Thursday, November 13, 2008

Innovation – simply put!

I am still working from my Simi Valley office, where I will remain until the Thanksgiving weekend. I am still an early riser and have drifted into a pattern of heading to the Starbucks next door, joining other early rises, for the first coffee for the day. But now the days have grown shorter, and it’s always dark. The picture above I snapped this morning, as the full moon above the corner coffee shop was quite a sight.

And as much as I dislike many technologies on offer these days, to be able to simply pull out the blackberry and check all that is going on back east, or in Europe, is something I really find very beneficial. Twenty five years ago, if you had suggested that I would be able to do my email from a small, handheld device, while sitting in a coffee shop, I would have found it pretty hard to believe. But today, it’s all about these small devices that we have become so dependent on.

Looking back twenty five years, IBM and Microsoft were still sorting out the first consumer PC and now many of us are relegating it to play a secondary role – something we turn to only when we are back in the office. More often these days, business people who travel on a regular basis stand more chance of interacting with a PC when they use an ATM, print a boarding pass at an airline kiosk, or simply check-in at a hotel using a touch-screen terminal. For the rest of the time, it’s a quick check of the PDA and perhaps a couple of lines responses or two, and a few short phone calls.

The way we work continues to evolve and today, looking back at the time we spent around the water-cooler, the coffee machine, and just hanging out in break rooms before heading to our office or cube, it’s hard to imagine anything productive or creative being done. It’s now a case where, irrespective of where we are physically, we can be working and participating in a more productive environment than any of us thought possible. And our dependence upon these small devices has seen their global adoption skyrocket.

But what we have become so accustomed to has had a huge impact on the technology in support of it all – not quite as magical as the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz - but sometimes, not too far removed. A reoccurring theme of my postings has been Innovation, and for me, while the number of hand-held devices deployed worldwide attracts a lot of media attention, I have a lot more interest in what’s going on behind the curtain. There are many levers being pulled and a lot of strings being manipulated. And for the most part, it all works.

Earlier this year (February 4, ’08), I posted the blog “Disruptive technologies and radical innovation ...” where I wrote “HP bladed architecture with its support of any number of operating systems including NonStop, has the potential to become another disruptive technology. By leveraging a very inexpensive building blocks … HP customers will be able to focus on buying the best application for a given business issue with little need to consider the mix of hardware and operating systems required.” I went on to comment about how this will represent a very important milestone in the history of Tandem – this time, with the use of commodity packaging, the old argument of relying on expensive hardware will be finally put to bed.

If what’s behind the curtain truly is important and what we depend upon for much of what is communicated across our companies, surely having the option to run the most critical components of our business logic on NonStop with minimal pricing penalty will be welcomed by many businesses. Already proven in support of ATM, POS, and Mobile Phone networks globally, NonStop is a key participant behind the curtain. But even as we commoditize the hardware and simplify it down to just a few unique packages – are we doing enough in support of the business logic? Can we move it around as easily as we plug blades into today’s BladeSystem? Even solutions not originally designed to run on NonStop could really benefit today from leveraging the NonStop technology.

Just a few weeks ago (November 5, ’08), in another blog “It’s up there, in the clouds!” I remarked that “for me there will always be a collection of key infrastructure components – we need to secure and protect our business logic and data, we need to have a standard way to describe the interfaces between the applications embracing our business logic (and as services, this seems the easiest way to me) since we are constantly upgrading and changing the applications, and we need to ensure our data is available and recoverable 24 x 7 x 365!”

A little later in the same posting, I went on to add “as we see cloud computing gain broader appeal … those tasked with putting it all together will find no lessening of their responsibilities to secure, interconnect, and make available business logic and data.” Again, a reference to what I believe will be a time where the underlying infrastructure will attain a level of sophistication that the business logic will be free to be deployed on any of the commoditized hardware packages. By simply pulling a few leavers, the wizard now within the cloud, will be able to respond to changes and move critical components in support of business logic onto more reliable platforms, such as NonStop.

Recently, Starbucks introduced one of the cleverest and simplest pieces of technology to the stores. As is the case with everything in America, we absolutely have to be able to buy our lattes from a drive through window. But we also want the cups filled to the brim. But as soon we have deposited the cups into one of the 12 or 15 cup holders provided by the car manufacturers we come off the break and pull away from the window. And through the small opening in the lid coffee flies out and into areas we all find impossible to clean.

Solution? A slender small “stopper” - not much different from the swizzle sticks spearing the olives we find in our martini glasses, it has a shaped end that completely fills the small opening in the lid. Brilliant! For those unfamiliar with this innovation in car cleanliness, I have included a photo. And I refer to this as I am often reminded that it’s the simplest solutions, or designs, that prove the most effective.

At GoldenGate, so much of our support these days is directed at migrations – one time platform changes that are typically associated with moving away from a platform, as well as ongoing multi-data center support where change is constant and keeping data synchronized becomes crucial. The shift from strictly replication to complete Transaction Data Management (TDM) has seen the company more actively involved providing the key infrastructure component that ensures the data is available and recoverable 24 x 7 x 365!

The ability to play such a leadership role came about when the original architect of GoldenGate created the any-to-any, decoupled, asynchronous architecture that anchors the product to this day. With this capability, Sabre was able to deploy one of the first successful look-and-book infrastructures that since was emulated by many others. And creating innovative infrastructure that broadens our options, can only be beneficial to us all.

In one of my earliest postings (November 25, ‘07), “Preventer of Information Services?”, I made the observation “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.” And I have to believe that wizards are out there, and the support for any application to run on NonStop as easily as it runs on Linux or Unix may only be a “small ‘stopper’” away.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize this as my 100th posting, and I think it’s fitting that in this post I continue to link NonStop and Innovation. Of all the reoccurring themes in the postings I have made, this is the one that interests me the most. And I have to wonder, what will be changing most in the next twenty five years – the devices we rely on or the infrastructure behind it all?

1 comment:

Mark Whitfield said...

Congratulations on your 100th post Richard. Always worth reading whatever the counter...I see EBUG is in Prague... a place I've always wanted to visit...