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Howard Marks
Howard Marks
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The Five Stages of IT Grief

As IT professionals, we're all occasionally thrown curve balls by our suppliers. The most recent case is VMware changing its pricing model. When changes like these happen, the Twitterverse and blogosphere go wild with posts from folks who are affected, or are afraid they'll be affected, and those posts follow a pattern very similar to Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' path for the grieving.

The VMware blogging community seems to be putting away the torches and pitchforks over the changes VMware made to its licensing model with vSphere 5. The blog posts I'm reading today have shifted in tone from 'vSphere 5 License. A Very Sad Day' and "VMware's new license model may have admins running to Hyper-V" to "7 reasons why VMware vSphere 5 vRAM licensing is not as bad as it looks" and "Scale up/out and impact of vRAM?!?". The whole process got me thinking about an IT version of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' five stages of grief.

As IT professionals we're all occasionally thrown curve balls by our suppliers. Apple kills off Xserve and Xserve RAID, abandoning its enterprise customers, ending support for Itanium processors. The most recent case is VMware changing its pricing model. When changes like these happen, the Twitterverse and blogosphere go wild with posts from folks who are affected, or are afraid they'll be affected, and those posts follow a pattern very similar to Dr. Kübler-Ross' path for the grieving.

The Five Stages of IT Grief

  • Anger: The first round of tweets and blog posts are all anger and righteous or self-righteous indignation. How could Vendor A do this to us? Don't they know we're the reason they're in business? Don't they owe us lower prices, free upgrades and the like? These posts often include threats to stop doing business with Vendor A (even though the sender's Twitter handle is @VendorAGuru); demands that Vendor A go back to the old model, even if the old model wasn't profitable; and suggestions that Vendor A is just as evil as Microsoft, Oracle, CA or the last vendor to annoy this particular blogger.
  • Take it and like it: In response to the onslaught of vitriol from angry bloggers, a new wave of posts appear telling us that the change isn't all that bad; we didn't need that feature anyway, and we should just eat our peas like the president said. The worst of these are always not from company employees but from those who have their careers, or their egos, invested in the vendor's products. That's right, the fanbois will be glad to respond to a post lamenting the lack of an Apple server by telling you that you're an idiot because you can just buy a third-party bracket for your Mac mini and use it, and it's wall wart power supply, as an enterprise server.
  • Calculation: As folks calm down and cooler heads prevail, we start seeing posts that have embedded spreadsheets showing that the change isn't as dramatic for most users as we first feared. Here's where we also see posts from competitors, and competitors' fanbois, making disingenuous calculations like how much you'd save using Hyper-V instead of vSphere Enterprise Plus, even though Hyper-V lacks most of the features that separate Enterprise Plus from vSphere Standard Edition.
  • Depression: At this stage, we discover that our vendor's new plan actually will change the budget for the project we were planning for next quarter. Since the budget was approved and budgeting in corporate America is as screwed up as it is, we have to either trim the scope or scrap the whole proposal and beg for money again because you can't complete it with the old budget.
  • Acceptance or migration: Eventually, you either accept the change or migrate to something else. In the best of all possible worlds, the vendor realizes it has alienated its users and at least partially rolls back the change to make everyone happy. Last time I can remember this happening was when Microsoft extended Windows XP support after realizing that no one was upgrading to Vista.
  • If your vendor won't roll back the change you hate--and, trust me, most of the time it won't--you have two choices. Suck it up and pay the vendor more money, or migrate to an alternative solution. Since migrating is significantly more painful--and usually more expensive because you have to buy your new solution from scratch vs. paying somewhat more for your current solution--most of us end up sucking it up and paying. That is, of course, why vendors keep changing the rules--it pays to do so.

    Howard Marks is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage ... View Full Bio
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