Friday, September 20, 2013

Impassable? Bridges will be built …

Once again, it’s all about user groups and the benefits they provide. I continue to support them as I see few alternatives when it comes to better understanding their passion for all things NonStop!

It is a common observation of mine, and coming as it does so soon into my eight year of blogging, it should not come as a surprise to anyone. I like participating in NonStop regional user group meetings, and this week I have the privilege of participating in the CTUG fall event. The turnout was encouraging and the engagement amongst the user group’s stakeholders was hard to miss. As Randy Meyer, HP VP and GM of Integrity Servers observed in his opening remarks, “If you want to see an example of how to run user group events, then you only need to visit CTUG!”

HP Canada Sales VP, Roger Walker, who was clearly excited by the prospects of NonStop, rattled off numbers that surprised many in the audience. It’s not only hard to ignore how engaged the user group’s stakeholders were, but ignoring the contribution NonStop is making to the overall performance of the Integrity Servers group proved even more difficult! I took the picture above as the day’s event wound down and the stakeholders gathered to enjoy wine and cheese, and one further chance to network.

When it comes to what has been hard to ignore of late then it is probably all right to mention the tough time our home town of Boulder, Colorado, has experienced. For several weeks, Margo and I had been planning to drive to Mississauga for CTUG, but in the days before our scheduled departure the heavens opened and the creeks and streams that flow down the many canyons that surround Boulder became torrents that overwhelmed the infrastructure in a matter of hours. Roads became impassable as bridges were swept away and low-lying areas turned into lakes. We accelerated our plans to leave Sunday and as soon as we found a way out, with a bridge still standing, while driving the nearby roads, Saturday morning, we returned to throw clothes into bags and get out of Boulder as quickly as we could.

Four days later, we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel in Canada and in almost no time, caught up with other vendors as they gathered in the hotel lobby. What immediately struck me was how the make-up of the vendor community has remained consistent over the years – yes, some of those getting a heads start on networking had worked for different vendors at one point, but they remained as enthusiastic about NonStop as they had always been. The knowledge of NonStop shared by this group had to be priceless as, irrespective of the products and solutions they were promoting, together this group had pretty much seen it all.

More to the point, when it comes to knowledge of NonStop, there is now a serious repository of in-depth knowledge within the vendor community to where, in some product areas, they likely have more real world practical experience than can be found inside of HP. Not to say HP doesn’t have the talent, but from necessity, the knowledge of NonStop inside HP is tightly focused whereas vendors spend a lot more time at the coal face and simply are exposed to more varied environments than anyone else. These vendors also never really get a second chance so they have to be always at the top of their game.

I have been around user groups for as long as I care to recall. For several years, my responsibility as an ITUG Director had been to support the Regional User Groups (RUGs). Today, they are called Chapters within the Connect Community but to me, they will always be RUGs and given the opportunity (and an invitation), I will do everything in my power to ensure I can participate. Of late, some of you may have noticed, I cannot always make it to all the RUG events I should support, but I continue to try and when the planets align, and days free up on my calendar, I jump right in. From my perspective, the day RUGs will attract no stakeholders, it will be the time to ride off into the sunset and “call it a day”.

The singular, most important, aspect of RUG events as far as I am concerned is the feedback from users about how they are using their NonStop systems. Yes, Financial Institutions (FIs) and Telecommunications companies (Telcos) continue to represent 65% of the NonStop user community, but the remaining 35% is what interests me these days. According to Randy Meyer, this group includes European Auto Manufacturers that I know, from personal experience, includes companies like Mercedes Benz, Audi, Porsche as well as Peugeot / Citroen. Who knew Steelworks need NonStop and again, and I know of several that do.

Rail ticketing? Again, whether you are in the UK, Germany, Japan or parts of the U.S. the ticket you buy (particularly when you purchase online) will involve NonStop. Entertainment? Yes, you want to purchase a pay-per-view in the U.S. so you can watch a fight or see a concert, then depending upon the carrier there is a NonStop involved. Car Rentals? Yes, that is covered too. When there are solutions involving interaction with customers, availability remains as important as it ever has. For those planning on attending the NonStop Boot Camp in November, there will be some serious discussions on who all runs NonStop and for many, not only might it prove illuminating but possibly the highlight of the event.

This is not to gloss over situations where NonStop has lost ground. It would be hard to have a discussion on NonStop today without some lamenting over the loss of NonStop presence in stock exchanges. Yes, you can do almost anything with Windows, we know, but it is not always as smooth sailing as some would like it to be. The number of times stock exchanges have suffered from embarrassing and costly outages following the implementation of a solution on a Windows platform hasn’t gone unnoticed by either the exchanges or the sales teams that have worked with them in the past – while I have nothing concrete to offer at this time, it’s not unreasonable to believe that NonStop sales teams have already begun chipping away at potential opportunities.

A very large Australian bank elected to replace NonStop with Windows a decade ago or so– and witnessed the full weight of Microsoft and Dell brought to bear on the migration. However, to no avail – eventually, they gave up and returned to NonStop. An acquisition that needed the bank to scale to size even bigger than initially projected proved the final nail in the Windows coffin – so no, not everything is lost forever. I would not be surprised to read headlines next year of at least one exchange partially returning to NonStop perhaps in a variation of the look-to-book hybrid NonStop / Linux configuration a major travel operator successfully implemented a few years back.

No roads remain blocked forever. Even as the water recedes from Boulder, the size of the task (to rebuild) takes shape – but eventually, enough of the infrastructure will be fixed for arterial roads to be passable. Building bridges will prove time consuming but it will happen. Much the same can be said about industries that once championed NonStop only to bring in commodity products – eventually, their infrastructure too will prove fragile and require considerable effort to correct. Making it reliable once more could be so much easier with the presence of NonStop!

Moreover, this is where RUG events hold the potential key – reinforcing the message that among the Fortune 500, there remain many companies deploying modern solutions on NonStop. Simply talking about such use case scenarios over a glass of wine, with a little cheese, is one of the best ways to get the message out there – you never know who may hear you. In addition, you never know when it may strike a chord and trigger a deeper exchange.

As I returned to the road to drive the return leg back to Boulder, I was struck by just how much information was shared at CTUG and how strong a presence HP provided; although it helps, of course, it’s really not just about the wine and cheese. As with Boulder and its infrastructure, bridges continue to be built among the users of NonStop systems. The chance to hear something new taking place involving NonStop is what keeps me coming back to RUG events and I am sure it’s the reason too why so many other NonStop stakeholders return as well.

1 comment:

Allison Barrett said...

Richard,
I follow your blog as I do some contract work within the Tandem/NonStop industry and your posts have been quite informative. I am also from Boulder but currently live in Hawaii, so it is always nice to read your posts and see little glimpses of the Rocky Mountains within them. I wanted to reach out and tell you that I hope you, your family and your home are safe and sound after all the catastrophic rain & flooding that has hit the Boulder area. Thanks for the NonStop insight and a "Real Time View" of our front range home. Cheers - Allison