Friday, September 20, 2013

Impassable? Bridges will be built …

Once again, it’s all about user groups and the benefits they provide. I continue to support them as I see few alternatives when it comes to better understanding their passion for all things NonStop!

It is a common observation of mine, and coming as it does so soon into my eight year of blogging, it should not come as a surprise to anyone. I like participating in NonStop regional user group meetings, and this week I have the privilege of participating in the CTUG fall event. The turnout was encouraging and the engagement amongst the user group’s stakeholders was hard to miss. As Randy Meyer, HP VP and GM of Integrity Servers observed in his opening remarks, “If you want to see an example of how to run user group events, then you only need to visit CTUG!”

HP Canada Sales VP, Roger Walker, who was clearly excited by the prospects of NonStop, rattled off numbers that surprised many in the audience. It’s not only hard to ignore how engaged the user group’s stakeholders were, but ignoring the contribution NonStop is making to the overall performance of the Integrity Servers group proved even more difficult! I took the picture above as the day’s event wound down and the stakeholders gathered to enjoy wine and cheese, and one further chance to network.

When it comes to what has been hard to ignore of late then it is probably all right to mention the tough time our home town of Boulder, Colorado, has experienced. For several weeks, Margo and I had been planning to drive to Mississauga for CTUG, but in the days before our scheduled departure the heavens opened and the creeks and streams that flow down the many canyons that surround Boulder became torrents that overwhelmed the infrastructure in a matter of hours. Roads became impassable as bridges were swept away and low-lying areas turned into lakes. We accelerated our plans to leave Sunday and as soon as we found a way out, with a bridge still standing, while driving the nearby roads, Saturday morning, we returned to throw clothes into bags and get out of Boulder as quickly as we could.

Four days later, we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel in Canada and in almost no time, caught up with other vendors as they gathered in the hotel lobby. What immediately struck me was how the make-up of the vendor community has remained consistent over the years – yes, some of those getting a heads start on networking had worked for different vendors at one point, but they remained as enthusiastic about NonStop as they had always been. The knowledge of NonStop shared by this group had to be priceless as, irrespective of the products and solutions they were promoting, together this group had pretty much seen it all.

More to the point, when it comes to knowledge of NonStop, there is now a serious repository of in-depth knowledge within the vendor community to where, in some product areas, they likely have more real world practical experience than can be found inside of HP. Not to say HP doesn’t have the talent, but from necessity, the knowledge of NonStop inside HP is tightly focused whereas vendors spend a lot more time at the coal face and simply are exposed to more varied environments than anyone else. These vendors also never really get a second chance so they have to be always at the top of their game.

I have been around user groups for as long as I care to recall. For several years, my responsibility as an ITUG Director had been to support the Regional User Groups (RUGs). Today, they are called Chapters within the Connect Community but to me, they will always be RUGs and given the opportunity (and an invitation), I will do everything in my power to ensure I can participate. Of late, some of you may have noticed, I cannot always make it to all the RUG events I should support, but I continue to try and when the planets align, and days free up on my calendar, I jump right in. From my perspective, the day RUGs will attract no stakeholders, it will be the time to ride off into the sunset and “call it a day”.

The singular, most important, aspect of RUG events as far as I am concerned is the feedback from users about how they are using their NonStop systems. Yes, Financial Institutions (FIs) and Telecommunications companies (Telcos) continue to represent 65% of the NonStop user community, but the remaining 35% is what interests me these days. According to Randy Meyer, this group includes European Auto Manufacturers that I know, from personal experience, includes companies like Mercedes Benz, Audi, Porsche as well as Peugeot / Citroen. Who knew Steelworks need NonStop and again, and I know of several that do.

Rail ticketing? Again, whether you are in the UK, Germany, Japan or parts of the U.S. the ticket you buy (particularly when you purchase online) will involve NonStop. Entertainment? Yes, you want to purchase a pay-per-view in the U.S. so you can watch a fight or see a concert, then depending upon the carrier there is a NonStop involved. Car Rentals? Yes, that is covered too. When there are solutions involving interaction with customers, availability remains as important as it ever has. For those planning on attending the NonStop Boot Camp in November, there will be some serious discussions on who all runs NonStop and for many, not only might it prove illuminating but possibly the highlight of the event.

This is not to gloss over situations where NonStop has lost ground. It would be hard to have a discussion on NonStop today without some lamenting over the loss of NonStop presence in stock exchanges. Yes, you can do almost anything with Windows, we know, but it is not always as smooth sailing as some would like it to be. The number of times stock exchanges have suffered from embarrassing and costly outages following the implementation of a solution on a Windows platform hasn’t gone unnoticed by either the exchanges or the sales teams that have worked with them in the past – while I have nothing concrete to offer at this time, it’s not unreasonable to believe that NonStop sales teams have already begun chipping away at potential opportunities.

A very large Australian bank elected to replace NonStop with Windows a decade ago or so– and witnessed the full weight of Microsoft and Dell brought to bear on the migration. However, to no avail – eventually, they gave up and returned to NonStop. An acquisition that needed the bank to scale to size even bigger than initially projected proved the final nail in the Windows coffin – so no, not everything is lost forever. I would not be surprised to read headlines next year of at least one exchange partially returning to NonStop perhaps in a variation of the look-to-book hybrid NonStop / Linux configuration a major travel operator successfully implemented a few years back.

No roads remain blocked forever. Even as the water recedes from Boulder, the size of the task (to rebuild) takes shape – but eventually, enough of the infrastructure will be fixed for arterial roads to be passable. Building bridges will prove time consuming but it will happen. Much the same can be said about industries that once championed NonStop only to bring in commodity products – eventually, their infrastructure too will prove fragile and require considerable effort to correct. Making it reliable once more could be so much easier with the presence of NonStop!

Moreover, this is where RUG events hold the potential key – reinforcing the message that among the Fortune 500, there remain many companies deploying modern solutions on NonStop. Simply talking about such use case scenarios over a glass of wine, with a little cheese, is one of the best ways to get the message out there – you never know who may hear you. In addition, you never know when it may strike a chord and trigger a deeper exchange.

As I returned to the road to drive the return leg back to Boulder, I was struck by just how much information was shared at CTUG and how strong a presence HP provided; although it helps, of course, it’s really not just about the wine and cheese. As with Boulder and its infrastructure, bridges continue to be built among the users of NonStop systems. The chance to hear something new taking place involving NonStop is what keeps me coming back to RUG events and I am sure it’s the reason too why so many other NonStop stakeholders return as well.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Seven years and still counting; so much "Ink on NonStop"

At first, it just seemed like a good idea. On second thought, how would I find enough to write about? Seven years on, and some 500 plus posts to multiple blogs, when it comes to NonStop there’s still so much more to write about …   

It actually crept up on me but in the end, it came as a surprise. Readers who check out older posts to this blog may have noticed as well, and I believe I gave out a few clues over the past months. Yes, with my first blogs appearing in August, 2007, six years have passed and I am now starting my seventh year of blogging to Real Time View - continuing to generate what I like to think is further “Ink on NonStop”!

To be fair, I am not sure how many posts I have written for industry, vendor and community blogs I support, but a back of the envelope calculation suggests somewhere north of 500 posts, not including the features and updates I provide to both, The Connection and Tandemworld. Along the way, I have been well supported by the vendor community who viewed my early posts with wry humor, but in recent times looking at just how widely read these posts proved to be, their support has picked up considerably.

However, the commitment to writing is a serious one, and there’s rarely a moment in the day when I‘m not thinking about what to write next – and perhaps no better picture could be painted of me than the one appearing above. Very different from the usual images you will find elsewhere in this blog, it was taken by Margo during a recent outing while I was deep in thought, as is often the case when a post is due. And no, I wasn’t aware she was photographing me.

Today, when I am introducing myself as a blogger it is no longer a situation where I have to provide additional explanations. While many blogs are purely entertaining, others are giving us fresh insight and even new perspectives into markets and industries. Always a keen observer of trends, InkaBinka Founder and CEO, Kevin McGushion, probably summed up blogging best when he said:

“Bloggers have the potential of becoming the Fifth Estate in tech. As printed media (the press) has become the Fourth Estate in politics, so too Serious Bloggers have the ability to shed light on the story behind the story in the tech world.”

A short time ago, I corresponded with several members of the NonStop community who have watched me blogging since the very beginning. Deep down, I had this sense that perhaps they thought that this was pretty lame and that it wouldn’t continue for too long. Among those who were involved with me during the early months were colleagues of mine from GoldenGate, among them, Sami Akbay. Now working for another start-up, WebAction, Sami was the first to get back to me with a comment:

“No - I don't think it was ever ‘ho-hum’; we were starting to talk about wiki's and weblogs back then (at GoldenGate) where people could participate in the conversation and marketing would be less ‘one-way’. It was around the time we were talking and thinking on better ways of product management, so we could get the ‘pulse’ of the community to feed it back into the product.

It wasn't until a year later that we started talking about social media - you were ahead of your time. There were those folks who made fun of blogs, social media, twitter and facebook calling them fads. Today, we know sentiment analytics, social media, and highly individualized marketing are here to stay. You were a bit ahead of your time. You don't look as crazy anymore do you?”

I am not sure I ever viewed my own actions in creating posts as crazy, but I know there were other parties who indeed thought it was a bit weird. Even as there were those who doubted whether blogs provided any real value for the NonStop community. Fortunately, there were others who gave me much-appreciated encouragement over the years. From HP, in particular, there was always strong support, not the least being HP VP & GM, Integrity Servers, Randy Meyer. Now responsible for all the Integrity Servers and where NonStop is now just one of his many responsibilities, Randy found the time to pass on this observation:

“Seven years ago, I was pleased to see someone really begin to drive not only blog activity around NonStop, but the entire social media communications channel. While some people were skeptical that the ‘seasoned’ NonStop community would really latch on, I had some suspicions that over time, it would become a valuable and well-followed vehicle. Your diligence and ‘stick-to-itiveness’ have helped make that a reality.

Tandem was always a leader in electronic communications. We had company-wide email back in the early 1980's, perhaps even earlier. Beyond the ‘official’ mail, there was 2nd class and 3rd class mail, which had many of the elements we see today in LinkedIn newsgroups, Twitter feeds, and the like. The NonStop community has ALWAYS been electronically connected; blogs, LinkedIn, Yahoo groups, Twitter, Facebook - they're all logical evolutions of the fabulous connections we've had for years.”
NonStop has always been more than a technology - it's a community of people who are passionate about availability, passionate about running businesses in real time, and passionate about sharing their insights, ideas, experience, and opinions. I love the fact that the new world of social media channels has allowed the NonStop community to continue sharing their passion, across the globe.”

Before you think of exiting this post, deeming it a case of shameless self-promotion, think for a moment of this being a celebration. A celebration? Yes, a celebration, indeed – how many of us would have thought the NonStop community would be as strong as it is, seven years on? There would be nothing for me to do had NonStop systems failed to transition to the world of commodity hardware and open software. Vendors continue to invest and there are new products for NonStop arriving almost monthly. Yes, this is a celebration that’s long overdue, and becoming a blogger, as passionate as I continue to be, doesn’t look so crazy after all.

The origins of me becoming a blogger can be traced back to an ITUG board meeting in the summer of 2007 where I was approached to consider moving my regular column in The Connection magazine to the internet – creating a NonStop community blog seemed to be the logical path to go down. With zero experience in such things and little awareness of the tools available to me, I plunged right in and now, it is seven years later. In closing, perhaps the most encouraging observation my blogging has come from a former ITUG Chair, Bill Honaker. Speaking very much from the heart, Bill related:

“As an official ITUG ‘Old Fart’ (the name of the club of past Presidents and Chairpersons), I have always been a bit slow (no, cautious) about jumping on the Social bandwagon. Back in the heady days of 2007, ITUG was looking for ways to keep the energy of the ‘Annual Conferences’ going year-round.  Even then it was not a new problem, we’d been trying to solve it (with only limited success) since before Tim Berners-Lee even thought of the term World-Wide Web.

So, when Richard told me that he was going to start a ‘Blog’ as a new way to try, I knew that if anyone had the stubbornness and work ethic to make it work, he did. Even so, I remember thinking to myself ‘How can anyone have the time to create enough content to keep it going without burning themselves out?’

It was only a couple of months later that we had a chance to sit down and chat about it over a few Proper Beers (and perhaps a bit more), sitting in the bar at the Grand Hotel, during the ITUG Europe 2007 Conference in Brighton, UK. At the time, there were only about a dozen posts up but we had begun to get some feedback.

Richard (being the observant car guy that we’ve come to know) first pointed out how, on his first day in Brighton, he was sitting in that very bar looking out over the Hotel driveway (and the beach) putting his thoughts together, and he saw Billy Connolly (the Scottish comedian), trying to get some help from the Bellman because he couldn’t figure out how to get the radio to work in his rental Land Rover.

He and I commented on how ‘everyone needs a little help sometimes’, and that included the members of ITUG. As NonStop users, consultants and vendors, we were still recovering from the years in the ‘Compaq’ fold; and many people were uncertain whether HP really did know what a great product they had acquired with NonStop, or whether it was simply ‘Lip Service.’ As a Chairman of ITUG during the early HP years, Richard did have some contacts that helped him put a lot of that in perspective.  His Blogs have consistently put a positive spin on the whole NonStop ‘environment’ and HP’s belief (and investment) in the platform. Part of the strength of the Blogs has been his ability to share thoughts from HP / NED leadership that supported his perspective.

A couple of weeks ago, while watching a late night rerun of an episode of the BBC ‘Top Gear’ series, I thought of Richard as one of the segments had the stooges – I mean the Hosts – taking a Corvette down the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah (with two other less important, at least to Richard, vehicles). They didn’t have any experience at all running cars on Salt; and had trouble getting traction right to make a targeted 1-mile speed. I thought to myself, ‘I wonder how Richard would solve this’! Then I realized that cars had nothing to do with NonStop so why in the heck did I think of Richard? Richard does use a lot of Car analogies, I just thought I needed one here …

Back to the original topic:  Thanks, Richard, for your persistence in putting many, many hours into your blogs. One thing I always took away from my time spent working in ITUG is the people; not just a bunch of Dilbert cartoon-style drones; but a truly interesting group of friends. It’s harder to find as much of that since ITUG has been ‘consumed’ into Connect, but your Blogs have kept the spirit of the group going, and with some humor and good information added in to boot. Keep it up!”

Thanks to all who read my blogs, thanks to those who gave me encouragement and support for the past seven years, and particularly thanks to those quoted here who took the time to comment on my generating “ink on NonStop”!

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