Midrange IT Professionals Working Overtime, Bigtime
July 17, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
When you sell appliances that help automate system and security administration and help desk operations, as Kace does with its Kbox appliances, then you have to bring on home the effect of such appliances on the everyday life of system administrators and help desk operators if you want to make a sale. And to that end, Kace has commissioned a study to see how much overtime IT employees are being asked to do on a regular basis.
The basic idea, of course, is that because you don’t use the Kbox appliances, you have to work late, and that if you can get your company to buy such appliances, you won’t have to stay late so much. (The Kbox appliances are, by the way, based on the open source FreeBSD Unix variant for X86 and X64 platforms, but can be used to manage all manner of PCs, servers, and network devices; it is targeted mostly at Windows, which dominates the SMB space.)
In any event, Kace commissioned a survey by King Research, which surveyed 249 customers who had a total of 760,000 computers that they were managing. For the purposes of this study, the terms small, medium, and large refer to the number of boxes under management, not revenue size or employee counts. Small means less than 100 nodes, medium means between 100 and 5,000 nodes, and large means more than 5,000 nodes.
About 87 percent of the IT professionals working at midrange shops said that they had to work outside of normal office hours–evenings, weekends, and holidays–to do normal, routine IT administration tasks that they should be able to do during normal business hours but cannot find the time to do. Only 66 percent of the executives at small companies said they had the same problem, but about 80 percent of those at large enterprises said that they, too, were working late. The survey, which was admittedly done on a very small sample even if it was on a large number of machines under management, also indicated that 82 percent of large enterprises had tools to automate the management and administration of their machines (imagine if they didn’t have such tools), while only 54 of midrange shops had such tools and only 29 percent of small companies did.
While this study does not directly apply to OS/400 and i5/OS platforms, OS/400 shops certainly do have a lot of Windows servers and almost exclusively use Windows desktops, so the same types of problems apply. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of server administration by platform and to see if there is, as IBM would have us believe, an advantage when it comes to ease of administration when using i5/OS compared to Windows, Linux, and Unix, and moreover, if running Windows, Linux, or Unix on the i5 servers in conjunction with i5/OS actually makes it easier to manage–and most importantly, if so, by how much? While IBMers–many of them in charge of marketing strategy–keep telling me they don’t want to focus on the numbers, but to use viral marketing to help sell the i5, the viral marketing has to have some content. People like iPods because they are excellent devices, not just because they are cool. Being excellent, stylish, and easy to use is what made them cool, in fact.
If the i5 means that people don’t have to work weekends, then this is an excellent marketing point, and one that I tried to make when I spoke on a panel at the OCEAN technical conference last week. The first question we were all asked is, “Is the i5 sexy again?” I raised the issue that I didn’t think that computers were sexy at all, as much as I love them, and that I was a bit worried about people who might think that they were. But, I added, what is possibly sexy about the i5 is that it may let you leave work at 6 p.m. to see your wife or girlfriend, and that is indeed sexy. To which someone in the front row said, “Where do you work?” I didn’t say I was done with work at 6 p.m.–that only happens a few times a year. And like most of you, I work long nights and most weekends. And no one is automating newsletter writing–at least not yet, I hope. I am not quite ready to drive a cab in New York.