Saturday, February 19, 2005

Additional Thoughts on Air Force Contracts with Microsoft

I received the February 2005 issue of SC Magazine last week. It features a cover story on the Air Force's Chief Information Officer, John Gilligan, and the $500 million contract consolidation effort that will save the AF $100 million over six years. I commented on this last year and earlier this week.

Now I see that Mr. Gilligan has won the SC Magazine US Editors Award. Ostensibly Mr. Gilligan was given this award because he is working to standardize Microsoft software deployed across the Air Force. I would rather have seen him win the award for making a bold, and more correct, decision to implement a phase-out of Microsoft software. Unfortunately, it seems "no one is fired for buying Microsoft."

Incidentally, prior to becoming AF CIO in 2001, Mr. Gilligan served as CIO of the US Department of Energy -- the same DoE that has scored an F for computer security every year grades have been assessed, including 2000.

Contrast Mr. Gilligan's position with that of Richard Clarke, who is reported (also on Slashdot) to have said this about Microsoft at the RSA conference: "Given their record in the security area, I don't know why anybody would buy from them." I reported on a talk Mr. Clarke gave at RAID 2003, where he made very interesting and candid comments.

We have the Air Force barking up the wrong tree with new Microsoft purchases. The Navy and Marine Corps are stuck with a disfunctional NMCI. I guess this leaves the Army to embark on a bold strategy that leaves the broken enterprise desktop computing model behind? Stay tuned.

4 comments:

John Collins said...

Army of none-
Don't hold your breath waiting on the Army. I'm sure you know the old expression, "Hurry up and wait." Only for this topic, I don't think there will ever be any change. Microsoft is so embedded in DoD it would cost them too much to replace it, not to mention having to training personnel to use new software tools. It is amusing to watch the Army spend so much effort on patching MS systems. It's like putting band-aids on a shotgun blast, or maybe watching some idiot repeatedly try to push open a door that says pull.

NMCI-
I had a buddy who "was" a project manager at EDS on the NMCI project. Basically, he quit because EDS promised more than what they could deliver. He had to sit there and watch it too, screaming "What are you idiots doing?!" Everyone I know that has worked on that project hates it and says it is the worst thing the Navy ever got involved it, besides Tailhook!

Anonymous said...

Are there any examples of "large company successfully and efficiently manages full desktop workstations?" To me, it seems like the larger the computer base, the more need there is for thin clients or at least a distributed environment.

I don't think Mr. Gilligan should be so praised for this contract. First, it hasn't even happened yet...it could be an utter and total failure. Second, Mr. Gilligan should be challenged and criticized for this decision, at least for now.

However, I agree with the above poster. Sometimes a group gets so entrenched in a product (Microsoft), that it is very hard to up and change so drastically. Besides, ultimately all of this has to impress the non-technicaly people in the chain, and Microsoft is a "feel good" name in computing to the layperson. I know in the company I work for, the knee-jerk reaction is to buy anything Microsoft and to react with wide eyes at the mention of something else being better...and it takes superfluous work to reverse that perception when needed.
- LonerVamp

David said...

NMCI

It constantly amazes me when I see posts like this by the computer systems illuminati who look down their noses on anything Microsoft-related. Having been in this business for about 25 years now it shouldn't be a surprise that yet another attack in made by people that are never going to get the fundamental picture of what is going on here. Microsoft may not be the best "technical" software on the market, but what you geeks don't seem to understand is that business decisions aren't made by geeks.

When you consider that the target audience for an enterprise wide deployment are a bunch of 18 to 25 year olds that have other things to do besides operate computers, things like sail ships or fight wars, suddenly this starts to make a little more sense. Most every person coming into the Navy or Marine Corps or the Air Force in the other program can get up to speed on a MS-based machine pretty easily. Computers are supposed to be work aids, not the center of someone's universe.

If the program managers and technical personnel working on these contracts don’t know why they are fielding systems and what their target audience needs, they need to go find work elsewhere. These programs have nothing to do with Microsoft worship and the geeks in the world should start waking up and paying attention to what is really going on. You can sit on the sidelines and snipe and whine about what the rest of the world is doing or you can get involved and try to do something about making things better.

No matter how "superior" your niche product of the week is, if no one knows it you're never going to get market penetration. And as much as you want to complain about how clumsy and bloated MS products are, I challenge any of you to name another software manufacturer that develops OS software to run on as broad a array of hardware as MS does. Don't even try to bring up the unknown number of Unix and Linux variants that groups are tout as the "Holy Grail" of operating systems. They are a dime a dozen and none of them are perfectly or even completely compatible and won’t be as long as they are constantly tinkered on by anyone with a few hours to spare. While this tinkering may be great from a technical point of view, not having a bellybutton to poke when the thing breaks is the real Achilles Heel of all of these variants. Red Hat has the right idea but it’s going to be years before the Linux market shakes out and there is serious competition for MS.

No one in their right minds would deploy an enterprise system this large based on a product coming from a garage somewhere. These are marketing decisions made by people looking at the bottom line. Simplicity in training and universal acceptance are just as important as most any technical argument you can make from a life-cycle point of view. Over the last 25 years I've seen a lot of "good" systems come and go; Amiga, OS/2, CPM, the list goes on; but regardless of what else you think of Bill Gates, the guy is a marketing genius.

David

tweedledeetweedledum said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.