Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Continuing to Innovate in 09!

It’s Christmas Eve and at our house Christmas always begins with this evening. It will be the time to open presents and to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner – and a turkey will be involved, of course. The picture above is of me, in the kitchen, as preparations continued indoors this year, of course, as the weather outside remains bitterly cold.

Last Sunday, I went to the garage to check out the motorcycles. This time of year is when I become concerned about not “winterizing” the bikes as it’s always a gamble. For the past ten years, there’s always been at least one break in the weather that has allowed me to go for a ride. But this December it’s just been so cold that there has been little opportunity to ride – and I was starting to come down with cabin-fever.

As I looked at the bikes and even though it was only 20 Fahrenheit, I decided to throw on a couple more woolen sweaters, pull on the leather chaps, and get out the winter gloves - but I was unprepared for the sheer physical shock that comes with exposure to temperatures this low. The cold pierced right through the winter gloves – wind chill at 20 below, riding at 70 mph, had to produce something equivalent to -90 Fahrenheit! And the tips of my fingers lost all feeling.

I curtailed the adventure and headed home and through nothing but good luck, made it back up the driveway and into the garage. Four days later, the tips of my fingers are still not right, but I had to go out and experience it for myself. I didn’t want to have bikes, come spring, that require serious attention so I continued to argue the importance of maintaining the traditional winter ride!

And in the spirit of maintaining traditions, I looked back at the December 29, ’07 posting “Grading HP? Need to do much better ...” that I wrote at the end of last year and what caught my attention were the four topics I elected to address. HP investments in NonStop, the first customer deployments of Neoview, the announcement of the partnership between IBM and ACI as they forged a global strategic alliance, and the anticipated user group convergence were covered. And looking at the analytics Google provides, whenever I broached these topics readership spiked-upwards noticeably.

The culmination of many years of development saw NonStop supported by HP’s bladed architecture and in June, during the week of HPTF&E, the HP Integrity NonStop NB50000c BladeSystem was announced and on display at the HP booth. I had been anticipating this announcement for many months and had included speculative slides on the system in presentations I had been making to the community since late ’07 – taking NonStop to blades is a very positive sign on the future of NonStop within HP’s product roadmaps.

But in all the excitement, perhaps the best lines I saw written on the announcement were those in the June 16, ’08 issue of The Register where it opened with “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.” Stories published that same week included a quote from Ken Cayton, IDC's research manager for enterprise platforms, where he said "HP's fault tolerant systems are frequently used in mainframe environments …the new blade systems will have the same capabilities in a new form factor that should be more cost-effective and modular than previous systems while also being more energy efficient."

Yes, I remain excited by the availability of NonStop on Blades and see this as the beginning of a new era for NonStop, with much of the hardware premium, often associated with NonStop, eroding in time as industry-standard packaging is used. And given today’s economy, driving out costs has become so important.

As for Neoview, I am still watching it closely. Only a few weeks ago, major reorganizations of the Neoview team were undertaken and I am hoping to see a lot more progress – and some early indications are that there’s a new recognition of the need for urgency surrounding Neoview. HP’s server consolidation project, under the guidance of HP’s CIO Randy Mott, has Neoview at the very heart of the transformation and by all indications it’s doing the job.

But the pressure is really on to not only keep-up with the competition, but to look for ways to leapfrog it, and ’09 will be challenging for the Neoview team. I am very hopeful for the success of Neoview and know of a number of significant users in the retail market, but relying solely on organic growth as has been done to date, may not prove viable over the longer term. Something more may need to be done to ensure longer term success.

The IBM and ACI global alliance announcement came as the surprise of ‘08. Even though ACI has made it very difficult for its own sales force to continue selling payment engine solutions on NonStop, the acceptance of BASE24 on NonStop by financial institutions remains strong. In EMEA where the financial community is a lot more conservative and risk-averse, the acceptance of the alliance has been lukewarm. Banks in Europe are using the IBM option as another card to play in negotiating the price of additional NonStop hardware – not exactly what IBM and ACI had been expecting, but welcome news to the NonStop team nonetheless.

While some groups within HP have been encouraging competitors so as to fill a potential solutions void, I am getting the sense that this could all blow-over in ’09 and I could easily see NonStop technology once more being addressed by solutions from ACI.

The different user groups did finally come together and Connect was launched in June, ’08. The community held its first user group event in Mannheim, Germany and while there were some early suggestions that it would fail, in the end a typical regional user event ran its course. There’s more I would like to say on this topic but I will leave for a separate post early in ’09. This is a highly complex and emotive issue and it will take time for all the pieces to mesh properly.

But with ’08 came a major new announcement from HP’s executives. In a blog entry I posted on May 12, ’08, “The Clouds in Spain” I referenced Martin Fink’s presentation at the Technology@Work event held in Barcelona a few weeks earlier. Under the banner of Monolithic to Polymorphic computing Martin introduced the community to his views on Cloud Computing, and since that event Martin has continued to heavily promote the concept and the innovative products that will thrive as cloud computing takes hold.

And I see the evolution of cloud computing as proving a highly fertile environment for NonStop at the front-end connecting, from within the cloud, to the network as well as potentially the back-end and still within the cloud, supporting the enterprise database warehouses. I can see the potential for many solutions being developed for NonStop that add tremendous value to cloud computing.

As I continue to write this blog, I still have very little feeling in the tips of my fingers. I have had to go back and correct many typo’s. But maintaining traditions is important, and I have always enjoyed my winter rides, although now I will be a lot more aware of just how cold it is and will probably argue a lot less about needing to ride.

But as for what ’09 holds for the future of NonStop I can only hope that in a chilling business climate, CIOs will welcome the innovation possible from the technology and solutions that are a lot more visible today.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a great New Year!

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