The "pony" scale

We get RFPs all the time. Some of these RFPs are genuine “show us good things so we can consider them.” Many are “we really want to buy something quite specific, but the rules won’t let us specify then.”
Some of them have requirements or limits that make me think of a kid saying … “and I want a pony too”.
Such RFPs usually have a combination of reasonable sounding elements, right up to the point where they demand the pony.
The pony is a point of exasperation. A point at which you have to wonder if the people who put the pony request in are being serious in their request. Honoring the request for the pony could be anything from simply arduous, to outright painful. A pony represents a fundamentally incorrect assumption and set of expectations on the part of the RFP issuer. It costs time/effort/resources to correct these expectations, and if you can’t get them to reconsider the pony … to adjust their expectations to be more in line with reality … it might be better to walk away.
So maybe this is how we need to grade RFPs. Spot the ponies, count them, and if they exceed our threshold of pony acceptance, ditch the RFP.

5 thoughts on “The "pony" scale”

  1. Sounds like you could do with some of the colouring books from Ted T’so’s session at last years Linux Storage and Filesystem workshop. 🙂

    Prior to Ted Ts’o’s session on fsync() and rename(), some joker filled the room with coloring-book pages depicting ponies. These pages reflected the sentiment that Ted has often expressed: application developers are asking too much of the filesystem, so they might as well request a pony while they’re at it.


  2. I haven’t heard of the “pony” approach” before – great analogy. I get to see lots of these RFP’s. Some of them are from customers who many not know better and I try to help them see the light and sometimes it works. For others that know better I just laugh.
    But I think the “pony” RFP’s go hand-in-hand with the old mentality of shopping around your RFP until you find the most desperate vendor at the time who will give you the pony. There are other terms for this habit that are much more unseemly and graphic 🙂
    Sigh… I hope these people learn their lessons. But if not, perhaps we’ll see them when the hardware fails, or the vendor didn’t include services to reach to price target. And if we don’t see them I wish them well and look forward to hearing about their success and what cool things they are doing (can’t win them all 🙂 ).

  3. I want consistency, availability and partition tolerance. 😉 And performance. And security. Across a WAN. For barely more than the price of the disks alone. How many ponies is that?

  4. @Jeff D
    Thats a Kentucky derby full of ponies.
    Yeah, I’ve seen RFPs like that. Have some winners in my in-box from a few years ago.
    @Jeff L
    Yeah, quite a few of our designs and proposals have been shopped around. Its funny when we catch them doing it. Deer in the headlights look. We point them to the confidentiality and copyright notices on the documents (its a private communication after all, and should be treated confidentially).

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