Friday, October 23, 2009

There's a pot of gold ...

I am getting ready to make a quick trip down to Sydney. In the last few hours as I pack to leave, however, I just had to comment on the recent NonStop user event I attended in Toronto, Canada (CTUG). The picture I have included above is of a rainbow and it has nothing to do with Toronto as it was taken on a recent trip through Cedar City, Utah, but is more symbolic than anything else I could include in this blog posting.

It was a different experience for me as it was my first outing to any user event as in independent “consultant” working for my own company, Pyalla Technologies, LLC. And I have to admit I was just a little bit nervous, unsure of what to expect. After all, having spent the last twenty years working for companies like Tandem Computers, ACI / InSession, and most recently GoldenGate Software, this time I was participating at a user event without a strong company-supported infrastructure behind me.

My participation, fortunately, came as a result of the generous support from Ernie Guerrera of NuWave Technologies, Inc. I have known Ernie for many years – several of these years as a competitor, back in the time when I worked for InSession which has competing offerings in the SOA and Web services marketplace. Today, NuWave has contracted with Pyalla for my writing services and I am hard at work on an assignment from Ernie.

The CTUG committee, led by Rick Teeuwsen, and well assisted by Dick Bird and Jack McAuley of HP Canada, put on a great event. While I was unable to attend the recent SUNTUG (Connect Florida) user event in Tampa, those who did participate told me of how the CTUG event reminded them of SUNTUG. CTUG saw the same strong user turn out, the same good support from HP, and very similar vendor participation. Chris Koppe, the incoming President for the Connect user community also made an appearance at CTUG, and it was good to see Connect actively supporting the NonStop community.

Events of the size of CTUG, and with the user turn-out that it attracted, ensure a strong HP management appearance. And this year’s event in Toronto was no exception. Randy Meyer who heads the NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) Product Management team gave a product roadmap update and he was supported by Tom Moylan, head of sales in the Americas. While many financial analysts working Wall Street are trying to figure out if the recent economic recession has turned around and become a recovery, a quick exchange with Tom suggests that there are signs that NonStop customers are beginning to show a little more confidence in the economy and that the sale of Blade systems is beginning to pick up. He also gave us the latest score – 49 to 0. Remember this one, you will read more about that in a later post.

The lunch break gave me the opportunity to catch up with Rob Smink, solutions architect at CIBC. Several years ago, at one of the last ITUG events in San Jose, Rob gave a user presentation on his experiences with InSession products and we had enjoyed a couple of adult beverages on more than one occasion at that time, as I seem to recall. But quite a few years had passed since we last had the opportunity to catch up on what he was up to at the bank.

For me, the icing on the cake… was the icing on the cake – Randall Becker had arranged for a cake to celebrate the upcoming 35th anniversary of Tandem Computers. A large, and very rich chocolate cake and on top was an icing silhouette of a tandem bicycle. Before the closing reception started, the cake was cut, and I managed to get a slice with a portion of the tandem bicycle. For the participants with ties back to the early days of Tandem, it brought a flood of memories of our early days in Cupertino.

I have always had a strong connection with regional user groups (RUGs). For several years, when I was on the board of ITUG, I had the task of supporting the RUG leadership worldwide and of representing them on the board. During the time as Director, I developed strong ties with many of the groups and I enjoyed the opportunity this role gave me to participate at their events: BITUG, VNUG, OzTUG, SATUG, CTUG, FTUG, GTUG, and many more. At one point there were more than 30 active RUGs and the annual meeting of the RUG leadership packed every venue we selected for the occasion.

I am pleased to report that what I saw firsthand at CTUG last week really encouraged me. There is a sense of community that continues to thrive at the regional level. HP and the independent vendor community, as I attempted to illustrate with the details described above, will always support events that attract a strong following among the user community, and support from such an important stakeholder, as are the NonStop users, ensures that the drive to develop products will continue. Next month, I will be attending GTUG and I am expecting to see similar support for their event!

But given today’s economic climate, there seems to be a growing population of self-employed folks liberally sprinkled across the NonStop field; consultants providing services to others in the community. Perhaps, given of my own circumstance, I paid a lot more attention to them than I ever had in the past. And even among the vendors that were exhibiting, there were several consultants present.

In the last posting to my social blog site, covering an earlier outing on a Colorado race track, I needed to pay a visit to a nearby tire store. For more on this, check out: At that time I wrote of how impressed I was with the tire company, suggesting that after a “one and a half hour process (of cleaning the wheels and checking the tires) … the lads at Golden’s Big O tire shop simply told me it was free! I decided: my next set of tires? I am going to give them a chance to bid!”

Well as it so happened, after returning from a weekend a California race track only a week ago, I picked up a nail in a new tire and had to make another visit to this time the local tire shop. And again, they patched the tire, removing it from the wheel, and didn’t charge me anything. They sent me on my way with the simple request to “please consider us when it comes time to make your next tire purchase!”

There have been many times when I have had to visit tire shops through the years, and I recall I had to pay every time – but clearly, no aspect of business is free from competition. The value that comes from taking down my information, and registering me in a data base more than offsets the costs of fixing my tire. Just another example of where the information about the service has become just as important as the service itself.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the NonStop community fosters long term “fellowship.” Even when given the opportunity to work on different platforms and support other environments, many individuals that have faced life-altering career choices, have elected to become independent and to stay close to the NonStop community. The collective knowledge of the technology, products, and marketplaces these individuals posses probably surpasses what can be found anywhere else. Probably including what can be found these days within HP. And the opportunity to provide users and vendors alike with a variety of services only makes the community richer!

The photo of the rainbow above is a reminder for me that as the recovery begins to kick-in, there will be a considerably expansion of commerce. As the economy picks up and consumer confidence is restored, people will start to invest and business will become frenetic again. And there will be many corporations that make poor judgment calls in haste when it comes to information technology and products. However, across the NonStop community and, as evident from the continuing support for RUGs, there are individuals only too willing to help out.

NonStop users in particular, are very fortunate as to have access to this sizable pool of consulting and services talent. Rather than walking away from NonStop to find employment on other systems, or simply retiring, these individuals recognize how much added-value they can provide – particularly in these difficult economic times where budgets are so tight.

So many data centers are lightly staffed today and have no “bench” or “supporting cast” ready to be thrown onto the stage to help out. Big consulting firms will always be anxiously awaiting any opportunity to place contractors into these data centers, but their ranks are pretty thin when it comes to NonStop expertise. The NonStop consultants within our community can provide so much value in this respect.

And for the most part, they can be approached to help solve a variety of problems and to address even major concerns, for nothing more than a simple “please consider me when it comes time to make your next service(s) purchase!”

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