What does “Enterprise ready” mean?

“Enterprise Ready” means, in the end, that you have a vendor to blame if something goes wrong.

Let’s assume I spend a million bucks of company money on software from major vendors and pay a few million more per year on maintenance and support. Now let’s assume something goes horribly, horribly wrong — we’re dead in the water for a day, for example, or our online stock trading application crashes at market open. I have spent millions of dollars on high end software from top tier vendors, who all work very hard to get us back up and running. Eventually it’s all sorted out, and everyone is satisfied. I keep my job, and when it’s time to renew the support contracts the vendors remind the senior execs about how they pulled our ass out of the fire. Total cost: Let’s snatch a number out of mid air and say $12MM annually on software and support, and a $6MM outage. $18MM total.

Now let’s assume we go another route. We use all free, open-source software and save millions of dollars.  The same “something” happens, but now there ARE no vendors to call. We, our loyal, courageous and highly skilled technical staff, work tirelessly to solve the problem. We’re up in HALF the time it would have taken the vendors to rescue us. Total cost: a $3MM outage, plus say the two mil I spent on consultants and contractors to implement everything. We just saved $13MM, woo-hoo!

All the blame for the outage now falls upon me, the hapless putz whose idea it was to use all this “home-brewed” hacker stuff the vendors warned our CEO, CIO, CFO and everyone else about. It matters not what happened, why it happened, nor how well we handled it. A few stockholders (who coincidentally also own stock in the software vendors) file a class action suit. Blame is assessed, disembodied heads demanded. I’m out on my ass, along with anyone associated with me, probably my boss and maybe his boss as well.  I can’t find another tech job because it’s all my fault my company took a three million dollar outage.

You think I’m making this up? Think again. There’s a reason big companies pay loads of money for next-to-useless support contracts from Red Hat and Novell to run SLES and RHEL, instead of using free Linux distros. And there’s a reason they spend tens of millions (in the case of a large company) for software and services from Microsoft, IBM, BMC, HP, BEA, EMC, Oracle and all the rest. And for the most part it’s got nothing to do with technical considerations.

It’s one of the lessons we learn when working in an “enterprise” environment.  Of course no one ever wants to talk about the real reasons; we talk about “value propositions” and “core competencies” instead.