone in China, and have made the acquaintance of an individual in India. I have been able to provide career advice to a young professional searching for his way, and have been fortunate to receive many letters of thanks from both the question's authors and those who have found the words helpful.

The best thing LinkedIn has done for me, however, has nothing to do with their service. Realizing what LinkedIn really does happened in stages. There was the "What is this, really?" stage, then the "Wow, this could be a great showcase for me" stage, followed soon afterwards by the "Who else is on here" stage. Not long after that, a tiny dose of panic set in - how many people that I've known would be happy and eager to accept my invitation to connect? Any bit of self-doubt you had growing up in a cliquey school system comes rushing back. Fortunately, over 100 individuals I've known (and have recently met) are now connections; but the lesson taught by a desire to grow your network has been learned; Treat *everyone* you meet as if you'd like them to happily accept your invitation to connect.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Return of the Mac

A little over 12 months ago, I was fortunate enough to begin piloting an Apple MacBook Pro. It came with a 17" glossy display, 2GB of memory, pretty fast processor, and most importantly OS X Tiger.

After only a few weeks of use, I was so completely acclimated to the amazingly simple, elegant, efficient, effective design of the Mac that I began looking for ways to use them instead of Windows machines. Sadly, that effort stopped with Apple telling us they're unable to (and uninterested in) service broken systems on-site within any kind of SLA. This basically relegates Mac's to giant companies operating in a single campus, or companies with savvy IT hardware techs at each site - few of which are progressive enough to consider using Mac's.

After about 6 months, I started to forget how to use Windows as efficiently as I had before. What's funny about that fact is this; I held a job as a youngster which involved use of a character based point of sale system. I knew how to do everything with it, and could get around it with lightning speed - often helping my co-workers when they got stuck. Less than a year away from that job, I couldn't even tell you how to sign in anymore. It was completely gone.

The learning curve is so flat with Mac's, that you don't really have to "train" yourself to use them. It mostly involves forgetting many of the ill habits formed by using Windows. When you go back to Windows, you get frustrated very quickly at the stupid, work-losing default choices various buttons present.

Given that Gartner has recently declared Windows as "collapsing", my hope is that Apple gets over itself and creates an Apple Enterprise operating company focused on being a real alternative to the Big 3. I'm fairly certain that end-user software is slowly going to become OS independent, in one of a number of ways.

Nevertheless, I'd have been updating this blog more regularly were it not for Google's interference with the service. It simply would not let me log in using the credentials I made to create it. After some rapid (and unrepeatable) clicking, I finally found a screen that would let me re-enter the e-mail address. I will endeavor to update the blog with more frequency going forward.

Year in Review

Since it's been nearly a year between updates here, I should point out what's transpired.

Most significantly, I was promoted to Director of IS&T Infrastructure Services late last year. This essentially means I have full custody of the teams responsible for all desktop, server, and LAN/WAN environments - in addition to our support services. I hope eventually to back-fill my position, but much of that will depend on organizational issues above my pay grade (to borrow a term from some of my former military employees).

We're returning to Dell as a customer, after being so frustrated by the behemoth of IBM that we can simply no longer deal with them. To wit, we're replacing a 3 year old BladeCenter system with three Dell 2950's configured to run VMWare Infrastructure 3. We've also upgraded our Network Appliance FAS-270 to a FAS-3020, including the addition of 7TB of new disk - a process that was a bit more turbulent than we'd have hoped; vet your service providers carefully. That should give us plenty of capacity, and opens up a host of brilliant DR capabilities which we're excited to pursue this year.

We've also decided to put literally everything we do on the table for discussion. Decisions to either change or stay the course will need to be defensible, but everything is fair game. E-mail, file and print, networking services, etc. It's very exciting actually. Exiting this process, we'll have full and complete confidence that we're doing what's best for the business.

A more exciting development is the uncertainty surrounding some of the systems which have been outside my control. I'd have been far happier if we could have made the sale so to speak, and fully leveraged the investment in our ERP solution - the reality is that we didn't, and I think we're starting to face that fact by asking "how else can we tackle the problem"? It's a great opportunity to get much more closely involved with the business we support, and that type of experience is what I'm very much looking forward to in order to further my own professional development.

Finally, it was a great shame to see Martin Buckley leave Novell recently. I certainly do not fault him for doing so, and not just because I've made his acquaintance. Novell has deserved every bit of the intellectual capital loss they've experienced over the past few years. They are an organization which appears devoid of new ideas, leadership, and increasingly, relevance. The few bright spots within Provo are growing dimmer by the day. Plenty of blame to go around, for sure - Novell represents a master class in how not to run a technology company.