The mythology of spending money on things, or not doing so

March 2, 2013

A commentator on my entry on considering FreeBSD instead of Illumos wrote in part (about paying Oracle for Solaris 11 instead of going with FreeBSD):

Unless your data is not really worth to you $1-2k per year and then you are willing to run it on other platforms. In this case FreeBSD is fine choice.

When I read this (and similar things in other bits of the comment) it made me viscerally angry. Whether or not the commentator realized it this is FUD, and FUD of a particularly insidious kind for sysadmins.

There are two things wrong with this statement. The first is the idea that paying money is necessary to get quality results. In reality paying money is almost uncorrelated with results, for many reasons including that salespeople for most vendors have a lot of incentives to make a sale but almost no incentives to make you happy. You do not need to pay money (especially lots of money) to get a good storage system and paying (lots of) money is no guarantee that the resulting storage system will be any good. There are many existence proofs of this out in the world, and similarly many existence proofs for other software.

The second is the extremely toxic attitude that if you aren't paying money (or aren't willing to pay money) that your data 'is not really worth' much to you, that you aren't taking things seriously, and so on. This is a combination of a guilt trip ('if you actually cared, you'd spend the money') and a common scare tactic ('that you didn't spend money will demonstrate to people that you didn't really care and didn't do it right'). It's also invoked as a way of dismissing people who don't spend money; clearly they aren't really serious about whatever they're doing (and if it's you, implicitly you aren't).

Good sysadmins are very sensitive to the idea that we aren't being serious about data that's entrusted to us. This sort of FUD either works great (at getting us to spend money) or drives us into paroxysms of anger at the quiet insinuations it contains. The latter is especially likely if we are being sold what we consider to be snake oil.

(It sometimes also contains the insinuation that we haven't realized that we could spend money or that it might be worthwhile to do so. This is generally not at all the case; if we are not spending money, we've made our best attempt at a rational analysis of the situation and thus have good reasons for our decision. The same is true for spending money, but it's less common for people to suggest that you shouldn't have spent money for something.)

(I had other reactions to the other portions of their comment.)

Comments on this page:

By Ofer Arbeli at 2017-07-12 02:48:47:

what a bunch of nonsense ! you get what you pay for ! good storage systems are expensive ! and made to be almost bullets proof and no ! it's not overkill !

Written on 02 March 2013.
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Last modified: Sat Mar 2 00:33:02 2013
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