Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Reality check: How Microsoft does IT, and real-world numbers

If you you’re a systems administrator, manage systems administrators, or are a Microsoft IT evangelist, the white paper, titled “File, Web, and Database Server Administration - The Realities Windows and Linux Administrators Face, and Their Demands for Change” is an excellent read… but maybe not for the reason that the title leads you to believe. This isn’t just Windows vs. Linux… it’s about how we work in the real-world.

I don’t know about everyone else, but sometimes when I read through the “How Microsoft does IT” site, or check some of the IT blogs on, I’m struck by just how really clean and leading-edge Microsoft appears to be with their IT infrastructure. Working for a Microsoft Certified Partner, I know I’m fortunate to have a diverse customer-base and to get to work with some of the neat stuff that I do… but seeing what Microsoft is up to in their environment just makes me feel like we’re standing still. For instance, I still get really excited about the little things…like having over 75% of our customer base running SUS in their environments, or having moved all but 13% of customer servers off of NT 4.0. Or even implementing little things like IMF.

Keeping up with Microsoft is like drinking from a fire hose.

And then an article like this comes along that‘s a good reality check. To quote the numbers listed in the article…

… 25 staff hours to deploy a single server.
… Only 40% of servers are centrally managed.
… Restoring accidentally deleted files requires an average of 49 minutes
… Web administrator’s time breaks down as follows: 26% of their time on general administration, 19% of their time on configuration and setup, and 19% of their time on troubleshooting (and no, I don’t know where the other 36% goes)
… On average, environments are split across multiple platforms: Windows 2000 server 47%; Windows 2003 Server 29%; Windows NT Server 21%.

I’m by no means saying that you should personally go around comparing yourself to the averages (being average in today's economy is the same thing as failure). But it is a good reality check to be able to say to yourself, hey wait a second, we’re not Microsoft, but we’re doing a darn good job testing, and deploying solutions that make sense for our customers. Articles like this also provide some interesting performance metrics when it comes to review time… for both operations personnel, and management.

One last point to keep in mind when you’re feeling defeated by one of the “How Microsoft does IT” articles, is that Microsoft doesn’t have to pay for the software that Microsoft creates. I know this is an exceedingly obvious statement, but it bears mentioning. Dogfooding, and accelerated deployments are all well and good (not the least of which are as sales devices). But until your customer budgets are unlimited, or until Microsoft starts giving away software, you’re always going to lag behind them.

None of this is to say that the white paper doesn’t point you down a road where Windows has a lower TCO than Linux (which the article leads you to believe is driven by better tools, more standardization, etc). Frankly, it doesn't really matter to me which OS is winning this week's popularity contest. I’m a big proponent of the right tool, for the right job (with the right tool being dictated by the overriding business need). I try not to get caught up in Windows vs. Linux argments. Let the Slashdot crowd… no wait… scratch that… let the market decide that one.

Thank goodness for reality checks.

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