Sunday, June 5, 2011

Missing the good old days?

Is it the free beer and soda we miss? Or is it something else? HP Discover will reveal much about HP’s plans for NonStop and news will travel quickly in cyberspace!

Saturday morning saw the parking lot adjacent to one of our favorite coffee shops sprinkled liberally and colorfully with sports cars. With the coming of the warmer weather, an impromptu car show takes over the locale the first Saturday of each month. So we backed the Corvette into one of the vacant spots and joined the festivities!

The cars included some exotic machinery and the photo above I took of Margo as she passed by a Vette, a Viper, and an early ‘80s Lamborghini Countach with its six dual-throat weber carburetors sending shivers down my spine. Tucked back behind Margo, astute car aficionados will recognize the sleek lines of a modern era Ford GT, still looking like new and that hasn’t seen a single snow or rain day in its life.

This posting however, is not about cars or about car enthusiasts and yet, after spending a short time walking past owners prized possessions, it was difficult not to make comparisons. The same warm greetings, the same sense of shared camaraderie, and that passionate intensity that draws a crowd to check out the latest technology. It may have been a warm and sunny morning in Boulder, but already my thoughts were about Las Vegas!

HP Discover will kick-off in a matter of hours. I for one am quite happy to see HP putting on a big-tent style marketing event, as it opens up the opportunity for everyone to get an update on the company’s vision and strategy and to see the latest product offerings. Major vendors have every right to hold these types of events and participants fully expect to be subjected to the marketing full-court press as soon as they arrive. Yet there will be detractors and those who yearn for the good old days.

Ignoring the obvious that no, the old days weren’t all that good, as one party recently commented on a LinkedIn group, what cannot be missed is that perhaps the world of user groups and events has moved on. It has itself morphed into a hybrid with coverage of all of HP’s product lines and where I expect the mix of exhibits, presentations and face-to-face meetings with HP executives will outweigh other considerations. The availability of free beer and soda, a hallmark of the free-spirited days of the past, has been scaled back, returning sparingly to attract attendees onto an event’s exhibit floor.

However, for the NonStop community the success of this upcoming event will all hang on what is promised for NonStop and the role NonStop will play in HP’s CEO, Leo Apotheker, strategy centered, as it has become, on Cloud Computing and Mobility. Ruling out Mobility it only leaves Cloud Computing and while I have my own thoughts on roles NonStop could and should play, I am very interested to hear what transpires during the week as the lead-up to this week has been eventful, to say the least.

The commentary posted to several LinkedIn discussions of late has been particularly lively – whether part of my own Real Time View group, or within the Enscribe to SQL Migration Forum, or even within the recently formed NonStop SQL Professionals. With the HP Discover event in Las Vegas only hours away from starting, I am sure there will be very few participants from the NonStop community who haven’t heard about some of the postings.

It probably doesn’t surprise too many readers that I became the target for some of the strongest admonishments!

“It looks like Richard that you are in full denial mode!”

“Humor is good. It helps the grieving process. But hey guys you are grasping at straws …”

“Hey Richard, maybe your wife can beat some sense into you. You are confusing the last gasp of dying man with fresh breath!”

And my all-time favorite:

“You guys don’t get it. Richard, you are such nerd!”

What triggered these outpourings were the observations by Jim Johnson, Chairman of The Standish Group, and well known throughout the NonStop community for his many white papers advocating NonStop for deployment in many mission-critical scenarios, supporting these propositions with reams of data showing the superior TCO over all other contenders. In an apparent about-face, Jim suggested that drastic steps needed to be taken to save NonStop!

At first, I was pretty fired up over some of Jim’s remarks but as I watched the engagement with the NonStop community that these comments sparked, I was encouraged to see how quickly and intensely community members came to my defense. I just don’t believe the end of the NonStop era is imminent any time soon!

While the NonStop community was cautious and not quite as optimistic as I was, all the same, there were few among the community that shared Jim’s belief that without something dramatic occurring to propel NonStop into new, explosive markets, the NonStop platform would cease being relevant in a couple of years. Quite the opposite, questions began being asked about what had caused Jim to have turned a full 180 degrees over the value provided by NonStop servers!

Each new day saw me spending an hour or so checking some 40 plus groups just to see what had been posted overnight. Social media channels were really beginning to attract a crowd and the NonStop community was proving none too shy about joining in. And it was easy for me to put up with Jim’s barbs seeing so many of the NonStop community participating.

The immediacy that social media is providing is beginning to make an impression on the NonStop community. Bricks-and-mortar events, such as the HP Discover event, have their place and address the needs of those within the NonStop community that want to know more about the complete HP product set. There will always be those within the NonStop community who simply must get their information in face-to-face meetings and in a setting where there continues to be free beer and soda.

There are, however, many within the NonStop community who are just as happy to pull their information off the web. Number of NonStop attendees may appear to be smaller than in previous years but don’t rule out the many NonStop users that will be online following the posts, tweets and wall messages from users and vendors alike who will do their best to keep everyone informed.

As for the big issues – NonStop servers participating within Cloud Computing – will we see the outcome from application transformation and converged infrastructure, together with hybrid delivery, pointing us to where NonStop will fulfill such a role? Will NonStop servers look similar to what we see today or will there be tweaks proposed for some hardware components and will future blades packages look the same for all operating systems? Will NonStop simply ride the software wave and become a pure software play? Will HP gather a number of vendors together to build a more comprehensive software stack?

In the past we all had to wait until we read about the outcomes of big events in magazines, and newsletters. No longer! With the social media channels it will only be seconds before the rest of the NonStop community becomes informed. And debates will rage anew, just as we have all witnessed this week!

When a group of NonStop users come into contact with each other in cyberspace, the effects are no less passionate than if we had gathered in a coffee shop or at a bar somewhere within the cavernous arenas that today are the venue for big-tent events. Opinions are expressed, questions are raised, and information is quickly shared. Not unlike the impromptu car show that I stumbled across this morning. It may not be the good old days, for sure, but if I am any judge of history, no less important or effective.

I will pull together the highlights of the event in a few days’ time. I can’t wait to see what’s announced and I can’t wait to respond to Jim. To all those present in Las Vegas, enjoy the event!

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