Tuesday, February 16, 2016

You have NonStop solutions but who you gonna call!

A chance forced detour out on the highway reminded me of just how important good service is - for the NonStop community there are many options when it comes to service and I suspect there will be even greater demand for services in the future. Think for a moment about Hybrids and NonStop as Software!  

Driving the many miles we do, attending one conference or another, we probably spend more time in car service bays than most. Throw into the mix the need to accommodate extreme temperature changes that living next to the continental divide creates, and the expenses climb steadily through any given year. Seeking the assistance of service managers isn’t restricted to where we live either, as we have been forced, on occasion, to pull into garages all across the western states of America. Service, particularly when it comes to cars, is something Margo and I know a lot about. As much as it really hurts to own up to such familiarity with car service centers across the country, it’s our bank account that tends to suffer.

This post is being written after having just returned from Las Vegas and where in a few days’ time, we head to New Orleans for the ATMIA US Conference 2016, where the theme is “Connecting Consumers and their Money to the ATM.” As the original “cash dispensing machines,” the ATM “remains a convenient and trusted self-service channel.” Last week I was in Las Vegas and Sin City is fueled by cash and you can’t escape the presence of ATMs or for that matter, Bill Breakers, but as for trusted self-service … these days, it’s almost as if service has lost out to products and applications. How often do we hear today that yes, there’s an app for that!

By chance, we learnt of an app provided by the Colorado Department of Transport (CDOT) and we installed the app. Turned out, it was a good thing we did. CDOT was very forthcoming in telling us that the main arterial highway connecting the west to Denver was closed in both directions. A major rock fall had sent boulders crashing onto the highway blocking lanes and causing damage to the roadway.

Turned out we had to follow a 130 mile detour to the south but even as the miles added up, we were thankful for the service being provided by CDOT. While I have written many column inches on products available to the NonStop community I may not have given enough attention to the many services on offer from the same vendors. Nor have I written about vendors we know very well who are thriving today even though they started out providing services long before they brought products to market.

“Our origins are deeply rooted in the services business – the products you see today grew from observations we made while providing services,” recalls OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. For those of us who know Yash well, this comes as no surprise as it was the opportunity to consult with customers worldwide that gave him the impetus to create the modules that eventually led to the creation of OmniPayments.

Likewise, at DataExpress, according to CEO, Billy Whittington, “Our roots are firmly anchored in services. Our technical competence has always been in moving data, whether via IBM products or third party such as NET/MASTER File Transfer or NDM/Connect:Direct, and it was this competence that opened the door to consulting. That’s where we started and how we gained our first customer. Our move into products came about when we saw an opportunity and today, with DataExpress NonStop (DXNS), our services offerings are focused on being complementary to our product offerings.”

Origins, and indeed, roots in services and consulting; an obvious path to gaining the credibility needed to sell products. Not surprisingly, the more I talked to the NonStop vendor community the more this became a recognizable pattern, and for good reason. When you place experienced people in front of real problems and the requirements raised are seen as having universal appeal, the transition to building a tool or a utility or even the foundation for a comprehensive product set, seems the obvious way forward. It’s a characteristic of really smart people that they don’t want to do anything more than once so helping themselves out by developing a tool, utility or product seems an obvious path to follow.

That was many years ago for most of the NonStop vendors I talked to. Times change and now, with so many discussions around transformations, hybrid computers, clouds and the infrastructure that is typically required, most data centers where NonStop systems are present aren’t equipped to install, integrate, and deploy the many tools, utilities and products that are involved. Even the simplest of utilities requires hooks into existing business logic at some point and that requires choices to be made. Not for the faint-hearted is deploying a new product on an operational NonStop system. Services from established vendors are now welcomed by almost everyone in the NonStop community.

“Our success lies in us providing services, particularly into emerging markets, where the primary vendor doesn’t always have the skillsets readily available – our solutions are easy to install but every customer needs help in establishing rules, best practices and even connectivity with their business partners, all of which are well catered for by the staff on hand at OmniPayments,” said Yash. Increasingly, this has become the expectation of enterprises new to NonStop. As the NonStop vendor community look to broaden their presence in different markets, moving out of an original niche and embracing something new becomes less daunting.


“At DataExpress, we are exceptionally strong in the Financial Services market segment but more recently we have turned our attention to Healthcare. We are looking to develop a foothold in this market segment where we anticipate growth coming from our DataExpress Open Platform (DXOP) product,” added Whittington of DataExpress. What DataExpress has experienced from offering services is that even among the biggest banks in America, the need to provide consulting services, sometimes spanning many years, isn’t unusual and for DataExpress, such multi-year opportunities help develop a very strong bond between user and vendor. 

Recently, I was exploring the subject of services with comForte CTO, Thomas Burg. The NonStop community knows all too well of how  comForte’s roots date back to the late 1980’s / early 1990’s where the focus too was on services and custom development for “Tandem” Customers. From that services work sprang the ideas for some of the products we all are very familiar with.I had just completed a post to the comForte blog, The End to Security as an Afterthought: 2016 Trends in which Burg had told me that, “we are driven to provide as many services as we can, with or without our products, as security is such a demanding pursuit. With these latest service deliverables, we consider our main drivers to be providing value to the customer.”

Furthermore, said Burg, providing these services benefits greatly when we tap the skills of others and recently, “We decided to work with Knightcraft. Principal consultant, Greg Swedosh, is someone we have come to appreciate as we know that he has plenty of experience in working in the PCI area. We can benefit, of course, whenever we can complement our current service offerings with even more expertise and Greg brings with him a strong background in Safeguard, general NonStop security and vendor security products.”

Today, the services provided by Burg and his team at comForte can be obtained directly from comForte, whether as part of a product purchase from comForte or independently, even where there are no comForte products present. Leveraging the security expertise of comForte and its associates is a service that will only grow in importance as, when it comes to security, we all need as much help as we can find.

The need for the NonStop community to involve vendors providing services will only increase following recent HPE disclosures of their product roadmaps. HPE Executives have been noticeably vocal about where they are headed and while the information disclosed to date is very encouraging for the NonStop community, many NonStop users will definitely be looking for help from their partners. “Like other vendors within the NonStop community, we are following the HPE announcement for NonStop X and Hybrids and it is our expectation that the need for services from DataExpress will likely grow considerably,” DataExpress’s Whittington told me. “We are prepared to meet that challenge head-on.”

It’s an old saying, but still pertinent all the same. Service can differentiate products – those products where good service is also provided often end up gaining the upper hand in the marketplace. And rightly so; it just makes sense to work with those vendors who can provide services as needed. The NonStop community is well supported by vendors able to provide services and as much as it may be the untold story, should the NonStop community expand in the coming years, as I sense it will, then simply knowing who to call for that expertise will make future growth a whole lot easier. 

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