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Microsoft and Both Hewlett Packards Are Chums

September 20, 2016

I read “Microsoft Beats Out Rivals for HP Software Deal.” The write up does not answer the following questions:

  1. Did Microsoft or HP’s public relations advisers bring this story to Fortune Magazine?
  2. How much will HP save by using Microsoft’s sales management and database software instead of Oracle’s and Salesforce’s software?
  3. How much will the transition from the Oracle and Salesforce systems to the Microsoft system cost?
  4. Why couldn’t HP use its hardware with the Oracle and Saleforce systems?
  5. Why did HP choose a proprietary solution when there are satisfactory open source options available?
  6. Who back was injured after the frenzy of scratching ended?

What the write up reveals is that Oracle and Salesforce lost a big customer. I also highlighted this passage:

This deal adds another dimension to HP-Microsoft partnerships. HP is a huge and longtime hardware partner—its PCs ship with Microsoft Windows and often with its Office applications as well. There is significant overlap between the two companies’ reseller partners. And since most Microsoft partners run Dynamics CRM already, HP’s use of the product could simplify collaboration and data exchange. HP claims about 100,000 partners worldwide.

I will not comment about the “claims” about partners. Let’s see. HPQ buys hardware from HPE. Microsoft is a partner for HPQ and HPE. Looks like a friendly group. Add one person and the companies have a gold foursome. Will Google get asked to join the group? We know Oracle and Salesforce won’t.

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2016

Why European Start Ups Are Non Starters at Scale

September 17, 2016

I read an interesting and probably irritating article “Why European Startups Fail to Scale.” I was sufficiently intrigued with the premise of the essay to send it to some executives at European start ups which have failed to scale. Nota bene: None of these managers wrote me back which suggests that the content of the article was not germane to their firms’ commercial success.

I learned from the article:

European startups fail to recognize that when they expand to a new market they have to adjust themselves to the rules, standards and requirements of that specific market.

Interesting idea. I have noticed in my own experience that companies from some countries struggle when they try to sell their search systems to the US government. The procurement process and some of the regulations make no sense. What’s interesting is that in some European countries one must have a receipt for utilities before being able to rent an apartment makes perfect sense. The notion that a software vendor’s code must be verified to be backdoor free makes zero sense to European vendors who want to take money from the US government.

The write up points out:

No matter if the startup was located in Western, Central, or Eastern Europe somehow most people did not understand that there could be fundamental differences between themselves and consumers inside this new market they were planning to enter.

How does one address this issue? The write up offers some suggestions; for example:

you need to optimize your product for your new markets.

Seems obvious. Another tip is that the company trying to cash in on the exciting US market should have a value proposition and pricing scheme suitable for the savvy American buyer.

The US, unlike some countries, is big. It is, therefore, expensive to advertise “on social media or search engines.”

Whereas a lot of B2C companies in Eastern Europe are talking about Euro cents, in the US a click might cost several Dollars.

The idea I highlighted in grammar gray was:

text is far more important. Whereas Europeans are lenient to typo’s or faulty grammar, Americans are not and expect to be addressed in the catchiest way possible.

How have search engines from Europe managed in the US market? Let me highlight several examples from my historical archives:

  • Antidot. Announced a footprint in San Francisco a couple of years ago. The traces of the company are faint.
  • Autonomy. Sold to HP for $11 billion after more than a decade in business. Since the sale, Autonomy has been a legal and M&A football engaged in continuous knock abouts
  • Fast Search & Transfer. The founder ended up in legal hot water because of some tiny math errors resulting in allegedly misstating revenue. Microsoft ignored these gaffes and paid $1.2 billion for the system.
  • Exalead. Made a splash and ended up selling to Dassault. Largely invisible in the US market after a run at the US government market and the usual commercial targets.
  • Pertimm. Dabbled in the US market and ended up forging a deal with a European company for a Euro centric search system.
  • Sinequa. Announced a push into the US a year or two ago. No one seemed to notice.

At this time, the major success seems to be Elastic, the open source search vendor. One assumes that the European search vendors who have failed to gain traction in the US market would emulate this firm. But if a European search vendor does not acknowledge that Elastic is doing something that works, why change?

Some European search vendors and “experts” are pitching governance and indexing. These are two market segments which strike me as either difficult to sell or very narrow. Change and sustainable may be difficult to achieve regardless of the lipstick applied for the theater of marketing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 17, 2016

Instance of the LinkedIn Blue Pencil

September 15, 2016

I love LinkedIn. I love the wonky email inducements to pay. I love the quirky information posted by people who are looking for jobs, consulting gigs, or a digital water cooler.

But what I love most is learning about alleged instances of bowdlerization, restrictions, information black outs, and what might be labeled “censorship.”

Let me be clear. The example comes from an individual with whom I have worked for 12, maybe 15 years. I am reporting this alleged suppression of information to shine some light on what seems to be one more step in restricting factoids and opinions. As I said, I love LinkedIn, which I have described as the social Clippy now that Microsoft will embrace the system in its services. Eager am I. I loved Bob too.

I learned from a person who was a US Marine officer and also a former Central Intelligence Agency professional that a post about the democratic candidate for the presidency was deleted. The author was put in LinkedIn’s dunce cap. You can read the original “Owl” post at this link.

Here’s what I learned. Note that this information came to me from Robert David Steele Vivas, the person who was summarily sent to sit in the corner of the LinkedIn virtual professional meet up on September 13, 2016.

Steele says:

Yesterday I was censored by LinkedIn when I tried to post a story on “The Madness of Queen Hillary.” Coming as it does in the aftermath of Google manipulating both search and spam results in favor of Hillary Clinton, Facebook blocking YouTubes from Alex Jones, and Twitter censoring trending results associated with Hillary Clinton’s health, I have realized that the major social media enterprises have become part of a police state where the opinions of we “unredeemable deplorables” are easily censored.

Intrigued, I ask Steele what happened then? He says:

My three attempts to post were blocked, and then I found that my profile was restricted from posting. I immediately deleted  the account, LinkedIn, while efficient at censoring, is inefficient at elective deletions, so it will take a few days.

How were you told about this action? Steele states:

I was neither warned nor notified. I discovered the censorship when I found that I had lost functionality.

In a time when smart software promotes false news stories, I wanted to know if Steele knew if the action was taken by a human or an artificially smart chunk of code. Steele replies:

Presumably this was a software-driven trigger that closes down commentaries using negative words in association with Hillary Clinton. However I have also noticed that both the Clinton camp and the Israeli lobby have perfected the use of spam reports to silence critics — there is no court of appeals if you are maliciously labeled a spammer. I suspect the censorship resulted from a mix of the two anti-thought measures.

Why I asked myself would LinkedIn censor a member’s essay about a campaign that is dominating the news cycle in just about every form of media I check out? I asked Steele this question, and he writes:

Eric Schmidt is on record as saying that he has the right and the ability to control “hate speech” online. The “digital innovators” in the White House are all committed to Hillary Clinton in part so they can keep their jobs and continue to play with new means of manipulating the information environment. This happened because the White House ignored my 1994 letter calling for major investments in the integrity and security of the cyber domain (and actually allowed NSA to gut what security existed, with the complicity of IT CEOs, for the convenience of our mass surveillance program), and because in the absence of legitimate oversight in the public interest, social media enterprises will trend toward the abuse of their power, much as banks and corporations have in the material world.

Living in rural Kentucky, I am not certain that I am qualified to comment about the actions of smart software and even smarter executives. I have several thoughts I want to capture before I leave this vallis lacrimarum:

  1. LinkedIn has some content which strikes me as subpar. If the outfit is editing and blocking content, the process seems a bit hit and miss. I prefer some substantive, thought provoking information, not recycled marketing jargon.
  2. What other content has been blocked? Is there a Web site or social media stream where instances of censorship are captured and commented upon? I checked several pastesites and drew a blank.
  3. I assume that LinkedIn operates like a mall; that is, the mall owner can run the mall any old way he or she wishes. But how does one evaluate a professional who may be qualified for a job or a consulting gig if the information that professional supplies to LinkedIn is blocked. Doesn’t this distort the picture of the potential hire? What about a felon who creates an identify on LinkedIn and then is revealed by another LinkedIn user. Will LinkedIn block the revelatory information and allow the felon to cruise along with a false background?

As I said, the LinkedIn system is a fave at Beyond Search. I think it is difficult to make an informed decision without having access to information created by a LinkedIn member. What else is missing from the LinkedIn data pool?

Stephen E Arnold, September xx, 2016

OpenText: Documentum Enters the Canadian Wilderness

September 14, 2016

Documentum is an outfit that some big companies have to use. Other big outfits have hired integrators like IBM to make Documentum the go to system for creating laws and regulations. Other companies looking for a way to keep track of digital information believed the hyperbole about Documentum. Sure, one can get Documentum to “work.” But like other large scale, multipurpose content processing and management systems, considerable expertise, money, and time are often necessary. Documentum is now more than a quarter century young. Like other giant companies buying late 1980s technology, the job of generating sufficient cash flow is a big one. How is that acquisition of Autonomy going, Hewlett Packard? Oh, right. HP sold Autonomy and has a date in court related to that deal. What about Lexmark and ISYS Search Software? Are those empty offices an indication of rough water? What about IBM and Vivisimo? Oracle and Endeca? Dassault and Exalead? You get the idea. Buy a search vendor and discover that the demand for cash to make the systems hop, skip, and jump are significant. Then there is the pesky problem of open source software. Magento, anyone?

Now OpenText has purchased one of the US Food and Drug Administration’s all time favorite software systems. No doubt that visions of big bucks, juicy renewals, and opportunities to sell hot OpenText properties like BASIS, Fulcrum, and BRS Search are dancing in the heads of the Canadian business wizards.

I learned that OpenText is the proud new owner of Documentum. You can read the details, such as they are, in “OpenText Signs Deal for Dell EMC Division.” I learned that Documentum carried a price tag of $1.62 billion, a little more than what Oracle paid for Endeca and what Microsoft paid for the fascinating and legally confused Fast Search & Transfer content processing systems. OpenText, to its credit, paid one tenth the amount Hewlett Packard paid for Autonomy.

I learned:

“This acquisition further strengthens OpenText as a leader in enterprise information management, enabling customers to capture their digital future and transform into information-based businesses,” OpenText CEO Mark Barrenechea said in a statement Monday. “We are very excited about the opportunities which ECD and Documentum bring, and I look forward to welcoming our new customers, employees, and partners to OpenText.”

I also noted “Moody’s Places Open Text (OTEX) Ratings on Review for Downgrade.” That write up informed me:

Open Text plans to finance the acquisition with a combination of cash on hand, debt and equity. If the company raises equity to finance a significant portion of the purchase price, the Ba1 CFR will likely be confirmed. In a scenario where the company funds the acquisition with just cash on hand and new debt, the Ba1 CFR could face downward pressure. However, in such case Moody’s would evaluate the company’s ongoing commitment and capacity to de-lever, which could mitigate downward rating pressure. Negative ratings movement related to the CFR, if any, would be limited to one notch.

This is financial double talk for we are just not that confident that OpenText can make this deal spew revenue growth and hefty, sustainable profits. But my interpretation is fueled by Kentucky creek water. Your perception may differ. May I suggest you put your life savings into OpenText stock if you see rainbows, unicorns, and tooth fairies in this deal.

I noted this passage:

Open Text has made over $3 billion of acquisitions since 2005 and although the company does not break out results of acquired companies, EBITDA margins have increased to 35% from 17% over this period.

Get out your checkbook. Let the good times roll.

My view from rural Kentucky is less optimistic. Here are the points I noted on my Dollar General notepad as I worked through the articles about this deal:

  1. Michael Dell was quick to dump Documentum, underscoring the silliness of EMC’s rationale for buying the company in 2003 for about $1.7 billion
  2. The cost of maintaining Documentum server and the eight acquired company’s technology is likely to be tough to control
  3. The money needed to keep a 25 year old platform in tip top shape to compete with more youthful alternatives makes me wonder how OpenText will finance innovation
  4. The open source alternatives, whether for nifty NoSQL methods or clones of more traditional content management systems constructed by programmers with time on their hands, are likely to be a challenge.

To sum up, OpenText is a roll up of overlapping and often competing products and services. I hope the OpenText marketing department is able to sort out when to use which OpenText product. If customers are not confused, that’s good. If the customers are confused, the time to close a deal for a giant, rest home qualified software is likely to be lengthy.

OpenText is much loved by those in Canada. I recall the affection felt for Blackberry. Stakeholders will be watching OpenText to make sure that it does not mix up raspberries and blackberries. Blackberries, by the way, have “drupelets.” That sounds like Drupal to me.

Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2016

 

Autonomy Back Home in Merrie Olde England

September 12, 2016

I read “Hewlett Packard Offloads Last Autonomy Assets in Software Deal.” I think that Autonomy is now going back home. Blood pudding, the derbies, and Indian take aways—yes, the verdant isle.

The union of Hewlett Packard (once an ink outfit) and the love child of Bayesian and Laplacian methods is burst asunder. HPE (the kissin’ cousin of the ink outfit) fabricated a deal only lawyers, MBAs, and accountants can conjure.

There is an $8 billion deal, cash to HPE, and a fresh swath of lush pasture for Micro Focus to cultivate.

I learned:

“Autonomy doesn’t really exist as an entity, just the products,” said Kevin Loosemore, executive chairman of Micro Focus. Loosemore said the Newbury-based business conducted due diligence across all of the products included in the deal, with no different approach taken for the Autonomy assets. No legal liabilities from Autonomy will be transferred to Micro Focus.

Integration is what Micro Focus does. Autonomy embodied in products was once a goal for some senior Autonomy executives. The golden sun is rising over the mid 1990s technology.

We wish Micro Focus well. We wish HPE well as it moves toward the resolution of its claims against Autonomy for assorted misdeeds.

Without search, HPE ceases to interest me. While HPE was involved in search, there was some excitement generated, but that is winding down and, for some I imagine, has long since vaporized.

I will have fond memories of HP blaming Autonomy for HP’s decision to buy Autonomy. Amazing. One of the great comedic moments in search and fading technology management.

Autonomy is dead. Long live Autonomy. Bayes lasted 60 years; Autonomy may have some legs even if embodied in other products. IDOL hands are the devil’s playthings I think. PS. I will miss the chipper emails from BM.com. Substantive stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, September 12, 2016

Hewlett Packard: About Face

September 7, 2016

I read “Exclusive: HP Enterprise in Talks to Sell Software Unit to Thoma Bravo – Sources.” Who does not love a news story labeled “exclusive” and attributed to “sources” when the subject is Hewlett Packard Enterprise? The thrust of the story is that HPE, fresh from making marketing noises about its enterprise software business, is allegedly selling those software businesses.

Let’s assume that this is indeed accurate. The asking price is is in the neighborhood of $8 to $10 billion or more if the excited buyer really wants this collection of software.

Why is HPE selling what it has been working hard to craft into a sustainable revenue stream with healthy profit margins? The write up reports:

HPE’s software unit generated $3.6 billion in net revenue in 2015, down from $3.9 billion in 2014. The company has said revenue growth in its software unit has been challenged by a market shift toward cloud subscription offerings.

Yep, these numbers will drive potential buyers into a frenzy.

The word in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, is that HPE is eager to find a way to make money, boost the company’s value to shareholders, and plug into to the fluffy cloud opportunities. HPE’s present software may not be the answer for HPE. Another outfit should be able to release a flood of revenue.

One of the goslings (un-named, of course) thought that HPE was going cold turkey to kick its Autonomy habit. The shadow of the search business makes life chilly for the would be technology leader. In an “exclusive” comment to Beyond Search, HPE anticipates victory in its legal flap associated with the purchase of Autonomy for an modest $10 or $11 billion.

We don’t know if our un-named gosling is on the right track, but if HPE sells Autonomy and other assorted gems from its software vault, the difference between what HPE paid for Autonomy and then the amount generated by the sale of Autonomy is only a couple billion dollars.

What’s a few billion dollars for a focused, consistent, well managed outfit like HPE? A pittance I say.

I wonder, “Does the buyer of HPE’s Autonomy-infused bundle recognize the excitement selling search and retrieval will engender?” Sure. These are savvy folks. Generating revenue from proprietary search and content processing software is really easy.

If Google can do, anyone can, right? Oh, Google closed its enterprise search product. Well, what about Palantir? Oh, Palantir relies on open source for findability functions. How about IBM? Oh, shucks, IBM relies on Lucene with home brew code and acquired technology.

As I said, search is easy.

Stephen E Arnold, September 7, 2016

The DNA of AT&T: The Bell Tolls for Google Fiber

September 7, 2016

In the great chain of telecommunications, AT&T (aka Ma Bell) sat at the top of the food chain. Today the DNA of the original Ma Bell lives on its chubby Baby Bell progeny, Verizon and the former Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Company of Oklahoma along with a few other properties like Southwestern Bell.

I read an interesting blog post which I am confident was reviewed by at least one legal eagle, perhaps as many as several dozen. One cannot be too careful, which is one of the twisted copper pair truisms. Those with the sprit of the Young Pioneers are essentially conservative, preferring old fashioned Edison inspired virtues: Kindness, patience, courtly behavior, etc., etc.

pioneer bellBroadband Investment: Not for the Faint of Heart” essentially pats Google on the head and says, “Nice try, kids.” The Alphabet Google thing bought some fiber optic long lines. The Alphabet Google thing wanted to use its fiber to become a reinvigorated version of Ma Bell. Sure, wireless is an interesting technology, the Google apparently assumed that old school infrastructure was not particularly challenging. I recall one Google presentation in which a pizza delivery vehicle was a mobile hot spot. Despite that awareness of wireless, the AT&T write up points out that old school phone work is different from selling ads to users of an online search engine. But the fiber thing and the wireless thing combined may be as tricky a problem to solve as death. Alphabet Google’s X Labs bet is that immortality is within reach. Perhaps mind uploading via Google fiber will do the trick for some Googlers. Sounds more digital than cyonics, which reminds me of my mother’s freezer filled with frost covered packages of mystery food.

I highlighted this passage:

Building reliable, ubiquitous high-speed broadband connectivity is tough.   It takes an enormous commitment of capital and resources and a highly-skilled and capable work force. Yet AT&T has been at it for over 140 years. Between 2011 and 2015, while Google Fiber was cutting its teeth on fiber, AT&T invested over $140B in its network, building to over one million route miles of fiber globally and deploying ultra-high-speed fiber-fed GigaPower broadband services, reaching over a hundred cities. Along the way, AT&T spent over $13B with minority, women and disabled veteran-owned suppliers in 2015 alone.

I formulated several questions based on this excellent write up. (Full disclosure. Gentle reader, I was a contractor to Bell Labs and then to Bellcore for a number of years.)

  1. Does Google understand the nature of the put down AT&T presents in the blog post?
  2. Does Google accept the fact that the DNA of AT&T and Verizon spawn powerful antigens. These antigens may not make the Alphabet Google life form live without some troublesome outbreaks of psoriasis or worse?
  3. Does Google care what an old fashioned outfit based on physical switches, tubes, and low bandwidth copper thinks, says, or does?

I will leave you to ponder these issues. In the meantime, the disruptive forces of the Alphabet Google thing seem not to trouble what seems to be a tough, gritty, and resilient Ma Bell. I think in Harrod’s Creek we visualize Ma Bell with a chewed, unlit cigar clenched in her teeth. But we can confuse Ma Kettle with Ma Bell.

Stephen E Arnold, September 7, 2016

Google and Social Media: A Trail of Tears

September 6, 2016

I read “Why Alphabet Inc Is Killing Google Plus.” The write up was a surprise here in Harrod’s Creek. Our operating assumption was that Facebook kicked Google Plus to the curb years ago. Nevertheless, an intrepid analyst flipped open a paper road map and retraced the journey of the + or Plus service. By the way, how do those searches for Google + work?

The write up reports:

Google has a rather long list of social media also-rans, including Orkut, Reader, Wave, and more recently, Buzz, the ill-fated Gmail-based social network that imploded following a catastrophic user policy violation and a class action lawsuit.

We thought that YouTube is Google’s new social play. It’s Facebook killer perhaps?

We learned:

Alphabet Inc did little to differentiate Google Plus from existing social media sites, and the result was that the platform ended up looking little more than a Facebook clone. The company did outthink Facebook on some aspects, notably Circles, a feature that allows users to better customize the privacy of what they share. But FB was no slouch in the “me-too” game either, and soon introduced a similar feature. In the end, there was little reason for people to switch from FB to Google Plus. Additionally, Google’s playbook of tying Gmail, Google Drive and a host of apps to Google Plus did not go down well with most users. People still remembered the Buzz fallout, and many were jittery about letting Google use their personal data to tailor its ads.

Yep, but ancient history at least in mobile Internet time.

My view is that Google Plus or + was a “me too” play. These, if they work, often yield up to 60 percent of the market number one’s revenue. If they flop, users go elsewhere.

But which is the bigger failure:

  1. Google big bets like solving death and Loon balloons
  2. Google Fiber
  3. Google’s social media efforts?

Looking at Google’s revenue it appears that Google remains a one trick pony. Even more troubling is that the DNA of that particular steed comes from the Yahooligans’ GoTo.com/Overture.com inspiration.

Net net: Google is struggling with innovation just as it has for more than a decade. Social me toos, solving death, becoming the new Bell Telephone—great ideas, just expensive ones which have not performed.

We love the Alphabet Google thing. We love the notion of objective search results. We love personalized ads. We love the internal systems.

We love everything except the company’s inability to diversify its revenue. Now the GOOG is in cost saving mode, and it may be too little too late.

Stephen E Arnold, September 6, 2016

Business Intelligence: Four Generalized Hurdles

August 30, 2016

Business intelligence, like government intelligence, may be an oxymoron. Nevertheless, doing “intelligence” is a big business. That’s why Palantir Technologies is hoping lawyers can crack open the US Army’s coin purse.

I read “4 Huge Challenges Facing CIOs and IT Leaders.” I quite like the use of “chief information officer” and “information technology leaders” in the headline. CIOs seems to be struggling to meet their budgets, deal with security issues, and attend conferences. The notional “information technology leader” is busy reading reports from mid tier consulting firms, dealing with the all-too-frequent emergencies, and removing malware from senior executives’ computing devices.

The write up identifies four “challenges” these busy professionals must convert to opportunities in their spare time. What are these “challenges”? Here’s my translation of MBA speak into Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky lingo:

  1. Executives have to write checks and push aside bureaucratic baloney to that business intelligence can move forward. If the top dog doesn’t care, well, you can always check out Facebook and read Reddit.
  2. Get something done when  you said you would complete the task. Good luck with that. Meetings, approvals, crashes [see the comment above about information technology professionals’ time allocation], and software that simply doesn’t work are enemies of finishing a job. I assume that the people performing business intelligence know what they are doing most of the time when they are not sure what the objective of the project is.
  3. Normalizing, vetting, and processing data. Yikes, this challenge has been in the fast lanes of the information superhighway for more than 50 years. Hey, that XML is just great, isn’t it?
  4. Getting users to use the business intelligence outputs. If the users don’t understand the outputs, don’t trust the outputs, or prefer their own methods—up date that link graph thing on Microsoft LinkedIn.

When one steps back from this list of challenges, the issues are not new. The more chaotic the business environment is perceived to be, the less likely converting these opportunities into a career win may be.

Even when a system does deliver useful outputs like Palantir Gotham, getting acceptance is a very difficult challenge. A person without the resources of Palantir might find the conversion of these challenges a bit of a challenge in itself.

May I suggest that the solution is to start small, demonstrate value, and move forward? How popular is that approach? Not very.

Stephen E Arnold, August 30, 2016

Technical Debt and Technical Wealth

August 29, 2016

I read “Forget Technical Debt. Here’s How to Build Technical Wealth.” Lemons? Make lemonade. Works almost every time.

The write up begins with a reminder that recent code which is tough to improve is a version of legacy code. I understand. I highlighted this statement:

Legacy code isn’t a technical problem. It’s a communication problem.

I am not sure I understand. But let’s move forward in the write up. I noted this statement:

“It’s the law that says your codebase will mirror the communication structures across your organization. If you want to fix your legacy code, you can’t do it without also addressing operations, too. That’s the missing link that so many people miss.”—Andrea Goulet, CEO of Corgibytes

So what’s the fix for legacy code an an outfit like Delta Airlines or the US air traffic control system or the US Internal Revenue Service or a Web site crafted in 1995?

I highlighted this advice:

Forget debt, build technical wealth.

Very MBA-ish. I trust MBAs. Heck, I have affection for some, well, one or two. The mental orientation struck me as quite Wordsworthian:

Stop thinking about your software as a project. Start thinking about it as a house you will live in for a long time…

Just like with a house, modernization and upkeep happens in two ways: small, superficial changes (“I bought a new rug!”) and big, costly investments that will pay off over time (“I guess we’ll replace the plumbing…”). You have to think about both to keep your product current and your team running smoothly. This also requires budgeting ahead — if you don’t, those bigger purchases are going to hurt. Regular upkeep is the expected cost of home ownership. Shockingly, many companies don’t anticipate maintenance as the cost of doing business.

Okay, let’s think about legacy code in something like a “typical” airline or a “typical” agency of the US Executive Branch. Efforts have been made over the last 20 years to improve the systems. Yet these outfits, like many commercial enterprises, are a digital Joseph’s coat of many systems, software, hardware, systems, and methods. The idea is to keep the IRS up and running; that is, good enough to remain dry when it rains and pours.

There is, in my opinion, not enough money to “fix” the IRS systems. If there were money, the problem of code written by many hands over many years is intractable. The idea for “menders” is a good one. But where does one find enough menders to remediate the systems at a big outfit.

Google’s approach is to minimize “legacy” code in some situations. See “Google Is in a Vicious Build Retire Cycle.”

The MBA charts, graphs and checklists do not deliver wealth. The approach sidesteps a very important fact. There are legacy systems which, if they crash, are increasingly difficult to get back up and running. The thought of remediating the systems coded by folks long since retired or deceased is something that few people, including me, have a desire to contemplate. Legacy code is a problem, and there is no quick, easy, or business school thinking fix I know about.

Maybe somewhere? Maybe someplace? Just not in Harrod’s Creek.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2016

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