Who ya gonna blame?

I’m always amazed at how many decision makers weasel out of a good deal because of prejudices and blindness.

I can understand the cases where a vendor had upset them in the past and they won’t deal with them again, but I don’t understand the prejudice against “Free Software”. Once upon a time all software was “free”. The hardware vendors gave it away in order to sell the software. In fact at the Seneca FSOSS Symposium, Brian Down, Chief technologist at Sun Canada, outlined Sun’s forthcoming approach to “Monetizing Open Source at Sun“, and it seemed remarkable like this. The video of his presentation is here.

What is even more ironic is that much of the key software that is running on closed source systems from PCs to mainframes is actually Open Source. All of TCP networking developed at Berkeley under the D-ARPA contracts is publicly available, as are many of the baseline network support tools such as BIND. I recall one large communication company I visited which was nominally a MS-Windows shop except for a few application specific large machines from HP. An IT manager there was most put out when I pointed out that not only was he running TCP/IP but his DNS server was on HP/UX, oh, and by the way, your large file store for your MS-Windows workstations is also running on HP/UX under SAMBA. He reconciled his cognitive dissonance by believing that the vendor, in this case HP, would offer blanket support. My own experience is that any problems with network related software that I can’t solve or can’t find a solution to on the ‘Net are probably beyond the vendor. But then I have a very methodological and thorough approach.

But in many ways it seems to me that the subtext of the “We only use products that the vendor supports” is a bit of a weaselly approach. After all, we have Red Hat and Oracle and Novell offering support for Linux.

I recall when Microsoft Windows first came out one of the advertising hooks was that the GUI interface would be so “self apparent” as to reduce the need for for training and support. Right.

A recent survey at Network Computing offers some conflicting evidence about support. In at the root, it seems to me, is a poor approach to project management both by vendors and IT departments. On the one hand, minor upgrades – the article cites an Oracle upgrade 11.5.9 to 11.5.10 – can result in user interfaces and APIs changing. Other problems lie in budgeting, staffing and other problems to do with PM, all issues that could be avoided with proper training and discipline. I know this first hand because I’ve had that training, worked at companies what have that methodological approach and do consistently bring in projects on time, on budget and fully functional, and have some more as clients today.

One way to judge managers, I’ve found, is how readily the accept a new concept that requires disciple, as opposed to one that is a fashionable “quick fix” – the “fix it now but don’t actually change anything”. I’m sure I would have a lot more clients if I had a “sure, no problem” attitude rather than making it clear that the “fix” is going to need a change in attitudes and organizational culture, and that this won’t happen overnight. But that’s the kind of consultant I am, a bit to honest for my own good.

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Security Evangelist