Monday, December 9, 2013

Give the people what they want …

There is still much that can be learnt checking social media posts and commentaries as well as web sites – but doing nothing is not really an option in the informed world we all belong to …

At this time of year, driving on roads paved with ice in extremely cold conditions, the lowest sustained cold spell in decades even by Colorado standards, has reinforced the notion that it’s never good to have something between your vehicles tires and the road surface. Each year, as winter descends, we see it; students, new to the local university, driving Jeep AWDs looking astonished as they find themselves in the ditch with everyone else. Aside from fitting metal-studded tires, there’s really no safe way to negotiate ice.

There are occasions when we take advantage of friction, and there are times, too, when it’s best left alone. When we drive, the amount of grip our car develops is commensurate with the amount of friction we generate between our tires and the road, and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, when we sail, the drag we encounter from friction created as our vessel’s hull displaces water, is a bad thing. Everyone watching the recent Americas Cup challenge may remember that the competitors sailed on yachts designed with foils that raised the yachts out of the water to eliminate as much drag as possible; avoiding contact with the water was a way out for these high-tech yachts.

In general, friction too is something we tend to avoid in our daily lives. In the December 16, 2013, issue of Time magazine columnist, Joel Stein, wrote of 2013 as being the year of not trying too hard. “Remember 2012, with all that running for President, jumping out of the stratosphere to break the speed of sound, watching a 2 ½ hour movie about Lincoln negotiating for congressional votes, and pretending to understand the Higgs boson? All that trying so hard,” asked Stein. “This year, we learned a lesson. This year, we took it easy: 2013 was the year of not trying too hard.”

One way to avoid friction is to do nothing whatsoever, and Stein broaches that topic for Time readers. Stein ended his column by suggesting that, “Maybe, for 2014, we should just take a nice, long nap”. In winter conditions, such as I am experiencing right now, I can just as easily stay at home; I don’t have to venture out onto the highways. Friction can be so easily avoided. However, when it comes to the NonStop community there’s no escaping that one topic above all else generates friction – NonStop systems cost too much! No matter how you present the value proposition that NonStop provides there’s still arguments being made that NonStop remains an expensive purchase, but is that still true?

Scrolling down the ATMmarketplace web site – a publication where I am a blogger – I read an article based on an interview with Diebold Inc. Executive VP and Chief Innovation Officer, Frank Natoli. Under the headline of ATM innovation: Give the people what they want an argument was given by Natoli that “Any system, any process that stands on its own, that requires you to transfer information you know, or get from another channel – all those things are friction.” And he’s right, of course. Check with anyone in the NonStop community who has been asked to explain why they still support NonStop as a solution in support of mission critical applications, and why less-expensive solutions haven’t been introduced?”

Anyone not familiar with just how much energy the NonStop community has when it comes to justifying NonStop in support of certain applications need look no further than the discussion on the LinkedIn group, Tandem User Group, Hi, Why tandem Technology has used in all Banking areas, why not Mainframe. Is there possibility for migrating Tandem to any other new Technologies. Passions rose quickly when the subject embraced costs, with perhaps the best response coming from former ITUG board member, Joe Ramos, who reiterated how he “would throw in cost savings on a Tandem Enterprise vs. and IBM Enterprise. Cost drivers HW/SW, infrastructure, and personnel. No one does it better or cheaper. The reason why HP Nonstop owns the electronic transaction business is due to availability, UPTIME, and cost.”

The above discussion proved long lasting and extremely volatile with arguments pro and con bandied about with abandon. Few participants were prepared to remain quiet and do nothing when it came to discussing whether NonStop was still expensive. In prior years I had the opportunity to talk to current users on this very topic and through introductions provided by HP I also interviewed HP users running Linux, Unix and Windows (LUW) solutions. Two papers were produced and both are available for download from the HP web site. The findings were also covered in a number of blog postings here and elsewhere. To find these papers, check out these links:

I am revisiting these papers as a result of an inquiry from a real NonStop user who knew little of their existence. Checking further on his behalf, as well as with other users, I became aware that they have dropped down the list of opinion papers and research notes and few know where to find them. However, these papers remain every bit as relevant today as they have ever been – and the numbers have improved significantly since I did the initial crunching. No, there wasn’t the NB56000c and no, there wasn’t the NS2100. And no, HP had as yet not announced plans for NonStop to support the Intel x86 architecture. It’s as if new chapters are being written by HP on a predictable basis now, and we need to communicate that every one of these chapters is good news.

When I last wrote about these latest systems in the post, By the numbers … Looking at the new NB56000c I quoted  Yash Kapadia, CEO, OmniPayments Inc. when he said “we have seen a marked uptick of interest in OmniPayments when we were first able to talk about the new entry-level NonStop system, the NS2100. Having everything in the one box, as I noted last year, at an affordable price is the most important number of all – the additional performance is great but it’s still all about price/performance and I hope HP keeps an eye on the overall bottom line!” There’s no friction here whatsoever as far as Yash is concerned. It’s simply cheaper to put an OmniPayments solution into the marketplace running on NonStop than on equivalently sized LUW cluster solutions.

That’s right, out of the box, a NonStop system in support of a mission-critical solution costs less today on NonStop than a similarly configured system running a stack that includes a popular SQL offering such as Oracle. Knowing Yash the way I do, and the markets in which he operates, it’s not surprising to see how aggressive Yash has become about pricing his OmniPayments solution; and he is not alone – other payments solutions providers are now following suite. Perhaps the myth about high prices can be traced back to the early success of ACI where competitive pricing took a back seat for many years!

For more about real world experience download the paper on Pulse, written following its decision to go with NonStop in support of a new application. Pulse also had a new business opportunity where the alternatives had included adding to the IBM mainframe or building out the Unix / Oracle infrastructure. Instead, NonStop won, on cost. “In addition to high availability and scalability, the HP Integrity NonStop BladeSystem environment reduces our overhead costs and our system complexity while delivering a cost point for transaction processing that meets the requirements of our business model,” according to Tony Zeis, Senior Vice President of Switch Technology, PULSE.

For more, download the paper from the HP web site:

And I am sure HP will direct any of us to even more stories on the subject of costs, should we ask.

Furthermore, out of the box, NonStop systems are meeting the needs of the CIOs charged with the oversight of the mission-critical solutions deployed on NonStop. HP has done a wonderful job staying engaged with these CIOs and responding to their requirements. First came the move to commodity chips, then commodity storage followed by support of multiple industry standard and open interfaces making development of new products easier. And now, the final piece of this jigsaw – planned support of Intel x86 architecture. By my count, this is definitely a positive reinforcement of just how closely connected to CIOs HP continues to be – and that’s a message more of us need to communicate to our peers.  

Avoiding friction is easier said than done. In our everyday lives, it seems impossible to escape friction however when it comes to NonStop and the topic of pricing, it’s not a time to do nothing. It’s not a time to simply take a holiday and to take it easy. That’s exactly what competitors to NonStop hope we do and from my perspective, it’s not going to happen. This is simply a case where presenting the facts on NonStop is giving the people what they want and the good news is that this is a story that’s only going to get better with each new chapter! 

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