Informing Decision-Making for Customers at the Crossroads in Their Server-Purchasing Choices
Enterprise customers at the crossroads of their server platform investments must weigh numerous considerations.
To name a few: What server technologies are best suited to particular workloads? Which platform will deliver the desired security, reliability and cost savings while interoperating smoothly with disparate technologies? And what can be learned about Windows Server and competitive offerings such as Linux and UNIX from third-party analysts and from customers who have had direct experience with the alternatives?
To help customers answer these and other questions, Microsoft today launched a new Web site, Windows Server/Compare. Designed to help enterprises with their server purchasing decisions, and provide customers with real-world examples of comparative evaluations, the new site is an evolution of the Microsoft “Get the Facts” Web property.
For more information on the new site and the changes in the marketplace that led to its creation, PressPass spoke with Ryan Gavin, director of Platform Strategy at Microsoft.
PressPass: How are enterprise customers thinking about Microsoft and Linux or open-source software (OSS) today?
Gavin: There’s been quite a dramatic evolution in the IT marketplace. As recently as four or five years ago, Linux was considered a relatively new alternative to existing platforms like Windows Server, Netware, UNIX and Mainframe. At the time, there was a lot of discussion about Linux and open-source software, but customers were hard pressed to find firsthand, practical information to help inform their decision-making. Today, a lot of the ambiguity about Linux and OSS in general has been addressed, and customers are reverting to the same type of pragmatic decision-making that they’ve always used. Not surprisingly, the things that mattered to them yesterday still matter today — things like reliability, security, total cost of ownership (TCO), interoperability and manageability.
PressPass: What can customers expect from Microsoft when it comes to making informed technology decisions?
Gavin: The type of information customers tend to ask for really depends on where the organization is in the technology evaluation process and what that specific individual’s role is in the decision-making process. Broadly speaking, IT organizations at the beginning of a purchasing decision really want to have some sort of validation at the platform level. How does a given platform perform against the fundamentals — such as reliability, application availability, skills to support, and security? They also want to hear from their industry peers to better understand what the experience of other customers similar to them has been.
Beyond that, you start to get into a very specific, detailed assessment of how the technology or solution maps to that customer’s particular requirements. The customer is evaluating technical integration, deployment specifications, standards support, application integration and interoperability, as well as looking forward to planning their future technology road map.
So, to answer your question, while we work to provide customers with information that spans that gamut of decision-making criteria, we’ve learned that what customers appreciate most is the customer-to-customer connection. This is arguably the most trusted source of information, and we have a wealth of customer insights and experience that we can share broadly.
PressPass: How has Microsoft evolved its approach to Linux and OSS?
Gavin: I think there are three key points here. First, we’re continuing to work extremely hard every day to provide the best value for customers with Windows Server over the alternatives. Simply put, we believe that Windows Server provides greater business value and lower long-term costs for customers than competing platforms, including Linux. We always want Windows Server to be the operating system of choice.
Second, we understand many of our customers operate in mixed environments. In the enterprise in particular, heterogeneous environments are a de facto standard, so we are committed to working together with our customers, partners and the industry to provide solutions that meet customer needs via interoperability.
Third, it’s important to clarify that we don’t compete with OSS per se, but with some products or technologies that may come out of open source. There will naturally be products that compete with Microsoft products, from commercial or open-source companies. Open source is a software development model; it’s a way of licensing technology, and it’s something that Microsoft participates in. We have open-source projects, an open-source community site Port 25 and even an open-source software lab here on campus that does a lot of work with the community, including looking at how we can improve interoperability. We’ve evolved our approach through open-source partnerships with companies like Novell, SugarCRM, Zend, MySQL, XenSource and SpikeSource, as well as through our own technologies and Web sites like CodePlex, which is a source-code sharing site for Windows-based projects.
PressPass: What information will be available to customers on the new Compare site?
Gavin: When we launched our “Get the Facts” Web site in 2003, we focused on providing customers with access to third-party facts and evidence to help them cut through the hype about Linux and OSS in the marketplace at that time. On the Compare site you’ll see a much richer, more dynamic conversation with a broader cross-section of information to help customers as they make pragmatic investment decisions — whether they’re trying to better understand how various platforms compare against broad business requirements like reliability, security, TCO, or even more specific comparisons like side-by-side demos, deployment best practices, and so on.
One of the things you’ll see in spades, however, is customers talking to customers. This is one of the most powerful elements of the site because, frankly, while customers are interested in what we have to say, they’re really interested in what their peers who have gone through similar experiences have to say. They value the access we provide to other CIOs and the candid interviews about the decisions other customers have made, including the implementations they’ve completed and the results they’ve achieved.
For instance, how did the state of Illinois’ IT department save the state US$10.5 million over five years while also delivering improved security and communications? The Compare site includes many of these customer references in a variety of formats — from formal case study reviews and less formal CIO interviews to webcast discussions and video summaries. All of this content highlights scenarios where customers have gone through fact-based decision-making processes and rolled out implementations — whether it’s looking at Windows vs. Linux, Windows vs. UNIX or even the mainframe.
Swiss Air is another great example. In an incredibly tough business climate, they are looking for technology to improve their ability to serve customers while driving down overall cost of delivery. What did they learn when they performed a deep analysis of platform alternatives? Why did they choose Windows Server? Sharing these experiences is a big part of what the Compare site is about.
PressPass: How does this complement the interoperability efforts between Microsoft and open-source vendors?
Gavin: We’re making sure our platform is accessible to the open-source community — to developers and independent software vendors writing open-source applications. We want a diverse group of developers to be able to take advantage of this amazing Windows Server platform that spans the entire IT industry. We are working hard to help ensure the open-source community can be successful on the Windows platform, while also working on the product interoperability that our enterprise and midmarket customer might expect.
People often think of Microsoft and OSS as polar opposites, but in reality OSS is another method for us to find and present solutions to customers. That’s why we not only actively participate in open-source development, but also participate with the community through sites like Port 25. In fact, we recently launched a new site called microsoft.com/opensource where people who are interested in OSS can understand our position, including how we collaborate, how we integrate and how we can amplify open-source efforts.
PressPass: How will the Compare site forward the company’s evolving competitive strategy?
Gavin: We are going to continue to work to help demonstrate to customers the power and capabilities of the Windows Server platform versus the alternatives that are available to them. At the same time, we’re going to make sure that the Windows Server platform supports the vibrant ecosystem of open-source developers and ISVs who wish to take advantage of it. We’re also going to do an increasingly good job of helping customers see that value through the lens of other customers, through third-party facts, and through insights we’ve had over the last four to five years of working deeply with customers and analysts in this space who are going through these comparative and fact-based decisions. And we’re going to continue to build bridges with open-source developers.
PressPass: Where can customers go to get started on this new site?
Gavin: The new Compare site is located at www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/compare. It includes great information resources for server OS-focused evaluations, as well as links to additional hands-on technical resources.
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