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:

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!

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