Thursday, March 26, 2009

Knives in the Library!

I spent the weekend in Cupertino. So much has changed over the past twenty years that the town doesn’t look familiar – not the buildings, as the structures are the same, but the names on the tombstones lining the streets. Some familiar names remain, but most I just didn’t recognize. Who would have guessed Apple would have taken over so much of the city, and who would have guessed that so little from the glory days of Tandem would remain. Kind of depressing, after a fashion.

It was a cold weekend and snow had fallen on the ridgeline of the mountains to the east of Silicon Valley. The blustery conditions only seemed to amplify the gloominess of the place and as I slowly drove down Vallco Parkway I noticed no security fence blocking the eastern entrance to Building 3, so I pulled into the rear parking lot. With no guards visible, I walked through the rear gates and onto the basketball court adjacent to the swimming pool, behind the canteen of Building 2.

The picture at the top of the page, taken in the fall of 2008, is of this area with the Tandem chevron clearly visible at the bottom of the pool. But last weekend, as I looked back across the same area, there was no pool. The photo below is of what the area looks like today – look closely and you will see the safety gate still visible on the right of the photo. But the Tandem swimming pool wasn’t there – only a circular grassy area where it used to lie.

A former Tandem employee who follows this blog emailed me earlier this year to tell me that the pool had been filled in, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. Not possible! Too much tradition – surely, if nothing else remained of Tandem’s presence in Cupertino, there would always be the “blue” Tandem chevron visible at the bottom of the pool. But today, it’s just another grassy retreat. I have always been a fan of Bruce Springsteen and all I could hear in my mind was a verse from his anthem, My Hometown:
“They’re closing down the textile mill, across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back”

There comes a time when manufacturers rationalize processes and standardize components. They embrace broader, company-wide development and manufacturing. And Simplify! Simplify! Simplify! Everything that goes into a modern server is re-visited, time and again, to ensure more standard components can be used. Complexity will always be present, but standard interconnects, standard channels, standard communications augmenting today’s industry-standard microprocessors that are well integrated, and well tested, provide more value over time than anything that is custom-built.

There has been considerable coverage in the press of late about changes taking place among the major IT vendors. Cisco decided to dive deeper into the data center and unveiled its new server product, what it called ‘Project California.’ According to one analyst interviewed by the electronic publication MarketWatch (March 13, 09) “if your customer needs something complex and integrated, then you're best off if you can supply it all yourself as a solution … then that's a competitive advantage." But this really can’t be called news, and shouldn’t come as a surprise. Users have been asking for greater simplification for many years – and Cisco customers would certainly benefit from any plans Cisco has to reduce the “number of moving parts” in the network!

And then we read of rumors about IBM buying Sun - for very little premium, given the cash Sun has in the bank and the profit being generated by the StorageTek unit. And if this acquisition goes ahead, it will catapult IBM into the dominant position in the open system space – but will IBM customers relish fewer vendors in the open systems space, and what of its mainframe offerings? While Cisco may be addressing technology complexity, IBM looks to be doing nothing for the traditional mainframe user.

Just as I consider it highly likely that the NonStop Advanced Architecture (NSAA) products from HP will evolve to become a “bespoke” solution, could the IBM mainframe too become a bespoke solution targeting the needs of a very select group of clients? If it does, would the mainframe become further isolated and outside of IBM’s mainstream R&D and unable to leverage IBM’s much better funded open systems efforts?

The Tandem Buildings at this end of Vallco Parkway witnessed the emergence of a culture we associate today with many Silicon Valley high-tech companies. Dress-down Friday’s with its afternoon beer busts started at the back of these buildings, and it became the place to watch “First Friday” TV broadcasts. So many ended up in the pool as night wore on that it became in icon for all that it meant to be a Tandemite.

But the pool’s gone, buried underneath a grassy lawn, as has the need for pricey custom hardware. And for the user community – is this necessarily a bad thing? Bringing NonStop into the mainstream (of HP’s product roadmaps), and riding commodity technology lifecycles, certainly brings with it better price / performance metrics and if what we see right now is any indication as to where this is all headed, then no, it’s not a bad thing.

Above, and to the right I have included a picture of the IBM z10 package and a little lower and to the left, a picture of the HP BladeSystem package that includes NonStop. Check out how the z10 now comes with two stand-alone Linux-based hardware consoles. It’s getting harder to tell the difference – HP uses ServerNet (nicely integrated, mind you) for NonStop interconnects, whereas IBM uses Infiniband (cables clearly visible on this pre-production model, hanging over the filters), and on which the "handprint of ServerNet" can be found, for mainframe interconnects.

But whereas HP now uses industry-standard blades packages across all its product lines – including NonStop, IBM shies away from blades for its mainframes. All other product offerings from IBM have a blades option, but not the mainframe. IBM’s BladeCenter? HP’s BladeSystem? Very similar – and really, IBM’s mainframes today bare more resemblance to other manufacturers’ large servers than they do to the IBM mainframes of a few years back. Why wouldn’t IBM pursue a blades option? Why no mainframe blades?

Of course, IBM does use something similar – a technology it calls “Books” but to everyone else these look just like fat blades. When it announced the zSeries 990’s in May 2003, IBM packaged a single thermal conduction module (TCM) into each Book and supported up to four Books per mainframe. This packaging continued, with the announcement of the z10 in March 2008, with IBM upgrading the chips in the Book and this time (unlike what we saw in the previous zSeries 990’s), its dual-core chips all seemed to work.

Blades, with their cutting-edge approach to standardization and commoditization, could easily scythe through IBM’s mainframe marketplace. Not so much delivering a single fatal cut, but with thousands of slices, as one after the other, mainframe applications are “modernized” and moved onto less complex platforms. Today’s multi-tier architectures, anchored by the data base and front-ended by web and application servers in support of the Internet and other web-based clients, has not helped the mainframe cause.

Some users have begun to offload the data base and this will prove interesting to watch. After all, the mainframe is still a great place to keep the data base! But moving it off the mainframe may only accelerate its demise. As Tim Rathbun, Executive VP of Goldengate reminded me this week “weaken the necessity to anchor the data base on a mainframe, and you quickly remove the need to have a mainframe at all!”

I remain uncomfortable with the concept of Books however, and have commented about them in previous blog postings. Check out the posting of January 21, 2008 “HP and IBM? Moving in opposite directions ...” For me, books belong in a library, and I have to question whether IBM’s Books can compete with blades long term – or will there be mayhem in the “library” as IBM’s hold on the high-end marketplace gets slashed? It’s unclear to me if IBM can remain innovative with its mainframe relying on this packaging, and if the mainframe should go away this time, “they ain’t coming back!”

HP has its own issues when it comes to innovation. Many within IT may contend that HP has a lot of ground to make up to catch IBM as far as innovation goes. But looking at the battles that will be fought in the coming years – IBM will have to let go of its current mainframe packaging and try to catch up with the rest of the industry. Pinning its hopes on proprietary Books is a loosing cause for IBM, and can only stall further innovation for the mainframe.

As difficult as it may be, IBM really does have to fill in its own swimming pool. Not possible? Too much tradition! All well and good for IBM to shout, and remain a contrarian, but competitor’s blades may land too many cuts from which the mainframe cannot recover. And cutting deeply into the Books as one application after the other is modernized, may just precipitate such an end.

Leave the Books in the library and sharpen their blades messages! After all, IBM has never shied away from a fight before over their ability to innovate – and I just can’t see them walking away from a fight like this!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Great Divide!

This past weekend I was in Boulder, and the weather in Colorado was getting warmer. Not by Southern California standards, of course, but I did pull the dust cover off the car and took it for a quick run across the front ranges, and the picture above is of me framed against the Colorado Rockies – with views of the front ranges as well as of the snow-capped great “continental” divide that rises behind them.

When I moved to Boulder, my initial preference was for a home high in the front ranges and looking down on the plains as they stretched to the horizon. But battling winter conditions and driving up treacherous back-roads quickly highlighted the value of living on the plains and looking up at the mountains instead. And truthfully, the views I now enjoy of the mountains are a lot better than anything I had before.

I came to the US in the late ‘80s, and joined Tandem Computers. It was 1988 and the company had just celebrated its Billion Dollar Year. The marquee tents had been taken away and the entertainment was long gone – but the talk of Jimmy’s big celebration bash punctuated every conversation. It was an innovative company to be working for, and the demand for computers that didn’t fail remained insatiable.

I was a program manager – one of only a handful at the time. The role of the program manager was still being defined, but essentially each program manager was responsible for a major project spread across multiple development organizations. To get these programs completed called for large doses of patience, as program managers tried their best to cajole development managers into releasing resources. At the time, program managers were given no authority. Having responsibility and accountability, but with no authority, made for “exciting times” as Jimmy often reminded us.

In the film “A Few Good Men” it was Jack Nicholson’s character who responded to the questioning by Tom Cruise’s character with “you can’t handle the truth!” And sometimes in IT, it’s difficult to handle “home truths.” Even for a company as innovative as Tandem Computers, code was developed, tested and released the way it has always been done – even changing program priorities didn’t seem to help.

And a “great divide” appeared between the business and development, and the company’s executives became frustrated over slipping schedules. And no matter how many re-prioritizations of programs Tandem Computers executives performed, the divide could not be bridged. A good friend of mine Graeme Philipson, a founder of Strategic Publishing Group (Australia) that was later acquired by the Gartner Group, recently emailed me to say “I am convinced the ‘great divide’ will never be bridged. Its continued existence is one of the facts of life. Our job is to constantly confront it and minimize its adverse consequences.”

There was an exchange recently among participants in the NonStop Group on the Connect community web site, under the heading “Finance crisis as a chance!” where questions about coding and programming languages were raised. This thread started with asking whether the current financial crises would give many within IT a chance to “learn new things on your HP NonStop … and perhaps it is the best time to invest?” And as I re-read the thread I couldn’t help thinking about how much of our desire to “have another go at it” has it’s roots in better aligning what we do within IT with the goals of our business.

Do we keep training COBOL programmers to maintain the legacy COBOL applications we have? Do we hire more Java and C / C++ programmers and begin re-writing? Sam Ayres, the Chair of the Advocacy Steering Committee for the Connect user group, noted that “a complete system rewrite is typically out of the question in the present economic climate. ‘Embrace and extend’ or ‘encapsulate and rewrite’ might be better approaches; i.e. don't throw away that legacy code, instead integrate it and extend it with the newer technologies.”

Is writing more code however, part of the solution or simply further exacerbating the problem? If on the day we go live with any new application it becomes legacy, as one analysts suggested years ago, are we simply adding more fuel to the fire? After all, at the heart of any exchange over programming languages, and what should be done with the investments we have in our legacy applications, is our own belief that there are better ways to align business goals with our IT investments.

Can we ever achieve alignment between business and IT? Can we bridge the great divide, and can we develop the “agility” our business presumes we will attain once we are aligned. Specifically, does it make sense to even be considering adding more code into the mix, no matter what language we choose, if it only widens the great divide even further. Must our answers always include more code development?

One of the more innovative companies I have talked to recently has been the UK firm Erudine: http://www.erudine.com/ They have brought to market a “Behavior Engine” with the ability to duplicate business logic – not by cloning code, but by cloning the logic and (optionally) modifying it’s behavior. According to Erudine, the Behavior Engine “solves the issue of mental modeling by automating the capture and conflict resolution that would normally be done by humans. Effectively the system is being ‘taught’ the requirements in the same way a child learns.”

“It’s a change in process – teaching, not programming!” they suggest. One of the most-debated topics across the NonStop community is about new applications becoming available on NonStop. From the very simple demonstration I sat through – with a tool like the Erudine Behavior Engine, it may not be a problem. No coding, as we know it today, would be involved at all. At its simplest, the NonStop could be taught new applications.

According to Moore Ewing of HP NonStop, who has been looking at the product, “This starts as a modeling exercise where you start from an input (case data) then define a series of steps as nodes in a network by which you add information from other sources, do calculations, make decisions based on the data about what to do next until you have a result. This is business logic expert’s stuff not IT stuff. It is very close to specifying requirements.”

What is required to achieve the ability to “teach?” According to Erudine it’s “the ability to describe real world concepts; resolve conflicts (as in, ‘but earlier you said’); and rapid execution of (the) knowledge learned!” While I can only understand a little of what it can provide, what I found interesting was that the HP NonStop EMEA were talking with these folks, and had tested the behavior engine for use in bringing solutions to NonStop.

Erudine’s work with HP is an example of a regional cooperative effort being pursued by HP EMEA, and it may have a serious impact on the number of applications available on NonStop. It may even ease the burden of maintenance of existing applications. At the very least, it could improve the agility of IT in terms of being able to modify the behavior of an application that needs urgent change due to new government regulations or even basic M&A activities.

In the exchange among the NonStop Group on the Connect community web site, Sam Ayers was to add later “I don't believe those legacy applications are going away (but even if they do, we must reverse-engineer them, embrace and extend them, encapsulate and rewrite them!)” But perhaps, not so fast! Do we really have to continue thinking about this in programming terms

The truth may be that we need to move beyond our current thinking. Perhaps the great divide between IT and business will never be bridged as has been suggested, but then again, maybe it doesn’t have to be. Could we be missing the opportunity to simply step around it and walk in lock-step with our business leaders? Rather than playing catch up, or being better aligned, how about being synchronized with our business?

The end of programming is not likely to happen in the near term, but the truth is that we cannot continue writing code and expect our business not to lose opportunities. And again I will ask the question of the Erudine Behavior Engine: Game-changing? Innovative? Cool? While this product has developed a solid list of references it’s take-up among the NonStop community is yet to be tested but yes, after a few days looking into the product, it could become a very “cool” product.

Getting our computers to learn certainly appears to be a step in the right direction and definitely a step that could go a long way “minimizing (the great divides) adverse consequences.” After all, when it comes to us “learning new things on your HP NonStop” perhaps we should be letting HP NonStop learn some new things as well!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Advice? Focus on your goals!

This past weekend saw me back at the race track where my driver education continues. Before I left for the track, I took the car back to our tuning shop for a quick check of the engine programming. I had detected when in top gear, and under load, some “engine knock” – something I didn’t think occurred with today’s modern engines. “There’s been some poor fuel over the winter,” remarked Andy of A&A Corvette Performance, “and my advice is to boost the octane level of the fuel” The picture at the top of this page is of the Corvette outside of Andy’s shop. After adding a few gallons of 100 octane gas, the problem didn’t reoccur!

This is the second year of my participation in the High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) program conducted by the National Auto Sports Association (NASA) and the one constant throughout the experience has been the steady stream of advice I have received. Perhaps the most technical part of driving any track is working out the “racing line”, and there’s no formula or calculation readily available. I have sought the advice from friends with a longer history in racing, socialized ideas with others on the association’s online forums, and I have even chronicled my own experience on another blog site, yet suggestions and recommendations continue to arrive.

Making sense of it all is a constant challenge for someone new to the race track. Each car and driver combination is unique and there’s no one right line around the track for everyone but, with time on the track, you soon work it out – in the end, you have to put all the advice to one side and just drive! There may not be a destination involved as you rack up laps, and it’s not a time to take in the scenery either as your eyes focus on the track ahead. Applying everything you have read and discussed soon has you getting around the track in less and less time.

The Oracle of Omaha, as Warren Buffet is frequently called, makes it a habit of grabbing global media attention with catchy and timely quotes. This week, it has been about the economy, and he simply observed that it “has fallen off a cliff!” The global stock markets sank like a stone in the hours that followed his remarks. Only a week ago, in his annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., he remarked on some of the “dumb things” he had done with his 2008 investments.

Buried deeper within the letter, "investors should be skeptical of history-based models," Buffet warns his shareholders candidly. "Constructed by a nerdy-sounding priesthood using esoteric terms such as beta, gamma, sigma and the like, these models tend to look impressive … Too often, though, investors forget to examine the assumptions behind the symbols. Our advice: Beware of geeks bearing formulas."

Information comes from many sources and varies in quality. And those who provide analysis and opinions represent many viewpoints. Sorting it all out, and figuring what is valuable and what can be discarded, has always been a problem for those of us working in IT. In a recent posting on the Connect community web site, Too much advice? I raised the prospect of whether or not we were getting “too much advice” and whether the explosion in social networking and it’s almost instant access to opinions and viewpoints were simply flooding us with information. I went on to ask “when is too much advice simply that – too much advice? And when do you reach that point where you have to switch off, ignore all the advice that continues to stream in, and simply focus on your goals?”

I have found social networking to be a tremendously powerful vehicle for communicating ideas and for engaging other like-minded IT professionals. I am also very surprised by how much influence online communities are having on the decision makers within IT. I was recently given an informative statistic by a good friend: “the current research finds a 1/9/90 rule for online communities – 1% of the community is active and involved regularly, 9 % participate once in a while, and 90% may use information that they see through online forums but never participate at all.”

“The conclusion I drew from that it that we have to have a very large community to end up with a vibrant and active online portion of that community,” and this reminded me very much of Buffett’s admonishment “beware of geeks bearing formulas!” After all, turning to online communities can prove to be very useful, but blindly applying everything we find on these sites may not be the best answer either. As a blogger, this is an important consideration I keep in the back of my mind at all times – what if someone does pay attention to my commentaries and follows my advice?!

Over the years, those I have worked with have picked up on my approach to sharing information. It falls into two distinct categories. There’s the time where I openly share opinions that I have developed after a lot of reading and follow-up discussion and where I am well-informed about the subject material. And then there are the other times, where I just make stuff up in order to provoke a discussion on a subject where my knowledge is skimpy at best.

The number of instances where colleagues have come to my rescue and corrected my errors, all for the sake of better educating me, has bothered many of my managers. “Aren’t you concerned you will look foolish?” Not too much, not when I really want to find out something! In an open forum, I will just throw ideas out there to see what comes back. Again, it was Buffet who once remarked “only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked” and so I am careful whenever I elect to do this. After all, should anyone run across one of these discussions in an open forum and before the responses have been posted, they could easily come startled by what they find!

Exercising some caution however, lets you experience one of the strengths of social networking – it can be an anonymous way of pursuing answers to topics you may barely know. Coming up to speed on current technology, and getting to a position where you can provide counsel to others within your company is, for many of us, becoming an important aspect of our job. And I continue to remain impressed with the overall quality of information that is being provided openly and freely by the many online community web sites that I belong to.

HP never strays too far from the action – while the lawyers have done a pretty good job of keeping HP management from jumping in too deep, I know for a fact that very little of what is published in social networks escapes the attention of product managers and the marketing teams. If only they could keep up with all of this! There’s not a manager within HP BCS who doesn’t see the value that is created from “independent buzz” in support of a product or technology. Even within my own company, GoldenGate, there’s appreciation of the “for-free marketing” that comes with active online communities.

It was Mark Twain who popularized the phrase attributed to the British parliamentarian Benjamin Disraeli “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” One source I turned to on this topic suggested that “the statement refers to the persuasive power of numbers, the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments, and the tendency of people to disparage statistics that do not support their positions.” And again, I hear the words of Buffett “beware of geeks bearing formulas!”

Within our own online community I have been tracking readership statistics for a year now and become aware of the preferences and biases of some of the commentators, and that’s only natural and I’m OK with it. After all, you can’t provide advice unless you draw it from a real-world experience of one sort or another.

But there’s also a subtle “seduction” with all of this – knowing when to stop, when to leave the social network dialogues, and when to begin applying what you have learnt. As I observed in the posting I made on the Connect community web site a few days ago “in driving a high performance car on a race track, as part of an educational experience, you eventually reach a point where you have to put all the advice to one side … and just concentrate on driving.”

Social networks with their chat rooms, wikis, forums, and blogs are providing us all with instant access to almost every conceivable aspect of IT. Whether we want to catch up on the latest with SOA, or platform and application migrations, or simply want to find out more about the adoption of a new tool, there will be advice and counsel available a few clicks away in one online community or another. There’s never been such an immediate type of information sharing as this in our history. Bad products and technologies will have nowhere to hide any more.

But let’s not forget about the needs of those who employ us and who expect us to get on with it! As I wrote on the Connect community web site “and I have to ask, how many of us in IT, whether operations, architecture, or in development, lose sight of our goals and just keep on looking for more advice? Does our analysis end up becoming our goal?” So let’s not simply become consumed with the process – after all, unlike driving around a track, the destination for all of us remains extremely important!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tough Neighborhood!

Last week I had to drive from Simi Valley, Ventura County, across Los Angeles to Irvine, Orange County. Kicked-back, and enjoying a coffee at my neighborhood Starbux very early that morning, a mate of mine, Brian stopped by and then looked at me with some concern and asked what I was thinking. “If you have to be there by 10:30 you should be leaving in about 15 minutes,” he told me.

Three hours to drive the 80 miles? Surely not! But I finished my coffee and headed for the car. It was close to 7:00 when I joined the morning traffic heading east along State Route 118 – the Ronald Reagan Freeway. The picture above is of me, many hours later, inching slowly back to LA. And it had taken me three hours to get there with just the one quick stop at MacDonalds!

The drive took me past some pretty bad areas, and some of the backstreets visible from the freeway could have even been a part of a movie studio’s back lot. These were the kind of tough neighborhoods, frequently described in popular crime thrillers – the books by Jonathan Kellerman and Michael Connelly where their heroes Harry Bosch, Dr Alex Delaware, and the likes, were inescapably drawn into the mêlées within. A few miles further on, however, the scenery changed as I passed the fanciful world of Disneyland with its imitation snow-capped peak of the Matterhorn, a Bavarian castle, and the Louisiana Bayou.

And driving past these tough neighborhoods reminded me of conversations I had only a few months back when a GoldenGate executive, explaining the heritage of the company, told us how it was similar to growing up in a tough neighborhood. As he explained it, “GoldenGate developed its first products in a tough neighborhood, Tandem, where any failure would have been disastrous for the company – there was just no place to hide. If you crashed a NonStop system for any reason, word would have spread quickly and our future business would have dried up pretty quickly. Particularly as we had some feature overlap with an existing NonStop product – the NonStop field organization can be merciless!”

Over the years I have developed a lot of pride in having been associated with Tandem – but never before had I made the association that the standards set Tandem, with its line of fault tolerant servers, could be interpreted by others as being tough. But perhaps the standards set by early Tandem products were uncompromising when it came to availability, and the GoldenGate executive’s comment wasn’t too far from the mark. After all, nothing ever grabbed the attention of Tandem management like a customer with a NonStop that had stopped!

The message that the GoldenGate executive also wanted to convey was the sense that everyone who worked on Tandem was part of a community focused on continuous availability. After all, if a product hadn’t brought the Tandem “down”, there’s every chance that other platforms and solutions will not be a problem for the GoldenGate engineers – and, with my history at Tandem, it made sense to me. Again, in terms of availability, NonStop remains atop the food-chain, and software companies with a history rooted in Tandem do bring with them elevated expectations of reliability!

I was driving to Irvine to catch up with a member of the Neoview team. It’s been a couple of years since we first heard about Neoview and of its heritage deeply intertwined with NonStop. But it’s also been an uneasy time for both the NonStop and the Neoview teams as Neoview marketing put some distance between itself and NonStop, at a time when NonStop relished the thought of Neoview as a new application on NonStop. But I did get the sense that, in some markets, Neoview’s heritage may prove to be the difference, and where ties back to NonStop may not be something that needs to be downplayed.

It reminded me of a scene from Pretty Woman where actress Julia Roberts, dressed in the best clothes Rodeo Drive can provide, was watching a horse race. As the horses passed by, Julia let loose a cheer that could only have been made by someone from the backstreets of Los Angeles! There was no mistaking her heritage, or hiding where she had been raised, and she looked more authentic than any of the other well-dressed patrons with her.

It never ceases to amaze me that whenever IT professionals greet each other, no matter the occasion or circumstances, an immediate bond is formed when it becomes known that once in their IT careers, they had both worked on Tandem. Whether for Tandem directly, or with an early user – shared experiences from those days created very strong ties, and all who have worked on Tandem easily warm to each other.

You do have to step back and consider why Tandem? Why the NonStop architecture we are familiar with today outlived just about every other architecture that emerged in the ‘70s. What was so special about it? And it’s people? And why, no matter the occasion, when given an opportunity to display our heritage then just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman we never feel constrained in any way and are happy to share anecdotes.

The ability to develop solutions that can depend on the platform being continuously available is a freedom very few other platform vendors can provide. Mirroring the sentiments of a Xerox advertisement of the ‘80s where, “almost as good as a Xerox” didn’t cut it, being almost NonStop doesn’t cut it either. And it is a testament to the architecture that so few applications that “absolutely must be available” have moved away from the platform. If your only exposure to systems has been mainframes, then it may be very hard to understand.

Different approaches have been tried – either by going down-market to rooms full of commodity platforms, with racks of redundant servers and custom code to manage the outages, or up-market with mainframes working in parallel - but the expected savings never really materialized. NonStop hides so much magic inside the box that today, many CIOs have become reluctant to move off of NonStop and aren’t prepared to compromise the uptime levels they routinely experience with NonStop!

In the play West Side Story, the setting is a tough neighborhood where the Romeo and Juliette love story is retold. Identity is very much tied to family, and these strong family ties anchor the loyalty that is fostered – with the characters depicting a value system that stay’s true to those roots! Crossing family lines is intolerable, with little patience for anyone ignoring their heritage – something we see whether it’s the Irish of Boston, the Sicilian Mafia of New York and Chicago, or even the “Core” within today’s military.

There are so many instances where we stay true to our neighborhood, and to our roots! And we do so because we just don’t see anything that’s attractive in any of the alternatives – I have lived in several countries and have been in America for twenty years but I am, and always will be, an Australian. NonStop will remain a factor within IT because being almost as good as a NonStop is not an attractive alternative.

With the growing need to be “green” or “blue”, now the fashionable color for what used to be green, there’s even more business reasons to choose the NonStop platform: it is available on industry standard, low-cost, Blades. NonStop supports Java and the run-time environments Java applications depend upon. And NonStop is proving to be a good target for any application “modernization” project, and where the legacy applications of old mainframes can easily be redeployed and supported at price points unmatched by mainframes. Without compromising the heritage developed in the toughest neighborhood.

Perhaps our roots in Tandem have given us less tolerance for the messages of other platforms. Perhaps our patience for alternate solutions has weakened with time and experience. “Almost as available” as a NonStop? Operating in “near” real time? Scalable as other MPP architectures! How meaningless this all sounds to those of us familiar with NonStop. Responses to questions I had posted earlier stress the scalability of NonStop and point at the reliability of today’s modern microprocessors as lessening the impact of continuously available platforms, but I remain dubious – it’s still very much about availability and NonStop continues to retain its leadership position.

As the Neoview team recognizes that, in some markets, it’s good to have a history with NonStop, this association has to be welcome news in our neighborhood. For those new to the NonStop world and only familiar with older legacy systems, there will be surprises over how agile, open and modern NonStop has become. And more users are beginning to see the value it truly provides.

Or, as Julia Roberts asks of Richard Gere, in an early scene from Pretty Woman and as he tries to master the manual transmission of a borrowed Lotus, “how is it you know so little about cars?” To which Richard comes back with “my first car was a limousine!” Moving into the driver’ seat, Julia then responds “I'm gonna show you what this car can really do. Are you ready? Hang on. Here we go!”

And I have to believe that nothing better than this could illustrate the value that can come out of a tough neighborhood!