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Deferred IT Maintenance Is a Ticking Time Bomb

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the we'll-do-it-later dept.

IT 186

snydeq writes "The underfunding of routine hardware replacement purchases and the degradation of aging enterprise apps pose systemic risk for many IT organizations, thanks to a ballooning 'deferred IT maintenance debt' in the decade since Y2K fears pushed enterprises to invest heavily in essential system upgrades, InfoWorld's Bill Snyder reports. And with sysadmins 'scrambling to keep systems up and running with budgets that barely cover the basics,' this 'IT debt' promises only to increase in the coming years, especially as IT continues to defer routine maintenance in favor of new 'cost-saving' initiatives, particularly around the cloud."

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Urgent announcement for all of slashdot!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34769864)

Rob 'CmdrTaco' Malda and his wife of 8 years Kathleen Malda nee Fent are breaking up. Apparently things came to a head when Kathleen finally admitted that their son was conceived during one of her adulterous gang bang sessions. For years she had been telling Rob that Zachary's dark complexion and 'nappy' hair was due to a recent black ancestor in her family tree. Apparently this has been a source of tension for years and was what caused Rob to begin frequenting gay bathhouses with his good pal kdawson. According to terms of the deal, Kathleen will receive a 50% stake in Rob's holdings in Slashdot and will retain ownership of his beloved Linux boxen.

Re:Urgent announcement for all of slashdot!! (-1, Offtopic)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771176)

Outing your parents private life like that is rude.

Re:Urgent announcement for all of slashdot!! (1)

cinderellamanson (1850702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771900)

"1. The Heretic, who convincingly builds a case that the company is hopeless and run by a bunch of morons;"

that is all

How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (5, Insightful)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34769866)

Deferring any maintenance can have calamitous effects.

I fail to see why this is newsworthy? Is it just because IT people whine louder?
If you are in the US---just look around. Infrastructure systems are crumbling away because of "deferred maintenance". It's not just IT. It's roads, bridges, state governments, municipalities, houses, businesses---it'severything!

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34769880)

InfoWorld needed some adclick revenue so they posted this completely duh story

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770612)

Well, it is sort of a "duh" story the way it is written, but OTOH the subject is not without merit.

I have been involved with infrastructure assessment of companies prior to acquisition and some stuff is just shocking. Publicly owned companies are driven by return to the shareholders; one way to keep the dividends flowing when the economy is in a downturn or when the business plan isn't working is to reduce operational expense.

Releasing employees is very effective to reduce the spend side but usually that means there is less available effort to work on maintenance. It looks good to have all employee time capitalized on projects but who is keeping stuff working? Also, each person out the door takes expertise with them that is lost to the company. After a while, the company may not even have enough knowledge internally to understand that their boat has holes in it and that patching isn't happening.

This isn't smoke; I've seen it. Data centers with overheating problems and with inadequate standby generators. Power is distributed unwittingly to cause a cascading failure if one breaker trips. Leaking roofs over financial servers (plastic tarp and bucket gave that away). Licensing that has not been kept up to date because no one has a good inventory and no one wants to look-see. So... Oracle enterprise instances running in non-secure network zones and without proper licensing ( potentially million$ in back costs). A database server being used as a network monitoring node and firewall because funds were not available to separate the functions.

Deferred infrastructure investment and maintenance investment happens and it is a ghastly mess to clean up. I am not surprised that more of this is happening.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34769920)

How is this comment worthy?

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770446)

I don't know, but you seem to think it is comment worthy or you wouldn't have commented.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (4, Funny)

I8TheWorm (645702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34769952)

I think it's a setup for the "IT Industry Invaded by Incompetent Idiots" and "CIOs Found Replacing Working Systems with Crap Made By Their Hunting Buddies" articles.

A large portion of /. readers are in IT and already knew this. However, seeing it in "print" in a newsrag you might find in a CIOs office is a little noteworthy. It means it's only a matter of time before someone comes rushing to your desk to say "Our CIO just read an article about infrastructure and we need an ans..."

Hang on, someone's at my desk.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (3, Interesting)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770372)

Oh, is -that- the way to get your boss to authorize expenditures?

I need to make some friends in the news media.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (2)

I8TheWorm (645702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770456)

Careful what you wish for... the CIO at the Fortune 100 company I just left still thinks DLink routers without redundancy are the way to go. He still approves purchases for replacements and new ones.

You could be having fun with that.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770802)

D-Link routers are just fine...

For my piss-poor (read: AT&T, and you'll like it or else!) home DSL connection at 384/128.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770838)

D-Link routers are just fine...

FOR ME TO POOP ON!

FTFY

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770988)

Sometimes cheap routers are the way to go -- I replaced 2 Cisco routers at a remote site in a seaside warehouse (one due to a power surge when a generator failed, one due to water from a leaky roof) before switching to cheap Netgear routers at about 1/10 the cost. Redundancy? We had a spare configured and ready to go the foreman's truck toolbox and another at his house.

One of the Netgears even survived a similar water deluge to the one that took out the Cisco (but then the Netgear didn't have a fan to suck the water inside).

(before you ask why I didn't put them in a waterproof box, that apparently was not allowed under our lease - no permanent equipment was allowed and apparently a metal box on a shelf was "permanent" but a bare router was not)

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34772118)

> (before you ask why I didn't put them in a waterproof box, that apparently was not allowed under our lease - no permanent equipment was allowed and apparently a metal box on a shelf was "permanent" but a bare router was not)

The rules are obviously bogus. My guess would be that they don't want you setting up anything they'd have a hard time removing. A router they can just unplug, but if you screw a waterproof box to the wall, it might cause more issues.

I'd have gone with a plastic storage box sealed with tape. Crappy, yes, but better than nothing and cheap.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770012)

I suspect two reasons: 1)(and most important): This is being published by Infoworld, ergo it focuses on IT stuff. 2) Much of the worst rot in IT is largely invisible to the layman.

Slow computers with styles that were pretty neato back in 2000 are obvious to the poor office drones who have to endure them; but anything that new can, largely, be forklift upgraded for the cost of the new systems and some grunt labor. Turning a 3 year desktop refresh cycle into a 5 year(or 7 year, *cough* *cough*) desktop refresh cycle doesn't make anybody happy(particularly once warranties run out, the scavenging and improvising begins); but is architecturally a small problem. You don't really accrue much "debt" over time. The cost will be "1 forklift upgrade to present day PCs" whether that upgrade takes you one generation ahead or three.

It's the complex software, the highly specialized proprietary industrial controller cards, and suchlike widgetry where there is real hell to pay, and most of that is invisible...

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (4, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770392)

Depends on the level of "bespoke" in your house.

Scavenging for desktop parts is the "little devil". Scavenging for people who know how the bloody things work more than 3 years after for IT systems is the real nightmare.

If a system has been in the field for 3+ year nobody knows what are its real dependencies and what does it really take to augment, add capacity or do any changes. The people who knew have left, gone to pastures new or have forgotten what the problems used to be and no documentation can help you here (even if there is any suriviving docs on the design of the system in question). This is valid for almost all classes of IT and telecoms systems and is the real cost factor in IT "maintenance debt". If we use a real-life analogy IT maintenance debt is like a discounted mortgage. You pay virtually nothing for 2-3 years and after that the lender skins your hide.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (2)

puto (533470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770530)

I agree wholeheartedly with you. I think another large part of the equation which our fellow IT workers fail to admit is that our ilk are incredibly stubborn about replacing and fixing things. IT workers are notorious for telling management that they can make things work with a hodge podge of coathangers and toenails, not because it is the best solution, but because they can. The problem lies on both sides of the coin. Management not wanting to spend money and IT workers not setting a realistic expectation.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34771548)

Hey hey now. That coat hanger is mission critical. Don't touch it.

We stopped using toenails though. They worked fine but degraded too quickly.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770952)

The software can bite you on the desktop too. A likely scenario:

Three years ago your company introduced some software that was programmed in happy ignorance of good programming practices, especially where access permissions are concerned.

Now you buy new computers. XP is no longer available, so they come with Windows 7. Not really a bad system, but it is a bit more strict where writing to the program directory and such is concerned. Also, it tries to hide this by "virtualizing" the files in question and giving every user his own copy. Very clever if said files are meant to serve to exchange data between users.

Have fun finding out where these strange side effects are coming from ;-)

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771842)

Oh Please! That is SUCH an easy one to fix! You either run XP Mode in Pro or just load up XP VMs. No you want to talk about "IT debt" try some of the places I walk into, where there is ALWAYS a "mission critical app" that is this horribly mangled piece of badly coded VB+Access mess of no comments anywhere junk, and then they expect YOU to deal with it! Hell one place I walked into in mid 09 had a NT 4 box running a VB3 "app" because each guy they brought in took one look at that beast and said "fuck that!".

Man I can hear the real programmers right now screaming out in pain just at the thought! You want to watch a "real" programmer wet his pants in fear you hand him a huge 14 page VB mess written by a half a dozen guys over the years, NONE of whom ever heard of a comment, with shit all over the place and nothing indented or even calling in a logical order, unless "insane band aid" is considered logic.

You want to know why there is an ever increasing IT debt I'd say that is a BIG part of it. All across the country you have this huge mess of apps written by some Joe Schmo that was bought ages ago and nobody knows how to live without and it DON'T run on anything but what it was written for and even then it is fussy as hell. And that of course don't even take into account the lovely crap like that ISA C&C controller written for DOS 3 that runs a $75,000 piece of machinery made by a company that has been DOA for a decade plus! I have stared into the abyss pal, and not only did it stare back it gave me the finger to boot!

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770018)

"I fail to see why this is newsworthy? Is it just because IT people whine louder?"

Exactly. He'd better check the bridges he's traveling over or under every day.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (3, Interesting)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770026)

Because much of this IT is stuff that affects individuals who have no influence over it.

When a company puts off investing in security, for example, and when they also collect and store my credit card info / medical info / personal demographics / shopping history / etc., they are putting me at risk.

I have to trust that their IT department is on the ball. Something I am beginning to think is never a good idea. But it's impossible to not give companies some info on me and still be a normal modern human, and thus I am forced to trust them all the time.

So if they're further neglecting their IT, it means my data is more vulnerable. Not that's there's a damn thing I can do about it.

Many people don't understand it. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770166)

Yes, it is "common sense" to you.

But how many "IT managers" understand that part of their job involves pruning? Killing old systems. Deprecating other systems. Weeding out the "one-offs" that pop up when no one is looking.

The last place I worked has 7 different database servers. Because they were running 7 different database platforms.

Virtualization means that you can reduce the floor space needed. But management also needs to look at reducing the systems needed.

How about weeding out enterprise standards? (3, Insightful)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770256)

Just one minor gripe with the parent - a lot of times, what should be weeded out isn't the "one-offs" (which are often times built way under budget with way more capacity and way less maintenance cost), but the actual official enterprise standard that got put in because some CIO was buddies with some sales rep. "One-offs" are a signal that the current standards (either of technology, or product development), are having problems. While not all "one-offs" may be worthy of keeping, when going through the weeds, don't assume the enterprise standard is perfect, and don't assume the one-offs don't have something to teach you.

Examples of enterprise standards that should be weeded out where I work -> Lotus Notes, StarTeam, Windows XP.

Re:How about weeding out enterprise standards? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771086)

I think the one-off's he's talking about are things like the purchase tracking system that Finance installed on a workstation under someone's desk. IT was not aware of it being purchased and of course it has no way to export data into any of our other systems so we can integrate it with the rest of our financial systems.

Eventually we sucked it into our VMWare infrastructure to get it off of the desktop machine (no RAID disks, and the backup consisted of someone in accounting copying the database to a flash drive "periodically", which was anywhere from weekly to bi-monthly).

We're going to spend a bundle of money to get the data out of this system to import into our ERP system we're working on - had Finance come to us for this system in the first place, we would have pointed them to the add-on module for the accounting system they were already using. Oh, and it would have cost less than the system they purchased behind IT's back and would have saved them a lot of labor in double entering data. But the CFO swore by this system in his previous company so that's what they used.

Re:How about weeding out enterprise standards? (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771798)

I agree, some of the one-offs (especially when driven by business monkeys masquerading as poor techs), are going to be problems worthy of getting rid of. But I've noticed a lot of "enterprise standards" are simply declared by fiat (often by more business monkeys masquerading as poor techs), rather than because anyone actually *tried* to deliver anything with the damn thing. Buying into glossy brochures and power point presentations spells trouble again and again.

On the other hand, if you've got some reasonable techs trying to solve big problems with reliable software (say, CVS back in the day, Subversion, or hell, even wordpress and mediawiki), often times they'll be able to do so with less money up front, more reliability, and less money in the long run.

As a leader in IT, it pays to actually look deeply into what is going on at the ground floor, and discovering internal best practices, rather than listening to a sales monkey and then mandating best practices based on zero real world experience. Even better, if you've done your due diligence to find out what the grassroots best practices are, you'll also probably have found some pretty good technical leaders to mentor up into the organization (anyone who manages to left-hand a working, reliable system under the radar in order to make up for deficiencies in an "enterprise standard" is probably *exactly* the kind of guy who has other ideas they can't try out without more backing).

Heaven help us from CFOs installing rogue systems under their desks :)

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (1)

ceCA (675081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770258)

Don't worry be happy.. 12-21-2012 is just around the corner. Who cares? I welcome our new overlords, the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. We don't manufacture anything. We outsource everything. Damn I think the 4 horsemen are Indian and they all have a Texas accent too !!!

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (1)

puto (533470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770398)

I live and work in Latin America. My residence is in Colombia, but for work I am in most LATAM countries, trust me, the US has wonderful infrastructure compared to us. And any latin country i have been in.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770478)

Deferring any maintenance can have calamitous effects.

I fail to see why this is newsworthy?

Probably the estimated amount of money it would be needed to catch-up with the backlog (the so called "IT debt") and a few words on how the estimation has been made? Also, where these money would be needed? TFA:

$500 billion -- it's a number so big you'd assume it's a component of the national debt. It isn't. Instead, it's what Gartner analyst Andy Kyte calls the IT debt. "

The "debt" really has two major components: One is underfunding and even neglect of routine but important hardware replacement purchases and software upgrades. The other is the slow degradation of enterprise applications.

...

Is that $500 billion number too high? Kyte says he derived it by analyzing several large Gartner clients that generally do a good job of keeping applications up to date. That led him to estimate that a typical Fortune 2000 company would require upgrades costing more than $200 million each.

I admit, these as scraps of "meat", but they are nevertheless still meat.
I imagine that this may be the first step (as an argument) in a push the big IT houses (hardware/software/services) will make to get so more revenue... Something on the line of "well... Apple and Android tablets and phones (that is, the consumer space) are all well and good... But, guys, what are we going to do with the enterprise?".

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770702)

It's not just IT. It's roads, bridges, state governments, municipalities, houses, businesses---

---Detroit....

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770914)

The newsworthy part is the developing trend of many companies deferring maintenance and what that means across industries, not the well known consequences of deferring maintenance as a concept.

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34771664)

Damn right! Since government is evil, we shouldn't have to pay taxes, and our libertarian benefactors will pave the roads according to their self interest!

Re:How is this newsworthy? It's just common sense. (1)

drcheap (1897540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34772170)

If you are in the US---just look around. Infrastructure systems are crumbling away because of "deferred maintenance". It's not just IT. It's roads, bridges, state governments, municipalities, houses, businesses---it'severything!

Cars, don't forget cars!

(insert obligatory car analogy here)

The Ticking Bomb IS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34769886)

obviously Evilware [www.microsoft] .

Yours In Vladivostok,
K. Trout

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34769898)

Water is wet and the sun rises every day.

How does that work again? (1, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34769934)

And with sysadmins 'scrambling to keep systems up and running with budgets that barely cover the basics,' this 'IT debt' promises only to increase in the coming years, especially as IT continues to defer routine maintenance in favor of new 'cost-saving' initiatives, particularly around the cloud.

The point of using "the cloud" (a hollow buzzword, I admit) is that you can offload the servers, software, and maintenance to a firm that specializes in such things. Theoretically, taking advantage of the cloud where it fits your organization will offset the "maintenance debt" problem. YMMV, of course.

Re:How does that work again? (4, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34769992)

CIOs and organizations blissfully march towards disaster while quietly chanting to themselves, "The Cloud will save us all".

Re:How does that work again? (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770126)

Don't blame the cloud... If it weren't around they would simply chant about outsourcing, virtualization, or right-sizing whilst marching to their doom.

Re:How does that work again? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771640)

I'm going to play dumb for a moment. What you just described IS "The Cloud". Or were you just being facetious?

Re:How does that work again? (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770104)

Something to do with eggs and baskets comes to mind, just because you rent the Limmo you are still the one responsible for the drivers mistakes, etc, etc.

Re:How does that work again? (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770312)

Theoretically, taking advantage of the cloud where it fits your organization will offset the "maintenance debt" problem.

"Cloud" (as in, dynamic server provisioning) has very little to do with it.

Outsourcing IT functions to a firm that is contracted to actually perform the maintenance that was being deferred on the in-house systems (whether hardware, infrastructure software, application software, etc.) obviously can address problems related to deferred maintenance, not because of the outsourcing itself, or because the vendor to whom the operations are outsourced happens to use "cloud" technology to power its offerings, but because the maintenance is actually happening.

OTOH, its not a magic wand to deal with maintenance debt with regard to information systems. You still need to conduct ongoing evaluation and updates of business processes and the supporting applications not merely to meet generic needs but to meet the particular needs of your business. If you are using generic apps provided by a "cloud" vendor, your flexibility to keep them up to date with your processes may be limited (the same is true of locally hosted COTS software, of course.) If you are using custom apps -- or scripted customization of off-the-shelf apps -- hasted by a cloud vendor then, just as with similar local-hosted apps, you have to maintain the software as part of that continuous maintenance of the business operations.

Keeping operations -- whether implemented in hardware, in software, or with organized groups of people -- in tune with the changing needs of the business is a fundamental need of business which is largely technology-independent. Using vendor-provided, cloud-hosted services may be a way to outsource some of the more generic parts of that (e.g., someone else gets paid to, among other things, apply basic OS patches and patches to software shared with other users) and may provide tools that simplify some of the rest (if all your key apps are cloud-hosted web apps, the mechanics of rolling out updates may be trivial), but it doesn't eliminate the basic need or make it so internal staff don't have to do anything to address it.

Re:How does that work again? (1)

CaptainJeff (731782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770812)

Not a hollow buzzword, I'm afraid. Simply the name given to having a service provider handle (1) infrastructure, (2) an application environment, or (3) applications for you while taking care of all of the maintenance of said provided service. Normally, whatever it is is running in a virtualized environment and you are not provided with insight, nor control, over where it is running physically. Pretty straightforward concept and such an approach does offset some of the maintenance debt...if you can pay someone else to do this work (physical upkeep of VM host servers, monitoring of VM guest servers, patching and associated commodity maintenance of operating systems and associated services (antivirus, etc)) for less than you can do it yourself, then you win. Like it or not, these services are commodities now.

Re:How does that work again? (3, Insightful)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771218)

"The point of using "the cloud" (a hollow buzzword, I admit) is that you can offload the servers, software, and maintenance to a firm that specializes in such things."

Yes, because it's a demonstrated hard fact that those companies providing infrastructure for the cloud can't lower their operational costs by neglecting maintenance; of course they wouldn't do that anyway since it's those infrastructure companies' very valuable data what is at risk if maintenance is neglected instead of their customers'.

Oh, wait!

It's a governance issue - plan and simple (5, Insightful)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770006)

Too many CIOs of too many western corporations report to the CFO, not the CEO. There are WAY too many CIOs who come into organizations with an eye, or a reputation, for cost cutting instead of tech innovation. Pick up any copy of CIO magazine and look at the toadies who make the top CIOs in the nation, and ask yourself - what innovation did they bring to make that list? What business process did they improve with tech? Only a handful make the cut. Most are there because they are good at pinching out costs, kicking out the older IT workers and either outsourcing or bringing in college grads.

I routinely see job ads for experienced Java developers, people with hard core experience in integration, esp. with telephony or security technologies, need 5-10 good years, offering $70k tops. Good luck with that, but again it is the CIOs who get the jobs telling people they can staff cheaper, run leaner, cut the corners - that get the job because it is the CFO who is doing the hiring and the performance reviews.

The big corporation IT C-level execs are a fear driven lot, there are no Gates or Zuckerburgs in their midsts. The action is being with the cloud providers, or the web service providers themselves. Enterprise IT is really a shit place to be outside China. It's a world full of EDS consultants and chickenshit CIOs who won't think how a business could use IT to expand. And the social media space is going to tear a bunch of them new assholes, because none of them know how to leverage it. The startups do.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770214)

There's a lot of truth to what you say, but from a business perspective, there are two basic strategies: low cost and differentiation. For a lot of firms, IT is not their differentiator, so that means IT is driven by a cost strategy. I agree that more firms should view IT as a differentiator and a source of sustainable competitive advantage, but they dont all have to. For those firms, going low cost and outsourcing are the right decisions because IT is not their core competence.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770522)

It's not until they loser your records like TD Ameritrade did mine, or are unable to find a file vital for handling an account.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (3, Insightful)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770716)

It's amazing how right this is. The problem also stems from companies that could or should be using IT as a way to improve their core competencies and improve their competitive position aren't because of the recent economic issues. Many people are getting power and influence by riding the penny pinching wave instead of making good long term decisions. We're going to be facing the aftermath of having these people over promoted for a long time to come.

Re:Low cost strategy (2)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771108)

Low cost needs to be balanced against getting the job done, and reliably done.

Because if your IT starts to have frequent outages or lose valuable data, it can be more expensive than investing in decent equipment and competent employees.
Since /. likes car analogies:
In the 90s Opel, a German branch of General motors, was a bit too aggressive in cutting manufacturing costs. The resulting quality problems were quite damaging to the brand and customers started to look elsewhere for their next car.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770242)

Too bad I don't have mod points.

This deserves +5; Insightful.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (4, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770450)

Nail, head hit. I have worked for people who had bosses who had zero interest in anything other than cost. The same people that I lambast for putting basic security precautions as an extreme low priority, due to their attitude of "security has no ROI."

What is ironic is that even though this makes the quarterly figures look good, it is killing competitiveness long term. Another example is R&D. Not product research, but true R&D where people discover something, shrug, put it on a shelf for 20 years, then it becomes immensely marketable (think Corning and Gorilla Glass as the prime example of this.) Instead any groundbreaking research ends up being done overseas or by small firms which are bought out, or have their IP infringed upon. If research is done, it is for a product to cough up this quarter or perhaps this FI, and usually it is how to add a gewgaw to something existing and palm that off on the market.

You mention China. Chinese companies know how to lock their doors down. They know what happens if you run your company with your fly open, and most of the companies over there wouldn't even be in business had it not been for "borrowed" IP from the West. Take Foxconn as an example. For a company that size making so many Apple products (including ramping up production on unannounced items), they are quite airtight about what their factories produce even with the hordes of workers they have. Had this been a company run by the typical PHB here in the US (with their usual lack of interest in security), everyone and their brother would know what the iPhone 5 looks like, and perhaps even have the source code for that rendition of iOS.

I wish the US would start borrowing from China in this regard. Even with security aside, just because a company's IT infrastructure works today doesn't mean it will work 5 years, or perhaps even six months from now without major issues. Taking a charge off quarterly earnings to fix problems now means a lot of less wasted money when the upgrades have to be done post-haste.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771030)

"I wish the US would start borrowing from China in this regard." I wish you were right. However, if an American firm did this, they'd be sued by Chinese companies in American courts using American lawyers...and their Imaginary Property would be protected and the American firm set up for serious damages. And the Chinese know this.

it's easy to have security slaves killing people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34771688)

it's easy to have security when you work people like slaves and you kill people and make it look like suicide.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34771714)

You've obviously never been to China let alone Shanghai. Most if not half the small and medium business run pirated versions of Windows and Office on 2nd hand PCs. Often cobbled go together with spare parts. Most of the time, they're already hacked and DON"T CARE! As long as MS Word opens and they can browse the internet, ef it.

That is China. It's not what you think it is or would like it to be.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (1)

tommeke100 (755660) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771742)

have you seen the pictures of the FoxConn factory in China?
They have housing buildings for their workers, where they can sleep 8 ppl per room
They also have "suicide nets" around the building so ppl wouldn't jump off
You want that in the US?

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34772036)

My point got lost here. The point is that Chinese companies actually seem to devote resources to computer security and IT infrastructure because they are seeing the mistakes companies are making on the other side of the Pacific. Even the Chinese government is laying fiber like there is no tomorrow.

Here in the US, we don't need corporate dorms -- we escaped that stuff in the Gilded age (but with the political climate, we may be heading back towards that direction.) Instead, more than just a token effort is needed in a lot of businesses when it comes to IT infrastructure and security.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (4, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770488)

That's not entirely the CFO's fault, a lot of that has to do with the US tax code. If the capital gains rate for investors didn't start to kick in until 2 years down the road and took another year to fully kick in, you'd see longer holding periods. Also, if the short term tax rate was higher for individuals holding for less than a month.

As it is there's very little reason for corporate executives to think down the road by more than a couple quarters, as chances are the people who own shares now won't still own any much beyond that.

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770690)

Nice excuse, still not a good reason, you, my fine chap, have the material to become one of the fine CIOs/CFOs being praised here..

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770648)

Too many CIOs of too many western corporations report to the CFO, not the CEO. There are WAY too many CIOs who come into organizations with an eye, or a reputation, for cost cutting instead of tech innovation.

Assuming the corporation is not in the IT business but only uses IT, I thing that's only fair to use risk management as the second term of the contrast (instead of tech innovation).

Re:It's a governance issue - plan and simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770922)

And the $70k Java developer gig is in Fargo.

Maybe it's ok.. (1)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770032)

Maybe the cloud will mean less in-house IT stuff, which means the IT debt won't even need to be paid off.

Now if Amazon or Microsoft is putting off the IT work for their cloud systems, that might.. be a problem..

on the other hand (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770110)

The price of replacing things may be getting cheaper faster than the implied cost of the risk of not replacing it is going up. It may be cheaper to wait until it breaks than to buy something with a rapidly depreciating value. The extra cost of dealing with an emergency may be paid for by the lower cost of the gear and labor. And for those risk events that never happen, the ratio of preventative replacement cost to emergency replacement cost will be infinite.

Only your CIO knows for sure. But I bet he's planning it this way.

*yawn* (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770114)

In other news: The sky is blue!

Re:*yawn* (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770674)

In other news: The sky is $500 billions-worth of blue!

FTFY

I read it like this: (2)

TheRedDuke (1734262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770122)

"The underfunding of routine exercise programs and the degradation of aging overweight sysadmins poses systemic risk for many IT organizations, thanks to a ballooning 'deferred weight loss program' in the decade since Y2K fears pushed enterprises to invest heavily in dudes who live in their parents' basements", InfoWorld's Bill Snyder reports. And with sysadmins 'scrambling to keep their bodies up and running with foods that barely cover the nutiritional basics',' this 'IT chub' promises only to increase in the coming years, especially as IT continues to defer routine workouts in favor of new 'cost-saving' initiatives, particularly around the refrigerator."

I didn't have my glasses on, though.

Re:I read it like this: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770204)

I didn't have my glasses on, though.

They're probably stuck under one of your chins, again.

The longer you leave it, the cheaper it gets (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770190)

With hardware prices dropping every year, the longer you can defer hardware upgrades, the less money it will cost you. Given that basic piece of information, it's hardly a surprise that companies don't upgrade until they absolutely have to (anyway: why would they until there's a need?). If they can give their kit a mid-life kicker with some more memory or swapping in some faster CPUs, isn't that better than spending 10s of thousands or more on a new box. Better, that is for everyone except the hardware manufacturers who will counter the drop in sales volume by lowering prices even more.

Have you ever? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770856)

...worked anywhere where someone actually swapped CPUs in a server from a real vendor (ie, not some BS whitebox)?

I *added* a CPU to an HP server once (single to dual CPUs) and it was super expensive and not all that easy to get the part. From HP it was OMFG-are-we-really-spending-this-kind-of-money expensive, a "re-certified" part from a third party was still way more than the $300 you'd spend for your home system as the part and its corresponding VRM were proprietary.

And the only reason it was done at all was a branch office needed a dual-CPU system for some application or other and management had one of their periodic "spending freezes" (which never seemed to apply to executive office space remodels or furniture...) that kept the "right" solution, a new box, from being purchased. We did buy the parts on individual invoices to avoid capex.

Anyway, nobody upgrades CPUs in major-vendor products. Too expensive relative to the benefit, especially on systems that are old enough to seem slow or considered lacking in power for some kind of repurposing.

Re:Have you ever? (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771464)

...worked anywhere where someone actually swapped CPUs in a server from a real vendor (ie, not some BS whitebox)?

I *added* a CPU to an HP server once (single to dual CPUs) and it was super expensive and not all that easy to get the part..

I did and while the parts from HP were outrageously expensive we ordered it from a third party. HP does not have an exclusive market on Xeon chips or the plug-in voltage regulators they used to use (maybe still do?). The tricky part was the heatsink which needed to be a funky size to squeeze in the space allotted but that too was solved from a third party vendor. Total cost was about a third what HP wanted. We did it as a test case to make a single CPU machine with 6 total slots into a dual. It was eventually upgraded to all 6 and since HP's prices never changed over time except to go up a little, the third parties dropped prices so we saved even more.

Re:The longer you leave it, the cheaper it gets (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771460)

If they can give their kit a mid-life kicker with some more memory or swapping in some faster CPUs,

That's just stupid. Simply "dropping in" a faster CPU doesn't do all that much, because you keep the same bus speeds on the motherboard that limit bandwidth. As for memory, haven't you noticed that buying older, slower memory tends to be more expensive than buying the new faster memory, because the old stuff is no longer in production?

Aside from those factors, there's the added labor in installing those components and testing them. On top of all that, most mass-market desktops that are used in this space aren't particularly upgrade-friendly when it comes to internal components.

I feel the pain...in state Gov... (1)

jzarling (600712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770212)

I am having trouble getting basic hardware replaced - I can't get a 500-750 dollars to replace some network switches let alone enough scratch to update my primary DC. Our Budget Analyst does not see the need to plan for future needs, or periodic replacement of vital equipment as warranty cycles expire. I have documented our needs, but my boss the CIO is afraid to push the issue.

Re:I feel the pain...in state Gov... (1)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770428)

Because the operations are planed to get transfered to China soon.

Re:I feel the pain...in state Gov... (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770706)

I see replacing equipment as less of issue than purchasing new equipment for additional capacity. Assuming you are doing backups, you can always move hard drives from old-system to a new-system. Yeah that is some work to get it back in running, but it is still a possibility.

However, if you have servers running at capacity, and they refuse to purchase new equipment, you are asking for problems.

Re:I feel the pain...in state Gov... (2)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771388)

"Assuming you are doing backups"

And that's exactly the problem, my friend. Too many people round here seem to imply that "deferred it maintenance" means not replacing servers when the guarantee period ends up. But maintenance means having two sysadmins when you formerly had three or maintaining the three sysadmins when capacity has grown 50%.
Lowering maintenance costs means that it has been a year that nobody has the time for a test restore so nobody has noticed that the backups are failing since six months ago because a minor glitch in the tape reader. Lowering maintenance means that your sysadmins have no time to "play" with new agile or devops concepts and tools that would allow for safer and more effective practices and that their knowledge is rusting with time so you are more dependant on external consultors that will squeeze money out your nose.

Re:I feel the pain...in state Gov... (4, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770848)

I am having trouble getting basic hardware replaced - I can't get a 500-750 dollars to replace some network switches let alone enough scratch to update my primary DC. Our Budget Analyst does not see the need to plan for future needs, or periodic replacement of vital equipment as warranty cycles expire. I have documented our needs, but my boss the CIO is afraid to push the issue.

My advice: add some risk analysis argumentation. You know? Something on the line of:
1. probability of equipment failure [omdec.com] over time - use the "cumulative hazard function" not the "probability distribution function".
2. impact the server crash will have on the business (make sure you slip-in some "lost face" apropos - after all it would be the manager's face to be lost). If you can express the impact in $$$ and plot the "risk x impact", chances are the budget analyst will "get the picture" easier.

Water still wet (1)

uvsc_wolverine (692513) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770248)

This is just a "status quo" article. There are occasional spending upticks centered around events (like Y2K) but we typically get our marching orders from the C-level people and are expected to just get it done.

I work for a large university (32k students) and we've got roughly 30 people taking care of about 4,000 computers, 10 important web servers (there are a whole bunch more that no one cares about), Active Directory and Novell Netware (we're in the process of dumping Novell), Groupwise, Magic Service Desk, VMWare, network file storage, multiple POS systems, and a whole bunch of backend stuff that makes all of these systems talk to each other for authentication purposes. That 30 people includes all of our support personnel, network admins, AD admin, programmers, DBA guys, and our email admin. We're also moving from Netware to AD, and from Groupwise to Exchange. If you look at just our desktop support personnel we've got 13 full-time technicians to do desktop level support for 2,000 employees and 32,000 students. We're all looking at this as an opportunity to get good experience to put on the resume and then jump ship for decent money.

Part of that need for maintenance is a need to have good people to do that maintenance. We finally got the school to cough up funding for IT personnel training (we were paying for our own training/certifications), now we just want to get paid more than the high school dropouts working for facilities.

It's such a Ticking Time Bomb that... (1)

StickyWidget (741415) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770328)

... it could seriously reduce 2nd quarter earnings for Cisco, Juniper, Microsoft, Peoplesoft, Oracle, Sun.....

~Sticky

degradation of aging enterprise apps? (2, Insightful)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770336)

How, exactly, do enterprise apps degrade?

Do they suffer from bit-rot, and have some kind of half-life?

I understand that eventually apps will fail to be supported by the developers, won't potentially work on more modern operating systems, and in some cases require updating in order to be able to work correctly with the rest of the world.

But it's a bit disingenuous to call this "degradation". The app continues to do what it always did. You're just wanting more out of it than you did before. The app didn't change, you did.

Re:degradation of aging enterprise apps? (4, Interesting)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770610)

1) The languages, special hardware, libraries and controls become unsupported on new hardware.
2) The languages, special hardware, libraries and controls become unsupported on new versions of the operating system.
3) The operating system becomes unsupported.
4) The hardware becomes unsupported.

Example: VB6 program uses bar code scanners.

2004? VB6 unsupported as a language.

2008, VB6 unsupported for security patches (so any required security patch could kill VB6 program)

2009 bar code scanners unsupported (change to optical recognition with new software interface)

2009 VB6 Outlook/Word integration fails.

2010 Hardware and operating systems to support VB6 start becoming unavailable. All are unsupported by vendors.

Cost to redevelop VB6 program-- about 1.6 million dollars.

At some point- basically find a new packaged product (cost $100k + $500k user licensing & support + loss of ability to differentiate business) which provides 80% of functionality of the VB6 program and toss it. Can't be changed to match your business - you must change business to match it.

Re:degradation of aging enterprise apps? (2)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771806)

At some point- basically find a new packaged product (cost $100k + $500k user licensing & support + loss of ability to differentiate business) which provides 80% of functionality of the VB6 program and toss it. Can't be changed to match your business - you must change business to match it.

Larry Ellison? Is that you? That's been standard Oracle-speak for nearly a decade, now.

I think you may have meant it sarcastically... but I think it's a good idea.

How much benefit do you really derive from your unique business practices? Why not standardize? Besides the customization and integration savings, it's cheaper to train employees (since many applicants will have been using the same workflows at other employers).

Larry might have his flaws, but this is one thing that I agree with him 100% on.

Re:degradation of aging enterprise apps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34771886)

Huh? What current MS operating systems don't support VB6? Check the core runtime binaries - they're all protected OS files now on newer platforms. I've got VB6 apps (well, my clients' apps) out in the wild running on everything from Win2000 to Server 2008 R2, including being hosted apps on Citrix. I'm not *happy* about maintaining these dinosaurs, but they're working fine, including support for theming (built-in controls only, though, but that almost goes without saying).

MS isn't stupid enough to kill VB6 app compatibility. It won't go away until Win64 kills off Win32.

And what Wintel hardware doesn't support VB6 apps? I don't see how that even makes sense.

As for the optical scanner, MS Outlook, or pretty much any other recent API, the only truly nasty problems I can think of are these two: COM and/or native Win32 API is dropped in favor of only .Net, Java, and so on, much like Crystal Reports after version 11.5 (a.k.a. 11R2); that forces a lot of re-work to use an alternative API (e.g. use less convenient native Win32 instead of COM) or creating a translation layer (e.g. via C++ to get to a Java-only API via JNI). Those are ugly solutions, but it's hard for me to imagine that a half-million+ outlay for an 80% replacement that limits business differentiation would be preferable.

Another common problem is EOLed third-party controls, but anyone who lived through the VBX to OCX transition should know better than to use those unless absolutely necessary or they came with pure VB6 source code and use/deployment rights for updated binaries.

I'd love for my clients to replace their aging VB6 apps, and I remind them the clock is ticking (if only slowly).

[I can't believe I'm about to offer this; I must be a budding masochist.] If you can't find competent VB6 maintainers, that's one of my job descriptions; respond to this post, and we'll work out how to discuss terms away from slashdot. Heh, chances are, I'd charge no more than half the cost of the sub-optimal replacement product you mentioned...

Oh, and $1.6M for a complete rewrite? I know it's the worst metric, but how many KLOC are we talking here?

- T

Connections (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770736)

Maxo gave a great answer, but there are matters of internal compatibility also. Generally an IT app relies on lots of other IT apps to function, all of them are changing, and if YOUR app does not change you are retarding what can be done in other applications, or forcing maintenance of a backwards compatibility layer.

There are some systems that can really just sit there and don't interface with much, really core systems... but then you run into that systems support issue and there is nothing corporate IT people fear more than unsupported anything, even if it's incredibly easy to care for.

Re:degradation of aging enterprise apps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770810)

You're obviously new to IT, or your grasp of the English language is loose... there are many ways enterprise apps can degrade, first off there will be bound to be enhancements, bug fixes, patches, etc which adds on potential load to the apps, there can be more users as the business grows which adds on load over time, even if user base doesn't grow, the data will which affects the platform (i.e. disk, network, etc) which affects software performance, etc.

Either you're taking the term "degrade" too literally or you're new to IT..

Re:degradation of aging enterprise apps? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770994)

But it's a bit disingenuous to call this "degradation". The app continues to do what it always did. You're just wanting more out of it than you did before. The app didn't change, you did.

Hmm... While theoretically you are right (the app doesn't change, the environ/data changed), it doesn't make the application run properly over time, the effort/cost to correct the application is still needed.

Examples:
a. application/system that don't function as expected anymore due to a security patch applied on the OS (damn;d if you don't apply the patch, damn'd if you do).
b. applications/system that don't scale anymore with the number of concurent users
c. applications/system with performance strongly affected by the "data bit rot" (lost/dangling references/relationship accumulation).

Re:degradation of aging enterprise apps? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771138)

Here's the way it works.

If you implement an app that is well-designed and comprehensive, you are married to it for maintenance, your boss will not give you other projects, HR will wonder what they are paying you for, and eventually you will leave due to boredom and wage stagnation.

If you implement an app that is mostly functional but half-assed, you will be promoted and given a new underling to maintain your half-assed app for you and bring you coffee.

So, you see, this way enterprise apps naturally tend towards being just a bunch of Excel macros.

Load of crap (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770362)

Everyone I've been talking to my field is telling me that corporations are spending like crazy on IT in the last two quarters, and are going to continue spending large amounts for at least the next year. There has been some slow down after the economy tanked, but from everything I've seen, the cash flow spigots are opening up.

In my own experience I just got a new job six months ago and it has been non-stop, balls to the walls busy since I walked through the door. We're hiring new people and spending millions on hardware. Of course, we are an IT business. Our SaaS environment is what allows our part of the organization to make money. The spending priorities might be different in other sectors.

Cost savings is really expensive. (4, Insightful)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770394)

Cost savings is the biggest expense to any large organization that does it.

Re:Cost savings is really expensive. (1)

korgitser (1809018) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770496)

The english have an old saying: I am not that rich to afford something so cheap.

Reminds me of a few years ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34770426)

When engineering section of the network would go down on Thursday, EVERY WEEK. It's not on any specific time of the day, but it would abruptly interrupt Ethernet connection for everyone in the area for a few seconds. Unfortunately the Windows boxes we hang off Linux samba shares don't react well to that and would cause everyone to lose whatever source files they happen to be editing at the time. This went on for three or four years.

ismekkurslari hakknda (-1, Offtopic)

davinci076 (1866366) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770436)

thak bilgi için ismek kurdele nakisi kurslari ismekkurslari.org desen resimleri el sanatlar bilgisayar teknolojileri yemek spor tak kursu

hmm (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770466)

I'm sensing many organizations may defer it until 2014. No special reason.

life of a sysadmin (4, Interesting)

br00tus (528477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770554)

I have been a UNIX sysadmin for years, and have seen this at many companies. For a long time. Back in 1997 I worked at a company that had a lot of critical applications on an old, old Sun Netra. Lots of organizations have a few of these machines around - they are out of maintenance, the people who built it have left the company, it is out of warranty, and people generally don't touch them and hope they keep running. After years of meetings, presentations, budgets etc. we finally got a new machine shipped - and then a more politically connected department heard the machine had arrived, and had it stolen for their department on the day it arrived. I guess everyone thought it would be cheaper to page me in the middle of the night if the old machine failed and blame me the next day. The replacement machine being pulled is one of the main reasons I quit the company.

I worked for another company that had a lot of money, but one thing we had to deal with was printing. Print jobs would come into our machines from strange places (IBM mainframe machines, from programs that were written 40 years ago) and go out to strange places (old dot matrix printers in a field office out in some obscure city in India). Thus I was sometimes left to puzzle why some program written in PL/I, coming from a mainframe which I don't have access to, is not printing to some ancient printer in Bangalore which is hooked to some ancient PC's parallel port.

My former company from 2009 had some machines like this. Two very old Ultras running StoryServer and who knows what else. The StoryServer license had long fallen out of use, the machine firmware and Solaris OS had not been upgraded or patched for years. It sent e-mail through, for some reason, four Macintoshes. The Macs did not even run MacOS X, they were previous MacOS versions. E-mail starting with the letters A-F went to Mac1, G-M went through Mac2 etc., if a Mac crashed, mail to those letters would stop going through. The developers did not want to spend the time migrating to a new system, and I don't blame them, the oldest long-time developer there who dealt with such arcana was laid off, while the people building the latest new and shiny that the business wanted had the most secure jobs. Aside from this, we did not ever patch or upgrade our Red Hat Dell servers or firmware, we had no scheduled system downtimes etc. Our major Java application server had had its license run out. As I was leaving, the operations boss (soon to be fired) was considering not re-upping our Red Hat licenses.

If a sysadmin goes on a job interview, and is not desperate, these are the types of questions they should ask, at least on the second round of interviews. Are all of the machines, OSs and applications I'll be responsible for under license? Are they all fully patched and upgraded for firmware, OS and application on a regular basis? What is the oldest machine still under responsibility - is it older than three years? Because all servers should be phased out every three years - at the very least. Try getting Dell/HP to support a 7 year old server decently. Also, do you have scheduled downtime once a week? Meaning do you have the option of rebooting and patching your main database machine, even if it is early Sunday morning? If they want 100% uptime it would necessitate paying for the infrastructure for high availability.

Why should they spend the money when they can just call you in the middle of the night, to continue keeping it running with duct tape? Then they can blame you the next day after it broke. And you get no credit for it continually running either - the time you spend keeping it running is not counted, only time you devote to the latest shiny they want to implement. In fact, too much time devoted to keeping the machines they decided not to spend money on keeping up can cost you your job - if there's a choice between laying off the guy maintaining legacy stuff, and the guy who makes the new shiny for the business group and management and who deals with them all the time and knows them, the former is always the one to be bounced.

None of this is an "accident", or "bad business decision" or the like. It may not make sense from the standpoint of service/industrial production, but it makes plenty of sense within the framework of modern monopoly capitalistic production. I think this is the point most engineers miss. From the standpoint of your time being used efficiently, you not being blamed for things not your fault, or even in the sense of old Adam Smith utility and greater GDP and the like, the engineer standpoint makes sense. In this sense it is the right way to do things, it is stupid to do business by cutting corners etc. However, there are historical epochs of production modes, and some differences around the world even during similar times. In feudal times kings collected corvees and fought wars. In USA slave times slaves picked cotton and their masters sold it. In the socialist USSR, different systems were tried to get surplus grain from peasants, so that steel mills could be built at Magnitogorsk - which then built tractors, which were sent to the peasants, whose grain output increased (under Stalin anyhow) and so on. Different things make sense at different times - in Mississippi in 1860, the majority of people were slaves, and it was illegal to teach them to read. It threatened to harm the production system. In the US in 2011, we want most workers to be able to read. In our case it helps the production system.

So this is the point. Engineers complaining about business being short-sighted are in one sense, wrong, and in another sense, right. It is important to not just focus in on red-black binary search trees, and linked lists, and disk partitions filling up, and load averages filling up, and network connections being down, but to look around the company, and all of business and industry for that matter, and understand what is happening.

Printing, the bane of every IT worker (2)

2bfree (113445) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771212)

I think anyone who works in IT long enough comes to think of printing as the biggest waste of money in corporate America. How many forests have ended up as paper jams in a printer because a manager wanted to print his email.

Re:Printing, the bane of every IT worker (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771898)

So true. It gets even more fun when you're in an environment that is unfriendly the many small moving parts of a printer. Such as areas with large amounts of dust or sand in the air. We used to have printer parties . We'd take a bunch of old (mostly broken) printers out back and find various creative and entertaining ways to disassemle them so they would fit in the disposal barrels.

I love outdated equipment and code (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770678)

I work in enterprise tech support, and finding a setup with unsupported hardware or code is the highlight of my day. No problem is easier for me to close than one where the customer has let equipment drop out of warranty and/or software support. Just did one today... box has been in continuous service (without poweroff) for six years; the model was discontinued in '05 and dropped out of support on 12/31/09. They have a difficult problem that likely would have taken me a day or two to solve... instead I made it go away in five minutes of pulling up their logfiles. Now, it's entirely possible that removing the equipment won't fix the issue, but then I have access to better troubleshooting tools, developers that give a *bleep!*, and more comprehensive log files when the put in newer gear.

All this is good for me, but it sucks to be you if you have some really important stuff on that gear...

I'm confused. (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34770870)

...'scrambling to keep systems up and running with budgets that barely cover the basics'...

How is this different than it's ever been?

Debunking the new adage (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771042)

Thus

Do more with less

becomes

Doing nothing with nothing

as all systems fail and bankruptcy court takes your now worthless assets.

yep.. (1)

Chardansearavitriol (1946886) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771166)

We all saw this one coming. My old school is still using ORIGINAL IMACS for gods sake. This is a high school. one that promotes "Computer Science" despite macs being closer to potpourii than they are to science. It really is bad cause they're like 13 years old. Way to set people up for humiliation once they get out of their colorful plastic bubbles and actually need a computer that does something besides act as a really big ipod.

Re:yep.. (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771926)

Just because iMacs made better aquariums than computers doesn't mean all Macs have that problem. A few of them actually have uses and the new MacBooks make really good stands for my iPad.

Same holds true for *all* maintenance (3, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34771850)

In the age of BS corporate leadership, who *doesn't* want to be the guy who cuts costs by 25%, gets promoted up into the suites, then lets one of his successors take the fall when the shit hits the fan? I'm more concerned with our public infrastructure BTW.

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