December 2008 Archives

Software Bullying - Do It Our Way Or Else... (plus wine tips)

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Been doing some work recently with Sunrise Software in Chessington (they let me out of the zoo) which is into ITSM - a very trad element of the market.

Except that Sunrise broke the rules with its Sostenuto ITSM product. The problem is that there are simply too many solutions that are very fixed in their approach and force the customer to work as the software vendor defines, rather than as they - the customer - would like to. And companies do change, so what is the point in having software that presents a barrier to that change. Even worse, what if it didn't even fit the business shape in the first place?

Yet most companies have accepted the idea that ITSM software works in a particular fashion which their company has to learn and understand, in order to then adapt their company methodologies to that software. It doesn't take an Alan Sugar to see that this approach is fundamentally wrong, yet companies have been accepting it for years. How can you hope to achieve anything more than basic helpdesk and trouble ticketing support if you are using software that doesn't actually fit in with your company business model, let alone optimise it? And that means costs and more costs - for software, for staff, for training - with the all important ROI.

And it's not just in the ITSM world that this is the case. Enterprise software globally is still both phenomenally expensive (both to buy and maintain) and restrictive in the way it forces a company to adopt methodologies enforced by the software developer. There are still cases of companies spending tens of millions on software, then tens of millions more on consultants to turn that software into usable systems.

Been speaking about this with the mad Norwegian that is Sig Rinde, who runs a radical enterprise software start-up, Thingamy. Sig has a very angry bee in his bonnet about the way software companies have effectively bullied customers over the years into doing it their - the vendors - way, and about "Best Practise". Why not "Better Practise"? Why not indeed? Check out Sig's blog at: http://thingamy.typepad.com/sigs_blog/ for much on this and other topics.

One alternative route that many major companies, notably in areas such as banking, have been forced down, is to do everything in-house, developing as much as possible in a bespoke fashion, in order to achieve the required performance and reliability levels. Yet this approach too has its problems, as one source from a major banking group in the City observed, having had "bitter experience of late-running, over-budget, under-performing in-house builds". Their other major gripe was the lack of flexibility when it comes to requests for minor functionality changes, new data fields and similar updates.

And we all know what state the banking industry is in...

WINE TIPS

As the Santa moment approaches, I'll be offering a few wine tips, on the back of having experienced much of the stuff in my time in France and now Andorra (Spanish wines here mainly) and even written a book about the stuff: Rosé Exposé, still the world's only wine book dedicated to rosé.

However, we start with a couple of Spanish tips (don't work in a tapas bar is one of them).

Spain is not so well-known for its whites, but one excellent white grape type that typically hails from the Galicia region in the N-W of Spain, is Albarino. Fresh, dry, but fruity, think of it as a Spanish alternative to Muscadet or any other seafood-oriented wine, but also scrummy as an apero.

On the reds, it's time to leave the likes of Rioja and Navarra behind and head into some new territories. Try finding reds (and superb rosados) from the wine regions of Somontano and Montsant. The latter, certainly, you could find in Oddbins, the former - and especially the Enate winery - may be harder to track down but it does exist in England.

The big number in Spain currently is Ribero del Duero, from near Portugal again - Duero also being the Douro which is the Port valley of Portugal. Or, if you like your wine to taste of oak (which I don't), have deepish pockets and like to impress, try to find some reds from the Priorat region of Spain. Anything but Rioja, please...

Enterprise Application Acceleration

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I noted on my mate Den Howlett's blog - http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howlett - that he'd been interviewing the Chairman of the SAP UK/Ireland User Group, Alan Bowling.

Given that I've been doing a lot of testing in recent times on WAN acceleration/optimisation products, I felt it only right to get a view of the issues from the proverbial horse's mouth; in this case, the aforementioned Alan Bowling.

At seminars I've spoken at, network managers from various corners of Docklands and the City - assuming they're still in a job - have moaned about how badly their "enterprise" application run across the WAN/Internet. However, Alan tells me that he and his members have no problems with the performance of SAP itself across lower bandwidth connections. Indeed, Alan told he can happily run SAP apps using a GPRS connection to his laptop. But... he does have problems with most other applications across the WAN, and especially the traffic generated by the "M" word for whom it is certainly not the "Gates" of heaven. His problem, then, is throttling back all this other traffic to allow SAP to get through.

Funnily enough, that's exactly what my fave WAN optimisation/accelerator product from DBAM Systems in Wakefield - no Yorkshire bias here, honestly - does; lets you first see and, then, control and accelerate every bit of traffic passing across your WAN/Internet connections. Great for terrorising the kids with as well. So my boys are doing their IM stuff and I trace their activity, the traffic, source and destination addresses etc, so I'm sure it's them, then block that traffic flow. "Dad - the Internet's down" is the cry. "No it's not" I say, "but Yorkshire has assumed control of the Internet". As it should be...

Note: this week I start my wine recommendations - an essential part of IT of course - so please check these out; while I do hang out in France, Andorra and Spain, I will be recommending wines you can buy in the UK - as well as some foodie recommendations to accompany them with.

When Green Isn't Green And The Issues With Sustainability

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Was at the Future of Europe Summit 2008 in Andorra last week: http://www.europesummit.org/ - theme was sustainability and, despite a primarily political crowd there, I made sure that IT got plenty of airing. One of the key elements was in defining what is truly beneficial to the environment and what is simply, as the French say, 'Greenwashing'. Apparently there was a study recently on French companies (undertaken by a journal) claiming to have green products and over 90% of them were found to be greenwashing - i.e. faking it basically.

One recurring theme, given the overall "the world is collapsing" feel of the summit, was - how can the government or EU help? When it comes to IT, I noted, that some government members still didn't even know how to spell it (or IT) let alone provide some kind of aid. Even if they had done over the years, we'd probably find we'd be stuck with Token Ring networks and ICL mainframes.

One ever common issue was sustainability of companies through economic crises and one French guy made the point that finding funding for stage 2 - post seed-funding - is getting harder. Given that the theme of this discussion was partly about family-run businesses versus enterprise, I made the point that one common issue with sustainability - regardless of the state of the economy - is not getting funding to move (in my experiences) networking start-ups from stage 1 to stage 2, but in finding the expertise that takes what is essentially a family-run company and turning it into an enterprise. This view was agreed up on by all, but with no resolution. Instead, in true French style, it turned into an academic discussion of "what exactly is a 'business familial'? Is a family-run business in its first year of operation really a family business, or just 'a business'? Is it only in its second and third years that, if still family-run, it is actually a family business? Or is it only when that business is handed over to the next generation that it becomes a family business?

I left quietly to talk to a man about environmentally friendly ink...