Thursday, March 28, 2013

Anticipate Change …

As much as we all anticipate warmer weather to arrive so too does the NonStop community anticipate change. But let’s be careful about the advice coming from friends …

Each time I think I am making a final reference to winter, along comes a storm to remind us all living here, in North America, that we have ways to go before warm weather arrives. Driving back to Colorado, following another week visiting with colleagues and friends in northern California, we were caught up in yet another winter blast where driving proved difficult. While there are many heading south for Spring Break, a ritual I still don’t fully understand, we are not among them and the only view we have is of snow-clad trees.

But change is on the way. I get the sense that readers of this blog share only a passing interest in what is happening here in Boulder, but are far more interested in observations about the changing nature of NonStop systems and how this is reflected in changes appearing across the NonStop community. Expressed as simply as I can, the big users of NonStop systems are getting bigger as a result of transaction volumes continuing to grow, even as the smaller to mid-size users of NonStop are passing on opportunities to further invest in NonStop.

In a parody of what we are seeing across society in general, the middle class is evaporating even as we watch those more fortunate becoming even better off. In an early March, 2013, CNN interview by Piers Morgan of American record producer and one time CEO of the RCA Music Group, Clive Davis, observations made about staying on top of the recording industry rang very true for me. Having overseen the career development of the likes of Aretha Franklin
, Rod Stewart, Alicia Keys, Carlos Santana, Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis and Jennifer Hudson, Davis told Piers Morgan that his advice to up and coming record producers was to “Stay on top of the game; don’t get rooted into one era or kind of music. You must anticipate change.”

Perhaps the most overlooked attribute of the NonStop system remains its scalability. Even as the individual power of the processors climbs and the number of cores grows the NonStop stack, as integral part of all that constitutes a NonStop system caters for expansion in ways few other systems can match. And it does so with only minimal impact to the cost of key middleware and infrastructure software – anyone who has seriously considered running a Windows or Linux Cluster and then tries to add Oracle into the mix knows full well the financial hit they will take. And they still have to redesign the application and even the way they interface to the database to make it work effectively.

Friends in the industry continue to relate how the human resources required to run such a solution quickly becomes prohibitively costly and they still don’t have anything near the scalability they expected. In fact, they are anticipating further changes to the implementation to prove even more expensive, should the deployed application become successful across their user community. Modern, state-of-the-art solutions in use today should scale effectively and efficiently without destabilizing all that is in place.

I am a regular reader of the Rust Report, an Australian publication produced by a business colleague and someone I continue to call a friend, Len Rust. Over the decades that I have known Len, who at one time was the VP, Asia Pacific, for the industry analyst powerhouse, IDC, his insights and commentary have proved uncannily accurate. “SimCorp StrategyLab, (a) private research institution sponsored by SimCorp and headed by Ingo Walter, Professor at the Stern School of Business, New York University, Len writes, “has released the results of its Global Investment Management Cost of Operations Survey.” 

At the heart of this article is the premise we have heard many times before that firms “running legacy systems need to spend more in maintenance costs versus state-of-the-art systems that can scale and adjust with growth.” And that, according to Professor Walter, “For any business, knowing the critical value of maintaining systems versus investing in state-of-the-art technology for future growth is imperative.” Clearly, a key attribute of a state-of-the-art system is its ability to scale and to handle future growth.

How many of us view our NonStop systems today as state-of-the-art? How many of us are evangelical in our praise of NonStop to senior managers and executives within our companies? And yet we should have no difficulties doing so – clearly, NonStop is as state-of-the-art as any alternate system offering. It’s an oversimplification of course, but when you look at the steps made in exploiting commodity hardware, the work being done to ensure a highly competitive future for NS SQL and the ease with which solutions vendors are porting Java solutions to NonStop, there’s very little left of the former legacy Tandem Computer.

Friendships are always valuable and we often pride ourselves on just how many good friends we have. However, there is a much darker side of course. We all know the adage “with friends like you, who needs enemies”, just as we know that it was the Chinese general and strategist who stated “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Closer to home, there’s a Boulder T Shirt shop that once printed a number of T Shirts that simply stated “*%!@ Off, I have enough friends!” Within IT, and particularly within the NonStop community, I think we all need to be really sure we know who our friends are and the value to place on the advice.

Again, as succinctly expressed as I can make it, how comfortable are we today with our state-of-the–art NonStop systems and just how much encouragement are we providing colleagues and friends that yes, NonStop can do that and yes, NonStop has the headroom (the disk, the protocols, whatever) to easily accommodate that new product you were contemplating bringing to market.

There’s no question that the arrival of Clouds has many of us thinking about the benefits of embracing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model. After all, our friends are all telling us how cost effective these are. Low-value transactions, CPU intense applications, prototyping and even piloting can all take advantage of Clouds and there’s much I am involved with to make this a reality for many NonStop users. But don’t discard NonStop too quickly and don’t ignore what NonStop provides today.

“You must anticipate change.” Not to forget, the “state-of-the-art systems that can scale and adjust with growth” that change inevitably brings (when done right). Among those vendors I count as clients, none of this is lost on them – NonStop continues to remain among the most attractive platforms that they support. Ever so subtly, messages coming from them of late have changed from “with one code base we support Linux, or Windows, or whatever” to “we support open systems including the new NonStop systems!”

I truly hope that this is the last time I include a winter photo taken outside our home. Even as I write this post, the skies have cleared. As seasons change, as they always do, I look for even more reasons as to why changes being made to NonStop can be appreciated – and in much the same way we welcome the warmer weather we welcome all that NonStop provides today. Most of all, don’t just appreciate it but anticipate change as yes, as we can all relate to, there’s a lot more radio stations than just classic rewinds!    

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