Friday, November 30, 2007

Legends!

Before leaving Singapore this week, I had the opportunity to be a part of an Audi car launch – the new Audi R8. Audi had decided to use the hotel as the launch site for their new mid-engined R8 and, as part of the launch, to showcase a number of historical race cars from their German museum. They were excited to launch this car, and to position it as the new “flagship” model for Audi.

Audi rolled out three cars, under the banner of “Legends come to Singapore” – the rule-changing Rally quattro A2 from the early ‘80s, the 2002 24 Hours at Le Mans winning AudiR8 LMP, as well as the amazing 1936 Auto Union. The picture here is of the Auto Union Type C “Silver Arrow”, the car that won 10 Grand Prix races in 1936.

It’s almost impossible to describe the impact this race car made on all those passing by. Powered by a rear-mounted, supercharged, 6.0 liter V16 engine that produced over 520 bhp –it was an awesome sight. I have been around Formula 1 cars before, but when they started the Auto Union I was quite unprepared for the impact of such an engine. I was about 25 feet away and yes, I jumped! Turned out that Audi wasn’t just providing a static display and shortly after 9:30 am, all three cars, along with the new R8, drove down Orchard Road to Raffle City. The sight of these legendary cars driving on city streets, and with the Singapore skyline as a backdrop, drew a hug crowd.

It certainly was a fitting end to my trip to Singapore. I had come to the island to eat chili crabs, and I had feasted on a couple the previous night. As I had mentioned in a previous blog posting, turkey may be the centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner but we are developing a taste for chili crabs and a trip to their legendary seafood restaurants and cafes along Singapore’s East Coast was the high point of the trip.

Talking of legendary food and cars, I couldn’t help but think about the NonStop server. And after some 30+ years, its ability to scale, survive failure, and provide data integrity, has all helped develop the legend. However, some of the accepted legend may in reality be nothing more than “urban legends”! What we see presented as facts, are usually far removed from reality. In talking with IT professionals across our community, three of these urban legends come up time, and time, again. So seeing the cars, and checking out the food, reminded me that perhaps it’s time to begin dismantling these urban legends.

Urban legend #1 – NonStop is expensive; we can’t really afford it! With the introduction of the Integrity NonStop server line, particularly the NS1000 models, pricing has been brought into line with most medium to large SMP configurations. Again, the data I have suggests that, in the US market today, an NS1008 with NS SQL costs less than the average 8-Way SMP Unix server running Oracle, and that a NS1004 with NS SQL is about the same price as any 4-Way SMP Unix box running Oracle. This is definitely something I am interested in getting more feedback on from the community. But essentially, with the new Intel engines together with the new 19” rack-style packaging, NonStop is no more expensive than any multi-CPU system on the market today.

Urban Legend #2 – NonStop is proprietary; it’s not an open architecture! As you go down deeper into typical software stacks then yes, close to the metal are proprietary components. But no more or no less than you find in any architecture – and perhaps less than you imagine as again, to the casual observer listening to HP presentations, some of the really low-level interfaces to the processors may begin to look more and more like they have been taken straight from Linux. This too is definitely something I am interested in hearing more about from others in the community. But as you move away from the metal and further up the stack, you will find an Application Server environment that provides one of the better run-time environments for Java. It can scale enormously and it continues to inherit the NonStop capabilities that all applications running on NonStop enjoy.

Urban Legend #3 – NonStop requires specialized skills; trained staff can be hard to find! Today, any C/C++ or Java developer can assemble modern, industry-standard, applications that can be deployed on the NonStop platform. Developers working with their usual development environments, such as Eclipse, are really isolated from the platform and pretty much unaware of where their code ends up running. NonStop has become that transparent these days. From my own discussions, the HP NonStop development organization is hugely committed to providing routines, code stubbs, and just about anything else a developer may require that allows applications to be seamlessly deployed on NonStop. And as for manageability, I am seeing even closer integration with other HP products as well as a wealth of third part products that complement HP’s offerings.

When the MIPS-based Himalaya product family rolled-out in the ‘90s, it was supported with the marketing message that included the statement “No price premium for NonStop”, or something similar. This was the first full-scale attempt at changing market perceptions. It also marked the beginning of a realignment of the usability as well – with the OSS personality, POSIX API’s were supported and anyone familiar with Unix could easily deploy on NonStop. For years, some customers even talked openly with the press about their Unix deployment on NonStop – Sabre being one of the most prominent supporters of this embellishment!

Performance has not typically been one of the legendary properties of NonStop – and I know NonStop product managers become a little nervous whenever I address this subject. And performance was never truly an urban legend either – although some in the community thought the NonStop platform would benefit from some serious horsepower add-ons! This is not to say these earlier products lacked the ability to support thousands of online transactions, but in a couple of areas the need for more horsepower became desirable. Early deployment of processor-intensive routines to do with XML/SOAP, Security encryption, as well as executing Java applications, for instance, highlighted this need. Today we are seeing significant performance improvements and where some companies are running Java at speeds they had previously thought possible only from their dedicated desktop environments.

Legends come in many forms. People, food, even cities and sporting teams can all take on legendary proportions. In Silicon Valley, many of the key industry figures took on legendary status – Tom Perkins, Jim Clark, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison among the stand outs. Jimmy Treybig was definitely a member as well.

They became legends as they consistently rolled out innovative products that shook up the industry. For a many decades this was particularly true for NonStop and many in the industry liked it this way – when you absolutely needed “permanent availability” and when you couldn’t afford any downtime whatsoever, then you could rely on the Tandem. But did you really need to go to all that expense? Was it worth it having all those extra processors and disk? The arrival of the Internet and the World Wide Web, where everyone is online 24 X 7 X 365, has really exposed architectures that have to have their downtime and has really helped to reawaken the IT industry to the legendary capabilities of NonStop.

As I watched Audi roll out its legendary cars and then turn the spotlight onto its new R8 sports car, it didn’t escape me that well-executed product lines, that build on a companies tradition, would always find a strong marketplace. Legendary car manufacturers always have a marketplace, and their flagship products help raise their visibility.

NonStop continues the legend of Tandem and many in the HP community believe it has developed into the new flagship model for HP!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What do you mean, legacy?

Thanksgiving in Singapore is always different – the temperature is a shock for anyone stepping out of a plane from North America. The combination of high temperatures and high humidity, takes a little while to adjust. But then there’s always a bar nearby.

The picture I have included here is from the “new” Long Bar at the old Raffles Hotel. It has a lot of memories for me as, over the years, I have entertained folks at this bar from Insession, ACI and Tandem. But I sorely miss the atmosphere of the “old” Long Bar that I first visited in May of 1982, and a legacy from the days of British colonial rule.

Back them the hotel was anything but a luxury hotel and the Long Bar was on the ground floor, across from the entrance lobby, and pretty much open around the clock. There was no air-conditioning - just overhead fans, and it was ankle-deep in peanut-shells as patrons discarded them under the tables without a second thought! On the Saturday evening that I walked into the old Long Bar, it was full of sailors from HMAS Parramatta, a visiting Australian warship, and everyone was watching the ’82 FA Cup Final between the Tottenham Hotspurs and the Queen’s Park Rangers.

There’s a good story that the last Singapore tiger was shot under the billiard room or, depending upon your source, under the billiard table itself, relegating the species to extinction. It was also where the drink, the Singapore Sling, was first concocted and it’s no small secret that the two events were likely related!

Much has changed today. The old hotel has had a complete make-over, and reopened as a luxury hotel. The Long Bar has been moved upstairs and out of sight of the hotel’s lobby. The overhead fans are still there and you are still “encouraged” to drop peanut shells on the floor. You can order up Singapore Slings and the only connection with tigers of the past is from a cold glass of Tiger beer. But the legacy of the old place is but a memory now, and I do miss it so!

I had the opportunity to spend some time with Herbert Zwenger, Vice President & General Manager, Business Critical Systems, Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific. As we were discussing the success he has had this year, he confided “NonStop is really our best kept secret. While I knew that we had a superior technology, and a very loyal base of users, I had very little knowledge of the fault tolerant technology behind this perceived ‘legacy’ system prior to taking on the job.” He then went on to tell me that “I saw the potential to extend the NonStop capabilities into new markets and we have made tremendous progress in the last few years in penetrating them - and even into accounts with many ‘power’ Unix users.”

And I was once again struck by the word legacy – Singapore, and particular places like the Raffles Hotel, had a fantastic legacy. When I talked to my family about the word “legacy”, they viewed it positively, and in terms of how we may be remembered. People often talk openly about instilling in future generations a legacy full of optimism and hope. It’s only when used as an adjective is it ever associated with something “that is outdated or discontinued”, according to my local dictionary. However, within IT communities, it’s almost the kiss-of-death whenever a product gets labeled as legacy.

So, what do we really mean by legacy?

I once heard an analyst with Gartner tell their audience to remember that, any application that is put into production, should be considered legacy immediately! I can understand what he was saying, and that this was just an early phase in an application’s lifecycle that would ultimately end with its replacement. And does it only apply to applications, or does it cover everything – hardware, operating systems, infrastructure middleware, and so on?

I can easily recognize the hardware aspect, and understand that the cost to transform an older platform into something newer can be a lot more than buying a replacement, but I am no longer so sure about the software. I can point to many clients who, with the use of wrappers and services, have externalized older applications in a way that has kept these applications valuable to their corporations. Much of the logic used, to solve a business problem, remains valid with little need for major re-writes. Re-using legacy code is becoming widespread and not usually thought of as negatively as legacy hardware unless the initial programming language choice was poor, or had failed to gain widespread industry acceptance. Anyone for Modular 2?

And what about a legacy technology?

Technologies can be virulent and often thriving in extremely hostile times. NonStop is just one amazing example of this – and I continue to be surprised at how it is still used to solve the business problems of today. With the advent of the web, and the ubiquitous browser user interface, every application can be accessed globally 24 X 7! There is no Sunday 4:00am any longer! We are fearful of taking a system down at any time – for maintenance, an upgrade, a site move, or anything else.

As I watch other platforms being thrown together, with redundant clusters, SANs, etc. and look at the energy spent developing scripts to handle switching and fail-over, it never ceases to amaze me how so much of the NonStop technology was just done right. Yes, you can engineer other platforms to become almost as available, but never out-of-the-box. It’s just not possible to overlay something as critical as NonStop on top of collections of hardware and operating systems – it has to be engineered at the lowest level and be well integrated with all the infrastructure middleware.

Colonial Singapore, indeed much of Asia, continues to be transformed. Once again, the construction “crane” has become Singapore’s national bird and the cement mixer the most widely used tool. It comes as no surprise to me that HP’s growth in AsiaPac, in percentage terms, went past that of other regions. Herbert was quick to point out to me "the Asia Pacific region is the fastest growing region in the world with 60% of the world’s population. Looking ahead, the demand for NonStop’s 24x7, fault tolerance technology will rise with exponential growth, and with the increase in IT spending we are now seeing across the telecommunications, finance & public sector segments.”

When I talk to my GoldenGate colleague Sami, and the discussion turns to Enterprise Data Warehouses (EDW) and Business Intelligence (BI), he often tells me that these technologies are helping us institutionalizing knowledge. And I see a parallel here across today’s thousands of applications – their value being commensurate with the corporate knowledge buried deep within their millions of lines of code. No business ever evaluated a hardware decision in terms of long-term appreciation potential – no matter how attractively packaged, there was no “collectors market” for old computer “masters”. But software, and the knowledge wrapped up within its routines, can be of considerable value to the corporation. Legacy? Yes, but with it hope for our business future, and not to be thrown away as lightly as we do the peanut-shells in the Long Bar.

As I continued to talk to Herbert about Singapore and about his business opportunities, I so love the legacy of old Singapore. On the other hand, I do not miss legacy hardware and harbor no fondness for the old development environments. I never want to go back to programming in a machine language!

I have to admit though that I am excited to see the recent growth of NonStop – the transition to the Intel Itanium chip is certainly bestowing a new modern look on an incredible technology. I am very encouraged by the re-use of applications and the arrival of new technologies, like Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), that breath new life into solutions once thought of as legacy. And I am especially pleased to see NonStop far removed from sharing the same fate as that of the Singapore tiger!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Preventer of Information Services?

As I lifted a stein of Bavarian lager and cut into my traditional pork knuckle, with the crackling to kill for, and with the light banter of German conversation between our host and the waiter, I had to stop for a moment to remember where I was. No, I wasn’t in Munich, but in a restaurant in Singapore, with Herbert Zwenger, who heads HP’s BCS group in Asia Pacific and Japan (AP/J).

The picture I have included here is of Merlion, the symbol of Singapore , and the ever-changing Singapore skyline. There is something about Singapore and the energy of the place that’s hard to describe and I always feel excited to be here. I love the seafood, and I am particularly fond of the chili crabs here – but that’s another story.

I had come to Singapore for a little downtime over Thanksgiving and to catch up with Herbert's team and only a week earlier I had been with Neil Pringle of HP EMEA. I had been impressed with Neil and with the performance of NonStop in EMEA, but Herbert was even more excited over the performance of his group, and wanted to make sure I understood how important this was for the NonStop community.

As Herbert and I continued to discuss his great results, I remembered that on one of my early visits with HP Herbert had arranged for me to visit HP’s Cool Town. If you ever get to Singapore and have a chance, this is something to see. HP engineers have set up a number of rooms, each room supporting one view of a future interaction with technology whether in the house, the office, or traveling, and it’s pretty impressive. It is a demonstration of how innovation has always been part of the HP culture.

A few weeks back, BT and Fortune magazine had held an Innovation Summit here in Singapore, bringing together a diverse group of industrialists and academics. In a statement from BT, which was widely reported in Singapore, BT said that the goal had been “to create a whole culture that focuses on how to get everybody in the organization – and more importantly, everybody who is a customer, or a partner – to help us innovate”!

I recalled reading this as we talked about Cool Town and the innovation that was coming out of the group supporting the program. And I also remembered reading on the plane a Fortune magazine (Nov 11, 07) special insert on “The Japan of the Future” where the writer explained how in Japan they now have a “Minister of Innovation” post that was set up by the former Prime Minsiter, Shinzo Abe, after he had established the “Innovation Strategy Group” - a committee that was also made up of business leaders and academics.

Help us innovate! The Minister of Innovation? All I could think about was that movie Nine Months, and the scene with Robin Williams where he introduces himself as the “Chief of Obstructions”! And about the Dilbert comic strip character Mordac, who introduces himself as “Mordac, the Preventer of Information Services”!

It’s probably not fair to make these associations and I have to believe that there are some pretty serious and well-intended folks working on fostering innovation across industry, but it does have a certain Monty Python feeling about it all the same. Do we really need formal structures and institutions in order to be innovative? Can we create an environment, where we can become better innovators, without institutionalizing the innovation process? And why is innovation crucial anyway?

The ability to innovate, and than adapt, is critical for any business today. There is little potential for remaining in business if we just stand still. I have always believed that one such “spontaneous innovation forum” does exist – the user group events. While this may not be obvious to everyone, every time we get together at these events, there is the potential for the spark of a new idea to ignite as a new opportunity is recognized. Direct customer and vendor engagement is just such a crucial component for any business keen to innovate.

When we come together: vendors, users, system integrators, consultants, as well as the primary vendor’s engineering staff, we create a wonderful mixing pot where ideas just keep percolating to the top. It’s part of the folklore here at my company, Goldengate, that it was during the last sessions at the 1994 ITUG event in Atlanta that Eric Fish began scribbling down ideas that led to the development of the GoldenGate product.

Anton Lessing, now a Director on the ITUG Board, told me that it was at his first ITUG user event in 2001, that he saw for the very first time that the Tandem platform was not a legacy technology. “I realized that Tandem was far from dead … and I realized that the platform was under-estimated and that, after my return to South Africa, it was going to become one of the cornerstones of our processing environment”, he went on to explain. “Through the contacts I made, my company has saved some 3 million ZAR Rands (approx US$400K) – and that is serious money for us”, he concluded.

I recently asked Bob Loftis, an HP NonStop product manager, if he still sees value in attending the event and whether it helps him in better understanding the users’ needs. “Yes, I find great value as an HP Product Manager in getting comments, opinions, experiences, wishes, directly from customers and partners at ITUG events”, he explained before going on to add “sometimes the length and duration of the work day at such events can be tiring, but the opportunity is worth it”.

Chris McAllister of GoldenGate, who many of you know pretty well, expressed similar view: “It’s not as though I buttonhole every attendee and ask them what they need next, or buy drinks for every HP Product Manager to find out what they plan to develop – I hope I am a little more subtle than that”, he assured me and then added “but the information that comes out of the panel sessions and during SIG discussions are really valuable and always provide the industry-level activity that we need to stay close to”.

And do we all take advantage of this? For me, innovation is always about the interactions between individuals, not about dependence on the creativity of a single individual. It is the free flow of information and the presentation of different points of view that triggers an innovative idea. Participation in a user group means you become exposed to a broad range of ideas and suggestions – a cauldron of experiences that can greatly influence where you can take your business next. Vendors understand this and demonstrate their understanding year after year through the financial support they provide for the User Groups activities.

I asked Deirdre Mahon, Golden Gate’s Marketing head, what her take on this was, and she responded “We maintain a high profile at select user and industry events – it’s just the way we do business. It is very important to maintain close contact with all of our customers and these HP events are a great forum to conduct an open dialogue – and usually in a social setting”, she added. Deirdre then added another thought “while we do have our own customer events and have many other options, the ITUG event has always remained high on our list of priorities when it comes to direct customer engagement”.

Innovation is important – it’s what puts distance between those individuals and corporations that are successful and those that fail. I find it very hard to believe that it can be mandated – no one has even said to an employee: “go off and create something useful”! The efforts of business leaders and academics to drive innovation provides encouragement to take risks and reflects an understanding that many of us just have to get better at creative thinking, but in the end it really does come down to the decisions taken by a few key individuals to empower us to innovate.

HP has a tradition of being innovative. Many of the partners too, have demonstrated innovative ideas and have been particularly good at addressing market opportunities in a timely manner. But you do need to interact with your peers and nowhere else can this be done as effectively or for as little cost, as at user events.

I remain as convinced as ever that our future will always look good and we will continue to innovate, as long as we have forums that encourage an open exchange of ideas. Maybe we still find the chief of obstructions lurking around, and perhaps the preventers of information services remain with us as well, but hopefully, and with just a little prodding, we can continue to innovate despite them!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I've got to find a safe haven ...

I have just returned from spending 3 days on the Stockholm to Helsinki ferry, with 50 or so folks from the Scandinavian VNUG and the Finnish FinTUG user groups. The photo here is taken from their conference room on the ferry – and I have to tell you, the appointments onboard the Silja Line ferry “Serenade” were great. The event even kicked off with a “champagne toast” - and that’s a first for me at any user group events!

Neil Pringle, chief of HP NonStop EMEA sales, was in good mood and he was extremely pleased with the way the quarter had gone, and with the momentum he was seeing built in support of the NonStop platform. But buried in his slide deck was a slide I could not remember seeing before, and it did make an impact on me, as it declared “HP Integrity: Your future is our future”!

But perhaps the biggest impression on me didn’t make any of the presentations, or any of the conversations I had, but the taxi rides and café meals in the lead up to the event. It really hit home how far the mighty US dollar has fallen, and how everything else – the Euro, the British Pound, even the Swedish Krona, became so much stronger.

The momentum behind the Euro, pushing its value to new heights and showing no signs of slowing down, was evident everywhere I went. I couldn’t count the number of times I had to return to the ATM machine for more cash, and it hurt. According to an editorial in the weekend edition of USA Today (November 16, 2007) even the American rapper Jay-z, in his latest video clip, was flashing wads of 500 Euro notes – a sign that even when it came to depicting over-the-top extravagance, the US dollar didn’t cut it any more.

For as long as I can recall, whenever global economies fell on hard times, there was always a flight to currency “safe havens”, and for all of this time it was the US Dollar that was the currency of first choice. But not any more; how times have changed. Some of the extremists within OPEC are now pushing to decouple the price of a barrel of oil from the US dollar claiming that they were exchanging their countries future for “worthless piece of paper”!

While the Euro has become really strong, it’s not good for everyone in Europe. The Financial Times reported that Hungary’s Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, was pushing through a constitutional change that would limit the country’s total deficit to just 60 % of GDP. I was in Budapest the weekend they held the referendum on joining the European Union (EU), and witnessed first hand all the excitement that followed the overwhelming Yes! But in the years that have followed that vote, the government has pushed the country deep into debt. The Prime Minister accepted that it had all been the politicians themselves who were at fault, and he was justifying the introduction of constitutional change by “sometimes, we have to protect ourselves from ourselves”!

From the IT perspective, there is a lot of parallel. For as long as I can recall, when it came time for users to make a software investment, the safe haven was the primary vendor. Primary vendor’s offerings may not have been as feature rich, or be as functionally complete, as products from other vendors but you could always rely on the primary vendor giving you a hand, should you ever get into difficulties.

But is this really the case anymore? Have we come to a point where the tightly focused interests of our primary vendor are no longer in sync with our broader interests? Have the demands on Primary Vendors to support operating systems, selections of infrastructure, etc. lessened or even devalued their capabilities?

Has the flight to a safe haven now taken us in new destinations, where there is a new sense of cooperation and where the partners are contributing just as much, if not more than Primary Vendors? And should we be surprised to find that partner’s products are just as safe a bet now? Should we even blink when we see that the often-needed hand-holding through difficult times is just as available from partners as it has been in the past from the primary vendor?

When I posted the blog “What did you have in mind?” on September 24th, I outlined the three areas I was most interested in covering – the platform (Blades, key infrastructure like SOA, etc.), the system (availability, scalability, security), and data base (ODS and EDW, as well as business intelligence (BI)). My idea was to focus on issues inside the data center and to look at enterprise-wide architectures and infrastructure. But it’s become very clear to me that this now involves a whole range of partner products, and that partners will be involved in many important solutions creation.

And then, during the Euro ITUG event in Brighton, on October 14th , I posted the blog “Bugs are Everywhere …” where I included Randy Meyer’s comment that, from his Product Management perspective, investment would continue to be made in three areas – Security, SOA, and Data Base! Randy pointed out that with Security, there would be a number of partnerships, and that even for SOA infrastructure offerings, a number of good alternative product offerings from the partner community were now available. As for data base, HP NonStop would be relying on the product offerings of partners, a topic that was revisited many times within the Business Continuity SIG meetings at Brighton. Many of the products to do with migrating and maintaining data bases would be coming from long-serving partners and users were finding that there was a wealth of choice in this area.

Partners are an integral part of the HP NonStop community, and as we sailed across the Baltic these past couple of days, I watched Neil giving them all a lot of support – I saw him spending quality time with Andreas of comForte, as well as with Sean from XYPRO. The ferry boat ride between Stockholm and Helsinki was an ideal environment to catch up on the latest partner developments and yes, by then, beer was involved. From my perspective, the HP senior management all seem to get it, and they understand the value that comes with partner cooperation.

However, in the weeks that have passed since Brighton, what is bothering me is the confusion I am now seeing among the users. The services and consulting groups within HP are often not on the same page as senior management, seemingly ignoring the partner offerings. On some occasions, and I have to assume out of lack of awareness of partner capabilities, they even talk the customer out of their original requirements and into accepting a lesser-function product from HP. Maybe its all still a case of some people within the HP organization unable to stop themselves being themselves!

And from where I stand, the timing couldn’t be any worse for HP. Momentum is a very delicate state – it takes a lot of energy to overcome inertia, and the fragility of the momentum leaves it exposed to any changes in the marketplace. Should any of the key partners trying to cooperate with the HP NonStop group give up, and look to other vendors and their platforms, the community will be the poorer for it. The exit of too many of these partners will really destabilize the HP NonStop ecosystem. Momentum can easily shift and be gone, just as quickly as it arrived.

At a time when all users are looking for a safety, and are looking to build relationships that will help with their transition to the new platforms and technologies coming from HP, now is not the time for the HP field to get too far behind the messages from their executives. Again, to paraphrase the text on Neil’s slides – “your future is their future”!

Yes, we all know that developers and product managers become very attached to “their” products– treating all opportunities in the marketplace as another chance to further grow their installed base. But shouldn’t they be lifting their eyes a little higher to see beyond the HP NonStop they are familiar with?

Shouldn’t everyone involved with the HP NonStop platform be refocusing and taking in the view of the thriving HP NonStop partner community that is all around them? There are now many “safe havens”, apart from the one provided by the primary vendor. To paraphrase the Hungarian Prime Minister, haven’t we reached a time where we all have to move on, and stop being ourselves?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Is everyone in?

I am back in Amsterdam after spending the first part of the week with the VNUG and FinTUG user groups. More on this will follow next week. But I really do enjoy Amsterdam and spent a couple of evenings at the Five Flies restaurant – it is a well known establishment that I really enjoy, and have been dining there for many years.

The place is decorated with many pictures of the windmills, no surprise! As I was arriving to Amsterdam, I was once again captivated by the number and variety of windmills which I could see from the plane this time as I descended into the airport. I could clearly see examples of the old, traditional style, Dutch windmills as well as a lot of the new, modern, power-generating, kind.

While windmills first surfaced in what today is Iran, and then showed up again on some Greek islands, I think most of us associate windmills with the Northern part of France, some of the coast of England, and the Netherlands – as these were places where the strength and frequency of the wind made them ideal sources of power.

While most of the windmills started out as mills, many of the Dutch variety were adapted for drainage purposes and they were very effective at draining large areas of land. Sometimes stacked three and four deep, working in unison, they could pump water out from most of the threatened areas across the Netherlands. With the seasonal high tides that the country experienced recently that came just as a serious storm headed out of the North Sea, we were reminded once again of the general predicament that comes to a country situated mostly below sea-level!

As I continue to catch up on my reading this past week, I picked up a special “The Business of Green” feature insert in the International Herald Tribune (November 8th). While I was still thinking about the Dutch windmills, I came across a story “The hidden cost of those billions of mouse clicks” that noted:

“Google, meanwhile, plans to put one of its server farms in farm country – in Council Bluffs, Iowa: a good location for windmills, the company said.”

And it came to me – the corporate recognition of the need for green data centers was catching on. Energy efficiency and conservation, as well as really minimizing the overall environmental impact, were beginning to get the attention of many forward-thinking executives. As one web site I read recently stated so well - the combination of fear, guilt, and greed - were all beginning to hit home. Executives were beginning to see the corporate sense in paying attention to this growing business requirement and major social issue.

I had the good fortune to catch up with a colleague of mine Stephen Guendert. We work together as volunteers on another user group board, where Stephen has oversight of IT. Quite by chance I walked by Stephen and his wife Melinda waiting for a hotel room at the same hotel I was staying in. So we went to dinner at the Five Flies restaurant. The restaurant is made up of a combination of specialty, or theme, rooms and we were seated in the room pictured above – the glass room. And as we walked back to the hotel, we talked about the greening of the data center.

For some time now, we know that manufacturers are paying attention to the server and are looking at reducing the power needed to support today’s multi-core chips as well as at the cooling that these chips need. In the same “Business of Green” article, the author reported on how HP has said that “by 2010, it will have improved the efficiency of some of its servers by 50% over (equivalent) 2005 models”. As a rule of thumb, inside today’s data centers 60% of the power is consumed by the servers, 20% by the network, and 20% by storage.

HP plans to move to a new, bladed architecture, and this has a lot to do with improving energy efficiency and conservation. Stephen and I then began to talk about storage, as Stephen has a “day job” with Brocade, and this is of interest to him and to his company. Yes, a lot of work is being done with servers, but storage was also facing some major issues. If servers do improve by 50% by 2010, Stephen suggested, this will just focus the spotlight back onto storage. “We can’t just keep spinning disks faster”, he noted. “Perhaps we will even see the return of solid state drives or even the introduction of some variation of flash memory storage”!

For years, whenever I think of the Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey” I always recall the scene where the astronaut Dave has to shut down the computer HAL. As the film follows the sequence, we see a whole array of futuristic cards being ejected from a backplane, of one kind or another, and it was only recently that I recognized that HAL was made up nothing other than giant flash memory cards! Perhaps not – but clearly, someone back in 1968 was already thinking that perhaps taking disk drives into space wasn’t all that cool. So perhaps we will see a return to some form of solid state storage.

Stephen then told me about the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and about one of their key pieces of work, the Green Storage Initiative (GSI). HP, IBM, Hitachi, EMC, Brocade, among others, are all participants in this initiative and are taking the need to conserve energy very seriously.

As we talked, I was also reminded of a recent email exchange I had with Anton Lessing, an ITUG Director. We had been discussing the attributes of good architects. One point Anton brought up was that good architects needs to “deliver systems Faster, Cheaper and Better (FCB) to the market … (it) is what will make sure that a company survives and has an edge on the opposition in the IT environment”. At the time, I could see his point. But can we continue to do this without consideration of other factors? And does this override all other considerations?

For years the goals of IT execs have been to upgrade to faster processors, cluster them for reliability, and to throw enormous amounts of memory into the mix. Often being pursued with little to no dialogue with the facilities manager, who ended up having to redesign and re-equip rooms never designed for the racks and racks of servers now arriving at their loading docks.

We may not all have the luxury of building a new data center, as the folks at Google will be doing. We may never have the opportunity to consider proactively using alternative energy sources either. But we absolutely have to engage in a closer dialogue with those responsible for planning and operating our facilities. We have to take a lot more seriously our energy usage, and we need to understand potential technology trade-offs. Perhaps we need to experiment a little more and try different options – we just can’t keep on pulling more and more power off the grid.

While we were enjoying our dinner at the Five Flies, I took a good look around the building. Built back in the early to middle 17th Century, it had seen a lot of changes. It had survived some serious flooding and it had seen the country’s leaders make enormous commitments to stabilizing the land and keeping the water out. The history of windmills was captured in many of the paintings on display. Windmills had made an enormous contribution to stabilizing the country and they had saved tens of thousands of lives through the centuries. Maybe they will again play an important part in our energy future.

One video-clip caught my attention recently. It was from the group Gorillaz and the song was called “Feel Good, Inc”. The video-clip included a sequence where an airborne chunk of land, with just a ships wheel and a windmill on it, floats by, accompanied by the words from the chorus:

“Windmill, windmill, for the land
Turn forever hand in hand
Is everyone in?”

And I was reminded once again that our issues with energy and the data center are eventually going to require us all to rethink the way we do thing. We really do need to be cognizant of our energy requirements and begin to pay more attention to energy efficiency and conservation, and to the impact we are making on our environment. And I would rather be doing it now, and for the right reasons, then after a whole new round of legislation is handed down. Because we all know, they wont get it right either! Is everyone in?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

We all just wanna be big rock stars!

Just as I was leaving for this trip I was going through papers and came across this picture of me taken as I turned 21. I have included it here as I was about a year into my computer career and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Like most teenagers at the time, I wanted to play sports and become a sports star. As much as I liked rugby, my parents had the good sense of talking me out of joining one of Sydney’s premier rugby league teams.

But the one thing I never thought about was being a rock star – sure, I could play a cool chopsticks on the piano (with enough advance warning) – but to become a musician on the world’s stage was just not one of my goals. Having come through the 60s and adjusting to life in the 70s, I wasn’t too excited by where music was headed anyway.

Today there’s rarely an occasion when I turn on TV, where yet another reality show isn’t being promoted! And among the more popular are those featuring the lifestyles of rock musicians – new and old. First, there was MTV with it’s “MTV Cribs Presents: How to live like a rock star” where the extravagant life styles of today’s rock stars were featured. There was another reality show simply called Rock Star, where contestants were competing for the lead singer spot with the Australian group INXS. In more recent times, we have even seen the legendary guitarist Gene Simmonds, of KISS fame, taking the family on shopping sprees and pretending to enjoy living a life far removed from the glare of the stage.

And then, of course there’s a song, from the Canadian group Nickelback, getting a lot of airplay that is simply called Rockstar. It seems to me that a day doesn't go by without it being played. I kind of get the sentiment behind the lines:
“I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I’ll even cut my hair and change my name
Cause we all just wanna be big rock stars!”

Cut my hair? Taking a second look at the picture I have included here, it may not have been a bad idea!

I have read that a Minneapolis newspaper, the Star Tribune, ran a sweepstake competition back in 2006 where the winner would live like a rock star – getting the use of a limo for 8 hours as well as the services of a personal assistant! Obviously a few steps down the ladder from what the real rock stars of today expect, perched as they are, at the top of the entertainment food chain!

The only time I was exposed to any taste of the life of a rock star was back in 1981 when I flew from the New York to Paris on the Concorde. As the only non-smoker on the flight, I had the the back section of the plane to myself. Throughout the brief 3 hour flight, I caught several people coming to the galley to take a look at me seated by myself – and eventually, the flight crew told me that there was speculation by the other passengers on exactly who had the back of the plane to himself? I didn’t look a sports star, so I had to be a rock star – but no one recognized me!

It was against this background that I was surprised to see in one of this week’s editions of the Financial Times (Wednesday, Nov 7th) a back page feature on HP’s Randy Mott, where the article’s headline read “ ‘Techie rock star’ sets a cracking pace”, and where the article began with:“Randy Mott’s trail-blazing project to overhaul HP’s technology could set the standard that other companies need to follow …”

With a pedigree stretching back to Wal Mart, where he built a solid reputation as a Chief Information Officer (CIO), the journalist then went on to add:“… his techie rock star status was further enhanced by five years as CIO of the personal computer company, Dell.”

So what exactly is it that Randy Mott is doing that qualifies him as a rock star? What was he doing that warranted this kind of attention from the press? As I went back through my notes for this blog, I ran across the expression “setting the standard” a couple of times. When you look at what Randy Mott has committed to do, then yes, he is setting a standard that puts him well ahead of his peers. The numbers alone are quite staggering, but in the context of the three year timeframe that he has set for the project, even more impressive.

According to the Financial Times:“The number of data centers is set to fall from 85 to 6; the number of applications in use will tumble from 5,800 to 1,400; and the 750 data marts throughout the company will disappear altogether to be replaced by a single data warehouse …”

The Financial Times then went on to add:“HP is using its own software extensively to manage and run its data centers and business intelligence software called “NeoView” will be used to field queries to the single data warehouse: ‘Having good information to support the business was a key element’ Mr Mott says.”

The bottom line to all of this is that, after executing on all of this, Randy Mott will effectively take the annual investment HP was making in its internal IT down to 2% of revenues – the industry norm – and free up essentially $2 Billion in cash that can be used for investment elsewhere in the company.

I have been around data centers for most of my IT career and have always had a strong interest in what goes on inside them. I have seen state-of-the-art operations centers decked out with ceiling to floor projection screens; the partitioning of computer rooms into separate computer, storage, and networking areas each managed by their own skilled support staff; and the deployment of multi-site data centers capable of surviving any planned or unplanned outage. But what Randy is pursuing is at another level altogether and the scope of the undertaking is mind-blowing for nearly all of us. And assuring a measurable return on the tremendous investment involved, really does place him on another playing field entirely.

OK – so now I see the rock star. Not only do rock stars set standards, but the good ones generate enormous amounts of cash. The more successful rock stars have incorporated themselves, as David Bowie once did, offering the public shares in the enterprise and listing themselves on stock exchanges.

In today’s enterprise, anyone who comes in and unlocks the amounts of cash now being talked about within HP, is deserving of the title rock star. For many years now it has bothered me to see some of the plans unveiled by CIOs. Plans that address deployments that will take four, five, and even ten years to complete. Technology investments in solutions already past their prime! Incremental changes rather than the radical innovation being pursue today across HP's IT landscape.

Over the coming months I will be developing additional postings on the topic of innovation as I believe that this is really what has fueled the growth of NonStop deployments and contributed more than anything else as to why, after more than three decades after the first NonStop I was delivered, the platform remains as relevant today as it ever has all that time ago.

Yes, there is safety in staying with a vendor, in staying with a known development model or with software already well-understood. But as the amounts being earmarked for these projects steadily climb over time – isn’t it good to see that there are some CIOs prepared to “bet the farm” and to come at the problem with a completely different perspective.

Just as successful rock stars have changed the course of music and carved out highly lucrative careers, so do some CIO’s as they press ahead with innovative ideas. While I was first amused by the title bestowed on Randy Mott, I now see that it makes all the sense in the world. I am pretty sure he didn’t change his name and I am just as confident that he didn’t have to cut his hair. But in every company there should be a “rock star” setting higher standards, and Randy Mott sure fits this image at HP!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Want to be my partner?

I have just arrived in Amsterdam, having spent a few days in sunny Cupertino and San Francisco to find that in Europe, right now, it's bloody cold!

This morning I awoke to a mixture of freezing rain and hail! Not only that, but the storm front I have been told about, is battling with the barriers that surround Holland - yes, they' re holding, but not since the 1950s has this much attention been given to the engineering efforts that are keeping this country "alive". Where else can you play golf below sea level, my colleague Andre reminded me today, but sometimes nature reminds us of the "practical" realities a country like Holland faces every day. No, this is not reality TV!

I am on my way up to the Baltic where I will be joining VNUG / FinTUG for the ferry ride between Stockholm and Helsinki, and I am looking forward to a very warm reception, no matter what the weather outside looks like. I will be giving the community an update on ITUG, and I am expecting it to get a whole lot colder! Even colder and more miserable than I am experiencing right now. Oh boy, stay tuned!

But I do like Amsterdam and I have been coming here for over 15 years. There has been several ITUG events held in Amsterdam since, and they all have been well-attended. The Dutch community is very supportive, and always cooperates with ITUG whenever European events are held in their country.

This year I was in Europe for the Euro ITUG event in Brighton and, as you may remember, the Rugby World Cup was getting into the serious side of the competition. The round-robin pool games had ended, and the premier countries were battling it out in the playoffs. Of course, we were all shocked by the early departure of Australia and New Zealand in the quarter-finals, but were just as amazed by the resurrection of the English team who managed to regroup and make it all the way through to the finals.

As reader my recall, I had predicted a South African win against the English team, in my blog of October 17th (You can’t survive if you aint got drive …) simply because, as my former colleague Mark Hutchens reminded me, good fast teams often will loose to good big teams for the simple reason that, as the game goes on, “the fast teams will slow down, but the big teams will still be big”! Fascinating observation, that one!

While we both like to watch from the sidelines these days, Mark and I both played competitive Rugby in our youth. Mark found his position as a member of the forward pack, while I played one of the more fleet-footed ball distribution positions. My enthusiasm would see me finish the game bloodied and bruised, as I dived into the rucks and mauls after any loose ball, and I never once thought of getting incapacitated in any way. But from either position, we valued the contributions each other made. Today, I just compete by predicting the outcome of the games, but compete I do nevertheless.

Talking of Mark, I have included a picture here of Mark – not in Amsterdam, but one taken in Prague back in the 90s. The picture was shot only a day or so before we left for Amsterdam. We were in Prague for a Tandem Partner-to-Partner conference put on just for ISV partners. The opportunity to check out what other ISVs were doing, as well as looking to see if there were opportunities for forming relationships with other Tandem Partners was a pretty compelling reason to participate. And the venue, of course, was outstanding.

Mark and I developed an interesting protocol that we used whenever we met with customers. Mark would let my enthusiasm spill out into the meeting and he would let me run with my ideas and theories to the point where, in many situations, my competitive nature would bring the meeting teetering on the edge of chaos. “Richard, 5!” (Mark would raise the palm of his hand, as if to give me “high five”) was the signal for me to let Mark regain control, and with this protocol, Mark could then get back to the business at hand.

I can be very enthusiastic, even passionate, when it comes to users ideas on technology. On occasions I have taken advantage of the opportunity to explore new product possibilities. And sometimes my enthusiasm does get me into trouble as I get creative.

I was reminded of this only last week, walking to the neighborhood coffee shop – I walked right in front of one of “Simi Valley’s finest”, as I was crossing the street despite facing a red light. Two or three times a day, I take a brisk 20 minute walk that goes directly to the local Starbucks, and I really enjoy it as it’s the only form of exercise I get these days. But on this occasion, no sooner had I completed crossing the road, the patrol cars lights came on. I was being pulled over for Jaywalking!

Didn’t I know that it carried a pretty stiff penalty on this road, particularly as it has a 55 mph speed-limit? I only received a caution – but his parting words were “don’t let your enthusiasm for exercising get you killed”!

As I was preparing to give the ITUG update next week, I had the opportunity to look at the recent numbers for vendor membership as well as for their support of ITUG events and exhibitions. Unfortunately, it only takes a quick look to see that the numbers have continued to come down over the past couple of years. As I looked behind the numbers, what also became apparent was that the NonStop partners were small operations with many of them made up of less than twenty staff. And I began to wonder whether the community really did have the critical mass of vendors it would need for the future.

We have begun to see recognition among the partners that the ITUG events are being enhanced to support more of the HP product lines. This is not by accident, as the ITUG Board is just as aware of the new products coming from HP. Some of the partners are already cognizant of this transition and are beginning to feature more of their cross-platform capabilities. But I also saw a number of partners talking among themselves. While they have competed aggressively against each other for many decades, it was refreshing to see a number of them openly participating in the exchange of information.

And it did remind me of that Prague Partner-to-Partner event and how there is a real need for greater partner collaboration. As you look at what HP will roll out in the coming year, and how the bladed architecture we hear so much about begins to show up in the customer base, many of the ITUG partners may need to reappraise their business models. There will be enormous pressure on a lot of them to come up with new capabilities and possibly even completely new product suites. And they will all have to take a serious look at their pricing models, too. I have an uneasy feeling that a number of our partners will simply take this time to move on to other pursuits.

HP NonStop product management made it very clear that the three areas they were focusing on – security, web services and service-oriented architecture, and data base – would all feature extensive partner participation. And just as clear to me is that, with these focus areas so clearly identified, we will see more cooperation between the partners than ever before. Some will simply share ideas, while some will work together on joint projects. What is very important for all of us to see is the strengthening of our key partners and for us to develop confidence that they will continue to be the source for the type of cross-platform, multi-function, products we will all need.

In the end, all partners will need to master hardware and operating systems in addition to NonStop, and as the HP product platform landscape changes dramatically, they will need to have far broader technology knowledge. Just as a Rugby team is made of many specialist positions, the world-class teams successfully merge the skills coming from the power and strength of the very big players with the fleetness-of-foot of the more agile players, so we are reaching a time when partners will need to take a look at where their options lie. Do they have to add strength to play for the duration or do they need to become more agile?

My enthusiasm for NonStop remains just as strong as it always has, but perhaps the time for competing indiscriminately is coming to an end. Perhaps partners need to take a good, hard look at greater cooperation and collaboration. Perhaps the issues that have driven many to treat others with scant regard should be put to one side. Isn’t it time we asked the question – who are your partners?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's a sign!

The picture I have included here if of Brad Poole and I out in the Arizona desert and no, we weren’t escaping prison. Some of you though, on occasion, think that I should be locked up! This wasn’t one of those times and from the signs posted, there was no risk of us going anywhere.

It was 1993, and I had joined a group of Tandem developers for a META Group conference in Phoenix, Arizona. We found their presentation style of point and counterpoint annoying, so we skipped a couple of sessions to explore the surrounding desert.

A year later, I attended another META Group conference in Orlando, Florida that was held at the Peabody Hotel. For those not familiar with this hotel chain, it maintains the tradition of the “March of The Peabody Ducks”. It came as no surprise to any of the attendees when, as the conference opened, one of the senior META analysts walked to the podium with the Peabody Ducks lined up behind him. It was hilarious, and I am not sure the conference ever fully returned to the more somber topic on hand.

In 1994, I attended yet another analyst conference, this time my first Gartner Symposium and Expo back in Orlando. I knew that both Bill Gates and Lou Gerstner were presenting and I reckoned that this was an event not to miss.

Bill Gates came on stage in a suite-and-tie and gave a formal presentation, whereas Lou Gerstner showed up with no tie, no jacket, and had his sleeves rolled up. Bill Gates described his vision for Microsoft’s presence in the enterprise, but Lou Gerstner just wanted to get to know the audience. This was where he explained to everyone that he had had it with the visions, and that now he was more interested in the execution.

He was really keen to ask questions, and he had made sure all of his management team were with him and that they took full advantage of the opportunity to spend time with the community. His sincerity was contagious and it was a very clear sign of the success that was to follow him.

There have been a number of times where I have given serious thought to becoming an industry analyst. Eventually, after talking with a number of them, I just couldn’t make the jump, and now those days are well and truly behind me. I am not sure the pirate in me would have sat well with the culture I found in these companies.

It is against this background, that I began to look over the reports coming out of the most recent Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2007 and the one that really caught me eye was the Top 10 Strategic Technology Areas for 2008. I am familiar with the work that goes into these reports, and with the internal posturing of analysts that precedes their publication as every group’s pet project competes for visibility. And top of the list this year was Green IT!

For those of you who have read my blog posting of October 20th "The pull from twin stars ..." you may recall how I viewed "Security and Environment" as potentially two of the most powerful factors triggering the consolidation of servers and the return to large, centralized computer complexes. Gartner sees that with Green IT, where much of the underlying chip, power, cooling, etc technology is already mature, “there may be limits put on data center choices”! As we have begun to see already, servers that consume too much power or generate too much heat will be restricted to only special-case deployment opportunities.

As I looked at the Top 10 list, two other items caught my attention. Coming in 5th was Virtualization 2.0 and then in 8th spot was Fabric. They were mixed in with the usual suspects - Mashups & Composite Applications, Business Process Modeling, and Unified Communications.

While Gartner still talks about the traditional elements of virtualization, and how it’s all about “flexibility, and the ability to adapt”, as well as how “these advantages go beyond mere hardware savings”, with Virtualization 2.0, they begin to lay the groundwork for what’s coming next. Gartner, true to form, even produced a chart with an eleven-layer stack that includes such items as “on-the-fly movement of work”, “restacking workloads for DR”, and “mix of personal and business on PC”!

But it’s when I skimmed through the description of Fabric that I began to recognize the signs. Gartner suggests that the “fabric-based server of the future will treat memory, processors, and I/O cards as components in a pool, combining and recombining them into particular arrangements to suite the owners needs”. The analyst contributing these items to the list goes on to add, “blade servers are just an intermediate stage” and that “a fabric will allow several blades to be merged. Blades are not the final step” as he suggests something a lot more fluid in nature!

One of the attractions that becoming an analyst always held for me was that there was no end-game; commenting on the future of the industry could go on forever. But irrespective of this, Gartner was giving us a very strong sign confirming that blade servers will become the dominant package technology in 2008.

As I continued to go down the list of Top 10 Strategic Technology Areas, I couldn’t help noticing that Security wasn’t specifically called out. I view Security, much like Green IT as having enormous impact on our business plans. But then, as I dug deeper, Security had found a place across all Top 10 items.

There was a song back in the early ‘70s by the Five Man Electrical Band, the chorus of which simply said:

“Sign Sign everywhere a sign Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign”

And in the picture at the top of this blog the signs were unambiguous.

But I often recall these lines when I think about Gartner and other organizations analyzing our industry. All too often they are just as easy to dismiss as other consultants and claim they just tell us which way the horses all went. When they do get onto interesting topics, it’s sometimes hard to follow the signs or to understand the signals they send.

While Gartner may be looking to a future where the packaging of components takes on a more fluid form, I must admit that for the immediate future, I am really looking forward to the arrival of blades. It’s very clear to many of us that in 2008, HP will be rolling out an extensive line of blade servers including support for NonStop. Perhaps the only view these signs are blocking out right now is exactly when they will become available.

The signs are all there – shouldn’t we all be pleased to see that HP is beginning to get, just as META did many years ago, its ducks lined up, and headed in the right direction?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Need a drink!

I am now back in Simi Valley having missed all the drama from the recent round of Santa Ana-fueled fires. After leaving Chicago, I took the opportunity to swing on though Boulder for some down-time and to catch up with my family.

With the traveling of late I have seen a lot of airports and airport bars and I have stopped by at weird hours of the day, looking for refreshments. I have been doing this for many years and some time back, I came across the establishment in the photo here – a Non Stop Bar and I thought that was pretty amusing.

While in Boulder I did get the chance to catch up with Dr. Richard Hackathorn of Bolder Technology, Inc. Richard has a consulting and education firm that specializes in Business Intelligence (BI) and Data Warehousing (DW) and I have been maintaining a dialogue ever since I joined GoldenGate. Given the recent move by HP into this space with Neoview, our paths have crossed quite a bit in recent times.

But on this occasion Richard and I talked more broadly about infrastructure and on the changes that were developing as the take up of Web 2.0, and the acceptance of the Web as a platform was becoming the subject of more media column inches than just about anything else. It was apparent to us both that even more changes were headed our way.

Web 2.0 is not a set of specifications or a test suite that certifies and validates any application as being Web 2.0 compliant. And Web 2.0 doesn’t imply any overhaul of the Internet itself. Web 2.0 is simply a term coined at an O’Reilly sponsored conference immediately after the dot.com bubble burst in the fall of 2001.

Essentially, as the financial community lamented the fall of the Internet and the Web, then from the ashes, technologists saw an even more promising technology emerging. An O’Reilly analyst pointed out that: “Shakeouts typically mark the point at which an ascendant technology is ready to take its place at center stage. The pretenders are given the bum’s rush, the real success stories show their strength, and there begins to be an understanding of what separates one from the other.”

For more on this, take a look at: http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

Richard and I have been taking the opportunity to check out the different breakfast cafes. We had met in cafes scattered around the county, from downtown Boulder to Niwot out on the Diagonal near the old IBM plant. But this time, the place where we met I had just not seen before. It was tucked into a corner of a part of Boulder now surrounded by Car Showrooms, Auto Body Shops, and Spare Parts stores. Yet the shop, pretty much unchanged for decades, continues to thrive. The folks who come in for breakfast are known to the staff and the remark “same as usual!” was repeated a lot.

And this made me think again about industries – small and large. While this café still took orders the traditional way, with pen and paper and with order slips passed to the kitchen, how often do we see wireless hand-held terminals communicating orders to the kitchen? Or how many times have we seen a credit card processed by a wireless terminal, piggy-backing onto transactions opened up to non-traditional access, including over the Internet, and just taken it all for granted?

I continue to be impressed when a small farmhouse tearoom, deep in Cornwall, handled my US credit card, with all the network switching that goes on behind it, seamlessly and quickly with no visible evidence that the waiter was dealing with anyone other than someone from the village.

Banks have begun to open up a number of their key systems to direct internet access – even to wireless devices such as these. Even hotels now allow you to use their business centers to print out boarding passes, as I did recently at a Marriott. And at kiosks, I can check in directly as I did recently at a Hyatt. The world of online access is just exploding. And the more I travel, the more I am impressed that it all works!

I have been working with the Web, and with Web protocols and services, for many years. Back in the late 90s, when I was still with InSession, a phone company asked us if we could enhance our ICE SNA product to support the HTTP protocol and whether we could add a couple of services in support of Java applets. Out of that dialogue, WebGate evolved – simply a set of additional protocols and services extensions to the core ICE product.

But Richard had a lot more to say on Web 2.0, as he had just returned from IBM’s Information on Demand (IoD) conference the week before. I had elected to skip this year’s event, but had attended the first one last year in Anaheim.

What had caught Richard’s attention was a presentation by IBM on the emerging three layer model for enterprise computing built on top of three platforms. At the user interface level, there was the Web 2.0 platform. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and the ability to externalize applications and data as services formed the core of a middle platform. And behind it all was the data itself, with the technology to keep it fresh and accurate, acting as the back-end platform.

IBM had advised the audience, according to Richard, to pick its battles. They needed to know where to fight, what to defend, and when to walk away. No sooner had Richard expressed this then he had my complete and undivided attention. Was a major vendor like IBM going to advise using someone else’s product or build a strategy around a technology it didn’t provide? Was IBM going to leave a segment of the marketplace open to another technology? Perhaps not.

What IBM was advocating was to not worry anymore about the User Interface (UI). Instead, it was recommending that you put your company’s resources into supporting data quality and reliable delivery! Wow – and it got even better. Enterprise IT has to step up our efforts with data quality and reliable delivery or find themselves being bypassed entirely, as the end users quickly establish a “shadow enterprise”, a world where the pursuit of the quick-and-dirty, even if proven unreliable, takes hold. End users now developing skills at home will begin to bring them to the office and begin to question the viability of corporate IT departments.

Web 2.0, and corporate acceptance of Web 2.0 technology, is now critical to the future of enterprise architectures. When you move from screen-scraping to Web services, you have migrated to Web2.0. When you move from personal websites to blogging, you have migrated to Web 2.0. When you have moved from content management systems to wikis, you have migrated to Web 2.0. When you move from publishing to participation you have migrated to Web2.0. As an end-user, you now control your own data, as O’Reilly quickly recognized.

That’s cool and I am OK with that. But as IBM noted, we have to move fast now to deploy the other two key platforms – the services and the data. And we have to make sure the services, and the delivery of these services, is reliable and that the data has the quality expected. In short, we are now recognizing this changing landscape, according to Richard “because, following traditional IT methodologies, the need for functionality across our ever-changing business landscape is outstripping the capabilities of IT to meet it!”

While this may all be coming from IBM, is it really any different from what we are hearing from the HP NonStop group? From the time that phone company proposed adding support for HTTP into NonStop, I believed that the NonStop server would play an increasingly important role in front-ending web clients and ensuring Web services could be sourced from a true 24 X 7 platform. In short, provide the best available and scaleable services platform.

There’s just three things Randy Meyer, Director of Product Management at NonStop is committing his resources to support – Data Base (including partnership with the Neoview teams), Security (again, in collaboration with partners), and Services – with SOA offerings front and center stage of his plans. Actually, for all three areas, Randy enjoys a very substantial ecosystem of partners pitching in to flesh-out the product offerings.

And obviously, I am very comfortable with the goals here at GoldenGate to provide real time access to the data and to ensure that data platform, as IBM noted, is of the quality expected.

Richard and I plan to meet at a bar next time. I think we have had enough breakfasts – and I think we need to spend a lot more time kicking around ideas. I, for one, have never enjoyed battling it out at the UI level – my history at Tandem was littered with half-baked UI projects. Hidden in every new program was the funding for yet another UI and the amount of energy spent in negotiating the UI between opposing project teams was exhausting. So let the Web 2.0 dominate this platform. I am trusting that Randy will step up to the mark in support of Services as I know GoldenGate along with a number of other good partners, will be working overtime on the data.

In a recent comment posted to this blog, I was reminded of the Alvin Toffler novel “Future Shock” where he made the observation that there was “too much change in too short a period of time”. He argued, back in the ‘70’s, remember, that “the accelerated rate of technological and social change will leave (society) disconnected, suffering from ‘shattered stress and disorientation’ – future shocked!” We can never seem to break free from that old cliché – the only constant is change!

Richard and I continued to kick around various scenarios, as we could see what IBM was promoting, and one thing was clear to me – there would be a lot of changes heading our way. Thank goodness that somewhere in the world there was a Non Stop Bar – the need to sort through all of this is only going to get more intense!