Sunday, November 18, 2012

Different approaches …

Changes in direction at a familiar road course, as well as in the executive team at HP together with how markets are approached all called for taking a different approach. And yet, changes are what we must do if we are to compete effectively.

This past weekend saw Margo and me at the track, a road circuit outside the village of Buttonwillow, California, all weekend, firstly as mechanic for Margo on Saturday as she participated in four sessions, and then as driver on Sunday for another four sessions. This was our last outing of the year, and it will be another five months before the Vette gets to “stretch its wheels” once again. The photo above is of “Team Pyalla” setting up camp, trackside, as light was fading Friday afternoon.

The circuit was created to support various configurations to keep everyone on their toes, but it featured a number of corners from famous circuits and for years has proved to be a popular location for testing and even magazine car reviews. However, for this weekend, we would be facing the longest of the configurations, course #1, but instead of traversing it clockwise, as is normal for this venue, the organizers elected to run it counterclockwise. In the days leading up to the event I had watched film on YouTube, and then on Saturday I had ridden as a passenger in a similar car to what I would be driving, and yet, when I first went on track Sunday morning, it just didn’t come together for me. I needed to try something different so I arranged for a more experienced driver, but with the same car as we had, to participate in my next session and we would run a couple of laps lead-follow style, with first him leading and then me. All it took was a couple of laps and I finally came to terms with the circuit. The different approach paying almost immediate dividends and the time on track become far more enjoyable.

It would be hard for me to ignore the recent changes within HP, particularly as it has a direct impact on all within the NonStop community. Last week we all read of how Martin Fink had been elevated to CTO, HP, and Director, HP Labs. Martin is just so well known within the NonStop community, having led NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) for several years before taking on the bigger task of heading all of Business Critical Systems (BCS). I am still to read anything official about who replaces Martin as head of BCS but early information I am getting is that recently recruited head of NED, Ric Lewis, is moving up to take over – again, another significant move for all who follow NonStop.

Martin will surely bring a different approach to the role of CTO – from the very first time I met Martin (when I was ITUG Chairman) it was hard to miss his enthusiasm of keen technical mind. He liked to build things and that was very obvious to all who talked to him. That he enjoyed being around the NonStop community as much as he did spoke volumes about just how highly he thought of the NonStop system and he has stayed very close to the team throughout his time as head of BCS. But it’s not just the anchoring in NonStop that will likely see a different approach being taken – it’s also his passion for Linux, as well. If not more so than his enthusiasm for NonStop, and I can well imagine a future where the intellectual property of NonStop is more universally leveraged by Linux programs, and possibly in ways we can’t even imagine at this time.

Pursuing a different approach is also proving beneficial at Opsol. While on our way to Buttonwillow we had the good fortune to catch up with Opsol CEO, Yash Kapadia. In my last post I had quoted Yash briefly, but sharing a coffee with him proved opportune. Yash had only flown back from Mexico a day or so earlier where he had been working with a client and where he had met with some success. Ever since that fateful time when ACI Worldwide announced to the NonStop community that it’s BASE24 platform allegiances would change and no longer center on NonStop but on IBM Mainframes, the activity of solutions vendors escalated. ElectraCard Systems scored a big win as State Bank of India, Lusis Payments won Bankserv in South Africa and the OmniPayments business unit of Opsol won big at a top tier American bank.

And from what I can tell, there are more wins in the offering about which I am hopeful to hear a lot more shortly. However, the story of Opsol is one that reflects too on just how the path to overnight success can take many years and often involves several transitions. From a consulting company to a services provider to a product company, Opsol has used its time in the marketplace to hone the necessary skills to truly understand the needs of financial institutions, and in doing so, has built very strong connections to HP NonStop development and field sales and solutions architects. In marketplaces all around the Pacific Rim the capabilities of Opsol are very well known.
Two topics we covered with Yash stuck in my mind however. In a move that will surely be emulated by other in the coming months, Opsol will be among the first solutions vendors that I know of, who takes full advantage of the more competitively priced NS2100 NonStop system to move an application running on a combination of Linux and My SQL to NonStop and SQL/MX – about which I will be writing a lot more in the new year. As for the other topic, it was about replacing a feature of BASE24 with a much lower maintenance alternative that was more aggressively value priced.

“For many customers having access to the source code proved beneficial,” Yash explained. “But then again, pursuing a lot of changes within the source code, particularly when there may have been simpler steps taken, such as working with configuration files, has led to considerable expense being born by these customers when it comes time to upgrade. Certainly, ACI is only too willing to help out and the services revenues being generated within ACI bear testament to just how expensive some upgrades have proved to be. We have ensured our own payments platform, written in Java and exploiting SQL, is modular enough that features can be lifted from our product and plugged right into ACI’s product.”

As an indication as to how flexible the OmniPayments product is, one such BASE24 user has now completely replaced the Authorization, or “Auth”, module of BASE24 with the OmniPayments equivalent, reducing the sizeable expense bill the customer was facing to something more manageable in the short term, but just as importantly, giving the customer a more modern feature that will be much easier to customize going forward. “In relying on industry standard languages and tools, even when it comes to NonStop, makes recruiting and retaining applications staff a much simpler and easier task to accomplish and the customer benefits almost immediately,” Yash told us as he explained the benefits that came with taking a different approach to this marketplace.

My time on track benefited almost immediately from close proximity to a highly skilled driver more familiar with the environment and all that needed to be done to get around the circuit quickly. I was able to observe where braking was required and where to position the car on entry into the critical high-speed turns. Talking to Yash, I gained the sense that building his product business on top of their consulting and services foundations, where they had gained years of experience alongside the people working closest to products, now allows him to move easily between features – plugging in his feature as needed and when appropriate – is going to see his company become even more prominent in the payments platform marketplace.

Different approaches may not always be the thing to do at the time nor are they always immediately recognized as an obvious next step to take. However, for those who have the foresight and perseverance to recognize problem solving can benefit in pursuing something entirely different there’s benefits to be gained. Over coffee with Yash, this quickly became so obvious that I can only imagine that there’s even more news coming from Yash shortly that will prove every bit as interesting and topical for all within the NonStop community.  

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