Sunday, October 9, 2011

Enough is enough!

It was just a report in the local paper over the mishaps by the gridiron team but it summed up how I felt about much that’s been written about NonStop of late. The good news is that users remain happy and continue to support the community!

I like to travel, a topic of another post this week, but I also like sports of all types; having played Rugby League and Rugby Union in my youth, and approached while at High School with a contract to join the junior squad of a professional team (Balmain “Tigers”, as I recall), paperwork my parents refused to even acknowledge (and thankfully, as I look back, as I followed another team, Manly “Sea Eagles”, which just won on the world’s biggest stage – the National Rugby League Grand Final). Football of all codes continues to interest me, and yes, I like to drive cars and ride motorcycles, and the picture above is of Margo, enjoying the colors of fall outside Telluride, Colorado, taken during our most recent outing in the San Juan mountains.

Deep in the Southern Hemisphere, the Rugby World Cup is being played – and much to the chagrin of my English friends, this weekend saw England knocked out of the competition while Australia made it through to the semifinals. As a Rugby fan from the antipodes, I will keep my fingers crossed for a good result from the Wallabies, Australia’s national team. However, after winning their match against South Africa and champions from the last World Cup, the Wallabies now face New Zealand, this year’s favorite to win it all, and that will be a match for the ages!

Here in the U.S. temperature has begun to fall and autumn colors have appeared, it’s a different code of football being played. A few miles down the road we have the University of Colorado, home of the mighty CU Buffalos, with Ralph, a real buffalo mascot. Apart from winning the local derby featuring the teams from the neighboring universities of Boulder and Fort Collins, the mighty CU Buffs haven’t found a way to defeat any other team, and last weekend they imploded and threw away the game. And the headlines in the local paper were worth a second look as the teams’ coach finally “spat the dummy”, as we would say back in Sydney if the contest was Rugby!

“When is it going to be enough? When is enough, enough?” was how the coach began his locker room outburst. I asked them, he later was quoted as having said, “When are they going to get tired of losing? When are they going to get tired of finding a way to lose?” While not everything that takes place in sport has relevance in the business world, as I read this story I couldn’t help thinking about the NonStop Server and about the NonStop community. For those who check into discussion forums, blog sites, and other community groups, it seems that negativity is all that garnishes the headlines.

But isn’t it time we, as a community, stopped accepting the worst and begin to speak more openly of all that’s positive about NonStop? In one group I step into occasionally, I was even chastised for not being technical enough and for embracing shabby tactics! My sin? I suggested that some customers hadn’t completely moved off NonStop and that yes, there has been some growth in selected markets and yes, there’s new applications appearing on other NonStop Servers. Being positive about the prospects of NonStop apparently is not something a couple of NonStop communities are all that interested in hearing.

And all the time, the lament continues. Why isn’t HP marketing the NonStop Server platform more aggressively and why isn’t HP beefing up their sales teams, all the while, bringing new solutions to market? And why have so many users elected to change direction and pursue alternate offerings? At a time when Larry Ellison is at his most vocal (and yes, he is now going after IBM based on one presentation at the Oracle OpenWorld ,where he was reported to have quipped “There'll be nothing left of IBM once I'm done”), why aren’t we hearing more from HP executives?

The reality of it all is that it’s been a tough decade for NonStop. During my term on the board of ITUG it was clear that the first order of business for the NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) was to return the NonStop product line to profitability. Even back then, all those years ago, huge tectonic plates were in motion beneath the NonStop Server – commodity hardware was outselling all other hardware platforms and the move to open source was shocking the industry as it continued to find acceptance even with the biggest blue-chip corporation. No, returning NonStop to profitability would necessitate a transition to commodity hardware, a sharing of peripherals and connectivity products with other family members within Business Critical Systems (BCS) and a more concerted effort to embrace and accept software from other parts of HP, as well as from partners.

In the previous post to this blog “My passage to India!” I promoted the idea that some key initiatives within HP need to be broadened, and should embrace NonStop. There was no point in just one group within HP pursuing a Mission Critical initiative, without embracing NonStop, just as it made little sense to promote Cloud Computing at the expense of NonStop. In both situations there is just so much to be gained by including NonStop and following numerous emails and phone conversations, it appears that within HP the message is beginning to percolate closer to the top levels of HP management. And this is very encouraging and appreciated by all within the NonStop community as a good start!

None of this would have been possible, of course, if NonStop hadn’t returned to profitability or so readily embraced packaging in use by the rest of the BCS product family. But it does beg the question – why aren’t we hearing a lot more from users? Why aren’t customers today speaking out more loudly and sharing with their CIO peers just how well off they are from running NonStop. Just in the database arena alone, returning to Larry Ellison and Oracle for a moment, the benefits of an integrated stack so coveted by Ellison, and the savings in DBAs as a result are surely items every CIO can take substantial pride in having, should be enough to kick-start a conversation during a round of golf!

There have been occasions of late where my support of NonStop has generated considerable debate within the community. There have even been times where my opinions led to others expressing open derision and scoffing at the very thought that there could be a future for NonStop! Yet it’s hard to miss the enthusiasm for the NonStop Server platform from major companies like Chase Paymentech, AOL, Visa, Boeing-CDG, VocaLink and many others, all of which I have interacted with this year and found their support for NonStop unwavering – and they are proactively and visibly supporting the user community and its events.

It’s also hard to miss the most recent comments of Jim Johnson, Chairman of the Standish Group, posted to the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop. Moving off NonStop? "It is not easy to unhook a NonStop System. It is both costly and risky. In some cases it can take years. The migration failure rate is also very high … So making plans to get off NonStop is not a casual decision.” This remark comes at a time when Jim knows full well that there are CIOs with more than just plans to migrate, but the going is extremely difficult and ultimately, for these CIOs, simply not worth it.

So when is enough, enough? The problem that develops within losing teams is that it can become routine – oh, we lost again! That’s a shame … But when it comes to NonStop then we, as a community, should not be losing. Yes, there are markets where deploying a system that doesn’t go down, and that can scale to accommodate growth, remains a stellar option. HP has turned a corner, users remain loyal, and the options remain expensive and risky.

On the other hand, clusters continue to be complex and with complexity there will always be fragility – there’s no short cuts here. Wire a bunch of stuff together and you don’t add to stability, but rather simply lessen the stability. It can be addressed, of course, at the application level where all the “intelligence” has to be crafted as part of the solution – but the commitment to support for years to come has to be financed. A good TP Monitor will help, as will a “cluster aware” application and a good RDBMS – but again, adding multiple good technologies together doesn’t make a 5 X 9s system.

So let’s shed our conservative clothing and let’s move out from the shadows. NonStop is a winner and continues to win. Yes, markets have shifted as if on huge tectonic plates that push and collide, but opportunity abounds. However, we will miss out on a lot of it if we continue to believe that it is our fate to lose. Become unnecessary, perhaps irrelevant. Nonsense!

Yes, when are we collectively going to say enough is enough! And push back hard! When will we begin to push the bar a little higher and begin stretching, once again? When are we going to pen-in the naysayers so quick to provide their “evidence” of further failure? For me, the message is very clear – yes, enough is enough! It simply has to end and as the story in the local paper about the CU Buffs, paraphrasing Jack Nicholson’s speech in the movie “A few good men” - the truth? Not everyone out there can handle it! And in this case, NonStop will prevail, of that I have little doubt!


Paul Saunier said...

Hi Richard, thanks for the relevant observations. This week I was chagrined when my debit card and everyone else's debit card at the supermarket was declined. Shortly thereafter, I heard on the news that millions of people were flumoxed in their communications attempts when the Blackberry network went down and stayed down for hours and days. Where will it end?

Richard Buckle said...

yes, we seem to be satisfied of late that well, OK, is good enough and when things break, kind of shrug them off ... but we don't have to and we all need to do what you are doing here Paul - let's let other's know it needn't be this way!

It’s time for three more wishes for NonStop!

Three years have come around rather quickly this time but it’s still worth thinking further ahead when it comes to our wishes for NonStop ...