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August 06, 2013

Why Shutting Down TechNet is Not a Problem for IT Pros?

Change-sameWhile reading the news yesterday I stumbled upon the following article in Puget Sound Business Journal - Why is Microsoft alienating its biggest customers? IT pros want TechNet back. Everybody has the right to complain and sign a petition but more important is to understand the message Microsoft sends. Some think of it as "Microsoft doesn't care about IT Pros anymore", and they may be right; but the message sounds to me more like "Hey, IT Pros - the world is changing!" Although I think Microsoft could be a little bit more responsive to the complaints, I don't think IT Pros should be so worried. Here is why.

The Problem With The Downloads


While $349 annually for the whole collection of Microsoft software is a very attractive price I think free software is a better option. Although slow, Microsoft showed its commitment to change in the last few years. Although I don't think that Microsoft will ever release Windows (client or server) under Apache license they will continue to provide Beta versions for evaluation for free. 
Next, the price Microsoft charges for software will continue to get lower. Just compare how much you paid for Windows 7 license and how much you paid for Windows 8 license - quite significant difference. I do expect the same to happen to other products that are in the consumer category (Office at least).
Last, if you still insist to have unlimited downloads of everything Microsoft then you can subscribe for MSDN. Yes, it is a few hundred dollars more annually but you also get more value from it and… wait! you can now claim yourself as a developer!

The Problem With The Installations


I will admit that I do install software for evaluation quite often. And I have to admit that I hate it! Installing and configuring of software is a huge waste of time if your end goal is to see whether it will work or not. I would rather click a button and have everything I need running in few minutes without the need to download/install/configure. And this is one of the promises of the cloud - you can get the software you need up and running in minutes, do your testing and move on. Well, it may cost few bucks to run it for a day but it is not such a big deal. And, who knows - Microsoft may decide to offer free compute time for evaluation purposes. 

The Problem With The IT Pros


The biggest problem I think though is the IT Pros themselves. They still look at their jobs and responsibilities as the people who install software. It is time for IT Pros to understand that in is near the day when software will install the software, and they need to think how to position themselves in this environment. The best option for them is to work closely with the Business Groups and provide the IT services needed to support the business or to transition to a DevOps role that again will provide value for the business.

It is clear that Microsoft understands that the world is changing and the IT as it used to be is nearing its end. It is time also for the IT Pros to understand that just installing software is not a value proposition in the enterprise.

Comments

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Chris

The MSDN subscription that gives equivalent access to software products costs almost $6000 the first year, and over $2000 to renew, that is a bit more than 'a few hundred dollars more."

I am lucky to not be directly affected anymore (I am a consultant at a gold level Microsoft Partner) as I am provided with the MSDN Ultimate subscription through my employer. A short time ago this would not have been a reality for me, and isn't for a large number of the IT Pro's I know.

Susan

"Microsoft may decide to offer free compute time for evaluation purposes" Exactly what I am asking for as a shareholder and what they should have been doing. Instead of shutting down technet, give ITpros the same offer that is provided on MSDN and give a credit for time on Azure. Once there the ITpros will see there are virtual machines to deploy. BUT...and here's the but... please do realize and recognize that we are moving from legacy systems to new systems. So please do not throw out the bath water and the baby and the bath tub by throwing out this access to legacy systems and testing in our own labs and in our own means. I cannot recreate by existing server in virtual labs. I cannot test out migration strategies to the cloud with 90 day evals. A virtual lab of the product I'm running does not recreate the AD structure and deployment I have.

The world is indeed changing. So change it not unplug it or throw it away. Just last May an announcement was made that Office 365 was coming to Technet. Yes! I said let people get familiar with it. Instead what did they do not two months later? Kill it off.

Microsoft is not helping their own transition to the cloud by the killing off of Technet.

I still need to install software in order to make sure where it goes next.

If you don't understand that, you don't understand the state of the marketplace right now.

And for a shareholder of Microsoft, their recent actions here, really concern me.

ToddySM

@Chris: You are correct with the price difference but may expectation is (which may turn out to be wrong of course) is that this will change in the future else Microsoft will really lose a lot. However if you work in an enterprise those licenses should be covered in the Enterprise Agreement or your employer as you mentioned.

@Susan: I assume you already have licenses for the software that you want to migrate from so you don't need those. As for the ones you want to migrate to 90 days is pretty long time. I think the biggest problem with IT is that simple projects there drag for months and even years and it seems this is a standard. From my point of view (and this is my own opinion) you can do any evaluation in 90 days.
Last, I think that you have bigger things to worry as MS shareholder than shutting down TechNet. Shutting down redundant service like TechNet is actually good for shareholders but remove a big chunk of expenses like infrastructure, maintenance and personnel. My bigger worry is that MS doesn't seem to get traction with their consumer business.

Chris

@ToddySM
90 Days might seem like a fairly long time, until you realize how under-staffed most IT org's are. For instance It took a former company 2 years to fully test Exchange 2010 and migrate to it, mainly due to required integration with the phone system. So, in that time we would have had to rebuild the test infrastructure 4 times. And hope/pray that we rebuilt it the exact same way every time. At my current employer, I keep a full ConfigMgr lab in vm's on my laptop. I use this to demo to clients what they can gain for putting the product into their environments. If I had to tear it down and rebuild it every 180 days, I would frankly stop keeping it around.

If they want to reduce "redundant" infrastructure on the back end, just give us an MSDN option that does not come with Visual Studio and costs the same as TechNet.

ToddySM

@Chris: I am with you on the understaffing but isn't this the same for any other profession? I constantly hear this from IT, developers, testers, accountants, HR people and so on. However it is sad to read that IT projects take several years. And this is the main reason I've heard business people want to use the cloud and bypass IT. Hence I think IT should look for ways to get this down to reasonable timeframes - nobody (even Microsoft) thinks in years anymore when it comes to technology.
And, please - you don't need to educate me what is involved in upgrading 1000s of client machines or migrating TBs of data - been there, done that ;)

Susan

In the consultant world we don't always have the licenses and products our clients have. Come into the business right now and you won't have a copy of SBS 2003/SBS 2008 to test migrations. So many times I have posted in the forums when a consultant have asked for copies of SBS 2008 when the client lost them, scratched the media and I ask them "do you have access to Technet because as long as you have the client's key code, for SBS the media on technet is the same exact media as oem/retail [this is unique to the SBS product other skus are not like this].
So no, don't assume we have media.

There is no eval software for older media in order to test migration issues so this idea of a 90 day eval is not valid.

Given the fact that technet can be purchased on a VL license for three years and thus will have to stay up that long, the Technet infrastructure isn't going away that soon.

Ned=A

ToddySM
I am surprised that you think that only Enterprises have complex environments to model.
I am also surprised that you feel TechNet has "Major costs" in infrastructure and maintenance. A flag field associated with a DL file won't break MS bank accounts and a TechNet.MS... on a network device hardly is a maintenance load, so there is only the WebPage, and from what developers are saying about the MSDN redesign, maybe having less time to play with the Website is a positive.

Now I work Information Security. Many "Not Yet" enterprise class businesses can't afford security staff, and so hire services. And we have to set up very complex labs to perform testing for certification, (PCI, PII, HIPPA, ISO, etc.) and for contractual obligations in B2B and B2C contracts just to name a few. 90 days won't touch being long enough for this testing. Then there is Security Patch testing, which takes only days, but happens nearly continuously, year round, at least 16 and up to 24 tests annually. If those labs had to be rebuilt every 90 days, patch cycles would be missed. As developer centric as the world is, security makes or breaks many a business, my potential customers or those of my colleagues or for those who have staff, my colleagues there.

TechNet is currently the only viable, legal way which nears being cost effective for us. A customer, in the "not yet" enterprise range can have an environment taking as many as 6 - 10 TechNet Pro subs to model. That is expensive enough, but factor it up to MSDN Subs and you are talking $S35K - $68K just in licenses for non-production software, just to maintain security. Businesses and Customers I have surveyed state flatly that this is cost prohibitive, and many asked my how to avoid the costs. All I can answer is to leave MS for an open source stack. As a long term supporter of, and stockholder in MS, this does not seem satisfactory to me. TechNet costs almost nothing for infrastructure and Mantenance, unless MSDN is dropped too.
Why not let us have the resources we need to keep you all in the developing business. If no one trusts computers anymore, you all are out of jobs too!

Ned Allison (CISSP, CSSLP, CEH, CFE)

zumarek

To all of the above complaining about costs for testing environment, sorry but testing is part of production as such you should pay for full production license. Another option is to trust Microsoft’s updates. For those against cloud and difficulties with testing, nothing prevents you from setting up paid Office365/Azure or otherwise environment mirroring your production and testing without any time trial or other limitations. If you need more than one test environment well see above …
Actually this will benefit you, as you will have “nearly-hot” disaster recovery site.
So overall everybody (perhaps) wins … well for sure The ONE wins 

John D

lol @ "a few hundred dollars more for MSDN"

You don't know what you're talking about.

ToddySM

@John D: The discrepancy in prices was acknowledged in several conversations but thanks for pointing it out here also.

desertfox

This is going to bite MS in the butt. I work for a school district and after a recent wsus/system center install I can definitely say that there has to be someone to install the software that installs the software. The same logic fails occurred when virtualization first started taking off and ppl would say crap like "oh our hardware budgets for maintenance and replacements should go way down..." yeah we got less servers, but we also got more SANs and that quickly filled the gap in our IT spending.

my bosses have been hassling me to consider Chromebooks and going google for cloud/email/productivity. As an MCITP enterprise I fought tooth and nail to keep us a MS shop and justify our VL contracts. If MS takes away TechNet and prevents me from having easy access to their products then I'm done. Google won't provide as rich a feature set but hey I'll be a hero come budget time, and I'll be able to task my staff with other it tasks other than babysitting our MS farms.

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