The enthusiasm of the independent software vendor (ISV) is the single most important factor for users to consider when evaluating systems, even though this factor is often overlooked by technical evaluation committees.
This is the view of Paul McGuckin, Gartner Group's research director, speaking at the analyst company's fifth annual Enterprise Systems conference in Chicago today.
A top tier ISV platform receives upgrades and new products in 30-60 days, experiences a fast turnaround in bug fixes, and finds that technical support actually know what users are talking about, he argued.
As a result, McGuckin advised users to ask their ISVs for a revenue breakdown based on platform under non-disclosure - because software vendors do not want to be blamed for users hardware decisions - and look for players with double digit market share.
SAP, for example, he said, saw 23 per cent of its installations on HP 9000 machines last year, 15 per cent on IBM?s RS/6000 and 15 per cent on Compaq Proliants.
But, users should also bear in mind that NT has received the most enthusiasm welcome from ISVs in the history of operating systems and many vendors such as SAP were definately pushing users that way.
The second most important criterion when choosing a system is performance/scalability, McGuckin continued. This becomes an issue when a system supports more than five users, and is especially relevant when implementing an enterprise resource planning application, which can support only one database server.
At the moment, he explained, NT supported 600 concurrent users, Unix 3,000 and IBM?s OS/390 mainframe, 4,500. This would increase to 1,000, 4,500 and 7,500 respectively by 2000, and 3,000, 9,000 and 11,500 respectively by 2003.
However, he warned that to be in ?the comfort zone?, users should both allow themselves some headroom for the future and implement only three quarters of the number of users given in each instance. If they chose to support more than 10 per cent of that figure, they were moving into dangerous and unchartered waters, he said.
Next on the list is high availability, although the requirement for this depends on the application, McGuckin explained. Here, MVS was far and away the leader, especially if parallel Sysplex clustering were implemented, while Unix and NT were far behind.
Other criteria to take into consideration are the scope and quality of service offered by vendors and users should always check recent local references because service levels fluctuate from region to region.
Total cost of ownership is important to consider, even though the total cost of support was often difficult to quantify, and users should always check the life span of any given system because it was not a good idea to buy the last model in an abandoned line.
Inhouse skills should also be evaluated because platform switching cost money, and customers would do well to look at how much integration work a given box might need to be implemented into the enterprise. While this is relatively easy with the AS/400, Unix and NT requires users to be their ?own systems integrators?, he said.
And last, but not least, is internal politics. Users should always establish the inclinations and prejudices of the organisation, and especially of the chief executive, because there is no point in undertaking expensive evaluations to have them vetoed by the boss, McGuckin concluded.
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