The People behind Virtualization Technologies

January 6, 2014
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As technologists, we tend to focus on a product’s technology itself. How does the software, hardware, appliance, widget, or whatever work? While this is certainly an important consideration, the people who design, build, sell, and support the product may have the greatest impact on the product’s usability.

Looking at the website of any virtualization-related vendor you are considering provides a plethora of information. However, the underlying pulse of any company can be covered up by glitzy marketing. Especially where you are planning to make a substantial investment in dollars, effort, and potentially your career, looking beyond what the sales and marketing teams tell you can provide a true glimpse of what you can expect from the company and the product itself after the contract is signed. People develop and support technology products, and if the employees of a company aren’t energized to create and maintain excellent products, then turnover will be high and product continuity will be jeopardized.

Although documentation is a requirement for all roles that develop technology, there is a tremendous amount of information that is never recorded. When people leave a company, some of its intellectual property walks out the door as well. Consider, for example, a software application or utility that contains antiquated code. Although this may be not be obvious or even troublesome at first, if an issue is uncovered that requires more information regarding a data stream, and the development team has since disbanded, it may be impossible to resolve that issue.

Although this is not the norm, consider looking at the job opportunities that are posted for any technology vendor that is being considered. Job ads will clearly show the direction of an organization, which may be positive or negative. The careers page of every company website reveals signs about the future of the organization; jobs are posted based on turnover, growth, or both. While growth is generally good, unbridled or chaotic expansion likely spells implosion for that section of the company in the not-so-distant future. Few or no job postings are a massive red flag. While turnover in technology companies is typically higher than in other fields, look for some signs of stability based on years of service, satisfaction with company benefits, focus on community activities, fun or unusual perks, and general work/life balance. For example, Splunk states in its job ads that it believes in “hosting amenities and fun activities to fuel our energy.”

In addition, ask about the technologies that the company provides to its employees from a hardware and virtualization perspective. Does the company eat its own dog food?

Companies that advertise for a large number of college hires may indicate a yellow flag. While such hiring provides a great opportunity for these individuals, the experience level and pay scale are lower, and fresh-out-of-college hires will likely not be major contributors to the company for several years. On the other hand, experienced individuals cost more but contribute more.

It is not uncommon for recent college graduates to be hired in tech support or as vendor consultants. If you are considering engaging a company’s consultants, doing so blindly may yield mediocre results at a high price tag. These individuals have little or no practical experience, yet they are going to tell you how to run your business. Not! Always ask to see the resume of any vendor consultant you are planning to engage. While the individual’s name isn’t necessary, his or her experience level and certifications should be openly provided so that you can ascertain that you are getting a qualified consultant. Several technology companies are notorious for sending junior-level consultants on engagements just because no one challenges them to do better. Letting the sales and marketing teams lead you blindly down the paths of their own consultants may be unwise.

In the end, there’s more to virtualization technology than just the hardware, software, appliance, or widget itself. If the people behind the technology aren’t top-notch and fully engaged, the product will suffer. As a decision-maker for virtualization technologies, you should consider the people behind virtualization technology to be as important as, or perhaps even more important than, the technology itself.

Jo Harder (21 Posts)

Jo Harder has been involved with virtualization for over 15 years, long before virtualization was the norm. After holding several sales and marketing positions, she started down the path of bits and bytes while at AT&T/Lucent Technologies. She then moved onto Citrix in 1999, where she became a Senior Architect. Her 11-year tenure included a combination of Citrix Consulting and Technical Readiness roles. After leaving Citrix, Jo provided consulting services for various clients for the next year. In her current role at a service provider, she is focused on cloud-based solutions for financial industry clients. Jo's diverse background of sales, marketing, management, and architectural/technical expertise brings a unique perspective to Virtualization Practice. She welcomes input from vendors, industry contacts, and end users and can be reached at joharder@virtualizationpractice.com.

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One Response to The People behind Virtualization Technologies

  1. January 6, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    It is about balance and known risk yes? Even experienced consultants are going to have to deal with products and technologies for the first time, and everyone has to start somewhere. Reducing risk can be better accommodated when organisations (and consultancies) put more effort into the planning of a virtualisation project – but again thats a “not just a technology” issue.

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