Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Up close, and friendly ...

Not everyone thinks of transportation the same way – for many of us, there’s no such thing as simply travelling between point A and point B. When the choice comes down to cars, it has to be a roadster or a grand tourer – either a pure stripped-down sports car or, at a pinch, something with a few more creature comforts. But they have to be able to really pull strongly, and to handle, and the surrounding vista is of secondary importance.

On the other hand, when it comes to motorcycles, I prefer something a lot more relaxed – not for me are the replica-racers that dominate the California coastal canyon roads. But it wasn’t always the case and it was only a few years back that I reluctantly traded in my liter sports bike, the mighty Yamaha R1. The ergonomics of the cafĂ© racers of today finally defeating my slender youthful figure!

This year is the 40th anniversary of the motorcycle that changed the industry, and that made a lasting impression on me. It was 1969, and I was only one year out of high school. I had just bought a Honda 250cc motorcycle, promptly fell off it on the first outing I took, and for the remainder of that year it lay in pieces in my parent’s garage.

It was in 1969 that Honda leapfrogged the industry when it unveiled the Honda CB750 – an inline four cylinder motorcycle, with a front disk brake! And yes, forty years later the first bike I bought in the US was a Honda 750 however, this time around, a less impressive entry-level V Twin cruiser. If the opportunity ever presents itself, a nicely restored CB750 is a bike I would have certainly like to see take up residence in the garage!

It seems like it was only a few weeks back when I was writing about the 30th Anniversary of ITUG – an anniversary that, because of the circumstances, went by with barely a murmur of recognition within the community – I certainly remember participating in the 20th and 25th events and retain the badges celebrating the event. And my very first ITUG in America was at the Hyatt Hotel in Orlando when ITUG turned 15 - with Jimmy Treybig still the star attraction!

Next week, SATUG will conduct its annual event, as the user group enters its 10th year – a significant milestone for any community. Held just outside of Johannesburg at the Emerald Casino and Resort, on the Vaal River, and the picture above is of the resort. Unfortunately, I will not be attending this year – but regular readers may recall the blog posting I produced on February 19, ’08 “Out of Africa” that I had written on my blackberry “a first for me - and I am in total darkness, illuminated solely by the blackberry display I am holding.”

This will only be the second time in ten years that I have missed SATUG and I am hoping that, in keeping with the tradition of previous events, the week turns out to be an extremely productive and fun occasion for all involved. And my absence has no association with the resurgent South African cricket team as it’s poised to take over the world number one ranking from Australia!

The SATUG event has a history that differs from nearly all other events. From the first one that I attended in 2000, as a representative of the ITUG Board, the welcome given to the vendor community was outstanding. Rather than treating vendors as a pariahs and a necessary evil, to be tolerated as long as they picked up the bar bills each night, SATUG went out of their way to treat the vendor community as welcomed guests. Nowhere else, within the global NonStop community, was as much energy put into making the participating vendors feel more special. SATUG managed to strike a balance between the needs of their end users and those of the vendors - and the vendors kept on coming back each year. And the general attendance kept growing!

There was a certain practicality to this – for any vendor to fly to Johannesburg for a presentation to just one customer, was an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. As a consequence, the NonStop community saw very little vendor commitment to their local marketplace. But the energy of the SATUG committee members participating at the bigger ITUG events in San Jose and Europe was untiring in their pursuit of potential vendor participants such that, in time, almost every major vendor made the long trek down to Johannesburg to participate in SATUG.

In my time at InSession, we gave the event tremendous support and now that I am at GoldenGate, there’s no lessening of the support for the local South African community. Crowd favorite Chris McAllister, Senior Director of Product Management at GoldenGate will be presenting and the only question for many participants will be about which one of his many colorful shirts he will be wearing on the day. Tradition!

He gave me an advanced copy of the slide deck he will use and I will be waiting to hear of the audience’s response – it looks really good, and as entertaining as any of his previous presentations. As the focus of the event shifts in coming years to embrace a community bigger than just NonStop, Chris will be talking this year as much about real time data integration and data off-loading, as he usually talks about high availability solutions.

Neil Pringle, the head of HP EMEA NonStop sales will be participating as will others from the HP EMEA organization – often someone that is hard to nail down during a regular week, Neil makes himself available to everyone attending SATUG “as long as they are buying the drinks” he assures me. But the effects of today’s economy are also being felt as direct US participation is down from previous years and it’s going to be a real challenge for the SATUG committee to develop programs that can pull the management away from their Cupertino cubicles.

And for me, this is what has been the essence of the SATUG event – all the characters of our industry, in attendance, and passionately addressing issues of importance to the community. And often there are surprise visitors – no more so than when the Cheetah (pictured here) showed up for the occasion and where we had the opportunity for an up close encounter!

Nowhere else do you get so close to all the CEO’s of the vendors committing serious money of their own in support of the NonStop platform. Whether it’s the opportunity to play golf, visit the game parks, taste the local wines, or whatever, somehow each year these busy time-constrained executives find ways to keep open that week to attend SATUG.

Certainly, changes are coming. After ten highly successful years, the focus of the community is broadening to embrace more than NonStop. As Anton Lessing explained to me in a recent email exchange "yes, you have guessed we are taking SATUG in a different direction. If our members vote yes, then next year you could be seeing companies like EMC, VMware, Microsoft, Oracle and the likes at SATUG. We will keep HP as our main sponsor ...."

Anton, who served a number of terms on the ITUG Board and is well-known to many of us, is not frightened in the least in taking on new challenges. Whereas other regional user groups are in discussions about consolidations and mergers as they attempt to create a presence mirroring some of the practices of the new Connect community, SATUG is looking to build a completely new franchise from the ground up.

There has always been a strong “networking” aspect to each year’s SATUG event – there’s always a welcoming dinner that brings together very senior executives from the user community. And for the last couple of years, there has been an evening river cruise on the final night. I have to admit that I will miss these occasions for open discussions with the community, and will be working on ways to return to the event in the years to come.

All the same, and even with the strong support they have today, there are still many issues to overcome, and it will be worth the time of other user groups to follow what transpires at SATUG. Anton didn’t hold his punches when he later emailed me to tell me that "to the other user groups out there.........remember it is the vendors and the delegates that make the conference and trade show a success. To find the harmony between satisfying the end-user and the vendors is where the gold lays. ... the board of SATUG has got a difficult road ahead, but we are all very excited about the road. On this road we will need friends all over the world to assist and help with this road."

The new Connect board tells me that they are committed to providing a lot more “T.L.C.” for the regional user groups as they develop new business models and accommodate membership other than just NonStop. The final make up of these communities, and the identity they adopt, will vary region to region. But it would behoove every committee member to find time to check-in on the progress SATUG makes as, given the track record they already have, they could very well become the model for what all future regional use groups look like. Just as it would behoove Connect to ensure the T.L.C. continues and is visible to all regional user groups.

There are no guarantees for success anywhere in the world of user communities, and SATUG acknowledges the difficulties that lie ahead – but at least they are trying and for this, I wish them every success as I wish them all the best for their event next week. And I hear they also organize motorcycle rides to the coast – now that’s a great tradition and just the ticket to ensure my participation in 2010!



Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Game changers!

This past weekend was spent in Las Vegas. Only a short drive away from where I spend most of my time these days, here in Simi Valley, it affords the opportunity to put the routines of daily life to one side. And the picture I have included here is from the terrace outside of the Fountain Bar at the Bellagio Hotel just as the hotel’s famous fountains erupted into life against a backdrop that included the Eiffel Tower.

In Las Vegas, no limits have been put on the imaginations of the developers with as many innovative ways to draw an audience as there are establishments. And after only a brief time walking along Las Vegas Boulevard – the famous Vegas Strip – you pretty quickly stop being impressed with the way in which businesses pursue patronage. It’s so over the top, yet uniquely Las Vegas!

But the real town of Bellagio, alongside Lake Como in Northern Italy, could never have provided me with a view of the Eiffel Tower, just across the lake, or given me a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty a block or so away to my right. And I would never have guessed, of course, that only a short distance away the gondolas were ferrying patrons along the Grand Canal inside the Venetian hotel.

Only in Las Vegas!

There is no escaping the business of Las Vegas – it’s gambling, and the establishment’s casinos use their innovative approaches to draw you to their tables – blackjack, roulette, poker, whatever, it makes little difference as there’s practically no limit to the types of games on offer. The mix of offerings is constantly changing as the casinos try to cater to the latest fad. And with deer-in-the headlights stares, streams of patrons poor onto the casino floors anxious to get back into the game.

The weekend came after I had spent some time flipping through the pages of several business and technology magazines and it reminded me of articles I had only just finished reading. In Fortune Magazine (February 16, 09), there was a technology review where the writer quotes Mark Heesen, President of the National Venture Capital Association, as having said “the only way (venture capitalists can) get back into the game is by finding a game changer, a fundamental technology that will alter the existing IT structure.”

A little later in the same technology section, there was an update on WiMax deployments. The reporter made the observation on how “ubiquitous wireless broadband could be a real game changer!” The reporter then added “WiMax, with its ability to serve up broadband on the go, certainly could spark a fresh wave of innovation.”

From an older issue of the magazine, InformationWeek (February 2, ’09) I came across an interview of Yuvi Kochar, CTO and VP of Technology at Washington Post who advised future CIO’s that “innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage!”

The messages of finding a game changer, pursuing innovative ideas and gaining an upper hand couldn’t have been better reinforced in any place other than in Las Vegas. After all, there was just no tolerance for me-too, same-o, same-o offerings of any kind; game-changing product differentiation is the only option for the businesses on the strip.

Before leaving Las Vegas I had breakfast at the Palazzo, where Lamborghini Las Vegas has opened a showroom as part of the hotel, with a restaurant overlooking the cars on display. The picture I have included here is of me relaxing over breakfast and, visible through the glass partition among the Lamborghini's, is a rare Bugatti Veyron – sixteen cylinders and four turbochargers of technology wrapped in an amazingly cool product!

And cool products are everywhere in Las Vegas! However, in a recent discussion I had with Sami Akbay, VP of Product Management and Marketing at GoldenGate we agreed that cool doesn’t have to be solely a technology or product innovation. "One of the coolest sneakers out there today is the Adidas 'Stan Smith'; it was first introduced in 1971 and it was recently reintroduced. When it was cool the first time around, the innovation was that it was the first fully leather tennis shoe with dimple sole and rubber cup outsole; now it is cool because of simplicity, function, and 'classic' effect." In other words, cool can also have a timing component and once-cool products can make a come-back!

Tandem Computers produced a cool product in the late ‘70s and it proved to be an immediate hit with customers who depended on technology for their business – stock exchanges, network switches (for ATMs, POSs, etc.) and even newspapers. Just as with the sneakers Sami talked about, there is strong evidence mounting that the NonStop server line we see today is just as cool as it ever has been.

But it is out of Oakland, California where a new business solution is emerging that really has me excited, as the company Modius ports their application onto NonStop. Modius provides a Data Center Infrastructure Manager (DCiM) product that is a “complete measurement and monitoring solution for generating a single, real-time view of all business critical facilities across the enterprise, including all major data centers, server rooms, branch offices, wiring closets, etc.” Check out http://www.modius.com/

For the first time, NonStop servers can be deployed as critical components to monitor everything to do with a data center facility – whether a single building, or just part of the facility, or the entire global enterprise. Every major data center in the world, and the count of these facilities climbs quickly into the thousands and tens of thousands, could witness a NonStop server overseeing it all.

What has me intrigued by the product offerings from Modius is that for many years I thought that this was a logical marketplace for NonStop, with few inhibitors to creating an enormous global presence. Every time a customer took me on a visit of their “flight deck” where the applications, systems, and networks were managed, I wondered why there hadn’t been an innovative engineer front-ending everything with a NonStop. Having first heard of Modius from HP BCS Marketing I was very pleased when HP helped set up a quick fact-finding call for me with Chris Palombi, VP of Sales and Marketing for Modius.

It became very clear that this was a potential game-changing marriage involving NonStop and his company. “This is clearly an attention-grabbing application where the solution makes a compelling argument for going with a NonStop server,” Chris promises. No more issues with configuring a network of servers to ensure high availability – the inherent N+1 redundant architecture at the core of NonStop makes a very persuasive argument – an absolutely mandatory requirement where the “availability” of the whole data center is at stake.

Facilities managers have been living with their building management systems for years and these have been extremely crude. To this user community it’s all about what the solution provides and not about the choice of operating system – it’s this group of managers who really feel the pressure should they ever run out of power, or fail to adequately cool, any facility. NonStop for these managers represents a bonus!

“Any attempts at optimization (of the data center) requires continuous monitoring and feedback (after a baseline is established), with real-time trend analysis just so important,” Chris went on to add. As I continued to listen to Chris, I heard that while CIO’s are committed to reducing the operational cost of their IT operations and to be seen embracing “green” strategies, nearly all of them lacked any real data on which to base decisions. Indeed, it’s probably the “worst-kept secret” in the industry that the data center remains the last bastion of gross waste!

The first installations of DCiM were on Windows, but today the application has been ported to NonStop and it’s just been installed at the HP Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Cupertino. The first training session for sales and solutions architects was just completed earlier this month. And this is the type of application that can swing the game very much back in NonStop’s favor – the more I looked at what was being provided, the more I could see every prospect of a NonStop appearing in every data center. Tom Moylan, who heads up NonStop sales in the America’s, recognizes that HP is only just starting out with Modius but already there “seems like a high level of excitement from the sales teams; Modius is outstanding with sales resources and enthusiasm!”

Game-changing? Innovative? Cool? It’s still an early phase in the lifecycle of this solution. But it is sending a strong message that the NonStop platform is as viable today as it has ever been. And in today’s economy, as Chris reminded me, any solution that pulls money back from the top line, as this so easily demonstrates, just sees it growing on the bottom line – and this is about the only game that draws in the CIO crowd these days.

Thirty years ago, the Tandem set a new benchmark for cool and today, with what is now beginning to be rolled out – the simplicity (N+1 redundancy built in), the function (scalability and availability), and the classic (established, premier marketplaces) suggests that the once-cool NonStop is poised for a new era of cool-ness! And while it may be a bit tough on HP and Modius to compare such a new solution to a pair of 70s vintage sneakers, perhaps they both would welcome the same levels of market acceptance should it lead to a NonStop in every data center!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Grumpy? Just a layer away ...

It’s difficult to break the old habits!

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed an early morning coffee. When at Tandem, I used to routinely walk to the Roasted Coffee Bean when it was still in Cupertino Village.

These days, I enjoy a much shorter walk to the local Starbucks - but the pattern remains firmly entrenched. But lately, here in Southern California, it's turned cold and I have taken to throwing on an extra layer; the picture I have included here was taken of me earlier today wearing a “hoodie” that, should you be able to make it out, simply says “you say Grumpy like it’s a bad thing!”

If I don’t get that first cup of coffee, it can be an accurate reflection of my mood!

When I was on the board of the IBM SHARE user group, we held a 2008 event in Orlando, Florida, around this time of year. It was at the Disney complex and when I packed for the event, it never occurred to me that Florida could be cold. But the temperatures hovered in the low 50s Fahrenheit, and the hoodie remains a legacy from that week. As I was reading my mail, I was reminded of this as I came across a SHARE “5 Minute Briefing” email.

As part of the SHARE President’s Corner there was an article on virtualization, with a link to a report by the Vice President about a press tour in support of the same theme: http://www.share.org/ThePresidentsCorner/tabid/393/Default.aspx

“The irony is that the concept of virtualization isn't new. It has been around nearly as long as the modern computer. The most common implementation of virtualization, the hypervisor, has its roots in the early days of mainframes, when computers were big, expensive and scarce,” began the article in the SHARE President’s Corner. The writer then adds “it was developed to help solve the problem of too much demand for computer services, not enough hardware to go around … now the IT industry is turning to virtualization to solve the problem of too much demand, too much hardware.”

If I have this right, when there simply wasn’t enough hardware in the computer room, IT turned to virtualization. As hardware prices continue to decline to commodity price points, with much of the decision-making in the hands of the business units, now there is too much hardware! But again, IT is turning to virtualization. I need another cup of coffee!

Regular readers of this blog will know of my appreciation of architectures that separate an application’s business logic from the underlying technology – and deploying any level of abstraction can go a long way in isolating the peculiarities of a platform. There are trade-offs, of course, with the most significant being the impact on performance. But the inherent flexibility that arises often proves extremely tantalizing to any architect looking to protect the business logic from changes to the hardware, the operating system, and even the data base. Virtualization is one such abstraction layer.

Following the link to the report by the SHARE Vice President, covering the press tour in support of virtualization, I read how “members of the press were interested in trends associated with the emerging use of cloud computing …” Journalists have bad habits as well, and I observed this myself on press tours I have done. From virtualization to cloud computing – with barely a blink, I suspect. But are the two related?

Is cloud computing the next step after virtualization? Is cloud computing better served with the computing environment, virtualized, inside the cloud - can cloud computing even be manageable without virtualization? And perhaps most important of all, can one of the guest operating systems be NonStop – in other words, will there be a role for NonStop within the cloud?

Russell Daniels, HP's CTO - Cloud Services, has been championing cloud computing for more than a year and has been making it very clear to audiences that "a cloud is a network centric application delivery platform, and should not be confused with messages on virtualization; it can be delivered using a virtualized infrastructure, but it's not virtualization." It’s about the coming together of two technologies rather than one developing from the other; it’s about cloud computing leveraging what virtualization can provide – and I firmly expect to see aggressive NonStop participation inside the cloud as cloud computing matures.

I was walking through the mall recently and came across a sign that said “introducing our new buckle to buckle protection plan” and I have included a picture of it here. The sign reminded me of how protection from glossy “Gucci Marketing” efforts, and from jumping from one “high powered marketing” fad to the next, is hard to find. So often we fall for the same old lines, just out of habit!

And reaching for another cup of coffee, I wondered whether I had provided any “buckle to buckle protection” in this blog!

A year ago (February 12, ’08) I wrote the blog posting "My Wish" for NS Blades where I suggested that “my second wish is to see a hypervisor introduced where NonStop can be configured as a ‘guest OS’ in much the same way z/VM is used on the IBM mainframe.” I was suggesting, at that time, that perhaps it would be a good idea to support NonStop running directly on top of a hypervisor – and a clear shift from a previous position.

In an even earlier posting (September 13, ’07) A Taste for Virtualization I had been adventurous enough to suggest that “will this be a big step forward for NonStop? Will it even look like the NonStop product we are all so familiar with – or will the NSK OS morph and become some derivate of the traditional NonStop Messaging System (a la ServerWare, we saw all so briefly back in the mid ‘90s) layered on top of Linux on top of a highly tailored HP-specific hypervisor?”

However, I began to reconsider these earlier remarks and in a more recent posting (September 2, ’08) Blood and corpses everywhere! Really? I reported how “‘NonStop is already fully virtualized,’ one senior manager pointed out to me recently, ‘from the bottom up.’ You are shielded from what’s actually going on at the metal and OS interaction level … ‘putting a virtual machine (VM) under a Massively Parallel Processor (MPP) machine (as we have with NonStop), is actually not helpful. You start creating havoc with the definition of fault zones tied to a logical processor.’”

From NonStop being dismantled, to where it might be a good idea to run NonStop as a guest operating system, to where nothing at all needs to be done (NonStop is fully virtualized), suggests some vacillation on my part. Virtualization has remained a “hot topic” and it is an addictive theme for any hardware vendor with multiple operating system options. “Multiple operating systems? Not a problem - you can run any of them, or all of them, on top of our new Cyborx Hypervisor,” I can hear the pitch. Whatever! So, what happened, and why the apparent changes?

The arrival of Blades broke the habit. And rapidly! As with the emergence of any disruptive technology, looking at what Blades can provide gave me cause to revisit these earlier predictions. And the more familiar I have become with what HP is doing with Blades, the more I realize that NonStop can operate outside of native, or bare-metal, hypervisors.

The way NonStop scales (up or down), processors can be added or removed with no impact on the applications – NonStop shields the applications from any association with the bare-metal. In this respect, it provides a similar abstraction layer as I would expect from a hypervisor. And so, a BladeSystem with 16 Blades assigned to a hypervisor that, in turn, was supporting any mix of Linux, Windows, and Unix, and 8 Blades assigned to NonStop would only need a front-ending workload balancing product to monitor operating system requirements to reassign Blades between the two supporting environments.

In that February 12, ’08 post I asked whether we could see “a variation on today’s workload balancing products, but supporting a transaction profiling capability that, once set up, learns about the overall mix of transactions, and automatically adjusts the OS configurations on the fly?” I then observed how we would “no longer … agonize over the ratio of processors assigned to any of NonStop, Linux, or whatever – the system would learn enough over time and adjust the composition accordingly!”

In focusing on virtualization, the SHARE user group is recognizing the importance of the subject within IT – and it is correct in pointing out how the earliest examples were found on mainframes. But the reality is that IT is facing an explosion in hardware deployment and the solution will require virtualization. None of this is lost on HP either, and as the BladeSystem continues to develop traction in the marketplace, I can only see virtualization being increasingly relied upon for better utilization of the Blades.

NonStop, being fully virtualized, operating alongside of any commercial hypervisor in the same BladeSystem and balancing the usage of Blades based upon demand, looks completely viable to me and with plenty of advantages. After all there will always be mission critical applications and a well-packaged solution that includes NonStop could see new markets develop and renewed growth from NonStop usage.

Hypervisors, as a layer of abstraction, have their limitations – and it’s not only about performance. With NonStop, it’s all about availability – and potentially degrading the bullet-proof levels of availability provided today by NonStop, is one trade-off that needs to be carefully assessed. Unable to support traditional levels of uptime would certainly sour many an IT director, and have them lose interest in virtualization – and with all the other concerns we face today, I sure wouldn’t be happy to see a run on Grumpy’s hoodies.

Footnote: And for my good friend Bill Leistner- there’s another story about Grumpy that I will leave for another time ….

Friday, February 6, 2009

Gaining momentum, enthusiastically. And with passion!

A couple of weeks back I attended the annual sales “kick-off” meeting at GoldenGate. For most companies, such annual event is greatly anticipated by all in sales and support, and I have attended many of them over the decades. I have enjoyed these meetings, and always welcomed the opportunity to catch up with folks I only otherwise know as email addresses, or as distant voices coming through overloaded speaker phones – so sharing a meal, story-telling over drinks, and just having the chance to renew old friendships is always a time to look forward to. And I have had the good fortune to work with many of this team in other companies, where the relationships go back to the very early ‘90s.

The picture I have included here is of Chris McAllister, in front of the GoldenGate sales team – an organization that has now grown materially and well beyond my early expectations on joining the company in ’06. Chris is well-known to most of us in the NonStop community, as he has been a regular presenter through the years at ITUG events around the world, as well as an active participant in the Business Continuity Special Interest Group (SIG). Leading GoldenGate’s Product Management group, there is no stronger evangelist for the products or indeed for their deployment on NonStop, and the passion Chris has for the products was clearly in evidence to all who were in the audience.

“And where does such passion come from?” I asked Chris. “From all you guys,” he says as he pointed to the audience “just as it does when I engage the NonStop community!” Chris’s enthusiasm drives his passion and it quickly becomes contagious.

It had only been a few days earlier that I had been in email exchanges with some of the Regional user Group (RUG) leadership. During the last years of my term on the board of ITUG I had taken on the responsibility of the board liaison to the global RUG community and I spent a considerable amount of time participating in regional events around the world. Some of my fondest memories are of rhinoceroses trying to join our reception dinner outside of Johannesburg, of watching yachts pull out info the English Channel in Brighton, and of shivering on the deck of a Baltic Ferry as it nosed into an island off Finland in the middle of winter!

But what grabbed my attention was a single phrase, in an exchange with a former RUG leader, where he expressed to me their groups concerns about the future, remarking to me “whether Connect will survive, I do not know. I do not believe that they have the same passion for what they do as what we had for ITUG.” Again, the word passion really summed up why the lack of it was bothering the leadership – enthusiastic leadership with a passion for a platform will always be at the core of winning solutions and if it is lessened in any way, the future becomes a lot less certain.

Readers will know that I have a passion for anything having to do with cars – and this has led to me spending the occasional weekend out on a race track participating in high performance driver education. I am not a racer nor do I have plans ever to become one, but the opportunity to take a car into a supervised environment and have a lot of fun, is very intoxicating. But the leader of our group, John Matthews, has always been passionate about BMWs and can never resist an opportunity to further “educate” his students about the benefits that come with driving a BMW!

Over the years I have owned BMWs – and the first BMW I purchased was on the recommendation of a huge fan of the brand. His passion was contagious and I became caught up in the emotions and spent way more than I really could afford - on a vehicle that did give me a lot of pleasure. The picture of me here, reflected in the glass of a new M3, captures me photographing one so that I could send it to John as a kind of submission that yes, they are great cars!

So I asked John, why the passion? How did it happen? “It's a good question, (and) it's a great story actually. I never intended to buy a BMW or the M3, but when one shot by me on the freeway one day in my previous ride … I knew I had to have one. Once I got it on the track, well the rest is, as you know, history. BMW's are so at home on the racetrack it's hard to describe. I was lucky enough to drive the new M3 with DSG at our last event, and man, what a car! ”

Back in the ‘70s I worked for Charles Lecht – author of several books (Waves of Change and Tsunami). and a regular contributor to ComputerWorld. Charlie had bought the data center operations of the Canadian Caterpillar distributor that was my employer at the time, and introduced himself as a fellow BMW owner. I had contributed a couple of paragraphs to his first book and we had stayed in touch so when I visited New York, a few years later, I stopped by his East Side apartment and asked him how his BMW was going.

“I was sitting in the BMW on a stalled freeway, going out of my mind, when I inched up to a Porsche dealership,” he began. “I immediately drove off the freeway, down the embankment, and bought a white Porsche 911. It was already sold, but I talked the salesman into selling it to me on the spot! As these things go, it was a fairly quick transaction and I swear I drove back onto the freeway only a few cars back from my previous spot. If I wasn’t going anyway quickly any time soon – then for sure, I wanted to look like I was going fast!” And the passion simple poured out of Charlie, even if his focus had been redirected elsewhere!

I subscribe to the electronic edition of zJournal – a publication covering all things mainframe related. Monday’s issue carried the headline Mainframe Alternatives Spotlight, with a link to HP’s web site. I was quite surprised to see a video clip of John Pickett, who leads the HP “Mainframe Alternative” program, pitching HP products to mainframe users.

To view the clip, check out: http://h30423.www3.hp.com/?fr_story=c13c2748f73d87f6691dbab97971f3a1d91da429&rf=sitemap

John points out that, when it comes to mainframes, IBM is the only provider and that most applications remain tied to the old stack of Cobol / CICS / DB2 (or older, even just VSAM). John then points out how long the backlog of change requests has become, and how inflexible the mainframe really is. Customers are telling John that today, mainframes just lack the agility they need and are too complex. With the backlog in application changes pushing out beyond 12 and 18 months, it’s much harder to remain competitive in today’s changing business environment. It’s an unabashed pitch for moving to HP’s open systems.

But what really comes through is John’s passion for HP’s open systems and how anxious he is for mainframe users to take a closer look at the benefits from deploying HP’s open systems. While many mainframes owe their presence to perceived superior reliability, availability and serviceability – the gap between this perception and the reality with HP’s open systems has closed significantly and, in some cases, has moved ahead. “When compared to IBM’s global dispersed Parallel Sysplex, running extended remote copy, HP’s Continental Cluster for Oracle RAC reduces recovery times from 1 to 2 hours down to just 5 minutes,” John remarks at one point in the video. Impressive!

Listening to the passion in Chris’ voice working the audience at the GoldenGate kick-off, catching it in the email exchanges with John Matthews talking of BMWs, and watching John Pickett in the video clip as he tells the open systems story, reminds me of how important passion is for the success of any product or technology. From the enthusiasm of passionate individuals develops the momentum that often propels products and technology forward. It’s the passion of these individuals that becomes contagious and creates the opportunity for embracing change.

That’s how Tandem became successful in the ‘80s and it’s how HP will drive deeper into the IBM mainframe marketplace. HP is succeeding in moving customers off mainframes, and open systems are providing a compelling story – particularly with the most recent blade system offerings. In talking to customers, the number of times I hear them telling me how, with more system “headroom”, there’s nothing prohibiting them from pursuing application modernization projects on blades, it is really impressive!. And this is only just the beginning for HP – with even more advanced chips on the horizon, no wonder there’s contagious enthusiasm openly on display!

If you are uncertain about the role of NonStop within HP’s open system story, I encourage you to view the clip again. There were a number of different elements to John’s video clip, but what caught my attention was the very last statement John made as the first element came to a close, when he stated that “for single system uptime, nothing beats the uptime of NonStop!”

If the passion continues to remain visible among its enthusiastic supporters then NonStop, and in particular NonStop on Blades, continuing to be positioned as part of open systems as it is these days, will see even more momentum build in the marketplace. And that will be impressive, indeed!