Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Someone say, Road-Trip!

When it comes to getting jobs, is my generation any different to Millennials and Gen Y – and will NonStop remain important even to this younger generation?

This year, I have enjoyed a little more time off than usual and the downtime has been much needed. That’s not to say I have been working less, but where I have been working from has been on the move – the RV, now the company command center, is fully operational. Road-trip! With replicated networking services, portable printers, and an array of laptops, tablets and smartphones, the company has been firing on all cylinders even as we have covered a lot of miles.

While not strictly a vacation, it did allow Margo and me to enjoy the July 4th holiday alongside a lake in Minnesota (the picture above is of the company command center as close to the edge of the lake as I was prepared to drive the RV). Being lakeside afforded me ample time to read many of the discussions active on LinkedIn and it was hard to miss the many laments from my generation as they sought fruitful employment in IT. Within the NonStop community there are many who want to continue, but the competitive pressures seem overwhelming at time. I am not referring to the impact made a decade ago with offshoring but rather, today, as we see much of our core skills looking less and less attractive to today’s CIOs.

Reading the comments posted to these discussions led me to the more sobering thought of just how different Millennials, or Generation Y, people are from previous generations and of the problem they are creating for employers and marketeers alike. Imagine a generation that doesn’t like to get up off the couch all that often, preferring to do everything from the comfort of their room, via a laptop, or tablet, or simply from their smartphone. Road-trip? Just another chance to catch up on sleep or to read a book. C’mon – enjoy the view. Not!

For the most part, Millennials are very different, exhibiting no passion for cars of any type, preferring to accept “boxes on wheels” when they absolutely have to buy something to get around – for them, the spirit of “road-trip” has long lost any prospect of being something they enjoy! Perhaps the truth is really how different older generations are from them – so much of what I enjoy today makes little sense to people brought up in a world as heavily networked as it is, and where being online isn’t a case of watching paper tape spooling onto the floor as information flowed into a data centre (at barely 300bps). Punch cards? Are they collectables featuring ancient pugilists?

Nowhere is the interests of Millennials proving to be more of a challenge (to cater for) than to financial institutions and for the NonStop community, this could bring about some serious changes to the way we interface with Millennials and the generations that follow them.

In the December 20, 2012, post to ATMmarketplace.com Hey buddy! Can you spare a dime? I wrote of how, according to an article in the December 4, 2012, edition of USA Today, Video ATMs let customers interact remotely, journalist Hadley Malcolm writes, “Your bank teller could soon be coming to you through a 30-inch flat screen.” Malcolm then goes on to tell us that, “In an age where more customers, particularly Millennials, prefer to bank online, banks are looking for ways to keep branches relevant while reducing costs.”

Already finding few incentives to get up and leave the couch, Millennials are going to have financial institutions come to them? About this demographic I recently wrote of how it’s far too early to be talking tradition, they do seem to be at odds with conventional wisdom. In the July 5, 2012, issue of ZDNET, the feature
Survey: 'Millennial’s' see future with cashless transactions quoted Paul Jung, head of Visa's e-commerce division across Asia-Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa as stating, “The ubiquity of the Internet and mobile technology are helping to make electronic payment an intrinsic part of a Millennial's purchasing behavior. [There is] a long future for mobile phone and other device-based payments as more people, especially Millennials, adopt electronic payments around the world.”

In my days, we all went to work; picked up our pay in cash, in small envelopes, every two weeks; we stood in line to deposit a small portion of it in a savings account – a stamp in a passbook advising all and sundry just of how wealthy we were. But would I have been any less anxious to join the workforce if I didn’t have an association between working and my physical pay packet stuffed with cash? Would I have opted to “hang out all day” if I could derive an income directly from my laptop and if transactions completed even as I sipped a cappuccino? Rewarding myself with a chocolate brownie every time I succeeded in doing anything at all? More than likely! The browser has opened the door to a different way of working – for all I know, these very same Millennials sipping lattes could be hard at work.

The more I thought about it, in my day I probably would have preferred to work this way – perhaps Millennials are on to something, after all. When I look at my fellow professionals working with NonStop I read so many instances of their lament over there being not enough work when so often it is work that is no longer required. It’s no fault of anyone really; what we describe as work continues to change with each technology advancement. And yet, I see in their comments so much that are in common with the very same Millennials I fret about.

In a comment published in the July 10, 2013, edition of The Sydney Morning Herald, Wake up to the workforce reality, Gen Y Millennial, Ed Livesey, openly confessed of how, as a generation, “We have finished university, have experience through internships and applied for copious jobs but don't have one … Welcome to the real world. We, Ys, as a generation, are so used to getting what we want when we want that anything less is perceived as a personal insult … The simple truth is that Gen Y wants a chocolate for every task. We are soft, having been spoon-fed and are unwilling to fight for what we want. Where has the ethic of hard work gone?”

 
Going even further, Livesey adds, “We as a generation have become too comfortable with sitting back and waiting for things to happen. I'm guilty of it. I had a day off the other day and the most productive thing I achieved was paying my overdue phone bill.” All the while financial institutions talk of bringing the teller to them, rolling out easier ways for them to transact whatever business it is that they conduct. In the comfort of their couches, even as they watch cricket being televised from half way around the planet, or build virtual worlds, we reach out to them even when it’s only to help them pay their phone bills. No, Millennials are no different from my demographic it’s just that they offer far greater potential to employers.

The very tools many Millennials have mastered (and that remain alien to so many within the NonStop community) are those required today to bring greater life to NonStop systems, given the chance. Java, SQL, TCP/IP, HTML – these are all well known to Millennials and equip them to be a lot more productive than I ever was when I entered IT. Marketeers may think they still have much to do to get Millennials engaged and financial institutions probably are going to have even more hoops to jump through before they have it all figured out.

However, CIOs have little to fear, and unfortunately, my generation is going to find itself remaining on the outer, equipped with tools too few companies need. Buried within the comments on LinkedIn are instances where members of my generation did retrain on Java, SQL, TCP/IP, HTML, etc. but with mixed results; perhaps we do need to add more hours on the couch to truly think the way Millennials do before we regain the productivity we once had. And the clock just keeps on winding down …  

Bringing the teller to where Millennials sit may just be the starting point. But what cannot be overlooked, even as generations change, is that the NonStop core values are every bit as important as they have ever been. Millennials click even faster to what’s working than any previous generation and they are considerably more savvy about accessing information, recognizing all too quickly poorly designed interfaces from another time that ask them to keep on entering the same data with every interaction.

The key just turned in the Nissan as we start our drive to Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas; business calls once again. Yes, I am very different from the Millennials but perhaps that’s more “me bad” than anything else. Perhaps the real world is theirs after all, and what I am familiar with just a poor, out-dated, shadow of what used to be of value. All I know for sure is that even as my colleagues struggle to find their next job, Millennials everywhere are getting up off their couches, even if it’s slowly at first, and are proving every bit as capable as we ever were – more so to many CIOs - and that’s a lot to think about on this next road trip! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How do you know what will make your product fly?


We came back from a particularly lovely dinner, having been invited to celebrate the birthday of our friend Gabi, who is the wife of comForte’s Executive VP of Sales, Dieter Orlowski.
It was a dinner to remember; we said, “Oh, deer!” so many times … As the restaurant is situated on a top of a hill in Boulder, there are always deer coming by, young and old. The photo below is of a deer that came really close.

On our way home we talked about partnerships and about product success – what makes a product fly?

As Infrasoft was forming, we had a lot of discussions on what will be the “next big thing”.  Strong in networking, it was only natural to gravitate to products related to networks. Thinking of what to name our product, we chose uLinga, which means “to fly” in Australia’s Aboriginal language.
When we first planned the uLinga product suite we thought that a new capability to more directly interface with CICS and IMS would be welcome in the marketplace. Preserving APIs on both the IBM and NonStop systems, but connecting via TCP/IP (with its proven security protection) and with minimal to no code change (depending on the CICS release) required.
However, the sales force wanted a that could compete with ACI’s ICE and HP’s SNAX … so, yes, we built it, and now we have a dozen or so uLinga users, all of them replacing ICE and SNAX.

Yet it was particularly pleasing to see uLinga for CICS product going into production.  The customer was close-by to the Australian offices of Infrasoft so that made supporting the installation a lot easier – with the product still in its infancy, just like a fawn, it needs a lot of attention at first.

Why did the customer need it? Well, for better security! Yes, there is an ICE HPR and a uLinga for EE implementation, but they depend upon UDP/IP and need IPSec, whereas our uLinga for CICS (and IMS) uses regular TCP/IP and can be secured by SSL!
We knew our product would be superior to other implementations. After all, the Sydney Team has well over 100 years of combined experience, and since we built the product from ground zero we had a chance to do it right by making all the right infrastructure decisions.

Indeed, creating a solid infrastructure that is reusable proved to be very helpful when it came to creating our newest product, maRunga. Yes, keeping with the theme, we chose another Aboriginal word. This one means cloud, very appropriate considering maRunga is the product that allows NonStop to participate in the cloud story – maRunga allows applications to burst into the cloud without losing NonStop’s provided reliability and taking the scalability to a new level!

And true, what makes uLinga fly is also making maRunga fly, too! Since current talk of maRunga includes support of NonStop as a gateway, who can say there will not be users taking advantage of both uLinga and maRunga.
So, what other than the name makes a product fly? I think having the right, supportable implementation from the “get go”, and understanding the current or imminent need in the marketplace. Having an open dialog with the Sales teams and being open to NIH ideas doesn’t hurt, either!



Friday, July 19, 2013

Are our wishes still important?


When was the last time you really wished NonStop systems would do something different? Support something extra? Or simply wished you knew more about its future? The third anniversary of “my three wishes for NonStop” is only seven months away …

This past weekend saw me yet again at a car track. This time, it was a return visit to High Plains Raceway (HPR), just outside Denver, and arguable our home track. Readers of my social blog may recall in the most recent post, Getting much needed seat time – but will it be enough? I backed our Corvette into the wall at Sonoma and messed it up. Fortunately, it’s all sorted out now and we were able to enjoy our time at the track.

That evening came the word that Saturday would see me taking an instructor on track who would then approve me for a higher group – something I have wished forever since taking up the sport. Then again, I was reminded of the need to be careful about what we wish for in case our wishes come true – there are always some new responsibilities that come along for the ride. Yes, as a Group 3 member I can now take passengers for a ride and, as you see in the picture above, it is one heck of a responsibility!

“You have only three wishes!” Or, as Disney’s Genie said to Aladdin, “Three wishes to be exact, and ixnay on the wishing for more wishes! That's it. Three. Uno, dos, tres! No substitutions, exchanges or refunds!” For many within the HP community, hearing that HP would be focused on Mobility, Clouds and Big Data came awfully close to fulfilling the most-requested wishes of CIOs worldwide. Had Aladdin had insight into technology, I wonder what would have crossed his mind.

Much that accompanies the annual HP Discover event has a touch of Disney about it. Perhaps one day, a developer will drop a dome over all of Las Vegas, air-condition it all, rename it as THE Adult Theme Park, and then sell the lot to Disney. I have always wondered whether we were witnessing a natural cycle in play – the “3 Ms”; from Mob control to Millionaire control to Mickey (Mouse) control. I haven’t really checked, but I wonder if there isn’t some sort of bell curve that tracks the lifecycle of such places. If there were such cycles, I can only wish that the air conditioning aspect gets fast-tracked.

What provided the reality check, of course, were the ubiquitous lanyards and badges displayed throughout the venue. However, when it comes to having three wishes, most attendees would have used up most of them to find a quiet place to catch their breath and escape the noise. Perhaps that’s just me, and it’s all an age issue – the Bloggers Lounge that HP provides each year, I have to admit, does a really good job at meeting this need. As for networking, once again, this mandated many trips to the Grand Lux Cafes at each end of the establishment.

It was over a second breakfast one morning, with Gary Allen of HP Marketing, formerly, the Business Critical Systems (BCS) group, although with organization shuffles continuing, I am no longer sure what it’s called. Gary replaced well-known marketing head, Steve Saltwick, and so it was my first chance to get to know him - in the end I wish we both could have found a little more time. I believe Gary comes from Digital but even so, his appreciation for NonStop was inescapable. All looks positive for the NonStop community with Gary now involved. After a follow-up phone call, I began thinking once more about what I would wish for when it comes to NonStop.

In February, 2008, I wrote my first post on this topic, 'My Wish' for NS Blades. Three years later, in February, 2011, I wrote my second post, Three years on, and three more wishes! It is only another seven months before I write my third post, but this time, I thought I would get a bit of a head start and begin to look at what I would like to see developed. However, before doing so, it’s probably a good idea to see how my earlier wishes have panned out.

In the post of February, 2011, I revisited my initial three wishes. The first wish being for HP BCS to deliver “Shared Infrastructure Blades” – a single, common, sharable blade (with perhaps InfiniBand for the fabric). The second wish was for the NonStop operating system, NSK, to be customer-configurable, perhaps even supported atop a hypervisor - customers could easily reconfigure the BladeSystem to support as many or as few NonStop processors as their applications required.

As for the third wish, I pushed the envelope really hard as I wished that HP could provide an API, such that a workload management tool could automatically reconfigure processors on the fly as transaction mixes dictated.

When I looked back at these wishes, I rated myself only a little better than 50%, giving myself a B+ as Blades did appear and HP did demo a hybrid enclosure (with SuperDome 2) but as I observed later, perhaps (when you look at) all three (wishes), it’s going to depend on how solutions providers weigh the value of a hybrid platform and whether there’s a competitive edge for them as a result.

In the post of February, 2011, I made three new wishes. The first wish was pretty much a carry-over from three years earlier as I persisted with the idea of a commoditized blade package; without a doubt, a standard interconnect technology for all blades packages seemed a certainty. The second wish was a little different this time around as I speculated that one or more NonStop systems could be shipping within every platform – hiding what lies behind it under a veil of superior availability, scalability and data integrity / security.

However, it was my third wish that still has me thinking - this time around, I wrote, I wish for greater cooperation (between NonStop, and) solutions and middleware vendors. Before saying more and with only seven months to go, how am I rating myself this time? At the very least, a B+ again. If you throw Moonshot into the mix (of products from HP) and can see far enough ahead, then this should boost my ratings considerably. And NonStop is cooperating much better with the ISV community than it has for many years, a truly encouraging development.

What I am wishing for now is for something a little different and yet, I have written about it several times in the past. Firstly, I would like to see a lot more pride in NonStop visible across many more organizations within HP – it’s a really good product. Seriously! Furthermore, it’s left its legacy label a long time ago. Secondly, I want to revisit hybrid computing and repackage it as NonStop with coprocessor “satellites” – too often, the word hybrid conjures up additional complexity along with a manageability nightmare. Finally, and yes, I still have seven months to go, mind you, what about a super-aggressive Clouds program with NonStop and TS/MP (Pathway) at its heart.

Nevertheless, as already noted, we do need to be careful about what we wish for in case it comes true and when it comes to NonStop, are we ready to deal with a NonStop system that becomes the centerpiece of HP’s Enterprise Group? Are we ready for prime time and all that comes with such visibility and what else comes along for the ride? Let’s just give it another seven months before I have anything further to add! And if there’ something you’re wishing for, let me know!