How do you pick an IT vendor to trust?

Oracle's decision to shut down their VDI group last week got me thinking about how we select IT vendors and how we choose which ones to trust. It's ironic that one of the things we always said about Oracle was, "Well, at least they're Oracle, so you know they'll be around forever.

Oracle's decision to shut down their VDI group last week got me thinking about how we select IT vendors and how we choose which ones to trust. It's ironic that one of the things we always said about Oracle was, "Well, at least they're Oracle, so you know they'll be around forever." We said this in the context of choosing Oracle VDI or Sun Ray thin clients versus picking a product from a smaller vendor. But clearly this shows (yet again) that even the big vendors can kill products on a whim, even as all the marketing folks are talking about how strong the company's commitment to their product line is. (To be clear, I don't think the Oracle marketing folks were lying. It's just that a mid-level marketing person at a huge company isn't really in a position of authority to "assure" anyone of his or her group's continued existence.)

This issue is so much bigger than Oracle. I literally cannot count how many times someone from a vendor—I'm not talking about some field sales rep; I mean some corporate higher up—has committed that a product has a future or won't be forgotten, only for that product to end up dead. I mean think about Citrix. They buy a product, talk about how amazing it is, bundle the license into some platinum something, then let it wither as they chase something newer and shinier. (To wit: XenServer. Provisioning Server. EdgeSight. RingCube. XenClient. Web Interface. User Profile Manager. App Streaming... Okay, maybe I took some liberties there, but you get the point.)

So I wonder: What can you do to minimize the chances that a vendor won't kill a product that you've built your solution around? Any tricks or tips to share? How do you select vendors in general. Does they old adage "No one ever got fired for buying IBM" still apply? (Heck, I've used that phrase myself when talking about Citrix for desktop virtualization and VMware for infrastructure.)

To be clear, I'm not saying that vendors shouldn't be allowed to kill products. And yeah, boo-hoo, stuff happens. Rather I'm asking if it's possible to choose vendors or products that aren't as likely to get killed. How can you pick products as a customer?

Deployment complete

Fig 1. Deployment Complete

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