Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mandalay Bay Opens!

For many of us who have attended ITUG events over the years, we are used to the first general sessions of Monday morning. Back in the early ‘90s these were marathon events that went on until the luncheon adjournment. Adapting to the format we first saw last year, where the event kicks-off on the Monday evening, and where many of us can fly in that day, has certainly grown on me – I like it!

I have to say, I wasn’t sure, early on, but the format of a Monday through Thursday event with the “Welcome Reception” first up Monday nigh, really is appealing. Earlier today, with only an hour before the attendees could walk into the Exhibition Hall, I took one last photo (included here) and what a difference to noon – carpets cleaned, the garbage collected, and the night’s refreshments arriving.

This year, HP’s booth is visibly bigger than the booth they had last year and there are a lot more exhibitors as well - to see the event growing like this is very encouraging. But the big news of the night for the user communities was the unveiling of the new Connect logo – unfurled from a small tower erected for the occasion. From hereon out, we are all part of just one user community, Connect.

I had the chance to sit down with Scott Healy, the former Chairman of ITUG and just asked him as directly as I could – what did he consider was the “driving factors” behind this move to create a single user group. We had just seen the new logo unveiled and the picture I have included here is from much earlier in the day before the crowds arrived.

His response kind of stopped me in my tracks with its bluntness and forcefulness. “The driver?” he said, pointing across the exhibition hall and at the HP stand, “it’s over there! It’s in that new cabinet of blades running anything from NonStop to Linux to Windows!

I knew for several years that this was coming and I see it as the way of the future. And it’s just so important to me that the NonStop users became part of a user group that supported NonStop in the new heterogeneous world.”

Early this morning, very early West Coast time, the press release on the NonStop NB50000c BladeSystem went out and perhaps the best coverage came from the UK electronic publication, The Register. Under the headline “NonStop takes on modern touch” journalist Ashlee Vance opens with the comment:

“When HP talks about "blade everything", it means freaking everything. The hardware maker has pumped out a blade server running its NonStop operating system and software of all things.

“The NonStop NB50000c BladeSystem will fail to shock loyal HP customers. We spotted the server on HP roadmaps almost a year ago.

"The company is pretty proud of itself for bringing the NonStop software loved by financial, telecommunications and government customers over to the c-Class chassis. It's a sign that HP is moving away from very specialized cases and innards in favor of a shared hardware base.”

Ashlee also quoted Randy Meyer, well known to us all and the Director of NonStop systems at HP and someone who just wouldn’t hold his punches. According to Randy:

“What we have been doing over the last period of years is moving toward industry standard hardware as it gets more and more reliable. Now we can drive down costs while maintaining the NonStop capabilities of fault tolerance and massive scale."

And this is exactly what Scott was refereeing to – HP is moving to a model where the hardware packaging becomes ubiquitous and any of the supported OS’s will run. Given such a move to a standardized packaging – all communities will share a future of common hardware with only the nuances of the operating system identifying their ancestry. Over time, this may even get blurred as the blade system pushes the operating systems and infrastructure software behind common manageability and standard, and universal APIs. Future developers building solutions around common frameworks and runtime environments may never know that the environment supporting their deployment could be any mix of NonStop, Linux, and Windows.

“Doesn’t it make sense then that all users are represented by the one user organization?” Scott concluded.

I then asked Scott whether he had any misgivings over the decision to create a new organization. And for sure “there’s some nostalgia” he said, before going on to add “I have only been in the NonStop community since 2001 and I often come across users who have been associated with NonStop for more than 30 years. There’s a lot of history but now it’s up to the incoming team to build on this beginning and make it thrive!”

Finally, when we talked about his views on how the executives of HP would view the creation of Connect, Scott pointed out that “as a HP shareholder, as a HP customer, as a HP partner, and now, as a member of a HP user community, I would expect Mark Hurd to be very enthusiastic over a community made of folks as committed to HP as I am. I get the sense that HP really is reaching out to all of us that support HP!”

And this is when I really started to think back on the events of the day. We have witnessed first hand the creation of a new organization. It’s not really a merger as much as the development of something new. And I like this – I had a lot of experience with earlier attempts at merging but the trust, openness, and transparency that exists today (across the different user communities) just didn’t exist back in my days. Scott agreed – in the end, it was the people that made the difference and this impressed the heck out of me!

Tonight I had to juggle a couple of dinners, and be in multiple places, as well as handle many phone calls. I caught up with my colleagues and watched as bets were placed on various card games. Not everything resulted in wins – and that’s pretty much to be expected in a Casino like Mandalay Bay. But the more I see HP producing products like NonStop NB50000c BladeSystem and the more I listen to smart people like Scott, the more encouraged I become.

I am not a gambler by nature and I am reluctant to place bets no matter what the odds – although Tiger Woods seems to be a sure thing these days – but the future of the user groups as is the future of the new bladed architecture, seems to be on very solid ground.

I can’t wait to hear the early feedback of customers on either count, and I am sure I will – as now the event is officially open! And I raise my glass in a toast to ITUG’s Last Chairman of the Board of Directors, who now serves as Past President of Connect – thanks Scott for leading us into the future!

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