Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nostalgia; comfortable and seductive! And yet …

An email exchange last week with a client provided the storyline I was looking for to introduce subjects covered in a recent interview with HP NED’s Martin Fink. Take a look to see what’s peculating to the top of his agenda …

A couple of years ago I vacationed in the south of France. It was May so I was able to pull into Cannes and watch the fun that surrounded the Cannes Film Festival, and draped over one of the waterfront hotels were banners promoting Brad Pitt and the film, Troy. I was fortunate to be on a commercial sailing boat, operated by one of the more popular cruise lines, and one of the benefits was that we shared the same dock with many of famous patrons.

It was a little further west along the coast, at St Tropez, however, where I came across a yacht that was truly a delight and the picture above captures what caught my eye. In today’s world of composites and carbon fiber sandwiches, this stunningly maintained timber yacht was a thing of remarkable beauty! I have spent much of my formative years sailing along Australia’s eastern coastline but I have never seen anything this gorgeous.

I picked up this month’s edition of Motor Trend and I have to believe the editor (who is an Australian, by the way) was thinking much the same thoughts as I was having. He had headlined his editorial with “the nostalgia trap – were they really the good old days?” He then suggested that, “the old cars are cool to look at and fun to drive if you have nowhere to go and all day to get there.”

“Nostalgia is a seductive thing,” the editor finally concluded. “View today’s world through the prism of the past, and it seems less certain and more confrontational. Nostalgia is comfortable and cozy; emotional cashmere. Don’t get me wrong; I love classic cars, vintage cocktails, and old watched. But I’m with Will Rogers: ‘Things ain’t what they used to be, and probably never was.’”

For readers who follow NonStop related groups on LinkedIn it’s been hard to miss comments posted by many of late, lamenting the changes they are seeing with Tandem, and missing the days when all they wanted to do was to write code. But today, we have the very modern NonStop server and it’s as though the very mention of these NonStop servers raises the hairs on the backs of some folks’ necks.

Change has come to NonStop alright, and from where I sit, with my tinted glasses put to one side, it’s not looking all that bad! This week I attended a client’s annual America’s sales kick-off events and I was one of only a handful of participants that showed any grey hairs – the room was packed full of enthusiastic and youthful industry professionals!

And just the week before, with HP Discover well and truly over, I was able to catch up with Martin Fink, HP Senior VP and General Manager, Business Critical Systems (BCS). Fink had become leader of the NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) at the time I was ITUG Chairman and not surprisingly, our conversation opened with his perspective on the recent organizational changes that took place within HP.

“The view is that the time is right for change and that they (Enterprise Servers, Storage, Networking and Technology Services, headed by Dave Donatelli, as well as Software, headed by Bill Veghte) are large enough business units that they need to report into the CEO,” Fink began before adding that “these changes are all goodness for the NonStop community as NonStop is near and dear to (Donatelli’s) heart!”

There was another positive outcome from this reorganization that Fink was as quick to point out to me. “Bringing in the ES (services) business and combining with ESS&N is important. What was becoming clear was that there was a need to strengthen the ties between products and services.”

There was more to talk about than organization changes and divisional restructuring, of course even if this represented a real change from anything we had seen in the past. With HP unveiling its vision just a few months before HP Discover, my conversation with Fink moved onto something vastly different from anything that had ever been addressed in those “good, old days” – Cloud Computing.

“There will be a significant move to Clouds and with the move, the necessity to look at how many core applications move across,” Fink explained before adding, “however, there’s always going to be a set of customers who will chose to run their own infrastructure and within that set of customers, there will be those who need NonStop.” No, despite the different ways I asked the question, I sensed that it was probably highly unlikely that NonStop would be participating inside the Cloud.

Large users, I am sure, may elect to deploy NonStop in this fashion, but when it comes to products supported by HP, NonStop would continue to be a specialty server and with the observations I have made about how slowly enterprises change their major servers, this should ensure NonStop server’s relevance for at least the next five and possibly ten years. With the changes I fully anticipate appearing in the near term, NonStop Server’s relevance should extend beyond those horizons. Converged Infrastructure (CI) after all has firmly embraced the NonStop Server as a mainstream participant!

Front-ending Clouds, offloading low value transaction to clouds both private and public, and taking advantage of Clouds as a go-to resource in times of crises, and where traffic peaks unpredictably, I can see as possible outcomes from responsible CIOs looking to further right-balance their operational budgets.

We will surely see these CIOs pushing transactions out into Clouds just as they will architect their solutions to continue operating, should the Clouds simply fail. As Fink was keen to highlight for me “it’s always our responsibility (as CIOs) to plan for how we will operate our business if a utility disappears; we need to plan and provision accordingly.” Clouds will be a utility to be treated no differently from any other utility we depend upon.

HP has changed its organization, restructured its divisions, and unveiled its vision and strategy for the future. There’s serious work underway to converge infrastructure, and today we can all see a common architecture in place, with a small number of different implementations done to satisfy different customer requirements. Still, NonStop remains at the pinnacle of the product curve as depicted in the Leadership Roadmaps, now common to all product groups within ESS&N participating in the HP Converged Infrastructure initiative.

As admiringly as I looked at that yacht tied up in the harbor of San Tropez, and longed for the days when I could set sail on almost any weekend, the more I came to realize that yachts like this no longer provide the performance or experience they once did. As much as I liked the way it was decked out, there was no way I was going back to scrub the paint and work on the varnish. Every weekend? No thanks!

Even more memories returned but as I let the effects of selective memories subside, I just as quickly recalled the many days sailing in the rain, spending most of my time below deck packing sails, and nights spent with very little sleep. Yes, nostalgia is a seductive thing after all.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Richard,
Good points about nostalgia. I was listening to a tape recently which was discussing Medieval influences and it mentioned a quote - might have been from G.K. Chesterton "Seeing a Cathedral I may become nostalgic for Medieval architecture but I am never nostalgic for Medieval dentistry"...The good ole days as I recall were pretty hard work, different work but just as hard if not harder. Glad you came away from the interview with Mr. Fink assured of a NonStop future, at least as specialty server but to continue the sailing analogy probably good to check the course in 18 months, sail trimming and course corrections are always the order of the day - who knows NonStop may sail through some clouds?