Tell Me Why I Should Upgrade

Technology vendors overwhelmingly believe that just because a new version of a product is made available to the marketplace, virtualization technologists will embrace it. However, in order for technologists to move to the newer version, it must:

  • Be technically superior
  • Be easier to administer/maintain
  • Address a compelling business solution.

If these three criteria aren’t largely addressed, the vendor is going to experience resistance from the field.  In particular, the “easier to administer/maintain item” must be addressed from the standpoint of someone who is not an engineer who lives and breathes that specific technology every day of the week.

Superb marketing can blur the technical aspects of a new product. Sure, the marketing announcement sounds compelling, but when you take a bite of that burger, if you are wondering, “Where’s the beef?”, the vendor missed most or all of the three criteria. It doesn’t take long for technologists to see through what is touted as technical marketing and to become irritated.

One example of this is Citrix Web Interface and StoreFront. Web Interface is very easy to install, implement, and maintain. From the time it was first introduced into the marketplace as NFuse in 2000, technologists adopted it quite briskly. (Fun fact: The code name was Project Charlotte, based on Charlotte’s Web.) In the fifteen years during which NFuse/Web Interface has been available, virtualization technologists have deployed it quickly and easily.

And then came StoreFront. Version 1.x was clumsy and lacked parallel functionality. The SQL database, inability to add a second server after designating a single-server installation, and full CloudGateway Enterprise setup left technologists underwhelmed. Citrix marketed it as a better interface, but few implemented it. It was touted as the wave of the future because Microsoft was discontinuing J# support.

Version 2.x is still clumsy. It may be technically superior in some ways, but it’s certainly not easier to administer/maintain. Citrix is pushing it as a compelling business solution, because some devices, such as Chromebooks, require StoreFront. Such functionality as setting up a PNAgent-like interface is painful. And then there are those lovely blue-green bubbles…

Citrix had to take a step back and announce continued support for Web Interface because StoreFront wasn’t gaining universal acceptance. Why? Because those three criteria weren’t met.

Vendor statements about end of life or lack of support might seem like a valid reason to upgrade from the vendor standpoint. After all, the vendor wants to support as few versions as possible. But, if enough technologists refuse to upgrade, the vendor has to cave in. Microsoft did it with Windows XP, and Citrix did it with Web Interface.

From a vendor perspective, upgrading is easy, right? You just run the setup, reboot, and life is good. Not!  Having been on both sides of recommending upgrades, it’s clear that vendors don’t fully understand testing, change control processes, midnight upgrades, 24×7 operations, simultaneous projects, system maintenance, and the importance of crystal-clear documentation. And, yes, an upgrade can fail. Been there, done that!

Vendors need to reconsider the large number of moving parts that must be coordinated in order to facilitate an upgrade to a production environment. Give us solid reasons for upgrading the plethora of virtualization technologies. And most importantly, make it compelling for the technologists, not just the vendor.

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