Thursday, November 08, 2007

Certification aka "Some Assembly Required"

Red Hat announced yesterday that it intends to provide a product for application vendors to use as a basis for virtual appliances. The product will be the same as the general purpose release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux in order to maintain "certification." It will, however, have a new name – Red Hat Appliance OS. According to Red Hat, the product will be a valuable alternative to rPath because it preserves application “certification.” Apparently this means that customers will still need to assemble, configure, and maintain the components inside the virtual appliance. After all, “certification” is only valuable when the components are not provided as an integrated, optimized, and tested unit.

Given that most customers only buy “certified software solutions,” is it surprising to anyone other than me that they spend 6X the cost of software licenses on assembly, test, administration, and maintenance? If certification guarantees that things work together, why do software vendors currently spend as much as 50% of their customer service time troubleshooting the relationship between their application and whatever “certified” OS the customer has decided to use to support the application? If each release of the components is "certified," why do customers drag their feet when it comes to updates and upgrades? Maybe because "certification" does not really guarantee anything other than "some assembly required."

Fortunately for all of us, “certification” will be a thing of the past when applications companies distribute their applications as virtual appliances. Just like the auto industry, the car will come ready to drive. The notion of Toyota “certifying” the body to work with the frame, or the engine to work with the transmission, is nonsense. All the components work together because that is the definition of a car. Toyota integrates and tests all of the components from all of the vendors in a manner that best meets the needs of the customer.

Given that “certifications” and all the headaches associated with “some assembly required” will soon be a thing of the past, I thought we would take a fond look back at all of the responses that customer service reps provide customers when they run into troubles assembling the “certified” components:

Top Ten Responses to Certification Problems

10 – Re-install and call me back if you are still having problems.

9 – Can you send me a test case that reproduces that problem?

8 – It works for me.

7 – Have you been to any of our training classes yet?

6 – This is obviously not an application problem. Call the OS vendor.

5 – My shift is about to end and I am going to need to transfer you to someone else

4 – Did the sales guy talk to you about our consulting services?

3 – I'm going to need to escalate this one to engineering

2 – Your support contract doesn't cover this type of issue

1 – Take a picture of your screen and email it to me because I have never seen anything like this


At 3:52 PM, Blogger Roger Burkhardt said...

I'm in your camp.. I’ve never bought a "kit car" myself and back in my CTO role at the NYSE I didn’t want my team building the software equivalent. I had 30 people just building development stacks for trading systems alone and - to your point - they started with certified components. The need to coordinate patches between various vendors sometimes led to substantial project delays. Now, at Ingres, we have addressed this with your team and our customers and partners are reporting enormous reductions in effort from our rpath adn Jasparsoft based Ingres Icebreaker BI Appliance. A 75% reduction in effort is at the low end of the metrics reported back and the speed improvements are even greater.
best, roger

At 3:18 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Indeed, very well said.


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