Saturday, November 7, 2015

Time to partner up – NonStop needs you!

“We need to be frugal with how we apply both capital and engineering resources. Given the reality that we’ve got many market segments that today remain very obvious gaps in our portfolio, we need to address those,” important for the NonStop community, who of us would have guessed made this observation?

There are many parallels today between IT and other industries. The novelty of IT being different from any other business has long gone as the CEOs all share similar interests – a responsibility to provide a degree of predictability along with improved returns to each stakeholder. When I first entered IT as a “cadet” – apprenticed, as it were, to a large steelworks to learn the trade of computer programming – the internal EDP department (as it was called), was separate from the rest of the company with the understanding that there was something special about those technicians overseeing data processing.

But no more – as technology is in the driver’s seat for every business; just to stay in business no matter the business, enterprise goals are intimately intertwined with the computer technology. In the November 1, 2015, issue of Fortune magazine, in the cover article, Every Aspect of Your Business is about to Change, it quotes former Cisco CEO, John Chambers. “Soon, you will see huge companies with just two employees – the CEO and the CIO.” As Fortune notes, “It’s crazy except that Chambers has a record of making crazy predictions (like opening your hotel-room door with your smartphone) that eventually come true. 

In another publication I rarely put to one side, I came across a very interesting quote from a senior executive. “While we are part of a titan car company, Cadillac must also earn its keep within the General Motors stable. That’s our agreement. There will be strong investment in the brand, but we need to hit various brand-development milestones, and obviously included in those would be required returns to shareholders. And that also means that we need to be frugal with how we apply both capital and engineering resources. Given the reality that we’ve got many market segments that today remain very obvious gaps in our portfolio, we need to address those.”

The source was the December, 2015, issue of Motor Trend and the executive was Johan de Nysschen, CEO of Cadillac. Considered a “halo product” in the GM product portfolio, Cadillac now depends on its engineering partners whether they be across the shop floor working on other GM products in the portfolio or further down the street at independent companies. In the early days of the auto industry the likes of GM built everything right down to the tires but no more – think not just of tires but wheels and even engines, transmissions, suspensions and brakes. Even the blades on window wipers! Without strategic partnerships, the auto industry couldn’t build affordable cars and this is a message not lost on anyone in IT. Particularly, when it comes to something like NonStop!

However, before I continue further with comparing Cadillac to HPE NonStop systems, it’s only fair to point out that such comparisons can only go so far. Unlike Cadillac, where addressing a market in China versus what  Cadillac needs to do for its American customers can open up gaps in GM’s car portfolio this is not the quite the same situation NonStop faces. For NonStop, opportunities to move the platform into new areas has to be weighed against fulfilling commitments in technology areas that are already funded and are the sole responsibility of NonStop development to address.

And yet, like some ancient poster from war efforts long ago that championed the message, “your country needs you!” so too does NonStop need partners. When new business opportunities arise that align with work already in plan for NonStop then it has always made sense for NonStop development to pursue. However, where opportunities come up that require development in areas not fully funded and where vendors are already involved and perhaps, well advanced with a viable implementation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find the NonStop business forging a partnership with such vendors.  

In my previous post of October 28, 2015, I raised numerous eyebrows even as there were several members of the NonStop community who took the opportunity to chastise me for what appeared to them to be a clear case of letting the side down. Nothing could be further from the truth as the post,
Prepping for what's to come ... new HPE, upgraded Boot Camp, and more NonStop X!  was all about choice and of having an opportunity to exploit a new hybrid option to better take advantage of inherent needs of any given solution. Can everything run on NonStop? Absolutely! But increasingly today, does it all have to run on NonStop? Not exactly!

I upset supporters of Java even as I noted the shortcomings of NonStop when it comes to running Java and yes, I could have thrown SQL into the mix as well. It wasn’t my intention to go down that path but rather, I wanted to highlight how wide the net is being cast to attract partners to work with NonStop development to address opportunities as they arise. While it is true that NonStop development is fully funded when it comes to further development of Java and SQL, both areas continue to see new opportunities materialize so much so that there are plenty of opportunities for vendors to augment the work NonStop development is doing.

When you attend NonStop product presentations, seeing just how many partners are involved in addressing these opportunities in both the hardware and software areas is quite impressive. Security? Check – have a couple of partners. Monitoring? Check, again. Virtual Tape? Check, as well! Data replication and integration? Of course, strong partnerships have emerged such that the comparison to Cadillac may not be as unfair as first stated. 

With the key focus areas of HPE being Security, Mobility, Big Data and Clouds – when it comes to NonStop, partners will be involved once again. It’s the “need to be frugal with how we apply both capital and engineering resources.” At the last CTUG user event I attended, which unfortunately was a year ago, being judicious about what was tasked to NonStop development was made patently clear by Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Servers at Hewlett-Packard, Randy Meyer.

And for good reason, NonStop was now just one of a number of product lines in the portfolio he was managing under the banner of mission critical servers. So no, NonStop development cannot do it all and the ecosystems of middleware and solutions vendors are becoming the go to folks for everything from “tires, wheels and even engines, transmissions, suspensions and brakes.”

There will be those members of the NonStop user community who would prefer to buy everything from HPE and there are reasons for that. Larger users want to be able to add leverage with HPE through the sum of all purchases whereas smaller users want to have a simplified contractual process. Good reasons, and very understandable, and to this end NonStop product management has been very diligent about ensuring a selection of products are available right off the price book and this is proving beneficial to all parties.

Almost all of my clients are in the situation where partner products can be bought through HP NonStop sales.  I see the potential for even more vendors being included as this is just a normal progression for NonStop business and as we see in every other industry, think of parts of the NonStop organization becoming not just the retailers but the wholesalers as well for all things NonStop.

What I like most with this ongoing trend is the confidence it breeds among vendors. Combine that with a higher degree of assurance customers will develop given their ability to pick and choose from a bigger list of options on offer from HPE, and cycles will develop. With better opportunities to sell more products, these now-confident vendors will develop even more products, all on their own dime.

The word “ecosystem” falls in and out of favor with the media but its meaning isn’t lost on anyone – I sometimes wonder if those pushing back on the word simply don’t enjoy the benefits of having an ecosystem of their own. There’s no downside, in my opinion, to NonStop enjoying all the benefits from having its own, financially strong, ecosystem in support of NonStop systems.

The very positive byproduct from having an ecosystem of vendors supporting NonStop is that cooperation develops where there is less and less overlap between what NonStop development groups provide versus what is on offer from the vendor community. When it comes to NonStop development, there’s simply too much to do to invest funds in the pursuit of opportunities where a partner solution may already exist.

Again, it would be hard to miss during any product roadmap presentation of late that it is the strategy of NonStop development to focus on the work they alone can do and what we have seen with the work undertaken to modify the operating system in support of the Intel x86 architecture is just the most recent example of NonStop executing on this strategy.

It may appear that NonStop will always face challenging times, as it faces opportunities in different market segments, but that’s only part of the story. Demonstrating that they can make money from working with the NonStop business will surely attract other vendors to the market and that’s a good thing for everyone in the NonStop community. It is the mission of the NonStop business to ensure that NonStop systems are meeting the expectations of customers and prospects alike, delivering NonStop systems that have the attributes required of them for the market it serves. Leaving opportunities to be addressed by experienced vendors represents a degree of maturity long in the making and fueling an emerging ecosystem the way it is now doing, is a credit to NonStop management.

All the more reason, of course, to make it to the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp in San Jose – it’s only a week or so away. Be on the lookout for vendors as you may be surprised just how many are participating and yes, of course, watch for the product presentations. You may just be pleasantly surprised to find that one of your favorite middleware, tools or even solutions vendor now has a place reserved for one or more of its products on the HPE portfolio – a partnership that has no downside for any member of the NonStop user community.   

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