Friday, May 25, 2007

Microsoft Host Integration Server - redux

A few days ago, I made a post about Microsoft Host Integration Server that probably deserves more discussion.

I was having dinner with a customer at the zBLC a few weeks ago, and the customer brought up an interesting question - "When Microsoft talks to large enterprise customers, are they intentionally lying or do they just not understand what they're saying?" It's often hard to tell the difference between mendacity and ignorance, but eventually we decided that Microsoft simply didn't understand large enterprise customers. They don't understand the personal commitment, the scale, or the intersection of all the cost pressures. Mainframe ignorance is just one example of this trend.

To some extent, it's hard to blame Microsoft too harshly for not understanding mainframe costs, because my impression is that even within large enterprise shops that have existing mainframes, the mainframe business is put into a position where they're constantly defending the mainframe investment. As one customer put it, the problem is that the costs of the mainframe are so well understood... they are able to tell their executives exactly how much they are spending on the hardware, software, personnel, power, etc. This actually puts them at a disadvantage because things are often done ad-hoc on the distributed side of the house, or at the very least there are different divisions responsible for different pieces of the distributed puzzle... one division runs the server farm buildings, another owns the machines, another manages the software, etc... that's it hard to get a full accounting of all the costs associated with the non-mainframe business. And many of the costs are more "hidden" than the mainframe costs. Sure, the grizzled mainframe veterans command good salaries, but the number of technicians who need to service the server farms outnumber them a hundred to one. And this doesn't even bring up server utilization, which approaches 100% on the mainframe and approaches 0% on distributed.

Clearly, the mainframe isn't always the answer. But just as clearly, there are cases where putting load on the mainframe is cheaper than trying building a new warehouse for your next server farm.

Maybe someday Microsoft will get it.

I'm not holding my breath, though.