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September 11, 2006 / jnolen

Image is everything?

You may recall me writing about a new release of JotSpot not too long ago. One of the major announcements was their downloadable version. I was confident that enterprise customers wanted this, and I thought it would go a long way toward increasing their penetration.

However, I have since heard from reliable sources that then downloadable JotSpot is not "installable" software in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, it's being distributed as a VMWare image. I confess, I really don't know what to think about that. Is it a good move? A bad one? Neutral?

I've never worked at a company that has used server-images as a production deployment strategy. But on the other hand, none of my companies has really been on cutting edge of IT. Are most enterprises comfortable with this strategy today? At least, more comfortable than the software-as-a-service strategy?

I know that using images is more common now, but is it actually common? Or is it only relatively common, just like there are more companies willing to try software-as-a-service these days, but it's still a small minority.

Shipping as a VMWare image is obviously easier for them, in terms of developer-time invested. But will enterprise customers buy it? It doesn't entirely answer the original problem: It solves the inside-the-firewall issue, which is a big complaint. It solves the run-on-my-hardware issue.

But it doesn't solve the leverage-my-staff's-expertise issue. That is, if I have an IT department who is only able to admin Windows servers and MS SQL, then this probably doesn't help them. Or if I have a staff of very expensive Oracle DBAs, what happens when I throw this one random MySQL server (or whatever DB Jot uses out of the box) at them. Even though it's running on an image, it's still a different database and what happens if you need to change something? I don't know how much of a roadblock that is.

So this is obviously better than not having a downloadable version at all. But is it this a good long term strategy? What do you think?

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