By: Amy Wohl (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I read a great post on Jonathan Schwartz's blog today (http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/). Jonathan is, of course, the CEO of Sun Microsystems and his blog is often the cause of much amusement and some enlightment.
In this case, he was reporting that one of his good customers was not planning (on the C-level) to use MSQL (Sun's new Open Source Software acquisition)because they feared it would be too unruly. A member of his entourage, however, reported to the customer that more than a thousand copies of MYSQL had been downloaded by the customer's developers and it turns out that it's a very popular development tool at that customers (and, I would guess, elsewhere).
I'm not at all surprised, but I want to generalize this idea. In fact, just last week at IBM's IMPACT meeting (it's gathering of more than 6,000 SOA customers in Las Vegas), I had a discussion in one of the sessions I chaired about how common it was for lots of something new to be used in an organization with no formal knowledge of its existence. We've seen that with LANs, PCs and servers (back in the early client-server days).
That isn't bad -- as long as the experimenting doesn't violate any organizational standards in a way that causes something to break. We want to allow for the flexibility to try new things, but we still have to make sure that we do it in a secure environment where we can look back -- next month or in five years -- and know what we did. Just some fairly simply documentation helps here -- and someone to oversee the experiments in new technology (not to prevent them), so there's some sense of what's going on.
Some of the best new ideas happen from unexpected directions.