Saturday, June 29, 2013

It’s running on NonStop – I didn’t know that!

HP Discover is still having an impact on what news items I am covering. However, one presentation did stand out – just how diverse the deployments of NonStop systems has become - and we should all make it our business to know!

There was a time when most vendor presentations to prospects’ CIOs were populated with customer case studies – nothing sells a product better than solid testimonials from Fortune 500 companies. However, so much has changed in recent times, and corporations have become loathe to be associated with vendors, viewing any such support as de facto endorsements and that’s baggage that they do not need. All we seem to get these days is the generic reference to a “large bank”, a “regional Telco”, or a “well-known retailer”.

At this year’s HP Discover there were several high profile customer case studies involving the likes of Nationwide, FOX, United Airlines and NASCAR. Sound bites from their presentations, as video clips, made it into several of the HP keynote speeches including that of HP CEO, Meg Whitman. However, when it comes to NonStop, there was little visibility – these users might have had NonStop systems deployed, but the focus of these customer presentations was on products that were new and that pushed servers to one side.

The picture above is of the entrance hallway that led to the exhibition hall. Clearly visible and easy to read (even in this small photo): “It’s time to build a better enterprise. Together.” For me, this could only be illustrated with examples of what others have done that has led them to believe that they now have the better enterprise. And here’s the issue I have with this – can a vendor as large as HP (with as broad a product portfolio as it has), build a better enterprise with only generic references to customers with whom they have partnered? Do they have to do a lot more, despite the best efforts of the customers themselves? Surely we have a very pressing need to know as we will be making a very big investment!

Behind closed doors, I am certain, HP is no different from any other vendor – details of a specific customer installation will be revealed at some point. So, imagine my pleasant surprise when reviewing early emails I found that Wendy Bartlett would be giving a presentation “NonStop solutions: beyond financial services and Telco”. I had been invited to a special briefing session for customers from Asia – Pacific Japan (AP-J) and among the presentations I was given, as a preview, was this presentation by Wendy.

“When is it okay for your business to be unavailable to your customers?” An often-repeated question that has worked its way into the start of numerous presentations by the HP NonStop team for some time now, but increasingly, in today’s always connected, always on, world too many of us have been dumbing down our expectations and simply shrugging our shoulders whenever we are plagued by an outage.

Wendy’s slide deck, headlining with “Businesses that need to be continuously available are running on HP NonStop,” quickly segues to verticals - transportation, retail, entertainment, manufacturing, services. I once proposed a story line that hit all these verticals and it went something like this. A businessman in Germany drops of his car at the manufacturing plant for special service (yes, you can still do that with some auto manufacturers in Europe), buys a rail ticket to Frankfurt where he catches a flight to New York where he is to follow up on a recent shipment that he had made.

In New York, he doesn’t feel that well and checks into a nearby major clinic and watches television while he waits. He searches the list of stations coming to him via satellite before he locates a soccer match in Germany. After his medical check-up returns nothing (could have been the shrimp on the flight), he rents a car, and heads to the wharves to see about his shipment only to find it was transshipped in Hamburg and went to Singapore by mistake. Texting his office, and then messaging his office in Singapore he straightens it all out – and heads back to Germany where he takes the train back to where he had dropped off his car and then heads home.

There are many more embellishments here but you can see that mentioned here are a lot of companies, from auto manufacturers, like Mercedes Benz, to the German Railways to the Mayo Clinic in new York, to DirecTV, to Hertz, to the Port of Singapore Authority. For any NonStop user who has attended a regional user group meeting during the past couple of years, all of these names have come up at one time or another. Some of these companies, who are all NonStop users, I referenced in an opinion paper written on this very topic that HP continues to promote on their web site – Why more corporations today depend on HP Integrity Nonstop mission-critical servers

Wendy’s presentation talks about NonStop systems in support of sales orders, reservations, distribution, auto rental, shopping experience, POS, entertainment programming, ticketing, banking, inventory control, billing, production, shipping analytics, scheduling and historical data – all applications running today on NonStop. Many of these tasks are supported by bespoke applications developed in-house or together with consultants. However, many more are supported by applications or tools designed to rapidly generate code (e.g. CAGen that has now been ported to NonStop).

Today, NonStop is not only involved in our nation’s ports, but in managing our planes, trains and automobiles. Furthermore, and increasingly more important as our dependence on mobile devices continues to climb, impacting many of these verticals – online and mobile access to applications, that in turn interact with other systems anywhere on the planet, has become normal and expected way to go about our daily lives.

Being able to openly talk about who is doing what in which vertical is becoming increasingly important – it’s as if the “silent majority” politicians bemoan for their lack of engagement are alive and well inside everyone’s IT department. Certainly, legislative changes of the past decade that have tried to level the playing field when it comes to information sharing have triggered serious unintended consequences. I can’t believe any of the legislators involved realized that the byproduct of their act(s) would be stopping people from sharing stories about the technology that works best for them. It seems that the only open channel remaining is the blogosphere – where did you see that news item? In a blog …

The very nature of social media as a less-than-trusted source has brought about unintended consequences as well. Corporations just don’t take seriously anything they read in a blog – about their competitors, their industry or even themselves. Blogs have become a global insider and that is impossible to legislate as the genie has definitely no intentions of ever going back inside the bottle. And the NonStop community has a forum where just about any question to do with what someone has heard about a specific use case scenario can be learnt with a couple of simple keystrokes.

Let’s build a better enterprise; together – well, irrespective of who we turn to for information, we most definitely have the tools to go dig. Where generic answers may narrow down our search criteria, they no longer have to be as bland as they always appear to be. If  an Australian newspaper publishes something about a big, national bank – well, there’s only four of them and a simple Google search will get you what you need to know with just a few clicks.

 As I have learnt of late, associations and user groups have become the biggest (and sometimes only) source for information about what truly is going on inside some large corporations – it’s simply amazing how much a corporation provides to such groups should an executive be tapped to speak!

Key takeaways from Wendy’s presentation? “We eliminate the risk and cost of downtime; we continue to expand our footprint beyond payments and communication”, and if you missed HP Discover 2013 you need to know of companies committed to NonStop and to find out more, you need to launch a few searches. Each country where NonStop has a presence seems to have at least one nontraditional use case reference and when combined they represent a wealth of experience in some very interesting marketplaces.

There are many more than a thousand active NonStop users out there on the planet and a quarter of them are doing things that might surprise you. There’s just no way today to prevent it all from being revealed! Likewise, there’s just no way anyone in the NonStop community should be surprised with what they discover. Just rip off a couple of judicious clicks … and let us all know what you find out!

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