Thursday, July 19, 2012

SuperRUGs? Super opportunities!

For three years my assigned task as an ITUG board member was to liaise with the NonStop Regional User Groups (RUGs) and in so doing, I came to appreciate the value they provided the NonStop community. Looks like we are watching a resurgence of interest and that’s good for us all!

After only a few weeks absence from the west coast, following the highly successful HP Discover event in Las Vegas, nostalgia pulled us to Capitola for a traditional walk on the pier and a quick bite at the original Margaritaville. It was during my first years at Tandem Computers that Margo, comForte’s Brad Poole and I would head to this part of the coast just to soak in the atmosphere.  While not related to the more famous chain of Jimmy Buffett establishments of the same name, nevertheless, just being this near to the ocean and sipping a margarita made this side trip well worth the time it took to get there.

The picture of Margo above was taken from Magaritaville and captures the atmosphere well – with a line of gaudily painted stucco beach rentals clearly visible. For many years, following the ITUG events in San Jose, many participants included a short stay at this famous ocean-side village as a regular part of the itinerary. Just as for some visiting executives a day at the equally famous Pebble Beach golf course made it into their itineraries.

About an hour’s drive over the Santa Cruz mountains, depending on the traffic you encounter on highway 17, a route mind you that it needs to be driven with caution (particularly if you aren’t that familiar with the terrain), and you are immediately immersed in an environment so far removed from what you find in silicon valley. Perhaps a fitting end to what you normally experience at user events and the perfect setting to catch up on much needed rest. However, as HP continues to throw big-tent marketing events in Las Vegas, any traditions arising from end-of-events sojourns to the delightful Capitola’s Margaritaville may become nothing more than memories.

Or will they? Could a new tradition be about to develop and could there be a return to San Jose about to happen soon? It was only a short time ago that I came across a promotional piece “NonStop Boot Camp 2012 ‘Call for Papers’ is Now Open! Submit yours today!” on the LinkedIn group,
HP NonStop Tandem Professionals, that was both an early teaser for the event to be held October 14 – 16, 2012 in San Jose, as it was a call for papers / presentations. Not to be confused with the ITUG Summits of the past or even with HP’s big-tent marketing events this will be an opportunity to get really intimate with many of the NonStop subsystems so many of our applications rely upon – an opportunity to gain unprecedented hands-on experience that otherwise would be difficult to get.

“For the last several years, a ‘NonStop Only’ event has been consistently discussed in the NonStop Partner SIG.  This event request came from both customers and partners based on content and location of the big HP events,” was how Kathy Wood of BlackWood Systems, Inc. described the initial drivers propelling this initiative. “Last year, Connect and the Partner SIG received positive feedback from HP on the idea of a NonStop ‘Super RUG’ and began discussions with several U.S. RUGs for comments and affirmation of their interest in hosting such an event.  These discussions ultimately led us back to San Jose, the most likely place to receive extensive technical education requested by customers.”

Just how technical will the sessions get? “The focus of the NonStop boot camp will be technical education ranging from hour-long sessions to half-day “deep dives,” Wood explained. “While the exact content is still being worked on and may be better known as you publish your post, I can tell you that with feedback from customer class requests, the content planners anticipate meeting the educational demands of the NonStop Community.” Stepping in to help fund the event will be a number of vendors and they too will be given an opportunity to provide more in-depth education on their product offerings and this mix of HP and vendor training will surely be beneficial to all those who participate. 

RUGs! SuperRUGs! Just hearing about the work being put into this proposed event and aligning it with the RUG program should make a lot of NonStop users very happy. When I was on the board of ITUG and as part of my responsibilities as I transitioned to Chairman, it was with the strong encouragement of then-Chairman, Janice Redeer-Highleyman that I chaired the oversight of all RUGs and in the years I was associated with them I managed to find the time to visit with nearly all of them. I cannot remember the final count but by the late 2000s there were more than 30 active RUGs and the support HP provided them was outstanding. How could anyone forget a RUG meeting held in the middle of winter on a Ferry crossing the Baltic between Stockholm and Helsinki? Yes, I have done that and if you missed the comments I made at the time, you may want to revisit the post of November 20, 2007, “
I've gotto find a safe haven ...

In the time I was actively involved with RUGs I was often looking at what makes a successful RUG, and how do you maintain community interest in RUG-related activities, and after all these years I have a pretty good idea. First, it’s all about the users themselves. They just want to get together, network and share a common interest. Second, there just has to be an enthusiastic supporter in the local HP offices. And this is perhaps the most important element of all – just ask the participants at RUG meetings such as N2TUG, SunTUG, BITUG and InNUG, as I am sure much of their success is as a result of the effort put in by their local HP team. And then finally, content is important. Aligning the presentations and organizing discussion groups around the interests of the local community is just so important.

I have raised these points before and readers may recall that. However, the important element in all of this for me is that across the NonStop community the enthusiasm remains – NonStop users just enjoy getting together. Fortunately Kathy Woods and the folks helping her out with the NonStop boot camp in San Jose aren’t alone when it comes to putting on such events or in drawing on the resources of a SuperRUG. Something similar for European NonStop community will be held September 25 - 27, 2012 in Dresden, Germany.  

“The idea of having a bigger NonStop-centric event in Europe (similar, but not quite the same, as the European ITUG events of the past) was born a few years ago and it was launched on the back of a GTUG/Connect event of 2009 in Darmstadt, Germany,” was how comForte’s head of marketing, Thomas Gloerfeld, explained the origins for this event. “The event in Darmstadt was very well received by the NonStop community and the support from HP NED, NonStop vendors and partners was tremendous. Fast forward to 2012 and the next GTUG/Connect event is now less than 90 days away!”

Will the program be similar to that proposed for San Jose? In some respects yes, but in other ways I suspect it will be a little less technically-oriented than the NonStop boot-camp simply because the location will not see quite the depth of NonStop technical staff present as will be the case in San Jose. And that’s only to be expected. However, Gloerfeld was still very bullish about the content, suggesting that “there will be a number of presentations from HP senior management and the usual portfolio of vendor presentations plus a security workshop. A key note presentation by HP and a surprise keynote speaker will round off the program. A Cloud SIG is also planned.”

Gloerfeld then added “we are expecting to attract around 120 delegates from 40-50 organizations running HP NonStop systems - NonStop remains strong and this event will help to reinforce this message to the NonStop community in Europe. GTUG/Connect in Dresden provides a great forum to hear the latest from the experts – HP, vendors and fellow users alike.” Woods expressed something similar about the NonStop boot camp, adding “the goal is a continued commitment to the NonStop Community, meeting the need for technical education and training, interacting with other NonStop developers, learning about Partners and their products, and building/reinforcing the relationships that continue to keep NonStop strong.  It is our intent to continue a yearly ‘Super RUG’ based on technical education.”

Perhaps it is too early to discount the enthusiasm of the NonStop community when it comes to participation at the regional level. And perhaps the desire to learn more about the products typically found deployed on the NonStop platform hasn’t lessened through the years – supporting as many real-time mission-critical applications as it continues to do today, places a premium on good technical resources being available to NonStop customers.

For me, given the time I have been associated with RUGs, the return of these types of events is particularly pleasing to see. Perhaps it will not see a return to Capitola and side visits to restaurants, bars and golf courses, although I wouldn’t be too quick to rule that out, but it certainly is refreshing to see the spirit of the RUGs and even Super RUGs remains, thrives as strongly as it ever has, and will continue to provide the content, networking opportunities and access to HP leaders that simply makes participation at such gatherings something we all look forward to.

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