Sunday, February 26, 2017

For HPE NonStop users, ATMIA US Conference and a walk down memory lane …

A week in Orlando discussing ATMs may not be appealing for everyone but for NonStop users, the history of NonStop is very much tied to the history of the ATM!

It is not all that often that I meet truly famous people face to face, but at this year’s ATMIA US Conference the keynote speaker was NFL legend, Herman Edwards. A former defensive player who played for a number of NFL teams, most notably the Philadelphia Eagles before turning his hand to coaching the New York Jets. Today, you can see Edwards as an analyst on ESPN. “Doing the little things and executing vision,” was the title of his presentation at the ATMIA conference this year. To a packed hall, he walked attendees through a lively presentation liberally sprinkled with NFL anecdotes.

However, for me his focus on cash was of particular interest especially given the focus of the event. “I’m a cash guy. My wife gives me an allowance; I take the check to the bank and get the cash. If I run out of cash then I’m done!”  Nothing could be simpler and it was a theme repeated in other presentations at the conference this year. Why does cash survive and why does it remain popular? For many it’s a budgetary mechanism – only spend what you have. Increasingly, for others it’s a security issue – while someone could steal my wallet or money clip, the loss is manageable, which is not the case today with cybercrime. Again, simplistic but the data coming from industry analysts suggests there are but two of the four primary reasons cash continues to be popular.

In a different presentation to the one given by Edwards, about how cash makes us feel, cash in the pocket offers four primary experiences: comfort, security, freedom and duty. This last one was unexpected but turned out to be very true – when it comes to our duty, we typically repay our family and friends in cash. And yes, cash still dominated when it comes to gifts. You would expect such statistics to be forthcoming at a conference focused on ATMs but what you might not have expected was being informed that the venerable ATM was now fifty years old. In a pictorial display, under the heading of a walk down memory lane, pretty much every new development for the ATM was included and I was surprised to see just how back into the past my own memory stretched.  Seeing a promotional poster for the “new film”, The Graduate, brought a smile to my face – remember the Alpha Romeo Spider 1600 Duetto that Dustin Hoffman’s character drove?

For the NonStop community there is a very strong connection to this particular walk down memory lane. As the ATM moved out of the branch bank to become truly an automatic dispenser of cash, there were network implications that at the time severely limited just how many ATMs could be deployed and where. Communications was in its infancy and both the speed (slow) and the cost (high) put the brakes on just how rapidly ATMs spread across the landscape. Furthermore, once ATMs did begin to appear, there was an expectation that they would work all the time – surely, their whole reason d'être was to provide access to cash at times when normal branch operations were closed. However, since almost every financial institution ran their banking applications on IBM mainframes and these were primarily batch processors requiring downtime, the appearance of the first Tandem computer heralded a break with traditional computing models.

Many times we discuss technology solutions looking for a problem to solve but in the case of the appearance of Tandem, it’s as if a lightbulb went off somewhere – the perfect solution in support of a much larger rollout of ATMs. It’s no coincidence then to learn that the first Tandem computer ever sold was to Citi and while I am not exactly sure of the use-case scenario involved, it wasn’t long before Tandem computers and ATMs enjoyed a thriving symbiotic relationship. So much so that I have often been left to wonder whatever would have happened with Tandem computers if such an opportunity failed to materialize. But this walk down memory lane is all well and good even as it’s common knowledge within the NonStop community – but perhaps there is something else that is contributing to this story; the growth of payments solutions from many vendors, all electing to deploy on what today is new NonStop systems.

Without viable and well-supported payments solutions, Financial Institutions (FIs) would have been hard pressed to build out their ATM networks. As someone who has worked for both Tandem Computers and ACI Worldwide in a previous life I saw firsthand how the relationship between Tandem and the ACI product, BASE24, enabled so many FIs both small and large leverage the potential of the hardware and software to deliver round-the-clock, 24 X 7, services. In a world that clearly feels good about cash, the fault tolerance provided by the then-Tandem computers simply added to that feeling of comfort.  However, a lot has happened to NonStop over the years and the door has been thrown wide open to many more solutions in support of ATMs.

For some time now I have been very bullish on the prospects for OmniPayments, Inc. as it continues to meet with success with banks, retailers and switches. OmniPayments is joining the growing list of NonStop vendors who are taking their message of NonStop to conferences apart from the traditional NonStop venues where RUGs have dominated. And for me, this is good news for all NonStop stakeholders – it’s clear that HPE has limited resources these days to support NonStop marketing and as much as I would like to see this situation rectified I am not expecting anything to dramatically change in the near term. Simply put, there are no marketing efforts being expended in support of NonStop that I can see so it really is falling on the rest of us to champion the NonStop message. OmniPayments talking up the NonStop message to the ATMIA US conference was really good to see.

In the post, ATMIA US Conference – plenty of familiar faces! to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, following the ATMIA US Conference I wrote of how, when I picked up my badge (after arriving at the conference venue) I was handed my bag of goodies and there in the bag was a color flyer from OmniPayments. Making the rounds on the exhibition floor was Jessica Nieves, VP Client Services, OmniPayments Inc., who is now heading marketing for the company, stopping by exhibitors we all know well. Many within the NonStop community who attend RUG meetings will know about Jessica as she is doing a great job presenting OmniPayments. When I asked Jessica if we could expect to see OmniPayments supporting even more events she told me, most definitely.

“For many years now we have supported the NonStop community’s RUG events worldwide and there would be few members within the NonStop community that didn’t know about OMniPayments,” said Jessica. “However, we are winning even more business away from legacy vendors of payments solutions and with our move to provide OmniPayments on the basis of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) from out of our own cloud, we need to broadcast this message to a much larger audience. And yes, our OmniCloudX offering utilizes NonStop X systems, which is surprising many we talk to and it’s just the beginning. Our product roadmap for OmniPayments includes future support of Virtualized NonStop which will significantly enhance our ability of fast provisioning of OmniPayments payments solutions for those FIs who may want to modernize their infrastructure and solutions.”

There was a time not that long ago when news about NonStop was easy to find. There were regular news releases and there was a team committed to conveying the message of NonStop in every marketplace. As the ITUG Chairman I was invited to participate with NonStop marketing in events from Copenhagen to Beijing to Johannesburg. The memories of these times are still very fresh in my mind and there was excitement in the air – NonStop was embracing industry-standard Intel technology. Yes, it was Itanium but it was a huge move in the right direction that even today is still a big part of the NonStop presence at many enterprises. But as exciting as Itanium was at the time and the memories of working closely with HPE that still linger, the story of NonStop X and Virtualized NonStop are way, way, more important so as I watched Jessica moving across the exhibition floor with her compelling story of NonStop in payments, I was left wondering about how much more could be achieved if only HPE would put its full weight behind this lynchpin of its Mission Critical Systems business.

Memories of NonStop past just like memories of ATMs past and of how the histories of ATMs and NonStop are so strongly intertwined, ringed true with some of the words spoken by Herman Edwards. “There are two types of people – interested and committed. Everyone is interested – but are you committed?” Edwards addressed these comments to new recruits to his NFL team, of course, but the meaning shouldn’t be lost on the NonStop community. Perhaps, just as relevant to the NonStop community, was Edwards follow-on observation, “A goal without a plan is a wish!” OmniPayments clearly have a plan when it comes to the message of NonStop and with it, an achievable goal. Perhaps my wish then is that there were more kindred spirits willing to be both committed to NonStop and having plans to more aggressively promote NonStop. And finally, ask yourself and let me know, of course, will this be your goal in 2017? 

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