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Just A Thought
by Vern Seward

IT Diversity: Dif'rent Strokes For PC Folks
September 9th, 2003

A few weeks ago I rented and watched the movie, The Hunted. I had no preconceptions about the movie, I hadn't read any reviews and I hadn't heard anyone's comments. I'd seen the previews and it looked like something I thought might be entertaining.

As I watched the closing credits scroll by I notice that I was experiencing two distinct feelings; I was angry for having wasted 2 hours watching that movie, and I felt sorry for the two main actors, Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, for being associated so prominently with such a dog.

Recently I happened to be walking by the DVD section in my local Target and a man was looking at a DVD of The Hunted as if to consider buying it. I had to stop and offer my two cents; "Have you seen that movie," I asked him?

"No, I haven't, but I like Tommy Lee and this Del Toro guy."

"Yeah, so do I, but I hated that movie. Del Toro had one expression throughout the whole movie; a pained, sorrowful look, which seemed to be the only reason for his actions in the flick. Jones spent a good part of the movie walking around in a squat that look strangely like that of a primate and a person needing to take a dump."

The guy looked at me dubiously, likely wondering if he should take his DVD and run or try to talk to me using soothing words and making no sudden movements. I smiled at him reassuringly and said, "That's just my opinion. You may like it."

The guy was about to walk off when a woman, who had been standing nearby and overheard our conversation, chimed in, "I saw that movie and I liked it a lot. Plenty of action and it was interesting to see how they handle knives so well."

I had to agree, there was some action in the flick, and it did make me wonder about what it might take to learn to use a knife as Del Toro did. I just didn't want to have to walk around in a half squat for the rest of my life.

I looked this newcomer over and she didn't seemed to be intoxicated or under the influence of one too many Valium pills. I guess the guy figured the woman was the better movie critique and struck up a conversation with her, ignoring me altogether.

Normally, being ignored like that would have ignited the darker side of me and I would have sent both people running for security, but I was distracted by a single thought: That little scene was the epitome of diversity in action.

Different ideas, different views, different likes and dislikes are what makes the world go 'round. Differences between people insures that the human species won't die from a disease like the common cold; a healthy company diversifies its offerings to ease dependence on any one product for the survival of the company; literature ranges from factual to fantasy, ensuring that you would never become bored in a library and guaranteeing that authors will always have an audience.

Diversity in the workplace is beginning to be recognized as an asset; people with different backgrounds bring to the table many different views to the problems at hand, and they bring many different solutions.

The puzzling thing is, if diversity is so good why don't corporate IT managers and CIOs take it to heart?

Recently the Boston Globes' Hiawatha Bray penned an article titled To Combat Worms, Diversity Helps, which studies the affects of the lack of diversity in the corporate IT world and the recent spat of viruses and worms that plagued that environment. Mr. Bray asserts that, if companies had embraced a more diverse IT architecture, one that includes many different kinds of computers running operating systems from many different makers, then the affects of viruses and worms on any one system, and those who depend on them, might have been greatly minimized. In a diverse IT environment, if your Windows servers becomes crippled by viruses then you can fall back on your Linux or Unix servers; Windows desktops rendered useless by worms would not totally stop all work in the company if there were key people using Macs running OS X.

Mr. Bray has a point. In fact, take some time to read Mr. Bray's piece. Then print it out and make leave it around some key, strategic points in your office to make sure that the right chuckleheads might read it. You never know, maybe they'll think about it.

It makes no difference if you like Microsoft or HP, Apple or Sony; what matters is that, by smartly integrating disparate systems, your company becomes less dependent on any one system, and becomes more tolerant of viruses and worms.

One point that Mr. Bray makes that I don't agree with is that the current problems IT faces with viruses, worms, and whatnot is Apple's fault: Apple is not totally to blame. Mr. Bray reasons that if Apple had made a push early on in the PC revolution then the IT problems of today would not be so severe. I cannot agree. Apple, as well as various flavors of UNIX, was in the IT strategy of many large companies up until the late 90's when CIOs and IT manager decided to "standardize" corporate desktops and servers for the sake of saving money. The fault for this lies on the shoulders of IT managers who bought Microsoft's story that a homogeneous environment, featuring Microsoft products, would save money and make the IT managers' jobs easier. This after these CIOs and managers knew that Unix systems offered, at the time, a far more stable and reliable system than anything Microsoft could offer.

Apple, during that time, was still steeped in proprietary protocols, so if there's any blame to be leveled at 1 Infinite Loop it is that at that time, Apple was every bit as hostile to open standards as Microsoft was (and still is). Is it any wonder that corporations were shy to use Macs?

Today's Macs running OS X embrace open standards and are team players. Macs can speak natively to Unix servers and Windows servers alike, yet Macs remain uniquely different enough from either to ensure a diverse environment.

So, the question now is: Will a diverse computing environment, featuring Macs, ensure that my company won't lose valuable man-hours the next time a SoBig-like worm hits? Not necessarily. It depends on how your CIO or IT manager makes use of the differences in the machines and OSes, or whether they even buy the idea of diversity at all. Let's hope they do.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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