Sunday, July 31, 2011

It only requires a few steps!

It took me longer than I had initially anticipated but the help users gave me, as did a couple of vendors as well as HP itself made the effort worthwhile. Want to know my opinions about NS SQL then read on …

I’ve spent so many years travelling that there’s part of me convinced I am a Nomad! Perhaps not, but having moved internationally seven times, and with opportunities to take up residence in England (London) and Canada (Edmonton), as well as in the US on four separate occasions (Dallas in 1977, Raleigh in 1987, then Cupertino in 1989, and Boulder, Colorado in 1996, If you add Omaha and Simi Valley into the mix the number grows to six!), I am still enjoying the journey and consider the destinations of lesser importance.

The picture above? It’s of my apartment building that I took on a return trip to Edmonton, two years after I had left.

These days I am reconnecting with so many old friends and the memories keep flooding back; of standing on empty beer cans to catch a glimpse of Australia playing England in a rugby match at the old Twickenham stadium, and cheering with my fellow Albertans as then-WHL ice hockey team from Edmonton defeated the world champions, Czechoslovakia. All of these memories returning with each new name that becomes my contact on LinkedIn!

Growing up in a newspaper family where discussing the news of the day occupied most of our time at the dinner table, I now realize how little real information I could access back then. Staying in touch with anyone outside of Sydney, let alone somewhere overseas was impractical for all but the few who were able to travel regularly. Today, with a modern business tool, like LinkedIn, I can chase down a former colleague in the time it takes to tap on a few keys of my keyboard. And yet, there’s still surprises occurring on a regular basis.

It was only a short time ago that I received a recommendation from a former manager, Lewis Cardin, for the time I spent working in a service bureau in Edmonton, Canada. In his recommendation, Lewis wrote “I met Richard when data bases were a new concept ... and yes, that is many years ago. Richard was one of the very few people who really understood the power and future impact that 'data base' would have on the value of technology. He was a true evangelist among a sea of skeptics."

There’s more, but I will leave it to you to check out the rest of what Lewis wrote. However, I am sure that this comes as a surprise to many who have worked with me over the past couple of decades. Certainly, for the past 25 years, I have been better known for my work with communications and networking products and yet, in the years where I transitioned away from the user community and staked out a life in the vendor world, all those years ago it was databases that held my attention.

At the time I was working with Lewis databases were just emerging from conforming to either a hierarchical or networking model, and embracing partial or fully inverted models. Indexes were beginning to take over – a fully inverted database actually didn’t have any records, or rows, as the data were spread throughout the indices themselves.

SQL was just appearing, but positioned initially as more or less an ad-hoc tool useful for pulling information from the database, pretty much on an exception basis. I recall participating in a user conference in Dallas in 1978 when the wraps were taken off an early SQL implementation only to be told that the IBM mainframes the service bureau were running were too small to be able to take advantage of SQL!

How far we have come since the late1970s! I have been engaged in preparing a number of papers and presentations on modernization and there’s probably not a chapter or section in any of the material I developed where SQL implementations haven’t been featured. They have come to epitomize everything we want to see today from a modern piece of software.

In a post to this blog on November 9th, 2010, “Papers? Papers, please!” I covered the subject of CI-Ready where I described what was required to be considered a participant. At that time, I wrote of how a solution or middleware offering had to use “one of more of the modern and open software infrastructure components on NonStop (e.g. Java, SASH, SOAP / Web services, SQL/MX, etc.) or, is capable of being installed with NonStop Software Essentials (e.g. can then be integrated into the installation repository for any NonStop system).

LinkedIn Contacts hasn’t been the only place I have spent time recently, corresponding with people I know, used to know or want to get to know; LinkedIn Groups have become a regular destination for me of late and they are definitely coming into their own; a number of the groups featuring NonStop are drawing quite a crowd. And among the topic is the oft-raised issue about the future of NonStop and of the marketing effort HP is putting into promoting the NonStop platform.

Sharing equal billing with these subjects, however, have been the many discussions about the future of NS SQL/MX and it’s not that hard to miss the connection between the two.

Today, the future of NonStop is very much paralleling the future of NS SQL/MX – and from where I sit, it’s looking pretty good. In a speech to attendees at this year’s Oracle OpenWorld, Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO, declared “if you engineer hardware and software to work together, you get a much better overall system and the overall experience is better.” Hello, Larry! Where have you been?

Actually, it’s highly encouraging to see such a prominent advocate of SQL like Larry Ellison giving the NonStop such a glowing endorsement. A couple of weeks back, HP should have painted it on a fleet of taxis ferrying the crowds around Las Vegas. And all this brings me back to the subject in hand – I have been a big supporter of databases in general, and of NS SQL/MX in particular. The very first trip I made to Cupertino was at the time NonStop SQL was being announced and the sense of euphoria about “at last, someone is doing database right” was hard to escape.

For the first half of 2011 I have been engaged in interviewing NS SQL/MX customers – MX users running native with MX tables as well as MX users still utilizing MP tables. Either way, the results were pretty phenomenal. Yes there are some really big deployments out there, in both the private and public sectors. I also interviewed a number of solutions architects as well as a couple of solutions vendors.

And the picture that formed reminded me why I became a database evangelist more than thirty years ago – the power from what it can provide and its impact on the way we process transactions well into the future is an inescapable fact and one proven on a routine basis by many innovative businesses. The paper I wrote following the completion of these interviews, “NonStop – the always-on database server!” can now be downloaded from the HP web site.

You can visit the HP Portal directly at:
www.hp.com/go/Nonstop/ and scroll down to What’s New?

Or, as NED Product Manager Ajaya Gummadi just advised me, you can use this link to directly open up the paper: http://h20223.www2.hp.com/NonStopComputing/downloads/NonStop_SQL_The_path_to_the_always-on_easily_administered_out-of-the-box_clustered_database_server.pdf .

It is also posted on the SQL Pages under News & Articles: http://h20223.www2.hp.com/NonStopComputing/cache/81318-0-0-0-121.html

Early reviews are in; I provided a “sneak peak” to a select audience just to reassure myself. Lewis Cardin, my former manager, may have thought that I was “a true evangelist among a sea of skeptics” – but after three decades, had I lost my touch?

I love to travel and I probably will do so until there’s so much metal in me I can no longer pass through airport security! The journey, after all, is what it’s all about – the people you meet, the cities you explore, and the events you join. So too, today is modernization a journey and there’s many steps that need to be taken – but they are well worth the effort. Modernization is not something pursued in isolation, as with modernization comes the ability to use standard products and services and a reduction in the dependency on proprietary, often legacy, code, with all the costs associated with it.

Again, check out the paper and watch for new discussions about the paper being posted to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View. SQL is not some lane, poorly illuminated and off of the path that few businesses will turn into but rather, one of the very large, highly visible, steps right there on the main path that simply must be taken.

Productivity! Innovation! Competitiveness! Difficult goals at the best of times and yet, well down the path of modernization, and with SQL in place, they will prove to be a lot easier to reach!

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