The Zombie ISV® is the type that should have been extinct based on the current state of technology. Let me give you an idea what that current state of technology means in our neck of the woods. Last week our team started deploying some DELL R720 PowerEdge servers to replace the last W2K8R2 Hyper-V cluster in the company with a Windows Server 2012 one. The older hardware will be recycled. Some will live on as test servers, backup media servers. All running Windows Server 2012 of course. One of them will become our physical (SAN) LUN to VHDX converter server so we can move our large LUNS (2T-15TB) to vhdx. Later this year 10Gbps networking, RDMA Mellanox cards and ODX will provide for fast vhdx movement to their new virtual hosts. Work in progress, but it should give you an idea about what we’re working with.
It may surprise you but even we have 2 Windows Server 2003 physical servers left. One is a DELL NX1950 Storage server that has been serving local workspace to a team that does image parsing (12TB). That one is >6 years old and is slated for retirement. We don’t need this concept anymore. We can build anything we want for such purposes using Windows Server 2012 Storage spaces and if required leverage the in box iSCSI target. To build it we can just draw disk bays, disk, servers from the retired hardware shelf, no sweat. We have plenty of spare parts and it works just fine. If it’s cost efficient and an effective solution, we roll that way.
The other one is a server for the financial software sold by a company (the Zombie ISV®) that does not believe in virtualization. It’s running code that’s over a 12 years old (legacy java run times and even that was a success because it used to be JInitiator until a a few years ago). There is no life cycle planning what so ever and when after 5 years the hardware needed replacing we got nothing but silence form the vendor. After months of asking for a meeting on the what and how (OS upgrade, x64, virtualization) and being ignored we just took a decommissioned server that had two years of warranty left and transplanted the disks. Even if the warranty runs out on that one we have some of the same model in the spare parts cabinet.
The workload itself runs just fine virtualized but they don’t support that. Luckily for the people that have to do it in their environment they run zero change of that Zombie ISV® ever noticing that a server is virtualized anyway. They also don’t get the concept of a dedicated service account in windows. So they end up with the database or BI services running under their remote support credentials that expire and get disabled by the helpdesk. Sigh. They don’t see the need to proactively support operating systems above Windows XP or browsers after IE 6.0. We did a lot of hacks to keep that system working and came to despise the total lack of technological expertise and professionalism of the vendor. Their “consultants” that’s don grasp x64 bit, or they download installers for 4 hours during a paid day of consulting … sickening to the stomach. Meetings with the account managers (they seem to travel in packs) is a lot of vacant bank stares and apathy. They don’t have answers, they don’t look for answers, they simply don’t care. The idea was to replace the package, but it was not to be. But in the end we settled for throwing all responsibility for it so they’ll find a place to host it and our bookkeepers can access over a secure remote connection. At least we have gotten rid of this security risk in our environment.
That people, is the miserable state of some ISVs in the 21st century. But it’s not just them. It’s a testimonial to the degree in which companies get tied up and locked in to mediocre solutions and technology debt. In the infrastructure world (storage, networking, servers, virtualization) people who know what they’re doing do not allow this to happen. As more and more decisions on software and applications are made by business & analyst types we are seeing an increase in technology debt and lack of any life cycle management. So where we have seen infrastructure get more and more bang for the buck we’ve also seen the software & services cost explode and on top of that incur technology debt, expenses and risks on the business. That’s pretty bad. I see a growing divide in a lot of companies between ever more efficient and cost effective infrastructure (combined with cloud solutions) and the slowness of getting custom software into production combined with issues concerning supportability and upgradeability. All this at ever increasing costs and FTEs. That’s not supposed to happen but it is, despite the high investments in * analysts, business consultants, architects, * coaches, project managers, IT managers etc. in the era of the cloud. This is regression. It all sounds like the result of the feel good EQ approach to business without results but hey, no one feels left behind . I believe a mate of mine calls this the race to the bottom. No wonder some companies that I know have done away with all this and just let business units organize themselves organically. They either fail and disappear of thrive and prosper, but a no time to they fall in to the trap of over organized pseudo flat structure (i.e. pass the hot potato and no responsibility) that still manages to create ever more managerial positions (flat?) whilst realizing ever less results. We’ve seen the financial and housing market charades collapse. Guess what’s next? There won’t be a bail out for you or me, beware of that.