Why are people paying 3 to 5 million for configuration management software? 3

Posted by Adam Jacob Fri, 31 Aug 2007 19:18:00 GMT

In John Willis’ response to Puppet, iLike and Infrastructure 2.0, he poses the question:

Maybe I should ask this one more timeā€¦ and why are people paying in excess of 3 to 5 million a year for this kind of software?

I think the answer revolves around two things.

People don’t realize that manual systems administration is a problem until it’s too late.

By “people” I mean everyone involved… many excellent systems administrators just don’t see the need for it. (“Why would I spend two months building out a configuration management infrastructure when I could just spend a week building my current systems by hand?”)

The result of this is that automation comes in too late in the game, after you’ve already got a couple of hundred (or couple of thousand) systems being managed by hand, huge teams of systems administrators, and entire support structures built around doing it by hand. If you’re a growing startup, this winds up impacting your agility and stability as a platform, and you maybe start looking for tools like Puppet to help out. You talk to companies like mine to help, or at least talking to Luke’s own Reductive Labs to help get you running quickly.

If you are the Fortune 1000, it’s another thing altogether. You start to look for a way out, and someone tells you that a software package and 3 to 5 million in licensing and consulting will get you to the end game. In this case, it’s hard to be nimble enough to realize that Open Source provides a better path here.

You have to see it to believe it.

If you ask anyone working in technology whether they want the ability to rebuild the entire infrastructure, from bare metal, in an afternoon the answer is yes.

What follows, though, is “but our infrastructure can’t work that way because of X”. Or “your systems must not be very complex.” As of today, if we took a poll, the majority of enterprise grade IT environments don’t have this kind of functionality. They’ve never even seen it. So they believe you when they say it, but they don’t have any confidence that it will really work out that way for them.

When you realize you must have it, and you already believe that it’s impressively difficult to do, having someone say it will only work with a 3-5 million investment and a fleet of consultants actually affirms what you already believe.

Your own experience tells you it is that hard, and it ought to require all of that investment. You want to believe it.

Lets hope that the growing movement of practical, real, automated infrastructures being built on Open Source software starts to change that perception.