KISS and tell; the cost of simplicity in IT

So a friend of mine was talking with me today and I inquired about a project he and his company were talking about a few months ago. The project was to look into options for hosting email/contact/calendar/collaboration/etc (think Hosted Exchange or Zimbra). Being the big supporter of open source, I told him about my experiences with the SoGo project (http://www.sogo.nu/english.html) and that I really liked it. It’s a viable option for a company that has the expertise and doesn’t want allot of up front cash/ROI tied up in licensing. To my surprise, and his disappointment, the company opted for Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange solution. Now, I don’t have a problem with either product, let me make that clear. I think Hosted Exchange is a good product and if you got the money and want a solution that is a corporate standard, Hosted Exchange is the way to go. My problem comes with the factors the company used to put this product in place.

What are those factors you ask? Well, the decision was that Hosted Exchange was the better option because of the following (remember these are not my words, it’s the words from my friend, relying them from the company head honchos, not his either):

  • It’s a Microsoft product: Which means simple, fast and anyone can support it.
  • It’s windows based: Which means we don’t need to pay for high end support personnel that know the all cryptic, all complicated *nix platform. (They have a large *nix environment but more and more decisions are going this way and my friend’s fear is that the environment is being phased out; I agree)
  • We’re hosting solutions, not open source test rats: We don’t have time to learn/implement new products, we need it today.
  • Support: We don’t want to get pigeon-holed into something that may not be around in a year.

Okay, so for this little rant, let’s tear this argument down, piece by piece.

It’s a Microsoft product

What I’m hearing is a common misconception about MS Products in that anyone can just install and with a few point and clicks, it’s all done. Not to mention…its Microsoft! They run everything else right? And we can get support (for our souls….), licensing (for our children………), etc….Money can fix it all (we don’t have any…….)

It’s windows based

Cheap hardware, cheap labor, it works…“We don’t want to pay top dollar for someone who knows what to do, we want a fresh outta school guy, for a fresh outta school salary to do this. (You may think this because of the platform (windows) and you would be right; sorry but that’s the perception regarding windows; that’s why it dominates and why it’s so readily accepted. Not saying it’s right, but it is what it is).

We’re hosting solutions, not open source test rats

This one is my favorite. They don’t have time to work with open source products, but they got time to try and implement a high priced, hardware demanding product with a few folks who will spend the exact same amount of time spinning their wheels on the installation alone. I say you break even at this point. You already pay for the people, so if it fails, what did you lose? With the MS solution, you have all of that up front costs of licensing and any support you bought along the way. Allot of money up front, for what is potentially quite a gamble.

Support

With Microsoft, we pickup a phone, make a call and get support (for money….). With open source, someone has to work………..We don’t like that……..No sir, we don’t like that at all……….Not to mention the fact that it’s one more of those unixey systems that no one but gray-beards understands.

So, I agree with my friend. I understand the decision, I don’t support it for these reasons but if they already have this attitude about it, then MS really was the best way to go.

To say that this decision saddens me doesn’t begin to describe my feelings on this matter. The biggest problem I have with this decision is that it’s based on a poor concept of IT.  This poor concept of IT is going to come back and bite these folks and unfortunately it will be the IT staff that will face the wrath.

Finally, the mere thought that they could exploit windows guys (Hey, we’re all brothers and sisters in IT folks; windows, unix/linux, networking, email, whatever.) to save a few bucks and use that to offset the costs of licensing is horrible. And it’s a trend I am seeing more and more and more. It shouldn’t be this way but it is and I don’t see it changing unless we, as IT workers, start changing it. We need to start making it known that it’s not all point and click; that not any old person can come in and start running things. You wouldn’t let a nurse in training operate on your brain, just to save a few bucks, right? Then why the hell would you expect the less trained to be able to setup a complex environment?

As a last note, he mentioned to me something that really puts this into perspective. In the decision making meeting, one of the higher ups said, “Remember the KISS principle and it will be fine; it doesn’t need to be brain surgery and cost a ton in support”. For those of you not in the know, KISS means “Keep It Simple Stupid”.

Well if the perspective doesn’t change soon, I got a new one for you, PILL. What does that mean? “Pay IT Less and Less”.

 

About Matthew

I'm the owner of impromptu-it, an IT engineer and enthusiast!
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