Reassuringly Expensive?


I grew up in Ireland, a land of saints and scholars, where we’re uniquely blessed with an expansive and colorful vocabulary. My father banned only one word from the family home, that word was “cheap”. We learned an understanding and appreciation for ”value” from an early age, and in fact we conducted “TCO” studies long before we understood that term. “Cheap”, we learned, was a waste of hard earned money, “inexpensive”, on the other hand, could often be a part of a good value proposition.

This year I’ve resolved to get fit and decided to buy a treadmill so that I could combine my love of junk TV with exercise.

It will come as no surprise to learn that I’ve no experience with treadmills, so I turned to the internet for research and guidance. I learned that there were four key factors that should influence decision making: the width and length of the platform, the size of the engine, and the price; pretty much all of the websites I visited advised against machines under the magical $1000 price tag. Outside of the stock market, this is the first time that I’ve encountered a buying recommendation based on price and I found it perplexing. Price may be an indicator of some underlying factors that I should be considering in my selection process, but what’s the difference between a $950 and a $1050 treadmill? From comparing various models I could see that for some brands it could represent the difference between a wireless rather than wired heart rate monitor, d! eeper cup holders, built in fan, but did these features matter to me? Some of the machines that came in under the $1000 mark had a $250 shipping fee while some of those over $1000 offered free shipping, some had a four year warranty, others a lifetime warranty. Making purchase price a selection criteria went against everything I stand for, so after deciding on what mattered to me in a treadmill, I did my own TCO study and made a decision based on my findings.

One of the challenges that we have in open source is in convincing those who believe that you get what you pay for, that they should ignore the price-tag, and make a decision based upon the criteria that matter to their business. There are those who have a preconceived idea as to what they should be spending on a database, and it’s difficult to have them take you seriously if you’re carrying a $0 price tag. I’ve long ago learned that people put a value on goods dependent upon what they pay for them, and we need to educate these people to consider value, and not purchase price. First one needs to consider business requirements like transaction rates, workload, availability, service levels, 24×7 support, platform support, availability of skilled resources, etc. etc. Then, if all of the boxes are ticked, a TCO study should be conducted and at this point it will become obvious that if an open source solution is under consideration it will exhibit a compelling value proposition.

There’s a beer in Europe called Stella Artois which advertises itself under the tagline “Reassuringly Expensive” and while it costs the same as other beers in its class, there are those who buy it because of that tag line. These are probably the same people who place extra importance on their Oracle deployments every year that their license fees are increased.

About Emma McGrattan

As SVP of Engineering at Actian, Emma leads development for the Actian Vector team, including the Ingres and X100 components, and the Actian Matrix Planner team. A leading authority in DBMS technologies, Emma is celebrating 20 years in Ingres and Actian Engineering.

View all posts by Emma McGrattan →

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