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My Costco shirt and IBM’s CentOS

I like Costco. I probably like Costco too much, and my wife would attest to that. But there is one item I will never purchase again at Costco – their dress shirts. Apparently the male models at Costco’s shirt factories were crossbred with alligators; or it could be that my anatomy is a direct descendant of the missing link. Every dress shirt I have ever purchased has sleeves 2 inches too short. How does that happen you may ask? It happens for the same reason IBM decided to drop support of CentOS.

Deep in the bowels of Costco is a bean counter (euphemism for accountant) with the sole purpose of trimming 2 inches of fabric from every shirt manufactured. Over the course of 5 million shirts this results in a savings for 10 million inches of fabric. While this studious bean counter is lauded by the water cooler every day, millions of men are walking around with their sleeves rolled up on their Costco shirt because they don’t want to look like a Magilla gorilla (for the young readers go Google search that phrase and look at the images when he wears an army uniform).

On the surface there is never anything wrong about doing cost cutting measures to help the bottom line. But, just like a balance sheet, there are two sides to every decision. Unfortunately, my experience with accountants is that most of them are single sided people with respect to customer relationships. They look at both sides of the numbers but they don’t look at both sides of the customer impact. Such is the case with IBM’s announcement to drop support of CentOS. Oh, they have back tracked for now because of the public push back. Make no mistake, their intent is to cut costs no matter what.

Our company has benefited greatly from the CentOS project over the years. In the world of Linux, Centos has been known for its stability and reliability in mission critical data centers. In an effort to support the RedHat / CentOS project, we recently spent thousands of dollars on RHEL licenses in order to build out a developmental virtual machine cluster. After thousands of dollars in additional staff time, we punted and stood up the same environment in hours using the open source CentOS platform. We opted for the RHEL licenses thinking we would be supporting the project as well as getting a very stable virtual machine platform; unfortunately RedHat came up 2 inches short.

The lesson here is easy. For all the bean counters in big corporations, take your cost cutting idea to the market place first and get some real customer feedback. I have always said, selling is simple, just listen to the market, it will tell you what it wants to buy! By the way, the photo with this article is an actual Costco shirt.

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