More WAF please…

I’ll get to the point in a minute…  If you’ve spent any time “working” on setting up a home theater in your home, you’ve come across the WAF acronym in many of forums — it stands for Wife Acceptance Factor — and it is a cautionary tale of making sure you keep your setup easy enough so that you don’t end your marriage over your wife’s inability to enjoy Desperate Housewives because she doesn’t like programming the remote :-)

Back before HDTV and satellite TV it was pretty simple here in the US to set up and watch TV.  Generally there was only 1 cable involved (2 if you count the power cable).  If you bought a cable-ready TV you simply connected the cable from the cable company (RG6 coaxial, which carried both audio and video) into your TV and you were in business.  Moving TVs around your house was pretty simple too.  Oh, maybe you had a converter box to watch some pay channels, but for the most part you were good to go — with maybe 50-75 channels in the larger markets.

Things are getting a bit easier lately, but we’ve had a run of complication which I think has seriously slowed the adoption of HDTV and quality sound — the split of audio and video cables — the larger number of cable choices audio-only (optical, coax, patch); video-only (patch, coax, dvi) and mixed (hdmi) along with wonderful new things to learn about like HDCP and DRM.  None of which has made it any easier to make a TV have a good WAF anymore — let alone move them around your house.

The reason I bring this up is due to the shear number of software offers I’ve been getting lately for products that don’t seem to have a compelling ability to simplify things for me or my customers.  They claim to be “better” at some esoteric task, but at the cost of introducing another specialized skill requirement into my customer’s infrastructure.

I got into an interesting discussion with a virtualization consultant the other day who responded to a customer’s concern about the I/O performance of a database on VMWare by installing Virtuozzo for a special system.  I asked why they did that instead of looking to tune the database I/O or maybe scaling up the VMWare hardware or (gasp!) running the database on a dedicated server.  He replied that he recommended Virtuozzo because they wanted everything virtualized and that they didn’t have budget for tuning or new hardware.

Heck, I like Virtuozzo as a virtualization solution and even I thought this solution was all kinds of crazy.

Why add to the customers’ complexity by introducing yet another virtualization technology instead of helping them reduce complexity while still meeting their needs?  The only beneficiary to this appears to be the consultant who can charge fees to maintain this specialized system.  Or maybe the new employee they had to hire to learn and handle this special system.

Personally I got even more upset when I heard that the customer was a public school system — like a public school system needs internal IT complexity instead of simple, reliable systems that do the best job for them.

One-off’s like this are always a challenge — make sure you have a process by which you approve, manage and judge such efforts — understand when one-offs become your new direction, or when they need to be brought back into the fold.

Arbitrary

Do you hate arbitrary requirements?  You know the ones — like: the customer account number must be a 10-digit number without any leading zeros and no more than 3 repeated digits?  Don’t you always try to argue the user back into letting you use a simple sequence generator — maybe giving in on the leading zero requirement, but arguing against trying to make sure there aren’t 3 of the same digits in a row? :-)

Maybe if you thought there was a good reason, or authority or research on why that requirement was a good idea, then you’d see it as an interesting challenge rather than a burden?  Maybe if you read a post by Seth Godin about it?

Wonder if the user thinks that some of the database limitations are arbitrary?

So, today’s challenge — implement a stored procedure to generate such a serial number…

More Mass Market Oracle

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote about the lack of hosted Oracle database packages.  Since then I haven’t seen much movement on that front, until last week, when STRATO AG, a German hosting company started offering a STRATO Oracle Server hosting package based on Parallels Virtuozzo Containers and Oracle Express Edition.  Here’s the press release.  I’m having a bit of trouble finding the package on the STRATO site, but if it’s true it’s another valuable option out there for ways to increase Oracle usage at the low end (where a lot of innovation takes place).  I’m curious how STRATO is handling the Oracle licensing issues…