Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Strange Holidays

I wasn’t trying to set a record, but I have to admit my Holidays have been strange.

I moved to California in 1983 and started working at Tandem Computers the day after Thanksgiving of that year. Of course we never celebrated Thanksgiving back in Poland; there were no Indians to speak of, and corn was food for cattle, so Thanksgiving was a new Holiday for me.

I still recall my very first Thanksgiving, 1975, in Minnesota, at the home of our friends, Dan and Dorothy. It was the first time that I ever tasted turkey. I mostly enjoyed the food, as the conversation was in English, and I did not speak  it yet. From the time I arrived in the US at the end of June, 1975, till that November, I took all the English as a Second Language (ESL) classes I could find at the University, and I watched Sesame Street  every day, but I still had a hard time hearing individual words in fast delivered sentences! Anyway, it was a great dinner and the very next day we took off to Michigan – a new chapter was starting.

Back to 1983 and my first days with Tandem – we were staying in a temporary location, a long-stay hotel, while looking for a house. I was rummaging through my luggage looking for “work suitable” clothes – we went to a local fast food restaurant to celebrate the holiday - and all I could think of was my new job. It was again a new chapter starting the very first day after Thanksgiving. Little did I know that the next 30 years I would be involved with NonStop technology!

My first two weeks on the job was in a TAL class – I have to admit I found it a tad difficult, and as I was still making some of my notes in Polish, I ended up with a pretty unusual notebook. I used it over the next year quite a bit whenever I needed a reminder. I was in the SNAX group and was given a programming assignment. Those were the early days, and we still tested software in the computer room, flipping switches on machines.

Christmas of 1983 was another strange holiday – we moved into a rented condo, and as I was preoccupied with my new job, I did not get around to tree shopping till the very last moment. We found a small tree, but all the stands were gone, so we hung the tree upside down from the lamp hook in the ceiling and decorated it with handmade ornaments my mother brought me from the old country.

One thing that really made me love the job was that that in the computer room we had complete control over the machines – but then we had to learn so much more about them than was directly related to the task at hand.

Before joining Tandem, and after leaving Minnesota for Michigan, there was a New England period: my very first job ever in the US was at a company called Key Data Corporation, now long gone. Key Data was a data processing company – batch mostly. Just to make my Holidays story complete – I started working for Key Data the day after Thanksgiving, 1979.

Looking back at it, except for the fact that it was mostly batch processing, the Key Data model wasn’t all that different from today’s modern Cloud computing paradigm. Our customers couldn’t care less what machines were used to process their data, had no direct involvement with the computer room--data processing was done for them, and that was all they wanted. But there is a significant difference – in the days of data processing companies there were no provisions for  backup – it was as if you were to rely on a single cloud today.

We know how that ends… Need I remind anyone of Netflix over the last Christmas Holiday?

In’s  TechEdge, November 2012, there was an article by Jennifer Parker, “Are Two Cloud Servers Better Than One?” In it she cites a VMWare consultant who said, “Entering the cloud is the act of storing data on someone else’s server.”


That’s why I believe that InfraSoft’s  latest pursuit, maRunga, an implementation of NonStop based cloud services, will be the answer for those who want to store data on someone else’s server but want to be assured that they have access to that data no matter what happens to those servers!

I sometimes think of maRunga as “Chameleon on steroids” – you may recall Chameleon as the code name given to the project undertaken jointly by Tandem and Ungermann Bass back in 1993? I still have those cables we cut to demonstrate that when connection to one of the comms controllers was broken, the other connection would take over and your connection to the server stayed up!
With maRunga, when the connection to one cloud fails (or indeed the cloud itself fails to respond) for whatever reason, connections established to other clouds will take on the task – so yes, the answer to the question posed by Jennifer Parker in the title of her TechEdge article is YES! Two clouds are way better than one!

Fast forward: it is Easter Sunday of 2013. In a few hours’ time, my family will be arriving for our Easter meal: again, it will not be any one tradition – I will carry on with my Polish custom of deviled eggs and my Australian husband wouldn’t be happy without a leg of lamb for dinner.

I look back at the past holidays, and I wonder… so much has changed and yet so much is conceptually the same. Key Data, Chameleon, and now Cloud computing and maRunga. My upside down Christmas tree and baked lamb dinner on Easter Sunday … It is as upside down as Australia  – mind you, as a child I always suspected the folks on the other side of the globe hung upside down, didn’t you?

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