Contributed by jason on from the Puffy-Handles-Business dept.
Recently on the misc@ mailing list, a user asked about ways to popularize OpenBSD with PHB types in business.
I've been trying (rather unsuccessfully) to convince various clients and employers to adopt OpenBSD. Most people, I find, are resistent to change and would not use anything they are not familiar with...
Is there any way I could convince these people to make the move to OpenBSD? Suggestions, tips and tricks along with real life examples would be much appreciated.
A friendly reply came from "Matt", giving his own list of tips for convincing management to pursue OpenBSD solutions. Read on for his entertaining and useful experiences.
Many others have given great pro-OpenBSD examples.
I can only give you the "tricks" I have succesfully used in the past. These are based on selling solutions - not on convincing people how great OpenBSD is. There is a big difference from my perspective, but our goals are the same. Meetings work far better than writing to get your points across. They allow you to change your direction on the fly if needed, while writing just gets /dev/nulled.
TRICK 1: Expensive beats free
First of all - forget it is free. Forget the whole licensing, forget anything open source software related. That sounds weird and perhaps unethical towards those that fight for this but it helps getting what you want. OpenBSD will eventually benefit - so we're in the clear here. Management does not trust anything free. Free implicates 'no guarantees'. Whenever you say 'free' management pictures a photograph of you and Richard Stallman, holding hands under a rainbow while a unicorn flies by.
If, and only if, the price question pops up you say "implementation will probably cost us around <some figure that will be acceptable and will give OpenBSD a nice donation>." If the guy is wearing a suit worth more than your monthly salary multiply the amount by 10.
TRICK 2: Fear beats complacency
Talk about the changing internet/network. How it is increasingly becoming more and more hostile. They will be aware of this. through both the press and those Nigerian relatives that keep mailing them. Tell them about the recent creditcard thefts, about the impact these things have on a company. This can be on a moderate level or on a oh my god the plane is crashing and we are all going to die! level. Depends on your party and your ethics.
Mention the amount of attacks on a webserver can go down by 40% just because the bad guys see it is running OpenBSD, or that common cracking techniques that work on other systems simply are impossible on OpenBSD because of it's design.
Show nice little graphs of security exploits on all the systems they know and place OpenBSDs track record next to it. Do this only for basic issues and you'll have pretty dramatic stats. If you can (without loosing your job or crossing your co-workers), present a list of unpatched/unsolved issues with the current servers. Don't talk tech. Talk solutions. We have a problem here and I am offering you the solution.
World leaders have gotten (and are getting) away with incredible stuff, solely by addressing people's fear. It is by far the most powerful emotion. And before you judge me on this - you do have insurance, don't you? Exactly.
TRICK 3: Trustworthy beats unknown
Tell them who else is using it; which big companies (they know) already have put their trust in it. Knowing some company they respect is using OpenBSD proves to them it's a reliable choice. These companies have understood the need for solutions for the problems presented earlier in trick 2. Choose companies that deal with important stuff. Hospitals and banks are great examples. Yes, it might just be a single router among the ninety Windows boxes but who cares?
If they mention seeing Windows in their hospital tell them this is why you and your family never go to that hospital.
TRICK 4: Being cool beats missing the boat
Present OpenBSD as "up and coming", give them the idea they are jumping in right on time. That it is a fresh, new and hip approach to operating systems. OpenBSD is lean, mean - it's sexy. "Actually, you are a pretty lame bunch considering you're not running it yet."
That approach, no matter how stupid, might work better in some cases than actual arguments. Especially if most of the people in the room are carrying an iPhone.
TRICK 5: Action beats promise
Emphasize on the low costs of running OpenBSD. The low maintenance, the fact it performs great without cutting-edge hardware. Do not say it runs great on "old" hardware. Old is bad, old will break. Low system requirements, now that sounds like we can save some cash.
Convince them of the low learning curve in maintaining, upgrading and installing systems. Anybody can do it.
Propose to teach Janet, the hot secretary from upstairs, to upgrade a system within a day - just to prove your point. This is a proposition I have yet to see be declined. The idea of Janet being stuck with you in the server room for a full day is usually hilarious enough to give it a try.
TRICK 6: Having toys beats "not interesting"
Give them toys. Management loves toys. So give them plenty. And give them toys to talk and brag about. Show them how many spammers/attackers THEY have blocked by presenting them some nice graphic GUI tool. Preferably on a webpage behind a login- something where they can mess about a bit, click some stuff to see dumbed down data. Not Cacti or the like, that is way too intimidating and complicated.
We want to show understandable stuff along with pretty colored charts. If it moves it's even better. Fake it with animated gifs, I don't care. But make it shine.
Hey Jim, how are things? Yeah? Good. Listen, we just dropped 500 packets on our firewall - how many did you drop today?
Aha.. you sucker! You should run what we run, open-whatever... open- eehhmm..
Hey Janet, what was that thing you can upgrade called again?
Editor's Note: These are some great examples of how to introduce OpenBSD to businesses. I've had similar successes with selling OpenBSD as a solution, not on its technical advantages. Please share your own experiences in the comments section.
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