SKUs me, Mr Chief Software Architect

Dear Mr Chief Software Architect of Microsoft: We can appreciate that you are a busy man. Building the next generation of enterprise computing infrastructure is obviously hard work and we would not want to distract you too much.

Dear Mr Chief Software Architect of Microsoft:

We can appreciate that you are a busy man. Building the next generation of enterprise computing infrastructure is obviously hard work and we would not want to distract you too much from your ongoing efforts to save the planet from evils of information chaos.

Frankly, I'm not sure how we all get through the day without instantaneously sharing every piece of vital information with everyone we work with, but we're sure that once we can the world will be a more secure place. And as you yourself have pointed out, the work to reach one degree of separation and achieve information nirvana is akin to the decade-long effort it took to put a man on the moon.

For the record, the industry is making pretty good progress. Although it hasn't come anywhere near accomplishing the hyperbole that you threw around about web services two years ago, the fact remains that web services have already saved IT organisations millions of dollars in integration costs. Given enough time, we're all sure that web services will soon move beyond the four walls of an enterprise and start to have a real impact on individuals.

The other key thing about web services and .Net, of course, is that it gives people a layer of abstraction that will shield applications from the coding sins of the past. We know you don't like to admit that under the user interface, Windows architecture is an ugly thing to behold that explains why things break frequently and accounts for all the security holes.

But the real reason we are writing this letter is to bring your attention to a more mundane matter that is driving just about everybody who does business with Microsoft crazy. You see, it has to do with all those people running around the Microsoft campus wearing different coloured golf shirts. Each colour identifies an employee with a different product group within Microsoft; and most employees are more loyal to the product group than they are to Microsoft or the customer. That attitude makes it hard for us customers to sort through all the SKUs in order to figure out what it is we need to buy in order to get something done.

Now we know you are sensitive about the topic of bundling, given all the legal interest in your business practices. But what you need to do in the short term is come up with a more modular form of the enterprise server that turns the vast majority of these product groups into features of the server that can be turned on when needed.

You see, most people don't know what they are going to need over time, so rather then having to buy 10 to 15 different products, it would be a lot easier to just turn on an existing feature when the customer needs it. Of course, this server would have to be architected in a way that would allow customers to insert a product from another vendor in its place, but contrary to recent testimony by your employees we all know that such an architecture can be created.

So please take a minute from your busy day, collect all those golf shirts on campus, and give them to the homeless. Then think about delivering some real IT solutions rather than an endless stream of tools that come with incomprehensible directions.

Vizard is editor in chief of US IDG publication InfoWorld. Send letters for publication in Computerworld NZ to Computerworld Letters.

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