Open Insights 09 – IT Certifications


Heavyweight Internet Group Newsletter

Issue 09 – What About IT Certification?
July 2, 2005

by Sean Hull
<shull@iheavy.com>
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.

We are now writing material regularly for our sister site http://oracleopensource.com so check there for more frequent updates.

What About Certification?

From time to time the debate comes up again about certifications  in IT.  Are they important?  What do they indicate?  Should they be a deal breaker?  Which ones are relevant and which ones are less meaningful.  Depending on who you ask, you’ll get wildly  different answers.

Take for example a recent discussion over at Computerworld where Editor Don Tennant says he’s “Certifiably Concerned

Basically he covers a study in which it was found that folks WITH certifications were receiving smaller raises.  He found this very counterintuitive and managers may also.  But I’ll tell you with some confidence that most of your tech folks won’t be surprised.

There are a couple of different reasons for this.  The first one  sort of cuts to the heart of IT.  It is very much a moving target, that is to say that the set of skills, were they defined as a bunch of commands that work a certain way, are constantly in flux and changing.  Multiple choice tests especially focus on this type of wrote memorization of commands, not on problem  solving skills.  Due to the nature of technology being in constant flux, most good engineers don’t know all the commands.  It’s true ask one of your engineers the syntax for say doing an XOR with UNION in SQL.  The concepts are truely what is important, and that cannot be thoroughly tested in a certification exam.  It is more the job of a proper University education to teach that type of theory, and instill the problem solving skills to find the syntax and details when needed.

But we’re really hitting on a second point here, and that is that a Bachelor of Science degree from a good University is really the best certification you can get, besides real-world on-the-job  experience of course.  I’ve found in my experience that the ones most insistent on seeking out certifications are those who don’t  have Computer Science degrees in the first place but rather technical school training, and are looking to beef up the resume.  Barring perhaps the Cisco Certified Engineer which I understand is quite grueling with real-world problem solving with a real network, and real messes to cleanup, most certifications seem to be pretty  much a waste of time.

So where did this certification mania originate from then?  Well Law has the Bar Exam, Medical Doctors must go through residency, and get licensed to practice medicine, so why not apply the same rigors to the IT industry, albeit in more simplified form to provide the same sort of measures of skill and aptitude?  Good question, but as it turns out the IT industry is still too  disjointed, with no central authority governing it to provide  that type of certifications.  The best you have for such measures right now is the Bachelor of Science degree, hopefully from a  University which emphasizes engineering and has a good  reputation to go along with it.

And now you’re wondering, without certifications how do we find  good people?  Well I hope for one thing you take away from this that a certification might be misleading you in the first place on aptitude.  But really it means you have to do the legwork of finding the right people who have (a) some synergy with your company  (b) a degree from a good University (c) plenty of real-world  experience.  Run them by your best people to get their gut feel on the person, ask some tough questions, or how they might solve some problem in the enterprise. 

This type of selection process should go equally for full-timers as it does for the consultants you bring on board for your shorter term needs.  Don’t take the sales pitch, their parent company’s reputation, or other easy indicators at face value, and dig a  little deeper to find out if they’re worth your time, and money.

 Recent Technical Articles

Tracking the Wily Proxy Hackers

Asterisk Calling Card Applications

MySQL Disaster Recovery

Dummy’s Guide to Linux Firewalls

Wireless Truth or Dare

Mirroring for the Impatient

Migrating a MySQL Database to Oracle 

Open Insights 08 – The Devil Is In The Details


Heavyweight Internet Group Newsletter

Issue 08 – The Devil Is In The Details
June 1, 2005

by Sean Hull
<shull@iheavy.com>
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.

We are now writing material regularly for our sister site http://oracleopensource.com so check there for more frequent updates.

The Devil Is In The Details

Project planning has got to be one of the most difficult areas in computing. And yet often it is what is most overlooked. Popular insistence on hourly rates makes for easy comparisons of two resources, and allows management to avoid scope and specification, the exact opposite of what you want to do if you’re trying to watch costs. Also, without a fixed fee you cannot make an accurate ROI decision because you don’t know how long it will take to complete. Person A costs X, person B costs Y, the cheaper of the two is probably a better bet, even if they’re a little slower. Not only does this miss the impact of experience, which drives up rates naturally, but also an experienced technologist can make strategic and time-saving decisions up front if he knows what the project is comprised of. But if he is being directed this way and that he is more likely to waste time and therefore money on the wrong things.

Time and time again I’ve seen projects get started, with the most clear intentions in mind end up being a huge can of worms once they get underway. Take for example an upgrade we did for a large security firm in midtown Manhattan.

The project started out fairly straightforward. Migrate an existing Oracle 8i database running on a terribly slow single processor and single disk Sun server to a 4-processor Sun server with a 10 disk raid array. Since there was version compatability we had a good sense that (a) the application would continue to work the same way, (b) the optimizer would still work the same way, so performance of queries would be consistent, and related Operating System and backup scripts would continue to work as before with little change. Predictability is the key to scoping a project, which is of course key to coming up with a fixed cost at the outset.

As things unfolded, the management team decided that 9i was a key requirement, and that despite potential trouble along the way, the expected downtime was a sensible time to upgrade, that application functionality did not rely heavily on 8i features that might have changed, and cost-wise it would be better to do the two together. Nice on paper.

Of course a change like this completely eliminates the predictability for a project, quickly pushing us onto an hourly basis for work beyond a certain point. It is open ended because application changes are difficult to predict and changes in Oracle’s Cost Based Optimizer could impact performance as well.

After a period of almost 20 hours of downtime, and a lot of tired IT folks, we managed to get things running again. The biggest hurdle turned out to be getting the standby database working again as we encountered some Oracle bugs with the configuration, which were causing core dumps, and general panic as well.

All of this underlines the need for careful planning, testing, and then deployment. It’s like checking out track conditions and the route on the day of the race, it just makes good sense. Even if you have ten years experience running marathons as we do in Oracle IT, you still want to do your due diligence or the technology might bite back. Also try to lean towards well-scoped projects that are conducive to fixed fees, and avoid hasty comparisons of hourly rates between different resources.

Recent Technical Articles

Tracking the Wily Proxy Hackers

Asterisk Calling Card Applications

MySQL Disaster Recovery

Dummy’s Guide to Linux Firewalls

Wireless Truth or Dare

Mirroring for the Impatient

Migrating a MySQL Database to Oracle

Open Insights 07 – Open Source in the Enterprise

Open Source in the Enterprise

Heavyweight Internet Group is of course involved heavily in Oracle

database administration, setup, management and tuning. The other half

of our business involves Open Source integration, and development

using various technologies such as the LAMP platform, Linux, Apache,

MySQL and

PHP. We also make heavy use of Open Source technologies to run the

enterprise, and thought it might be illustrative to talk about that.

There are a whole host of technologies and applications we rely on

from day to day to run our business. When I actually sat down to

write this months newsletter, I was rather shocked at how long the

list was. Here’s a peek into what we use.

Sales + Marketing

For starters we use the spectacular SugarCRM (http://sugarcrm.com

{http://sugarcrm.com}) for sales and customer relationship

management. More than an addressbook, it manages opportunity lists,

open tasks, calls, notes, leads, and accounts. You can keep track of

prospects at every stage of the sales process from prospecting,

qualification, needs analysis, value proposition, and id-ing decision

makers to perception analysis, proposal, price quote, negotiation, and

deal closed. There is also a dashboard which displays excellent color

graphs of sales stage, opportunity size, and breakdowns by month and

lead source. For a business like ours which has run for years on

paper, and disjointed organizing methods, this application has had a

tremendous impact.

Invoicing

Invoicing we manage with an application called phpaga. Still under

development, it already offers a host of features such as HTML or PDF

invoices, quotes, varying billable rates by project, and by resource,

as well as various graph reports. Definitely worth a look.

(http://phpaga.net {http://phpaga.net})

Web Content Management

Next we use PostNuke (http://postnuke.com {http://postnuke.com}) to

handle website content management automatically and easily. The

formating is not perfect, but it works quite well for our needs. We

have also started using Moveable Type (http://www.moveabletype.com/

{http://www.moveabletype.com/}) for managing our new weblog Oracle +

Open Source (http://oracleopensource.com

{http://oracleopensource.com}). All of these solutions use Apache

(http://www.apache.org {http://www.apache.org}) as a webserver, and

MySQL (http://mysql.com {http://mysql.com}) as a database for basic

website needs. Though this tool is not strictly open source, it has

fairly loose restrictions on usage, and comes with source code, so we

include it here. Of course you need a browser to view all

this great content, and though we dabble with Galeon, Opera, and even

IE from time to time, we primarily use Firefox

(http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/

{http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/}) because it is fast, and

secure, saving all of our computing environment from the trouble of

spyware, adware, trojans, and other malware.

Desktop Publishing

Next we have started using OpenOffice (http://openoffice.org

{http://openoffice.org}) which provides fairly consistent

compatibility with Microsoft’s Office suite of tools. To be fair we

also occaisionally use the Windows versions too, as client comfort is

ultimately our goal. We’ve also begun using Scribus

(http://www.scribus.net {http://www.scribus.net}) for some

applications, which provides Quark-type document publishing, and can

generate nice PDF files as output.

Email, SPAM + List Management

Email lists we’ve just installed some new management software for

called phplist. (http://phplist.com {http://phplist.com}) It provides

support for multiple lists, and easy subscribe/unsubscribe which we’ve

currently been doing manually! For email itself we use Postfix

(http://www.postfix.org/ {http://www.postfix.org/}) Not email

solution would be complete if it couldn’t handle spam. For that we

use a whitelist solution called ASK (http://www.paganini.net/ask/

{http://www.paganini.net/ask/}) Not always perfect, it became an

absolute necessity when our junkmail started reaching into the

hundreds a day. Now we receive about one spam a week, from the odd

spammer that bothers to do an active reply.

Operating Systems

Of course no enterprise would be complete without an operating system

and we use Mandrake Linux 10.1 (http://www.mandrake.com

{http://www.mandrake.com}) in most cases, including the desktop (KDE

and GNOME) and on our mail + webservers. When we need to remotely

administer Windows machines, as is necessary from time to time, the

Open Source Cygwin tool comes in very handy. It provides a proper

command line interface, and openssh implementation for secure remote

logins. Most of the other standard Unix tools are there as well, such

as Emacs for editing.

Telephony

If you think you’ve heard it all, think again. Our enterprise phone

PBX uses the superb Asterisk PBX and VOIP gateway solution

(http://asterisk.org {http://asterisk.org}). This allows integration

of traditional trunks from the phone company as well as VOIP lines

over our internet connection. It supports standard telephone

equipment, IP phones, and digital softphones all of which we use

actively. We also use Skype (http://skype.com {http://skype.com}) to

coordinate with technologists, partners, and clients overseas.

Monitoring + Backups

No enterprise would be complete without monitoring and backup

solutions. For monitoring we use Nagios (http://www.nagios.org

{http://www.nagios.org}) for monitoring our own, and our client

systems, including web, mail, disk usage, load averages, Oracle

statistics and much more. It notifies us by email whenever there is a

problem. We manage our backups with rsync and rsnapshot

(http://www.rsnapshot.org/ {http://www.rsnapshot.org/}) two great

tools that are fast and efficient whe combined with a secure shell

like OpenSSH (http://www.openssh.org/ {http://www.openssh.org/}). For

site statistics we have some integrated information which comes

directly from Postnuke mentioned above, but we also use Webalizer

which provides fancy graphs broken down by month and year for

detailed information directly from the webserver logfiles.

Development

Lastly we use a few tools for project management. Since we coordinate

and manage the efforts of a number of developers we use CVS

(https://www.cvshome.org/ {https://www.cvshome.org/}) for version

control. This allows everyone to be making changes to the code at the

same time without stepping on each others toes. We also have a trouble

ticket system called OTRS (http://otrs.org/ {http://otrs.org/}) which

helps us manage change requests, and bugs in these various

applications so the developers know what to work on and what has the

highest priority.

In an enterprise which handles 14 hosted domains, mostly for

non-profit organizations, as well as six active clients, we need to

be organized to remain efficient and effective. We use powerful

software to help us do that, and remain focused on pressing business

matters.

Open Insights 06 – Practice What You Preach

This month’s newsletter discusses a little server mishap which we

encountered here at Heavyweight Internet Group. I use the example to

illustrate a few lessons.

Practicing What You Preach

—————————-

Despite great efforts, it’s sometimes difficult to not come off a bit

preachy when discussing Open Source technology. The solutions are often

so good, you miss the difficulties. To that end, here’s a bit of a

rundown on what technologies we run our business on.

For Customer Relations Management we use SugarCRM. For a webserver we use

Apache 2. For a database we use MySQL though of course for enterprise

applications Oracle obviously comes into play. Our site software is

PostNuke, and our new weblog OracleOpenSource.com uses MoveableType. The

server that hosts all this great software runs Mandrake 10.1 distribution

of Linux. For email we use Postfix, and ASK a whitelist system for

spam blocking. We use Mandrake on the client side and the Firefox

browser. Also we use OpenOffice for creating and viewing Word, Excel, and

Powerpoint documents. And on the development side PHP, Perl, and CVS for

source code versioning. Soon we’ll be implementing OTRS for trouble

tickets, and possibly some web-based solution for invoicing.

The point here, and it’s a dramatic one, is that we learn by doing, and

sometimes the hard way. And by learning these lessons, we know better

what works for our clients.

Not Just Windows Servers Get Hit

———————————

Here’s a great example of learning by doing. We host our own servers even

though it might be simpler to outsource this process to a hosting company

who dedicates themselves to this. Not that we’d recommend this to all our

clients, we probably wouldn’t. But time and again it teaches lessons

about what technologies work, and what can happen during the minute that

your head is turned.

Last month our server was hijacked to send spam. This wasn’t done in any

of the obvious ways of finding a way onto the machine by brute-force.

They did not get a login to the machine itself. They managed to exploit a

default feature of our webserver, Apache, to proxy requests to other

sites. Though the obvious hole of having your mail server configured for

an open mail relay had been closed long ago, these spam hackers had

managed to find a way to relay through Apache. In so doing, they slowed

down our server for a period, interrupted our network, but worse sent out

tons of spam from our host. This meant we got thrown on a spam-blocking

list, and many sites were bouncing emails from us. After tracking down

the problem, we patched the problem, and eliminated the unwanted traffic.

Once again we’re able to send out email.

A hard lesson to be sure, but one we are sure to see, and identify quickly

at client sites, so they don’t suffer the same troubles.

In the long run these types of lessons are what help your professional

services stand out, beyond the obvious problem solving, to identify and

manage difficult and complex enterprise computing environments.

Open Insights 05 – Building on Success

Building on Experience

————————

Thinking about this month’s newsletter, I considered titling it

“Building on Success”. But despite the marketing and media

hype, good companies, build on experiences both good and bad,

learn from them, and repeat the successful formulas, and are

careful to avoid repeating the mistakes. In short, finding the

right consultants to hire for a project isn’t about finding

those with the proverbial midas touch, but rather in finding

those who understand your organization, have the patience to

work closely with you, and the perseverence to follow

through to success.

Aligning the right people & resources

————————————-

Facilitating communication can often be the greatest challenge in

any consulting engagement. Organizations, even smaller ones,

often have their own unofficial hierarchy of how things get done.

Consultants are brought in, not just when the right expertise

can’t be found in-house, but also when the expertise already there

isn’t solving the right problems. So inevitably these cases require

cutting accross the usual channels, to put the right people

together with the right resources.

This can come in the form of training, facilitating, and

coordinating these new relationships that foster the organization

to solve it’s own problems.

Turning ambitious strategies into successful ones

————————————————-

So what’s next? Ambitious and lofty strategies can often remain

out of reach until the right workflow is established. If that’s

not happening right away with your technology rollout, don’t

let the problem languish. Identify it, and resolve to

straighten it out.

Heavyweight Internet Group has spent nine years in the business

working closely with technology companies, identifying the

proverbial DNA of the enterprise, and putting together

technology solutions which solve real problems. Call us for a

free evaluation today. (866) 268 9448

Open Insights 04 – Managers: Databases 101

Managers: Database 101

———————————————-

Managers and CEOs of companies which rely on databases for their

infrastructure, or build on them for their applications, no doubt

already have a handle on the basic “What is…” question.

In short, databases boil down to glorified filing cabinets, albeit

electronic ones which can hold miles of encyclopias worth of

information, and retrieve it in tiny fractions of a second.

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Database

Behind the Scenes: How You Use it is Everything

———————————————-

We know that databases are put to an endless list of business

uses, from storing credit card billing statements & indexing

web content on the internet, to storing mountains of information

on customer spending habits from larger retailers. Running a

business, one naturally focuses on the business uses. But in

order to understand things at least a little bit under the hood

we’ll show how your technology people look at things.

Principally, there are two types of database uses. One is called

datawarehousing, and the other online transaction processing, which

we’ll call transactional for short. What divides them is dramatic.

A datawarehouse is composed mainly of large mountains of historical

data, which can be used to predict future outcomes, or answer other

big business questions. Huge reports are run against such databases

to show trends, or plot trajectories. How many of our customers

that live in Asia, buy books about technology, and when? How do

they normally pay? How many have joint accounts with family members?

A transactional database is one that runs a website, or other

application which makes frequent small requests of the database.

Such a database is characterized by lots of small requests or

lookups.

You can think of the two types like readers of the news. The

datawarehouse is like the history researcher, that is going to comb

through old issues on microfilm, to put together a work of great length

on some past story. The transactional version is like the reader

going to work, who skims headlines, looking for important bits of

news, and leaves the newspaper on the subway where someone else picks

it up and scans it again.

Understanding which type of usage you are putting your database to

can help you focus your business and your technology choices

properly. It can also help your technology team tune your systems

for your specific usage. Mixing the two types of uses can have some

negative impacts easily avoided by dividing the work into separate

systems as appropriate.

Which are some of the popular variants?

———————————————-

Some of the popular databases in use today are obviously Oracle, Sybase

and DB2. These are the big commercial solutions. You might include

Microsoft’s SQL Server in the list, though it doesn’t really compete

in terms of real server technology performance and security. On the

other hand there are some dramatic open source solutions to choose

from as well, such as MySQL and Postgres.

What are the tradeoffs pro + con?

———————————————-

There are dramatic differences between the various database technologies

as you might guess. The first obvious one is price. Speed, and

supported platforms are factors too. Some less obvious factors behind

the scenes are the feature sets that each database supports. What

programming languages are supported, how big can tables and data grow

to, how are backups handled, how secure is the database, and how

difficult is maintenance? These are the types of questions which you

will need to ask to differentiate the various systems.

Is there a risk-free way to go?

———————————————-

A lot of companies have already made an investment in one technology

such as Oracle. Others have invested in Open Source solutions such

as Linux and MySQL and have built up the staff to handle that and

are wondering if the jump to Oracle would be difficult. On the

consulting side of the fence, most companies have partnerships and

experience with one particular technology and will try to lead you

in that direction.

Consider these factors when talking with and outsourcing, or

consulting company about database technologies. At Heavyweight

Internet Group we believe there is a right technology for each

business use, and we’ll help you understand those tradeoffs before

biting off more than you can chew.

Remember too that you can prototype with one database backend, and

switch later on as your needs grow if your application has been

written with those eventualities in mind. Furthermore you can

prototype and develop to a limited extent with Oracle without

purchasing a license. While you are doing development you are ok

after which time doing Q/A or obviously moving to production

would require a license purchase.

How do I know if I’m under or over-gunned?

———————————————-

An assesment of the current technology is the best way to figure

out where you stand on the database usage horizon. It involves

reviewing the underlying hardware, and Operating System, evaluating

the database technology, looking at the application, and how

well it is taking advantage of that database architecture, and

features, and seeing where the real bottlenecks lay.

Heavyweight Internet Group can help your business with database

technology assessments. With the right information, and options

at your fingertips, you can make more informed decisions saving

you time and money in the long run.

Conclusion

———————————————-

Your database is likely your single most sensitive technology,

housing your business crown jewels. Consequently just like the type

of car you choose can mean a lot in terms of expenses you will

incur, whether you can haul lumber, ferry your kids to school, or

drive the autobahn, so too what type of database technology you

favor can affect your business tremendously.

Look before you leap, choose the right guide, and you can grow

your business right — from the start.

Open Insights 03 – The Business of Open Source

The Business of Open Source

——————————————–

People around the world, in business, government, and education

have all heard about Open Source. It’s the buzzword of the hour.

You may have heard about specific projects like the Linux Operating

System, or Apache, the webserver that runs nearly 70% of internet

webservers (http://news.netcraft.com/archives/web_server_survey.html),

or various government initiatives to switch to Open Source from

proprietary alternatives. In any case it is more and more at the

forefront of IT decision making.

Behind all of the hoopla, hardcore believers & opponents, figures, and

statistics lies a pool of resources, a methodology and technology that

deserves your careful consideration.

What is Open Source exactly?

——————————————

To be fair it means a lot of things to a lot of people. The term

itself means that source code is included with the distribution of

an application. To end users, and business managers, this seems

rather esoteric. I’m not going to view the source code, you might say

so why does it matter. Well for one your developers can and may

want to look at it. For reasons of privacy and security it is good

to be able to scan code and ensure none of your business information,

that you’d rather not be stored centrally, be sent by an application

unbenownst to you. For your technology staff though, it can mean

life or death at times, when an application just won’t behave, and

you’re having trouble getting support to recognize a problem you’re

having. Given the source you can track it down directly, and fix it

inhouse if need be. But Open Source also encourages communities of

developers in a very ad-hoc and unpredictable way, creating

collaboration, and ultimately resulting in better software.

How can Open Source Software help my business?

—————————————————————–

There are three ways Open Source can help a business – cost,

flexibility, and open standards.

Ok, lets save the best for last, and look at open standards first. Well

standards mean compatability. When standards are published, and open

anyone, on any platform can implement to that spec, and build compatible

software. It means an open playing field where the best company, with

the greatest technology wins. It also means your technology lasts longer

because you don’t necessarily need to always update to the latest and

greatest. If a particular version is rock solid, and stable, you can

stay there, without worry that you’ll soon be obsolete.

What about flexibility? Well in terms of licenses, the Open Source world

includes many different types, from the thoroughly idealistic GPL

(http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html) to the more business friendly

‘Free for non-commercial use’, and various other proprietary with source

licenses.

Here’s an example. Suppose you’d like to use the latest version of ASP,

ASP.NET. It is free to download and install to your heart’s content.

But if you’re running an older version of the Operating System, you’ll

have to upgrade that first. You may have a whole server farm of 10

Windows boxes, and you want to add one new one. The version differences

are going to force you to upgrade those 10 servers first. Effectively

your Operating System does not last you as long. Whereas in the Linux

world, for example, you can still run 1.x versions. They remain stable

and useful, although not as feature rich as the latest releases.

So flexibility has a lot to do with licensing.

Now for your favorite, cost. Open Source software is often free. Now

that does not mean it is free to implement because surely you have

investment costs in terms of hardware, and engineering know-how. But

the software itself is not going to bite you. Look at some real-world

business examples if you have any doubt.

RedHat

http://www.redhat.com/solutions/info/casestudies/

Novell

http://www.novell.com/success/

What should I be concerned about?

————————————————–

The most important consideration for a business embarking on an Open

Source strategy is IT knowledge and expertise. Your staff will need

to be fluent in the new technologies both in terms of choices and

directions, as well as support and administration of your internal

needs.

In the area of support services it is a good idea to consider how

Open Source projects can differ from their commercial alternatives.

Some distributions of underlying Open Source technologies such as

Red Hat and SUSE provide support services directly. Although they

are not the core development community, the put together a distribution

of the Linux kernel, and related applications, and also provide

modifications and add-ons only available in their distribution.

For MySQL and PHP, you can also purchase support services.

Lastly you may have intellectual property and or litigation concerns.

The news continues to cover the SCO battle against Linux and

allegations of proprietary Unix code contributed to the kernel. To

allay any such fears keep in mind that although SCO has gone after

big boys such as DaimlerChrysler, and IBM, they have failed to win

any of those cases.

DaimlerChrysler/SCO Case Winds Down

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/04/2052250&tid=88&tid=123

Groklaw:

http://www.groklaw.net/

SCO Facts Website:

http://scofacts.org/

Conclusion

—————-

Open Source is an ever expanding area of technology, and one which

smart and forward looking companies, institutions, and governments

continue to embrace for reasons that span cost, privacy, and

flexibility.

Now is the time to start planning your company’s Open Source

strategy. The reasons, and opportunities are clear and open.

Heavyweight Internet Group has specialized in Unix and Linux solutions

for Oracle since 1997. Our focus is Oracle and Open Source

infrastructures, including Oracle 8, 9i, 10g, Mysql, Linux, Apache,

Tomcat, PHP and Perl.

Open Insights 02 – Consulting Apples and Oranges

Heavyweight Internet Newsletter for Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Issue: 2

Welcome to the Heavyweight Internet Group newsletter.

From all of us here at Heavyweight Internet Group we’d like to wish you a

happy and safe holiday season.

Consulting Apples and Oranges

====================

Consulting is a big word. It carries a lot of meaning in different

business circles, mostly formed by large consulting firms. This

article will dispell some of the generalizations, and help you

find services right for your business needs.

Consultants in general terms, bring specialized help to a firm for

a duration of time, to solve specific business problems. In terms of

technology projects, a team of specialists, or in some cases a single

consultant are hired to build your technology infrastructure, or tune an

existing system.

Large or Boutique?

—————————————-

When scouting out consulting expertise, the initial reflex is often to

to with a large consulting firm that presumably has a long history, and

excellent experience in your technical area. When hiring a large firm,

however, you’re effectively hiring on the reputation of the firm, not

the individuals who will be sent to work with your company. Experience

and expertise can vary dramatically though, which is one way a smaller

firm can differentiate. For smaller firms, their reputation is built

on the knowledge, experience, and expertise of a small number of

individuals who you will likely be working directly with. Their

business success, and resilience in the marketplace is a direct

testament to what they can achieve for your business.

Additionally the relative size of your account to the firm you hire is

an important factor. If you are a fairly small firm, you will likely

fall

to the bottom of the pile with a larger consulting firm. However with a

small boutique firm, you are one of only a handful of their clients, so

you retain a commanding importance to them.

How about those fees?

—————————————-

The discussion of fees and costs is always an important one. In real

terms, smaller boutique firms can bring your total costs down

dramatically, but how best to measure that?

Often, because of history and the example of others in the industry, fees

are based around hourly rates. A company for obvious reasons, would like

to calculate the cost of a technology project, and the presumtion is that

an hourly fee is the first step in doing so. But hourly fees take

attention away from the real question of return on investment, and often

lead to apples and oranges comparisons. One consultant may come at

a very inexpensive hourly rate, but take weeks to solve problems.

Another may bill more, but have years of experience and so be able

to spot a familiar problem quickly, and get the same problem solved

in hours or days. Hourly billing also allows for weak project scoping up

front because a consultant won’t be hurt if the project drags out. In

general terms, hourly billing encourages slower fulfillment of

objectives, scope creep, and maximizes the number of discrete physical

activities.

However, focusing on the project itself, defining the scope and outlining

the project requirements up front, and then assigning a total cost to

completion, allows you to really compare two competing solutions. Some

consultants may be reluctant to assign a fixed fee to a project due to

fears of scope creep, and so on. But a fixed fee project will also

force you to iron out details up front, avoiding surprises down the

road. And more importantly it will take everyone’s attention off of hour

by hour details, and focus them instead on the milestones and project as

a whole.

Conclusion

—————————————-

There are a lot of factors to consider when hiring a consulting firm to

work with you. You’ve heard horror stories of projects gone awry, or

perhaps been on the losing end of such a project. All the more reason to

do your due diligence with various consulting shops, to find the one

which

will fit your needs. Temper the reflex to go with one of the larger

firms, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Open Insights 01 – Newsletter Introduction

Heavyweight Internet Newsletter for Friday, November 05, 2004

Issue: 1

Welcome to the Heavyweight Internet newsletter.

This is our first installment in what we hope will become a popular and

indespensible resource for technology professionals and management alike.

Q. What types of information can I expect to see?

A. We will be filling the newsletter with content not necessarily found on

the website. This will not just be plugs for products and services, but

useful articles on such topics as: outsourcing vs doing a project

in-house, consulting best practices, finding quality technology people,

measuring return on investment for technology projects, and reducing

infrastructure costs with Open Source technologies.

Q. Will this only be a technical newsletter?

A. No. There will be links to technical howto articles on the website,

but the newsletter will tend to be more for a more general audience.

Q. Do I need to subscribe?

A. Only if you want the newsletter in email. You can also view the

newsletter on our site http://iheavy.com.

Q. Will there be marketing and sales pitches?

A. We will of course be mentioning services offered by Heavyweight

Internet Group, and linking to such content on the site, but the majority

of the newsletter will be useful tips for consultants and managers alike.

Q. Will the newsletter be specific to databases or Open Source

technologies?

A. These are certainly our main focus, and areas of expertise. However we

will also talk about other new technologies we come accross which we think

will be relevant to the enterprise in coming years. For instance Voice

over IP technology has been a recent topic.

We hope this has been a helpful introduction. Help us spread the word,

and recommend us to friends and business associates!

-Heavyweight Internet Group

* For more info, please visit our web site at http://www.iheavy.com.