Sunday, July 10, 2011

Routines? We all have them ....

It never ceases to amaze me just how well the NonStop platform performs and yet, as we talk more freely of how modern it has become, why aren’t we working just as hard to get the message up to our bosses?
I’m sitting in an airline lounge waiting for a flight to Frankfurt. I’ve been able to mix in a little downtime while pursuing business opportunities in Paris, and of all European cities there’s probably none better than Paris when it comes to just filling in time. The picture above is of Margo, enjoying the ambience of the street outside Les Deux Magots, the famous former hang-out of such literary luminaries as Hemingway and Sartre!

On arrival in Paris, early Monday evening of last week, I headed down the Champs Elysees towards the Louvre and I stopped briefly at a stall to pick up a hot dog and a bottle of Orangina. While it may not surprise my readers, all the same it was Parisians who invented the hot dog and there’s nothing better than snacking on a frank covered in spicy hot mustard wrapped inside a warm baguette.

The pavement along the Champs Elysees is being turned into grandstands as the Tour de France is under way and will shortly finish with a sprint up the famed boulevard, but this temporary seating notwithstanding, the famed Parisian skyline is hard to miss. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Grande Arch, the Palais du Louvre and the rather tacky Ferris wheel could all be seen.

I first visited Paris in the early ‘80s and I have found my way back to the city many times since then, and with each trip there’s a routine that I seem to follow. The same buildings, the same cafes and the same streets – I just love the familiarity that comes from taking to the streets. At this time of year its well into the evening before the sky darkens and the city of lights is less a spectacle than it is at other times of the year, but the evening warmth more than makes up for having to turn in before the sky is truly dark.

Routines are something I have developed when returning to cities I have grown to like, but perhaps it’s just in Paris where they have become such an integral part of my interaction with the city. And yet, I am not a slave to routines and am only too happy to make adjustments as the situation dictates. Over the years, I have learnt to grow with the city and to embrace the changes I see taking place. Change is ever present, even in Paris. The city has become as modern as any other nation’s capital and visitors new to the city remain just as much in awe of what they see as I was all those years ago.

When it comes to business, following routines and the familiarity that they produce says a lot about our affinity for predictability, and our desire for simplicity and often just avoiding conflicts of any kind. Many in business that I talk to are cautious of change and openly lament the direction their business is taking, but survival offers few alternatives to change, if staying in business is the necessity and business executives simply must do their best to adjust.

Computers change as well. On reflection, there’s probably no other industry that reinvents itself as often as does the computer industry. For many decades those of us who have remained students of technology have watched the pendulum swing between centralized and distributed models. Big systems with intelligent front-ends, single multi-system data centers and more recently, geographically dispersed server farms – the model keeps on evolving and yet resembles many of the deployments we have seen in the past. With each swing of the pendulum, routines followed for years are quickly disrupted and what was once familiar, overturned.

For the NonStop community specifically, this is beginning to take on an ominous tone. Yes, we need to change, too. What was once rated so highly by business executives seems to generate no more than a shrug of the shoulders! Computers are no longer valued according to the level of availability provided and, amidst the general dumbing-down of the industry that is taking place any familiarity we may have attained from working with such robust systems is proving prejudicial to our longer term prospects of remaining in the industry.

System outages no longer seem to generate as much fear among business executives as they once did nor do today’s managers view the inability of their customers to access critical applications as anything other than an annoyance. What would have been headlines in the afternoon newspapers only a few years ago now rates barely a line or two of commentary further back in the paper!

Yet I have to wonder whether we are about to see the pendulum swing back? Are outages and disruptions to services becoming too hard to cover up? How many stock exchanges today will remain content to take outage hits of one or two hours and even longer? How many hospitals will accept the inability to access patient files as minutes turn into hours? And how many business executives will wait quietly in airport lounges as their flights are cancelled because reservation systems cannot be brought back online?

When exactly did we give up on availability and when did we all come to accept that what we had to deal with in our private lives, as our PC’s routinely required re-booting, would find acceptance in our business environment? Was I asleep at the time as I don’t recall ever seeing the message proposing critical computer systems that no longer worked 24 X 7 would be tolerated!

For the NonStop community, are we (who know most about the value proposition from running NonStop) ultimately the party at fault? When all is considered, has it been our failure to keep our business executives advised about the options open to them? For the past year or so, how effectively have we communicated to these same executives just how modern NonStop has become?

I am seeing little evidence that we as a community have pushed back hard enough on the many misleading assumptions about the importance of availability, or championed the arrival of modern infrastructure on NonStop such as Java, Application Server support – including the full support of the SASH run-time stack - and SQL!

In the coming weeks, I will be publishing my first marketplace white paper on NonStop SQL and I will be reinforcing the message of its importance to NonStop. For some time now this message has been hidden within other messages and yet, its role in ensuring modern NonStop deployments remain as available as they have been at any time in the past, shouldn’t be overlooked. Just as we shouldn’t be passing up the opportunity to market its value to the business executives we interface with on a daily basis.

“Customers need to be using NonStop SQL to leverage all the investments HP has made in modernizing the NonStop platform,” was what Harry Scott of Carr Scott Software told me recently. “Being an industry-standard database, NonStop SQL opens up many possibilities for customers to leverage, rather than having to build, components and tools as they (continue) to grow and maintain their applications.” A powerful message and yet, how many of us have changed out routines to ensure this message is being propagated deep within our business? Or has our voice been stilled and the initiative passed to others!

For NonStop to continue to participate in the data center and provide the value it’s famous for, we need to be vocal and yes, we need to change our routines. Scott is not alone with the comments he expressed, as talking to vendors who have recently ported their solutions to NonStop and have elected to leverage NonStop SQL all were impressed, and as they pursue a greater presence in their marketplaces with a NonStop based solution they will be anything but quiet.

I really do love Paris and have never experienced a less than wonderful time whenever I visit the city. The routines I follow help me get in synch with the rhythms of the place – the sites I like to take in and the restaurants I so enjoy visiting. This time I had to adjust and change my usual dinner venue: the restaurant I’ve learned to like was no longer. I tried a new place, and the fish was exquisite! To think I was forced to change my routine only to be really grateful that I did!

1 comment:

Harry Scott said...

It’s amazing to see the savings and revitalization that many companies have achieved by modernizing their NonStop applications.

IMHO, the NonStop vendors collectively, including HP, have done a great job to make modernizing NonStop applications low risk and the return on investment equally impressive.

In particular, NonStop SQL has proven to be a very powerful and capable cornerstone upon which to build a business solution that can prosper for the next +10 or 15 years.