More friends, more money, more fun… “More” is generally considered a good thing. But there are plenty of times when “more” isn’t a good thing: more expensive, more difficult, more complex come to mind. The big hypervisor vendors have been focused on “more” in recent years. And in general this is good for consumers. More advanced storage capabilities – Cool! More powerful VMs – Nice! More advanced functionality – Good; even better if you actually use the functionality provided!
The industry trend is that basic hypervisor technology is commoditizing quickly. While core hypervisor functionality is still at the heart of customer demand, it is rapidly becoming table stakes.
Despite efforts to leverage its dominant position with ESX® and vSphere®, VMware seems to have struggled to come up with an extension to its core capabilities that can sustain the same level of growth as they have had historically. Given additional threats to its hypervisor base (with both OpenStack® and Microsoft®), VMware is still looking for the next blockbuster market: cloud, application development, operations extensions (e.g., monitoring, patch management).
As the sale of the Shavlik® patch capabilities showed, extending into adjacent markets isn’t always easy. VMware is now bundling add-on capabilities into “editions” that include more and more advanced capabilities.
Microsoft, the master of the “no choice” bundle, is doing the same. With Windows Server 2012® and System Center, you generally get everything and the kitchen sink, whether you will utilize it all or not. The no-option bundle generally provides at least one “must have” component grouped with a bunch of lower priority components. You put them together and reduce the price of the whole package, so that the price of the whole is less than what each piece costs separately. That works just fine if you are a large enterprise planning to buy all of the pieces anyway. However, if you are an SMB and/or just need a subset of the capabilities, this may cost more than what you’d pay if you had competitively priced á lá carte options or if you may not utilize all of the functionality provided in the bundle.
Since this is not a new approach, most people will look critically at the upfront cost to decide what their viable options are and whether the “no choice” bundle is worth the initial purchase price. But it is after the initial purchase where hidden costs may start to add up.
We all know some products may be difficult to install and operate. With companies trying to do more with less, many IT admins have to take on multiple responsibilities to keep the ship afloat. If your only job is to manage one narrow area and you spend your entire day in one tool, you may like the cutting-edge features that require substantial time to learn, use, and maintain. However, if you have to manage a variety of disparate tasks that require you to jump in quickly, figure out what is going on, solve it and move on to something else, then products can be a productivity and budget killer. Bundled products include both easy to use and complex features, and if you don’t have time to spend on learning the idiosyncrasies of all of them, then you are not really maximizing the true extent of your investment.
The second hidden cost is maintenance. While the purchase price may look great, the initial purchase price may not look so great when, a year later, you have to start paying maintenance. Again, maintenance is valuable for products you need, but oftentimes, many of these add-on capabilities become shelfware.
So, what is the answer? It is pretty simple if you have confidence that the software products you are selling will deliver on their promise of value, you would offer them all at an affordable price and you would let the customer buy just what they need.
Hmm, that sounds familiar.