Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mountains are my friends!

Being starry-eyed, tilting at windmills and the eternal optimist are among the labels that have been bestowed upon me. But when it comes to NonStop, the right “jumps” continue to be made giving me good cause to stay the course!
I have spent much of my time working for very large organizations. From my earliest days, working at the steelworks that later became a part of the giant BHP Billiton, at Nixdorf Computers and then, much later at Tandem Computers, I always gravitated to off-beat projects. And within these large corporations working on such off-beat projects didn’t always endear me to either my colleagues or to my managers – aren’t you spending a little too much time working on that obscure feature? As for long-term career prospects, and being safely employed, I never placed too much weight on such things.

However, it has been working on these many different (mostly unheard of today) product features that have proved to be the best education I could ever have had. And it may be the foundation for the optimism that I feel today – there’s always something a little better out there and no matter how much progress we have made, there’s always more about to happen. The picture above is of the mountains, viewed from my Boulder home, where the continuous line of peaks that make up the continental divide fills the entire western horizon.

The back page of the July 21, 2012, issue of The Economist contained an obituary of Roger Payne, a British mountain climber, who tragically passed away earlier in July, engulfed in an avalanche as he led a party across Mount Maudit, a peak adjacent to the more famous Mount Blanc. The writer finished with the comments “as no one knew better than himself, there was no perfect safety in mountains. But he would not have been in any other place, for, in (the poet) Byron’s words, ‘Where rose the mountains, there to him were friends’”.

This past week I participated in one of my client’s annual sales kick-off events – three days dedicated to setting the stage for the coming year in terms of goals and expectations. What I particularly like about this client is how they were among the very first established NonStop ISVs to realize that the products they brought to market first on NonStop had much broader appeal, and that with a little extra effort they have now established a complementary marketplace that has seen essentially the same code base being used in completely new and innovative ways.

Today, the challenge for vendors that have successfully stepped into adjacent marketplaces with products initially designed for NonStop is just how much attention they must give to NonStop, and for how long? After nearly four decades contributing to IT, has the NonStop architecture run its course? As this vendors’ CIO expressed it so succinctly, “are sales really flattening out and are we seeing any signs suggesting that sales may be tapering off?” In other words, does it make business sense to pull resources away from NonStop as other marketplaces (for this vendor’s product) continue to show strength?

A clear reference to where NonStop was positioned on the traditional lifecycle “bell curve”, and a topic that has continued to be raised of late among my clients. Anxious to know more about the future of NonStop, they are a little concerned over whether the good times for NonStop were coming to an end. Just how many other products had persevered as long as NonStop and continued to be relied upon, as they are, for as many years?

The topic of lifecycles has been a reoccurring theme in my postings to this blog. In my post of December 25, 2011, “
Falling down? Ouch!”, I wrote of how I am often reminded of the cycles we witness in business – companies follow a lifecycle curve as does technology and products. The simple bell-curve most of us a familiar with reminds us that there are downward trends just as there are upward trends, and the trick for any in business is to step out of a perceived downward trend, reinvent themselves and ride a new trend upwards.

And in the much earlier post of August 14, 2009, “
A dedicated follower of fashion ...”, I went so far as to suggest that when it comes to technology, some solutions have proven to have lives that outlive the lifecycle where they first belonged. As the pendulum swings endlessly, or so it seems, between centralized and distributed computing solutions (is cloud computing nothing more than a return to centralized, once again?), I was to ask, does each swing generate a new lifecycle and are the products enjoying such long lives simply because they more adept at jumping to the new lifecycle?

It was only a few weeks earlier in the post of July 31, 2009, “Getting aligned ...”, I had observed that we just may see the development of a new product lifecycle where NonStop begins to rapidly ‘take-off’; more than compensating for any tapering we see with existing product lifecycles. I also noted how traditional product and technology lifecycles may not tell the full story, should a product be able to leap from one curve to another.

Should you tab even further back into my posts you may even come across the post of February 18, 2009, “Game changers!”, where I first raised the idea of when products successfully jump from one technology lifecycle curve to another, what may have been viewed as being close to end-of-life can suddenly become cool again when included as a new entrant riding the upswing of a new lifecycle. Could the longevity NonStop enjoys be simply a result of it having made a number of successful lifecycle jumps? Could it really be as simple as that?

And what lifecycles has NonStop successfully managed to jump to, rising each time to crest an even higher peak? In a recent post to the web publication, realtime.ir.com, “A great kick-off event; game on!”, I further looked at what was contributing to the success of NonStop (and attributed much of the success to) jumping from one market lifecycle to another, timing each jump to seamlessly transition from one that was tapering off to another one rapidly ascending – from fault tolerance to OLTP and more recently, to mission critical.

The energy I have in promoting NonStop may be less about looking at the peaks nearby than wistful thoughts about what lies beyond all that I can see. The mountains are my friends and while I am not a climber I do have some affinity with all who look for an even higher peak to conquer. Yet the visible rise and fall of each peak reinforces the natural order – these peaks belong to a continuous chain of mountains.

When it comes to NonStop I see a continuation for many years to come, as the architecture evolves in step with the ever-changing technology we see all around us, ensuring NonStop is as applicable today as it has been for these past four decades. Increasingly I am hearing stories of companies putting off planned migrations away from NonStop simply because the economics make little sense. Yes, the good times for NonStop will continue.

Downtime and outages of mission-critical applications continue to make headlines, and for many companies this continues to represent unacceptable risk. More importantly, what do you move to – as recent history at ACI Worldwide has so clearly demonstrated, companies with a history of NonStop systems supporting their mission-critical applications prefer to look for alternative NonStop solutions rather than move to another platform. Yes, the trend of declining costs of NonStop will continue, too!

There are many more technology lifecycles beyond what we see today – clouds, big data, etc. NonStop may not find a place in all of them, but the point is the opportunity to continue jumping to new ones and riding yet another wave as it crests is not beyond reasonable probability. Yes, mountains are definitely my friends and from the view I have today, there is no end in sight; whatever trend lines for NonStop we might see today might easily be shadowed by an even bigger peak just over the horizon.

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