Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Time to cut the cord …

The NonStop community may not be aware of changes within the Telco industry other than they consume a lot of NonStop servers. But it would appear that the appetite for NonStop at these Telco’s is only going to get bigger!

It’s only been a short few years that Margo and I have been working for ourselves, but right from the outset I was pleased with much earlier provisions I had made for such an eventuality. While the house was being framed and we talked of adding wiring for a whole-house music system that pulled tracks from a massive 200 CD carrousel, it was pointed out how beneficial it would be to wire the house in support of multiple phone lines.

The picture above is of me alongside the cabinets that were eventually installed to support the distribution of video as well as audio, as well as to house a digital PABX in support of four lines and twelve handsets. That all occurred more than ten years ago, and when we returned to take up fulltime residence once more in our home, it was Margo who was first to point out that now, all these years later, we were living in a museum!

No, we have no distributed audio throughout the house, as one-by-one the home audio amps failed and they were units no longer being manufactured. The CD carrousel is a relic and it would be much simpler if we could connect to satellite radio or even through a PC to something like Pandora where we could play music directly off our own custom playlists. As for television, who knew that every satellite receiver could be configured with DVR support inexpensively which greatly simplify their operation – no more running to a central wiring closet to check whether it’s recording or not. Much simpler to just have a receiver beneath each television set.

Did I also mention I found WebTV receivers still plugged into the wiring closet? Yes Margo was right – we do have a museum and working through it, “modernizing” the house, will not prove inexpensive so somehow it’s just dropped down the list of priorities to where sometime, later this year, we will work towards setting a timetable, with an appropriate budget. All the while allowing us to continue with running our business without any disruptions to the services we provide. But of course, and it certainly was remarkable foresight on my part to insist on all those phone lines. Right?

Well perhaps not. Turning the (electronic) pages of USA Today this morning, on my iPad, I came across the story “State laws let telephone companies end land-line services”. According to the reporter, Adam Sylvain, “first it was the street-corner phone booths and home delivery of telephone books. Now, land lines are on their way to becoming part of American telecommunications history.” Behind it all, Sylvain wrote was how “phone companies including AT&T say deregulating land-line phone service will increase competition and allow carriers to invest in better technology rather than expand a dying service.”

At one point during the construction of our home Margo and I walked in on the company wiring the house for phones, the intercom and internet access, audio and television distribution, security including cameras as well as interfaces into every light switch for possible future control system support, and the fire suppression system, and we saw some multiple hundreds of wires making up the 24“ by 8” wiring “harness” – with redundancy, we were told, resulting in only a few wires short of a thousand. All for what purpose? Sure, if termites ate all the wood in the house there would be no worries, there was enough cable in place to hold the house together!

Modernization of today’s homes has resulted in nearly everything being distributed, apart from power, but I am guessing only for a little while longer, wirelessly. With much greater use of commodity components than just a decade ago. All of which is beginning to sound all too familiar to anyone with an interest in the server marketplace. Former VP and GM of NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) and Mission Critical Business Solutions, HP, Winston Prather, in his farewell editorial in the March – April, 2012, issue of The Connection remarked “the products have evolved to keep up with the times: modern hardware, open standards and development environments. And we have done it while continuing to do what we do best: helping our customer deliver on their business commitments.”

In the USA Today story Sylvain includes a quote from a spokesman for AT&T, suggesting that the various bills before state legislatures, “levels the playing field for traditional land-line providers in a competitive environment. Relief of these (current) restrictions encourages additional investment in the new technologies that customers are demanding.” An investment that for those of us close to NonStop translates into a lot more NonStop servers being purchased.

In recent conversations with BCS marketing and NED product management there was scarce need to downplay the significance of this for NED – the arrival of 4G networks across America represents a whole new era for telephone companies; mobile carriers along with the traditional land-line providers were all switching from antiquated voice-grade infrastructure, over which data had been passing for the past couple of decades, to modern data-grade infrastructure that would be carrying voice. A complete reversal of how phone networks have been deployed since Alexander Bell first deployed his earliest handset. Out with copper and in with optics and wireless.

Behind it all it is increasingly the domain where NonStop servers excel. Getting public access to exactly how many NonStop servers are being deployed is difficult as phone companies are reluctant to acknowledge which vendors are involved, but figuring it out is pretty easy to do – just check the NonStop vendor community for the frequent, strategically placed, phone company logos in the PowerPoint presentations.

And we all have become familiar with the fact that nary a text message moves in America without passing through at least one NonStop server! Perhaps, more importantly, the HP OpenCall HLR application, based on the NonStop server (the computer of choice for businesses, such as phone companies, requiring the ultimate in reliability and data integrity, according to one HP data sheet I read), almost universal deployed within phone company networks, is also a clue to just how popular NonStop has become in this marketplace.

“The great thing about licensing software to phone companies,” one former colleague in sales suggested at a sales kick-off I attended a few years back, “is that the deals can be measured in telephone number size number of digits. Including the area codes!” Perhaps a bit of a stretch but recalling my time with Insession Technologies, this wasn’t all that far off the mark. If you really want to know where all the action is taking place when it comes to upgrades to running NonStop on blades, you can’t ignore what is happening across the Telco marketplace.

Our daughter, Anna, recently married and in her home she and her new husband, Erich, have no use for landlines – they rely solely on their mobile phone operator. This is not a trend that is showing any signs of lessening and according to the closing comments in USA Today, “as of last June, nearly 32% of U.S. households were wireless only, according to CTIA - The Wireless Association, up from 10.5% in 2006.” While I am not quite there yet, once we sort out our priorities and come up with a budget, I suspect we will head down the same path.

The wiring closet we have in the house was selected as it had the capacity to expand to accommodate all the additional stuff we were expecting to accumulate. All that may change, however, in the coming year as the “museum” begins to be disassembled. I will probably hang on to that CD carrousel only because I am short on space for storing 200 CDs, but then again, if I had the time, I could probably duplicate it all on Pandora. Perhaps, with a little diligence and equal amounts of prudence, I could even free up enough shelf space to add a few NonStop blades myself. Now there’s a thought - let me make a couple of quick calls, on my mobile, of course!

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