Enterprise Linux Log

Jun 28 2007   8:29AM GMT

Picking the brain of a Linux consultant


As SearchEnterpriseLinux.com gears up to cover the heck out of the state of Linux support today (a summer support series — how’s that for some alliteration, huh?), I’ve been exchanging emails and phone calls with Linux consultant Patrick Green, of Chicago-based Silver Strand Solutions. Here’s a look at what Green (also an Enterprise Linux Log off-and-on contributor) had to say about his line of work.

The Enterprise Linux Log: What sorts of services do consultants offer over and above a support contract?

Patrick Green: I try to be hands off with the actual heavy lifting. I prefer to educate, inform, and empower the staff of a company to get up to speed. Most of what I have done is provide digestible training materials. If I am not the one executing it, I develop a comprehensive teachers guide and student guide with a .ppt presentation. This will range from a simple desktop tour to authenticating to a Windows environment and even how to position Linux in your sales model.

The other thing I do is look at the macro environment the client exists in. Consultants and sales people do not always give the proper thought to the experience of the guy in the mail room or the receptionist at the front desk. There may be an impact on those people as well and you have to ease the migration burden on them. I compare the migration path to a roadmap for a reason. You have where you are and where you want to be. Some parts of the migration will be simple and others are hard. I like to plan migration in such away that after a tough hurdle, there is a “reward period” where the easy stuff is handled. After said breather, another pain point. These pain points may not be sexy and they may not sell a transition to a platform, but if we are honest, we will know all large IT transitions have these.

TELL: How much do they typically charge?

Green: In my case, I prefer to charge by the project. I have an hourly rate in my mind. After speaking with the potential client, I do what any consultant does. I factor in how long the project will take to develop and execute, add in expenses, justify everything in detail, and set a proposal (ready to negotiate). Typically, my projects average around $4,000-$5,500 a project.

TELL: Are they available as a supplement to support contracts, or to implement larger projects?

Green: Some are. In my case, I prefer not to supplement contracts, but will be happy to implement a larger project. When one goes to conventions, one discovered that convention floors are like a small town that travels. I prefer to build relationships with vendors and support specialists who can handle the long term needs of a client. It is not “passing the buck”, it is giving the client the best service and the best advice for the long haul. There have actually been times where I have turned down business and told a client to contact File Engine, Turtol, or some other vendor knowing that what they want and need can be best handled by those people. I then give the vendor a heads up call and let them know the customers needs in brief so they can give the client the best possible solution.

In the case of a larger implementation, my methods are similar. I will gladly draw up a roadmap, dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and help them find the best distro and service that they need for their project.

If I were to use a really bad analogy, it would be this. Picture Red Hat or Novell as Ford or GM looking to provide a company with fleet vehicles. They provide the cars with the options and the warranties and the service contracts. I am a cross between a driver’s ed instructor and a purchasing consultant. Someone has to help them learn to drive and know how many vans they need in their fleet to do what they need to do, where to store them, how large a service contract, how often to change the oil (and are you better served having the oil changed at the dealership or the Jiffy Lube down the street or hire a guy), wash em, etc.

TELL: Look for more on Linux support best practices at SearchEnterpriseLinux.com coming soon.

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