2010
10.29

I attended the PDC party that was held by Microsoft Ireland.  During his keynote, Bob Muglia talked about the soon-to-be-beta Azure VM Role.  This is a new feature of MS’s cloud service. 

Azure that you know now is Platfor-as-a-Service (PaaS).  PaaS provides a framework that a developer can develop an application on, store data in, etc.  It’s a lock-in, i.e. if you decide that Azure isn’t for you then you can’t move your application.  You will have to redevelop it.

VM Role gives Azure customers Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) which you may know as VPS hosting, similar to what Amazon EC2 does.  You get a virtual machine with a Windows Server 2008 R2 OS, the roles, features, etc.  You can RDP into it, etc.  You can develop your application and the good news is that anything you do here will be possible to do on other hosting platforms, i.e. your application is portable.

But this is much more than VPS.

Let’s start at the management portal.  It looks just like System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) v.Next.  That’s the tool that Hyper-V administrators will use to manage many Hyper-V hosts.  There’s a good reason for this which I’ll come back to later.  An Azure customer can quickly deploy new VMs from a template.  The VM is provisioned and you log into it.  I didn’t hear all of this but it looked like that the RDP login might have used your Live ID.  That would be cool if it did.

Services such as SQL (database) and IIS (web) will be virtualised using Server App-V.  That means SQL is running in a sandbox or virtual machine within the virtual machine.  This means these services can be quickly deployed without doing the usual setup.exe-next-next-configuration routine.  It also means that MS can patch their OS templates, and your provisioned VM’s can be swapped out from underneath the virtual services.  That SQL server will magically stay running while MS patches the OS!  That is sweet!  It’s also a feature of VMM v.Next.

A nice thing that I did not expect was cross-premises integration.  Your Azure VMs can be members of your internal Active Directory domain(s).  Now you have a single sign-on infrastructure.  You could use Azure as a DR site.  You could use it for automated elastic computing services.  You could use it as an alternative virtualisation platform.

And that brings us to Hyper-V.  We have been told that a future version of VMM (maybe v.Next) will allow us to move VMs from our private cloud (essentially an internal Hyper-V infrastructure) to the public cloud as needed.  For example, a developer could produce an application on cheap internal resources that are conveniently located.  When it’s ready, it could be put into production with a VM move onto Azure.  There’s no redeployment of all the resources. 

The messy bit with cross-premises VM migrations will be the licensing, i.e. volume licensing versus SPLA.  The price of per CPU licensing in SPLA will scare a lot of people.  And if it isn’t SPLA then MS can expect class action and/or anti-monopoly court cases.

If you are a System Center house then there’s great news.  The cumulative update 3 release of OpsMgr 2007 along with a new Azure management pack (RC release but supported in production) will mean you can monitor internal and Azure infrastructure/platform applications with one management system.  You can even build distributed application and/or SLA monitoring for off-premises/on-premises/cross-premises applications/systems.

Azure VM Role will go into CTP/beta sometime by the end of 2010.  My guess is that RTM will be between MMS and PDC 2011.  I would bet that VMM v.Next (2011) will need to be RTM at the same time or before Azure VM Role.

These are very exciting times to be in the virtualisation or cloud world.  On the other hand, it is not going to be a great time to be working for a small or medium sized hosting company.  Microsoft and Amazon are effectively stepping on the necks of these competitors and twisting.  It’s very difficult to compete with what they do and the prices (which are impossible to understand/budget for) that they offer.  Anyone who is a MS hosting “partner” will have to realise that they compete with MS and find a unique selling point (USP).  There are two things I see:

  • The Patriot Act: I’ve talked long about this before and won’t go back over it in detail.  Anyone outside of the USA that is worried about data protection needs to be concerned about operating in a US owned (not located) data centre.
  • Support: A smaller operator will be able to provide much better and more personal support than Amazon or MS.  Fact!  They will always be the big, remote organization that will be slower to respond.  Smaller providers will be able to support their customers more.  By the way, there’s probably going to be a market for MS/Amazon partners to support/monitor MS/Amazon cloud services on behalf of their clients, offering a 1st line of support that MS/Amazon cannot do themselves in a timely manner.

The rules of the game haven’t changed; the game has changed.  The virtualisation wars just become much, much bigger.

2010
10.27

Dynamic Memory makes use of the ability to insert memory using plug and play.  That’s something that was restricted to Enterprise and Datacenter editions of Server.  Good news: MS plans to make this available to Web and Standard editions via hotfixes and service packs.

A hotfix has been released for Windows Server 2008 Web edition and Standard edition.

“When Dynamic Memory is enabled for a virtual machine system that is running one of the following operating systems, the memory of the virtual machine does not increase after the virtual machine is started. 

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition Service Pack 2 (SP2)
  • Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition Server Core SP2
  • Windows Web Server 2008 SP2 
  • Windows Web Server 2008 Server Core SP2”

Install the update, install the SP1 integration components and then you can configure DM for these VMs.

By the way, no fixes will be required for Windows Server 2003!  Windows Server 2008 R2 VM’s should be updated to SP1.

2010
10.26

Microsoft just announced the release of the Service Pack 1 release candidate for Windows 7 and W2008 R2.  This will be the only RC release before the eventual RTM release.  You can download it now.  The download page still talks about the beta release.  I guess that’ll get updated pretty quickly?

I haven’t seen any details on additional changes since the beta.  I know that MS demonstrated an additional Hyper-V feature at TechEd NA 2010 that was not in the beta.  This allowed Hyper-V admins to use PowerShell to configure virtual switches to filter out traffic from VMs if they used a non-assigned IP address – useful where you don’t trust the delegated admins of those VMs who are logged into them with admin rights (and could change the IPs to try do a spoof attack).

2010
10.25

It’s been widely reported this afternoon that news of a Windows 8 release schedule appeared very briefly on a Dutch MS website (before being pulled).  I have a nagging feeling that something similar happened there with Windows 7 sometime back …

Anyway, the story was that we wouldn’t see an RTM of the new server/desktop OSs for another 2 years.  I used to think that we’d see some announcements at TechEd Europe in November.  It is 2 years since we had the Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 “Better Together” announcements at TechEd Europe in Barcelona.  If you stick to the promise of 2 year release cycles (to the Software Assurance customers) then we should be entering that cycle now.  But it appears that we won’t enter that for another 6-12 months.  My guess would be TechEd NA 2011.

OK, so SA customers might be peeved that their recent SA purchases won’t bring an upgrade – they do get other benefits, some which they might value and others they may not.  But there is a bright side for the rest of us.

Think back 5 years.  Windows XP arrived in 2001.  It didn’t exactly go through a widespread deployment straight away.  In these parts, many people didn’t start to deploy it until 2004-2006.  Seriously!  The long time between XP and Vista gave businesses a chance to get off of the old hardware and onto XP. 

That doesn’t exactly suit the revenue generation of Microsoft.  They want people buying SA or upgrade licenses.  That means they need to provide a reason to pay extra.  And that mean more frequent releases.  Vista came along and it went down like the Hindenburg.  It wasn’t awful but the reaction was.  Mainly the issue was that it was very different and people/businesses had invested in an XP platform.  Official sales figures were misleading because SA figures are presented.  In reality, few deployed it. 

Windows 7 has had a positive critical response.  Think about this; it’s effectively Vista 1.1.  What’s changed?  There are improvements (drivers, performance and usability) but businesses have had more time to get used to it.  But it’s still not widely deployed in the business.  Money is short and upgrade projects take time and money.  Many of the better together solutions are excellent but most businesses have already purchased 3rd party solutions so the motivation to move might not be there now.

The fix is time.  And that’s why I’m happy about Windows 8 not being directly around the corner. 

Example:  Many people want x64 laptops in the office for 4GB+ RAM.  Fair enough.  But the catch is the firewall.  Why?  Cos the stupid VPN clients that they have right now are 32-bit only and a 64-bit client is only available if they purchased the firewall vendor’s equivalent of Software Assurance and many business don’t.  And the likes of CheckPoint go and require backdating of support + a new per user VPN license!  There’s an opportunity to deploy Windows 7 Ultimate/Enterprise with DirectAccess.

Windows 7 will gain more and more acceptance.  Eventually business applications will drive an upgrade like happened with XP. 

And what’s nice for an IT Pro that works with lots of technology: time to learn the stuff.  The constant churn means you can’t get in depth knowledge.  With time, you can learn the products, use them, adapt to the quirks, get inventive, etc.

So what if Windows 8 is “late”?  It’s a good thing.  Plus it means that MS has more time to come up with something cool and get it right.  I’d rather have late than wrong.

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2010
10.22

I installed Live Essentials 2011 on my netbook earlier this evening.  My overall first impressions are good.

I use Live Messenger to chat to some friends in the UK and USA.  I’m not a heavy user but it’s handy.  Now it has the ability to integrate into other social networks including Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace.  It has been set up to be extensible.  The social media stuff is a little cluttered with 2 columns.  I’d rather have 1 column like in Facebook.  The core piece of Messenger looks tidy enough.

The Mesh Beta proved to be very useful to me over the last 18 months as I worked on two books.  I could sync up different machines so I could work on my netbook on the train or a laptop at home.  One thing annoyed me; it was messy to set up.  I could do it but I wouldn’t expect any end user to be able to do it.  Live Mesh is much better set up for the ordinary end user and less annoying.  You can sync up IE favourites and Office configurations with the selection of a few checkboxes.  Adding folders to sync is an absolute breeze.  Everything syncs via a dedicated Skydrive sync folder (maximum data of 5GB).

Sugarsync looks good and is recommended by friends of mine in case more than 5GB is needed.  Test it for yourself.

Live Writer is how I usually write blog posts when I am at home or on the road.  Like all of the other tools, it features the ribbon interface.  So far, so good.  It seems to be a little fast to me on my netbook than the previous version.

The Windows Live Mail client is the rich client for Live/Hotmail.  The big thing I see there is conversation view.  And you know what –> it’s done better than than I saw in the Office 2010 pre-RTM versions (I still use Office 2007 because my publisher makes big changes to the ribbon).  Live Mail gives me simple one-click access to a complete conversation.  That’s going to make a big difference to me because I’m on some mail lists where the threads can be scattered over time and intermingled.  Now I have something to sort all of that out.

Most digital camera owners are casual photographers, using the JPEG format.  They’ll like Live Photo Gallery.  The ribbon reveals more functionality that can be done, including basic editing and adding metadata to photos.  I work more in the Photoshop world.  However, I do use Live Photo Gallery to quickly add photos to Flickr.  It continues to excel there, and also offers uploads to YouTube, Facebook, Live Groups, and Skydrive.  There are additional upload plugins that you can configure via a built-in link.  One tool that I liked in the past was ICE (Image Composite Editor).  It seems to have been integrated, allowing for simple and high quality stitching of photos to create panoramas.

That’s it for now.  So far, so good!

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2010
10.22

Cloud.com is working with Microsoft to integrated Hyper-V into their OpenStack project. 

“OpenStack is a collection of open source technology products delivering a scalable, secure, standards-based cloud computing software solution. OpenStack is currently developing two interrelated technologies: OpenStack Compute and OpenStack Object Storage. OpenStack Compute is the internal fabric of the cloud creating and managing large groups of virtual private servers and OpenStack Object Storage is software for creating redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of commodity servers to store terabytes or even petabytes of data”.

My guess is that we’re seeing an implementation of OVF, the Open Virtualization Format.  This provides for a portable package containing a virtual machine and its metadata.  This means we move one step closer to interoperable clouds – the subject of a presentation I did 2 days ago at Eurocloud Ireland.

Microsoft calls this sort of this a cross-premises cloud.  That means your private cloud (Hyper-V with SCVMM and SCVMM SSP 2.0) can integrate with Azure “virtual machine hosting” (Bob Muglia @PDC09) and other public clouds.

Think about it … an app developer likes “the cloud” because they don’t want to care about the infrastructure.  They just consume as required.  But they still need to care about which cloud they use.  In the near future, they’ll just work in “the clouds”, just using whatever cloud is cheapest and, hopefully (pending licensing and hosting company cooperating) be able to move VMs or application components between clouds as they see fit.  We may even see the emergence of cloud computing brokers just like we have insurance brokers now.  You just pay them to find you the cheapest and most suitable service and they do the moving on a day-by-day or month-by-month basis.  That’ll probably need some sort of white/black list for service providers that you set up.

BTW, this is my first post with Windows Live Writer 2011.  It’s got the ribbon interface and is very like Office/Windows 7.

2010
10.22

Microsoft released cumulative update 3 for OpsMgr 2007 R2.  There’s lots of fixes/changes.  The one big one is the ability to monitor Azure applications.  So now you can use your on-premises OpsMgr installation to monitor the SLA of your Azure application (using Distributed Applications).  You can also monitor cross-premises applications because OpsMgr doesn’t really care where stuff is located.

2010
10.22

Amazon has started shipping the book that I wrote, with the help of Patrick Lownds MVP, Mastering Hyper-V Deployment.

Contrary to belief, an author of a technical book is not given a truckload of copies of the book when it is done.  The contract actually says we get one copy.  And here is my copy of Mastering Hyper-V Deployment which UPS just delivered to me from Sybex:

BookDelivered

Amazon are now shipping the book.  I have been told by a few of you that deliveries in the USA should start happening on Tuesday.  It’s been a long road to get to here.  Thanks to all who were involved.

2010
10.19

Microsoft Sysinternals has updated their LiveKD kernel debugging utility so you can analyse and troubleshoot running VMs on a Hyper-V host.  That’s pretty impressive!  Mark Russinovich has blogged about it, giving some basic instructions.  Now you can start poking around what’s happening in a VM that is running on the host, including the current memory.  It’s unlikely that you might need to do this by yourself, but you may be asked to do some of this stuff by MS support.

This brings up an important point.  Security for virtualisation is not like normal server security, mainly because of the flexibility and mobility of VMs.  In my opinion, you need to treat a virtualisation infrastructure (no matter what brand it is) like an Active Directory.  There should be a few overall administrators (domain admins) and you can delegate on a granular basis.  This can be done with Windows and AzMan in Hyper-V.  I prefer using Virtual Machine Manager delegation. 

Think about this: you have a large organisation and you have contracted in helpdesk operators.  They have some minor role to do with VM management.  You don’t think too much about security or delegationa dn just give them admin rights on the Hyper-V hosts/parent partitions.  They can install LiveKD and then start poking around in VMs and their memory, able to access sensitive information.  In reality they can do much more. 

However, implement your delegation model correctly and they cannot access anything “above their pay grade”.   That means you are using the idea of physical access but applying it using virtual machine placement.  For example, all helpdesk VM’s would be placed on hosts in a helpdesk host group (managed in VMM).  The helpdesk people would be members of a delegated administrator group in VMM that only has the ability to manage members of that host group.  That means any new VMs they’d create could only be placed there.

2010
10.18

Sybex, the publisher of Mastering Hyper-V Deployment, have posted some excerpts from the book.  One of them is from Chapter 1, written by the excellent Patrick Lownds (Virtual Machine MVP from the UK).  As you’ll see from the table of contents, this book is laid out kind of like a Hyper-V project plan, going from the proposal (Chapter 1), all the way through steps like assessment, Hyper-V deployment, System Center deployment, and so on:

Part I: Overview.

  • Chapter 1: Proposing Virtualization: How to propose Hyper-V and virtualisation to your boss or customer.
  • Chapter 2: The Architecture of Hyper-V: Understand how Hyper-V works, including Dynamic Memory (SP1 beta).

Part II: Planning.

  • Chapter 3: The Project Plan: This is a project with lots of change and it needs a plan.
  • Chapter 4: Assessing the Existing Infrastructure: You need to understand what you are converting into virtual machines.
  • Chapter 5: Planning the Hardware Deployment: Size the infrastructure, license it, and purchase it.

Part III: Deploying Core Virtualization Technologies.

  • Chapter 6: Deploying Hyper-V: Install Hyper-V.
  • Chapter 7: Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2: Get VMM running, stock your library, enable self-service provisioning.  Manage VMware and Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1.
  • Chapter 8: Virtualization Scenarios: How to design virtual machines for various roles and scales in a supported manner.

Part IV: Advanced Management.

  • Chapter 9: Operations Manager 2007 R2: Get PRO configured, make use of it, alerting and reporting.
  • Chapter 10: Data Protection Manager 2010: Back up your infrastrucuture in new exciting ways.
  • Chapter 11: System Center Essentials 2010: More than just SCE: Hyper-V, SBS 2008 and SCE 2010 for small and medium businesses.

Part V: Additional Operations.

  • Chapter 12: Security: Patching, antivirtus and where to put your Hyper-V hosts on the network.
  • Chapter 13: Business Continuity: A perk of virtualisation – replicate virtual machines instead of data for more reliable DR.
2010
10.15

Microsoft announced last night that ConfigMgr (SCCM) 2007 R3 had RTM’d.  R3, like R2 before it, is not a service pack.  It is a new release level that requires new licensing (covered by software assurance).  The deployment will require an update, described in KB977384.  This hotfix is required for the following computers that are running System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2):

  • Primary and secondary site servers
  • Remote administrator console servers
  • Remote provider servers
  • Client computers

ConfigMgr 2007 R3 can be referred to as the power management release.  Steve Rachui of Microsoft goes into some depth on this in a blog post.  Long story short: You can audit and report on power utilisation and costs in your organisation.  You can identify waste using these reports.  Using collections, you can apply a power policy to Windows computers.  Then you can compare your earlier reports with new reports to see how and what you have saved.

As Steve notes, there are some other changes:

  • Delta AD Discovery: Changes are picked up instead of doing a full discovery.
  • Dynamic Collection Updating: One of the time consumers in new deployments is the time required for collection membership update intervals.  This new interval type is used in a few key scenarios where time is critical.  MS is recommending sparse usage.
  • Pre-Staged Media: This is aimed at organisations who offload OS deployment to the OEM.  Media can be created from your OSD and sent out to the likes of Dell who build your PCs OS in their factory.
  • Scalability: Up to 300,000 clients are supported in a hierarchy. 
2010
10.13

Some of you out there will be already planning your upgrade to a new Windows Phone 7 handset.  That means you’ll have an old phone to dispose of.  Why not put it to a good use.

If you are in Ireland you can post your phone (free of charge) to the Jack and Jill Foundation.  They help out by:

“The Jack & Jill Foundation provides care and support for children with severe neurological development issues, as well as offering some respite to the parents and families.

This could be through home visits from nurses, with practical tips on how to access the services a child will need. Listening to what parents want for their child and making representations on their behalf. Bereavement support and an online forum for parents.”

I used to associate them with mobile phones because many shops carry their pre-addressed envelopes.  But it turns out that they accept much more:

  • Mobile Phones
  • Digital Cameras
  • Computers Pentium 4 or later
  • Laptops Pentium 4 or later
  • Flat Screen Monitors
  • Laser / Inkjet Printer Cartridges

If you are outside of Ireland then have a quick search on the Internet.  There’s a good chance that you can help a similar local organisation at no cost to yourself while clearing your home or office of clutter.  Maybe have a chat with your employers to find out what they do with old equipment because there’s a chance that your company can help too.

2010
10.11

I’m not doing any bashing, just thinking out loud.  I don’t really care all that much about the phone-wars or for tablet computers.  I’m just looking at how others do care about them a lot and how there is a building wave of negative news.

When you’re on the way up, everything you hear sounds positive.  But then things turn.  No matter what you do, momentum just seems to be against you.  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer might be in that zone now. 

We’ve been hearing lots of negative things and they seem to be snowballing.  A few months ago there was news that a number of executives in the phone and device divisions had “resigned” and that Ballmer was taking over.  MS was losing market share in these areas.  Xbox 360 is a great games platform but it was thumped by the Wii (as was the PS3 – MS and Sony total sales added together are around the same as the Nintendo platform).  And Windows Mobile … well … what can you say?  Windows Phone 7 (“Series” is dropped from the name, right?) is late to the game and will have a huge challenge ahead to make much of a dent in the market.

MS is way behind in the tablet/slate market.  Apple created a huge fuss over the iPad.  I don’t get it but it’s not aimed at people like me anyway – a contented Windows user.  Amazon has done well with the Kindle by targeting their core customer: the book reader.  They have the sticky factor too by using a bespoke format for their e-books.  MS did play in the tablet market way back but it was with a version of Windows with a few extras.  The hardware in question was expensive and I probably only saw it being used by a couple of enthusiasts.  I thought it would have a market in certain appliance roles, e.g. hospitals, military, warehouses, etc, instead of paper.  But it seemed to disappear – admittedly their is a whole army of MS products aimed at niche markets that most of us, including me, have no idea about.

I cannot forget the blooper by Ballmer in his TechEd NA 2010 keynote.  MS is a cloud company and if you have no interest in the cloud then he wants nothing to do with you.  Someone, somewhere, was wishing he didn’t say that.  The cloud is great but it isn’t everything.  Internal systems (private cloud, if you will) is not going away.

In the last few weeks we read that Ballmer didn’t get his bonus this year because MS did not meet the set objectives for phone and tablet markets.  I was stunned to see how “little” that Ballmer earns, compared to how even Irish executives are paid.  I was equally surprised to see how much these markets were of a concern to whoever sets Ballmers remuneration package.

Last week there was a survey that said 50% of MS employess (from a very small sample) did not approve of the job that Ballmer is doing.  Ouch!  That hurts – I’ve never heard of similar being done by other companies.  Surely the executives at Chrysler do a worse job?  Maybe it is done but I’ve never seen it make the news.

The tablet story is very confusing.  Around the time of TechEd NA 2010 we were hearing stories that there would be a HP Windows (of soem kind) tablet in the stores by Christmas.  Then we heard HP had bought Palm OS and were forgetting about Windows.  This one has changed a few times.  Then there were rumours that the OS wouldn’t be around until mid-2011.  Who the hell knows now?

Looking at the press today and there is not much good news for Windows Phone 7.  Apparently, the launch is today.  That sneaked up on me.  I knew more about the announcement in Barcelona last February, which paled in comparison to what Jobs would do for Apple and was at some God-awful AM time while I was in Redmond, WA.  The press are full of stories about how Windows Phone 7 won’t do well.  I’ve read that Verizon in the USA has no interest in carrying it. focusing more on Android and iPhone.

Do I think Windows Phone 7 will be big?  Unfortunately, no.  It looks nice.  But I just don’t think that this is an area that MS should be in.  For me, they are a client/server company.  I think they make the best desktop/server OS, business applications, and systems management.  If I was a dev then I’d be all over their dev environment.  Whoops: I forgot that MS is a cloud company, so I’d be all over Azure in that case.

The phone OS is an improvement in terms of appearance.  Will it be usable?  I’ve no idea.  I probably won’t ever know because my WIndows phone hardware (bought last December) doesn’t have the required hardware.  I’m not a phone collector – I buy a phone and use it until I need to recycle it.  I make calls and I send texts.  The crucial things for these gadgets for the target market are:

  • An app store: Apple own this market.  MS has a lot of catching up to do here.  Can they produce the huge variety of apps?  Can they encourage developers to do the same for a phone OS that every prognosticator says will be a niche player?
  • Music downloads: Do kids buy CDs anymore?  I’m guessing not (they are a ripoff in these parts).  The MS answer to music is Zune.  until recently MS shot themselves in the foot by only opening Zune to the USA (maybe Canada too?).  The Zune appliance had about as much impact on global music as my last album, entitled “Rock Classics in the Shower” (available in bargain bins at your local gas station while stocks last).  MS opened up Zune to more markets recently, probably in anticipation of the Phone 7 launch, but it’s still only a few countries.  For example, Ireland is not included.  This is so short sighted.  It makes one wonder if MS is committed or not.  Is this another Windows Essential Business Server, here one minute and gone the next?

What is MS doing well in terms of Xbox, Phone and Tablet?  The Kinect is going to be a market leader in terms of what it is.  It’s a cool little add-on to the Xbox that makes it a Wii- and PS3-beater, by a mile.  I don’t know that it will drive Xbox sales, but let’s face it, that’s not what MS focuses on.  It’s long been thought that MS sold the Xbox hardware at a loss, focusing more on games and Xbox live.  I visited a demo-”shop” last week and lots of the key market (males, teenagers-to-late-20′s) were trying the Kinect and having fun.  I can bet they’re the sort of people that will buy the gadget and the games when they are out.  It’s out in November and I reckon it will make headlines in the Christmas rush.

Phone?  At least HTC and Samsung are on board.  They’re both Android sellers so now their customers will have a choice.  If you are a System Center Configuration Manager customer then you might prefer the Windows option so manage software on your phones, just like you can with PCs.  But that assumes that IT has much say in handset purchases – which it rarely seems to do.

Tablet?  Well, we have no idea.  We’re guessing that Windows Phoen 7 will be ported in some way to compete directly against the iPad OS.   But would that leave it as more of a gadget than a business tool?   This wouldn’t be such a big deal if we were talking about how there’s nothing firm from Apple (who keep everything secret until the launch) or Google (where everything seems to stay in beta for 10 years).   MS is being judged differently because they are putting so much emphasis on these markets and because they are so far behind.  It’s a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t scenario.  Maybe some firm facts from the top would be helpful.  Maybe we’ll hear something more today when Ballmer does the Phone 7 launch.

But back on topic … if Steve Ballmer is being judged solely (and IMO, unfairly just) on the succcess of Phone and Tablet, then I think the bad headlines will only get worse.  Windows Phone 7, based on history only because I’ve not used it, will not beat Google or Apple.  Tablet is owned by Apple and Amazon and MS has nothing to show us.  I’ve no answer.  I’ve just noticed that there’s a lot of negative press about Ballmer and that it is picking up pace.  Only Ireland’s Brian Cowen seems to get more than Ballmer these days and that is not good company to be in.  These things have a tendency to build and build, and if this is the case, then Steve Ballmer could be in a bad place in the not too distant future.

2010
10.04

We all know that IT projects can over run in terms of budget or planning.  And worse, they can outright fail.  One of the reasons for this is that some piece of software or hardware is being used for the wrong reasons.  I don’t mean that it is being misused.  What I mean is that the product shouldn’t be used because it cannot do the job.

I’ve seen this a few times.  IT and users will evaluate products, make recommendations, and then something else which got low marks is acquired and forced on the business.  The common denominator in the scenarios that I have encountered is company politics.  For example, I once worked with a company that acquired a dodgy-ware monitoring solution because a director had something to do with the vendor.  There’s a valid technical and functionality reason!  Not.  It was no surprise that the IT department was back in the bad old days of relying on users to tell that that a system was broken or performing poorly.

Something that I’ve learned is that users will rebel.  For example, if some storage/collaboration solution proves to be untrustworthy and unusable, then users will find shared folders to use, even if there are no official file servers.  Users are inventive.  An Access database will replace a SQL one.  A SaaS application will replace some expensive internal application.  Selft-servicing provisioning of virtual machines and cloud computing are making this easier and easier because a team/department with a budget can become independent of the IT department.  In the end, the official system is underused, and becomes a massive waste of budget and effort.  There will be dictates from management that it must be used – but more often than not that’s a “do as I say, not as I do” policy because the responsible manager is probably using My Documents to store everything.

And this all becomes a mess.  Who’s backing it up?  Who is managing regulatory/corporate compliance and security?  We covered this in 1st year Systems Analysis classes in college so this should not be a big leap for an “experienced” CIO … OK, they’re usually accountants who are landed with this job so think about the wasted money and the cost to resolve the situation if you make the wrong decisions, knowing that users won’t live with them … for the benefit of productivity which is more important than some directors ego.

So this one goes out to the IT steering committees and CIOs out there: buy and use products for the right reasons, not for company politics.

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