Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yes, I get it!

When it’s an Indy racing car driver that expresses so succinctly the value proposition that comes with embracing standardization and commoditization, the message for the NonStop community is hard to miss and forward-thinking vendors are responding ...

For several years, well, decades really, we have been collecting wines that were sold in magnums – essentially a double helping of your favorite wine in a really big bottle. There’s a couple of Penfolds, several Silver Oaks, Duckhorns, a Joseph Phelps and even a ’93 Bordeaux from a famous vineyard picked up cheaply at Heathrow airport when the US dollar was a lot stronger. However, they are mostly Australian reds and when the holidays come around, it’s a great time to pull a cork and see just how well they have developed.

As many of the bottles are from the early ‘90s, it’s always a mixed blessing – sure we like the wine but now the cellar looks the poorer with the absence of a really good examples of wines we like, but the response from Margo is always the same; get over it! The running joke in our family is that it makes absolutely no sense to leave wine as part of an inheritance. What’s the point – you acquire wine to enjoy it not to let it gather dust in a chilly basement!

The picture above is of a magnum of ‘94 cabernet sauvignon from the John Riddoch collection by the South Australian winery, Wynns – and even though it was just on the edge after a few hours resting on the kitchen countertop, it tasted great. Readers of previous blogs posted at this time of year may recall a very checkered past when it comes to picking the wines but yes, I get it. There are few points to be won from not drinking some of the best you have, as the fall-out from choosing poorly can be considerable as will be the reminders. If you missed those earlier posts then you may want to revisit “
NonStop? Spreading the word ...” and “Product Roadmaps! Still required?

But I do get it – special occasions call for special wines! And a go
od wine is always a great lead in to opening presents, not to mention fodder for a good story line. Last year my good friend Brian surprised me with a subscription to Racer magazine and it was only a day or so ago that I was able to find the time to catch up on my reading of older issues. And among the editorials that grabbed my attention was one by the successful Indy 500 racer and winner and two-time Indy car champ, Gil de Ferran.  The focus of his column was the demands to reign in the costs of race cars while ensuring innovation would be allowed to flourish.

“Look, I get it,” de Ferran began. “Try to control costs, restrict options, standardize on certain parts, increase production, amortize investment over a wider base, increase value for money … It all makes sense and works particularly when the supply of investment into our sport has been dented by the economics of this era.” It is really easy to substitute our technology industry for sport and everything else remains relevant. Indeed, when it comes to technology relevance, Racer magazine was kind enough to include in its own definition of technology relevance with the bracketing (1) of the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes with (2) machinery and equipment developed from such knowledge together with (1) the relation to the matter at hand and (2) practical applicability.

Just as deFerran acknowledges, I too do get it. And I am talking about the HP NonStop system, obviously. Control costs, restrict options, standardize on certain parts, increase production, amortize investment over a wider base, increase value for money … all for the sake of technology relevance. What we have seen over the past couple of years are NonStop systems that are commodity-hardware based, sharing almost every component with other systems of the Business Critical Systems portfolio. We have seen standardization on a scale we would never have expected to see only a decade ago with the prices coming down even as the value for money has climbed. To many enterprises, NonStop is on threshold of crossing over to being bargain priced.

Discussions with solutions vendors providing products for financial institutions are revealing how compelling an argument for adding more applications onto the NonStop system these lower prices are generating. “Once you start relying on clusters of Windows or Linux servers, throw in the cost of the operating system, database system and the necessary tools in support of D/R as well as monitoring,” acknowledged OmniPayments Inc. CEO,
Yash Kapadia, “let alone factoring in the people resources needed to watch over such a complex environment; the value that comes with the latest small NonStop systems, including the most recently released NS2100 NonStop system, and of having everything you need in just the one box is inescapable. From what we have seen we have moved an application from off of Linux / MySQL and ported to NonStop with NS SQL/MX for a lower overall solution price. A circumstance I wouldn’t have believed possible just a few years ago.” 

Probably of more value to software companies is the support of other standards – the Java language and NonStop SQL/MX. It has also become quite routine to externalize applications via SOA and Web services, and increasingly, applications being ported to NonStop find it easy to bring with them enough of a HTTP server to ensure modern protocols including HTTP, HTML (including the latest HTML5 iterations), XML, etc. to ensure NonStop is no stranger to the needs of the latest PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. In other publications you will read of where I connect the dots between the growing integration of social media with business, the increased reliance on mobile devices, the value from getting transactional data into Big Data frameworks, and the cost-effectiveness from leveraging Cloud resources – private as well as public. None of this would have been conceivable without HP fostering an environment where embracing standards and leveraging commodity components was encouraged at all levels. A situation not lost on vendors like IR that have embraced Big Data even as they add support for mobile devices or Infrasoft and comForte as they take a much closer look at Clouds.  

However, what I simply don’t get is the lack of any real marketing “noise” about all of this coming from HP, and indeed, the full ecosystem surrounding NonStop. There are many incidents where NonStop customers talk openly of NonStop as if it were just another Unix box – you have to look very hard to even find the references to NonStop. Likewise, Nonstop vendors who have embraced platforms apart from NonStop for sound business principles designed to develop complementary revenue streams seem to stress the alternate platforms over NonStop relying on the customer to ask the question before NonStop is introduced into the conversation. Yet, even as I look back on 2012 I have to admit, many solutions and middleware vendors who added support for platforms apart from NonStop, have become much more optimistic about the future of NonStop and are more inclined to reference NonStop and for that, the NonStop community needs to be particularly appreciative.

Yes, the year has come to an end and the sales success of NonStop continues. Without giving too much away it only takes a few calls to those involved in selling NonStop systems to come to appreciate that the oft-quoted “another quarter of double digit growth” with respect to sales of NonStop systems is a reality and after three years of such growth, shrinkage in the NonStop community seems to have
quiesced, a situation that I plan on covering in more detail in 2013. Who could have forecast just a few years ago that a working NonStop system, complete with an SQL database, could be purchased for under US$100K? And surely, growing popularity of such a system might just prove enough for there to be a lot more marketing noise in 2013 as well!

Then again, I do get it. Just as
de Ferran emphasized value for money even as he acknowledged the need to control costs, restrict options and standardize, so has NonStop returned to emphasizing almost the exact same list of attributes. And with that, I honestly believe, we have here all the elements that have gone into why today NonStop remains a relevant technology, important to so many businesses. All I can hope for now is that more of the NonStop community gets it as well and about that, I will remain every bit as optimistic as I have ever been.

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