Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reminiscing …

I love to travel. I like to observe what's going on at new places. And when I return to places I visited in the past, I like to check out what's changed. When it comes to work and the tasks I pursued, there is still much I can learn from reminiscing!

My third time to Rome has proved to be better than I can recall past trips having been – a much more relaxed pace, and my business pursuits turned out to be easier than I anticipated. The first time to Rome, I joined a tour that hit all the main tourist draws whereas the second came at the end of a longer stay in the Mediterranean, and during the height of the summer tourist season where the heat and wind made the stay anything but pleasant. The picture above is of me taking a brief pause along the Via dei Fori Imperiali!

Following a brief exchange, before I left, with Randy Meyer who heads HP NonStop’s Product Management group, and on his recommendation, with days to spare between meetings in Venice and Rome I elected to fill in the time by taking a small cruise ship that made the trip via the Dalmatian coast – and it’s definitely something I can recommend to anyone else. Look closely at Randy’s photo on Facebook and you will see the sister ship in the background!

However, not for the first time, the itinerary was changed and we skipped our stay in Sorrento and its passage to the Amalfi Coast, pulling into Naples instead to take on much needed fresh water. Readers may recall that in a post to this blog written in the summer of 2008, “Roman Holiday!” I regretted that the plans to visit Florence had been cut short as a problem with that vessel resulted in us skipping the port of Lugarno completely. Florence, along with Positano, is among my most favorite places in all of Italy, and it will now be left to future visits before I get another chance to see either of these marvelous townships.

Reminiscing about this with my wife led me to the above post, and as I looked at what I wrote back in May of 2008 it featured commentary on my former employer– GoldenGate. In that post, I looked at the topic of innovation and highlighted how “even though GoldenGate had its origins in NonStop, we deliberately went after a number of key folks from other vendors who brought with them special skills in other areas of data. We also bridged the generation gaps by recruiting a broad mix of age groups to the company," was a quote I pulled at the time from GoldenGate’s then VP of Marketing, Sami Akbay. He then acknowledged that looking at the marketing of GoldenGate that was being pursued “we have moved to where data itself is what's strategic! Access in real time to operational data allows companies to innovate in ways not thought of, or even considered possible, before."

Returning to the theme of GoldenGate for this post shouldn’t come as a surprise. After remaining quiet on this topic for the past two years, it may be hard to miss how it was the subject of a feature in the November – December 2010 issue of The Connection, as well as the backdrop for an opinions white paper on replication that I recently developed for Attunity - follow this link to obtain the pdf: After two years as an integral part of Oracle GoldenGate may not be the automatic choice for everyone any longer, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the NonStop community will be able to enjoy greater choice in product offerings than ever before.

The lead-in anecdotes I provided as introductions in both documents looked at the need to replicate as well as how well other vendors have performed in terms of cutting into the considerable lead GoldenGate had once enjoyed. Even the most proactive champion of NonStop is aware that truly providing 7 X 24 X forever availability mandates more than one system, indeed, more than one site, to ensure such levels of availability, no matter what. Without revisiting all that I covered in both documents I have to acknowledge that perhaps there is no other infrastructure market segment as well served as is that of replication. The arrival of Attunity’s solution only further cements this observation and represents another example of the investment vendors continue to make as they bring to market innovative and lower cost offerings.

When I started the discussion “Latest on GoldenGate – are you feeling the need to change?” in the LinkedIn Group, Real Time View, one of the comments posted came from Jeff Boyer, head of sales for all of the America’s. In his response to this question he highlighted how “Oracle has retained nearly all of the development, support and product folks from GoldenGate. We have a product road map for all databases and Oracle is investing in the product. In addition staying current with the HP NonStop databases - we are adding new databases for capture and delivery in every release of OGG (Oracle GoldenGate!).” In stark contrast to what all of us may have thought, Boyer then explained that “OGG is not going away or being pushed aside - since being acquired by Oracle we have increased our customer base and installs by magnitudes - hopefully this increase is based on the value OGG brings.”

And yet, the activity from vendors anxious to plug the holes generated through customer dissatisfaction over Oracle’s support of GoldenGate, particularly when it comes to pricing and, even more specifically, when it involves upgrading to the latest HP NonStop Blade systems, is quite visible. It will require significant investments in marketing by these competing vendors, but it is hard to ignore the steps that have already been taken. There’s rarely a NonStop user event where there isn’t coverage by one vendor or another about how far they have come to addressing all that GoldenGate had been providing.

As I worked on this post I had the good fortune to catch up with Sami Akbay, now CEO of Altibase Inc. and we revisited some of his earlier comments. “Marketing certainly was instrumental in elevating GoldenGate above competing products and in helping the company gain the broad marketplace acceptance that it did,” Akbay observed. “From the time we added key industry influencers to the company’s board of directors, as well as how the Customer Advisory Board was populated, to simply how the company conducted itself at some of the premier events in support of databases and enterprise warehouses, and not forgetting how we managed to convince many of our top tier, blue ribbon customers, to participate with the company in promoting the products,” Akbay added before concluding with “there was no mistaking the amount of energy that went in to ensuring GoldenGate was perceived as the premier company in this market.”

Today, none of this has been lost on vendors like Attunity who have just released their Attunity Replicate product. Marketing is extremely important for vendors as they wrestle market share away from the incumbent, GoldenGate. “It is very important to recognize the investment Attunity continue to make in marketing – the message we provide is very simple,” Itamar Ankorion, Attunity VP, Business Development and Corporate Strategy, explained in a recent exchange on this topic. “In Attunity Replicate, all any user needs to know is that our implementation on most platforms comes with zero footprint (on NonStop, there will be some code), that configuring any replication can be easily done with our new ‘Click-2-Replicate’ and perhaps most important of all, we bring to the market a solution with a competitive licensing model.”

Perhaps reverberating even more loudly with the NonStop community today was Ankorion’s closing comment that “there will always be a requirement for alternate offerings and with what we have today Attunity, along with other well-known vendors already established in the market place, may indeed tilt the playing field even further in favor of product offerings apart from what was considered in the past! Indeed, from our perspective, the NonStop community will certainly have plenty to consider going forward.”

Reminiscing about anything, whether it’s places we like, sports teams we watch, or technology we embraced so enthusiastically in the past is always done through rose-colored glasses. What we seem to remember is often embellished and the capabilities, indeed conquests, live more colorfully in our memories than perhaps they did in real life. Maintaining the status quo can often produce unintended consequences if not routinely revisited, and the playing field that was tipped so heavily in favor of just one vendor can be nothing more than a figment of our imagination. As Ankorion so rightfully noted yes, with the arrival of new product offerings, the NonStop community certainly has never had it so good!

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