Sunday, 27 April 2014

If Microsoft had done this ...

One of the effects of being involved in IT for years is the questions you ask when you see a story or article written about the current big hitters and 'popular' technology corporations.

From the mid 1990s until the early days of Steve Ballmer's tenure as Microsoft CEO the company faced big questions about its business practices. Whatever the arguments were is now IT history but the EU fined Microsoft many millions of dollars for bundling their browser into their Windows operating system and demanded that a 'browser ballot' screen on their OS. They also objected to a media player being bundled. In the USA the tough anti-trust laws were concerned that Microsoft had used it's power in the operating system market to force computer manufacturers to install Windows by default making Windows the market monopolist in PCs and pushing out alternatives.

Microsoft, to many technology enthusiasts, became 'evil' and was perceived to be stifling innovation and just in it for the money. Even today when Microsoft announce something the technology press almost say 'Meh' and 'so what' whilst simultaneously cheerleading for the 'cool kids' like Apple, Google and Facebook.

Having worked with enterprise systems for 25+ years it would be bad for me not to declare an interest that I am firmly embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem of products and services. I think almost anyone who works with servers and enterprise IT has to have more than a passing understanding of Microsoft products. However I am no fanboy having used Google services and Apple products too. My question is how would the IT press and regulators act if Microsoft had behaved like Apple, Google and Facebook.

In the 'search' market Google dominates and uses it's position to almost decide whether businesses do well or fail via search rankings. It's products are linked in a broad system of advertising relationships to users data to advertisers across the internet in monopolistic use of their own services. Their Android operating system requires specific services be integrated if manufacturers want to provide apps through the Google Play store effectively dominating a system that should be an open OS. It has a near monopoly of the OS in the mobile space via Android.

Yet few questions are asked by the US government or the EU about anti-trust. Users don't see this as an 'evil empire' but, because the services are 'free' at the point of use almost a benevolent provider.

Facebook similarly dominates social networking. Many websites require you sign-in with a Facebook id just to use their service. Facebook dominate social network advertising. Amazon dominate eBook readers.

There almost seems a journalist double standard. Regulators and the law are also playing catch-up in the digital economy. Almost no lawmakers understand technology and they direct their attention to regulation of internet pornography and child access (which do need attention) but neglect the wider framework.

Once you have book eBooks from Amazon they are locked to amazon. Buy a movie from Apple and it's locked into ITunes. Corporations want the lock in to keep customers - I understand this. However after the experience of the years in which Microsoft was publicly shamed for this I wonder if the current crop of aspiring monopolists are being treated differently.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

VMWARE Recertification

A few days ago I passed my VCP (VMWARE Certified Professional). Actually you don't get a VCP at all. What you get is a VCP5 meaning qualified with Vsphere 5.x. In particular mine is VCP5-DCV. This is for datacentre vertualization.

So it is a 'qualified' title. Everyone knows the version you understand and know about. There are no secrets there. To get a VCP you have to pass an exam (cost £179 or $286). To register for the exam you have to go through and official training course. The most recent UK price for this course is £2800 + VAT. In other words if you are not a VAT registered business and are paying out of your own wallet the training is £3100 (or just under $5000).

Basically it is a very expensive certification and it only lasts for the version you pass the exam for. So my certification ages over time when version 6 comes out or version 7. Fortunately you never lose your original qualification that you have spent money on and work hard to obtain.

That was true because in March 2014 VMWARE brought in re-certification. Your qualification is 'revoked' after 2 years. This has been brought in due to 'industry standards'. Nothing to do with selling more expensive training courses then! To be fair if you do another exam before your existing exam times out then you don't need to do another course. However its very easy to imagine that a new version is out or is coming out and you don't have a chance to do some learning and therefore have to take the old exam (again) to preserve your VCP.

The detail is full of issues that make a VCP less valuable. Some businesses don't upgrade that fast and old versions stick around. Your two year old qualification may be valid for years in terms of knowledge but not in the eyes of VMWARE.

However industry standards are a bit different from what is described. Older qualifications are not 'revoked' but just become a 'legacy' qualification if you do a Microsoft cert (for example).

VMWARE needs to lighten up. The pressure to re-certify is already there just by naming the certs VCP3, VCP4 and VCP5. They don't need a 2 year timeout. They also don't need to punish people who have achieved certification via revocation.

Uncool VMWARE.


VMWare Certification FAQ


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Almost the end for XP

It's the last few hours for updates to Windows XP. After today the 400 million copies of XP still sitting out there somewhere will no longer be updated by Microsoft.

Even after the very long notice given to people about the end of life for XP the UK Government has done a last minute deal to spend £5 million on keeping Windows XP running a little longer. Apparently they haven't had time to upgrade to Windows 7 (2009) or Windows 8 (2012) or Windows 8.1 (2013).

When Windows XP was born Twitter and Facebook hadn't been invented, Apple had the ipad but no phone and Windows mobile was selling well. XP gained its reputation after Windows Vista failed completely. The upgrade cycle was broken. Microsoft even gave XP a bit more life by allowing it to be installed on Netbooks when they (Microsoft) thought Linux might take hold of the Netbook.

So we are heading to unknown territory. XP is now open to attack by viruses, malicious software and the like. As well as hitting people running this software on their PC there is also the problem that XP may hit Microsoft's reputation by simply failing on people's pcs. Never before have so many 'unsupported' computers been live on the Internet. How it all turns out is currently unknown!