Friday, October 31, 2014

Countdown to Boot Camp 2014 – It was a little over 20 years ago ...

A flashback to 1993 and an ITUG event in Orlando gave me the introduction I was looking for with this post about who's talking at the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2014 ...


It was a little over 20 years ago – October, 1993, as I recall – that I attended the annual ITUG event in Orlando. I was with a group from development that included Margo Holen and we were showcasing a project we all called Chameleon – featuring “twin tails” connections between PCs, and Tandem computers. Cut one “tail” and the other took over – it was all based on Ethernet and took advantage of custom NICs from Ungermann-Bass (UB).

Joining Tandem developers was Michael Ladam from UB. Michael, Brad Poole (now with comForte), Margo and I took a drive to Cape Canaveral and we stopped for gas alongside a tourist shop selling practically everything. To this day we all will not readily forget Michael’s exclamation while perusing western belts, each one featuring a flashy belt buckle, when he found a belt with “a buckle that says nothing at all!”

More recently, I was driving back from Mississauga, Ontario, having just participated in the CTUG event that is proving ever more popular with the years, and stopped in at the world’s biggest truck stop. Alongside Interstate 80 in Iowa, this truck stop is indeed huge, so much so that when satellite radio station channel, Outlaw, held a free concert recently they had to broadcast where exactly on the site attendees could find the performance.

Imagine my surprise then as I passed a display (pictured above) that boldly proclaimed: Buckle’s Attitude – Let your Buckle do the talking! For a mere $20, you could wear a belt buckle advertising anything you wanted. I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snap a picture even as Margo couldn’t help but prefer to be anywhere else but with me at that moment. However, there are only a few weeks to go before the NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2014 and having checked out the list of presentations it would be remiss of me not to highlight some of the sessions already scheduled.

While I was unable to attend the first restart of this important community event when it was held in 2012, I did make it to last year’s event and will do so again this year. In fact, as much as I really like the show HP puts on each summer – the big-tent HP Discover event in Las Vegas – there’s just something special about being in San Jose and listening to vendors and customers alike talking about their plans for NonStop.

When it comes to vendor presentations what really struck me is the return of the solutions vendors. In times past, it was more or less an event given over to tools and utilities vendors and while they are an important integral part of the NonStop community – indeed, whose continued generosity allows the Boot Camp to flourish, hearing about the aspirations of those vendors who truly live and die depending on the market competitiveness of NonStop, there are many a home truth disclosed about just how popular NonStop is these days among real users.

Topping my list of must-attend sessions therefore is the presentation by OmniPayment’s CEO, Yash Kapedia. His presentation this year is C-11: The Smarts Behind EMV Smart Cards on Monday at 2:30 in the Chynoweth room and I suspect that there will be more than a few interested parties wanting to know more of what Yash has been up to when it comes to securing our card information in these days of apparently easy-access by any bad-guy committed to stealing such information.

“When it comes to adoption of EMV within the U.S., it’s not so much a case of if but when and whether it can be completed before any further regulation occurs. Indeed, there are instances of merchants going ahead regardless – it’s important for them to retain customer loyalty in the face of highly-publicized hacking attacks,” said Yash. “However, more importantly, as from August 15, 2015, any U.S. merchant that does not process most of its transactions with EMV-compatible POS terminals will be liable for fraudulent transactions, rather than the issuing bank as is the case today.”

An important issue for the NonStop community, as Yash reminded me, “Since HP NonStop systems have a significant presence in payment-card transaction systems, it is important that the NonStop community be familiar with smart-card technology. OmniPayments has a number of years’ experience with EMV implementations elsewhere across the globe.” Yash assures me that he will be more than willing to provide the benefit of his experiences to date during his presentation, and plans to be available for discussions with any interested parties at pretty much any time during the event.

While it’s early and there’s a raft of NDAs in place, one session should prove interesting and well worth the effort spent finding the session. Part of the Application Modernization track, the session HP-26 Going beyond SOAP for a Cleaner, Fresher Web Services Architecture at 10:30 Monday morning (in the Guadalupe room) will feature a joint presentation by HP’s Keith Moore and InfraSoft’s Dave Finnie. For any parties interested in potential market opportunities for NonStop running on Intel x86 architecture this may very well be a glimpse into a bright new future for NonStop. I have already seen a little of what will be covered and it's impressive!

The NonStop community has the presence of a real powerhouse vendor in the Big Data space, recently recognized by CIO Story as one of the
20 Most Powerful Big Data Companies, that is providing product that supports NonStop – to the best of my knowledge, a first. Sami Akbay, WebAction Cofounder will be joined by Jim Knudsen (JK) for a Sunday afternoon (1:00pm - 5:00pm) Pre-conference seminar How to Take Advantage of Big Data with NonStop. At this point I would like to just add a little late-breaking news. I will also be participating in this presentation, albeit not to the technical level of Sami and JK.

According to Sami, a good reason to attend is “this will be a true Big Data background and primer focused on just how Big Data impacts NonStop and where you will see how WebAction is already assisting the NonStop ecosystem, bringing with it Big Data context and richness.” Furthermore, Sami told me, “We are looking forward to seeing Big Data being adopted into the NonStop ecosystem and want to be enable and accelerate that evolution. We are seeing novel ways of using data from outside the NonStop ecosystem and the real business advantage that can be gained with deeper insights.” 

Talking of the Pre-conference seminar that will be held Sunday, comForte has a couple of rooms and have populated a number of sessions. I have covered this in a new blog post you can find on the comForte web site – check out For those NonStop systems looking too much like legacy; replacement potential is high! For me the commitment to the user community by comForte is outstanding and many of the company’s executives and management will be highly visible.

There will be some new, or at least less familiar, faces present as well and I am pleased to see Susan Raye from DataExpress attending this event. I have begun working with DataExpress and the more conversations I have with these folks the more I am impressed. If you missed my latest post to ATMmarketplace, check out Lift the flap ... what's behind it? and watch too for an interview with the folks from DataExpress that will appear shortly in the Nov – Dec, 2014, issue of The Connection.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to include a reference in passing to my own presentation – this year, on monitoring. While it will feature my own observations and opinions about monitoring I will be pulling some material from that given to me by IR. The new releases surrounding Prognosis 10 are bringing a lot of modernization to monitoring that really goes a long way to simplifying the tasks and I for one am interested in all new developments targeting monitoring – look for the presentation C-13: Overwhelmed by Complexity? Looking for Business Insight? What's really going on inside your data center? at 5:00pm Monday in the Guadalupe room.

It’s hard to imagine where twenty plus years went and no, I suspect I’m not the first to make such an observation. However, the very presence of a major NonStop user event still drawing a crowd is something very special and not to be taken for granted. I write a lot and true, I talk a lot – no, there’s no such thing as a Buckle that says nothing at all, and with that, as the days wind down, I’m looking forward to catching up with you all!



Monday, October 20, 2014

The value of partnerships – NonStop VAR program?

As the price of gas at the pump continues to drop in the US, it’s hard to miss the flow-on effect to the community. Could we be getting value for our money at last? When the topic is increasing the sales reach of NonStop value too is important. Could we see the return of VARs?

Have you all seen what’s been happening with the price of gas at the pumps here in America? Is the same thing happening everywhere? In the US we have seen the price of gas drop to $2.89 per US gallon (3.8 liters) as depicted above where I just filled up the Jeep. Remarkable! Considering our family has nothing but vehicles with large displacement engines, this is proving to be a blessing for us and it feels like getting an unexpected tax break. With the US now awash in sea of oil, thanks to the wonders of fracking, and the market laws of supply and demand kicking in, the price at the pump is likely to go down even further – the days of $2.00 per gallon gas may just be coming back. For now, $2.89 for gas? Remarkable!

Whenever I read about discussions on value and on value-add, I can’t help but wonder whatever happened to the Value Added Resellers (VARs) that so many of us depended upon in the past. My fondest memories of the early days of Tandem were about the wonderful Alliance program Tandem had assembled and among the list of Alliance partners, there were many VARs. The specialization VARs brought with them – whether it was a specific market, such as travel, or a regions such as Kenya or Columbia – made the process of selling systems much easier. Perhaps the days of VARs are over given how commoditization has brought with it considerable easing of prices. And yet, this may not be completely true when it comes to NonStop, or so it would appear.

Listening to presentations given these past few weeks at both MATUG and CTUG it’s very clear that with the arrival of a family of NonStop systems utilizing the Intel x86 architecture, the plan will be to pursue new markets with new partners rather than simply flipping the base one more time. It is completely understandable that HP doesn’t want to convert a $1million business into a $100thousand business – the most basic of business schools frown on such approaches. That isn’t to say that there will be some existing customers who will provide fertile ground for these new x86 systems, but that will likely be because the new systems will open new doors for new applications, complementing the present Itanium systems, but I expect that to be the exception. No, HP wants to add to the NonStop business, not just pursue yet another one-for-one migration.

What was also obvious from the presentations to the user groups is that HP wouldn’t be all that keen for the sales teams to add a couple of hundred new salesmen to address these new markets. Solutions sell systems today and that’s very much a given, even for the new HP we face, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. So why not engage the solutions companies more closely and reopen the doors for VAR sales of their solutions with NonStop systems?  While nothing that could be viewed as a commitment was given by any of the HP personnel involved in the events, nevertheless to anyone who thought through the mechanics of adding a complementary marketing program it seemed a pretty obvious conclusion. VARs selling NonStop? Indeed, every bit as remarkable as $2.89 gas I suspect!

In talking with NonStop partners the reaction was positive overall. According to the CEO of the OmniPayments, Inc., Yash Kapadia, “Yes we can be VARs and we have discussed being a VAR with HP many times.” But Yash was also quick to note that there would need to be a lot more discussion this time around as in those earlier discussions, according to Yash, “At one time they wanted me to take responsibility to generate more sales than all of EMEA !!!!” Why doesn’t this surprise me? The NonStop sales team that we have working globally is a lot different from what we have had in the past and there’s some level heads watching over NonStop today. If a discussion develops around the subject of VARs the way I would like to see if happen then I think it will be a case of introductory baby-steps in the early stages.

In talking to middleware vendor, IR, there was support for VARs as well although not quite as exuberant as solutions vendors and yet, putting the topic under a different light. In an email exchange with America’s Sales Director, Jay Horton, he began, as I expected, with how he, “Wouldn’t see our large users moving away from a direct relationship with us, (certainly not in the near term anyway) but with the presence of VARs, it would open the door for IR to scale and pick up business we are not able to chase currently.” Horton then added that, “We don’t have resources with knowledge of NonStop to chase a lot of these new markets; however, an HP NonStop VAR channel would allow us to scale. It would require us to put a more dedicated NonStop channel support model in place.”

Andre Cuenin, President Americas & Europe at IR Inc. did remind me that a NonStop Distribution / VAR model is in place in geographies apart from the US. For example, in EMEA and AP-J many markets are being served through local NSK distributors / VARs. “In these countries, these partners  typically sell Prognosis. In the US market, most of our NonStop customers are traditionally, direct customers. However, with our Payments partnership with ACI, we do see a shift to more channel revenue in the US as well.

Could a middleware vendor like IR become an HP NonStop VAR? I asked this more out of curiosity than anything else as I anticipate that this would be of interest to solutions vendors and Yash had already expressed that, should a VAR program be launched globally, he would be more than interested. From an IR perspective they do not see themselves as becoming a NonStop reseller, however Cuenin mentioned that, “working with HP and its respective channels to align its go-to-market model is the strategy”. Horton shared that “we have explored bundling a Prognosis Lite version with platform vendors and NonStop on x86 seems a good target for this approach.”

For some time now I have thought that comprehensive monitoring solutions were butting right up against the line that separates middleware from solutions and with just a little more capability, monitoring solutions would be able to stand on their own merits. Should IR pursue this aggressively, and for a reasonable value-add pricing, then I cannot see why they wouldn’t reconsider becoming a VAR for NonStop, and possibly, in conjunction with offerings from other middleware vendors. Had you purchased a laptop from BestBuy you would notice that it comes with a lot of pre-loaded software offered on trial bases – could this become the norm for NonStop sales?

When I put this prospect to a NonStop manager just recently the response was expectedly cautious. “Just last week, we had a customer ask about becoming a VAR, selling both hardware and their application.” However he also acknowledged that for him, he wasn’t sure “if one request is showing a trend, but I think the x86 does open the eyes of existing and new VARs.” And that’s about as far as the discussion went on the topic of a VAR initiative today – but I’m on the edge here and think this could go either way. Complementing classic sales with a thriving VAR program? Again, that would be remarkable.

The key word in VAR is value – a VAR program would have to provide value for the target marketplace. Customers would need to realize savings they otherwise wouldn’t expect to see – or leverage the partnership in a more competitive manner than their rivals. Companies today see value as having many shades and what one customer views as dross another may prize highly and it would be up to the VAR to clearly demonstrate the value proposition. While I have only talked to a very small selection of NonStop vendors, I know there are more that may be toying with the idea, so it will be interesting to watch whether a much broader program that included the US eventuates and whether the participants truly bring with them the value we all would expect.

$2.89 gas! Less expensive NonStop systems? New partners and new markets! A thriving VAR program … there’s still time for something to develop but from where I sit and following the conversations I have had, I am hoping that this time, it will be a positive outcome. Selling more NonStop systems addressing more markets to even more companies is what we all would like to see and while a thriving VAR program is not an automatic answer to some of the most pressing questions about how to get more NonStop systems sold, it has merit and I truly hope for the best this time around.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Finding our way …

While driving into unfamiliar surroundings, a GPS is handy – perhaps, two of them, to make navigation easier. For HP, in entering new waters, splitting in two should allow the company to better navigate in two completely different marketplaces!

This weekend it was a case of a quick drive along the Hudson River, the “river that defined America”.  As it is still fall and the leaves continue to change color, it was one of the drives we had always wanted to do and the color show didn’t disappoint. Final destination Sunday night was Montréal where we will be spending a little time on business before enjoying more of what Montréal has to offer. As you can see above, the old Montréal Port and grain processing plant look great in the autumn sunshine!

While the route up the Hudson was straight forward, finding our hotel in the center of town proved challenging. Given that we were later to find out that there were several streets with the same name, our first attempt to locate the hotel via our vehicles GPS led us to an industrial site some 15 miles from the city center. Being typical NonStop aficionados, we pulled out our backup tablet and used it’s GPS and once we shut down the stream of instructions that continued to emanate from the first GPS we threaded our way through city construction zones and found our way to the hotel.

This week, it will be CTUG that is very much on my mind. It was only a week ago that we attended MATUG, held in a hotel just outside Philadelphia, a circumstance I commented on briefly in the last post. NonStop has always been defined by its community and so there was a strong showing by HP and the vendor community with a sprinkling of customers thrown in for good measure. NonStop has always enjoyed energetic supporters, of course, but looking ahead to CTUG, I am hoping for a little larger turn-out of users.

The good news for those tracking HP NonStop developments of support for NonStop in the Intel x86 architecture is that it all looks to be going well with HP looking for even greater community participation in the Beta program.  While I can only speak on behalf of a handful of vendors who have tested their products on x86, there’s only been a few minor hiccups to report all of which were quickly addressed by NonStop development. If I were to speculate, I suspect there will be a couple of users nearing production rollout of their applications on x86 in the new year – very impressive indeed!

However, even as I was thinking about this post over the weekend, there was very little news coming from the financial and business press to highlight what has so quickly transpired over the past 48 hours or so. Yes, we are going to have two HPs now, not one. The much heralded split between consumer and enterprise customers is going to happen and we will be seeing the formation of two independently operating companies. Certainly it is going to liven up the agenda for HP Discover (Europe) that will take place in Barcelona, December 2-4, and I sure wish that I could find a way to participate.

I have kicked off a discussion on the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop, and if you are a member of this group you will see that comments have already started to appear. It is true that splitting the company was rumored as being on the agenda of the former CEO, Leo Apotheker, but as soon as Meg Whitman took over, she went to great pains to downplay such a move by HP. However, as this quarter’s results were published and as Whitman responded to the financial community, no matter how good the latest news appeared, HP stock took another hit.

According to a post to the site, Seeking alpha, one analyst wrote of how, “The company is going to be splitting into two divisions, putting more action into practice as it continues its restructuring and comeback under CEO Whitman.” Furthermore, said the analyst, “After the street didn't seem to like the strides the company had made last quarter, it eventually came to its senses. HPQ has dipped over the last month, however, shedding nearly 10% of its value.”  It’s a tough crowd for sure, but in the end, few other options remained for Whitman and HP after focusing on profitability and operational costs. The company is “huge”, as I noted in the LinkedIn discussion, and generally, Wall Street prefers companies tightly focused rather than the sprawling portfolio conglomerates among which HP was now counted.

The specifics? As the news officially broke this morning, it was not surprising to read in the official HP Press Release that “HP has announced its plans to separate into two new publicly traded companies: one comprising of HP's enterprise technology infrastructure, software and services businesses, to be called Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and HP Inc., which will comprise of personal systems and printer ops; Meg Whitman will become President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise; Dion Weisler will become President and CEO of HP Inc.; Immediately following the transaction, which is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal 2015, HP shareholders will own shares of both Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.”

I have always taken with a liberal number of grains of salt that there was synergy between a consumer, PC company, and a business, enterprise-system company, but I was prepared to let that slip on by for the sake of better story telling. There were so many ways to write about value that a company as big as HP provided but it was getting harder and harder to keep a straight face. Yes, the addition of support for x86 brought some synergy but anyone who has looked at the Intel roadmap for Xeon knows all too well that there’s a swag of different Xeon chips covered by the roadmap and to the naked eye, it was easy to get lost among the numerous pages that comprise the roadmap – different charts for consumers, small business and the enterprise.

Appointing Weisler as the new President and CEO of HP Inc. looks promising, as I’m always pleased to read of any Australian doing well in corporate America, but he will certainly face a challenging job – Lenovo overtook HP just recently and if Australians are just one thing, it’s that they are furiously competitive in all that they do – apart from our Kiwi brethren across the Tasman, I know of no other nation as competitively minded as Australia, including America. But there’s a whole lot more here than just freeing up the PC business to compete, as there is a real need to sew together a competitive mobile offering and even though I thought the Palm deal was a solid beginning, now I am not so sure what HP Inc. will be doing to develop a presence in this part of the market.

Across the aisle, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise lacks a couple of items – a unifying database technology (IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle all have strong database plays), a unique OS (apart from NonStop, of course), and a virtual platform. And this raises the question; should EMC spin off VMWare, should HP buy VMWare? With all that I am watching in the telco space I think a very good case could be made for such an eventuality, particularly as talks to acquire all of EMC apparently broke down a short time ago. But again, even if such a deal transpired, what of NonStop?

For the last couple of years – in my Wishes for NonStop posts to this blog, as well as within my more recent user event presentations – I have openly discussed the morphing of NonStop into something quite different to what we see today. While I have stressed that should you check all the right boxes, you will still be able to order a NonStop system, more than likely, the future will include NonStop as a set of features, services and libraries atop a next generation Linux along the lines of what HP CTO, Martin Fink, has been referencing of late as part of his vision for The Machine. I have no real evidence in support of this other than my own observations so it may prove very interesting times for NonStop development during the next couple of years.

HP does need a course correction. It does need to find its way again and perhaps a complete turnaround is required. In the HP Press Release, Whitman did say, “The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan. It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders. In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders.”

CTUG now beckons and I am sure that this latest news from HP will generate numerous discussions. All we need to do is figure out how to depart 
Montréal for the drive south, along the St Lawrence Seaway. I’m pretty sure I will be able to find my way to Mississauga with the help of my GPS aids, but nothing is ever certain. Like HP, hoping for renewed market interest with a turnaround that involves doing the splits, I too am hoping I can make it without any further course corrections or U-turns. Looking forward to seeing many of you shortly, at CTUG, and I am certain that with this latest announcement from HP, there will be many discussions to follow!