Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reserve some "Whoa"!

Picking up a newspaper from under my hotel door the other week, I saw an advertisement by Hertz promoting their latest car offering – a bright “velocity-yellow” Corvette. Under the picture (shown above) was the caption: Reserve some Whoa! As most readers know by now, anything with a picture of a ‘Vette will always catch my attention, and later that same day, as I passed by the Hertz lot, there were five of them lined up waiting for customers to pick them up.

Hertz is a GoldenGate user, with GoldenGate supporting their mission critical applications on NonStop, and over the years I have seen Hertz’ folks attending user conferences and events. While I can only guess at the types of the applications running on NonStop, I have to believe that each time I reserve a car some part of the transaction passes through a NonStop.

However, what did surprise me was, that as I was paging through earlier postings researching items for this post, I came across the May 31, 2008 posting “Heading for the exit!” where one of the photo’s I included was of my ‘Vette leading a bright velocity yellow ‘Vette at Willow Springs raceway. This outing was on the weekend of May 24 – 25, 2008, and on that Sunday I recall seeing this car pull into the pit area and it puzzled me as I didn’t recognize the badge on its fender – HZH!

Hertz had launched this “Reserve some Whoa” program only a few days before the event at Willow Springs, but a participant had managed to pick one up. I have seen racing drivers looking for an edge, and working hard to close any competitive gap, but turning to a rental car company was not an approach I had expected. Talk about reserving some Whoa! Hertz certainly had the mortgage on that theme, and the car performed well out on the big track - even for an automatic.

These days it has become very difficult gaining any kind of competitive edge – and whenever a gap develops, it’s often difficult maintaining it no matter how many years go by. As a youth, living close to Sydney harbor, I developed an interest in sailing and when Australia first challenged the United States for the America’s Cup, the excitement it generated was unlike anything seen before. Back in the late ‘50s, Australia’s then newspaper-baron, Sir Frank Packer, put together a challenge and in 1962 his yacht, “Gretel”, arrived in Newport, Rhode Island.

At the time, very few yachtsmen in Sydney even knew of the America’s Cup or of the tradition behind it. None of us truly appreciated what Sir Frank was going up against – almost 150 years of exclusive ownership of the revered “auld mug”! And once Gretel was in the waters off Newport, she had the audacity to win a race – the first win for team sailing against the US under the then-current 12 meter formula. However, the US went on to win the series.

In 1983, Australia II was launched and it went on to win 48 of the 55 races it sailed that year, including the finals of the America’s Cup, ending the longest winning streak in sporting history. Probably the smallest 12 meter yacht ever built, Australia II simply “out-technologied” the incumbents – a feat thought impossible by everyone in the yachting community. And it came back to win from being down 3-1 (very reminiscent of the modern-day Red Sox) in a best-of -even final. Australia II’s secret “winged keel” gave it an uncanny maneuverability “edge” that the skills of the American skipper Dennis Conner simply couldn’t overcome. And across Australia that early Monday morning, the nation woke to the unexpected and surprising news - and exhaled a collective “whoa!”

It was with this in mind that I read a short update in the electronic newsletter “5 Minute Briefing: Data Center” published by the good folks at SHARE – the IBM Users Group, and with whom I continue to maintain good relations. I was particularly intrigued by the story filed under the heading “Mainframes Brightest Spot in IBM Server Line with 25 Percent Sales Jump” that reported “revenues from System z mainframe server products increased 25 percent compared with the year-ago period … (and) total delivery of System z computing power, which is measured in MIPS (millions of instructions per second), increased 49 percent.”

This comment was then followed by “aside from System z, overall revenues from the Systems and Technology segment were sluggish, totaling $4.4 billion for the quarter, down 10 percent (11 percent, adjusting for currency) … Revenues from the converged System p server products increased seven percent compared with the 2007 period.” And then came the real zinger “Revenues from the System x servers decreased 18 percent, and revenues from the System i servers decreased 82 percent. Revenues from System Storage decreased three percent, and revenues from Retail Store Solutions decreased 24 percent. Revenues from Microelectronics OEM decreased 27 percent.”

In other words, apart from System z and System p, the revenues for all other servers lost ground. And what intrigued me here was that, comparing System z sales to a year-ago, glosses over the fact that twelve months ago the figures for System z were very low. All the smart CIOs, fully aware that the new z10 would be announced early in 2008 (see the posting on March 1, 2008 “Thirty years on - a new generation!” for more information on the z10 announcement) had held back the purchase of additional mainframe MIPS, depressing sales figures in the process. The reports that IBM has now seen a significant increase shouldn’t be a surprise at all, as these same CIOs rushed to make up for the shortfall in computing power that they had let develop over this timeframe. And it’s hardly a story I would be promoting as a return to growth in mainframe MIPS!

As for the bigger picture, this attention paid to the System z is even more interesting as it signals that the gap IBM has held over other competitors, is rapidly diminishing. And the speed with which this gap is eroding is somewhat staggering to me – I just didn’t think other technology companies would find the tools to advance as quickly as they have. And just as Hertz advertised for its stylish velocity-yellow ‘Vette, I had to “reserve some whoa!” as I ask myself: isn’t the revenue from the sale of systems less relevant these days and, anyway, isn’t IBM transforming itself into a Software and Services business?

If only that were the case! In the same report, the reporter went on to add “revenues from the Software segment were $5.2 billion, an increase of 12 percent (eight percent, adjusting for currency) compared with the third quarter of 2007. Revenues from IBM's total middleware products, which primarily include WebSphere, Information Management, Tivoli, Lotus and Rational products, were $4.1 billion, up 12 percent versus the third quarter of 2007.”

If you flatten the spike associated with the uptick in System z sales you would expect to see additional revenues flow to products like WebSphere (application and transaction services), Information Management (data base), and Tivoli (manageability)! Shouldn’t we have seen a much bigger jump in Software revenues? But I just can’t see it in the figures here, and neither do a lot of financial analysts. Has the competition rented the Hertz ‘Vette’ and driven clean past IBM? Have they started to “out-technology” IBM?

Whether it is cars or yachts, and whether it’s just a competition at the local level or a major international event, everyone looks for the edge that separates them from the rest. Now I am not suggesting turning to a corporation like Hertz and commandeering one of their most competitive products is an appropriate or relevant approach when it comes to technology. What I am suggesting is that if all IBM can point to these days is the return to routine mainframe MIPS numbers, plus some growth in System p sales, as their bright spots, then they really are in trouble.

The recent moves by HP – leveraging the Intel roadmap and delivering a comprehensive blades offering, partnering with Oracle and jointly launching a data base machine, as well as completing the acquisition of EDS suggests that HP has not just closed the gap to IBM, but is happily bowing right past it. All of these HP technology decisions made over the period of just a few quarters, is as rapid a transformation inside any technology company as I have ever witnessed. And I have no doubts whatsoever that there’s the potential for even more wise choices in the works.

Out on the track the appearance of the rented yellow Corvette certainly was a surprise. It was a bold move for sure, and attracted a lot of attention. Arriving at Newport with the smallest yacht, but capable of changing direction better than the competition, was just as bold a move. Has the technology leadership role IBM enjoyed for more than half a century slipped away, and is it IBM now that has “reserved some whoa” as it watches HP slip on by.

I have opinions and express them often in the postings on this blog, but I think the facts support my observations, and yes, I find reading press releases of the financial results fascinating sometimes…

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who you gonna trust?

For more than a year now, I have been travelling between Boulder, Colorado and Simi Valley, California. Symptomatic of the changes taking place across our industry, where companies have become more interested in the skills and knowledge you can provide, than where you live. However, some executive positions still require a hands-on approach, and this is what has happened in our family. Frequent travel between the two cities has become an integral part of our life these days.

There’s always a downside of course – I was looking for tools the other day that I thought were in the garage, until I remembered that they were in the other garage. And when I went to the refrigerator, I remembered too late that what I wanted was in the other refrigerator. And then there are the usual household expenses that need to be attended to, along with the frustration that follows when you realize you are paying for services you can’t actually use!

The climate in Colorado means that you need to turn to contractors for tasks you would normally take care of yourself. As winter approaches, all outdoor plumbing needs to be “blown”, including all irrigation systems turned on for the summer, as water cannot be left to accumulate when the temperatures head south. Coordination between the many vendors now contracted for lawn-mowing, gardening, the plumbers, etc. becomes a highly critical task we found, as is establishing your guidelines.

And this year, I had a wake-up call about relying on one contractor looking after it all. After much higher water bills last year, and with no real idea as to the cause, I had our gardener program the sprinkler system this year. And he understood the “budget” I had for water knowing full well I wouldn’t be at home to enjoy the gardens and lawns for much of the year but just as aware I didn’t want to see them to die from lack of water. In the late spring, I began to notice the lawns were a little browner than in previous years – and that was OK. I understood. As long as nothing died!

The picture above is of the front yard with everything looking really green and very plush. At about the same time the lawn-mowing service bills began to really climb. And then I saw two months of water bills – whoa! About as much as we had paid in rent, only a few years ago! A quick phone call to the lawn-mowing service and yes, he had changed the irrigation programs – now water was coming on every evening and for a longer period. Didn’t I like how green the lawns looked?

“Never let the lawn-mowing service look after your irrigation!” was the response from our gardening contractor. “Of course they will increase the amount of water irrigating your lawns! There’ll just be more lawn to mow and they will need to mow it more often. Trust me!” So we are having the amount of irrigation dialed back as we head into the fall, and no longer relying on the services of just one vendor.

And it reminded me – how much attention are we paying to the industry consolidation going on, and how attentive are we to the mix of infrastructure and middleware software they now control? In particular, the most recent moves by the very large software vendors to flesh out their offerings so as to provide the user community with more or less a one-stop shopping experience?

Momentum first swung away from the hardware -, and operating system -, centric models of the late 60s, and has never swung back. It is very much an application-centric model today, and we acknowledge that business issues continue to determine the applications we deploy. It is the application that dictates the middleware and infrastructure requirements, and ultimately, mandates the hardware and operating systems.

Should an application only support Oracle, then there’s no point in investing in DB2 or MySQL as these middleware offerings will hold little interest for any application vendor tied to Oracle’s products! And now we watch as Oracle integrates applications, like Siebel, with former BEA infrastructure, as well as to Oracle’s data base – as it owns all the pieces and can provide a complete “mega-stack”! Likewise, as Microsoft continues to incorporate more of the DATAllegro technology (via an acquisition) into future releases of SQL Server, do we seriously expect Microsoft applications to support a raft of system platforms other that Windows / Intel? From Microsoft applications, to .NET infrastructure, to data base middleware – they too have their own software mega-stack.

Is this necessarily a good thing for a user community? Such tight integration is quickly reducing the number of vendors we can turn to for solutions and that always has to be worrying in terms of maintaining innovation, particularly where data base products are involved. Could we be handing everything over to the lawn-mowing service, trusting them not to overdo watering the lawns?

This past year, we have seen the sizes of data bases explode as the applications are capturing more data than ever before, as operational systems push deeper into corporations, that in turn, provides companies with the ability to reach out to more markets and capture even more customers. In a recent article in InformationWeek, Scaling the Data Warehouse (October 13, 2008), writer Richard Winter talks about one client where “the data warehouse keeps more than a petabyte of disks spinning and has grown by a factor of 10 during the last four years. It's expected to at least double in the coming year.” The importance of data base vendors “capturing” these applications providers, as they are now doing, becomes a lot clearer as well as a little worrisome.

And what does this mean for NonStop? I have been a very strong supporter of NonStop SQL (NS SQL) but market-penetration has been very slow to develop and now, twenty years on, I am concerned about its future. Without HP buying a very big vendor with broad market appeal, like SAP for instance, and integrating key NonStop middleware and infrastructure components such as NS SQL into these applications, maybe time is running out for NonStop!

On the other hand, many view Neoview as potentially a really big application, and its use of the NonStop data base as well as the NonStop hardware and operating systems, is a step in the right direction. In the Telco marketplace, there are significant applications from HP’s own software organization that remain very closely tied to NonStop. And some of the news I am hearing about Logica, following its acquisition of the Swedish company, WM-Card, pushing hard and fast with its NonStop “Global Payment System”, is encouraging as well. And this is what it will take for NonStop to remain relevant – many more large application vendors tied intimately to NonStop!

But should we be relying on the major vendors like HP, IBM, Sun to solve our business issues? Are we running the risk of compromising parts of the solution by ignoring better implementations for the sake of having just one vendor as our contractor? Again, are we prepared to pay the higher bills for software that will follow any deeper industry consolidation?

In Richard Winter’s article in InformationWeek, referenced above, he asks a number of very good questions:

“Do we have the right architecture? Is it on the right platform? Is the warehouse about to run out of headroom? What will it take to service new users? How do we move from batch loading to continuous update? And with technology changing so rapidly, how do we know we're on the right system?”

And then Richard responds with:

“All the answers loop back to managing scalability. Getting control of scalability might mean embracing the highly parallel processing and scale-out architectures long offered by Teradata and IBM, and elements of which are now emerging in new products from Oracle and Microsoft.”

Without doubt, it’s puzzling to read statements like this and not to read anything about NonStop and for me, the short answer to all of the questions above continues to be NonStop! But the lack of support for a HP mega-stack remains a worry for some in the user community. Or does it?

Perhaps the recent decision by HP to partner with Oracle with the just-announced Exadata Storage Server, represents the extent to which HP is prepared to go at this time. And perhaps HP is aware of the pitfalls from pursuing a mega-stack, extending from the application all the way to the metal, and understands that for many in the user community this could position HP as the lawn-mowing service that also regulates the irrigation system!

Furthermore, could heading down this path be leading back to application silos, with no options to select from best-of-breed solutions and no easy integration with competing vendor’s applications? HP, with its messages around industry standard and open solutions, surely has to be sensitive to the downside of this, and must be approaching the emergence of these essentially proprietary mega-stacks with some concern.

Yet application silos are definitely beginning to re-appear. And perhaps the die has been cast, and this will be the technology landscape for the next decade! In the work I am doing at GoldenGate, I see a huge business developing for my company in the real time as companies begin to rely more on the data as the point of integration between deployed mega-stacks.

But just as I was shocked to see the price I was paying for water – and found no easy way out of my predicament, so too, will many in the user community recognize too late the dangers from reliance upon mega-stack silos. Much as we enjoy the separation of power generation from power distribution, and the lower prices that followed, we need to be careful about not having access to the wisdom of a gardener when dealing with a lawn-mover service. It may be a grave mistake! Who do we really want to turn to? And who do we really trust?

Friday, October 10, 2008

This one’s a keeper?

Last weekend I spent a couple of hours at the Orange County Auto Show, and looked at all the new cars. In the picture above, I am looking longingly at a Lamborghini Gallardo – a piece of art, as far as I am concerned and better housed in a living room than in a garage. Unfortunately, selling this type of car has suddenly become quite problematic as so many deeply-discounted used ones are coming back on the market as their owners struggle under the current economic conditions. There was also a collection of older Corvettes and Camaros on display - and they attracted just as big a crowd. And I couldn’t tell you the number of times I heard “I used to have one of those! I wished I had kept that one!”

As I watched the crowds looking at the older cars, I was reminded of the things we elected to keep, and the things we just can’t wait to unload. And even for me, with the numerous cars and motorcycles I have had over the years, there’s been several that I still regret having sold. My Honda CB72 250cc motorcycle that I had in the early 70s and that I had rebuilt as a replica cafĂ©-racer was definitely a “keeper”. And selling my ‘94 twin-turbo Mazda RX7, affectionately known as “the glove”, I regret it, and I will probably regret for many years to come.

When it comes to computer systems, I really haven’t developed a similar affection, or heard of anyone wishing they had held on to any particular model. Computer systems, and the technology lifecycles driving them, ensure that new systems are just so much better than anything they supersede. In the late ‘70s, while living in Sydney, I went into the warehouse of a major third-party leasing company and saw rows of idle mainframes and peripherals collecting dust. Who could have guessed, for instance, that old ‘60s era check-sorters, originally designed to channel-attach to the IBM 360 mainframe, would come back to life almost two decades later, attached to the latest iteration of a Fujitsu plug-compatible-mainframe (PCM), as happened at the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Much has changed these past thirty years. Today, systems from HP, IBM, Sun, Fujitsu, etc are all reliant on chip manufacturers. Now it’s the Intel, AMD, and IBM chip roadmaps that drive new systems into the marketplace, as each vendor tries to get to market first with technology that’s faster, more reliable, cheaper, and more importantly today – much cooler. With the race to multi-core chip technology in full swing, I just cannot imagine any user longing to return to a dual-core or even a single core engine no matter how strong the emotional ties. Systems become legacy for a reason, and hanging onto them as their components age usually isn’t a smart business decision. MTBF and MTTF suddenly cease being acronyms that are vaguely familiar!

Furthermore, I just cannot imagine a “collector’s edition” of early Itanium or Power based systems being highly sought after at auction houses. Anxious bidders will not be pushing the price of any systems built around these technologies to the same heights as we see today with art, jewelry, and cars! CIOs keep their anxieties reserved for briefings on exactly when Tukwila, Poulson - and the secretive Kittson – will begin to ship. What will follow 32-nanometer technology, that’s what they would like to know!

Before I came to the US in the late ‘80s, I had mounted into the brickwork of the office in my Sydney home the complete front panels from an IBM System 360/65 and an IBM System 370/138 (from QANTAS and from 3M I was to later find out). I had salvaged them both from a third party leasing company in exchange for a couple of cartons of beer, and my father did a terrific job of fixing them to the walls! As rustic pieces of art decorating the walls of homes and offices – could this be their only attraction?

I have been feeling a little sorry for these companies in the business of re-cycling older systems. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s these companies served a loyal base of customers. Should any vendors product offerings suddenly evaporate with newer models incompatible to the investments already made – then no worries, a couple of additional processors could easily be found in the warehouses of these companies. And should the economy falter – then again, no worries – old systems could be upgraded and their end-of-life temporarily ignored, as purchases of new systems are put off till better times arrive.

But today, the mix of operating systems, and much needed infrastructure software, can often negate any potential savings from staying with older systems - not to mention the problems in retaining staff capable of keeping these systems up and running. Going down this path implies you retain considerable faith in your vendor. Even for use as a development, or emergency fall-back system, this path can be risky. In a recent email exchange with one HP senior manager, we just couldn’t come up with one good reason for keeping any of the older equipment installed much past a single generation of newer technology.

Many years ago, while living in Sydney, I came very close to buying a Lamborghini Countach. I have included a picture of it here, the Countach LP400S as I still carry it around. My brother Greg and I visited the dealership many times to look at the car until finally, one weekend, the dealer let me take it for a ride. I took it on an extensive drive around the coast roads, south of Sydney, and really bonded with the car. The trunk lid didn’t close properly, the side mirrors were useless - giving you only a view of the wheels of the vehicles around you, and you couldn’t hear the radio at all. It was perfect! But I never did buy the car, and even now every time I see a red Lamborghini, I begin to daydream about what it would have been like and whether I should look at ways to get one!

And this is where all similarities end. Italian cars retain a beauty and a sense of style for decades. But enterprise computer systems never score points for beauty or style. They have to meet strict TCO and ROI figures – something completely alien when considering the purchase of any Italian car. If these cars break down, it only provides more material for bar-room discussions with the lads. If you crash them, it’s just a case of shedding tears and writing big checks! Or so it had seemed to me until this month’s issue of the TandemWorld newsletter arrived in my inbox.

I was surprised to read “the Second User market has seen a sudden and dramatic surge of inquiries for used hardware as the economy seems to be encouraging many Non-Stop users to consider extending the life of their S Series platforms. Availability of high end S Series hardware is tightening, and within 30 days we expect many upper end CPU’s to be completely unavailable.” The writer then adds “Not only is the supply tightening, but we have also seen a dramatic increase in requests for S86000, S7800, S7600, and even S7400 CPU’s lately. All of these products are also becoming scarce due to this market condition.”

The dramatic downtime in the economy has devastated many CIO’s budgets and systems are being held onto very tightly – with used equipment plugging the gaps until budgets free up. Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) remain in force and performance criteria still have to be met. Suddenly the technology and product roadmaps are no longer the full story and holding tightly onto soon-to-be-legacy equipment has nothing to do with emotions but rather, non-existent cash flow. Today’s credit markets are once again materially impacting the technology landscape. And I can only see it getting worse for many users. If the supply of older systems is drying up, as it would appear to be, then it’s a clear sign that companies are holding onto them and squeezing as much life from them as they can.

And it’s quickly developing into a sellers market, as is so often the case in difficult economic times – not everything holds its value and I am not all that sure some vendor’s equipment will hold up as strongly as others – but it’s a very good sign for anyone following the fortunes of NonStop. If CIO’s were considering this the right time to defect from NonStop, then many more systems would be available – but they aren’t. Perhaps their faith in HP and NonStop continues to be well placed after all. After so many years, could NonStop servers really have become keepers?

If a system becomes inexpensive today, wouldn’t it be a sign that perhaps their vendors may be in deep trouble? And if they start flooding the market, then doesn’t this say a lot about their user’s confidence in the platform? I may yet see a Lamborghini being sold so cheaply, as its owner cashes out quickly with no thoughts about keeping it, that temptation crosses my mind! But a good system will always be a keeper. And there’s pretty solid evidence that suggests NonStop remains a very good system well worth hanging onto during these disastrous economic times.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Problem Child!

I spent last weekend back in Boulder, and the fall is definitely in full swing across the Rockies. On the flight over Friday night, you could clearly see the Aspen forests reflecting autumn’s golden colors in the early evening sunlight. While there is still a few more days to go before the trees in my garden turn completely gold, changes are already under way. And the picture I have included here is of the view from my driveway looking back at the Aspens at the end of the yard.

On Saturday, a good friend of mine from Texas came over for the weekend. With the colors turning the mountains into a giant green and gold quilt, it was the perfect time to take the motorcycles out of the garage and tackle the peak-to-peak highway. Not being too ambitious, we rode 100+ mile portions on Saturday and Sunday, taking in the northern loop from Estes Park on the Saturday and then riding the southern loop out of Golden on up through Black Hawk on the Sunday.

While we were out riding across the mountains we didn’t escape mother-nature entirely as we ran right into a fierce electrical storm, and we really should have pulled off the road and sought safer ground. For more on this escapade, look for a posting next week on my social blog: http://www.buckle-up-travel.blogspot.com/

After each ride we relaxed by taking the coupe out for a spin, and dropping by the many coffee shops in the county. But after the weekend, it was a case of dragging out the hoses and buckets and washing the vehicles. I can’t speak for others – but for me, I find washing cars a relaxing activity and something very therapeutic. I suspect nobody starts out with as many messed-up hoses in their garage either! For the last couple of weeks I have been tuned into an XM station playing only songs by the great Australian rock group - AC/DC, and there’s nothing better than listening to their anthems while bent over cleaning brake dust from badly stained wheels. But as I was doing this, I caught the words of one of the better known songs, “Problem Child”:

“Get out of my way; just step aside …Or pay the price;
What I want, I take; what I don't, I break …
But I win they lose;What I need, I like; what I don't, I fight …
Your time is through;
‘Cause I'm a problem child!”

There was a time when I was much younger, that members of my family were concerned that I was a problem child, but I could never figure out what they meant! But it did get me thinking of another, more famous, problem child - Larry Ellison. I don’t think anyone would ever confuse the antics of Ellison with any other industry leader. And when you realize that he is a good friend of Steve Jobs as well – then you do have to accept that problem children sometimes turn out all right!

I don’t think the news coming out of this years Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) event escaped anyone. On the final day Ellison took the stage and dropped a bombshell – and introduced the participants to Oracle – the hardware company! In partnership with HP, he was going to sell his own hardware, infrastructure, and application packages.

Paging through the press reports, I came across the story by Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor for mycustomer.com, that he titled “Larry Ellison, database bandwidth problems and a ruddy great big iPod - it's the Oracle OpenWorld big finish!” In the report, Lauchlan opens with “He's built up his own software company. He's taken over other people's software companies. Now Larry Ellison has done what might have been assumed to be unthinkable – he's taking Oracle into the hardware business!” Lauchlan then adds “as a result (Ellison) was in as chirpy a mood, as his counterparts over at Teradata and Netezza presumably were not.

“What I want, I take; what I don't, I break …
But I win they lose …”

And in a passing swipe at his good friend Jobs, Lauchlan reports how “Ellison was unabashed, urging HP CEO Mark Hurd – beamed in on a video link – to get out there and start producing the machines like iPods coming off a conveyor belt! ‘I know you have a burning question. How much music can this hold?’ he chuckled. ‘Well it holds really a lot of songs. We're not talking the iPod nano here, this is 1,400 times larger than Apple's largest iPod.’

In another report, this time a ZDNET blog, reporter Dana Gardner picks up on Ellison’s days spent campaigning for the America’s Cup “’We needed radical new thinking to deliver high performance,’ said Ellison of the new hardware configurations, comparing the effort to the innovative design for his controversial America’s Cup boat. ‘We need much more performance out of databases than what we get.’ The reason for the 10x to 72x performance improvements cited by Ellison are due to bringing the “intelligence” closer to the data, that is, bringing the Exadata Programmable Storage Server appliance into close proximity to the Oracle database servers, and then connecting them through InfiniBand connections.”

Also what caught my eye was the writer’s observation how “Talk about speeds and feeds … But the market driver in these moves is massive data sets that need to be producing near real-time analytics paybacks. We’re seeing more and more data, and varying kinds of data, brought into data warehouses and being banged on by queries of applications and BI servers from a variety of business users across the enterprise.”

As the ZDNET reporter went on to add “‘HP and Oracle share some 150,000 joint customers worldwide’, said HP Executive Vice President, Technology Solutions Group Ann Livermore. That means that these database boxes will have an army of sales and support personnel. HP will support the Machine hardware, Oracle the software. Both will sell it.”

“What I need, I like; what I don't, I fight …
Your time is through …”

The emails have been flying thick and fast around here as we speculated about the implications. But we also had to stop and think about what is happening in the NonStop marketplace and what this really means for NonStop SQL. And is NonStop SQL a problem child as well? And as with the more famous problem children Larry and Steve, will NonStop SQL end up turning out to be all right?

Central to the exchanges we had was how hard it must be for HP to keep NonStop SQL on par with the more open, and industry standard, offerings – such as Oracle. Should HP NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) be looking at other options, for instance, and could the possibility of replacing NonStop SQL with an open source solution – possibly My SQL or even Ingres - be in their plans?

A few years back, the NonStop organization did pursue porting an industry standard transaction processing (tp) monitor – BEA’s Tuxedo. Over time, this port of what became known as NonStop Tuxedo became very deep, optimized for the NonStop loosely-coupled, shared-nothing, architecture while maintaining full compatibility with Tuxedo’s programming interfaces. Application developers saw no differences between running Tuxedo applications on NonStop or any other platform. But even so, when you look at the most recent roadmaps from NonStop Tuxedo there’s no further releases planned – a clear sign that with all the efforts expended, the marketplace didn’t respond as positively as initially thought. A tremendous effort was put into this program and the results truly didn’t reflect the efforts made, but I have to think it may have been a little too late – application servers, messaging, etc. all stole market-share away from older style tp monitors.

“Get out of my way; just step aside …Or pay the price;”

So, perhaps stepping aside and simply walking away from NonStop SQL, as it stands today, and replacing it with another data base offering, may not be a solution either. And there’s the potential for an even bigger problem developing. As I went to wash the coupes, the tangle of hoses looked hopeless. But I just happened to untangle one knot and all of the other knots and loops simply fell out. The mass of hoses that had balled on the garage floor evaporated right before my eyes. And this is what really bothers me today with NonStop SQL. The tie in between NonStop SQL and NonStop itself may be all that’s keeping the NonStop technology alive!

Perhaps Sami Akbay, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing at GoldenGate, summed it up best when he responded to one of my emails and said that if “you tried to separate NonStop SQL from NonStop itself, if NED untied that knot and simply stopped further development of NonStop SQL, then there may not be a NED in 5 years! Without NonStop SQL, some of the key differentiators for keeping NonStop around would simply disappear!” And that would be a price too high to pay, even for a problem child! Just as the seasons change, and we welcome the transformation that comes with springtime, perhaps there is the opportunity for NonStop to likewise transform itself, becoming more tightly integrated within the HP product family, such that we look forward to its adolescence!