Monday, January 25, 2010

Vendors are coming, cool!

With a change in our Simi Valley abode last year, when we had to find a new condo on short notice, I had to set up a new office for the times I find myself in Southern California. And while I miss the mountains of Colorado, with the weather as cold as it has been of late I welcome any opportunity to spend a few days in the sun. Even though it’s only for a few days, spending time in jeans and t-shirts isn’t hard to take after having to load up with four or five layers! The picture above is of my away-from-home office that I have just set up – with HP equipment in abundance. And in the picture you can just make out, on the screen of the laptop, this opening paragraph!

As I review the data on the blogs written to date, there are some topics that generate a disproportionate amount of readers’ interest. If I add Tandem into the subject line, that spikes readers’ interest, as does anything that includes a reference to ACI be it events, strategy, or product. If I throw in a few negative comments about the BM mainframe, then news quickly spreads, and there’s always email in my inbox the following morning. But if I begin to discuss HP marketing, or NonStop’s potential role in everything from shared infrastructure blade to cloud computing, there seems to be even more interest. Readers certainly bring with them many viewpoints on this topic, and are more than forthcoming with suggestions about what HP marketing should be doing to better promote NonStop’s future!

Leafing through the pages of InformationWeek, a lot of the columns in the January 18, 2010 issue covered the results of the magazine’s survey of more than 300 CIOs. There was commentary on the top ten issues facing CIOs for 2010 and there were concerns that the recession was dulling the enthusiasm for CIO’s to “stay connected with some unconventional vendors whose solutions might help spark a breakthrough.” As the editor went on to reflect, “as innovation and small and midsize vendors get acquired and CIOs reduce the number of vendors they work with in order to cut costs and simplify management, companies aren’t being exposed to the kinds of disruptive technologies and thinking that could truly differentiate them.”

However, it was the words of columnist Art Wittman, in his column “Practical Analysis,” that caught my attention as in it he cautions “but it doesn’t take too many years in the IT trenches to realize that innovation for innovation’s sake won’t win you many friends. Advising steady evolution of systems and processes in collaboration with your business partners will never light up the blogosphere the way a clarion call to the next cool thing will, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sound advice.”

The next cool thing! For as long as I have been writing posts to this blog, I have been interested in cool … and the companies that define “cool.” In the January – February 2007 issue of the ITUG Connection magazine, I opened with “in a promotional piece by Abercrombie and Fitch, it claimed it had the coolest, high quality, lifestyle clothing for everyone! And there, directly penned onto the window, they defined cool as being “the embodiment of well-liked characteristics, such as creativity, intelligence, and leadership.”

For many years, product marketers have paid attention to whether their products gain cool status. While it’s not identified on any product lifecycle “bell curve” I have studied, it exists all the same. It’s that characteristic that spreads through any community that associates a supporter as being “in the know” and ahead of the game. Smart enough to pick the one product that will differentiate them from all others and give them “an edge” in whatever discipline or pursuit they may be engaged. “Mini Coopers” are cool! As are “iPhones,” and the “iPods” before them. Even brands and styles of sneakers are cool!

For the past couple of years, the Gartner Group has gone so far as to track cool vendors and early each year published their “Cool Vendors 20xx” report. “Cool Vendors are small companies offering technologies and products that are innovative, impactful and intriguing,” Gartner suggests, before defining “a Cool Vendor is a company that offers technologies or solutions that are: Innovative, enable users to do things they couldn't do before; Impactful, have, or will have, business impact (not just technology for the sake of technology); Intriguing, have caught Gartner's interest or curiosity in approximately the past six months.”

In the blog posting of February 18, 2009 - Game changers! – I wrote of how cool doesn’t have to be solely a technology or product innovation. As products successfully jump from one technology lifecycle curve to another, what may have been viewed as being close to end-of-life, can suddenly become cool again when included as a new entrant riding the upswing of a new lifecycle. In that post, I wrote of how Sami Akbay, VP of Product Management and Marketing at GoldenGate (now Oracle) suggested “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.” Sami quite rightly suggested that “cool can also have a timing component and once-cool products can make a come-back!”

But now, almost a year later, I am very much aware of just how many in the NonStop community sense that perhaps NonStop is no longer cool. Perhaps it is time to let it go, and move on to more modern architectures. Some readers have even suggested, if it’s cool again, where’s the HP marketing programs? Why is it that finding application solutions has become so hard, and why are once-committed users considering other alternatives?

In the upcoming issue of TandemWorld (January, ’10) readers will find an article I contributed as part of my ongoing “Real Time View – A Running Commentary” commitment. In the article I look at comments I found posted to the LinkedIn group “Pyalla Technologies” after starting a discussion “Has HP Marketing got more to do for NonStop?” And not surprisingly, as I said in the article, I received comments like:

“Folks it not just about reliability/availability; cost effectiveness … is number one, then reliability. I have compared alternate platforms, when sizing new product opportunities, and Tandem has (been) beating out both AIX and Windows platforms, from a cost and reliability perspective, to meet the business and financial requirements of my company.”

“Do you think it would take much to get permission from their respective companies to use these statements in the marketing of NonStop?”

“I have a presentation on file which does compare NonStop with other platforms in terms of security and - BIG SURPRISE! - NonStop fares rather well. I'd be happy to give that presentation to HP NED marketing at any point in time …”

There seems to be a lot of sentiment in the NonStop community in support of the cup being half empty, while I remain more enthusiastic and view the cup as half full, and looking pretty darn good, from where I sit! When you check out the cause for the concerns, it comes back to an apparent loss of interest in NonStop among the application solutions providers. And this is something I think it’s about time to address – many of us have seen the Product Management roadmap presentations that suggest new vendors are indeed migrating their product(s) to NonStop.

In the coming weeks I plan to cover a number of these new entrants. Last year, I talked of infrastructure vendors such as Erudine and Modius and how pleased I was to welcome these latest additions to the community. This time around, however, I will feature those vendors bringing successful solutions to NonStop, and see if we cannot encourage more positive exchanges across the community as a result! They may be a little unconventional and be much smaller than some others we would like to see involved with NonStop, but they are just as innovative with what they provide as are any other vendor’s in this marketplace.

In the latest edition of Cycle World, the magazine congratulated motorcycle companies on producing some exciting bikes. The feature article began with “cool is inspiring. It’s an idea and an ideal. Cool can be as fleeting as a breeze, as hard to get a grip on as a wet bar of soap … but at the core, cool is about purity of expression, of material objects being infused with human energy, creativity and insight to make them more than just the sum of their parts … cool is unlimited …”

HP marketing does have a lot to do. And it’s not always clear how much support for NonStop exists within HP marketing. Most of us have ideas about what needs to be done and haven’t been at all bashful about telling HP what they should do to better position NonStop. However, what may matter in the end has little to do with what HP marketing does or doesn’t do, as much as how enthusiastic we remain. For in our enthusiasm lies the attraction for solutions vendors to invest their own money in pursuit of our business.

And if what I have been reading in the blogosphere of late is any indication of how evangelical many of us have become, then the NonStop community could easily see the resurrection of NonStop’s once proud cool label! Justifiably so, by every yardstick with which I am familiar! Again, welcome to a new era of cool-ness!

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