Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Solely focused on technology? That’s not a strategy!

With all the talk and discussions around Cloud Computing of late, it seems that it is all that today’s CIOs are prepared to consider as a strategy for their business. But it is a technology and this may not be the right thing to do …

Walking the streets of Atlanta, just outside the hotel where I had been staying, I came to the Peachtree 200 Conference Center and while the building held little architectural appeal what was outside, parked on the road, caught my eye immediately. Curbside was a 1960s era Fiat 500 flanked by a new 2012 Fiat 500, and the picture above was taken by the Fiat event manager overseeing the launch program for Atlanta – yes, he just walked up to me and asked if he could take the photo I was trying to shoot by myself.

A crowd had gathered alongside the cars and someone asked if the new FIAT 500 was a hybrid, and then another person asked whether it was FIAT’s plan to offer an all-electric version. Among the responses I heard coming from the FIAT crew was the simple explanation that the strategy was to successfully launch the FIAT brand in the U.S. and that decisions about the powertrain options to be introduced would follow. As for the immediate future, all talk was about the FIAT Abarth 500, a performance version of the car to better compete with the Mini Cooper S and planned for U.S. enthusiasts early next year.

Marketplaces continue to evolve and no more so than across the world’s auto industry, and strategies evolve to keep pace with the fluctuating and often fickle priorities of the market. With the global economy continuing to struggle, the price of hydrocarbons remaining high, consumers’ tastes are proving difficult to predict. Strategies have to look beyond technologies and products and address more important issues like doing everything necessary to simply stay in business! However, with the news that even Chevrolet is dropping its iconic pushrod V8 engine from future open-seat race cars in favor of a much smaller V6 albeit turbocharged, is further tangible evidence that responding to the marketplace remains a priority for the company.

I have been in Atlanta in support of Margo who is a new conference organizer for an association event where rehabilitation researchers shared their results with practitioners, and we elected to drive from Boulder, CO, the thirteen hundred or so miles to Atlanta. I had always wanted to see more of the countryside east of the Mississippi and this trip gave me the opportunity. In so doing I elected to drive our thirsty V8 SUV and while it offered considerable comfort for the many interstate miles we covered, it wasn’t hard to miss just how few SUVs are on the highways these days and how the marketplace is showing its appreciation for domestice auto manufacturers' change of heart.

FIAT will likely do well with its new 500 car, as will Chevrolet with its line of smaller, more powerful powerplants and yet, it will only take the slightest of external influences to set off yet another round of changes and drive planners back to the drawing boards. Strategy after all is never absolute and is framed within the markets a business operates, and just like technologies and products, have distinct and measurable lifecycles.

It was against this background that a discussion was started within the LinkedIn Group, Fools for NonStop. A recent addition to the LinkedIn Groups, this group was founded following comments made about how foolish it is it stay with NonStop and that, given my own support for the NonStop Server platform, I was perhaps more foolish than others. However, the group continues to grow its membership and the discussion that began this week simply asked “Cloud computing: ‘The cloud is not a strategy ...’ food for thought” and a reference to an article shared with the community of the same name that can be found at:


Very early in the paper posted to the web publication TechRepublic, it observes “ask a CIO about their technology plan or strategy for the coming months, and their eyes light up and in hushed awe they reverently whisper: ‘The Cloud.’” A little later, author Patrick Gray writes “unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely been beaten over the head with the wonders of cloud computing. It will slash your costs, alleviate all management pain, store your music and movies, and bring about world peace in our day.”

However, perhaps Gray’s best observation comes when he states “while the superlative machine in the marketing department of most cloud vendors has been working overtime, ‘the cloud’ is nothing more than another incantation of make vs. buy or rent vs. own. We’ve been down this road before with everything from outsourcing to contract manufacturing, and the risks and rewards are identical.”

Without giving away the complete story line of this article I will end with perhaps the punch line; “the cloud is nothing more than a tool that should be accomplishing some business objective … (and) in most cases where a tool was substituted for a real strategy, the results were disastrous. Cloud will experience the same fate unless you build a true strategic plan that just happens to include cloud services, rather than trying to build a strategy around a tool.”

In recent weeks I have been working with Attunity VP, Business Development and Corporate Strategy, Itamar Ankorion, following their acquisition of RepliWeb and their subsequent entry into the data replication marketplace with Attunity Replicate. As I listened to Ankorion explain the key differentiators of the Attunity offering versus already established products, he talked of how one “huge advantage we see over what users have experienced with (other implementations) is the ‘Click-2-Replicate’ design. The imperative today is all about ‘quick time to value!’”

The significance of this wasn’t lost on me. When it came to strategy it wasn’t the technology behind the Click-2-Replicate feature as much as it was how it addressed the user experience. Just as Apple has so successfully demonstrated, get the user experience rich and satisfying and all else will follow. An oversimplification perhaps but nevertheless about as revealing of IT as anything else that’s been presented of late. Yes, a product that simplifies administration, whether initial set-up or ongoing maintenance, slots nicely into the strategy of bettering the user experience.

FIAT had a strategy clear and simple – it needed to break through into the U.S marketplace and to do so, recognized the opening that came with its retro-looking small car, the FIAT 500. Choices of powertrains, electric, hybrid or otherwise were clearly product decisions and not to be confused with strategy. Whether or not FIAT will prove successful as it pursues its strategy needs a lot more time before the results can be truly assessed, but such a focus bodes well for the vendor.

In the post of August 11th, 2011, “GuardianAngel? NonStop revels in Clouds!” and what has now become the most read post of the blog Real Time View, I wrote of what the Team involved demonstrated at HP Discover. This included the ability to “burst” into Clouds both private and public. Quite the achievement and to some extent unexpected by many attending the event! Here were NonStop Servers actively participating in the utilization of Clouds.

However it was very clear, with what was being demonstrated, that the Cloud was simply a tool to show how modern Pathway (TS/MP) implementations could “distribute instances of an application within a single CPU, across multiple CPUs and in particular, to any CPU within any node within a cluster … (to where) instances of the application could be invoked on platforms other than NonStop.”

It was Team member Keith Moore who later commented on how “Pathway’s Serverclasses (that) are instantiated on Linux (or Windows) under PATHMON control as if they were local to NonStop. This allows TS/MP to manage creation / deletion and recovery of business-level application services running on or off the NonStop platform.” The Cloud was simply a tool to highlight what could be achieved in the business world in terms of achieving more for less while the demonstration was clearly about a bigger role for NonStop.

There’s much discussion of late about where NonStop hardware and software may be headed – a new discussion “Where should NonStop go now – Now?” on this very topic was just started this past weekend on the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop. At a time when there’s elements of the community considering NonStop as potentially a strictly software play, while others, myself included, see opportunities for NonStop being present in every BladeSystem cluster as a “supervising OS” the strategic significance of GuardianAngel takes on a whole different light. Yes, it will play well with Clouds, as a product option, but it will also play well with Linux and Windows – capabilities paramount for the life of NonStop untethered by hardware and solution requirements.

Will all of this be aggressively embraced as part of the strategy for NonStop? Or, perhaps, none of it? It’s still very early days but the marketplace is enamored with Cloud Computing and the promise it holds in terms of cost savings and flexibility and so seeing NonStop embracing a strategy that capitalizes on what we have today on NonStop as a very modern TS/MP transaction monitoring subsystem will go a long way to stir the imagination of others.

It is such due consideration that has kept NonStop alive for almost four decades with every potential for being with us for many more decades to come. From what we have seen to date and it’s just the tip of the iceberg in some respects, then NonStop may very well get to play that bigger role after all. And that’s a strategy that sits well with all of us within the NonStop community!


Keith Moore said...

Vrooom! I am Fiat lover going way back to my earliest (first purchased) car; a 1974 Fiat 124 Sport. I have driven the new 500 and it is a gas. Not all just sporty (yes, we need the Abarth version), but just like the original, it is practical, yet fun to drive.
As for our NonStop; it is practical and fun to drive, too! And now, it makes other systems "drive better", too!

Richard Buckle said...

When a friend from church arrived in a Fiat 124 Sport, shortly after he was married, that was it!

However, common sense (in Australia) over-ruled and I bought the GM Holden (yes, a Torana GTR) instead.

But looking at the new Fiats has Margo and I rethinking what we really need as a town car. YOu know, those short trips to pick up a head of lettuce and we want to test drive one when the Abarth arrives!

NonStop only needs to seel a few more, in my opinion, for the fun factor to lift a tad and with what you all are doing and "showing the way" has every chance of adding to the community's numbers! Go for it!