The "Gurus of Gartner" Ride Again

By Peter A. Bromberg, Ph.D.
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Peter Bromberg

In late May I read one of Mark Driver's (Gartner Group) articles in Fawcette's excellent .NET Magazine, and I was so disgusted with the almost constant anti-MS droning that this guy and his cronies perpetrate on unsure developers, corporate managers, and others that I felt compelled to write a response to the editors. I reprint my letter here:

 

From: Peter Bromberg �
Sent: Sunday, May 26, 2002 8:46 PM

To: Online

Subject: Comments on Mark Driver article in .NET Magazine June 2002 issue

Regarding Mark Driver of Gartner's article in your June 2002 issue of .NET Magazine:

 Mr. Driver begins by inferring he is a developer in saying "at least we think we do [have at least a cursory understanding of .NET]".

 It's obvious Mr. Driver is not a developer, but only another anti-Microsoft drone in the "Gurus of Gartner" clan. Most real developers know that .NET is the Common Language Runtime and Type System and the various programming languages from Microsoft and some 20 - odd third party vendors that target this platform, and have no difficulty separating this in their own minds from the "marketing hype .NET" that Driver refers to in his article.

Driver then goes on to enlighten us that "1.0 technology inherently carries the immature and incomplete nature of a 1.0 platform" and that "Microsoft has never been particularly good at a version 1.0 of anything".

The fact of the matter, Mr. Driver, is that the technology you refer to as "1.0 platform" has been in continuous development at Microsoft since 1997 - a very long time by current technology standards - and has undergone more debugging and beta - testing than virtually any development platform currently on the market.

Readers need only refer to the excellent articles in the same June 2002 issue in which Driver's article appears to see that major organizations who were early adopters of .NET found even the BETA version of .NET stable and mature enough to begin developing enterprise - level applications right away.

I might add that .NET also seems to be good enough for the most respected of the Linux open-source developer community as well, since the MONO project, taking advantage of the ECMA certification of the Common Language Infrastructure and C# language - with Microsoft's blessing - continues to move ahead rapidly.

Finally, Driver asserts that "unless Microsoft can follow up with real .NET - based products in an aggressive timeframe, it's likely to loose [sic] the confidence of its developers."

Driver apparently believes the purpose of .NET is to enable Microsoft to come out with software products based on it. Of course, developers are using .NET to create these very products today - which is the real purpose of .NET.

.NET Magazine is a great publication with lots of useful material to people who are genuinely interested in this exciting new platform. I suggest the next time you consider accepting a similar article from Mark Driver, fill the space instead with another of the quality pieces of work that constituted the rest of the June issue.

Peter Bromberg

-- I soon received a response from the editors that they wanted to publish my letter in their September issue, and I responded saying that was fine. Not soon after, I receive another email from one of their editors, who apparently had sent my "letter to the editor" to Mr. Driver to solicit his "counter response":

Sent: Monday, June 24, 2002 5:31 PM

Subject: FW: Comments on Mark Driver article in .NET Magazine June 2002 issue

Hi Peter,

Our executive editor, Elise, sent your letter on to Mark for a response (below).
Regards,
Lauren

-----Original Message-----
From: Driver,Mark [mailto:mark.driver@gartner.com]
Sent:
Sunday, June 23, 2002 9:42 PM
To: Elise Peterson
Subject: RE: Comments on Mark Driver article in .NET Magazine June 2002 issue

Here you go...

I'm always amazed at how quickly analysts are pigeon-holed as either drones or goons.  For example, if I write a research note critical of Linux in any aspect, I'm instantly labeled as being one of Microsoft's goons by somebody.  Likewise any critical comments regarding Microsoft's technology and I'm an "anti-Microsoft drone". Well you can't please everyone I suppose.  My commentaries are definitely not designed to be anti-Microsoft any more than they are designed to be love letters to .NET.

To answer your first issue, no I am not a developer.  I was a developer, technical architect, and project manager one for more than 15 years, but now I'm just a research analyst.  I'm not entirely sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing on some days.  As an analyst, my job is to take a big picture strategic view of technology from many angles. 

When I say "we" have at least a cursory understanding of .NET, I am referring "we" the IT community, including end users, developers, managers, etc.  The simple fact is that .NET is many things to many people and the specifics are quite confusing to many.  I know because I speak with hundreds of them personally from companies all over the world.  For example, what do the .NET Back Office servers currently have to with CLR or the .NET framework?  Not much at all.

And yes, .NET is an immature technology from a company with a horrible history of introducing new technologies. This certainly doesn�t mean that .NET is fundamentally flawed in some way; after all, every technology must mature over time. However, it has been my experience that identifying risks associated with immaturity can greatly strengthen adoption strategies.

On one hand you say that .NET has been in development since 1997 implying that makes it mature is some way.  Why then, didn't Microsoft have a suite of .NET applications ready to roll the day the framework was officially released? The answer is simple, even Microsoft must take its time to eat its own cooking when working from a brand new recipe.

Finally, even if .NET technologies were perfected today (and they certainly aren't), there remains major issues in training and skills migration.  I daily come across enterprises who are justifiably very concerned with rolling out .NET technologies over coming months.  This is the audience my commentary was directed toward.  Certainly more leading edge developers with a greater propensity for risk can and should take a much more aggressive strategy. 

So no Mr. Bromberg, I am not an "anti-Microsoft drone" but thanks for your letter.  I'll be sure to use you as a reference in the future when an open source or J2EE proponent accuses me a being one of Microsoft's goons.

-- To which I replied with the following:

Dear Lauren,

Thanks for soliciting Mr. Driver's response, but frankly, I am not at all impressed.

I've read a number of his articles over the last year or so and almost without exception they stand out in my memory as  having been crafted to cater to the anti-Microsoft fervor that Gartner Group has nurtured (that is to say, so long as their clients are willing to pay for this type of  garbage). These of course include his company's recommendation that clients abandon Internet Information Services as a webserver. And of course, a serious bug, discovered  in the Apache webserver,  simply underscores the fact that it is not necessarily the software, but the people who run and maintain it that is the primary source of security flaws. ALL software has flaws!

Regarding Mr. Driver's comment about  "we have at least a cursory understanding of .NET" perhaps Mr. Driver ought to have considered the fact that a significant portion of his readership in your magazine is indeed both developers like myself and their managers.

By the way, it might interest Mr. Driver to know that I have a personal relationship with at least one person who (with the blessing and encouragement of Gartner) is excitedly developing world class software for Gartner Group using - you guessed it - the .NET platform! He took the time to research the opinions and experiences of other developers along with investing a great deal of his own free time testing key features of .NET prior to giving it a thumbs up.

Once again, Driver is showing his ignorance in saying, "Why then, didn't Microsoft have a suite of .NET applications ready to roll the day the framework was officially released?"

And once again, I must patiently explain that the purpose of the .NET platform is exactly that - to empower professional developers to create the "Suite of .NET applications" that he refers to. Not only are we busy doing that, but virtually every major software vendor either has already created or is working on such software.

Finally, Mr. Driver asserts in his response, "I daily come across enterprises who are justifiably very concerned with rolling out .NET technologies over coming months."

This is the classic political scare tactic. You see this in every political campaign. Sometimes it works, often it backfires.

There is "risk" in any development platform and effort, including the risk that if you don't move forward and change, you are almost certain to live with the built-in deficiencies of the legacy platforms and methodologies that you insist on using!

Microsoft has engineered, in my opinion, a very low-risk strategy for .NET adopters to follow by carefully integrating the ability to have non - .NET components and applications interoperate very smoothly with newer .NET platform components and software, making the transition progressive and much easier to integrate. Driver would have us think that it's all Black or White" - it's not.

So, drone away, Driver!  

Peter Bromberg

I think the thrust of this whole interchange is very clear: You should have a healthy mistrust of anyone who holds themselves out to be "an expert". Of course these are my personal opinions, they do not represent the opinions of eggheadcafe.com or any of its other principals, and it doesn't matter what company these "expert opinions" came from - I would have responded the same no matter who it was. My opinions are based on my nearly two years of direct experience working with .NET since its first release as BETA 1 in July, 2000. I've also had the pleasure of some experience with other platforms such as JAVA. And of course, you should understand that I have no "axe to grind" with Gartner Group as a whole, which is a first class operation that offers a number of innovative products and services.

Whether Fawcette actually go on to publish my letter to the editor remains to be seen. I just thought it would be interesting to publish and �highlight some of the - what I consider to be biased "garbage" that� gets promulgated in the guise of "professional research" in today's tech development scenario. Do you agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome at our forums!

Finally, I've received several emails and comments on this since I decided to publish it, all agreeing with me. You can read one post here.

N.B. - It turns out that .NET Magazine did publish a stripped - down version of my letter, along with the canned response from Mr. Driver. You can view it here.


Peter Bromberg is a C# MVP, MCP, and .NET consultant who has worked in the banking and financial industry for 20 years. He has architected and developed web - based corporate distributed application solutions since 1995, and focuses exclusively on the .NET Platform.