Company-thwarted testing

This week, I'm doing product evaluations at work. Specifically, evaluations of highly enterprisey system management applications. Things like Microsoft System Management Server (though I'm hoping to find a package that's slightly less hideously complicated to administer). And you know what? It's really starting to piss me off!

It's not researching an evaluating these systems that's pissing me off. Although it probably should. After all, I'm a "systems analyst," not a network administrator. I don't touch the servers without explicit permission from the network admin, and therefore don't have a great deal of experience in this area. This is not because I don't know what I'm doing (though I don't claim to be an expert on Windows administration), but because the admin jealously guards his network, and he will strike down those who trespass upon his servers with great fury! Woe to any analyst or programmer who should mess up a server in even a minor way, for he shall never again get anything done on the network. So sayeth the Lord!

The real reason I'm pissed off is that I have no test hardware. Or, more to the point, I have test hardware, but it really, really sucks. To summarize, in order to set up a Windows Server 2003 box, I'm using an old XP desktop with a RAM module cannibalized from an identical desktop just to get it up to 1/2 a gigabyte. The client boxes I'm going to have to set up will have a whopping 128MB of memory a piece. And this is the best we've got available.

Of course, my ideal setup would be to just use a completely virtual test network running in VMware. However, I'm planning on 1 server and about 3 clients initially, and the most powerful box I have available is my desktop workstation, with a measly 1GB of RAM, which would be kind of pushing it. So I'll probably end up with 4 PCs sitting in the server room running VNC servers so that I don't have to physically walk back there and let the roar of the air conditioning system slowly destroys my hearing.

The second reason I'm pissed of is because of who this project is for. If our organization made any sense, we would be looking into system management software for the 300 or 400 (or whatever - I've never seen the exact number) desktops that we support. But it's not. This is for a collection of about 60 mobile laptop units that are scattered across the countryside and hardly ever make it in to the office. The idea is that we'd like to manage updates, installations, configuration changes, and so forth on them without having to drive them 30 or 40 miles to someone with administrator access. I have no problem with that, since only three people have admin access on those machines, and I'm one of them, so it saves me some effort. It's just that it would be nice to be doing something like this in the place where it would save the most work. But then, without the constant running around clicking "next" and such, our department wouldn't have an excuse to be grossly over-staffed.

I guess the take-away here is, "Don't work for the government. Especially local government." There may not be much stress in the Silicon Valley sense, but the frustration and futility levels are through the roof. But on the up side, you can pretty much take a vacation day whenever you want and nobody cares. It's just a matter of whether you prefer stability and flexibility or a feeling that just maybe your days aren't completely wasted.

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