68 posts • joined 11 Jan 2011
New York's facilities are next
IBM's original home state of New York is probably going to get hit too. They have a huge research facility in Poughkeepsie which may or may not get killed, and a chip fab in East Fishkill that will almost certainly go when they dump their semiconductor business. Pretty soon all they will actually manufacture is mainframes and UNIX boxes, so they don't need as much research or chip capacity for that. I thought one of the reasons they were keeping non-Chinese manufacturing facilities was for customers in government/military/intelligence who demanded US-made, US-assembled equipment. Maybe something similar was happening with this UK facility?
They're well on their way to becoming Accenture/KPMG/PWC...and it's too bad. From what I've heard IBM used to be a very good place to spend an entire career. Not so much anymore.
It's not just side loading!
As a previous poster mentioned, MS got greedy and started pulling "enterprisey" features out of Pro to entice people to sign Software Assurance agreements. This is actually a good thing for us. Enterprise supports these features that you no longer get in Pro:
- Windows to Go
- RemoteFX support (for VDI stuff)
- NFS services
They did something similar with Windows 7, but more features were available in Pro. In 7, they reserved multiingual OS support for the Enterprise Edition -- which we need to support some of our customers, since we're not all native speakers of the languages they use. We really don't care about side loading apps (and I doubt most companies do at least at this stage) but we really need some of these features for support.
Maybe this means Microsoft is realizing that not everyone is going to jump on the software rental treadmill. Next thing I'd like to see is MDOP available to purchase outside of SA...we need it!
...Microsoft also reduced prices on OS licensing to woo low-end tablet manufacturers. I think Cisco is just coming back down to reality and noticing that people aren't necessarily selecting their stuff as the only choice anymore. Maybe this means no more insane list prices for basic network hardware? Naah...
The things I see Cisco, Microsoft, HP, etc. providing to businesses that they can charge a premium for are:
- Service and support
- A stable platform with a known release schedule that doesn't throw in the latest new cool thing just for fun
- A well-known product supported by many IT pros with a training and certification program to at least give you a starting point evaluating candidates
The problem with all these vendors is that these things have been watered down over time in pursuit of higher license profits. Cisco can't just keep commanding the premium pricing it does and not give businesses what they're looking for. Eventually even the execs start noticing.
My personal favorite with Cisco these days is that they ship equipment that's intentionally crippled until you pay for feature licenses. One set of SSL VPN license features I saw at work cost almost $25K for a piece of paper with a serial number on it...in addition to the actual hardware which was incredibly expensive for what it was. We haven't even started looking at the Cisco UCS server hardware yet just because we know it's going to be insanely expensive and require $$$ in ongoing maintenance contracts.
There is something to be said for having a source of trained individuals though...if that training program is decent. I work with a very niche-market systems management product from a very large enterprisey software vendor, and it is very difficult to find anyone who knows about the particular quirks of the product. It doesn't help that this particular vendor doesn't provide good documentation or even a product that can work out of the box with most environments, or that the core of the product is almost 20 years old and all the top-layer cool stuff is wrapped around a completely proprietary protocol stack from the 90s. If I were using something like System Center, there's Microsoft certified individuals who know the product, an active user community and easy access to help. Right now, our only source of help is the enterprisey vendor's "professional services" teams...groan.
New downward price pressure on PCs...
As someone with family members who insist on buying the crappiest, cheapest PCs and laptops they can find at Best Buy, this worries me a little. I wonder if manufacturers are going to try to shoehorn a working PC into a less-than-$250 price point.
The horrors of the low end PC market like the HP Pavillion range are what I'm thinking about. Some of this stuff reminds me of the Packard Bell PCs from the mid-90s. Every single corner will be cut to force it into that magic number so they don't have to pay as much for Windows. My mom, for example, never listens to me and keeps buying these pieces of junk every few years because it's too frustrating to even try to make a warranty claim. Plus, the most I've ever seen on these is a partial 1-year "ship it to us and maybe you'll get a working PC back" warranty.
I also have to deal with these things when small-business-owning friends ask me to "look at" their office PC. More often than not, it's one of these 11-pound 17" "media laptops" that was $499 at Best Buy, loaded with crapware and with very poor driver support.
Enterprise software licensing is so much fun...
It sounds like these guys were just taking advantage of Oracle's very liberal _access_ to their software, but not paying for the _support contracts_ that need to go along with it.
In my experience, Oracle and CA have the most open access to their software. If you have any sort of support contract, for any product, you can download the major point releases of any other product. So if anyone has a burning desire to run an instance of PeopleSoft in their basement, they can do it as long as they're not making money off of it or benefiting from it at all. You need support contracts to access the (usually required) patches, fixes, and documentation corrections to get anything working.
The problems come when you actually need to use the software in production. If you aren't 100% licensed, and need help, you're in trouble. Oracle and CA's software almost always needs an army of "professional services" folks to get things tuned properly because the documentation is so awful. These guys will do the work, but they'll also scan your environment and see what isn't licensed properly. It's one thing if you're a company and, oops, you installed Oracle Enterprise Edition when you only paid for Standard Edition, but when you're reselling access to unlicensed software, I guess you wind up in court like these guys did.
With all the IP cases going around about hardware vendors locking up access to firmware, software companies denying patches without support contracts, etc. it will be interesting to see whether cases like this one will keep popping up. Other enterprisey vendors like SAP totally lock everything down now -- so I wonder if Oracle and the like will follow suit.
Maybe it's just the cloud marketing?
Even if it's not the reality for many companies, I think that a lot of the traditional server vendors are spooked about the rise of the whitebox cloud data centers. When Joe Random CIO of a 100-person company reads a magazine article or Gartner report about Open Compute Project, and Facebook running on thousands of no-name servers, maybe HP and IBM are afraid that they'll ditch their gear for better or worse. Then, they declare that the cloud wins, and stop innovating on the standalone server market. After that, it's a race to the bottom to see how cheaply they can put out the latest System x or ProLiant box...we're already seeing this in my company that buys low- to midgrade servers for projects.
Just like the PC world, however, there is still some innovation going on at the high end of the market. IBM and HP have some interesting things in their 4+ socket monster boxes. But IBM just sold that business to Lenovo, the ultimate low-margin box shifter. Cloud economics aside, you always get what you pay for. Whitebox stuff is fine as long as you pay a fleet of people to keep them running and invest in your own management tools. Vendor backed stuff gives you the luxury of a warranty and the research they pour into new hardware designs.
Re: Is there some master plan in Wall Street...
"Suggesting that IBM don't have the required in house talent suggests that you have no experience of IBM in house."
Admittedly I don't, but from the outside, it looks like IBM is trying to become another Accenture, BCG, etc. I find it hard to believe that the market can absorb yet another snake-oil peddling "consulting firm" as well as losing another hardware manufacturer. That's one thing I worry about in the PC and server markets -- fewer companies fighting over lower margins means they'll just stop doing anything cool and figure out the best way to squeeze a $299 price point out of a 4-socket Xeon box with 2 TB of RAM.
Watson is really cool technology, but how is IBM going to make money selling "decision support" and other stuff? More importantly, where will the next hardware innovations come from? Startups are cool and sexy, but sometimes you need a company as massive as an IBM to invest the kind of money needed to make huge changes. Oh, and keep half a million people employed...
I've read elsewhere that IBM is doing all of this bloodletting simply to get their earnings per share to reach $20 by some target date. I guess my question is what will be left of the company after that's done.
The thing that's a little scary about all this "let's get rid of those pesky Machines our International Business division manufactures" stuff is that they're really betting that software and services will be more profitable. IBM has been known in the past to be right about some of its predictions, like the commoditization of the PC marketplace. But they've been known to be wrong too.
The other thing that might happen is that their Research division will be clobbered because there will be no physical products or manufacturing processes to improve. And if they farm out semiconductors, they lose control of their ability to fab mainframe and POWER chips themselves. IBM's one of the last companies with enough resources and (I thought) forethought to support basic research.
I don't know, core competencies this, brave new world that...but divesting yourself of any physical products just to chase software profits doesn't seem like a good long term strategy. I guess I'm an old fogey, but I do remember when IBM was completely unstoppable and they employed way more people than they do now. It's going to be very weird having the next generation not seeing anything with an IBM logo on it and associating them with crappy outsourcing and WebSphere.
Hope it goes smoothly
I've had very good luck with System x support. Actually doing business with IBM is very difficult and it seems you need to contact an army of reseller staff just to place an order. Maybe Lenovo can fix this. I think that swapping out all those "expensive" US support folks I talk to would be a very bad idea, since being able to talk to a knowledgeable CE and support tech is one of the main reasons to spend the extra money on a System x machine. I know a lot of people have different experiences, but for me, once I get through the nightmare of firmware and driver hell, the equipment itself seems to be well made and just run forever. As long as you don't touch firmware. :-)
If you buy a "real" ThinkPad with an onsite service warranty from Lenovo, you still get IBM's support model. And I think Lenovo has done a decent job turning around IBM's PC division. It's only recently (last 2 generations) that they've started messing with the original design of the laptop. I'm not a big fan since it's obvious they're just trying to copy Apple. But I'm not alone in not liking the new designs, so hopefully Lenovo will NOT be like IBM in the sense that they'll listen to customer feedback.
Lenovo: I want my physical trackpoint buttons back on my new T540p!!!
Hope they don't mess it up...
Well, I guess it was inevitable, but it's definitely a shift. Now that IBM is out of the retail POS business, the printer business, the disk drive business, the PC business, AND the server business, it's going to be very hard to point to an end-user facing "business machine" that would convey the IBM brand.
I hope Lenovo actually plans on innovating at the high end of the server line like IBM did rather than just dumbing everything down to commodity boxes. There are still quite a few workloads that don't really belong on a cloud, and having some of IBM's monster System x boxes to virtualize stuff on is helpful.
One thing I did like about IBM was that, even though their support site is crap, if you had a contract they would bend over backwards to make sure things worked. Lenovo did keep business support for their non-consumer desktops in the US, and I've had nothing but good luck calling up and asking questions. IBM's System x phone support has been some of the best I've dealt with and I hope Lenovo keeps those knowledgeable guys in Atlanta employed. Plus, it's nice having a CE who actually knows about the equipment they're working on.
I'm mostly happy with the way Lenovo handled the PC transition, but I sharply disagree with their consumerization trend on the high-end ThinkPads I love to use. My last IBM-style ThinkPad died (the T510) and I just purchased a T540 from them...they're chasing Apple and the low-end consumer laptop crowd at the same time with this new design. Let's hope this doesn't spill over into the System x line.
So what does IBM actually do now? :-) (Yes, I know they do a ton of stuff...but your average consumer now will have no idea who they are. Kind of like Accenture or their ilk.)
Re: Typical....What makes Amazon great is what low skilled want to hinder.
"Every employee is free to quit if they feel unappreciated or not paid what they are worth."
"Amazon better get cracking on replacing them with robots IMO."
Sure, it's low skill work now, and it's nice to think that we're all above that. But the reality is that automation is coming for us knowledge workers as well. Will you be singing the same tune when 80+% of the office jobs out there are wiped out and you can't even fall back on low skill jobs anymore?
Also, I know it's fashionable to call these people lazy and entitled, but read some of the stories. Amazon deliberately sets up the working conditions so they attract the most exploitable workforce. Some of the distribution centers in Kansas, Nebraska or whatever are the only employers for miles around, so these workers can't just go to the warehouse down the road. Since they're low-skill workers, there's not too many options outside of fast food or similar work either. Remember, us knowledge workers are very privileged right now compared to the rest of society. Whether that remains the case in the next 10, 20 years will be a very interesting experiment to watch.
Not everyone has the brains, people skills, and sheer insanity required to be in business for themselves.
I think IT would do well with a professional organization rather than a traditional union. How are American doctors' salaries maintained? The AMA controls the labor supply by controlling medical school admissions. Look at what happened with the Bar Association opening the field for law schools -- now new law grads can't get a job. In the case of the Amazon workers, a traditional union would be good to at least force management to provide something beyond the bare minimum OSHA requirements for the job. For IT, minimum training standards and the ability to push back on unreasonable requests for professional reasons would really improve things.
If you read any of the accounts of Amazon's warehouse working conditions, especially around holidays, you'd probably think they were crazy to not unionize. One thing I have noticed over the years is that the right wing has slowly bled over from the management to the labor side, and labor is now believing the anti-union propaganda. I think it might be a Fox News thing.
Any time I've heard a story about unions in the past few years, the following points keep getting hammered home:
- They're all corrupt/in bed with the mafia
- They promote mediocrity because of collective bargaining
- They only exist to serve their leadership
And of course, Joe Average Worker thinks he's 10x better than his peers and couldn't possibly need a union. "Why would I ever want to get lumped in with my colleagues?" he says -- then watches management outsource his job to the lowest-wage country that week with no retaliation. (No, being a Rust Belt kid and watching the city I live in disintegrate in the 80s has nothing to do with my feelings on this. :-) )
I've been very lucky and work for decent employers. When they eventually lose their marbles and stop being decent, I move on. But IMO it's a good idea to keep people (especially knowledge workers) working at a place for a long stretch. I also know that most employers are pretty evil, especially when the workers have zero leverage.
Desktops aren't dead, they're just resting!
Everyone posting so far is right -- desktops have finally reached the point where most people won't notice the speed bump afforded by a new processor. One person mentioned SATA's availability as the turning point...I think the point was actually when multicore came out. When you have one or more cores available just to run the background stuff that a Windows machine needs (like bloated AV software,) even a low end system becomes usable.
Tablets are going to kill a lot of the PC market, but I think desktops and laptops still have their place in business. Even typing emails on the average phone or tablet is a much less productive experience than the same task on a PC. The bloodbath is coming simply because the 3 year maintenance cycle on PCs is over. I do end user computing stuff for my job and regularly deal with HP, Lenovo, Dell, etc. There is a HUGE amount of overhead in their business PC divisions...VPs of nothing, endless revolving-door account managers, project coordinators, analysts, marketing guys...... That overhead was supported by BigCo, MassiveMart and OmniGloboCorp buying 100,000 new PCs each, every 3 years.
My job in end user computing leads me to believe that corporate types still use desktops/laptops to do actual work. An exec might view sales dashboards and stuff on a tablet, but execs generally don't create content themselves.
Re: That settles it. HP is in deep do-do
> They will find that this stunt backfires on them big time.
I suspect you're right, but we'll see how badly customers react to it. In my opinion, even if I didn't need firmware updates for a product, just knowing HP wasn't going to lock me into a support contract the way Oracle, IBM, etc. do would probably add another checkbox on the "pro" side when considering what hardware vendor to go with.
Problem is that HP knows big enterprisey customers do one of two things with hardware when the warranty expires:
- Call the scrap dealer and roll in new hardware
- If you can't replace it, extend the warranty until you can't, then call the scrap dealer.
If they're nice about it and just let you enter any ProLiant serial number to pull down any update you need, then this may be no big deal. But, if you have to leave your server connected to the Internet all the time to phone home to HP's hardware monitoring service, or you need to know the exact serial number of the P420 array controller installed in one of your servers to get an upgrade for it, that's just going to piss people off.
The funny thing is that this goes in cycles with proprietary hardware and software vendors. Big software shops are a mixed bag. Microsoft Office and Windows are heavily policed license wise while their server products are open. Oracle basically says, "Here, have full point releases of our products. Patches aren't free, and God help you if we find you're running underlicensed in production." CA does a mix in all their hodgepodge of products. Cisco just recently got tougher on IOS entitlements but was previously pretty open. SAP is insanely fortressed off -- I have to beg customers our company does integration work for to collect SAP support notes and software from the support site because we can't get access. So HP isn't alone on the "we don't give anything for free" front, but it's not universal.
First legacy stuff, now current stuff? That was fast...
I wonder how this is going to be implemented. HP was always helpful in that you could browse their website and pull down individual updates or the entire SPP (or what used to be called SmartStart/PSP) for free. I guess this explains the little cautionary messages I've seen popping up when downloading drivers saying that they're provided only for registered owners with valid warranties.
I guess we're going to have to keep maintenance contracts in force for our hodgepodge lab or just go without updates...
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. AFAIK Dell and IBM still give out updates to anyone. I didn't know there was a huge gray market repair business...I use the free access to drivers/firmware just because our company has a "diverse" set of equipment that our group ends up supporting whether we like it or not.
On one hand, you can't just produce firmware upgrades for free, but on the other, a mature product like the EVA probably has a very small team dedicated to maintenance that doesn't need huge cash infusions to keep going.
This trend is just the continuation of other proprietary hardware vendors' policies. Sun and later Oracle stopped giving away free firmware updates for their kit. Cisco has always required you to have _a_ service contract for _some_ device to get access to firmware, and lately they've been cleaning up their access policies to at least warn you that you're not specifically entitled to firmware you're looking at. IBM has started doing this with their storage hardware too -- you now need a serial number to download anything, and I imagine a service contract check is next.
I think security updates should be provided to anyone, to the extent that the company decides to fix bugs in older hardware. Enhancements are another story...I work with a lot of LSI and IBM storage gear with very extensible controllers, and they keep rolling out features in firmware without changing the physical box. That said, I've seen software companies patch products (or pieces of products) that are positively ancient if they have a customer willing to pay the money. It's tough - those of us who buy lots of stuff off eBay and bankruptcy sales like the ability to at least update it to the point it was at before support got dropped. But it's not free.
Re: I believe it
ClassicShell, Start8, etc. are fine for personal use, but I know large companies aren't interested in spending an extra $x per computer just to have a feature back that Microsoft took away. Multiply the neighbor's computer by 40,000 and you are talking real money.
I think that if they bring back enough of the old UI, and offer a very attractive upgrade price (maybe even free or really cheap,) that would get the people who are holding out because of UI changes or money issues to switch. The tougher nuts to crack will be all the large companies running wierdo legacy applications that have no hope of working with IE 8 or the other new features modern Windows and Office versions offer.
One thing I wish Microsoft would do is issue one last patch rollup for XP, the way they did with NT in the last year of support. They wouldn't even have to call it a service pack, but maybe they could turn on a few security features by default, etc. and say, "Well, if you're going to keep going with this, at least start from the last known good patchset." There have been hundreds of patches since SP3 rolled out, and this would at least make sure people have those installed.
I believe it
What a lot of industry pundits don't mention when breathlessly talking about XP's demise is the sheer amount of dependencies that XP and its included components (IE 6, et al) have in large organizations. The XP-to-7-or-8 transition is even more painful from the NT-to-XP transition I lived through ages ago. One of the reasons is the plethora of "web apps with big chunks of client-side code" that were prevalent in the early 2000s. In vertical markets (banking, insurance, transport, whatever) there are many applications that only work with the specific quirks of IE 6, and are too expensive or impossible to reasonably upgrade. Oracle's Forms-based ERP applications are famous for this, and it's very hard to justify upgrading the ERP application because the clients have changed. It's the same reason you see Office 97 in use in some places -- "some guy" wrote an Excel macro or Access database that stores a department's core business logic and it's too convoluted to upgrade.
I imagine that everyone will eventually bite the bullet and move, or virtualize all the XP desktops and lock them behind 5 firewalls with no access to anything other than QuirkyApp 126.96.36.199.3762. But it's going to be painful, especially in industries where they're notoriously stingy with IT dollars. Even moving the workloads to Windows 7 + XP Mode doesn't help you, because now you have a vulnerable VM sitting alongside your supported OS.
If rumors are true, and Windows 8.2 allows a "regular desktop" interface, that may help people make the move. Personally, I want all the under-the-hood improvements of Windows 8 PLUS the Windows 7 "classic" UI back, then I'll be happy.
Microsoft does offer patch support for an exorbitant fee, plus a promise from you that you are actually moving off XP, plus an annual increase in said fee to incentivize you. Oracle is also doing something similar for JRE 6 customers -- if you're a support customer, they're still patching bugs even though the last public version is months old (support ended in February.)
Re: Oh, rilly?
Good thing you put "parents" in quotes.
I think the bigger issue is that devices like this signal to the dumber parents / those who don't give a damn that it's OK to completely abandon your kids to devices like this. If you don't have kids or don't interact with a wide cross section of families, you might want to look at what's going on lately.
Electronics are fine in small doses, when appropriate, and when combined with parental interaction. Strapping your kid to an iPad is not.
I have 2 young kids, one 3 years old and the other 6 months. I would never consider buying anything like this for them. Sure, it's a free market and all, but this thing making it to market shows that parenting is in a pretty sad state.
I'm not claiming to be a super parent by any means, but anyone who has little kids and gives a crap about them knows how incredibly hard it is to balance work, interaction with the kids, household tasks and the occasional 15 minutes to do something for yourself (like take a shower. :-) ) The wife and I both work, she has an awful commute on top of that, yet we still find the time to stay fully engaged with the kids whenever we're home. Does that make us evil Nazi parents who shun all electronic devices? Of course not -- our 3 year old loves to borrow the iPhone or watch the occasional show on the computer. The difference is that we don't stuff them in front of their devices and go off to do our own things. I sure don't love the fact that I have to give up what little sleep I have to keep my IT skills up after bedtimes, but this is what we signed up for. Parents who don't get that produce the kind of kids that make you wish they handed out parenting licenses.
The sad truth is that there are a lot of parents out there who shouldn't have had kids, because it cuts into their lifestyle too much and they can't handle it. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the sanctimonious uber-parents who give you a dirty look when your kid is watching a video while waiting for dinner at a restaurant. I can only offer anecdotes, but it looks like my older kid is turning out pretty well compared to the others you sometimes see with the drugged look on their face plugged into the iPad.
The American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a paper a few years ago that basically discounted any educational benefits of TV and computer use before age 2. They recommended completely withholding TV, etc. until at least age 2, and I'm sure they said that because there were a majority of parents who think this "Apple-Acquired Content IV Chair" is an awesome idea. Moderation, folks...talk to your kids, read to them, play with them...you know, be their mom/dad.
And oh yes, I grew up in the 70s/80s when they said TV was rotting our brains. Don't forget that TV was passive, there were a maximum of 5 or 6 channels before cable came out, and there wasn't tons of kids' programming either. Now the first Facebook generation is having kids -- I can't wait to see the socail experiment unfold in real life.
Hastening French Revolution 2.0, I see
Everyone talks about all the great stuff robots will free everyone from, like having to work at boring, monotonous jobs. One of the things I'm worried about is the shift in society that would happen if, all of a sudden, all the manual labor in the world became unemployed while all the "knowledge workers" kept their jobs and actually benefited more with all the extra robot productivity.
There's two paths - a Star Trek universe where everyone does what they're good at and there's zero scarcity, and a messy revolution when the majority of society gets pissed off at being broke and unemployed.
I don't expect it to be a nice transition -- but we'll see in 10 years I guess :-)
No new service packs??
I wonder if this is going to be one of the decisions that's reversed when Ballmer hands over the reins. I admit that time has moved on, and most of us in the first world have always-on high speed Internet, and more of an appetite for the rapid-release thing. I also remember that a Service Pack used to be a really big deal that would require Microsoft to press new media and put some effort into building up a new release that would be deployable "hands off" out of a physical software box. This is probably what Microsoft means by this -- that a SP is no longer the huge milestone that it was. But I think it should be, at least for some products.
I do think that even with cloud this and agile that, business IT still wants to have a jumping-off point in a product lifecycle to begin and standardize deployments on. If that release cycle shrinks too low, large customers may not be able to let the dust settle on a certain release and shake bugs out before the next release is out, and oh by the way, deprecates features from Release -1. Enterprise customers just jumping onto Windows 7 from XP are running into this, in the form of Microsoft not backporting key features to Win7 and Server 2008 R2.
I never thought I'd say this, but maybe Microsoft should reverse the decision they made with Windows 2000 to merge the consumer and business client OS base. They could have three tiers of release speed -- Azure where things change every day, Consumer Windows which is more app driven, and Business Windows which focuses on stability and predictable release schedules. PC manufacturers do the same thing -- they have the consumer junk line that they throw whatever components they feel like into and shove it out the door. Then at the high end, they have the rock-stable "business grade PC" that doesn't change the design for 18 months so companies can buy 40,000 of them and deploy them the same way.
Needs to be marketed differently
HP actually pitched these to us a while back -- we're a bog standard IT shop and my boss thought this was the next version of BladeSystem.
The truth is that this isn't your typical x86 server or blade platform. Customers who would use something like this probably have an idea of exactly what they need, and have a problem that needs a very customized system to solve. The first rollout of this was pitched directly to the Googles and Facebooks of the world, or more correctly, companies that thought they were a Facebook and Google and needed to get on the big data bandwagon. It looks like an attempt to stave off the white-box hardware solutions that the big social media and cloud startups have begun using in their data centers. It's targeted somewhere between the x86 blade customers (density) and midrange/Itanium customers (highly custom/complex systems) and it'll be interesting to see HP drum out some case studies to give customers ideas about what it would be good for.
Not surprising this would happen
For all the mess they're causing on the Windows client side, Microsoft has been making some smart moves on the server side. One of them is giving away fully-functional Hyper-V for the cost of a server license. We're starting to move away from VMWare in situations where it makes sense to do so. Our company's IT leadership just isn't ready for KVM or similar -- not because they're OSS, but they have an intense need for a vendor to nail to the wall.
The big holdouts are going to be companies with large data centers who are heavily invested in VMWare and have admins who only know VMWare. Our "main" data center is like this -- they refuse to support Hyper-V in production still. Unless VMWare reduces their prices significantly or gives away all the functionality in the "free" version and just limits capacity, even the holdouts are probably going to have to change their minds.
LCCs don't do DR
I work in the air transport industry, and have previously worked for an LCC in the US. This is not a shocker. Airlines, believe it or not, are mostly a very low margin business and they do the absolute bare minimum when it comes to IT. The particular carrier I was with converted almost all their end user systems to Citrix/thin clients, and the monster server cluster running the environment was hosted in a single data center. When the possibility of single point of failure was brought up, a second site hosted in an (airline-owned) DC on the other side of the country was shot down for lack of ROI/high cost.
After the six-plus hour full outage of that (entire) primary data center, the second server cluster was (grudgingly) approved. Manual check-ins at the busiest airport in the system were a very interesting sight to see.
It is true that stuff like bag fees suck, but it's not like airline headquarters have gold plated lavatory fixtures either. Joe Sixpack demands $49 flights...and it costs more than $49 to get him and his bags where he's going!
It's not that bad actually
Windows 8 does offer a lot of under the covers improvements that make it better than Windows 7 overall, but I agree that it's really hobbled by the Metro UI. Win 8.1 makes it a little better, and in my mind it's the only version that makes sense to even try using in a business setting. Maybe with Steve going away, we'll be able to convince a new exec team to let us have themes and the Start menu back. But, I've gotten used to the new UI, and while I'm not in love with it, Win 8.1 is at least not maddeningly bad like 8.0 was.
There's always a few intrepid companies that sign up for the early adopter programs Microsoft offers. The place I was at last almost joined the one for Vista -- that was a lucky decision not to...
Traditional desktop users won't see a productivity improvement, but the BYOD/millenial crowd might eventually like it.
The next logical step
Sounds like yet another step in the quest to end the options of buying perpetual licenses.
Microsoft is very heavily pushing cloud-based software with this latest iteration of the Windows/Office release cycle:
- Office 365 subscriptions are being sold cheaper than perpetual licenses (up to a certain break-even point).
- Windows client OSes now default to using your Windows Live/SkyDrive account for logging in
- Windows Server 2012 R2's new feature list almost exclusively revolves around cloud and virtualization
- TechNet subscriptions are now gone in favor of hosting virtual labs or getting you to buy Azure time for your testing
Considering the fact that Office 365 is just a metered, App-V'd version of the full Office 2013 product, the motivations are pretty clear -- force people onto a monthly subscription model. Enterprise Agreements were the corporate versions of this, now it's being pushed down to the end user. Unfortunately, people seem to be indicating that they're willing to go down this route. Adobe Creative Cloud is another example -- vocally protested by IT and end users alike, but when push came to shove, they shut up and paid the monthly fees.
I know the cloud thing isn't just a fad, but I do think there will be a chunk of the market who still wants perpetual license rights and will apparently have to pay a premium for it.
I know advertisers are all about eyeballs and stuff, but does the average person actually look at an ad, let alone click on it?
Other than looking at the ads served up by Google for a microsecond and saying "wow, that's creepy that they know I was searching for flights to Minneapolis and old computer parts on eBay", I don't think I've ever paid attention to an online ad. Maybe Facebook thinks that by injecting ads more directly into the news feed they can trick people into clicking them. But are people really that stupid? I know, I know, "yes."
I just don't get how businesses have success advertising. I'm 100% immune to it, and have never bought a product based on an ad campaign. Have I bought something because a trusted person has said I should take a look at this? Yes. But not a "ooh, that's a shiny ad, the product must be awesome" kind of response. It seems to me that businesses should focus on getting customers to recommend them, maybe even by paying them, rather than spraying random ads on the Internet and hoping they get some sucker to bite.
Grr, more open plan office furniture
I absolutely hate the trend of the open plan office. It makes it impossible to concentrate, you have to find a room to make a phone call or hold a meeting, etc. My company brought in the usual suspect management consultants a few years ago who convinced them that the open plan office was the way to go. Since then, they've been converting all their bigger offices to these Google-esque wonderlands. No assigned desks, glass-walled meeting rooms, the whole bit.
I think it has something to do with the whole social aspect, but when I'm working on a problem, I want quiet. When I make a phone call, I don't want the entire office to hear it.
Fortunately, for now, our smaller branch office hasn't been targeted for Googlefication yet. We'll see what happens though...
Horses for courses
AWS, Azure and the other big infrastructure clouds are great for the huge wave of social media startups that have popped up lately. Where else can you buy and provision 10,000 servers instantly to support a Web-only, noncritical application?
I don't think it's pointless for a large enough company to build a private cloud. Even in medium size organizations, providing servers, storage, rack space and network is a long process. And projects change so fast that you end up having a lot of unused capacity when something gets killed, just waiting around to be redeployed.
I'm a little tired of the "old guard" remarks from the Pinterests, Twitters, and Facebooks of the world. There is a huge difference between a disposable playtime app and the stuff that a business relies on to keep the books, process customer orders, etc. For testing, I'm a serious fan of AWS and others. I can build and rip up whatever I want as long as I have the credit card to pay for it, and don't have to spend a dime on lab equipment except for things that I really don't want to host. For production...it's headed that way, but businesses are probably going to prefer the traditional ASP or hosting model rather than the public cloud route, or they'll go hybrid which in my mind is the right thing to do.
No choice sometimes
I do systems integration work, my focus is on client systems, and I see this all the time. Often, there is very little choice in the matter, especially in industry sectors with a lot of specialized applications running on people's desktops and in their browsers.
This is the same thing that's keeping corporate environments on XP and IE 6 despite pleas from everyone to get off. Actual examples from my work-life:
- Oracle had a "special" JRE called JInitiator around 2001 or so that has to be installed to work with old versions of its Financials and other Oracle Forms based apps. Businesses can't justify paying Oracle $xxM on top of their already high license maintenance fees to upgrade to versions that don't need it, so the client piece stays. Worse yet, these are modified copies of JRE 1.3x/1.4x from Sun with a different GUID compiled in, and they need to run in the browser.
- Big consulting shops whip together garbage Java or Flash applications that become core pieces of the business. And oh yes, it only runs with the specific quirks of IE 6 SP1 combined with JRE 1.4.2. Want it to support modern browsers/Java? That'll be $10M to rearchitect it please...
- Small consulting shops or internal employees write these same garbage apps and then die, quit or go out of business. We'll get around to replacing that in 2017...
- Even big commerical applications, just not stuff aimed at the consumer, have huge dependencies on old Java and Flash, and if you run it in the browser, you're vulnerable.
There's a huge industry around app virtualization software just to "solve" problems like this. A lot of it might be inertia, but trying to do regression testing in even midsize companies where hundreds of applications could be running on desktops together...it's messy.
It's easy to say, "Well, The Cloud will solve all your problems." But anyone who says that has listened to their cloud salesmen a little too much or doesn't know what actually goes on under the hood to get these software packages working together...
Scary and unbelievable
Hmm, while you're at it, can you:
- Put the Aero and Windows Classic interfaces back into Windows as options
- Put the Start Menu back in as an option
- Put colors back into the UIs of your dev tools and server management applications
- Reverse your decision on the TechNet Subscription cancellation
Basically, if you could just undo everything you decided in the past 4 years or so, I'd appreciate it.
I guess Microsoft figured out it was a matter of time before someone started seeding a botnet-controlled or virus-infected version of the OS, and that they should just release it rather than have a bigger problem on their hands. Overall, I'm glad they made a few incremental changes with 8.1, but I'm hoping 8.2 is just Windows 7 with all the improved under-the-GUI stuff. Given the 180s Microsoft has been doing lately, I'm not going to be shocked if it is.
Microsoft isn't far behind
Soon as Oracle bought Sun, the hobbyist market for SPARC died instantly. You used to be able to pick up cheap SPARC hardware on eBay, then go to Sun's website and download drivers, manuals, patches, firmware, whatever you needed. Once Oracle took over, everything including necessary device firmware updates is behind My Oracle Support, and you need a support contract to access it. The funny thing is that not just any support contract will do -- you need a Firmware authorization for your hardware, a Patch authorization for OS and software, and authorization to look at the support articles for your products.
The same goes for Solaris -- no patches means no production or pseudo production use. And with Linux a viable alternative for most, they're basically killing the potential new talent market. Add to that the fact that a lot of their traditional educational customers (to whom Sun would basically give hardware and software) abandoning them, and they're going to be making money off legacy support and not much else in the future.
Now Microsoft is starting down this road -- they killed off the TechNet Subscription, which is the ultimate gateway drug for Microsoft software. Rumor has it that MSDN is next, or it will be severely restricted.
What are these companies thinking? Are they actively trying to discourage new development?
Move or be redundant...I've heard that before
I know this move was to win a government contract, but the idea highlights a problem we see in the US a lot lately.
Because we basically have 50 taxing jurisdictions, states are constantly competing with each other to steal large corporations' workers and locations. Some states like Florida and Texas have no state income tax and are constantly begging businesses in New York and other high-tax states to move. I live in New York, but there are plenty of other examples, even in lower-tax states. The higher-tax states counter this with crazy local incentives like, "We'll give you free land/free power" or "you don't have to pay property tax for 10 years."
The problem with this, in a profession like IT that isn't seen as important or central, is that corporate IT departments are being shifted around from one tax deal to another at a much higher rate than before. I've been through 2 of these moves, choosing to quit rather than move both times. (I'm the 1-in-1000 individual who would rather be unemployed than spend the summer months in Georgia, Texas or Florida.) For now, there's still plenty of opportunity in high-tax land, but one has to wonder whether we're creating a generation of transient workers.
What's different in this case from the long-gone 60s through 80s? There were plenty of internal employee transfers from one location to another. The difference is that the company was usually worth the loyalty a worker showed it by moving their family across the country. Each time this has happened to me, I've approached this from this direction -- hating of the climate aside, what happens when this company moves me with my NY salary to GA, then fires me 2 months later and immediately forces a huge pay cut to compete on the local labor market?
Not sure how it is in the UK, but moving is insanely expensive and time consuming, especially long-distance moves. Most people roll the costs into their mortgage and never see it, but every real estate transaction you do is at least five figures' worth of fees, costs, and expenses. That five figure figure :-) is just transactional waste -- you never get that money back unless/until you make a profit on your old place. I know people can't expect to work for the same company forever or in the same location, but it sure would be nice if companies didn't assume that all their employees have a one-bedroom apartment they can pack into a U-Haul at a moment's notice.
I'm a Windows admin and have been through all sorts of automation work, from batch files to VBScript to PowerShell. The fact that people are developing front ends for PowerShell is very telling.
The concepts behind PS are great, and indeed, when you plan your scripts carefully, they save you time. For example, I don't have to write tons of wrapper functions to do things like processing the output of a command -- you have to do that in VBScript, but PowerShell allows you to feed the output of one command into another.
The idea is great, but in my mind the implementation could be better. My personal opinion of the actual language is that it's like Perl, bash, the .NET libraries, WQL and VBScript all managed to procreate and came up with PowerShell as the result. It has syntax concepts from all of these sources in it. Plus, with the length of cmdlet names, it's akin to the old OpenVMS commands that spanned several lines with 50 different switches.
Every Windows admin needs to come to terms with PowerShell. It's actually not awful once you learn how to think the way it wants you to. Remember all the WMI voodoo incantations that had to be done to get WSH scripts to do useful stuff? It's kind of like that, but less confusing. But definitely learn it. With Microsoft pushing the whole cloud thing, they're just going to get further and further away from tools that act on a single server and expect admins to know this stuff.
Damn hype cycle
I don't understand why people are still assuming tablets will take over all computing activity in the next 4 years. Tablets are great for consuming content - watching video, reading a web page, etc. They're absolute crap for creating content, fiddling with spreadsheets, etc.
I can see desktop PCs (the big bulky box kind) being less important, but I still can't see notebook PCs with decent keyboards and pointing devices being replaced by tablets anytime soon.
The big thing I'm worried about is vendors ditching decent PCs. The Lenovos and HPs of the world sell plenty of garbage hardware to Best Buy and the like, but they do make solid business PCs and laptops. You pay for them, but they don't fall apart like the $199 laptop special. And if they do fall apart, the vendor has enough margin to give you replacement parts during the warranty. I hope they can keep margins on -decent- hardware high enough to keep investing in it. The business I'm in is still very PC-centric and will likely continue that way for the near future, and I don't want to lose a source of machines that won't die a day after the 90-day warranty expires. I won't miss the HP Pavillion or the Lenovo IdeaPad, but the HP Elite line and Lenovo Think line need to stay.
For the low low price of $1295!
This is a perfect example of one of the things wrong with our chosen profession.
Gartner and their ilk are constantly stirring up the hype machine with breathless reports like this, and the executive crowd thinks they're a bunch of mad research scientists sitting in a lab dispensing their genius. They're not -- they're a bunch of whitepaper writers who package the latest fad into a palatable executive-approved format. Granted, there needs to be leading edge and stable waves of technology or nothing would ever move forward. However, it should be done in a measured, reasoned, researched way. What does the 25-year-old MBA who wrote that report know about cloud computing or BYOD beyond the thin veneer of hype?
I would personally like to see the non-technician roles of IT (systems engineering, design, architecture, etc.) morph into a licensed engineering profession. Barrier to entry, formal training program, continuing education, and most importantly accountability for screwing up. As it is right now, we rely too much on vendors' certification programs, the Gartner crowd, and countless other "vendor-sponsored" whitepaper writers for training. IT "practitioners" who screw up slink off quietly and find some other company who hasn't heard of them yet. And new grads who want to enter the field have a very hard time now that solid, challenging entry level IT work is getting tougher to find.
And for the record, BYOD if done with the right expectations isn't a bad thing. You just have to spend the time and money re-architecting systems so that even internal networks and devices are untrusted by default -- and of course, eveyone implementing BYOD has done that, right?? :-)
Hype cycle needs to slow down a little
Good opinion piece, and spot on.
I work in one of the IT backwaters you mention. My company is a service provider for a very mature, staid industry sector that has very little use for cloud, big data, etc. What they do care about is reliable, always-up basic information processing. The last few years in our company have been spent keeping the marketing guys and CIO from falling all over themselves and getting caught up in the hype machine, lest we alienate the customers who've come to rely on us.
Big Data is my favorite -- it's great if you're Amazon.com and have petabytes of information about what people buy and what they click on in your vast online retail empire. It's great if you're Facebook and want to sell businesses the eyeballs of 21 year old Asian iPhone owners who "like" Starbucks, skydiving and fly fishing. It's not so great for a small business selling to a small audience. And it doesn't help most vertical markets.
Cloud is another. VMs + network + storage, all more flexible than before, either in your place or someone else's. Plus software to tie it all together. That's it. End of story. When IT tries to explain this, the marketing guys say "That's it?" Yup, that's it.
IT has always been in perpetual hype mode, but it has really gotten out of hand lately. Hopefully this is just another dotcom style bubble and things will calm down.
Isn't the DS3500 just an OEM'd model from NetApp/LSI Logic anyway? The GUIs to manage them are slightly different, but the DS3512 and 3524 report their controllers as LSI Logic, and you use LSI's multipathing software on Linux to talk to them...
That said, the storage line does need to be simplified a little bit. Especially in the middle tier, they have a lot of slightly different models that could be combined to save costs and improve focus. Hopefully storage doesn't get sold off like the servers and PCs...
Not happy about that, but I guess it was inevitable.
Lenovo has been selling a "ThinkServer" line for quite a while, which are basically clones of the very low end System x towers and rack systems. I think it was branded as some kind of cross licensing deal, but I guess we know what was really going on.
Hopefully Lenovo will keep the design and engineering teams in North Carolina -- they're still working on most of the business-grade hardware designs for the PC business, and the System x/BladeCenter guys are there too, so it's a good fit.
I guess the only good thing is that even with the recent cheapening of the designs, the ThinkPads and ThinkCentres do retain a good chunk of the original IBM design...they're still my favorite laptop vendor. So hopefully, if Lenovo is smart, they won't mess around with quality too much. IBM's System x gear is (was?) top quality, easily as good as or better than the HP ProLiant. And at the high end of the range, their hardware designs are really interesting. The downside is that it's very expensive compared to Dell, slightly more than HP. For that price difference though, you get US-based tech support who really understands their stuff. I've never had a problem with IBM System x and BladeCenter support (It's a dedicated group sitting in Atlanta if you're in the US,) but have wanted to reach through the phone and strangle HP and Dell "support" representatives.
The fact that IBM is keeping FlexSystem, System z and System p in house seems to me like they're betting that everything will collapse into the cloud, either public or private, and no one will need physical x86 boxes anymore. FlexSystem is basically BladeCenter 2.0 + Cloud-in-a-box, and competes with the VCE stuff. It looks neat, but just like the VCE stuff, I can't afford it to play around with in the lab. However, I wonder what's going to happen with OpenStack gaining popularity now -- people won't be locked into VMWare or IBM and they'll actually want cheap x86 boxes that they can turn into a loose collection of VM containers. Plus, you have places like the one I work in, with highly distributed branches and crappy network connectivity all over the universe that can't do the consolidation thing cost-effectively who will be buying physical boxes for some time to come.
This is kind of a bummer to me though -- I live in New York, and IBM still has a fairly big presence here, since their HQ and main research lab are in Westchester and Dutchess counties respectively. Just like the rest of the US though, that presence keeps dropping with every physical product line they sell off. I don't wish ill on other countries, but part of me is hoping for a Chinese economic collapse just so MBA management consultants will stop telling executives that you can't manufacture physical products, for any price. Lack of physical products or selling that off to the lowest bidder means no long-term hardware innovation, and we're going to end up stuck in a rut forever. (I was a rust belt kid and watched all the manufacturing move to the South, then overseas. Not fun.)
Bye vCenter / vCloud Director...
With Microsoft basically giving away Hyper-V + enough tools to manage basic deployments without System Center, and all the traditional Linux users/vendors (Red Hat, IBM, etc.) moving towards OpenStack, VMWare is going to have to change their model a bit. I guess it was only a matter of time -- I've said in the past that all the OpenStack guys needed was a big vendor to herd the cats and a decent front end to everything that doesn't require a specialized staff just to maintain.
That's exactly what Red Hat did for Linux -- set a sane enterprise release schedule, cut back the thousands of choices open source gives you to a manageable number, put up a sane and nice enough front end for all the OSS stuff under the hood, and provide decent support.
I definitely see OpenStack gaining ground in medium sized installations where Windows isn't necessarily the technology of choice and the pockets aren't deep enough to buy VMWare, or worse, VCE vBlock stuff.
Next bubble -- public clouds?
Wow, another vendor jumping into public IaaS. Amazon, Microsoft, VMWare, Rackspace, IBM buying its way in, now Google... I wonder if we're going to have a public cloud bubble on our hands.
With all these vendors spinning up huge amounts of compute capacity, and turning it into a commodity, there's going to be an interesting race to the bottom on pricing. I can't wait until one vendor starts going below their own costs to "make it up in volume" the same way the dotcom people did in the 90s.
Actually, the way out for these guys is to get out of truly public cloud and get back into the old-fashioned hosting business. After all, they have massive data centers now, all they would have to do is carve them up into private instances the way they did before the cloud became the new marketing hype. I think that if customers could be reasonably assured that their data was separate from others' data, and there was an SLA beyond "oops, sorry about that." they might begin trusting the cloud vendors to host their workloads.
So yeah, just like the dotcom boom was good for expanding the Internet massively, the public cloud boom is going to leave us with lots and lots of cheap compute, storage and network capacity for some time to come.
Great, more volatility
R11's comment about people not being able to see information until the WSJ publishes it kind of highlights a problem we have today -- extreme market volatility that gets worse every year.
HFT has a lot to do with this, but another factor is just the fact that it's so easy for Joe Investor to see something on CNBC (or Facebook/Twitter now) and instantly log in to their brokerage account and trade. I don't want to go back to a world without the Internet, but it sure was a much more predictable stock market back then. Even very wealthy people had to get their information from old-fashioned sources, and in most cases only had a few hours' jump on everyone else. Think about it -- Sir Thurston Picketts III picks up the WSJ, sees an article predicting the imminent collapse of Company X. He has to call his broker, put in a sell order, and hope he can get out before the world burns. So does *everyone* else. Now, that same story pops up on Facebook, and 25 million investors immediately put in the same sell order, all at once, with zero delay, dragging down the price, causing more people to sell, and creating a negative feedback loop.
This is just going to contribute to the ongoing casino-ization of the markets. Too bad everyone's retirement savings is in there (in the US at least...)
Re: As odd as it sounds
I have to wonder whether Microsoft can come back. Sure, they have plenty of money to burn, but they've gone pretty far down the track of trying to turn the Windows desktop into the iPad. They went out and built their own line of hardware. They developed an entire Windows Store and app ecosystem that emulates Apple's. They even have brick-and-mortar Microsoft stores in prime retail locations next to the Apple Store. (I went in one yesterday and was the only customer on a busy weekend shopping day.)
The problem is whether or not they will be able to take some of this back and say "oops." Not everything they are doing with this model is wrong, but so much of it is just a blatant copy of Apple iDevices and Android phones. I actually like things like the Surface Pro form factor -- it's great to have an almost fully-fledged PC in roughly the same footprint as a tablet. It finally makes things like vertical market applications useful. I agree that PC user interfaces could use a little updating, but IMO the tablet/iOS model isn't the best possible world either.
Not what I wanted to see.
It's good that Windows 8 is getting some usability fixes, but it's still missing the one key feature I care about.
And it's not the Start menu. I'd like that back but if Microsoft wants to take it away, I'll deal. What I NEED back in the next SP for Windows 8 is the Aero Glass theme and the theme-able desktop in general.
I kind of understand why Microsoft took away the themed desktop (force everyone to think of RT and apps first) -- but I can't stand working in the flat, featureless user interface. Things like Server Manager and Visual Studio are a huge pain to use for me...acres of monochrome text and icons with very little standing out. The other thing I'm not a fan of is the flat window controls; on a busy screen it can be hard to find what's actually the active window (and yes, I know the color changes, but Aero to me was much easier to navigate.)
I'm disappointed, because Win8 and Server 2012 make huge improvements (Client Hyper-V, neat storage stuff in Server 2012) but it's held back by a user interface I don't like using.
Lots of companies doing this
I think this is the latest MBA/accounting fad from the last 20 years or so. Not sure why, but apparently it's bad to have assets like real estate on your books. Why that is is beyond me - don't they get to knock a huge amount off their profit number for the taxes and maintenance of property they own?
But I guess that's why I'm not an MBA or accountant.
It's not just limited to companies either - here in the US, state governments are doing the same thing, selling and leasing back facilities, roads, bridges, etc.
Check the HCL first
One piece of advice I'd give everyone is to check whether your hardware is "officially" supported on VMWare's compatibility list. All of it. Otherwise, your upgrade will take more than "a pot of coffee, a shut door, google and a big pile of PDFs printed out" as david64 so eloquently put it.
I just finished an upgrade from 4.1 to 5.1 on some IBM stuff we have for our lab. Luckily it's the lab, because this particular combination of very expensive gear isn't on the HCL, and 5.1 isn't tested by IBM. And, it's just just a support issue -- there was a whole host of strange, nested problems between drivers, firmware levels, the defaults IBM picked for their customized ESXi build, ESXi kernel settings, etc, etc, etc. Because it's IBM stuff, the docs on everything couldn't be found from their website and I just happened to find the magic tech note and manual from a lucky Google search after a lengthy quest.
I eventually got it working and everything's fine -- but those who think all upgrades are going to be "Next, next, next, finish" should plan to spend more time. For those who do make it, it works great. The web client is improved, and the whole system just feels a little faster.
Beer because I needed one after that particular waste of my life...
Slimebag meter overload
Wow, that guy really sounds like a dumbass.
Until you see these types in action, you think it's all a stereotype. But I've seen my fair share when working for various IT services and software houses, and this is coming from a guy who just has a normal relationship, isn't a rabid feminist, or a Puritan.
I'm not sure what drives these types, but it's definitely linked to the sales culture. There's plenty of socially maladjusted colleagues of mine in the engineering realm, but that's a whole other kettle of fish. Maybe it's upbringing, maybe it's the fact that these salesy types are outgoing and think they've got extra swagger, the fratboy culture that naturally attracts people to sales, or whatever. But I've definitely witnessed behavior that made my "slimebag meter" jump into the red. The big software houses like Oracle, CA, etc. all have huge sales forces full of these types. You would think that they would know to at least keep their remarks out of earshot of the people they were aimed at. It's even worse when you hear it coming from a balding, slightly overweight middle aged software salesman. Again, just a normal guy like myself looks at those types and thinks, "Wow, you're classy, NOT."
I forget what movie this was from, but one character happened to be this 50 year old dude with a bad dye job hitting on random women in the bar, who the others idolized for his pickup skills. In confidence, he told his best friend that no one should want to be the creepy old guy in the bar hitting on women. This guy should take that advice to heart.
Lax controls always lead to temptation
I would guess a major telco like Verizon would have a Molybdenum Tier Service Contract with Cisco that does advance shipment of replacements. We're a small engineering lab for a major corp and can buy contracts from HP and IBM which would let us "own, but not have to buy" a fully stocked spares pool onsite for our servers if we wanted to. But I can't see even the biggest of a vendor's customers having a service agreement that let them keep, or at least not account for, defective parts. The only explanation would be that Verizon buys such a massive volume of equipment from Cisco that the tracking and returning costs outweigh what is spent...but when you're talking things like $10K switch cards, I can't see Cisco not caring whether they are actually replacing failed kit or not. So, I really wonder what the loophole was; it had to be something like this guy being able to sign an affidavit saying that the equipment wasn't serviceable, and Cisco would accept that.
More importantly, I don't know anything about this guy and his state of mind, but this goes to show you that people will look to find the holes in any process and exploit them for their own gain. I've always been an honest person, but I can see how people get tempted. Especially so, if this guy's girlfriend was the type who needed to be placated with rounds of cosmetic surgery on top of all the other stuff! 
I've been in a lot of similar situations, where I've found myself in charge of a process with massive potential for abuse. And I admit, you do think to yourself, "Wow, I could take thousands worth of equipment and service using this loophole, and no one would never know." This case does provide people like me with some vindication...that some auditor, some forensic accountant, somewhere, will eventually find these things out and start digging. Nice guys may finish last, but at least I won't be going to jail like this guy. :-) You may think you're smart, but up against someone whose sole job is to make the books balance, you're playing with fire.
And it's too bad that people like this often cause massive walls of paperwork and bureaucracy to be erected around the process for buying equipment.
 Why, oh why, does the IT community constantly reinforce the "Married IT people only have mail order brides and trophy wives" stereotype?? Seriously, some of us are normals with normal family lives.
"We own it. We manage it. We upgrade it. You only pay for what you use,"
Sounds like the IBM high-end systems model to me! Definitely a different track for Oracle to be going down, but not surprising given their software model. I can definitely see large organizations salivating at the thought of getting rid of those pesky, expensive Oracle and Solaris admins. The IBM System p and System z platforms run like this too -- you have some control since the machines are physically there, but the daily maintenance is handled by IBM and they send out part-swappers when physical tasks need to be performed. The machine even calls in the tickets by itself. And when you want more capacity, they just turn on more processors, which they happily provide you because the cost to use them way outweighs the cost of providing the physical hardware to your site.
Only problem with this model? Huge hundreds-of-percent margin for the vendor and massive lock in. Imagine trying to extract something like this private, Oracle-managed cloud from your datacenter. Not that locally run Solaris and Oracle software are any less of a lock-in, but when you own the systems you at least have the option to get rid of it without rebuying things. I can see a couple of customer types for this service -- customers who just want to absolve themselves of any responsibility beyond paying the IT bill, and those without the staffing levels to work through all the crazy Oracle software problems that pop up from day to day.
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