Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comes the revolution

If you have seen this post before it is because I have submitted it to a few other places, but I am re-posting here in case you have missed it ...

So, why do I think InkaBinka is a revolutionary invention? See, revolution is about freedom! When I go to my I get the refreshing snippets of information on various topics, but I have no freedom of choosing which snippets appear and where on my screen they are located! With my InkaBinka screen I have a freedom of deciding which snippets I see, I choose which parts of the various web sites will be my snippets, I decide if they at the top, bottom, left or right side of my screen. I get bored with one, I can replace it. I want more, I can add another one. That’s freedom, that’s liberating! It is truly my page, and I am not dictated to which are the important pieces of my information.

The time slider, which is not available anywhere else, allows me to go back and see what was displayed in my snippet before: one application is national security, of course, but even in the daily life of the webmaster, who just made a change and forgot what was there before … what a nice feature! Not to mention having seen a picture of the not-yet-officially unveiled car only to watch it disappear as the car site’s webmaster was asked to take it off ASAP! I slide back and enjoy the forbidden picture! Fun!

I think, comes the revolution, we will all be using InkaBinka on our devices, and it will share the fate of Kleenex – we will all be inking snippets and binking our snippets to see our desired web site, just as we reach for a Kleenex whenever we need a tissue to wipe our noses!

I am thinking... today this new software runs in Amazon clouds... Aha! maRunga!

I’d say go to the barricades and be a part of this revolution!

Click HERE to read more and HERE to watch a video.

Monday, January 21, 2013

When there is a will…

We were sitting in the lobby area of a Denver Tech Center hotel, waiting for our next meeting and conversation somehow went toward the difference between a corporate environment and a startup or a small, private company.

We talked about meetings – which were mostly boring and not conclusive in the corporate environment – nobody seemed to own a decision and so we would gather to discuss the same topic over and over again. Then a new person, who was absent at the previous meeting would arrive, the group would brief him on the progress and share a conclusion – the new person would say that he needs to noodle on it and can’t concur – so another meeting would be called. Nightmare; looking back at my corporate life I can recall several of these lengthy meetings that lead to absolutely nothing. To contrast that with a startup – the people all determined to make a decision and to move forward, the rule of majority making a decision or a leader determining the course of action, as the case may be – meetings tend to end with a clear direction, and progress is pretty rapid.

Is it because in the small company nobody gets paid to waste others time? Is it that all players have high stakes and are motivated to get things done fast? Or it is just the size that matters? In the large environment, where organization charts span several tabs of an excel spreadsheet, nobody feels safe taking responsibility for a decision, it seems. When your chart lists five people and a dog it is clear where the authority resides.

The outcomes are obvious – I recall projects that took years, literally, from conception to product release, with the scope creep beyond belief as everyone felt compelled to make sure all Is are dotted and all Ts are crossed – the good enough did not seem to be a goal, and time was not as much of an essence. In a startup it is clear from the get-go that you don’t make any money until you create something that you can sell. The goal is to get to market as fast as is possible, and the product needs to meet the requirements, but does not have to be fully “function rich” – that’s what future releases are for, to add to the product based on the clients’ feedback. That approach reduces the risk of wasting time building a widget that nobody in the real world would desire, and focuses the team on the outcome being produced timely.

Recent projects come to mind – from completely different worlds – one focused on the consumer, mass-market, one on the corporate world, the other aiming at pretty much a niche within large-corporations and yet another one aiming at the Association Management business were fresh on our minds and to me exemplify the advantage of being small and focused and being able to move swiftly, with clear goals and clear decision-making processes.

So, the mass market example of a really well executed creation of a new product is InkaBinka, a revolutionary approach to the internet, an invention that materialized as a market ready product in just months. The extra requirement of having marketing materials necessary to introduce a consumer product made this project pretty challenging, but all involved understood what needed to be done and delivered a market-ready offering! Read more about InkaBinka on their web site, and also in this blog posts

As for the example of building product for the corporate world, decisions made around a metal garden table on the veranda of a repurposed former motel have been tightly focused on use-case scenarios, even as architecture is being finalized and code is being produced. I hope to be able to cover this project in more detail in a few months but already the energy coming from a small group of highly skilled, highly motivated folks, who have enjoyed working for start-ups many times before is oozing from those motel rooms – oops, offices.

And then there is maRunga, a product that will arrive shortly and will be demonstrated in June at the HP Discover 2013 conference. The idea of a clouds support on Nonstop is hardly a new one and the HP Team has been evangelizing the concept and showing demos illustrating it for quite some time. InfraSoft team ventured into building an actual offering shortly before the end of 2012, and despite the Holiday season and usual customer support distractions as they also provide uLinga product to the NonStop market, the development effort is full speed and maRunga will be ready, as planned. Look how distractive an Aussie BBQ can be!

There was plenty of opportunity to get distracted, the Team entertained ideas of opening the access to public clouds (ingenious thought, next releases!), the implementation of the per transaction pricing model (excellent thought, may be worth pursuing in the future!) and many other such additions, yet the Team stayed focused on the goal of delivering an actual product that will deliver on the promise of the HP concept demonstrations. Simple, elegant, and well executed.

I wrote about maRunga before
and I am sure you will see more written about it as the go-to-market effort begins.
Then there is an Association Management new web site and a new business.

I recall at one of our trips to New Zealand seeing an add that said “Once you wear black you can never go back” – I don’t even know if that was a funeral house, New Zealand’s rugby team, or something totally else that was being advertised on posters pasted to so many walls in that little New Zealand town. To us it became a phrase we use when we encounter something that changes the way we see things, do things, or in general a life altering invention or discovery. We used this expression when we first took Z06 Corvette to the track, after struggling for a few years with a Corvette that had been supercharged …

Looking back at my relationship with all four start-ups I am really enjoying the involvement even as it varies with the maturity of the projects, and my relationship with the principals. Whether it’s simply providing opinions and observations, helping out with “QA” or, should I say, testing with the intent of providing an end user input to the project, or recommending folks I believe would have an immediate impact on the project, or just blogging to provide a content to the site I am enjoying to be of however much help I can be. I think with some of these projects, if you take a closer look, you will agree that they are of the “if you ever wear black” variety!

Sitting in the lobby of Marriott, sipping Sauvignon Blanc, and remembering the many projects that we used to lead, follow, or abandon … it was clear to us that having the freedom to make fast decisions, having a team where everyone feels committed and everyone understands how those decisions are being made, has an acute advantage over what might transpire in the ever-noodling often-bloated, corporate world. Besides, when you get lucky to be involved with a small company you are working with a group of people you actually like, respect and enjoy working with! To the point of wanting to do it all again and again.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ideas! Innovations! Will we keep on inventing?

I first introduced the inventor Kevin to this readership several years ago – from my coffee shop days while visiting Simi Valley. Little did I know then that he would deliver technology that would change the way we think of internet access!

I may have avoided the cold and snow of Boulder for a couple of weeks, but it was only temporary and Margo and I have returned to find the temperatures dropping much lower than we have seen in quite a while. The cold, or flu bug, we picked up 16 days ago, despite the steps we took to be vaccinated, still has us in its grip and for much of the time we have been back home, we have felt miserable. From emails we have received from colleagues it seems we aren’t alone in our misery as much of North America is suffering, but at least, it has given us both an opportunity to catch up on work we put to one side as the holidays arrived.

As a writer, commentator, and more often these days, an analyst, getting to the latest headlines of publications I follow is a priority for me and no day starts without trolling many publications to see what is topical and what looks to be shaking up the planet. While I spend most of my time bent forward, reading articles directly from my monitor, on occasion I will pick up traditional magazines as I continue to maintain subscriptions for several publications I just like to read in depth, and among my favorites continues to be The Economist.

There may be readers who think it is just Road and Track or Motor Trend that are more to my taste but no, I subscribe to several business publications simply because I remain old-school, after a fashion, with a preference for turning real pages. In so doing, it gives me the opportunity to quickly flip past annoying ads for products and services I have no interest in as I stay focused on a feature or column that has caught my attention. And so it happened this week that I found the heading on the front page of January 12th – 18th, 2013, The Economist inescapable – the thought Will we ever invent anything this useful again?, coming from Rodin’s, The Thinker, seated atop what The Economist describes as “the humble loo”.

“With the pace of technological change making heads spin, we tend to think of our age as the most innovative ever. We have smartphones and supercomputers, big data and nanotechnologies, gene therapy and stem-cell transplants,” the editorial column opens. “Yet nobody recently has come up with an invention half as useful as (the humble loo) depicted on our cover … and this is why a growing band of thinkers claim that the pace of innovation has slowed.” The editorial then makes the observation “if the pessimists are right, the implications are huge … to raise incomes and welfare entail(s) using the stuff we already have in better ways – innovating in other words.”

By chance, I was passing through Simi Valley where I was able to catch up with my good friend, Kevin McGushion, who can only be described as an inventor extraordinaire. Readers of my NonStop community blog, Real Time View, may recall the post of June 2, 2010,
What’s in your garage?, in which I first introduced Kevin and the products he had invented. Recall the recent success of the SpaceX Dragon docking at the International Space Station? Well, every weld on the propulsion system of that space ship was courtesy of one of Kevin’s most successful inventions in the esoteric field of orbital welding. An invention which he developed at age 24 in his Santa Monica apartment before starting Exel Orbital Systems . However, Kevin has now turned his skills to IT and to the Internet and he may have really come up with something that’s truly unique and potentially a game changer. And it all has to do with using the stuff we already have in a much better way – something I was able to cover exclusively for clients in my weekly email update last week.

Like me, Kevin explains, “I had started my day pretty much the same way as always, logging on to my computer for updates on events that had happened during the night and to see what the day may bring and as always, I was in a hurry. After the ads and animation ran, I quickly read the headlines and then any stories that grabbed my attention but sadly, that day I never made it past the first news story because I had run out of time. It was hard to go to the Internet!” Kevin then went to Starbucks where we first had met and where the story continues “while waiting in line for my coffee, I tried to navigate to just one of my favorite sites which took so long to load, my coffee was ready before I could even see the first story – never mind getting to all the cool sites I really wanted to see. And picking up where I left off on my desktop with my smartphone well, it just takes so long to load it’s almost not worth trying. I needed a way of putting the best of every web page I wanted in one spot so I could view it any time I wanted to and (it needed to be server based) as I switched to my smartphone, it had to load really fast.”

Welcome to InkaBinka – Kevin’s latest invention that now does exactly what he was looking for. Or, as the headline in Monday’s issue of BusinessWire, A Berkshire Hathaway Company, more succinctly
expressed it “Revolutionizing Web Browsing: InkaBinka Introduces an Online Tool that Brings the Internet to You”. BusinessWire then adds how “With InkaBinka, users can capture and frame any portion of any Website into a tile on their personalized InkaBinka canvas. IB’s rapid refresh technology allows users to stay current and up-to-date by detecting any changes on the actual Web pages and updates the tiles on the canvas. InkaBinka’s Time Slider is basically an Internet time machine that allows users to go back in time to view what happened on any tile that they created. With multiple patents pending, InkaBinka is rapidly changing the way users browse the Internet. Viewable on any smartphone, tablet or computer, IB enables users to create their own unique online experience. InkaBinka makes it unnecessary to continuously surf and navigate through Web sites and takes everything each user loves about the Internet and puts it all in one place; InkaBinka brings the Internet to you.”

If you would like even more information about exactly how it works and how it will bring the Internet to you, you can check out the YouTube clip “
InkaBinka Launch Animated Video”, and if you are wondering about the relevance of InkaBinka for us all, then rest assured, there is one. So much so that right from the outset, Margo and I have been part of the early adopter team with Margo also actively engaged in some of the early QA. Again, this too was addressed in my client update email of last week, a portion of which follows here.

For the enterprise business user the ubiquitous browser interface has overtaken almost every GUI developed, no matter how spiffy they looked. Pretty much any client device we have today comes with a browser. However, at the end of the day, it’s still a daunting task getting everything we need via just a single internet connection – imagine if we could see, in just one page, what a customer has bought, what the internet has been saying about them and what they have been buying, and perhaps where they stand financially in terms of credit scores, etc. And oh, yes, what if you could also see what they have posted to Facebook about what they wanted to get … the “picture painted” is almost limitless and it will open up new ways for access to server applications. F
or more on InkaBinka, check out the web site where a free trial is offered.

Whether you find any of this of interest or not – but I hope you do – what really gets me excited is to see that yes, ideas are still being nurtured and innovation is still being actively pursued. Pessimists may indeed rue the notion that the ideas machine has broken down, as The Economist suggested. In its closing remark, this publication noted that “in the end, the main risk to advanced economies may not be that the pace of innovation is too slow, but that institutions have become too rigid to accommodate truly revolutionary changes”  and I suspect that this is much closer to the truth than many of us may want to acknowledge. It may have come from a garage in Simi Valley and it is still in its very early days but who knows! This may just be something we find we really can’t do without!  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

NonStop, on the line that connects the dots!

With as much discussion and promotion by HP of the importance of Social Media, Mobile, Big Data and Clouds following references made during HP CEO Whitman keynote of HP Discover 2012 potential roles for NonStop should not be overlooked.

This week I am far removed from the cold weather that is holding my home town of Boulder, Colorado, captive. The snow began falling Christmas eve and when we awoke Christmas day we enjoyed a beautiful sunny white Christmas, complete with snow-capped mountains framing as much of the western horizon that we could see. A number of the Rockies famous 14ers – those peaks topping 14,000 feet – could be readily identified but as beautiful a picture it presented, there was no escaping just how cold it was, so it was best to stay indoors.

But as I write this post I am again in sunshine and it’s much warmer given that I am now in Palm Desert, California. The picture above? We did manage to play tourists for a day and took the Palm Springs aerial tram to the top of a nearby peak where we were able to “enjoy snowy California”! Margo and I have only visited Palm Desert once before and that was when we were both working for Tandem Computers. Following the ITUG conference in Orlando, Florida, we had flown directly to Palm Desert for the annual Tandem sales kick-off event.

It was 1993 and with engineering support, pulled from the Cupertino campus, Margo, as the development manager, was unveiling the production version of “chameleon – twin tails”. I was along for the ride as the product manager. Chameleon was a joint investment by Tandem and its subsidiary, Ungermann-Bass, in a solution that exploited capabilities of TCP/IP and Ethernet whereby Tandem computers were able to support a fault tolerant connection to any PC equipped with the UB network interface card.

Back in our Boulder office Margo still has a two-handled coffee mug with one of the “pink LAN cables” cut in half by none other than Jimmy himself when he stopped by to hear our spiel. The demo had been simple; a wiggly worm application made up of dots moving across a 6530 terminal screen and when the LAN connection was cut there was a momentary pause and then the worm moved to the next dot – the line connecting all the dots showed no breaks at all. No, this product didn’t support Token Ring connections and no, there was not going to be any support for SNA but all the same, coming as it did in the early 1990s, at a time when no other vendor could support such uninterruptable communications, it captured the attention of several major Tandem users.

Connecting the dots has always been a passion of mine as it is for anyone who watches technology. The fast pace of innovation ensures the line keeps pushing ahead, connecting more dots, in a rapid fashion. There’s never a time where decades or centuries (of observation) are involved before a distinct trend can be perceived. Compared to other industries, technology lines keep pushing ahead on an almost daily basis. Readers of my blog posts here and elsewhere will have picked up on this theme already as I have made reference to several major “dots” HP has emphasized ever since HP Discover 2012, where message of “Make it Matter” was formally unveiled. And my interest in looking more closely at the dots followed HP CEO Whitman’s keynote presentation.

In my latest opinion paper on Big Data, that will be available for downloading from the Attunity web site, HP NonStop Transactional Data: Critical for Meaningful Big Data, I set the stage early by quoting Whitman directly. “Clouds, Social, Mobile and Big Data are all contributing to further shifts in the tectonic plates underpinning IT,” was how HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman, referred to important trends that HP was tracking. Rather emphatically, I then wrote that HP recognizes the connection between mobile devices and Big Data, before adding that today, there’s simply no stepping back from the mobile world we all live in. Against this backdrop, it’s easy to see that connecting the dots between mobile devices and Big Data, I concluded, draws a line right through NonStop.

On the surface tracking these major shifts, or influences, effecting HP and identifying Clouds, Social, Mobile and Big Data leaves little room for NonStop. In the many discussions I have had with the NonStop community it is as if NonStop is being deliberately sidelined – surely, these latest shifts all involve other platforms in the Business Critical Systems portfolio. In my post to the web publication, It’s just more challenges … that will appear shortly, I hit back at any suggestion that NonStop would be absent from the mix of systems HP would be promoting in support of these shifts.

If I were to forecast the likely mix of technologies within the data center by 2020, I wrote, modern iterations of NonStop systems would be present. Driving this transition, I then went on to suggest would  be a mix of Big Data and real time Analytics, the leveraging of an amorphous private Cloud within the data center that has paths to more popular public / managed Clouds. And, of course, a need for enterprises to beef-up the way they monitor and manage transactions, given that we will all be mobile, working from anywhere. Just another way to explain the connections between social media, mobility, Big Data and Clouds!

I find it comes all too easily for many within the bigger HP community to fall back on bad habits and suggest that this calls for entirely new systems. However, within the product portfolio there continues to be NonStop and its massively parallel processing engine remains the envy of many. Recall my post of September 21, 2012, following my interview with Martin Fink, now CTO of all of HP, where I quoted him as having said “we have been running MPP engines that are some of the biggest the world has ever seen. There’s no better engine than NonStop!” And this wasn’t said just for my benefit, but rather as an acknowledgment of just how much relevant intellectual property (IP) existed within NonStop systems that HP would just love to unlock and feature in future product offerings.

Taking the argument one step further and looking at what the NonStop community is currently engaged in it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see vendors adding support for mobile devices that monitor and manage NonStop systems, such as IR is doing with Prognosis and comForte is doing with application access, and if you have never been to the OpSol Solutions web site and checked out what they did in Japan for KDDI in support of a variety of mobile phone services, check out the slide presentation -

“In mobile telephone, telecommunication industry, cannot tolerate system down for even one second. NonStop server is the only one capable of delivering 99.9999 availability,” the closing slides report. “KDDI provide high-speed and high-volume of movie mail distribution services which require flexible design of mail box size, because traffic volume will increase and mail size may differ depending of movie length. NonStop Server is the only platform (that) can support these new services and provide (the) flexibility.”

Mobile phones are just another client device and one NonStop has been engineered to support. The growth in popularity of mobile devices and the interest of business to know more about what’s going on is what’s driving Big Data and with Big Data comes another reason for enterprises to consider deploying Clouds, whether private, in-house, resources or in combination with public resources. In a recent post to the blog comForte Lounge, uLinga; turning up the heat! I wrote that even as
HP’s strategy is being heavily skewed towards support of Social, Mobile, Big Data and Clouds, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that there’s a new product suite being pulled from whiteboards, restaurant napkins and PowerPoint slides even now by the development team at Infrasoft.

Based on the same framework that underpins uLinga, this new product, maRunga, will focus on supporting much greater Cloud engagement for NonStop.
“Building maRunga will not automatically promote NonStop systems to playing a prominent role within enterprise clouds and may only attract a select few,” blogged Margo Holen recently. “But after reading the reports being generated following the outages we have all seen recently, there certainly cannot be any harm in equipping NonStop to play a role in Clouds, so stay tuned and watch for more details in the coming year.”

I have always loved connecting the dots. That’s what keeps me interested in IT and helps me track where major vendors like HP are headed. Sometimes the horizon isn’t quite as distinct as it was the other day in Boulder, with the highest peaks clearly visible, yet even as the wiggly worm paused briefly following its link to the Tandem being cut, it’s easy to see the unbroken path being pursued. While many may view the focus by HP on Social, Mobile, Big Data and Clouds as unlikely to nourish further investments in NonStop I totally disagree as already investments in innovative solutions have started. This early in 2013 there’s the whole year yet to unfold but from where I stand, I again remain as optimistic as I have ever been that the line connecting all these dots does run through NonStop.

Looks can be deceiving! HPE NonStop; when being the best still matters!

For the NonStop community, we know what looks good may not only be deceptive but borderline dangerous; mission critical applications are bes...