Many of us who work in the corporate IT world realize that there is not ONE THING that works for all technology applications...Fanbois not withstanding.
So when a good friend of the Blog of helios wrote a comment in reply to a recent publication: Uncluttered Minds Do Not Care, I thought it was a good idea to supply the opinion of someone who does work in cross-platform environments.
Gavin uses Linux, Mac and Windows as an IT professional. He is a TechNet Pro subscriber and has extensive experience in all platforms. I simply thought it would be interesting to see his perspective on the MS-centric business world.
As always, your input is what we look for...
"Here are our desktop operating systems. Here are our server offerings. Here is a boatload of software that you can run across everything. Here are certifications that validate certain skills. Take these boxes of full-color brochures, manuals, and reference books. Take a look at these discounts we are prepared to offer you."
'Have you seen this list (careful, that list is heavy!) of servers and other hardware qualified to work with our software? Here, take this set of free media! (It will not do you any good without licenses, anyway.) We have dedicated staff standing by (see? right there in the nice clothes) to help you with all questions regarding legalities, licensing, support options, and presentations for your accountants."
"Did I mention the technology events we sponsor, with door prizes such as season tickets to your favorite sports teams? If you would like to sign the paperwork right now, I will conveniently forget my $150 pen in your hand while I bow out of the room. Oh! what a lovely signature! You know, the hologram on that COA really brings out your eyes..."
Then they follow up by stamping all the students with "made by Microsoft", flood the market with certs, drive down the costs of personnel qualified to work with their software, and make huge claims about lower TCO for large companies. After all, site licensing + Software Assurance + cheap cert-stamped IT personnel = large up-front cost + cheap year-over-year "float on a cloud" maintenance.
From a business perspective, it makes a large amount of sense to adopt their model. The CEOs and CFOs can all see the benefit in good investor relations by keeping the company in the black. Meanwhile, the CIOs and CTOs get to be the bad guys/girls that flex the IT workforce by periodically hiring and firing the cheapest low cert personnel every time the company's stock makes headlines (re-org time!).
When hardware and software are both on maintenance agreements, IT personnel salaries are merely another line item - more disposable than infrastructure, too! There is always another fresh cert-stamped college graduate who is eager to work for 15% less than a 5-year veteran who has not achieved a higher cert in the last 3 years (which is, coincidentally, the average time span for looking back at personnel "added value" in a large company).
The people who really get the shaft through all of this are the people who have been duped into believing that the low-tier MS certs will set them up for life. And make no mistake, it is only "easy" to achieve that first-tier cert if you are in the top half of the talent pool.
By making the software ubiquitous, MS is also making the certs ubiquitous, which means that the salary you can demand with any given cert is lower (supply vs demand) regardless of how easy or difficult it is to achieve that cert. Experience still matters in the workforce, so the ones who are able to climb a few rungs up the steep cert ladder in a timely manner are the ones who are more likely to stay employed long enough to gain experience in the first place. The rest? Suffice to say I have met quite a few grey-haired MCSEs over the past year who have been forced to expand their career options. Thankfully, for their sake, none of them have yet delivered a pizza to my door, but even so...
Then there are the companies that are able to look at larger time frames. 5-10 years ahead and behind instead of 3. The companies that realize how MS can nickle and dime you as you scale up or down. The companies that KNOW you do not run Server 2008 R2 for that nuclear reactor over at Site C (BSOD = EPA visit!). Pick a UNIX/Linux variant, pay for support on production machines, run a free dev environment, extend hardware life cycles, gain real control over bug submissions and code alterations, and pay the 20% premium for IT personnel. Done.
Admittedly, there are benefits to either approach. And they become more or less important depending on the size of the company or organization as well as on other variables. I have seen a few companies that operate in such a way that I would flat-out tell them to use MS and be done with it. But I would wager that many of us have seen far more companies that should move away from MS but have not because no one has bothered to re-evaluate the situation in years.
I mean, really, $40 USD for a single SharePoint CAL w/SA for charities??