It was a cold and stormy night! This is not a parody of some dreadful work of fiction – it was true and I was no longer in control and I had few choices. For the NonStop community, this may hit too close to home …
As the full fury was unleashed on the Sierras I became trapped for many hours on the border with Nevada, along with every other driver on the interstate at that time. I did get the opportunity to drive my all-wheel-drive Skyline, but it proved only partially effective as the summer tires struggled for control – a most uncomfortable situation. So much so, that the only real option I had was to return to Truckee, California, and ride out the storm. The picture above is of what the car looked like the following morning as I filled it with gas, outside Reno.
Sitting in the hotel lobby gave me the opportunity to scan newspapers and it was hard to miss the headlines surrounding HP. Ever since HP’s CEO, Leo Apotheker, unveiled his strategy for the company there’s barely been a day when some aspect of it did not attract the attention of one journalist or another. Pursuing the cloud, embracing mobility, beefing up its software business and stepping up to the plate to deliver services around everything, so as to ensure a much better customer experience.
These announcements haven’t come without a little comic relief. Pursuing growth the way HP’s CEO intends will come at a cost for others already in the marketplace and the angst we have seen coming from some of them has led to some executives making unfathomable decisions. The good thing about these arbitrary decisions and the posturing that accompanied them, customers remain firmly in control, despite the prevailing conditions, and there really are plenty of options out there – IBM must be chuckling in the wings!
Earlier in the week I had received an email from Jim Johnson, Chairman of The Standish Group, who had posed the question “does supporting older technology (imply you) are right-headed or wrong-headed? Is it investment protection or long-term disaster?” Even more strikingly, Jim then suggested “wouldn’t money spent on enhancing old technology be better spent on modernization or in reducing customer cost?”
There’s not too much IT managers feel they control these days, and as they sit through one meeting after another it must get a bit depressing after a while. For many of them who have been in the industry as long as I have, there’s a mindset of just sticking with what they have and riding it out till they retire. Tough perspective, perhaps, but nonetheless, somewhat scary as sticking with old and expensive technology may only hasten their push into retirement.
A few days later I had a call with Baldwin Hackett & Meeks, Inc. (BHMI) founders, Jack Baldwin and Mike Meeks. Readers may recall that in the post of October 8, 2010 “Remove the warnings!” (one of the most widely read posts in all of 2010) I had written of BHMI developing an alternative solution for customers running ACI’s XPNET. What I didn’t address in that earlier blog piece was how BHMI has a reputation of doing really hard things, often under trying conditions and where situations called for drastic actions far outside the box! BHMI have definitely become a vendor toiling away at the coal-face of modernization and their observations carry a lot of weight with me even with all that I have been reading!
While BHMI still “takes on big, complex custom projects,” Jack Baldwin explained, “the corporation’s primary focus is on its Concourse Financial Software suite, a collection of high performance near-real time back office applications.” The product BHMI used to replace XPNET was Concourse - Transaction Messaging System (TMS) and Jack was quick to add how “it’s the latest addition to the Concourse family, which transcends the back office environment.”
“As a lot of people have noted, after ACI announced its new relationship with IBM,” Jack continued, “BASE24 clients have started considering their options. Concourse - TMS does give current BASE24 customers increased flexibility for messaging choices, going beyond what XPNET users might be considering; Concourse - TMS goes beyond NonStop and the financial services marketplace!”
In talking with Jack and Mike and about the success they were having with their Concourse product suite, the conversation returned a couple of times to their observations about the NonStop marketplace. Recognizing that there where customers giving serious thought to migrating off the NonStop platform BHMI responded to this perceived requirement by engineering Concourse, including Concourse – TMS, to run on several platforms including Windows, Unix, Linux in addition to NonStop.
While BHMI is in discussion with some NonStop customers to add new functionality on platforms complementing the HP NonStop server, both Jack and Mike added “contemplating moving completely off NonStop is no longer a priority for many of these customers. We have found a cadre of customers who absolutely will not leave NonStop and, quite the opposite to what we expected, aggressively pursue other software solutions should there be any attempt to drop support for NonStop!”
With the NonStop product roadmaps becoming better understood and the migration of NonStop systems to more modern Blades packages, there are less concerns being raised by customers of NonStop – they can clearly see for themselves where the technology is headed and are electing to make the appropriate NonStop platform for their needs. Yes, they do have real choices today.
“I think one of the biggest reasons customers are leaving NonStop is that they view it as old and expensive technology; in letting them stay on the old technology increases both their company’s costs and risk,” Jim Johnson observed before adding “it also reinforces their company’s perception of NonStop being old and expensive, because for these companies (unaware of the options and choices they have), it is!”
Spending time talking with the founders of BHMI and listening to the experiences they have accumulated by being in business for more than 25 years, then yes, they will make sure their products run on multiple platforms. They will continue to support NonStop as they have customers who will not quit!
The success of NonStop continues to be in our hands. However, just how well informed are we keeping our management? How strong an advocate have we become within our companies for the NonStop platform? Considering there are many enjoying a successful career by doing this, shouldn’t we be making modernization a priority!
Rather than sticking to the “TAL and TACL Till we’re Terminated” theme, we can embrace the modern languages and programming frameworks and gain the skills that will let us remain productive for years to come! Vendors are demonstrating strong commitments to NonStop, shouldn’t we, as users, be doing the same, in lock-step?
Modern applications developed with no knowledge that the target platform is NonStop, and yet inheriting the traditional NonStop properties of availability and scalability, are becoming more widely known within our community. The ease with which this can be carried out is “firing-up” many within the NonStop community, all to the benefit of the vendor community who continue to pursue development of solutions for NonStop.
High in the Sierras this past week, my thoughts were solely on survival and while that too is the sentiment of some within our community, it is a bit of a shame. Yes, there are choices and yes, there are many more options – but isn’t it an encouraging sign for all of us that we do retain control and that facing the mix of platforms we have today, there continues to be robust offerings for NonStop?