I love idioms and old expressions. An idiom is a word or phrase that is not meant to be taken literally. An idiom's figurative meaning is most often separate from the literal meaning but many idioms stem from some literal origin.
Discovering and understanding their origins is, for me, both fascinating and informative. Sometimes the origins are hilarious and sometimes they are grim or off color. However they originated, most have significance and even relevance in the world, centuries after their inception. It seems that humans and human nature have not really changed much despite all the knowledge and advances in industry, technology, medicine, and production of any kind. That’s what gives continued life to the more well-known idioms.
One of my favorites is the term pig in a poke. The idiom pig in a poke refers to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages when table worthy meat was scarce but cats and dogs were not. The expression pig in a poke could simply refer to someone buying a low-quality pig in a bag because he or she did not carefully check what was in the bag but more often implied that the pig concealed within the poke was more than likely some other lower quality quadruped, minus its identifying fur – a cat or a dog perhaps. The discovery or exposure of a poorly vetted acquisition spawned an offshoot idiom letting the cat out of the bag. If you thought you bought a quality piece of pork only to find out that you got cat meat you might let the cat out of the bag about the quality of the vendor’s wares to spare another unsuspecting buyer the disappointment.
From a figurative perspective, we are all at risk of getting a pig in a poke when we make a buying decision. I don’t read all the labels all the time and I probably pay more for some things than they are worth. I suspect I’m in the grand majority in that sense. It’s less of an embarrassment when you are getting beat for a handful of change than, say, when you discover that the brand or model of the car you bought is a lemon, or a piece of property you got at a great price sits on an old landfill. Great view but what’s that smell?
In my opinion, buying technology is one of the riskiest propositions going. Things are changing so fast that by the time you can research small technology items like smartphones and tablets, there is a real chance that your future new toy will be obsolete before you make the buying decision. Alternately, you can make a snap decision only to find that the underlying, new and better architecture, fails to live up to the hype. (That never happened to me, BTW). It’s not just the base features of the device; it’s also a platform thing. What operating system, applications, programming languages or extensions does your new pocket pal support?
The large technology sector is not quite so dynamic but it is still very risky and far more costly. I’m neither a CTO nor an IT Director and I’m not responsible for making large technology decisions. I’m OK with that. I do, however, confer with decision makers on a regular basis and I try to catalog in my mind their commentary and experiences because that real life perspective is important for me to know and share. I hear a mix of success stories and failures. Like small technology, it’s largely a platform thing. The considerations include operating systems, applications, programming languages and extensions. Will the platform support multiple operating systems? Will the platform support multiple programming languages? Are there quality applications available? Will the platform support unbridled growth? These are considerations that sometimes get obscured by the allure of newness or brand name perceptions.
Getting back to idioms and pigs for a minute, another old favorite is the expression you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. That’s something you might say which means you cannot make a high quality product using inferior quality materials. I was shopping for dog treats the other day and saw a bag of pig ears. Dogs love these things and they are presumed to be a natural, tasty treat that are good for your dogs in limited consumption. Pig ears price out at about a buck apiece. Keeping in mind that you can buy pork tenderloin for less than $4 a pound, while one treat may seem like a reasonable bargain a bagful by weight runs close to $12 per pound! I’d say that’s pretty close to making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; if you’re the vendor.
In the large technology sector, one platform that satisfies all the above decision criteria is the Power System from IBM. This platform supports multiple operating systems, including one called i. The i operating system on Power has evolved from the DNA of what was once known as an AS400 and its OS400 operating system. The Power System Servers also support UNIX in the form of AIX, Linux, and Windows. Apple and IBM have even announced an alliance. IBM i on Power supports a variety of languages that are interoperable – COBOL, RPG, Java, C++, and more. Pureflex blade servers provide nearly limitless growth and extension. Thanks to a large community of software vendors the platform also offers a wide array of applications that have been tuned and refined over time to deliver proven business solutions.
IBM set the standard for the business computing platform decades ago and has outlived most of its old competitors because it continues to evolve. The platform and its parts are truly superior grade and just keep getting better.
However, perception often trumps reality, and the company and its platforms are often misconstrued as old. It’s an evolution as pertains to dinosaurs’ mentality and it’s misguided. That perception is the result of a failure on the part of the observer to look inside and compare. It is also bred from a failure to understand the total cost of ownership as opposed to the cost of initial acquisition. Large technology decisions must include some expectation of longevity. A platform decision should include weighing the value of an integrated operating system, database, and middleware. It cannot undervalue the importance of system stability and security for a business environment. Non-disruptive growth should also be a critical decision factor and the low cost of simplified operations and storage management all should play into a platform assessment.
Unfortunately, some decisions are made based on skewed or faulty perception or a lack of information. Bad decisions are not the kind of thing one likes to trumpet but the cat does sometimes get let out of the bag. Behind closed doors in hushed conversation, decisions to replace the venerable IBM platform with a competing architecture often reveal that the alternative, perceived to be less expensive and thought to be more modern, turned out to be a pig in a poke. It’s best to know what’s really in the bag before making that large technology decision. A silk purse made from a sow’s ear is still a sow’s ear at its core.
I’ll have the pork chops, please.
P.S. There are many useful events which can guide and assist your decisions when it comes to making a platform decision. IBM in particular run technical events designed for your technical and professional development, and business requirements.
Also, if you are in Australia, it's worth attending the IBM Systems Technical Symposium. A great place to gain technical knowledge, understand the trends & directions, technology updates plus more. Take a look ⟶
Pete Isaksson - A.K.A: Dr. Strangetech
Business Development Manager, looksoftware