Saturday, December 29, 2007

Grading HP? Need to do much better ...

This will be the last blog entry I post for the year. I have enjoyed writing this blog and I have welcomed the steady flow of comments that have been posted. I am back in Boulder and I plan on taking a break now for 10 days or so with the first posting likely during the week of January 7th.

The photo I have included here is from my home in Boulder and yes, we have seen plenty of snow. While nowhere near the levels of last year, when three back-to-back blizzards shut down all activity around Denver and the Front Ranges, the temperatures have been every bit as cold though and this morning I arose to 0 degrees Fahrenheit! I head back to Southern California on the weekend and I am looking forward to basking in the mid, to upper, 60s that they are currently enjoying! At least there will be an opportunity to see if the Colorado University football team can win its first bowl game in many years.

And this is the first holiday season in many years where I will not be spending any time back in Australia, and I will missing the tennis grand slam event as well as the cricket test matches. This year, it will be a very powerful Indian cricket team playing the “home side” Australia that is now rebuilding after winning the world cup for the third successive time.

As I look back on the postings that I have made, I kept to the topics I committed to early on - the platform, the system attributes (or fundamentals), together with a recent addition, data bases and business intelligence. But as I went back through the coverage I provided, I thought it may be valuable to look at what I saw unfolding for the various stakeholders in ITUG.

HP, as the primary vendor, is a major stakeholder and there were a lot of changes as well as interesting developments. We have seen the NonStop Advanced Architecture (NSAA) and the NonStop Value Architecture (NSVA) product lines subject to continued investment as they track the Intel roadmaps. We have seen models specific to the telco market introduced. We have had revealed to us that the investment HP has made in the platform since the acquisition of Compaq top the US$1.2 Billion mark. While this has been unfolding we have seen the appearance of the first product roadmaps that show the new Bladed Architecture packaged and have seen how they are being positioned between the NSAA and NSVA product lines.

We have also seen the first customer deployments of the Neoview platform. Early indications seem to suggest that it is developing a following in the retail space as well as some early penetration within manufacturing. While I was in Singapore I was sitting at the hotel lobby bar when a guest slumped into a chair and called for a beer. He turned to another hotel patron and said “I have just working flat-out installing disk drives – more disk drives than I have ever seen in my life before!” As I had seen he had a HP shirt on I couldn’t help but ask – Superdomes? NonStop? “No, it’s one of those new big Neo systems and I swear they must have a petabyte of disk going in – perhaps more!”

Small world! OK, so when you sit at a bar, you never know for sure who you are sitting next to – and I am pretty sure this guest was unaware of me. But early next year I am planning on providing a lot more information on how the sale of Neoview platforms is progressing.

HP NonStop partners are another major stakeholder, and for many of them, it’s been a tumultuous year. I can’t write anything on this subject unless I address the 800lb guerilla in the room. Yes ACI! I suspect by now we are all familiar with the contents of the press release of December 17th “IBM and ACI Forge Global Strategic Alliance” with the tag line that read “Deliver Integrated Electronic Payment Solutions for the Financial Services Industry.” Like most of you who follow NonStop and are familiar with the history of Tandem on first reading this, I was very surprised. But I have to admit, the absence of and ACI vendor stand in Brighton, and just a much smaller presence earlier in Las Vegas, had me wondering. So now we know!

I had the opportunity to be in Omaha a few days after the announcement and quietly, over drinks and coffee, observed that in all reality not much was changing. We had all known for some time that ACI was intent on complementing its business on NonStop with something equivalent on IBM – and this had been articulated for many years across a number of conferences. It was also well-known that following a number of acquisition, ACI had built a portfolio of products that ran across a broad number of technologies – indeed, no one platform would support the entire product suite from ACI.

Selecting the System z as the single platform was the surprise part though – but if you were to try and match the attributes of today’s NonStop server in terms of scalability, availability, and data integrity then I am not sure there was any other IBM platform could promote that would be equivalent. But then, while System z has many detractors I, for one, like the System z as I spent the first ten years of my career on and around this platform and just about every bank I know has one tucked away somewhere in the data center.

NonStop and System z have recently been selected by their respective vendors to anchor major server consolidation programs - a clear sign to me that both of these platforms should be no longer viewed as legacy. Surely this label has been finally shredded given these decisions at HP and IBM. You just don't continue to invest in legacy - even if "legendary!"

Now, the whole ACI product suite never did run on NonStop – it was just the payment engine that depended on NonStop and BASE24eps will be supported for some time to come. But historically, the option to run the payment engine on System z has been actively promoted for three or four years with only a handful of users electing to go down that path – this latest deal, where closer integration with key IBM infrastructure is planned, represents the third round of development for the crew working with System z.

I plan to provide a follow-up posting on all of this in January but for now, why don’t I see that much changing? Before joining GoldenGate I spent almost a decade working at ACI (and Insession) and remain very supportive of many of the folks who work there. Like everything in our industry, it will be the customer that drives the final outcome – vendor alliances, strategic or otherwise, have never really forced any customer to change without considerable due diligence first. And in this case, we are talking about a market segment that is the most risk-averse of all market segments and where a potential payback from changing a platform has to be weighed against the downside from any potential negative outcome.

Finally, as users and as members of the user community, we are the other major stakeholder. Following successful joint events in the US and in Europe, and looking how some regional groups are broadening the product lines they cover, the coming year may usher in a whole new era of product and user group convergence.

As someone with a heritage in NonStop I do want to know more about development with Unix and with Linux. And I know there are others that are interested in Windows as well. I see a future where applications will run in isolation from the underlying operating system just as I see the operating system executing independently of the hardware configuration. I see virtualization being considered at all levels across the hardware, operating system, and application mix.

I plan to provide a lot more coverage of the user community and the events they hold. I plan to attend as many regional events as my time and priorities allow. But I really have a sense that the coming year will see major changes in the way we, as users, interact with our primary vendor, HP.

For the next couple of weeks, I will be taking it a little easier. I will continue to respond to the emails I receive and I will be updating the overall look-and-feel of the site. I have been pleased with the feedback from the simple poll I posted, and will take all comments to heart.

Australia may have lost the Rugby World Cup this time, to a great side well-deserving of the title, but we continue to dominate the game of cricket. I was reminded of this today when an Australian columnist, Peter Roebuck, wrote “simply, the Australians keep playing good cricket, and periodically play great cricket.” On the other hand, I am still not sure we can say the same about HP NonStop sales and marketing teams. There are some great individuals but collectively, I would be a lot more content to see them just being good. And on that note, I look forward to the coming year!

1 comment:

Dauber said...

HP has been quick to respond verbally to critics, but slow to put their money where we can see it, except for NeoView, which wasn't intended for us crusty old Tandemites anyway.