% fortune -ae paul murphy

For 2007? Guilt

It's that time of year when everyone sets out to assimilate the lessons of 2006 and make new resolutions and new predictions for the coming year.

In IT the big changes for 2006 were foundational - there's sweeping change coming in both hardware and software and 2006 saw some of the foundation products for this hit the market. Thus IBM got its first grid on a chip CPUs into the market, pioneered ground breaking new compiler technology for embedded PPC, and moved its high gigahertz technology from the labs to pre-production for the coming 6Ghz Power6. Similarly, Sun got its first SMP on a chip processor into the market where it set new records for both performance and sales, ZFS made it into production Solaris, and Java tilted dramatically toward its natural markets - in handhelds and set-tops, not commercial computing.

All great, but what changed in IT management? Energy awareness happened: IT management started to become aware of IT's own energy use, and more and more managers started to consider energy use as something other than a nuisance issue best left to building engineers. That change didn't just come out of nowhere, of course, people like Sun's McNealy were talking about Intel's space heaters as early as 2001 - the same year IBM tried to build an entire consolidation argument on energy savings. But the issue became mainstream last year - finally becoming a real factor in many acquisition decisions.

So what's likely to have a comparable impact next year? monopoly guilt. Basically, people who now automatically choose Microsoft server products will start to become aware that their fiats force other people to make choices many of them might rather not make. For example, choose Exchange Server for your campus wide system, and you force Mac and other L'Unix users on your campus to choose between bypassing you, living with a layer of unwanted, unreliable, and inconsistent middleware that fails at the drop of a Microsoft patch, or accepting the need to pay for a PC and licensed software just to get along with your email server choice.

Bottom line: every Microsoft server choice in IT taxes users by forcing them to choose between going along or finding work arounds - choices that IT could avoid imposing simply by choosing servers supporting open standards.

What's needed is an attitude adjustment in IT, and I see that as coming - driven first by an evolving sense that forcing people to choose between their way and IT's commitment to Microsoft is both organisationally expensive and unfair to users, and in the long run by the recognition that doing this is, like plugging in Xeons, not in IT's own best interests.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.