Saturday, October 1, 2011

The upgrade mill, The IT version...

I maintain this and another blog,

That blog allows me to express my opinions and my passion about all things important to a middle aged gamer. One of my first posts was called, The upgrade mill

In that post I bemoaned the evils of the gaming industry driving consumers toward upgrades that don’t necessarily make their lives any better. I’m sorry, but if you can’t do better than a 5FPS improvement in my favorite game after spending the better part of $1000 U.S. I’m going to feel a bit cheated.

So it goes with IT.

As an independent consultant as well as a full-time IT professional I see the same formula applied and it’s almost criminal.

Let’s take the example of Windows Server 2008. Now I personally have nothing against Server 2008. It’s a fine Server OS and with a new server there’s no question that it’s the right choice for 90% of any enterprise.

That’s not what the marketing guys would have you believe, however.

Well, at least not 12 months from now when Server 8 or whatever it’s going to be called (I agree with Paul Thurrott by the way, in hoping they dont’ get too ambitious with the naming.) You see When server 2008 came out most Microsoft centric enterprises on Server 2003 were encouraged to upgrade.
Now Aside from being against any DOT Zero Microsoft release I saw no compelling reason to upgrade the OS on legacy hardware but Microsoft would have you think otherwise.

The reasoning came straight from the marketing department. Better support for 64 Bit processors, better memory management. Better support for Virtualization. It would be more secure, easier to administer and more cost effective….


Let’s get one thing straight. Other than the inevitable phaseout of security updates there was no compelling reason to move from Server 2003 to Server 2008. None, zip, zero, nada. Any argument to contrary to me is nothing more than marketing brainwashing.

Let’s take a little trip back to 2006…

Microsoft dropped the ball with Windows Vista and desperately needed a Hail Mary play to fix the situation. So enters Windows 7 or should I say Vista Service pack 3. Knowing that Microsoft had unified the code base between server and client OS’s meant that anyone with a modicum of insight into the way Microsoft does things may have some doubt about a new server OS based on the same kernel as Windows Vista. Since Server 2008 showed up 2 years after the Vista disaster it was far enough removed from the stench to be identifed more with Windows 7 than with Windows Vista.

Ok, since server OS’s are notoriously picky about hardware it’s accepted that most of your old stuff wouldn’t work. Tolerable in a server OS, notsomuch in a client OS.

Server OS’s are generally optimized (read that stripped down) to do a few things very well without a lot of frills. I’ve worked in organizations that have standardized on Server 2008 and usually there are usually a few old Server 03 servers hanging around running legacy apps. Admittedly, that’s the fault of unpatched legacy apps and not the OS.

So what’s the big difference between Server 2003 and Server 2008? Mainly interface tweaks and an annoying trend with every new version of the OS to needlessly overcompicate simple administrative functions. Oh yeah and powershell. An add-on in Server 03 and a centerpiece in server 2008.

The only real reason to upgrade a Windows Server OS when alternatives can run for years without the need for an upgrade boils down to our old friend the marketing department. Oh, and that nasty End of Life thing that makes a serviceable platform obsolete with an ad in EWeek…

Server 8 (or whatever they’ll call it) is part of the new family based on a new kernel with powershell even more integrated into core OS administration. Oh yeah and a bit of the Metro interface for administration tasks. Great, just what I need, a tile to add a new user…

Microsoft says that Server 8 is designed to be administered remotely and not meant to be as “console friendly” as previous versions. Good luck with your ISCSI client and RAID controller installs…

The “upgrade mill” parallel here is actually a continuation of a theme. The only thing that drives an upgrade in a Microsoft environment is the marketing department. Unless the previous version was a complete failure.

With each successive version of WIndows Server, Microsoft has moved toward making administration less intuituve and more reliant on scripting and Microsoft VARs to accomplish what used to take a few clicks and 30 seconds. Some will say scripting is a godsend and is exactly what windows has needed. I say it’s a giant step backward. Why have a GUI if all the important stuff is accomplished at a command line.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing sexy about a server OS. Linux knows that which is why they don’t give you a GUI by default in most server distros. In UNIX-land Server OS’s are supposed to be ugly, cryptic and intuitive only to the most geeky or the Uber geeks. It’s an ego thing…

So why does a Server product called “Windows” whatever need to rely more on command line scripting and less intutive interfaces? Is it ”Nix envy? Well I can get that for free without confusing license schemes. No it’s something more insidious. The more needlessly complex you make a server OS the more you rely on VARS to make it run right. That means more money spent on training, consultants and every other related product or service in the food chain.

It’s a money mill with minimal return.

I’m not against upgrades, I’m just against waste. Waste of time, resources and effort for little to no return on the investment.

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