July 1, 2009
We recently upgraded our database server to 48 GB of memory -- because hardware is cheap, and programmers are expensive.
Imagine our surprise, then, when we rebooted the server and saw only 32 GB of memory available in Windows Server 2008. Did we install the memory wrong? No, the BIOS screen reported the full 48 GB of memory. In fact, the system information applet even reports 48 GB of memory:
But there's only 32 GB of usable memory in the system, somehow.
Did you feel that? A great disturbance in the Force, as if 17 billion bytes simultaneously cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. It's so profoundly sad.
That's when I began to suspect the real culprit: weasels.
No. Not the cute weasels. I'm referring to angry, evil marketing weasels.
That's more like it. Those marketing weasels are vicious.
We belatedly discovered post-upgrade that we are foolishly using Windows Server 2008 Standard edition. Which has been arbitrarily limited to 32 GB of memory. Why? So the marketing weasels can segment the market.
It's sort of like if you were all set to buy that new merino wool sweater, and you thought it was going to cost $70, which is well worth it, and when you got to Banana Republic it was on sale for only $50! Now you have an extra $20 in found money that you would have been perfectly happy to give to the Banana Republicans!
That bothers good capitalists. Gosh darn it, if you're willing to do without it, well, give it to me! I can put it to good use, buying a SUV or condo or Mooney or yacht one of those other things capitalists buy!
In economist jargon, capitalists want to capture the consumer surplus.
Let's do this. Instead of charging $220, let's ask each of our customers if they are rich or if they are poor. If they say they're rich, we'll charge them $349. If they say they're poor, we'll charge them $220.
Now how much do we make? Back to Excel. Notice the quantities: we're still selling the same 233 copies, but the richest 42 customers, who were all willing to spend $349 or more, are being asked to spend $349. And our profits just went up! from $43K to about $48K! NICE!
Capture me some more of that consumer surplus stuff!
How many versions of WIndows Server 2008 are there? I count at least six. They're capturing some serious consumer surplus, over there in Redmond.
- Datacenter Edition
- Enterprise Edition
- Standard Edition
Already, I'm confused. Which one of these versions allows me to use all 48 GB of my server's memory? There are no less than six individual "compare" pages to slice and dice all the different features each version contains. Just try to make sense of it all. I dare you. No, I double dog dare you! Oh, and by the way, there's zero pricing information on any of these pages. So open another browser window and factor that into your decisionmaking, too.
I don't mean to single out Microsoft here; lots of companies use this segmented pricing trick. Even Web 2.0 darlings 37 Signals.
Heck, our very own product segments the market.
37signals just does it .. prettier, that's all. They're still asking you if you're poor or rich, and charging you more if you're rich.
Eric Sink also advocates the same "rich customer, poor customer" software pricing policy:
In an ideal world, the price would be different for every customer. The "perfect" pricing scheme would charge every customer a different amount, extracting from each one the maximum amount they are willing to pay.
- The IT guy at Podunk Lutheran College has no money: Gratis.
- The IT guy at a medium-sized real estate agency has some money: $500.
- The IT guy at a Fortune 100 company has tons of money: $50,000.
You can never make your pricing "perfect," but you can do much better than simply setting one constant price for all situations. By carefully tuning all these details, you can find ways to charge more money from the people who are willing to pay more.
This sort of pricing seems exploitative, but it can also be an act of public good -- remember that the poorest customers are paying less; with a one-size-fits-all pricing policy, they might not be able to afford the product at all. Drug companies often follow the same pricing model when selling life-saving drugs to third-world countries. First-world countries end up subsidizing the massive costs of drug development, but the whole world benefits.
What I object to isn't the money involved, but the mental overhead. The whole thing runs so contrary to the spirit of Don't Make Me Think. Sure, don't make us customers think. Unless you want us to think about how much we'd like to pay you, that is.
And what are we paying for? The privilege of flipping the magic bits in the software that say "I am blah edition!" It's all so.. anticlimactic. All that effort, all that poring over complex feature charts and stressing out about pricing plans, and for what? Just to get the one simple, stupid thing I care about -- using all the memory in my server.
Perhaps these complaints, then, point to one unsung advantage of open source software:
Open source software only comes in one edition: awesome.
The money is irrelevant; the expensive resource here is my brain. If I choose open source, I don't have to think about licensing, feature matrices, or recurring billing. I know, I know, we don't use software that costs money here, but I'd almost be willing to pay for the privilege of not having to think about that stuff ever again.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm having trouble deciding between Windows 7 Smoky Bacon Edition and Windows 7 Kenny Loggins Edition. Bacon is delicious, but I also love that Footloose song..
Posted by Jeff Atwood
This makes me wonder, how many more times you will willingly spread your buttcheeks before you consider Linux and Postgres? :-)
As others have pointed out: Microsoft developed a single version of the OS, and then purposefully crippled it. 37Signals meanwhile uses the same software, but your use uses up significant resources.
> Yeah, remember, FOSS is only free if your time isn't worth anything.
Depends upon the software: There is much of the Open Source software that is well written, well documented, and well understood. Then, there's the crap that's ...well... crap. Most of the important OSS packages are now well supported and well written. No one expects you to be a developer anymore. The old line of "If you want a feature, then why don't you program it?" is no longer true.
Training for MySql and Postgres is readily available, and there are plenty of people who are experts in both. Linux is even better in terms of technical resources.
> I think you got it all wrong - it may be just flipping a bit now but
> how did the support for 48 gigs get there in the first place?? By
> developing and testing code which all takes time and money.
> Look at it this way. You develop some software, you release a single
> version at a single price. It works great but some big businesses
> need feature X. So you develop feature X - investing a wack of time
> and money.
> Now do you roll the new feature into the single version? No -
> because you will have to raise the price for everyone - even people
> who don't want the new feature.
Except what we're talking about here isn't "more featured software is more expensive", but simple arbitrary limits. There was no extra programming involved with 32Gb vs. 48Gb limits. That's just marketing crap.
Let's take the difference between OS X for the Desktop ($129) and OS X Server Edition ($499). The Server comes with extra software to help manage your company's software setup. However, both have similar performance specs, and there's nothing in the licensing of either product that would prohibit me from using the Desktop version on my server. Yes, Server is 4x the price, but there's much more in the server.
The difference between Windows Server Standard Edition and Windows Server Datacenter Edition (besides clustering software) are some arbitrary limits, not extra programming.
All is not paradise in OpenSource land. RedHat (website down so I can't paste a link) has a few support packages available. Although not as many as Windows Editions.
This article makes me wonder: will this whole experience make you (seriously) consider an alternative to your Windows stack? Obviously, switching your O.S. *now* would be a big no-no, having all that code and those pesky clients demanding uptime, but if I were you I know I would be mad as hell with Microsoft for this. I know a lot of developers would curse at the whole Gates family tree and switch to Linux/Mac/FreeBSD/whatever, but when you invested all that time and money in your business, you take it as the ultimate insult, or as a necessary evil?
Also, to the commenters:
Windows guys: we heard the "time is wortless" argument a lot. Just drop it already, is not even *that* accurate. There are better arguments against linux than that. Seriously, is annoying.
Linux guys: "switch to linux" is not always the answer. In fact, it hurts your point. Money (or even availability of source code) is not always the top priority.
Mac guys: I envy you. I thought you would like to know that. I wish my O.S. had a Steve Jobs behind...
@DMB: Linux/PostGRE great combination, etc., but PostGRE is absolutely the wrong database here. And the Windows 7 / IIS / ASP.NET MVC stack is second to none for specifically web apps like Stackoverflow.
I am not crazy about the tiered models but there are good reasons that a vendor might make that choice. In the enterprise space, in most cases larger installs ( more machines, beefier machines..) will incur higher support costs and generally require higher costs in testing to validate the product for such deployments. So it makes sense to pass that cost to those that have such requirements. Whether this is the case for MS or not and whether the value seems reasonable for the additional cost is questionable.
Generally OSS initial costs are lower, but the complexity and time to get a stack working often offsets such savings. In some cases it may not even be that much cheaper to use OSS if using a major vendor ( Red Hat, Suse..) which also charge tiered prices.
Although the whole Vista and Win 7 tiered pricing is evil.
@Brizian: Yes, OSX only comes in awesome, but the server edition breaks the "hardware is cheap, and programmers are expensive" rule.
@Jeff: M O N O!
now, that's the way to get comments and people talking about it, praise the open source and bash MS!
Reminds me of milk pricing - whole milk usually costs more than skim, but don't they have to put more work in to skim out the fat? Seems contradictory to me.
Reminds me of milk pricing - whole milk usually costs more than skim, but don't they have to put more work in to skim out the fat? Seems contradictory to me.
I hate price points in software Microsoft Windows especially. One of the most frustrating things about vista was it's attempt at segmenting the market.
Just because i'm a home user doesn't mean I don't want to be able to save network passwords or connect to an AD every so often or have volume shadow copy. Lots of home users want this stuff, home networks are common place now.
Just beacuse i'm a business user doesn't mean I don't want to be able to play HDTV.
Don't get me started on the rip off Ultimate edition.
I'm sure Microsoft will once again ruin their reputation and cripple Windows 7 in the same way.
You missed one thing. It takes more resources to host the bigger site at 37 signals. More disk, fewer clients per server, etc. It costs MS no more to flip that bit. They are just charging you more because they figure if you can afford the more memory, you can afford the more license.
If it were a change that would likely lead to more service calls to them, I could understand it, but...
All of my software is only Awesome Edition.
Oh and the prices to change version complete rip off.
I know it's been said several times here before, but this is one of the major reasons I use OSS whenever possible : OSS is never intentionally crippled, especially not because someone is holding out for more money.
When you install a piece of open source software, you can rest assured that the software in question is the real, full-featured version.
>"Yeah, remember, FOSS is only free if your time isn't worth anything."
In the last year, I've spent about a total of about 20 hours on the phone dealing with failures of Microsoft's Genuine Advantage authentication on completely legitimate copies of Windows XP.
A Linux install would never intentionally shut itself off and make me call someone in India to beg for a new magic number.
I have spent a far greater period of time (probably >200 hours) fighting with video drivers that try to "auto configure" themselves but do so incorrectly if you've got esoteric hardware requirements. I could have fixed these issues in about five minutes if I had an xorg.conf file.
I'm not sure where the idea that FOSS software necessarily takes a lot of effort, while Microsoft software necessarily 'just works' came from, but it is clearly not true in all cases.
To all who are complaining that Linux is cheaper up front, but more costly in the long run, I think you have it backwards.
Linux is cheaper in licensing, but you need a more experienced admin, who makes more money, and it takes a little longer for the initial setup. That costs significantly more.
That said, once it is up and running, it allows more machines per admin, and supports more users per machine, and allows longer between hardware replacements, so your real savings are in the longer term. The licensing becomes such a small part of the cost once you look at labor, that it really does not matter much.
So Windows servers administer themselves without an experienced admin now? Maybe I just haven't heard about it yet 'cause it only comes with Windows self-administering edition ;-)
"FOSS is only free if your time isn't worth anything"
What's the deal with this line? I see it trotted out now and then, but it makes no sense. Does the speaker mean to imply that commercial software installs itself, has zero configuration, and never needs maintenance or working around bugs/incompatabilities/whatever? Like because it came from a commercial source means they sprinkled magic pixie dust on it or something?
Both FOSS and commercial software have bugs and issues. Usually, in either case when you have trouble you also have a choice of sitting with a phone on hold or searching forum posts. I don't really see the difference in terms of time, but at least open source gives you an opportunity to fix problems literally at the source if needed.
Just don't use Windows............. Oops sorry, I forgot, you're dumb!
@Wedge All manufacturers had a short period where they had 64 bit CPUs on 32 bit chipsets, meaning they had 4GB of addressable space, which is NOT the same as 4GB of addressable memory. Many of the other system components needed about 700MB of addressable space so no matter how much RAM you put in, they chipset could only let you access 3.3GB of it. Many companies like Dell and HP chose to sell users 4GB upgrades knowing that they couldn't get full use out of it. Some companies like Apple were honest and simply said their laptops could only handle 3GB of RAM. When they gained 64 bit chipsets laptops could address a full 4GB of RAM.
FOSS is certainly only free if your time isn't worth anything, but Microsoft is both expensive up-front, expensive in the long run, AND expensive if your time is worth anything. Let's not pretend here that "Microsoft" is synonymous with "commercial software," though -- thank goodness it isn't.
(And speaking of time not being worth anything... the new CAPTCHA system is tough to satisfy! It's just bounced me six times in row... I swear, I'm human!!)
Jeff, I think you've got a couple of things messed up here.
First of all, there's a reason I (and many others) hate Microsoft and Windows, and it's not just because Windows is a buggy bloated hyperglandular program loader with delusions. It's also because, as you're noting here, Microsoft's business practices, from stealing patents (remember Stac?) to predatory pricing, suck. in a word.
You're confusing yourself looking at or comparing 37 Signals and your pricing with theirs, though. When you buy a Plus plan over a Basic plan, you're *actually getting more stuff*. It's not "are you rich or not?" it's "do you need two pounds of computing, or five?"
That's not true of Microsoft. The code load of Windows that will use 48GB of memory doesn't cost them more to produce — in fact, it's the opposite, they're having to spend money on code to make sure that the Standard Edition is limited. It's purely a profit-making mechanism that's only feasible for them because they still feel they have a monopoly.
As such, here's a prediction: I'm willing to bet there's no version that has *all* the features and all the limits at maximum. If there were, they would have a possibility of someone buying a zillion copies and expecting a bigger discount; without it, people must buy smaller numbers of multiple versions. I'm willing to bet there's no inexpensive upgrade path either.
MS server software is for clueless small business guys and overweight government agencies ready to be price-raped. Run linux (or others) if you're serious about servers
As somebody who's spent the last week trying to work around the fact that a tech accidentally speced a server with Small Business Server 2003 Standard Edition, which only uses SQL Server Express and not SQL Server Standard or Enterprise, I concur. I was just thinking about all the usability problems MS licensing causes and was wondering why they didn't see this. I now understand why it's done, but still think they risk loosing customers if they don't quit let marketing screw up their products.
You are discussing about pricing policies of a monopoly provider, trying to find some rational. Unfortunately microsoft, being the monopoly, only want to maximize the profit using the "best" pricing scheme.
Look at any other unregulated monopolies and you will find same or worse pricing practices.
regarding comparison to FOSS, the issues are much more fundamental than pricing vs. free. the issues with FOSS is about the option to choose, to choose the solution, the origin and the quality. at the end, FOSS provides a richer solution albeit needing more tinkering.
Blog on system engineering
Serves you right. Can you please stop giving Microsoft money!
So are you going to update your "growing out vs. growing up" figures now?
It works the other way as well. Microsoft's pricing of (the artificially limited) Windows Netbook edition means hardware manufactures are forced to limit the max spec of their hardware.
As many people have pointed out one of the benefits of FLOSS software is not having to worry about arbitrary limits, just technical ones.
Jeff, you could save everyone a lot of time if you followed Raymond Chen's example and posted pre-emptive snarky comments. The following two gems could serve as a template:
> Serves you right. Can you please stop giving Microsoft money!
> Just don't use Windows............. Oops sorry, I forgot, you're dumb!
I agree with other statements leave Microsoft behind and use linux for your server needs. Only reason to use a Windows Server is running ASP.NET and who would want to do that...
This type of stuff has been going on for a long time.
Windows XP home is a good example. Turns out that that it is fully capable of 1) joining a domain 2) running a RDP server (even includes the necessary dlls), 3) running IIS, and many other things.
These arbitrary limits, are however, usually easy to bypass. For example, I have, right now, a XP home machine that reports as XP Pro, can join domains, and even runs a RDP server with unlimited concurrent sessions (with a local user at the same time as a remote user). Total mods: a few registry settings, a reboot, and 1 modified dll.
Looks like this memory limit you see can be patched and modded too:
If I were you, I would start testing my app on Mono. You can keep using your existing .NET development tools, but deploy and test onto a platform with less onerous licensing.
Back in the 80s DEC used to sell computers to universities at a heavy "educational discount", and they differed from the non-discounted computers only in that they had fewer expansion slots, but...
But actually, they had the same number of expansion slots, with glue poured into the unused ones to inhibit their use. Doh!
The sysadmin at my university wanted both the expandability and the lower prices, so he first bought the crippled computers (saving thousands of dollars each), then ordered a $200 backplane replacement, which would arrive glue-free.
Hmmmmm.. a couple points i didnt see listed:
1.) It actually DOES cost Microsoft more money to support that much memory. I'm sure every server admin would appreciate it if your OS vendor that certified it to 48GB actually bought the ram and tested it?
buying that RAM(and hw to support it) didn't just magically appear one day, and it certainly was more than $5 to code/validate it.
Microsoft could sell it at the same price, but only guarantee it to 32GB, after that "you're on your own".... personally I would choose to pay the extra cash.
Tony your just plain wrong if it's a 32 bit system fair enough past 4GB is trickery and does cause microsoft work but for 64 bit systems the address space for memory is much much larger it doesn't matter if it's 8 GB 64 GB or 2 TB as long as it can be addressed their is no difference. Do you really think they tested a 2TB single system.
> "Already, I'm confused. Which one of these versions allows me to use all 48 GB of my server's memory? ... Just try to make sense of it all. I dare you. No, I double dog dare you! "
Dare accepted. It's actually right there, 1 click away from the page you linked to: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/compare-specs.aspx
The answer to your question is Enterprise, Datacenter, and HPC.
Serves you right for running servers on Windows. In 2009.
brizian: you can buy os x server edition
MICROSOFT STOLE MY NAME
GEORGE: Oh, no no no. Course not. I got a great name for our kids. A
Real original. You wanna hear what it is? Huh, you ready?
George uses his finger to draw a number 7 in the air, accompanying the
Strokes of his digit with a two-tone whistle.
SUSAN: What is that? Sign language?
GEORGE: No, Seven.
SUSAN: Seven Costanza? You're serious?
GEORGE: Yeah. It's a beautiful name for a boy or a girl... OR AN OPERATING SYSTEM!!!!
programming and human factors - Jeff Atwood
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4.2 Writing Robust Programs
Avoid arbitrary limits on the length or number of any data structure, including file names, lines, files, and symbols, by allocating all data structures dynamically. In most Unix utilities, "long lines are silently truncated". This is not acceptable in a GNU utility.
The strongest deterrent from using FOSS? The "community". Some of the comments here are especially strong proof of that. I'm sure it's a minority, but the rabid angry-nerd "M$" writing loudmouths sure make the most noise. Do you really like FOSS are do you just hate Microsoft? Either way, you're doing nice on the nuance, keep it up.
Good job everyone who falls under that label: you've accomplished the opposite of what you're trying to do: you drove me and no doubt many others another step away from adopting your beloved FOSS.
People who seriously believe that 37signals are actually giving you more stuff for money -- are you kidding me? Yes, you're getting more records in your tables, but this is exactly what Microsoft does -- flipping bits. There's no guarantee that you're getting more hardware resource for these money. Moreover, it's even easier for hosted service to squeeze more people on the same server and charge them more, because there's no way you can prove that your resources are severely limited. At least in Windows Server case you can be sure that you will use all 48 gigs with more senior version.
I agree with your point but I don't think you make good comparisons.
MS doesn't change the price based on whether you are rich or poor, they base the price based on what features you want. I do agree that they make it overly difficult to determine what features come with each version, but you are still paying more money for more features. All of your other examples are similar: the more expensive products offer higher performance or more powerful service.
I disagree with Tony that the burden of testing with higher memory justifies the cost. *Someone* had to test that the 32 GB limited edition would properly limit the RAM it used, and they had to do this by running it on a myriad of servers with more than 32 GB of RAM. If this were a barrier like the difference between 4GB and 5GB I'd agree: here you have 32-bit addressing vs. 64-bit addressing and that's worthy of some hefty testing, but both 32 and 48 GB are well within the boundaries of 64-bit addressable space.
It probably would have been nice (and I'm surprised marketing didn't force them to do this) if when you'd booted for the first time with 48GB of RAM a dialog explaining the situation was displayed. It'd be even nicer if you had an option to purchase a license to remove the limitation for significantly less than the cost of purchasing a new OS. I don't think MS is out of line for segmenting the market, but it'd be nice if I could buy the low-end SKU and buy new features without having to buy a new OS.
>>Linux/PostGRE great combination, etc., but PostGRE is absolutely the wrong database here.
And that would be why, exactly? I've used postgres in a professional capacity, and while it's not as full featured as MS SQL, I haven't seen anything I couldn't easily do by just doing it the Postgres way.
>> And the Windows 7 / IIS / ASP.NET MVC stack is second to none for specifically web apps like Stackoverflow.
What's so special about Stack Overflow? To me it seems like a fairly straightforward web app. Any Java framework could handle something like this without breaking a sweat. But that's a false dichotomy here. You see, we're talking about a DB server right now. ASP.NET can talk to Postgres quite well (though probably not through LINQ).
And I agree with you, MS stack is awesome. When I worked at Microsoft and could install anything from the net for $0, it wouldn't even occur to me to use something else. In the real world, however, Microsoft software is far too expensive for web companies to use. Which is unfortunate, since I'm still a shareholder.
Anonymous comment above is mine.
Quote of the Year:
"Open source software only comes in one edition: awesome"
"Ha! You have got to be kidding!!!!!! Have you ever tried to figure out if you should be paying for MySQL or not? Most people just assume that they don't have to pay for it. Some are right. A lot of them are dead wrong!"
Really? My understanding was that it is GPL. Because of this, it is completely free, as in beer or otherwise. What you would be paying for is a support contract with MySQL, which you don't need to have, and are already paying for if you have it by virtue of... well, *having it*.
had experienced a situation like this and was very annoyed...
Server 2008 Datacenter does have one nifty feature: unlimited licenses to all previous versions of Windows up to and including Server 2008 Datacenter (including NT4 - gross!!!!) as long as they are all installed as VM's inside Datacenter.
@anon: I sure hope his epiphany is coming! One thing Jeff seems to have that seemingly none of the Microsoft lovers on this thread has is an appreciation for the OSS way. The strongly negative comments about Linux and other OSS software here are also implicitly shouting that they would never give OSS a try anyways... they seem to be just bashing it to reaffirm that they are somehow making the right decision.
My epiphany came when I realized I don't use any Microsoft only software anymore. Actually, it came much earlier, and I always wanted to delve further into Linux and other OSS, but I was tied to Microsoft due to my gaming interests. Then I got a Wii, and stopped playing any Windows games, and realized the time to switch was ripe. I've never looked back, and never will.
I would say the comments about bad community in Linux come from people that have never touched the Ubuntu community... scratch that, they never even peeked into the community. Ubuntu is making leaps and bounds at providing an awesome community, and an awesome OS that is compatible with virtually all hardware (I have set up 4 laptops with it), and easy and intuitive to use. My dad and sister are now using it, neither of them are all that technical, and both are loving it. My other sister is itching to get her hands on Ubuntu now, too.
I find this hilarious, thank you for being so honest, most people going with Microsoft would hide this fact.
It is simple, many OS solutions are just as good, and in some way better than Microsoft solutions. You will never be burnt in this particular way. Microsoft does offer a lot of stuff, and some great development tools. But they are a real pain to deal with in other ways. I am trying to decide which license we need to get for my small team of developers, to support a growing business. We mostly deal with OS, and prefer it a great deal, but some clients just want Microsoft, becuase they have no idea.
Different pricing schemes are fine if you actually get more when you pay for more.
So a car with a bigger / better engine is one thing, and you pay for that. But the same stereo for the same car shouldn't cost more because there's more power available.
Now MS had to write & test large-memory configurations which isn't cheap, so the super-duper versions are trying to recoup that cost. But why so many different limits? I count 5 different memory limits for 64-bit Server / Vista
I don't agree with it either though, because once the conversion has been made, wouldn't it be better to spread the cost evenly? Should your ram come with a coupon for a free upgrade?
MS Marketing is retarded. Too many versions of windows. Too many prices, and artificial segmenting which doesn't do them any favors in the end. Some versions being specifically tailored to a market segment is one thing (ie enterprise) but Vista Starter, Home and Home Premium? Business vs Enterprise? Ultimate? No thanks.
Have you ever tried to wade through the licensing requirements for other configurations? No thanks. Like Jeff said in the last blog on out versus up, the cost of licensing really starts to hurt.
In some ways my mac which comes in just 1 version and is limited by the hardware it runs on is nice and simple. There's no 100 different versions I have to wade through. If I want extras I can buy them, and the extras aren't limited to the version I buy (iLife, etc)
@Julian good comment. Open-source zealots don't end up convincing anyone when they spew vitriolic comments.
>> It is simple, many OS solutions are just as good,
>> and in some way better than Microsoft solutions.
Um, no. That is a point of view predominant among people who have never worked professionally with Microsoft stack. MS stack is currently second to none, and most of FOSS stuff is buggy, poorly documented garbage written by inexperienced developers.
There are some gems, however. Linux is one. Mainstream DBs tend to be pretty good (they wouldn't exist otherwise the quality bar is high by design). _Some_ Java frameworks are good (but most are overengineered to heck and poorly documented). For lower traffic web sites Ruby on Rails is awesome (just remember, Ruby is really slow). Etc, etc.
As long as you know what to pick, you can build very good products with minimal pain (and no licensing cost) on top of completely open-source stack. The prevalence of crap does not bother me given the existence of non-crap to choose from. I wouldn't go as far as to say that "many" FOSS products are good, however.
When I read "Smoky bacon edition" I thought of Kevin Bacon dancing to footloose, guess you are getting the Kenny Loggins Edition either way!
OS X also only comes in awesome.
Such an old trick!
It applies to hardware too, a good one from day of yore (early 70):
The IBM 360/135 was truly more expensive than the IBM 360/125 but you could buy an on site "upgrade".
The upgrade kit?
A new sticker label for the front panel and the maintenance guy had to cut the wire of the condensator which was slowing the clock!
This is where MS's initial idea for Vista's segmentation would have worked. Since standard server limits memory, they could sell you the "Memory Optimized Addressing" or some other similarly-named version, and just buying via the OS would let it work. Its damning for servers since (a) licenses are so expensive and (b) reinstalling an OS can be a very labor-intensive process, especially since you should be running the software through the testing wringer now that its on a "different" OS.
I ran into a similar problem recently when I upgraded my old(ish) T60 to 4gb of ram. Turns out that Lenovo is a bunch of weasels and decided to put an artificial cap on the maximum ram at 3gb. This doesn't seem to be due to market segmentation, merely laziness, Lenovo tries to blame the chipset but that chipset supports 4gb and the processor (core2 duo) is x64 so there's no good reason for Lenovo to have done such a thing other than as an engineering shortcut.
While I agree with your overall arugment and position, your comparison with 37signals falls flat, because they are actually allocating more or less hardware, depending on the plan you choose. It's not a completely arbitrary decision on their part.
For hardware limitations imposed by packaged software, you're spot on.
hilariously great! today I must say you were the venus williams of the blog writers. witty, powerful and with style :D
A nice theory, but not quite true. Open-source software comes in many editions. Even Free Software comes in many editions, if you want to get into that nomenclature debate.
For example, the company I work for has a product that's based around a set of GPL-licensed programs. You can download the sources from the FSF and some other places, and build it yourself, to make it do whatever you want. Or we offer three other versions. You can download a copy from us, for free, that's not got some of the spiffy tools but works fine. You can pay us a little bit, and get a pre-compiled version that has a shiny GUI and does a single-click install on Windows or Linux. Or you can pay us a lot, and get a no-limit support contract that goes with it, and bug-fix updates whenever you need them.
I don't know that this really affects your point that much, except to say that, in our domain, quite a lot of our users find that trying to do the compile-it-yourself version really takes rather more of their brains than downloading something that just works.
> 37Signals meanwhile uses the same software, but your use uses up significant resources.
Er, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but they're doing the same thing. Wolf in sheep's clothing.
Consider the $99 plan vs the $49 plan.
- 100 projects / 35 projects
- 20 GB storage / 10 GB storage
Do you *really* believe those extra 10 GB and 65 projects cost 37signals $50 a month to deliver to you?
Similarly, do you *really* believe that the cost of supporting 48 GB of memory versus 32 GB cost Microsoft $1000 per customer to build?
Jeff, I gotta wonder ... you based your entire business on a technology stack produced by the most weasely company existence, and you're only now realizing it? It's hard to understand how you weren't aware of that to start.
The real answer to your quandary is to not decide between footloose and greasy bacony goodnes (as both are great), but rather to decide NOT to use Microsoft products in the first place. I know you've got a lot invested in the MS stack, but the sooner you cut your addiction to them and switch to a perpetually awesome stack, the happier (long term) you're going to be.
I looked up the prices. Ouch! $2,200 just to flip the bit that says 'yes, you can use 48GB of memory'? I'd seriously think about just buying another server with 32GB...
I am reminded of the "Microsoft iPod Human Ear Edition with Subscription Upgrade" that circled the tubes a few years ago. Or, I remember you did a similar rant regarding SmartFTP Standard or Professional editions, and I ended up doing the same thing: bought standard, then I needed SFTP one day, and had to "upgrade" (pay more money) to retrieve my secret Konami code to enable SFTP.
In software, this kind of market segmentation just feels a little more sinister, I imagine because there's no physical product involved. (Meanwhile, in Home Depot, I can choose from among three different Toro leaf blowers, but that's not so bad because they're three different physical units, even if they probably are sharing 90% of their parts in common.)
Yes, Microsoft's greatest fault is its marketing department. I mean, ".NET 3.0 and .NET 3.5 are just DLLs on top of the 2.0 with some service packs, but .NET 4.0, now that's a biggie, hoo boy" pretty much sums up the latest idiocy. Or remember when they kept slapping .NET onto the end of everything? Passport.NET, Windows Server.NET....
The thing that cracks me up the most is that almost all of the pages have to have a "How to Buy" button because, well, it can be difficult figuring that out. Do I hunt down a sketchball vendor online? Do I really have to go through one of these idiot small business specialists? Do I need to spend three days researching what the heck Open Licensing is and how to get into it?
Some days I just want to pack it all up and move to the mountains.
@Jeremy: If Jeff is referring to the SO/SF/SU server(s), then switching away from MS would be prohibitive -- it would need to be a total rewrite in a new language. It would be cheaper to just keep paying the $2,200+ for getting the "necessary" (necessary only since MS says so) server license instead of rewriting.
Grocery store coupons do the exact same thing. For people who's time is less valuable, a.k.a. unemployed members of a household, it's worth it to clip coupons. For wealthier, busier people, it's not worth the time and effort to save a few dollars.
You are so dead-on about this segmentation of a product for B.S. reasons. It's so frustrating trying to figure out which version of Vista, Office, or Visual Studio to use.
I don't, however, share your enthusiasm for OSS. In a perfect world, all OSS would indeed be awesome, but I've dealt with quite a bit of OSS projects I would describe using another word that starts with aw: AWFUL!
Yeah, the price is free, but to me, my time is more important than anything else and I wasted way too much of it trying to get some OSS to work.
While I agree with your distaste for the marketing game, it seems like a stretch to apply this to OSS.
BTW: Kevin Bacon was in Footloose, so either edition will work for that purpose! ;-)
So basically you blame Microsoft for making the charts too complex.
I agree -- marketing department at Microsoft is good in milking customers but bad in customer satisfaction.
If MS marketing department made product comparison charts more user friendly, then marketers still could get all the money but customers wouldn't be frustrated as you are now.
Jeremy: "I know you've got a lot invested in the MS stack, but the sooner you cut your addiction to them and switch to a perpetually awesome stack, the happier (long term) you're going to be."
Yup, what any successful solution needs is a complete rewrite and redesign on a different platform that is potentially superior in some way.
>> Bacon is delicious, but I also love that Footloose song..
If you love Bacon and Footloose then you need
Windows 7 Kevin Bacon Edition
True, it's cheaper if you're JUST looking at the cost of the Winblows license for this one machine. But just an OS does not a web stack make, and one machine does not a (large) site make.
My point was that both the financial cost and the heartache of using the MS stack is only going to grow and grow over time. The sooner he bites the bullet and re-jiggers his code (.NET stuff is significantly different from other platforms, but switching wouldn't have to require a TOTAL rewrite), the sooner he can start realizing the true value of an open source stack.
(... And thus the sooner he can hit the "break even" point where the savings he gets from OSS finally eclipses the cost/withdrawl symptoms he had to pay to cut his addiction to MS.)
As someone said above, there is a huge difference between tiered pricing for hosting and for your server. In the case of hosting, you are receiving actual value for your money. You pay more money; you get more resources. With MS, you are actually paying for less work with more money. Think about it. MS builds an OS, and then they actually put more work in to limit what it can do. It's not "smart pricing." It's just a rip off.
i think you're spot on with the knock on ms, but comparing to 37signals and other web-based apps is not fair, imho. the reason you get charged more for a premium basecamp account, is that you are then able to use more resources, which the vendor has to pay for. so you can choose a size that fits you, and pay for what you use. this is the good kind of segmentation.
the weaselly kind is when microsoft artificially and arbitrarily limits a software product, in order to sell an un-hobbled version for more money. did it cost them more to make the premium version? no. will they incur more overhead by selling you a premium version? no. so the distinction is only one of their own making. this is the evil part. in fact, it conceivably cost them *more* to make and offer these other versions. there's engineering time, design and marketing time, etc.
so by all means, give em hell, but don't confuse this with meaningful and good product segmentation. expecting all web-based app accounts to cost the same is akin to thinking all cars should cost the same. you're paying more because you're getting more. and if you want a cheap option, it's there.
I think there's a fundamental difference in charging more for a hosting plan and charging more for Windows: giving you more disk space or bandwidth costs the hosting company more, but Enterprise edition doesn't cost Microsoft any more than Standard does.
On the other hand, I'm sure they would argue that they couldn't support Windows development on just those who only need the least capable systems, and there aren't enough people willing to pony up for just Enterprise, so really, we're *forcing* them to do this.
I assume you're being sarcastic :-) If it was just this one issue of Windows licensing I would agree, but just look at (for instance) this other recent post:
The Microsoft "tax" isn't just affecting the one server that is the highlight of this blog post. And as anyone who has used an MS stack and then ... well, not used an MS stack can tell you, the tax doesn't just stop with OS licenses either. So no, switching your entire infrastructure JUST so that you can use all your RAM on one machine is not a good idea. But switching your entire infrastructure while you're still relatively small compared to what you hope to someday become, so that you can suffer less now than if you switched later, does (or at least can) make sense. Especially when you stand to gain so much in the long term by doing so.
My first thought about your previous post about adding more RAM was, "I wonder, if he remembered to get the corrected edition with that much RAM". I would/should have set off alarm bells in any Windows admin's head. This is test 1, chapter 1, in the study materials for MSCE type certs.
Yeah, remember, FOSS is only free if your time isn't worth anything.
Not exactly 100% true, but labour costs and the time costs do need to be taken into account when you're looking at these things.
And I say this as someone who purchases software from Oracle. If you've ever bought anything from Oracle, you'll know that they make Microsoft look like the salvation army. But if I were to try to do the things here with cheaper products, we'd end up spending a lot more in the end.
If you are paying full price for any Server license from MS, you are paying too much or your MS rep is a moron.
This is purely anecdotal but it is what I have been told by my local MS evangelists.
NOTE: the Captcha on this site is awesome... I had to click refresh a bunch of times before I got one I could read...
"... as if 17 billion bytes simultaneously cried out..."
Umm, ain't that supposed to be 16 billion bytes?
Brilliant insight -- now I know why developers tell marketing people not to comment on code. That is, assuming that the insights of marketing people on code are on par with Jeff's diatribe on the evils of marketing.
Without a doubt marketing people are prone to over segmenting markets, and this tendency grows exponentially with the amount of profit to be gained by said over-segmentation. A good thing developers never overcomplicate things and make them seem more complicated than they actually are. Never seen a developer give a business person a bulls**t estimate of level of effort on a task to either buy time, or get out of doing a boring task. Never.
People have jobs. They do them and sometimes doing them well means customers pay money. If you buy that server upgrade you've just proven that the MSFT marketing people are doing their job well.
Thanks for doing a good job on SO -- I'll keep buying it.
Joel tought us a nice lesson about consumer surplus and software pricing, you might want to take a look at it:
(that was back when he bothered to write nice essays :-))
It has been very handy to me trying to explain my bosses why we should use different pricing schemes, while trying to keep it simple.
I would have liked to see the Zappa album cover version of "Weasels ripped my flesh"
The real question is how many lawyer-hours does it cost an enterprise to assure compliance with MS licensing terms versus OSS licensing terms.
Don't US universities do the same thing - tuition fees are astronomical, but are then reduced on a case by case basis for applicants through grants and financial aid, to match what the parents can actually afford?
Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if some simple registry settings controlled whether you could use all the installed memory or not. I've seen similar tactics from Microsoft before.
P.S. I love my MS stack but sometimes things just go too far.
I think you got it all wrong - it may be just flipping a bit now but how did the support for 48 gigs get there in the first place?? By developing and testing code which all takes time and money.
Look at it this way. You develop some software, you release a single version at a single price. It works great but some big businesses need feature X. So you develop feature X - investing a wack of time and money.
Now do you roll the new feature into the single version? No - because you will have to raise the price for everyone - even people who don't want the new feature.
So you split the versions - a cheaper standard version and a more expensive "Awesome" version that has the new feature. Now everybody wins. People who don't want the new feature pay less and you get remunerated for the development work by selling the higher priced version.
Now internally the software may be the same and only a bit flip enables the new feature - but that doesn't mean that feature should be given away for free.
I want to reiterate want a bunch of others have said. You've made a false comparison in this post. Hosting has directly measurable costs that scale with the amount of data, number of users, and number of connections. The bigger your site the more electricity, disk space, processor time, even real estate your site uses. These are real world measurable things. More users using your site costs your host more money.
You using more memory in your machine does not cost Microsoft anything extra. It did cost Microsoft a lot to cripple it though. I've been part of a project that created a cripple-ware version of a product and it cost a lot of money and time to cripple it.
brilliant post and so true. when you say this.. "The money is irrelevant; the expensive resource here is my brain. If I choose open source, I don't have to think about licensing, feature matrices, or recurring billing. I know, I know, we don't use software that costs money here, but I'd almost be willing to pay for the privilege of not having to think about that stuff ever again. " .. that's what I'm always telling my clients is the "handling charge" of using licensed software. In a large organization, it is a very real, and VERY large frictional overhead because even when "cheap" it has to go through business case, approval, purchasing, asset registers, maint. fees, etc etc. Then there's the procedure for getting support (which you will need because the product is opaque and doesn't work). It all requires the whole Dilbert department just to administer. Saving all that overhead is the biggest win in choosing open source.. not just saving the license fee.
Yeah, thank God that Linux only comes in one flavor.
He was probably referring to OS X server, which has only one version.
I've liked the licensing where you pretty much can use unlimited, but it bugs you in certain ways all the time when you're using beyond your limit... so you put in 48 GB of RAM, it uses 48 GB but tells you that hey you're licensed for 32 GB in the event logs... and maybe displays something on startup... and maybe in the sys tray every few hour. Of course we're talking about a server here, so how often do you really access it via console/remote desktop, so this probably won't work too well on preventing users... but it's step towards "don't make me think".
Note: the system where I saw licensing implemented that way was a process data historian (kind-of like SQL Server but really quite different)... it would implement some restrictions but still could use the system. Vital to know though that the system was really costly compared to what most people think of for server software costs, but the industries that use it can afford it... it also helped that this historian seriously held a very large percentage of market share too.
This exact problem is what pushed a previous employer of mine to switch from a completely Microsoft-centric software stack to a Linux & Postgres stack a couple of years ago. My boss bought an 8-processor server from a failed .com at auction, got the thing home, and then looked up how much it would cost to install Windows and MSSQL on the thing (think per-CPU licensing costs). After his blood pressure came back down, we crunched some numbers and it turned out that it would be cheaper for me to spend the next six (or maybe it was eight) months working full-time to get our system ported over to Linux and Postgres than it would have been to buy versions of Windows and MSSQL that would actually use all eight processors. Cheaper by something like a factor of two. Now, granted, I was being underpaid at the time, but not *that* badly.
Of course, as we all know, TANSTAAFL always applies: there was pain involved in porting our system over, and we had to learn a lot about Linux in a very short period of time, and there were some gnarly integration hassles due to the rest of our company being Windows-only. I also vividly remember spending a couple of extremely unpleasant days trying to get whatever version of SuSE I was using back then to play nicely with the weird-ass SCSI RAID backplane this particular server used.
But you know what? If you were to add up the total cost of the time I spent dealing with those hassles and the pain, it still wouldn't have come close to the purchase price for eight CPUs worth of MSSQL. And, when we eventually outgrew or first server and had to set up a second instance of our system at a different location, guess what we didn't have to do? Yup, you guessed it: shell out multiple tens of thousands of dollars again in Microsoft tax. Really, it was one of the biggest no-brainers I've ever seen in person. Note that none of this has anything to do with the relative *quality* of Windows vs. Linux or MSSQL vs. Postgres- that's not a game I really want to get into. All I'm saying is that the cost difference is such (especially for smaller companies with shallow pockets) that I have a hard time seeing a reason to pay the extra money.
Two words : Ubuntu Server
I ran into a similar problem using Windows XP Standard Edition when it suddenly began rejecting additional connections into our small project team's file-server. I don't deny their right to set pricing schemes, but the problem I have coming from the Mac / Linux world is that I don't expect to be asking the right marketing-driven questions. Questions like "Does this version allow connections only limited by system resources?" or "Does this version actually address all the memory a 64-bit addressing space should allow it to address?" seem like nonsense, along the lines of asking if you want your processor to support both addition AND subtraction.
In our case, since the server was essentially operating as just a file-server, it got wiped and replaced with a Debian install, which we still use. The value-add of the MS software stack didn't make up for the (I'll go ahead and say it) psychological trauma of not being able to trust the system to conform to my arbitrary standards of functionality.
If you're looking for an FOSS altenative to Basecamp, we have a clone you can install. Check it out at our site, it's free, or find me in twitter as michokest