Friday, June 11, 2010

Modernize? Evangelize!

At this time of year I have always spent a week or so vacationing in Europe, and on a number of occasions, this has included memorable times out on yachts sailing the Mediterranean. There’s something very special about pulling into the small fishing ports that dot the coastlines from Spain to Greece. My own personal choice has always been the strip of coastline stretching from Cannes through Nice, France then Monte Carlo, and on down to Portofino, Italy. Of course squeezing in a few days at the film festival, and arranging is so that it’s back-to-back with a weekend of F1 racing in Monte Carlo, isn’t something to be missed. But for me, perhaps the one place everyone needs to find time to sail into is Portofino and the picture above is one that I shot during my last trip to the ancient fishing port!

When in this part of the world, it’s always very easy to forget about the routines of business and to just soak up the atmosphere. Listening to tour guides trying their best to excite you about 3,000 year old ruins, or whatever, and the impact they had on all of civilization only holds my attention for a short while but then I’m off looking for the town square and for a quiet table near a fountain or clock tower, just to soak it all in. A simple shot of espresso, a glass of bitter Campari and Soda, or even just a glass of the local white wine with an assortment of cold seafood has me quickly succumbing to natural beauty of the place, wherever I happen to find myself.

You certainly cannot miss pictures of Portofino. I suspect there’s not a tour shop without at least one poster featuring the classic horseshoe-shaped harbor with the multicolored facades of the buildings lining the promenade. Anchored nearby are an eclectic mix of fishing dinghies and multi-million dollar yachts. The port had served English crusaders as they had passed by and the church on top of the hill, San Giorgio, is reputed to have relics that St George brought back from the Holy Land!

The antiquity of the place certainly overwhelms you as does much that is on display in this part of the world. It’s had to think that nearby, the renaissance started and somewhere, on the other side of the Italian hills, Leonardo da Vinci was messing with parachutes and helicopters. Contrary to the popular opinion of the day, others were even suggesting that the earth was not really the center of the universe. Ahhh – another glass of vino, please!

Before I completely drift away thinking about European vacations and of warm days in the Mediterranean, I return to what really prompted these thoughts. I was printing out flyers for the upcoming HP Technical Forum (HPTF) featuring the night skyline of Las Vegas and all I could think of was the Bellagio with its fountains and across the street, the Hotel Paris with the Eiffel Tower. In only a week or so, those of us IT with HP servers, will begin heading to the annual gathering of HP’s enterprise community.

HPTF brings together solutions and infrastructure vendors, a substantial mix of customers from all the major platforms, as well as a liberal smattering of HP executives and senior management. If you really want to know what’s happening inside HP, then this continues to be the place to go! As for me, this is my third HPTF and while I was a little hesitant in supporting this years event only a few months back, the more I talked with HP the more I just couldn’t resist turning up one more time!

This is not a NonStop event. In September, there will be the NonStop Summit and it is anticipated that it will be the place to go to enjoy the usual NonStop love-fest that has been going on for nearly 30 years. The program will be entirely NonStop-centric and the chance to continue many years of conversations with product managers and developers will go on as it always does. HPTF, on the other hand, will be an event for a much broader community and one where I will be liberally covered with every badge I can find that screams NonStop!

As I look down the program for HPTF, there’ll be goodly number of NonStop break-out sessions. Last count? Some 21 sessions – 13 product-focused, 4 that will be vertical-solution focused, as well as the traditional overview / plenary session we always expect. There are a couple of user presentations that are planned that I am only vaguely familiar with – one from Wake Forest University and the other from Easycash. And then there’s the socializing with the possibility of impromptu one-on-one exchanges with HP executives that I always find entertaining.

This year, however, and speaking bluntly, the event has divided much of the community. Coming as it has done only after the NonStop Summit was announced, the focus of HPTF and the audience it was attracting wasn’t all that clear to me. Debate raged across LinkedIn groups, online discussion forums, and via email. What was the message? Who would be attending? Will it detract from the event in September? Will HP pull back on its commitment to the NonStop Summit. Why should I even consider going – tow events in one year is a tough call given the current economic conditions! Las Vegas – our bank took TARP funding and I don’t think we are allowed to go!

As these very spirited exchanges developed, I changed my position several times and even advised some of my clients to exercise some caution. Several lengthy calls with Steve Saltwick, of HP BCS/NED Marketing, however, finally convinced me of the value proposition. “Just think about it,” I recall Steve advising, “this event in June will be the best opportunity we will have to impress on a much larger community the value that comes from using NonStop!”

There have been so many messages exchanged of late over the need for HP to do more to market NonStop. If only they did this, or they talked about that, or they developed support for something or other, then the NonStop would be so much better positioned in the marketplace. And through many of these discussions, I bought in just as much as the next commentator. However, it’s all too easy to talk about what we expect HP to do when, in most respects, a lot of it’s up to us. Nothing breads excitement faster than a bunch of enthusiastic users! Evangelists, with numbers already on the wall – visible success recognizable everywhere! If everywhere a Unix or Windows user turns, there’s a discussion on what’s new with NonStop, eventually some of them may start to pay attention and ask questions. For me, this is the attraction of HPTF – share the value proposition of NonStop with a community that just isn’t familiar with what NonStop can provide. Infiltration has always been the best strategy!

What will capture attention? What will generate discussion? As I read the flyer I just printed off, with its banner promoting “Accelerate outcomes and convergence” it was hard to miss the bullet points on the NonStop advantage that included one stating “Modern, open software ecosystem” or the HPTF NonStop highlights promoting the key demo of “the modern NonStop application software stack”. While regular attendees of HPTF will be familiar with previous themes of consolidation and even convergence, when it comes to NonStop, not all attendees will immediately associate the NonStop server with modernization, or even be aware of how modern the NonStop technology has become.

I asked Randy Meyer, who heads HP NED product management about what modernization means for NonStop today and he described two elements. “It allows ‘existing function’ – usually in COBOL or C – to easily participate in the modern application world,” a reference to the ease with which existing applications can be externalized via SOAP as Web services, as well as access data bases via industry-standard SQL calls. Modernization, also “makes it easy to build new applications and functions using modern toolsets – Java, Eclipse, Hibernate, etc,” a reference in part to the availability of industry-standard software-stacks, such as SASH, that meet the runtime requirements of applications developed with these tools.

In a subsequent exchange with Keith Evens, of HP NED product management and closely associated with modernization efforts, he directed my attention to bullet points in his latest presentation. Among the items he addressed were “applications using modern paradigms inherit the same NonStop fundamentals as classic applications”, as well as “modern application containers (NonStop SOAP server and NSJSP) use the same scalable and available server process infrastructure as Pathway applications”. Essentially, reinforcing the notion that modern applications deployed on NonStop become as scalable and as available as any other NonStop application. You can do this, Keith included in an opening slide “incrementally, leveraging your existing business logic and data investments, while maintaining NonStop levels of availability and scalability – transparently”!

Portofino will always be high on my list of must-go-to places; I will never tire of sitting dock-side watching yachts pull into the bay. Espresso just seems to taste so much better. While convention coffee may not be to the same standards, for NonStop users HPTF still ranks as a must-go-to place to promote our own support of NonStop to a broader audience.

It may not be the event we attend for more detailed info about what interests us most – but it will be the place we should all plan on attending to ensure NonStop continues to be as visible and as viable a solution as it has ever been. HP really does depend on us to evangelize the technology as much as looks to its own marketing teams! There really isn’t any substitute to a bunch of enthusiastic supporters fervently waving the NonStop flag!

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