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The Winchester Mystery House – Don’t Let It Happen To You!

From the experts | Posted on November 5, 2012 by Lesley Morris

Recently Stephen Speirs from Cisco wrote a blog post about The Winchester House, as an analogy to explain how IT often evolves in unplanned ways.

I’d like to extend Stephen’s analogy a little further by using the Winchester House as an example of what can happen when organizations over time continually enhance and upgrade their infrastructure without proper planning and foresight.

But first, what is the Winchester House? The Winchester Mystery House, located in San Jose, California, was the residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun maker William Winchester. Sarah was obsessed with building out the house and so arranged for construction around the clock, from 1884 until her death in 1922.  Construction costs were estimated at about US $5.5 million in 1922; equivalent to over $75 million today.

The house’s real claim to fame however, isn’t the construction; it’s the complete lack of any master building plan. The house has 160 rooms, 24,000 square feet, 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 6 kitchens, 40 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, and 47 fireplaces. Sixty-five of the house’s doors lead to blank walls, 13 staircases lead nowhere, 24 skylights are covered by floors.

So how does this relate to IT?

Many organizations build their networks in a logical, orderly fashion. But, with the arrival of new technologies, new priorities, and new business initiatives, networks over time evolve.  Unified communications, remote access and virtualization all add new devices and functionalities to networks, resulting in multiple interconnects and complexities, that in time turns into a “network sprawl”.

On top of that, there’s now rapidly increasing social changes impacting business and technology environments, altering the way we all interact, share and collaborate.  These changes, labeled “mega-trends,” are affecting every aspect of business and adding more complexity to the infrastructures.

What are the Mega-Trends?

  1. Social:  Probably most of your staff already has a page on Facebook and communicates across various social platforms. In a recent Cisco Connected World Technology study, 1 out of 3 young employees surveyed reported they would trade salary for social freedom at work. If organizations hope to attract top young talent, they must ensure that social networks are available to staff.
  2. Visual: Visual has been the primary and preferred method of communication throughout history.  Now these visual needs, enabled by technology’s pervasiveness and affordability are having a profound impact on our internal networks. More and more customers expect to be able to interact with businesses in a visual way.  Softchoice already uses video very successfully with our clients, in our Keystone Technical Support Center, leveraging HD Video Conferencing and streaming video for training purposes.
  3. Mobility: There are approximately 7 billion people on the planet and approximately 6 billion mobile phones.  In just 5 years, more people will be connected through mobile devices than traditional desktops.
  4. Virtual: Gartner predicts 60% of server workloads will be virtualized by 2014. But, virtual is much bigger than that.  Approximately one-third of young workers report, that the internet is more important to them than food and water.  The lesson for IT is that consumers expect our services to be available to them, whenever they want, from wherever they want.

How the mega-trends impact you

Many customers look for ways to manage the layers of complexity and excess equipment that have accumulated across their environments.  Having a clear understanding of the existing infrastructure is the first step in preparing for the impact and management of mega-trends.

But, there’s a problem.  Recently Softchoice analyzed the network devices of 78 small and mid-market companies across North America.  Key findings included:

  • 36% of devices have no maintenance coverage, so that in the event of failure, the company must fix or replace the device themselves, a potentially time-consuming and lengthy process
  • An average of $23,000 per organization was being spent on routers and switches that may not exist or are no longer in use
  • 23% of devices are at or near the end of support which means technical, onsite support is no longer available from the manufacturer
  • An average of 44 configuration errors were found in each organization

As the age of mobility and cloud advances, organizations need to apply the same rigor to the network that they do to other corporate assets, so they aren’t creating the IT version of the Winchester House.

We believe technology evolves, and so should you…

After years of working with customers to design, implement and support hundreds of networks, we’ve developed an in-depth understanding of the pitfalls and issues that network sprawl can generate, and how it can obstruct adoption of new technologies.  It’s hard to take advantage of mega-trends when most of your time is spent on maintaining an existing complex environment.

That’s why we’ve developed an integrated technical support, maintenance and mentorship offering called Keystone Essential Services .  It’s designed to help manage and simplify network sprawl and liberate customers from day-to-day infrastructure issues, so they can manage more strategic tasks, projects and technologies.

To learn more about Keystone Essential Services, be sure to register for our upcoming webinar Nov 15th. Wil Klement, Solutions Advisor, Softchoice will review more information about mega-trends and how to optimize your infrastructure to take advantage of them.  Feel free to contact me as well if you have any questions about Keystone Essential Services at

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