Saturday, June 30, 2012

There are rewards ...

In the past couple of posts I first wrote of the value that comes with choice and then of how this is only warranted when there are options. In this post I move further along this path as I recognize that choosing wisely will be rewarded.

It was only a few days ago when I walked onto the showroom of the local motorcycle dealership heading to the service desk, towards the back of the shop. Our Yamaha cruiser needs a service and I wanted to check on dates and times for our next service and the picture above is of me taking a look at what needs to be done. It had been a while since I had been on this bike and I just knew it would need an oil change.  I have been walking into this shop for over a decade, but all the same, I was caught a little off-guard by just how few motorcycles they had on display – the inventory was abysmal, to say the least.

Later that same day I was making reservations for a flight to the Bay area and had entered the site of a well-known rental car agency and was providing the information that they needed one screen at a time. Sure enough, towards the end of the process, I was asked whether I had a preference in particular rewards programs, and to provide my airline loyalty number. As a frequent traveler, this was something I was only too happy to do, as over the years I had benefited greatly from narrowing my choices down to just a few options - one airline, three hotel chains and two car rental agencies. Over the years the rewards I was given certainly has lightened the load from being on the road as often as I have.

With these two observations I came to realize that having options only makes sense if there’s something to choose from, and then, too, with the right choice there can be tangible rewards – a connection I hadn’t appreciated at the time I wrote my last two posts to this blog. On June 12, 2012 I wrote “
It's still‘all about choice’!” and then on June 21, 2012 I wrote “I have options!” both posts pulling from observations I had made while preparing for, and then participating, in this year’s HP Discover event. I find it inescapable that facing any purchase I want to make sure I go with the best option, but then I want it to reward me in some fashion.

In Formula One (F1) racing it’s hard for the casual viewer to keep up with the rules, and watching a television broadcast can only add to the confusion when the commentators begin to discuss how these rules should be interpreted. This year there’s been a change of tire manufacturer with regulations about which tires the F1 teams can use - when it’s a dry day, with no possibility of rain, F1 teams have to pick a harder “primary tire” as well as a softer “option tire”, and during the course of the race they need to make use of both of them.

Forced into racing with the primary and optional tires, such as we see with F1 racing, brings me back to our perception of value that comes with making the right choice, and in having the “option tire” the sense that we may be better rewarded should we make the right choice. Nowhere is this becoming more apparent than when it comes to matching the right resources with the mix and volume of transactions we are processing; the challenge of truly understanding which transactions can be left to be processed on a less dependable platform versus those which have to have absolutely reliable platforms!

Of course, this is all a reference to the deeper penetration by Windows and Linux into mission-critical processing within the enterprise. If the highly competitive heavy-lifting transaction processing is being performed on the primary NonStop, shouldn’t we all know when to switch to Linux, for instance? When we need to add resources, even just temporarily, can low-value transaction spill over to Linux? Is the risk in so doing mitigated in any way with the enterprise benefiting from the outcome? Or are the temporary benefits simply not worth it?

In each of the previous two posts I wrote of how in pursuing the strategy, as it is doing today, HP’s belief that providing more to choose from and with less lock-in is in the best interests of all of HPs customers. To this I added in the most recent post that with the vendors stepping up and providing many more options, the course that HP is following is being validated emphatically. We do have choice, and there are plenty of options available, but what of the rewards? Surely, enterprises that understand the need for the “option tire”, and choose wisely, should be rewarded with greater market-share!

For the NonStop community, perhaps the biggest reward is in lower costs. As long as I can recall, NonStop systems were sized to handle peaks and enterprises paid the price to do this; but do we truly need all the capabilities of NonStop all the time? Do we really need to treat all transactions equally and must we deploy NonStop systems that for most of their life, remain underutilized? Many years ago the highly-skilled technicians at Sabre implemented what became the “look-to-book” model and offloaded less valuable transactions to Linux and MySQL; could this model become more affordable for all within the NonStop community, from off-the-shelf solutions?

It was in the post of July 24, 2011 “
Nostalgia;comfortable and seductive! And yet …where I first raised the prospect of NonStop, 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, where traffic peaks unexpectedly. Even among the NonStop community, as we all witnessed as Bank of America provided and update (and an insight) as to what they are doing with BASE24 running on NonStop.

Availability will be an issue, but even here, enterprise managers are working on addressing this. As BCS head, Martin Fink, highlighted for me in that post of July 24, 2012 “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.” Yes, clouds will be a utility to be treated no differently from any other utility we depend upon.

Overlooked in many of the discussions about clouds, private and public, is that for many enterprises some semblance of cloud computing has started to emerge. Forget the debates about what should be inside the cloud, or whether SaaS will gain a stronger footing with enterprise managers than either IaaS or PaaS. What’s really the sweetener for many enterprise managers is the “extensibility of provisioning” afforded by clouds, and these enterprises are all off happily building their own collection of resources accessible by even the hardiest of mission-critical systems.

As for the rewards, no longer will sizing NonStop servers in support of mission-critical applications to handle peak workloads, such as “black Friday”, prove as expensive as it may once have been as NonStop servers can now be sized to support just normal, daily workloads. For a number of enterprises these savings could be huge. When it comes to making choices, the NonStop community does indeed have options and with the right option chosen, the rewards will be sizeable and recognizable across the industry.

I was able to get the Yamaha ride-able but surprise, it still would require a trip back to the motorcycle shop for it to be completely fixed. This time, I wasn’t tempted to buy another motorcycle as I crossed the showroom floor this weekend. Had I been, I would have been disappointed with the choice on hand. Fortunately, for the NonStop community this is not the case, and already the rewards that will follow making the right choice are becoming evident.

With so much focus on removing as many costs as possible from the NonStop server, perhaps the choice of offloading peak workloads will prove every bit as rewarding as all the steps taken to date. Ultimately, just having the option of clouds will be all the reward many in the NonStop community will ever need.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I have options!


It’s great to be able to choose, but if there are few options available, it may not prove wise. Fortunately, when it comes to NonStop, the community has come to appreciate the greater product diversity now on offer …

I have always liked to keep my options open. In today’s economy, I suspect, I will have few detractors as after all nothing seems guaranteed and there’s every chance that plans we initiate, full of confidence as is so often the case, will change and having options is important. Even though it’s now mid-June, what transpired at HP Discover remains fresh in my mind and one of the lasting impressions I have held onto is of the importance of really understanding all that is on offer today.

In the last post I wrote of how I participated at this year’s event as a guest of HP, as a member of the blogging community. However, in the lead-up to the event and following an exchange with the Connect leadership, I volunteered to lead the new Cloud SIG. Clouds? The NonStop community is aware of the potential sea-change ahead, but in the interim continues to benefit from variety of solutions and barely a quarter goes by without hearing about new investments being made in support of the NonStop platform. In practically every forum where I participate, the cry continues to be “where are the solutions for NonStop?” The short answer is that while the focus may only be on a select number of mission-critical markets, there are now many more options available than I have seen for many years.

Options certainly weren’t restricted to products when it came to HP Discover, and perhaps what transpired Tuesday afternoon through to the wee hours of Wednesday morning is a case in point.  As Thursday afternoon wound down, I dropped in on the presentation by Pulse on their recent implementation of their real-time fraud architecture. In so doing I had the pleasure of sitting alongside of Chris Lawless and Simon Whitworth of Oracle GoldenGate. Now that Oracle has elected to allow the GoldenGate team to continue working on new releases for Itanium, it was good to see that back with the community – and yes, Pulse deployed more GoldenGate software with their latest system expansion.

However, during that period where the future of GoldenGate’s support of Itanium was unclear, additional products surfaced among them new products from Attunity. While not contemplating a full frontal attack on GoldenGate, nevertheless, time away from the NonStop community had left GoldenGate exposed to new competitors.

“GoldenGate became the natural choice in the NonStop market but that changed with the Oracle acquisition,” said Vice President, Business Development and Corporate Strategy, Itamar Ankorion, observing that “it became clear that there was a marketplace for an alternate product offering.” Attunity may be the latest company to step into the replication market and perhaps more vendors will follow suit, but attracting new products helps adds weight to the reality that developing new products for the NonStop community holds merit. With GoldenGate’s renewed interest in Itanium, and in NonStop, this may in fact turn out to be a catalyst encouraging even greater diversity in solution offerings.

Following the presentation by Pulse, the early evening at HP Discover kicked-off in earnest. There was the expected cocktail hour where Margo and I were joined by Neil Pringle, head of NonStop sales in EMEA, and as is always the case when spending time with Neil, small talk quickly gave way to how we could help Neil sell more NonStop! And uLinga was making impressive headway against more established products like SNAX and ICE and Neil was fully aware of this turn of events.

There was little time to let the conversation develop any further as it was time for dinner with the team from comForte where CEO, Dr. Michael Rossbach, was hosting a good size gathering of the NonStop community. Unfortunately Margo and I had to make our excuses before comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, gave a brief overview – as Thomas was to spend the following week at our home in Boulder the comForte team was gracious enough to allow us a timely exit from the dinner.

The NonStop community is well aware of the sea-changes underway. It’s not just Clouds but it’s also the pursuit of Converged Infrastructure and now HP’s Project Odyssey – NonStop is a firm player within the scope of HP’s Business Critical System (BCS) and it was hard to miss the many references made to NonStop throughout the presentations provided. As noted in previous posts, when it came time for BCS’s Martin Fink to provide an update he brought with him a panel and the only user participating was US Foods, a large, committed NonStop user.

At the heart of these programs is firstly, to ensure crucial hardware across the platforms central to running mission-critical applications use as many standard components as they can and indeed, in time, become one and the same for a select number of OSs, and then, leverage these mission-critical properties across Windows and Linux that as of now don’t quite make the grade (supporting mission-critical applications) for most enterprises.

The penultimate event Tuesday evening was perhaps the most enjoyable; OmniPayments CEO, Yash Kapadia, extended invitations to a select group to join him at a performance by Cirque du Soleil “Viva Elvis”. This gave me an opportunity to catch Yash for a short exchange on what he had been doing and about what he thought of HP Discover. I have provided commentary in other posts on the success OmniPayments has recently enjoyed when it displaced BASE24 at one of the top five American banks, enabling that financial institution to pull the plug on further usage of ACI’s flagship product.

“I have been to so many HP user and customer events over the years as I always find them a real opportunity to connect with customers and prospects alike, but with so much negativity surrounding HP these days I was curious to see how HP would respond,” Yash quickly iterated before adding “but having talked to HP executives and managers, customers and prospects, I must admit I am now a little more upbeat about HP’s prospects in the markets we pursue.”

As for any further comment on the success at the bank where OmniPayments displaced BASE24, Yash was quite forthcoming, suggesting “we expect the work we have done at one of America’s largest banks to be duplicated very soon and already we have a number of discussions under way. It’s always nice to get a major win, such as this behind you, and what we have learnt about migrating banks’ ATM networks off of BASE24 and onto our own product gives us confidence to handle any other potential migrations no matter how large.”

Returning to his earlier observation, as we turned to enter the theater, Yash then added of how “we have worked closely with HP for many years and appreciate all the help that they have provided. Yes, HP has been associated with a lot of negativity in the press of late but when it comes to actually working with real customers, they provide a lot of hands-on support that is hard to find anywhere else.”

The Tuesday evening of this year’s HP Discover finally came to a close, quietly, with a final round of drinks. Whether it is products like GoldenGate, SNAX and ICE, or even major platforms such as BASE24, the NonStop community now has viable options. I closed my last post with the observation that, in pursuing the strategy as it is doing today, HP’s belief that providing more to choose from and with less lock-in was in the best interests of all of HPs customers and it would seem as though HP, in this respect, is heading down the right path.

With the vendors stepping up and providing many more options, that the course that HP is following is being validated emphatically. No matter the sea-changes under way I too, like OmniPayments’ Yash Kapadia, have to admit that I am every bit as upbeat about HP’s prospects, and the future of NonStop.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's still "all about choice"!

This year’s HP Discover event was well attended and HP left no stone unturned when it came to spelling out its vision, strategy and in providing supporting roadmaps; little room for ambiguity remains when it comes to NonStop!  
My attendance at this year’s HP Discover event in Las Vegas had been “in the works” for many months, but the timing and logistics weren’t finalized till the very last moment. This year there were no weddings to get in the way, but before HP Discover, Pyalla Technologies and Margo had to participate in two back-to-back events in Nashville and we wanted to squeeze in a track event at Willow Springs over the holiday weekend and to catch up friends we hadn’t seen for quite some time.

The upshot was that we were left with a very quick turn-around period in Boulder – flying back to Denver on a Wednesday afternoon before loading up the RV that night, including hooking up the trailer with the track car aboard, and then heading out on a 1,000 mile road trip to Rosamond, California. As for HP Discover, the week after, the original plan had been to base ourselves south of the Las Vegas “strip” in an RV park and use the track car to commute to the venue, but when the offer arrived from HP to join them as a part of the blogging community that included a nice, air-conditioned room in the Venetian, we jumped at the opportunity!

The picture above is of me checking messages while in the Bloggers Lounge, an area set aside for the blogging community attending the event as guests of HP (and yes, I am wearing the Fools for NonStop T Shirt). And there’s not enough I can write about the terrific support HP extended to all bloggers – our own facilities, meals and most importantly, through specially arranged “coffee talks” access to many HP executives, where lively Q and A sessions developed. And yes, Ric Lewis and Randy Meyer were on hand to help “educate” my fellow bloggers – of the twenty plus bloggers invited, I was the only one representing the Business Critical Systems (BCS) community, so seeing Ric and Randy warm to a community more than well represented by those interested in PCs, Printers and Storage products was “highly educational” to watch! As for my situation representing BCS I want to particularly thank Quinn Fisher, ESSN Marketing “evangelist”, for all things Web and Social Media based.

Readers by now will be well aware of the seven posts I made to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View, but if you haven’t checked them out already, I would encourage you to take a look – they were written at the time keynote addresses were either about to kick-off or just after they finished and represent my thoughts at the time. Other posts reflecting my observations about the event were also just posted to the comForte Lounge blog site – check out “Familiar territory …”, and shortly there will be additional commentary posted to the web publication, realtime.ir.com

However, with all of this fresh in my mind, it’s probably good to take one more look at the opening paragraph in my previous post to this blog. At that time, and as I looked forward to the event, I included a reference to what HP NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) Product Management head, Randy Meyer, had said to me two years ago when the theme of modernization (of NonStop) was the hot item and where there were many references made to just how much work had been done to ensure NonStop was more closely aligned with other programs HP’s BCS were pursuing – greater exploitation of commodity components and improved support of open software. And now, two years later, what was promised has been achieved and NonStop is enjoying greater visibility within all that BCS projects.

It started out this year with comments made by Dave Donatelli, Executive VP and General Manager, Enterprise Group (formerly ESS&N), when he outlined the support by ESSN for Cloud computing – Clouds? Donatelli asked, “Think of consistency, choice and confidence." Consistency? Donatelli then explained, “Think of common architecture, portability, and consumption – that is, you can consume any way you want!” As for Choice? Donatelli then drove home the message of HP’s pursuit of “Open, Heterogeneity, and Extensibility.” Finally, as for Confidence? Here Donatelli talked of “Security, Manageability, and Automation”

When it comes to popular cloud offerings, Donatelli went on to add, then consider the “dictatorial ‘lock-in architectures’ being presented whereas (what you will hear from HP) everything being built is to open standards where you can move at will – (and) we will be good enough to earn your business!” if I am seeing just one key attribute when it comes to considering the deployment of clouds, it is choice, as the technology is so new and there’s so much change afoot, anything that “smells” of lock-in has to be avoided at all costs. We have come so quickly from client/server models to the internet to Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 that with the coming of clouds, we need to walk oh, so cautiously, as this is just the very beginning. Decisions we make today could so quickly isolate us from so much goodness the potential of clouds is already beginning to offer – embrace choice!

For me, one of the highlights was when, joined by other members of the blogging community, we were able to join Ric and Randy, as mentioned earlier in this post, for a coffee talk. Of course, the talk opened with a brief background anecdote on the early history of Tandem and Compaq as those participating were not up to speed on the early days of Tandem. But the more Ric, and then Randy, filled in the pieces, the more those present were impressed.

Apart from asking what more the NonStop team at HP could be doing to increase market awareness, including perhaps featuring a disco ball rotating above each NonStop system, as was suggested at one point, this group of predominately Windows and Linux scribes were taken back by just how widespread deployment of NonStop has become. Again, “if you have made a phone call or used a credit card or visited a hospital, you have likely used NonStop,” Randy began. “We look at the applications running on NonStop and our real customer today is our customer’s customer,” Randy then added before explaining “with so much choice, any application not available simply means our customer’s customers will go elsewhere.”

“Technology? And just how modern?” Randy asked at one point. “You may have known us as Tandem – then we have changed. We have moved to standards – same blades, storage and manageability as you will find present in other BCS product lines but here on NonStop, inheriting ‘Tandem fundamentals’; so yes, if you knew us as Tandem, then it’s now all modern.” Then came a question, “When you moved to commodity, did you lose anything?”

Ric and Randy were in tune with the response “Yes, historically, Tandem defined the architecture and there have been many changes to the underlying technology over the years, but the architecture has been retained. Even as we continue to redefine servers, (as Donatelli had already stated) and yes, there’s a long roadmap for Itanium in place (a key part of NED Product Manager’s, Mark Pollans, NonStop hardware roadmap presentation), these fundamentals are still as strongly supported as they ever have been.”

When the invitation arrived to join the blogging community as HP’s guest, and to enjoy the comforts of an air conditioned hotel, it was a choice I didn’t take without due consideration. As I had the RV in Las Vegas, I was tempted to pass up on the offer. Fortunately, I didn’t, and checked in to the Venetian – after spending the weekend in the RV when desert temperatures climbed past 100 degrees and where the dual 15,000 btu’s A/C units struggled to bring the RV’s inside temperature down to the high 80 degrees, the choice we made seemed to have been the right one.

And increasingly, in pursuing the strategy as it is today, HP’s belief that providing more to choose from and less lock-in, it would seem as though HP is on the right path. In having done as much modernization as it has done these past two years, NonStop continues to be an integral part of the vision that this strategy is supporting – yes it is still all about choice and from what I observed at HP Discover first-hand, the choice of NonStop remains without peer when it comes to supporting mission-critical applications, and for those within the NonStop community depending upon NonStop, it seems that here too, we have all made the right choice.