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5/16/2005
12:01 PM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
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Job One for IT: Figuring Out What Job One Is

Why does it surprise us that just when we think we're beginning to get a handle on what needs to be done, it changes?

Just when we think we're beginning to get a handle on what needs to be done, it changes. How come we didn't expect it to?

For instance, a while back I wrote a blog entry setting Microsoft straight on open source software, a topic Microsoft and I have agreed to disagree about. I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but it was probably a little bit snide -- I've been giving Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer the benefit of my wisdom for years, and frankly, they seem to take so little of it to heart. I do remember an e-mail I got from a reader who called my piece "Microsoft-bashing" and said something like, "don't waste my time with this stuff. I've got a data center to run."

I thought of that when I read the story about Palamida's new IP Amplifier, a search tool and database of, the company claims, more than 38 million of the most commonly used open-source code files. The point of the product is that companies may be incurring legal liability if they run software that includes code that has been wrongly identified as "open source," whether by mistake or with malice aforethought on the part of some developer.

So the reader who didn't want me to waste his time with open-source stuff is probably devoting a lot of his time to open-source stuff these days. Poetic justice, perhaps. But it's also symptomatic of business as usual these days in the IT department. Every time something new comes along, where does it go? Right on IT's plate.

A lot of the new stuff has to do with reporting. It's no longer enough to keep the database server up most of the time and the network running fairly well, users moderately happy and the firewall pretty bulletproof. Compliance means not only do we have to do all these things better, we have to document how much better. And compliance also means that we can't just do a good job of backing up, we've got to archive, and be able to produce on demand, virtually everything that crosses the company network, from documents to e-mail to IM traffic. And oh, by the way, put on this badge because you're also the new security guard for the enterprise: spam, spyware, phishing, trojans, and plain old stealing are all your responsibility.

So which one of your jobs is most important? Think carefully before you answer -- "Don't waste my time with this stuff. I've got a data center to run," is probably a career-limiting response, take my advice. Even if Bill and Steve won't.

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