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ziggy (25)

ziggy
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Journal of ziggy (25)

Wednesday April 23, 2003
09:08 AM

Standardizing on Windows

[ #11807 ]

People working at airlines don't like to talk about crashes, not even those affecting their computers.

So it might seem strange to see a major airline turn to Windows, a product much-maligned as crash prone, as the only way to run a successful business. Yet for Jeff Cohen, chief information officer of JetBlue Airways, Windows is the only way to run a successful business--in fact, it's a nearly 100 percent Microsoft software operation. [...]

JetBlue, which operates one of just a few profitable airlines, saw its operating revenue jump 96 percent year over year in the fourth quarter and more than 98 percent for 2002 compared with the previous year. [...]

Cohen's organization would like to take some credit for those margin gains. By standardizing on one operating system and using other Microsoft software, the JetBlue CIO says he cut the company's technical staff by 50 percent. Electronic publishing of pilot manuals, which are available on a cockpit laptop, also helps cut costs. For Cohen, standardization of information technology, like the approach to the planes, is helping to keep JetBlue in the black when other airlines fly in the red.

-- Helping JetBlue see black
(emphasis added)

How do you argue with that logic? IT departments don't exist to keep Sun, IBM, Oracle or Microsoft in the black. They exist to manage corporate information technology and enable the business to function.

Microsoft is the only IT vendor that aims to offer a standardized solution for the entire enterprise -- from the palmtop and the laptop to the backoffice server clusters. (Don't even think about telling me that Linux hits all of those targets -- we all know that Linux is anything but standardized.) In a sense, they're also the only IT vendor who sees this problem and aims to solve it. Sun? Java? They only address aspects of the problem -- commoditize the OS until it's a non-issue. But the CIO needs to worry about managing every OS installed in his enterprise...

Do the gains from a single standard platform outway the costs of using better technology? Sure, there are risks to homogeneity, and yes, there are more security issues than average when dealing with Microsoft software. But none of those risks will ever go away; they can only be hedged. So if you're willing to pay all of those costs, do you still come out ahead by standardizing everything on a single platform?

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  • I seem to remember hearing an old folktale or two whose moral is "never put all your eggs in one basket." ...

  • I have several for-profit and nonprofit clients that feel exactly the same way. It's partly about lock-in (@required_software is only supported on Windows), partly about interoperability (I need to exchange MS documents with other divisions/companies/people), partly about familiarity (I know Windows/Word/Excel/etc) and partly about acheiving economies of scale (I only need to send my people to one training classes, I only need one person on pager duty, I can hire consultants more easily, etc). Oh, and the
  • Good project management and good people on the shop floor will lead to profits. Using Linux could make both of these easier but isn't magic pixie dust. Windows can make this easier or harder depending on how lucky or fault tolerant you are.

    I think these guys should be talking about their project management rather than their windows standardisation which usually only really offers benefits to a handful of middle management and purchasing suits.

    Linux offers benefits closer to the shop floor that these peo

    --

    @JAPH = qw(Hacker Perl Another Just);
    print reverse @JAPH;
  • by jordan (120) on 2003.04.23 11:47 (#19379) Homepage Journal

    Don't take the CIO at his word here. Note that Southwest Airlines, which has a similar business model to Jet Blue, and has been doing it a hell of a lot longer, has always turned a profit also. I have no idea what Southwest uses in their IT department.

    The CIO has to say something good about his decision to standardize on MS, right? It was his decision, after all.

    The fact that so much of the Web is run by Unix/Apache, so many palmtops are Palm OS, so many corporate databases are Oracle says something about economies of scale to be had with non-MS products.

    Anyone thinking long term will realize that if you completely standardize on one vendor, that one vendor could double their price to you tomorrow and you'd have to pay it. Anyone following MS pricing, which goes up in a recession, realizes what can happen.

    You can standardize on MS clients, Unix or IBM Mainframes in the back office and Palm on the palmtops and have similar cost savings. After all, you really wouldn't want the same people supporting clients, big databases and palmtops anyway, so you might as well put the best product in where it makes sense.

    There is some argument for interoperability, but be careful not to overstate the advantages. Further, with one vendor everywhere, you are in an inflexible position if you find an important technology becomes available and your vendor isn't doing it yet, or well. Think about having standardized on MS in 1995 and suddenly finding out you needed a Web presence.

    • The CIO has to say something good about his decision to standardize on MS, right? It was his decision, after all.

      Yes, and it appears that he made a sound business decision, based on a handful of objective metrics that impact the bottom line. He's bucking the common wisdom that (1) you need multiple platforms to run an enterprise and (2) an all Microsoft shop is a solution for managers who don't know any better. These were conscious decisions he took for JetBlue, and interestingly enough, it seems to

        • Yes, and it appears that he made a sound business decision, based on a handful of objective metrics that impact the bottom line.

        Appearances can be deceptive. This article is not exactly bristling with objective metrics.

        This CIO chose Office 2003 over XP for its XML support. XML support that is mostly a marketing checkoff as, by all accounts, it lacks interoperability and formatting information. Sounds like he's got a One Microsoft Way story to tell and he's pushing it for all it's worth.

        • He's bucking
        • Appearances can be deceptive. This article is not exactly bristling with objective metrics.

          I'll grant that this article is hardly brimming with real information. Yet I still find myself intrigued with the idea that eliminating non-MS platforms from an enterprise could possibly reduce overall IT costs. Specifically, that the same economic factors that aid jetBlue and Southwest to save money by standardizing on a single model of aircraft may also be a factor in IT.

          If Linux/Apache delivers better p

  • Jetblue may have slashed their IT staff in half but what happens when the next round of patches and licensing comes arround?

    As was pointed out, academia and NPO's typically get deals on pricing because MS wants to have some nice PR once in awhile and to give students their first (not always true) sample for free. Businesses don't usually get such nice deals.

    Standardization helped out lot, I don't think they saved so much money because it was MS. What would have happened if their SQL Server installation wasn't patched up and Slammer came around?

    From my standpoint MS has only 1 truly killer app, Exchange. No one else has a calendaring app that compares. I would love for an alternative to use as leverage but there really isn't, yet.

    I would love to replace all of the pc's I admin with Linux or BSD but there is a lot of software that hasn't been ported to Linux/BSD that the students use (ANSYS and ABAQUS leap to mind as well as just about any enterprise level CAD package: CATIA, Pro/E, I-DEAS, Unigraphics).

    Of course I could be wrong.
    • Jetblue may have slashed their IT staff in half but what happens when the next round of patches and licensing comes arround?

      See my (rather lengthy) response above [perl.org].

      I still assert that it is possible for jetBlue's CIO to have accounted for licensing issues, vulnerabilities and upgrades and still come out ahead on the bottom line through a streamlined IT infrastructure.

      I don't have his numbers in front of me, nor do I have numbers from similarly sized and similarly tasked IT departments, so I will not

      • It would be interesting to see a cost breakdown. The interesting bits being licensing and upgrades.

        Also the "application stack" is truly the weakness in the OSS system. While a lot of the stack is there there a probably some that are vital to jetBlue's business.

        If I would hazard a guess the largest outlay of money is for apps that jetBlue uses. I would think that the biggest chunk would be scheduling software unless they're using someone else's Sabre system but I would think that someone coded up an API t
  • The CIO's argument hinges on the assumption that Microsoft software fits together into some grand design. In my experience this is simply false. If you buy all the products they put out in one calendar year there is good synergy. Three years down the road, it's a very, very different story. Microsoft in particular keeps doing this because they rush to adopt certain technology paradigms, badly, and then spend the next several years undoing their mistakes. But the problem with any single-vendor shop is tha
    • The CIO's argument hinges on the assumption that Microsoft software fits together into some grand design.

      To some extent, he's right.

      First, concede the desktop. Windows, Office, VisualStudio, Outlook, etc. are the corporate standard in 99.44% of the corporate world.

      Next, the department level. Standard capabilities like file/print sharing, email and web serving can be performed by anything slightly more powerful than a PalmOS device. Most companies standardize on Windows here out of ignorance; je