SharePoint – Six Servers Software Systems with Massive Cost Burden

October 18, 2009

SharePoint Sunday at Heathrow and was I surprised when I read Mary Jo Foley’s “What Makes Microsoft’s SharePoint Tick?” My thought was upon reading the story was that Ms. Foley was focused on explaining SharePoint and presenting its upsides and downside in an objective way. The article struck me as a clear warning to chief financial officers that sharp pencils are needed when figuring out the cost of a SharePoint installation. Get started at a great price and then learn:

It’s [SharePoint] not just a content management system or an enterprise social-networking product, or an intranet search system. It’s six different servers bundled into a single back-end for Microsoft Office. There are thousands of Microsoft employees working on 40 different teams contributing to the product. It has provided system integrators, consultants and other partners with a lot of business because it has been tricky to deploy, maintain and customize.

Okay, a bundle. Complexity. Lots of opportunity for slips twixt cup and lip. Bad in my opinion. Then I read:

…It’s not the cost of SharePoint server and the associated client-access licenses that are the biggest ticket items. He noted that a new InfoTrends survey found the biggest SharePoint-related expenditures were servers and storage, deployment/assessment services, development/maintenance services, i/o hardware (e.g. scanners, MFPs), and additional software.

CFOs are you paying attention. I am not sure you will read this statement and agree with me, but this means to me, “Hockey stick costs ahead now and forever more.” Complexity, burgeoning demands for storage, hunger for CPU cycles, maintenance, and technical support costs are part of the SharePoint package. Want to estimate these costs with confidence? I don’t. The cheerleaders for SharePoint are often engineers who have a job because SharePoint is a complicated beastie.

What this article makes explicit is that a deal for SharePoint today means uncontrollable costs tomorrow and then the day after. Six servers and 40 different teams! Demand for hardware. Need for technical expertise. The total cost of ownership is lots of money. Great for Microsoft and Microsoft Certified SharePoint partners. No so great for companies looking to reduce complexity and control costs in my opinion.

Stephen Arnold, October 18, 2009
Yikes, again no one paid me to share this opinion.


3 Responses to “SharePoint – Six Servers Software Systems with Massive Cost Burden”

  1. Charles Robinson on October 19th, 2009 9:34 am

    Is there something you would suggest that has a simpler deployment model and still offers all the features of Sharepoint?

  2. Dan Keldsen on October 19th, 2009 8:28 pm

    The smartest SharePoint deployments that I have seen have those which purposefully AVOID complexity. And by complexity, I mean the insanity of over-customization in the belief that “our company is so special we need to spend 12 months to create a completely unique experience that is likely to shatter into a million pieces when the next iteration of SharePoint comes around.”

    And of course I could substitute any other solution/provider into that sentence and have the same result.

    People are over-focusing on the “wonders of the tool” when they should be focusing on the business results they need, tools be damned.

    SharePoint is neither good nor bad (I’m neutral on all technology choices – there are many tools that are perfectly valid options for just about any need), and is certainly no more complex that most of the ECM pre-cursors nor current platforms/suites of their competition.

    it will be interesting to see what complexity is added and taken away as MOSS2010 hits the streets.

  3. Marianne Calilhanna on October 21st, 2009 9:07 am

    @Charles – I second Dan. We always advise our consulting clients to simply state the business problem they are trying to solve. Rather than exploring technology that has the same “features” as Sharepoint, what do you want your software to do?

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