Sunday, August 29, 2010

NonStop? Spreading the word ...

Another year has passed so now it's three years of posts that have been completed and for the NonStop community, I am into my fourth year of blogging to Real Time View ...

It was somewhere towards the end of 2008, as I recall, that I returned home to Boulder: distracted with the holidays, trip home, and snow all around, I decided to go to the cellar and pull a good bottle of wine for the evening. Somehow, on the way to the cellar, I lost sight of my goal and instead of returning with a fine example of an Australian red, I came back with something you typically find close to the check-out counters at any grocery store. It was a time too when posting to this blog was very much in its infancy and the thought of coming up with a new storyline really concerned me, so to this day I am convinced it had something to do with me losing the plot on the way to the cellar!

My wife was far from happy with my choice and proceeded to complain all evening, so much so, that for the next seven nights, I felt compelled to select better examples from the cellar. And the picture above chronicles the red wines we consumed that week. We both enjoy our wines, and we enjoy the company of others and I rarely miss an opportunity to share a glass with friends who come by. After all, I am as enthusiastic about wine as I am about music, cars, and motorcycles, and of course NonStop!

It’s been three years since I first posted to this blog! On August 20th, 2007 I tentatively threw together my first couple of paragraphs and posted them to this blog. Since that post I have written more than 170 feature stories, each about 1,500 words long. More than 250,000 words and more than 450 pages, if you try to print the entire blog, although I hope nobody would want to sacrifice that much paper for such an undertaking. Over the past three years there have been a lot of visitors to my blog and, looking at the readership statistics and the data behind the numbers, it is a graphic demonstration of how social media has moved from being something of passing interest to where it is now making serious inroads into mainstream.

Recently, I have been providing my clients with commentary that I would otherwise cover in a briefing paper or even over the phone. Information I pull together that I think may be of interest, and perhaps represents a perspective that they otherwise may not have considered. In one such email I noted how messy my office had become, and how, to the eye of any visitor, all that can be seen are inches-deep piles of stuff - magazines and newspapers, print-outs, and yellow legal pads scattered around in no obvious pattern. I then confessed to how I’m planning on changing. I’m going to get an iPad and go completely mobile - I like the way I can read articles directly from the screen without succumbing to the temptation of simply printing a copy. And printing items, for the most part needlessly, is a bad habit that I just need to break anyway! Becoming a blogger has seen me join the new breed of writers, with few ties to publications of the past.

Indeed, the rise of bloggers generated an interesting observation published in the Chicago Tribune by the author and radio personality Garrison Keillor who suggested “I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea. We live in a literate time, and our children are writing up a storm … the future of publishing: 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.” Blogging, as I do, I track readership around the world and the tangible evidence of NonStop having a worldwide following is inescapable to me as I respond to comments and emails arriving from every corner of the globe!

I continue to be amazed by all of the comments generated – the NonStop community is not shy about joining a discussion. However, when it comes to the world stage where politics is concerned, by a strange set of circumstances, I have no voice. As I noted in a posting to the comForte Lounge blog only last week, “through a quirk in the way immigrants are treated, as a ‘green card’ holder I am not allowed to vote in the US for the past twenty years, and as a non-resident of Australia I haven’t been able to vote in Australia either. On the world stage, I have no vote and cannot participate in the most basic of democratic principles available to us all, having essentially slipped through the fingers of big politics.” So yes, blogging gives me a voice and I have come to really appreciate how this has given me an opportunity to express my thoughts and opinions!

Not being able to vote reminds me of how in many ways, I have lost my nationality… The global NonStop community, of which I have been a part for almost three decades, is about the closest entity with which I can honestly say I have true close association. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy watching the Australian cricket team, or even on occasion the Wallabies play rugby. Who could have imagined that battling for the top spot of the F1 drivers table is the Australian Mark Weber and, for the top spot of the Indy Racing League drivers table, another Australian, Will Power! Apart from these few moments of national pride however, and the thoughts of vacationing in Australia, I have pretty much shed any association with nationalism.

It’s against this background then that I approach the topic of NonStop playing a vital role to societies that are mobile, where the only sense of community is to those on the other end of the communication line. And we are excited, albeit anxious, to talk with each other, whether via smart phone, tablet, or laptop. Increasingly, the technology is developing to meet our needs for something personal that provides us access to information and news, as it happens. Usable content is simply flooding into the ether and none of us need to be concerned about missing out on anything of interest. All of this is generating transactions, of course, at a mighty clip, and NonStop represents the perfect platform with which to capture it all!

Yeah, it is easy to say, of course, and yet for anyone familiar with the architecture of NonStop, almost a trivial observation. But to the larger audience, to those unaware of its capabilities, NonStop remains an enigma – a system retained by businesses lacking the foresight to modernize and deploy grids, clusters, or even clouds! Little comfort that to many NonStop users, the grid, cluster, and even cloud already come, reliable “packaged” within a chassis, ready to use and with levels of availability, scalability, and performance in situations where its absolutely critical - just not achievable today from any other platform!

There was a comment posted recently to the Real Time Group on LinkedIn by a consultant with the heading “NonStop inherent scalability VS commodity blade server scale-out. Many IT managers and decision makers are opting for cheap commodity server clusters upon which they can virtualize OS images.” Under this heading ran the observation of how “after a month of very intense research into High Performance Computing, parallelism and concurrency I found virtually NO references to ‘Tandem’ or ‘NonStop’. Why are IT decision-makers *not* considering the NonStop platform? Price? Naive ROI estimates? I must say, I was surprised by this. Any comments?” At the time this discussion was initiated I’m sure the consultant wasn’t expecting to see this anchor a blog posting but yes, I am pleased to report that there has been a number of comments posted already!

For me, however, it’s another opportunity to highlight the value of social media – no question, no matter how deeply or obscurely hidden within a forum, escapes the casual glance of a reader who may come across it accidently. yet has the passion to elevate for more serious consideration. Why indeed does NonStop escape the attention of IT decision-makers? Within HP’s Business Critical Server (BCS) division, the NonStop platform no longer makes a trivial contribution to the top line indeed, as best as I can tell of late, it’s improved considerably. The NonStop server line is profitable once again and making a solid contribution to the bottom line of BCS.

Finding my presentation at the upcoming NonStop Symposium positioned against some very tough competition, I decided to launch my own marketing campaign. Readers who have checked the Real Time View group on LinkedIn will have seen how I am offering a free bottle of good Australian red wine as a door prize to be won by some lucky participant who attends my presentation. Within a couple of days, the discussions kicked up a gear with ten or so comments posted in a matter of hours. I’m certain I will not lose sight of my goal this time and it will be a good red – and I’m sure a couple more attendees will come to the presentation as a result.

You may not read about the value that comes from deploying NonStop or the contribution it makes to HP’s bottom line in newspapers or magazines. You may not see it in analyst’s white papers or featured in any books. But then again, perhaps having a presence in these mediums is no longer necessary. The story on the value of NonStop will continue to get out, however and it will appear somewhere, even on something as trendy as an iPad, as after all, surely somebody is developing an “app for that!”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Color me Green!

Standing alongside a shopping mall I was surprised by a Toyota Prius hybrid gliding by, almost unnoticeable running on its electric motor. The frenetic love affair with the Prius among Californians, and the arrival of even more hybrid models, is evidence that they are increasing their market-share across the car-buying public. And for good reason – business can no longer ignore the requirement to lessen the need for energy.

Buried within the prospectus for General Motors’ IPO, which will shortly take place, are several references to GM’s upcoming Volt hybrid car that is being marketed heavily as a good reason why investors should buy GM stock once the company sheds its government ties and returns to the public markets. In placing the spotlight so brightly on the Volt, GM is assuring investors and consumers alike, that it recognizes the pressure it’s under to provide the types of cars the marketplace is favoring.

GM isn’t the only car manufacturer wooing the financial marketplace. Just recently, Tesla Motors, Inc (TSLA), the first company to market an electric vehicle (EV), went public and after climbing quickly to $30 it has now settled to around $20 per share, giving the company a market cap of around $148 million. Perhaps not all that impressive, but Tesla is the first car company to complete an IPO since Ford, and the public expects big things from this tiny Silicon Valley based start-up!

The photo above is of a Waste Management truck pulling next to me as I left the shopping mall, and I couldn’t resist snapping off a quick photo. For as long as I can recall these trucks were a murky brown, but no longer. Today they are painted green to assure the community that Waste Management is now doing its part in support of the environment! To impress us with the scope of the commitment, vehicles are adorned with a sign informing us of how “last year we recycled enough paper to save over 41 million trees!”

Before leaving Boulder on my latest road-trip I caught the editorial of a local weekly paper. In it the writer bemoaned how little we were doing to get other countries to become more proactive in reducing pollution. It was time to boycott products from these countries, he went on to demand, before adding that it was no longer good enough for Boulder residents to simply plant a protest sign in their front lawns!

When it comes to IT however, and the impact IT has on the environment, are we content with just planting a sign in the grass, protesting loudly about our dependence on non-renewable energy sources, our concerns about the forests, and about us not withdrawing the support for those who continue to pollute? Or are we beginning to feel pressure from our shareholders and management to do something more proactive to reduce our carbon footprint? Are we looking at ways to reduce our energy consumption and are we considering how to better augment our current power source with something more sustainable?

Two items that have caught my attention of late seem to suggest we may have to get serious within IT when it comes to saving energy, and in doing so reduce our carbon footprint. The creation of the European Climate Exchange (ECX), the leading marketplace for trading carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as the establishment of the voluntary Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), where businesses voluntarily report on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies, are two significant initiatives I believe, that are headed in the right direction.

The CDP initiative kicked off early in the 2000’s and is an effort to get ahead of the curve and possibly stall further government intervention. The idea is that companies will want to tackle the issues themselves and to this end, the CDP has come up with a Carbon Disclosure Rating that has just begun to appear in company financial results. Grouped among key business performance metrics, such as Operating Margin, Return on Assets / Equity, and Number of Employees, you are now likely to see the Carbon Disclosure Rating. With only a handful of businesses registering as early as 2003, today there are more than 2,500 publically traded enterprises that participate!

Probably a little more controversial, of course, are the exchanges dealing in CO2 emissions trading or as they are better known, Cap and Trade, where the objective is to provide a market-driven approach to reducing pollution. Once a cap has been established, business needs to buy one or more permits, essentially to keep on polluting. However, if they exceed the cap, they need to buy additional permits and these will come available only from those businesses that reduce the pollutants they produce. “In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions … in theory, those who can reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest cost to society,” was how one source I checked talked about it!

For most of us, this is still all very much macro level pursuits, and even after talking with those actively involved in this area, it’s difficult to translate into something we can relate to – let alone begin to connect it with what we routinely do in support of business applications. Very few of us can influence where the next data center will be built or what energy sources we will choose, and when it comes to NonStop, there’s still the ever present concern about its future. Why would we want to do anything other than stick a sign in the grass saying yes, we’re concerned! However, this is a situation that’s not going to change any time soon, and businesses will be looking to their IT managers to do something that’s tangible and not just simply window-dressing. It also has to be something that’s sustainable and affordable given the current mantra to do more with less!

Recently I was sitting through a presentation by folks from Integrated Research (IR) when they introduced me to a new product, PowerMinder. I thought I was pretty familiar with the products on offer from IR but this caught me by surprise. Turns out that as they continue to leverage the PROGNOSIS product and embrace adjacent markets, the work they have been doing in telephony and with managing Voice over IP (VoIP) telephones for IR partners like Cisco and Avaya, they took a look at how best to save money given the number of telephones businesses deploy these days, and came up with the capability to power them down when not in use.

However, the technology that they developed soon took on broader appeal when they morphed the product into managing PCs – its’ been reported that in some applications, like call centers, there could be as many as thousands, even tens of thousands, of PCs turned on needlessly for many hours in the day. Shutting them down in a managed manner and then providing reports on everything from user power-down behavior before and after use, to more complex reporting on power use that covers cost (when powered on), power consumption, CO2 equivalent, etc. will equip IT management with the tangible and sustainable information businesses expect today.

Just how much is saved with something like PowerMinder? This is where it becomes very interesting. For a business with 1,000 PCs in America, and where the PCs already carry an ENERGY STAR endorsement, being able to turn off just 36%, or a little more than a third when not in use, accounts for some $40,000 in electricity savings ($120,000 over three years) and enough electricity to light 240 homes, as well as avoiding 350 tons of greenhouse gas emissions that is the equivalent to removing as many as 60 cars from the road.

What I really liked about the approach taken by IR is that they have come up with some truly unique ways to make this technology easy, quick and simple to deploy. PC users can elect to opt out and can override, should they want to continue running overnight for whatever reason. There’s a subset of IR’s PROGNOSIS embedded into the product in order to provide the reporting, but users will never see PROGNOSIS or need to be sensitive to any server configuration requirements – its all Windows based today.

However, as the product completes its initial trials and moves to general availability status, there’s absolutely no issue with pulling the information into NonStop, for instance, and integrating the data into existing displays perhaps as part of a “sustainability dashboard!” Unlike more traditional product packaging and pricing models we may associate with IR, PowerMinder will be based on the number of PCs to be managed and with an ROI achieved in under a year!

For most of this year I have been developing posts around new solutions and have included coverage for vendors like AJB Canada, Lusis, and Opus but it’s also important not to forget about the important role played by infrastructure vendors. The NonStop platform would be very much the poorer without them and while I may not embrace everything I find with similar passions, I will do my best to highlight those products and solutions I believe will help encourage wider usage of the NonStop platform.

It’s early days, of course, for PowerMinder and IR have a lot of marketing work ahead of them, but I am always encouraged whenever I see company’s intimately associated with NonStop branching out to address the needs of business on a grander scale! This is where I get even more enthusiastic – a new application for NonStop, and one right in the cross-hairs of CIOs, who have to provide the business executives with concrete proof of the steps being taken to reign in the carbon footprint.

This is a lot more tangible than painting our data centers green or sticking protest sign in the lawn! It’s probably even more viable than some of the auto industries most recent IPO filings….