Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Taking the party to the village …

It’s been a month since I posted a story to this blog that opened with a car example, so perhaps it’s fitting to revisit this theme as I return to the subject of Tandem’s 35th anniversary, as all previous postings on this subject started with a car example. This weekend saw the just-created Pyalla Technologies’ car roll out onto the circuit at Willow Springs International Raceway (Big Willow) for the first track sessions of 2010, the start of the third year of our participation in the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) program, High Performance Driver Education (HPDE).

For those who may have missed the point of the graphics in the Pyalla Technologies, LLC company logo, there’s a distinct red square representing the red-center of Australia, together with a stylized set of black-and-white squares overlaying one corner – a combination of the love of Australia that I still harbor, together with the most recognized icon from car events worldwide, the checkered flag! As part of the marketing effort behind Pyalla Technologies, there will be several references to these regular outings in the collateral that I am now developing.

For this first outing however, it rained! The car is in good shape (our local dealership had run it up on a hoist and checked everything out) and there were no incidents. I survived the first weekend of the new year, an anniversary of sorts, and only after the weekend was over did I realize that it was my 13th appearance at a track but not being superstitious, I let that one pass right on by! And the picture at the top of the post is of the ‘Vette being washed after the weekend’s outing!

In a posting on October 16th, ’09 I asked “Is there gas in the tank?” and then commented on “whether NonStop still had ways to go to reach the summit, or whether it crested sometime back. And, just as importantly, is there enough gas in the tank to push on, and take NonStop even higher?” A little further on in the post I then noted that “around the globe, at different regional events, the local offices of HP have been cooperating with user groups to celebrate the anniversary.” I was pleased to receive an email this week from Europe telling me of how these meetings, reminiscent of the village-style gatherings we often held when I worked for Tandem Computers, had just started.

Neil Pringle, Director, HP NonStop Europe, Middle East and Africa, wrote of how he was “very excited to have had the first ‘NonStop 35th Anniversary’ events in EMEA; Sweden and Finland did a great job bringing together the customers last week with over 120 of them attending. I am very pleased by the user turn out and participation and anticipate these events to continue to be successful as they roll out in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa during the winter and spring. Our users appreciate the opportunity to hear the latest product and solution news from us and from our partners, and to network with HP management, and for us, this is a great opportunity to meet and have a dialogue with them.”

Celebrating the 35th Anniversary is a good opportunity for bringing together the community. Even for someone who has been a strong supporter of regional groups as I have, reading about “bringing together … over 120 of them” impressed me a lot. To read about that many customers, after 35 years, who were prepared to face the winter elements so typical of the Baltic region this time of year, just to hear more about NonStop sends a very strong message to the rest of the NonStop community!

It may have been pretty miserable for me last weekend to drive in the rain, but Diana Cortes, NonStop Marketing Program Manager, emailed me to tell me of how she was “in awe of our customers and partners coming out in –19C (-2F) weather – they clearly thought the event was worth it! I am personally very pleased that I had the opportunity to present in these first events, and to experience firsthand how receptive and engaged the audience was.” Diana then told of how they “developed this program to celebrate the 35 years milestone, and because we believe there’s a need across the NonStop community to receive face-to-face information about our latest product developments and solution news, and what to expect in the future; for us, it’s also an opportunity to reinforce our key values and benefits, and ensure they are well understood across the user base.” With temperatures at this end of the thermometer, it wasn’t just cool, it was unimaginably cold for those of us who enjoy life amid more temperate climates.

It wasn’t about the weather when I wrote the post of May 28th, ’09 “Happy 35th, Tandem!” and recalled how it wasn’t “cool to call it a Tandem, as today it’s the HP NonStop server. But even so, there’s a new cadre that knows of nothing other than NonStop but the spirit of Tandem lives on … and it’s clear to me that the ‘essence of Tandem’ continues to percolate within HP. Will there be another 35 years of history? Will some of us be around for the 50th anniversary?” However, of late, I have to admit, I was having some doubts!

There has been a steady stream of commentary among the groups on LinkedIn. Anyone who has visited groups such as Tandem User Group, Real Time View, and even Pyalla Technologies, will have come across discussions such as “New applications for the NonStop platform?” as well as “Cloud Computing” and “Has HP Marketing got more to do for NonStop?” There’s even a lively discussion kicked off by the observation “What do you make of the Microsoft / HP announcement …” One of these discussions has generated 98 comments – so yes, there’s a lot of passion across the community. The common thread going through all of these discussions has to do with wanting to see more attention being paid to NonStop by HP marketing, more clarity on the role of NonStop in HP’s future, and more public information about new applications being ported to NonStop!

In the blog entry I made on the upcoming 35th anniversary of Tandem, on January 3rd, ’09 I posted “Tandem – the next 35 years?” and expressed how “there has always been passion in the NonStop community. And the NonStop server has remained at the very pinnacle of fault tolerant computing. But what will the next 35 years promise for the NonStop faithful? Will support for NonStop continue to play a major role in HP’s server strategy?” While I have no visibility into the strategy of HP as it pertains to the NonStop platform, I remain well-connected with many who are actively engaged and I have to admit, I am a lot more encouraged about what I am seeing of late.

The discussions over the NonStop Value Proposition (essentially, a return to the topic of what are the NonStop fundamentals today), the merits of Java versus .Net development and runtime environments and the number of applications in the marketplace that each of them has, and the future of NonStop’s participation in such up-and-coming new technologies like cloud computing, is a very healthy outpouring from a community that really cares about the NonStop platform. That 120 customers from Sweden and Finland braved the elements to hear more of what HP NonStop will deliver over the next couple of quarters, is a testament to just how much interest there is in NonStop despite the relative low-key promotion afforded the platform. Perhaps my doubts were unwarranted.

Tandem for many decades was famous for throwing parties and big events. When Tandem celebrated its passing of the one billion dollar revenue milestone, the party went on for days with the local Cupertino constabulary turning a blind eye to the shenanigans that transpired. However, in the new reality we all face where travel budgets have disappeared and where the obstacles we face in travelling when money can be found, have made big events of the past nothing more than a memory for most of us. For NonStop to use the 35th anniversary as a vehicle for bringing customers together and to take the celebration on the road to make sure we all have an opportunity to participate, for me is a move in the right direction. And there are many more such events to come, in 2010!

The community remains as passionate as ever and the NonStop platform has transformed to such an extent that we can now argue about which open environment offers us the better returns! Yes, new applications are being ported (AJB Canada, Opus, Lusis, etc.) and yes, customers (VISA, Barclays, Chase Paymentech, etc.) are making the investments. What is wrong with any of this? Absolutely nothing! In fact, I have never been more assured about the future of NonStop and for that, we all need to take a deep breath. After all, 35 years later we are still here debating the merits of NonStop but where’s Pyramid? Where’s Prime? Where’s Data General? Where’s Amdahl? What became of Wang?

Where are they? Companies and technologies we once thought of so highly – no, they never made it to their 35th birthday and that about sums-up why I remain bullish about NonStop! As I wrote in October, ’09 “after 35 years and after listening to folks associated with NonStop for decades, I truly believe, the summit has yet to be crested! And there’s still plenty of gas in the tank.”

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