Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Distributed grills and scattered data!

There continues to be new products coming to market and for the NonStop community, when it includes the NonStop server, this is good to hear – investments being made in NonStop by parties apart from HP is definitely a topic that’s always well received!
I love to grill! I love to cook in general, but I really like to grill. While I am the junior partner in our household when it comes to cooking, as soon as there’s any talk of barbecues I am the first one to head to the butchers to pick up the meat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, as being an Australian it is all part of our heritage.

When it came time to landscape my house in Sydney and to hollow out a couple of terraces it was only natural to erect a brick retaining wall, and yes, within a bend of the wall a multi-grill barbecue was installed. And there were many opportunities to entertain the NonStop community – during the very first training session involving Tandem personnel from all over the world working on NonStop NET/MASTER it was only natural that there would be a barbecue at the house!

I am only ever one flight of stairs away from a barbecue in my home in Boulder, Colorado. The kitchen has a range in which, naturally, there’s a separate grilling rack. Outside, in the backyard by the pool, I insisted we build an outdoor kitchen with another grill - pretty much a duplicate of the one in the kitchen – surrounded by a walk up bar and this has been put to good use through the years with several ITUG Board and committee meetings held at the house.

But given the nature of the climate in Colorado, yet a third grilling area was established as we wanted an indoor “outdoor barbecue” be set up within the basement’s walkout area. And it’s proved every bit as popular as the outside, “summer only”, facility! The picture at the top of this post is of the outside barbecue and readers may recall other photos taken of this summer retreat showing it covered by a deep blanket of snow – check out the post of December 25th, 2011, Falling down? Ouch!

There were times when I took my love of the grill into the office – when Tandem Computers product managers were in building 4, Bill Heil arranged for a social gathering for all of product management and their friends in marketing and development and I grilled on the deck outside our second floor offices – not just the usual mix of hamburger patties and sausages, but a little lamb along with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers - the wafting smoke across the car parks was hard to miss. And then of course, Friday afternoons in the Tandem offices in Sydney would always feature a grill and I was never too far away.

These days, I am just one phone call away from any number of vendors I have as clients. The access may not always be as simple as traversing just a single flight of stairs, but with the option for Skype, WebEx, GoToMeetings, the ease of access is comparable. And while I am not carrying a tray of meat and vegetables, I am never too far away from my keyboard and writing pad. For the moment, I am enjoying a brief interlude as I have just completed a new opinion’s paper on “Why more corporations today depend on HP Integrity NonStop mission-critical servers!” for HP and I’m in the review cycle on a white paper on data integration for Attunity, a well-known software provider for enabling organizations to access data when and where it is needed.

The opinions paper for HP should be available for downloading from the HP web site and I will likely cover the highlights in an upcoming post – likely the very next one you will see posted. As for the Attunity white paper, I expect that to be wrapped up and available even as you are reading this post. But in both cases, the need to write these papers gave me a terrific opportunity to get a lot closed to customers and partners alike. In the research connected with both papers, I came across much that interested me and aroused my curiosity, but it was the observations about CIOs and the difficult times ahead (for many of them) that struck a chord.

In the post already referenced, “, “Falling down? Ouch! ” I wrote of how not all pursuits produce the results anticipated, and increasingly the role of CIOs, as I heard recently, is becoming less involved in technology and products and more involved in people, physical structures and security and with helping keep the business whole during increasingly uncertain times. As I cook I can sympathize here - there are times when I grilled up something that turned out to have little connection with what I had originally planned to cook.

But what really I was highlighting was how CIOs continue to move further away from the technology resources everyone else in a company may think that they are familiar with and are getting more engaged with the actual running of the business. In the white paper I am writing for Attunity (revisiting the topic of data replication and its role in data integration) I came across a special feature in the February 25th, 2010, issue of The Economist where correspondent, Kenneth Cukier, had been interviewed by other journalists from the magazine.

“CIOs have become somewhat more prominent in the executive suite, and a new kind of professional has emerged, the data scientist, who combines the skills of software programmer, statistician and storyteller/artist to extract the nuggets of gold hidden under mountains of data,” Cukier explained to the other journalists. Deeper into the special feature, even more was revealed about the CIOs and the expectation of them having skills as statisticians when Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, expressed it a little differently, predicting “that the job of statistician will become the ‘sexiest’ around. Data,” Varian then explained, “are widely available; what is scarce is the ability to extract wisdom from them.”

Storyteller/artist? Statistician? Extracting wisdom from the data? Fortunately, in the list of attributes there is still some reference back to software, but the earlier references I made to CIOs helping keep the business whole during increasingly uncertain times still holds true I suspect – company CEOs will expect them to have contingency plans for all situations, and that the data, feeding all that makes up business intelligence (BI) these days and the analytics that is a part of BI, remains accessible to all within the company looking for competitive edges.

In the post of January 30th, 2008, “CIOs? Relevancy?”, I wrote of how in good times, and in bad, CIOs will always have a list of strategic initiatives being pursued. The only difference will be the depth of the list – in bad times the list will be a lot shorter with perhaps only three of four projects making the cut. And it should come as no surprise to any vendor that the tendency, in bad times, is to stay with the incumbents and avoid all risk-taking. Then again, this was written very early in 2008.

However, does that continue to make any sense all these years later? With the financial meltdown triggered late that year CIOs were counted on to help sort it all out and whether storytellers or statisticians, sticking with the same plot and avoiding risk taking didn’t look to be the way out – continuing to do what they had done, as the adage acknowledges, will only produce similar results. Attunity is now bringing something new to market in Attunity Replicate and CIOs will now be presented with even greater choice when it comes to better integrating data – will they be inclined to take a look?

My love of the barbecue led to me distributing grills throughout the house – inside and out. No matter the prevailing conditions, the heat of summer or the cold of winter. It mattered little; I could still keep on grilling. I could take my tray of meat up or down a flight of stairs and have access to a grill no matter what.

And data, and the way it has become scattered around a company, can it be as easily accessed when it has to be? That Attunity has elected to provide support for NonStop is a big plus and one I am pleased to see, of course, but the work still needs to be done to achieve the type of company-product stickiness all vendors look for; will CIOs stick with what they have or will they check their options?

There will always be difficulties ahead for new products and vendors are I’m under no illusion as to the difficulties that come with launching something new and yet the cyclical nature of our industry assures their message will be heard. However, having written this I think they have all the ingredients that they need, on the tray, and grills are out there, beckoning!

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