48 posts • joined Tuesday 11th January 2011 03:56 GMT
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.
Re: Damned lies and Statistics
"The quality of the IT provision has nose dived, but it's outsourced so it must be cheaper right?"
It's just the self-perpetuating fail cycle the IT profession has been in lately:
- Downward pressure on salaries by automation and outsourcing
- Further downward pressure from standardization + users willing to accept lower-end solutions for ease of use
- "Early retirement" of many experienced professionals, usually replaced by one of these service companies
- Fewer intelligent people entering the field as newbies
- Fewer people left to train the newbies and give them real world insight
- Further downward pressure on salaries due to poor perception of IT
Granted, this isn't true everywhere; I have a position at a reasonably enlightened company. But I do feel sorry for people who work at companies that treat IT as a commodity akin to janitorial service. And everyone's to blame for it. I don't know how many "professionals" I've worked with over the years that intentionally fail to document systems in an attempt for "job security" (which never works out long-term BTW...) I have also worked for more than a few people (and heard many stories) that just do not get the concept of paying someone to maintain computer systems. They're absolutely aghast that it might require professional help.
I don't know what's going to happen. Personally, I'd like to see the design side become a branch of engineering with a real professional organization behind it. What's probably going to end up happening is more of what's happening now -- armies of hacks propped up by a band of roving consultants who are never in the same place for a few months at a time.
New baseline unemployment likely
I'm guessing that the author's speculation that a new baseline unemployment level has appeared is the most likely cause of the high number.
My personal experience during this recession has been decent - I'm still getting phone calls about interviewing for jobs, just less frequently. However, I do know a lot of people who aren't so lucky.
The first problem is that people looking for full time employment who have been laid off are having trouble getting interviews; apparently, any gap in your employment record is the kiss of death.
The second is a huge skills mismatch. Within IT, there are a lot of people who fill very specific niches, and employers refuse to look beyond that to see if they're trainable for something else. Outside of IT, there are fewer and fewer jobs for "the rest of the population". In days past, people who weren't cut out for technical or scientific work had their choice of decent-paying factory jobs or various decent-paying mindless paper-shuffling jobs in corporate-land. Automation and outsourcing on both fronts really hurts those in the middle of the IQ scale, and permanently relegates them to low-level service jobs. Even that sector can't absorb all these people, so you get the unemployment levels we're seeing now.
I have no idea how we're going to solve this. Until we do, it will be a very divisive issue and various political rhetoric is going to get less and less reasoned/rational.
Re: Shouldn't be much of an issue...
That's exactly what's going to happen -- internal corporate web apps are going to break, not major online services.
It's been my experience as a system admin that many of my fellow admins consider public key cryptography a black art. It's not hard to understand once you have a few app deployments under your belt, but wow. I've seen a lot of apps used internally where it's pretty obvious that someone just went through an online walkthrough to set the SSL certs up, then ran FAR away from it once they got the webpage to display without an error message.
So yeah, I can see a lot of people running into this, especially since AD lets you import self-signed certs. And it's going to confuse a lot of people until they hit Google the next day and see the "help me, I'm over my head" forums like ExpertsExchange and the like fill up with "OMG - No one can access our internal LOB application, PLEASE HELP URGENTLY".
"The z12 chip is implemented in a 32 nanometer high-K metal gate process and fabbed by IBM itself at its East Fishkill, New York foundry."
Very interesting that IBM, king of all things outsourcing and offshoring, still makes the chips for its mainframes in-house. They should teach something like this in MBA school -- never give away stuff that makes you money or risk your intellectual property! It might keep those of us in the US and Europe employed for a few more years.
Then again, when you're talking about a 700% ROI, maybe they figure it's worth it to not let a competitor compromise some contract manufacturer. Also, since the mainframe system is highly proprietary and not well known in general IT circles, I'm betting IBM has more than a few hardware nerds on staff that they absolutely must keep, and don't dare let the customers see. :-) I actually work in an industry highly dependent on mainframes, and my experience is that recent grads have no concept of mainframe computing, either because it's a total black box accessed through a web page or (shudder) terminal emulator, or because it's complex.
Oh well, I guess we can't all go back to the glory days of Digital/Sun/IBM/SGI with the order-of-magnitude margins on hardware that let those companies do things like this. Some of the older folks in the circles I travel worked for these places in the 80s/early 90s, and said they never wanted for anything, simply because the companies were so cash-rich. Of course, the flip side of that is those $25000 workstations....
Maybe this is a good sign.
If these 25,000 cuts are actually in "services", they're probably finally getting around to cutting the last of the EDS dead wood. By that, I don't mean the core group of older, smart people who secretly keep things humming behind the scenes. I'm talking about the ones who have managed to hide out in a little corner of the company for years longer than they should have. Almost all "services" companies have trainloads of customer liaisons, analysts, product development specialists, more analysts, multiple layers of operations staff, and sales and support staff that just add overhead. And customers pay for that. EDS has tons of ultra-large enterprise and government outsourcing agreements -- imagine how many staff are covered by those!
Or, we may finally be seeing the shift back from the "send us your problems and we'll get half the population of India to work on them for you" era. I work at an IT provider for a *very* "trailing edge" industry and our management is just starting to see the folly of that, so that phase must definitely be over now...
Or, HP might be getting back to its roots of actually making physical products people want to buy, and selling them for more than it costs to make them. You know, the dirty "M" word.
Nah, who am I kidding? Whitman is going to get rid of all the engineering staff, replace them with marketing drones, negotiate a Lenovo-style deal with some contract manufacturer and collect a huge payday.
No money in hardware?
Why does IBM seem obsessed about getting out of the hardware business? Even the guys at HP figured out that gutting the PC business was a bad idea since they were able to sell into consulting engagements. And those were commodity boxes. This is retail POS hardware, which is hideously expensive and high-margin.
I have no idea what's taught in MBA classes that drills the "physical products = bad" mentality into the latest generation of managers. Someone has to make good quality equipment, and a "smart" consulting company should know that having your own hardware division to directly push boxes to suckers^Uclients is a good thing.
Part of a trend, makes us all look bad
I'd never do anything like this, simply because I'm a professional. I like working in this industry and wouldn't like the idea of basically being blackballed from it for a stupid move like this. But it's an interesting pointer to a trend I've seen -- employees being completely disconnected from their employers' business.
That's not a total shocker given how little loyalty has been shown on the other side of the table. It doesn't excuse stealing proprietary chip designs, but I can see why some individuals might take this approach (on a related note, check out the top 10 IT rogues' gallery for more examples.)
Losing your job is one thing -- stealing a chip design to impress a new employer is a totally different one. If I were AMD, and saw those documents, I would (1) physically get that guy far away from my facility, and (2) scrub my eyeballs and brain of any trace of what I just saw. There would be no way AMD could have used this data without throwing up a million red flags, and it serves as a pretty good gauge of how loyal this guy would be as an employee.
I honestly don't know which way IT should go. One way is for us to become 100% untrusted, hired-gun contractors who only do the job we are authorized to do, and get tossed as soon as we're not needed. To make that a reality, we'd all have to work off-premises or in a secured contractor bubble in the employers' facilities. This model works great for 20-somethings with no family and a one-bedroom apartment -- I've worked with lots of people who travel 300+ days a year, get paid 4x the salary of a regular employee, and actively love it. The only problem is that every one of the older ones I know is unmarried or divorced because there's no way to sustain a family with that kind of life. For those of us who aren't as enthusiastic about our multi-Platinum status on frequent flyer/frequent guest programs, I think a model with more stability could work. Roll back the clock to the 50s through the 70s, but keep current technology in place. Workers could get a job for life, pension, benefits, salary that keeps up with inflation, etc. In return, a company would get workers who were more invested in their employers. I think you'd still have some wrongdoing, but you'd see less incidents of people walking off with company secrets. That's just because people like me would figure, "Hey, this company is paying me well and doesn't treat me like crap...why steal from them?"
Oracle's weird support model strikes again...
I'm sure these guys probably were trying to pull a fast one on Oracle, but resellers could really get burned.
Oracle, Cisco and others have an interesting model. You can go on Oracle's website, and download the latest major release of any of their software, with no licensing. If you were crazy, you could just take their software and use it in production. Or...could you? Our company has legit, paid-for support for Oracle and Solaris and we play the per-core, per-socket licensing game every year with them. And it turns out that you actually need it. Why?
1. No patches without a support contract
2. Oracle doesn't put out point releases on the web for free. Any problems that require you to patch the original media remain unsolved on the "free" side of the website.
3. Oracle also doesn't update the official product manuals, instead relying on "Notes" to tell you the real deal once they find a problem, again, only available on the support site.
Now, adding Solaris and Sun hardware into the mix, there are no more Solaris patches for download, and no more firmware updates for Sun kit without a corresponding contract. So in one shot, Oracle killed the hobbyist SPARC and Solaris ecosystem.
It could be that Oracle is working to keep their consultant base in business, but the simple RAC setup I did in our lab last month took WAY longer than it had to. I ran into spots in the install that I would never be able to overcome without patching the media, reading the 12 or so linked support notes, finding out what in the original install guide was just plain wrong. etc. etc. Compare that with a 45-60 minute install of a SQL Server cluster, a couple hours messing with DB2, etc.
So, given how critical support is to making Oracle products work, I could see a bunch of resellers falling into this trap. It's like Oracle is giving them enough rope to hang themselves, then swooping in when they discover someone has been sharing support contracts.
Not the first, not the last...
I wonder how this is going to affect Groupon's share price...
The funny thing is, stories like this have been very common, albeit not this wildly out of control. Groupon's MO seems to be targeting small businesses whose owners are either desperate for traffic (already a bad sign) or greedy enough to think that all these new customers will empty their wallets once they're in the shop for the item on offer.
I've used Groupon once, and it was for a major national retailer offering a too-good-to-ignore price on a service that's insanely high margin. I didn't feel too bad because (a) the retailer isn't going to notice the difference at scale, and (b) plenty of non-Grouponers pay the full markup, so they're doing fine. Now, doing this to a small business person who is pulling out the last weapon in the armoury before bankruptcy? Not so nice...
It is nice to see that the business owner isn't trying to weasel out of the deal, as I probably would have expected. It takes integrity to admit that you miscalculated and pay for your mistake, as I'm sure this bakery owner isn't happy about wiping out a years' profits.
Yet another example of how the laws of profit and loss aren't suspended once the Internet gets involved.
Not quite sure how to react to this one...an offer of pricing relief from the King of Vendor Lock-In?
That said, customers might want to think about that a bit. It's pretty obvious that Oracle is turning the Sun hardware business into a set of (really expensive) database appliances, and Solaris into a boot loader for the database and middleware.
Everyone I've talked to who has Sun hardware is getting off of it ASAP, because they see where this is going. Almost all their workloads that aren't 100% married to Solaris are being moved to Linux or other OSes. I'm not exactly sure IBM's the right vendor to run to for this. But, it shows you the feelings of the IT industry now about Oracle controlling a huge vertical stack.
Is it just me or is this a really strange period for corporate craziness?
- Nokia flushes their entire R&D group to become a WinPhone 7 shop
- Sony has a month-long shutdown of PlayStation Network because it failed to secure its servers
- HP fires Carly, then fires Hurd after, er, "irregularities," then fires Apotheker after failing to pull a Lenovo and flushing a billion on WebOS/Palm
I would like to see Zombie Bill Hewlett and Zombie Dave Packard show up to a board meeting to see what HP turned into in the last 20 years. Maybe feast on the gathered brains...oh, wait...
If I were on the board, I would definitely not have chosen the CEO that oversaw the purchase of Skype and changes to the eBay rules that drove tons of sellers off the site. I know there's pressure to drive quarterly results and get the stock price, but here's a thought guys -- If you can get beyond 3 quarters, and the company actually MAKES a PHYSICAL product people want to buy, that isn't garbage, and your strategy is improving those products rather than all the branding garbage, the company will make money.
No one realizes that you have to put something in to get profit out every now and then. Only IBM, with gobs of money and a huge services division that doesn't stink as badly as EDS, can pull a Lenovo. And a product is not guaranteed to be an overnight success, especially when you fail to price it right. That's no reason to turn around after a month and say "oh well, that was a waste."
My recommendation? Pick a long-time internal executive who has actually been running a profitable product division for a very long time. They're going to be much more invested in HP's success than these celebrity hired-gun CEOs. People like that will realize that enterprises still buy lots of hardware, even if they're building these cloudy things, and work to make the hardware they buy better than anything else out there. That beats flashy marketing, "brand" and printer ink any day in my mind.
I'm a long-time purchaser of HP gear, business and personal, and all I have to say to Whitman is "Please, please please don't sell HP to Oracle - ignore the Hurd." That would be a very ignominious end to a great company.
In the year 2525....
I have a dumb question/observation. In the West, especially in the US, we have a huge "skills mismatch" where tons of factory workers or service-industry people are out of work because of automation and outsourcing. Now, the plan is to put even more people out of work by automating production in the outsourced regions also?? Who in their right mind thinks this will end well?
We have an incredibly difficult time already finding qualified people to fill jobs where I work. What's going to happen when *all* of the manufacturing jobs are gone? Those jobs (used to) provide a semi-stable work environment and wage progression for people who weren't able to do "knowledge worker" kinds of jobs. If you couldn't even make it through high school in the past, you could at least get a job at the local factory, bust your butt and earn something approaching a living wage. Now, I only see a couple of outcomes:
1. French Revolution 2.0, complete with decapitations
2. The non-knowledge-worker types get pushed into education for knowledge worker jobs, pushing down the wages, skill level and driving other knowledge workers insane. (Already happening now...)
3. Some kind of "subsidy for not working" would have to be introduced to quell dissent.
I may be a Luddite, but I say we should bring back huge steel mills/factories employing 20,000 people at a shot. The work may have sucked, but at least it kept people busy. Otherwise, we may have to hide to avoid the guillotine!
Personally, I like the idea of the old system...it doesn't force people to chase promotions they aren't qualified for in order to keep advancing wage-wise. If I was a fantastic Systems Engineer II and never wanted to be a Systems Engineer III or (shudder) Manager of Systems Engineering, I could stay on a decent wage progression without topping out.
ITIL Is Not a Cure-All!
I've done admin and systems design work in a few "ITIL shops". The reason that's in quotes is because, in my experience, being an ITIL shop involves paying 7 figures to an enterprise software vendor for service desk/change management software. The software is then deployed with zero customization, and every single ITIL process, including the ones that don't make sense for that particular org, are put in place.
This is the kind of environment where requesting a change involves the *entire* ITIL procedure, including filling out generic change management forms in the software with 150+ mandatory fields, the change management meeting, backout plan approvals, scheduled maintenance windows, post-change reports, etc.
Unfortunately, I wish there was a better way to do what ITIL sets out to do. It seems like you either have a situation where it takes 21 days and the CIO's personal approval to provision a network port, or mad cowboy admins from the local tech degree mill wreaking havoc on live systems 24/7.
The sad thing is, because of these cowboy idiots, those of us who take the time to properly learn the sysadmin trade are reduced to form-fillers and button-pushers. I'm all for planning a change properly and not getting yourself into a situation where you can't recover, but when it gets crazy, that's no fun either. (Example I've heard -- RAID 1 drive fails, change management process prohibits replacing the mirror drive without a million approvals, and the other drive in the mirror dies before the change can be approved! A zero-downtime change becomes a multi-hour outage...)
Ironically, VM technology makes things much more flexible, giving the cowboys even more power if you don't control it. I'm guessing the changes in ITIL for the virtual world are going to involve even further separation of duties (you'll have a "VM provisioner", a network guy, a storage guy, and a security guy all involved with any server build or change, etc.) ITIL is sold to CIOs and corporate boards as a complete cure-all for IT ills -- just have your staff follow this entire set of guidance and you will never have downtime. Reality is (a) the cowboy admins will find a way around it, (b) the processes are so paperwork-intensive that the environment stagnates because no one wants to go through the hassle to fix something, and (c) the better IT staffers will leave to work somewhere that gives them just enough freedom to keep things running.
I've been a Mac user for a long time, and my day job is doing systems engineering for a VMWare/Windows/Linux mixed environment. Macs are great machines to have at home for general productivity/goofing off/websurfing.
The funny thing about this is that 90% of all iMac buyers are never going to run into this problem. Apple seems like they desperately want out of the computer business and want to finish becoming a music/movie disributor and phone provider. Part of that strategy seems to be getting people to think of their computers as unserviceable appliances.
The oldies among us will probably remember the days of triple-digit percent margin on computer hardware, and Apple hardware waa near the top of the margin list. (I think the original Mac IIfx sold for $9000 1990 dollars, IIRC, without a monitor or keyboard!) Now that everything's turned out by the millions cheaply, I guess that's the justification for not building in upgrade capability...since you'll just trash it in 2 years and buy a new one. Back "in my day," computer equipment waa a major investment and users demanded that they have the ability to upgrade if needed. Now, not so much - iMacs are still high-margin, but not in the realm of insanity. Apple probably took a decision something like, "the iMacs are for students and consumers, if they want expansion they'll buy a Mac Pro."
Way to alienate the "prosumers" who like the way the iMac looks...
Different but similar bubble this time?
So -- I lived in Bubble Central during the last dotcom boom (NYC, not SF) and very clearly remember some parallels:
- Companies with a shaky (or no) revenue model -- check.
- Gimmicky companies with not much beyond an IPO pitch -- check.
- Metric tons of advertising in every form possible for pets.com, drkoop.com, etc. -- check, but different this time
- Talking heads saying "it's different this time around" -- check.
- Insane tech spend, and spending millions on marketing/parties/etc -- not so much.
Don't get me wrong; I think this social media bubble is going to burn itself out eventually. Investors are going to wake up one day and realize, "hey, there's only a certain percentage of people who will pay to play games on Facebook, or subscribe to "LinkedIn Premium Services" and that'll be that. The difference this time is that there's not the huge tech explosion we saw in the late 90s, simply because everyone's on the Internet already so hardware/comms/infrastructure have already been bought.
LinkedIn does have a revenue model - it's the world's biggest hypertargeted recruiter spam machine. That, and all the freelancing warrior types trying to drum up a living are the paying customers. I like it because it makes it easy for me to keep a work contact list. I don't like the constant friend requests from random sales weasels just because I happen to work for Company X and they're trying to weasel their way in.
A new spin on a famous quote -- "When your local scrap metal dealer is telling you to follow them on Facebook and Twitter, it's time to sell."
These kinds of high-profile outages are what it's going to take to temper everyone's overhyped expectations of cloud computing. The concept is amazing -- ever-expanding, always-on computing power that can be used like water or electricity. The reality behind the marketing stuff falls short.
The shiny PowerPoint stuff fails to mention that your typical IT problems don't disappear; they just become someone else's problem. If your host either is incompetent or just has a really bad day, it doesn't mean that your workload and data are instantly going to migrate themselves to another location. It CAN mean that, but only if the service provider designed it that way, and you paid for that service. Also, if there's a true disaster, SLAs are useless other than ensuring you can extract money or free service from the provider at a later date. You're still down and out till it's fixed.
The reality is that for most big-scale applications, DR is difficult. You're either looking at dedicated LAN-speed network links between datacenters for replication, architecting your app so that it can support failover properly, or both. Problem is, once the CIO sees "monthly charge based on use" and "get rid of your local IT assets and staff" in the same presentation, it's all over.
Beer because it's Friday, and Amazon's sysadmins are going to need it after the 72-hour shift they'll be pulling to fix this.
Where have we seen this before?
I could swear I've heard this story before -- profitable hardware engineering company sells off its hardware business to some cut-rate manufacturer to focus on the wildly profitable world of "services." I think the other company that tried this is now a consulting company that sells mainframes in its spare time.
I see some big problems with this:
(1) If HP thinks EDS is a world-class consulting & services firm, they need to take a hard look at it again.
(2) Where are those of us who run businesses that really aren't "cloud-hostable" going to turn for hardware? HP is (was?) the only vendor that produces/produced a line of non-garbage PCs and servers. I shudder to think Dell is now the go-to provider in this space.
(3) HPUX and OpenVMS customers pour truckloads of money into HP every year, and support an entire ecosystem of applications. It would be pretty foolish to tell them to instantly port everything to commodity Linux or Windows servers -er- cloudmachines, and expect them not to say anything.
I'm telling you - this cloud stuff is just running its course. Eventually companies will figure out that it's just VMs and SANs in someone else's datacenter, and draw some sane boundaries about what they're willing to host and what will stay in-house. And when they do, they're going to need to keep buying hardware from somewhere to host the in-house stuff. If HP doesn't retain a toehold in the real world while trying to sell the cloud, things could get ugly.
They're not really seeing the whole picture.
As an American vwith the attention span to read the entire article, I can see a few grains of truth in it. The evidence is there when my employer tries to hire candidates for IT systems integration work. It really is difficult to find qualified people -- and that's not a ploy to hire H-1B workers. The job description is basically "expert troubleshooter who can learn fast, loves being a lab rat, enjoys the torture^Uchallange of making developers' bug-ridden messes^U^Umasterpieces work in the real world, and deals effectively with a huge variety of different people." (And yes, it's a lot of fun for the right sort of twisted individual.) Most of the people I work with are foriegn-born, and it's very difficult to recruit suitable natives. The pay is decent, and the hours are amazingly flexible most of the time, so I don't think that's it. I think the pool is just low.
So, what do I think the CEO Peanut Gallery has right? I do think the education system is a little messed up, or more accurately, we don't place enough emphasis on education. Developing countries have hugely competitive higher education systems simply because education is the difference between working for a multinational in Bangalore or Beijing, vs. spending your life as a subsistence farmer. I also think that artificially reducing immigration makes a talent shortage worse, but an active giveaway like the H-1B visa just depresses wages for those of us who did the right thing and got educated.
However, here's where I think they miss the boat. In order to incentivize people to get a good education, there needs to be a clear career path laid out for them. You can't say "we need more scientists and engineers" on one day and then close your R&D facilities in the US because you can pay Chinese Ph. D.'s 10% of what your US Ph. D.'s make. Education in the sciences and engineering is tough -- it takes a lot of effort, time and money to get through school. I'm in the unenviable position of getting older, and am dreading the day our corporate overlords decide we're too expensive to house in the US anymore. It's a negative feedback spiral from both ends of the spectrum -- older workers who spent the time educating themselves get tossed out, and tell their children that they should spend their brainpower on finance, project management or some salesy-type job. In addition, getting rid of the entry-level tasks means no one who is interested has a place to start and learn the trade, thus amplifying the tech shortage these CEOs are talking about.
If I had these guys' ears for a few minutes, the one thing I'd tell tham is -- if they want talent, innovation and growth, they need to provide a stable jobs framework. If people aren't constantly worrying about being laid off, or whether the huge investment in their educations will pay off, you'll see a return of interested American science and engineering grads. Keep some entry-level positions onshore with the intention of allowing people to grow their skills. And most importantly, think beyond next quarter and realize that your experienced workers are not 100% liability -- that experience counts for something!
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