Microsoft’s “free” seminar just a sales pitch

**Note: Also appears on the Calgary Herald’s Q. Blog

Reginald Tiangha

On Tuesday, I attended Microsoft’s Future of the Server Room Tour ’07 TechNet presentation at the Paramount Chinook. It was a free, all day session with breakfast and (even more impressively) lunch provided courtesy of the company that Bill Gates helped to create.

Based on their description of the event, I was secretly hoping for a relevant, possibly academic discussion on the issues that System and Network Administrators will have to deal with in the future and possible solutions to some of the problems that lurk on the horizon. Based on the titles of their agenda, they were set to cover server infrastructure, virtual infrastructure management, physical infrastructure management and network security. It sounded like very relevant stuff to an IT Pro like me.

Unfortunately, once you dig deeper into the descriptions and actually attend the presentations, it was about 5% discussion of issues and 95% product showcase. Forget about Linux, VMWare, Nagios or Nessus, all of which are free and available for download which can do essentially the same things. Even forget about strategies and best practices that you can employ to nip these issues in the bud. The message at the end of the day was that you should trust Microsoft with your network maintenance and security and use only their products because as the tech demos showed, they’re pretty good tools and get the job done. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

I know that many in the audience were very receptive to what they had to say by the end of the presentation. In fact, I’m interested myself in adapting some of the technologies and ideas that were showcased that day into our network infrastructure at work…

…using similar tools in Linux.

Honestly, why would I want to shell out big bucks for software that can be had available for free? I guess if we were running a larger Windows network, it might be worth the price for convenience as they’re pretty good tools, but I’m fairly certain there are some third party tools out there that could possibly do the same things for less. Or maybe not. Don’t have much knowledge about the Windows world (which is part of the reason why I attended the free event in the first place.) as I currently work at a small company that runs Linux based computers on the majority of their desktops in order to keep costs down.

In any case, one word of advice: the next time that Microsoft (or anyone else that gives out presentations for free) comes to town with another event, you should remember to not only keep an open mind, but to always think critically as well lest you start to think that the one answer that people give you is the only answer that is available.

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