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Re: (OT) Finding Technology Solutions

by blakem (Monsignor)
on Sep 23, 2001 at 10:11 UTC ( #114145=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to (OT) Finding Technology Solutions

I think we all have a few horror stories like this. Mine involves a dot-com that I worked at for several years. Originally we had a convoluted back end "build" that created nearly static html pages (well really SSI enabled, shtml files...) We soon ran into scaling issues with this method (mostly on the development side... tough to get more than a few people working efficiently with this setup.) I was tapped to come up with something better.

I wrote up a report suggesting mod_perl and Mason, partly because we already had a mod_perl box running, and partly because it was a good solution. The cost (i thought) was also a benefit because we hadn't really figured out how to monetize our visitors (never did, either). I happened to go on vacation for a week shortly after submitting my recommmendations.

It was about this time that Vignette went public, and gained like 500% on its opening day. When I got back from vacation, I learned that vignette had come in and pitched their multi-million dollar Story Server content management system. Our management thought it was the best thing they had ever seen. (of course a lot of that was envy of Vignette's highly successful IPO)

So I sat down and wrote up a side by side comparison of the two... It turned out that mod_perl/Mason matched vignette feature for feature and had some extras to boot. Of course, no one was listening at that point, they had decided on their flashy solution, w/o really knowing why.

Anyway, we wasted a huge amount of money (over a years worth of revenue) on that software "solution" and it was broken from day 1. Granted, we opted for their should-have-been-beta 5.0 release, but still it felt like the darn thing hadn't even been tested outside of an NT environment.

Guess, what... eventually, I retooled our old mod_perl box and we ran the most dynamic portions of our site off of that box. The Vignette "solution" was relegated to a multi-million dollar backend build process for nearly static content... Imagine this for a moment: four beefy sun boxes, running expensive proprietary software, getting smoked by a single[*] x86/linux/mod_perl machine with $0 spent on software.

This was a case of management saying "We're not sure what we want to do, but we're sure we want to use technology X to do it with." I should have walked away the day they forced that brain-dead logic upon me....

[*] We eventually rolled out a 16 node pseudo-cluster of x86 machines, but at the time it was a single box.


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(Ovid) Re(2): (OT) Finding Technology Solutions
by Ovid (Cardinal) on Sep 23, 2001 at 11:55 UTC

    Boy, does that sound familiar! To be frank, I kinda fudged on the Lotus Notes story. What really happened was were talking about how to distribute the data and one person said Lotus Notes and I suggested we at least consider alternatives. I was told to research them and after much discussion, we concluded that either Lotus Notes or a Web-based system was the way to go. I got together some Web developers and Notes developers and we looked at the time it would take, the cost, the security, and ongoing maintenance costs to develop each solution. It was unanimously decided (yes, even by the Notes developers) that Web-based data distribution was the most viable alternative.

    I brought up my findings at the next meeting and was told "we've already decided to go with Lotus Notes". As I found out later, we were sinking a lot of money into that license and some PHB who couldn't grasp the concept of "sunk cost"1 decided we needed to get our money's worth out of Lotus Notes.


    1. Sunk costs, for the curious, is money already spent on something. Since the money has already been spent, it is completely irrelevant to future decisions. In other words, if I have spent X amount of dollars on Foo, but I now have to decide between Foo and Bar, X doesn't matter. All that matters is the financial comparison between Foo and Bar from this point forward. If Foo costs another $10,000 to implement and an identical solution with Bar costs $50, it doesn't matter that I've already spent $20,000 on Foo, ceteris paribus (another economics term, but I'm tired of explaining them ;)

Re: Re: (OT) Finding Technology Solutions
by digiryde (Pilgrim) on Sep 24, 2001 at 22:18 UTC
    All of this reminds me of the business folks I do short contract work for. I think they all went to the same school, so many of them are using MS Excel for a database, and use IIS or a web server without an admin or a webmin. Then they wonder why their "database" gets slow, data vanishes and customers complain. Typically I take them to Perl and mySQL on Linux. A few of them like to put out the larger chunks-o-change for the M$ Sql Server (personally, if you are going to pay, go Oracle... No comparison on reliability or development). Most of them cite advertising as to why they bought into anything or better yet, "a friend of mine who writes software said". The L.A.M.P. model is a great way to start. IMO it is more reliable than M$, more secure and more flexible (and if it matters, much less expensive up front). And, if you stay generic (ANSI), then you can go to almost any other platform anyway.

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