In response to Jim Rapozas Feb. 20 column, "97 Percent Solution Fills the Bill for SAAS" (Tech Directions), I often wonder if the squealing and steam about five nines isnt more about setting a goal than attaining a reality.
I think companies have formed the mind-set that their providers must be looking toward uninterrupted service as much as possible so that, in reality, they get the best possible experience.
As a software programmer, I dont think anyone really, truly expects all software packages to be bug-free. However, very few of us would be happy if a company came out and advertised, "We are shooting for 97 percent bug-free software!" (Cue the sound of glass breaking as the stock price falls.)
Instead, they state "bug-free!" or "darn close to bug-free!" (depending on who you are), and we anticipate that there will be a few bugs but that, in general, the companies hearts are in the right place.
A good example of this is Microsoft, which, at the height of its security dilemmas, made a turnaround by reforming its processes but also by making a public statement that it was focusing on security. I think the industry in general was assured by Microsofts changed focus, and it seems to have paid off to Microsofts benefit.
Similarly, by stating five nines of stability in their service, providers put the end user (and especially management) at ease. If you subscribe to a provider with that sort of promise, it gives you, if nothing else, a warm, fuzzy feeling as you imagine people springing to life when the network goes down and higher-ups screaming bloody murder into telephones as techs scramble like bunnies.
I sincerely doubt the reality of this picture, but I think it makes management sleep well at night when they consider their choice of systems.
So, while I agree with your "lighten up" point very much, I can also see where the press toward two, three, four or even five nines has its use within the market—even if its nothing more than a blanky.