Make it or buy it?
Steve Cassidy ponders whether 'home grown' really is the way to go nowadays.
This is a very fair point: Especially since Microsoft are making quite unmistakeable signs about dealing with the whole management & automation thing by making massive extensions themselves, to the world of PowerShell and scripting, even if it is very frequently hidden from the user by a thin film of HTML5 and soothingly animated "please wait" popups. By contrast, the RM flavours of management utility look and feel like they are slightly solving yesterday's problem with yesterday's tools: I can see why a painful history with wonky, cheap PCs could make someone very insistent and paranoid about device drivers, to take one case in point: But surely the growth in general-purpose central machine management, VPro and other hardware reference platforms and so on, should make such worries redundant, or at least fixed by tools that everyone can learn about?
Well, yes and no. The way school IT works the pressure of the unending torrent of lessons and the destructive potential of enquiring minds and mischievous fingers is a very different place from commercial, private-sector IT. What's more, the style of light-touch, super-clever customisation these developers have followed is unfamiliar territory for most commercial operations. Possibly they should take the trouble to understand it, and possibly it is a startlingly clever answer to a common shared problem. This gap in familiarity is likely to be just as big an inhibition to the common experience in using the tools ("What do you mean, the context menu in AD Users and Computers has 15 entries in it? Mine has six ") as is the dissimilarity barrier presented by the special nature and history of the RM competitor.
I suspect that this piece of development is actually 80 per cent a prod to RM to update its thinking, and only 20 per cent a serious try at a commercially launchable, supportable product. It's immensely smart, and on the basis of the dev team's experience it can hardly fail to mirror the normal demands of the user population but it has no funky logo, no 30-day trial, no dev blog whipping up the faithful into a lather of anticipation. And it seems that these too are vital parts of making a piece of development pay it's way for the developer. I think what I saw is a superb piece of work, hidden from the world by the division between private and public sectors, and deserves much more recognition as a smart answer. I've never seen an Active Directory customisation before but is this actually how great products arise and find a market? To our great shame and loss, I must say, I think the answer to that is "no".