Thursday, January 16, 2020

Seriously: Are you keeping up with NonStop?

Yet one more trip to San Francisco and this time, it was all about taking in the history of the place even as we came to better appreciate the contribution NonStop still makes to Silicon Valley!

These past few weeks have seen Margo and me back on the road again. If you read the last post to this blog, you will have read about our most recent trip to the west coast that gave us an opportunity to view the history of Silicon Valley. From the original garage where Hewlett and Packard began HP to where the Google lads rented a garage to plot their entry into the search business to the Facebook, Google and Apple campuses and not forgetting breakfast at Buck’s Restaurant at Woodside or a drive around the parking lot of Kleiner Perkins we managed to absorb a lot of what it takes to keep Silicon Valley as prosperous as it is today. Other locations attempt to compete telling investors that they are the next up-and-coming Silicon Valley, but none have succeeded to date.

However, the trip to the California gave us a lot more than sightseeing opportunities as it was time to sit down and reflect on the current state of affairs with one of Australia’s best performing executives, Dieter Monch. We have friends in Sydney, Australia, who have played golf with Dieter and only this week, playing in Palm Springs, he landed a hole-in-one. After a successful management career it wasn’t surprising to see Dieter becoming an investor so you can imagine where most conversations headed. But then, this was a brief encounter, but it led to me making a number of observations after we parted ways (and before I heard of him hit that hole-in-one). Chief of which was just how frequently we turn to the internet for all sorts of information.

It would be all too easy for me to say that without the arrival of the internet and the rise in social media it’s hard to imagine a thriving magazine and newspaper business in the future. Yes, we spent some time touring Hearst Castle as we listened to just how powerful publisher Hearst became (he spent an unimaginable $9 million on his hilltop estate, or ranch, back in the ‘20s), but today, it’s no longer the likes of the Turners and the Murdochs that have taken on the mantel of media mogul but rather the folks at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and the likes. 

While Murdoch sold off a good chunk of his business to focus on media I am more than sure we will see his interest in traditional publications wane considerably even as he takes another shot at becoming a major player with digital publications. On the other hand, things didn’t altogether go swimmingly after the company bought MySpace which, at the time, was the largest social networking site in the world.

Time hasn’t always been good to even the most popular vendors in Silicon Valley. The photo at the top of the page featuring SUN Corporation isn’t easy to find and we came across it quite by accident. In case you aren’t aware of the story, Facebook now occupies what was once the SUN campus and while their name and signature icon adorns the sign facing the traffic, walk behind that sign and scramble into the bushes and there you will see the only reminder of a once major player in Silicon Valley. On the other hand, it wasn’t easy for Margo and me to embrace the new Apple headquarters – spaceship Apple – as its construction pretty much took out all the buildings (and signage) that once were home to the sprawling campus of Tandem Computers. So much for the 201 Comm building or the 247 DSM building, both of which featured strongly in both of Margo and my careers! 

When it comes to checking out facts and looking up sites, there really isn’t any substitute for the search engines we turn to when so challenged. It’s easy to overlook how drastically Silicon Valley “do-overs” have altered the landscape. The new headquarters of HPE down at the southern tip of The Bay are nice enough, but they are now just one of many high-rise glass structures you will see at the bottom end of Silicon Valley. 

As much as we like to talk about virtualization these days, when it comes to NonStop there really isn’t a physical campus any longer but rather a NonStop team networked around the planet. Of itself, that isn’t necessarily all that bad – I read that there are now NonStop developers near my office, here, outside Ft Collins, Colorado – but it proves that one of the benefits provided by the internet is that connectivity is no longer an issue and everyone can be anywhere when it comes to contributing to a development project.

While reading through Facebook and checking out different groups, I always find time to check out what is being posted to the Facebook group, Tandem Computers. A lot of memorabilia surfaces and there have been times when I have been envious about one collectable or another from the ‘80s and ‘90s that for one reason or another I failed to retain. What did catch my eye was a post by Lou Custodio, a former employee of Tandem Computers back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that included maps of the Tandem campus - and a big thanks to Lou for providing this graphic! While it didn’t bring tears to my eyes, as it were, it did remind me of just how large a presence Tandem had in Silicon Valley and of how much distance I covered walking between buildings 2 and 247.

A lot has changed since those times and it’s hard to ignore how strongly emotions run whenever the past is brought up; let’s not forget that Tandem Computers was a great place to work or that its technology changed the world. However, despite how often we talk about Tandem Computers, it’s important to recognize the new NonStop even as I ask the question, have you been keeping up with today’s NonStop? We should never ignore history but it’s equally as important to be well-informed about the new chapters that are being added to this company’s history. 

Being on social media as frequently as I am, it’s still surprising to read from those active in the industry who ask about Tandem and whether Tandem is still around? When it comes to keeping up with NonStop, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that in pursuit of transformation, enterprises everywhere still value availability, security and scalability.

I have written a lot of late about Hybrid IT, Cloud Computing and Virtualization to where I am being careful not to fall victim of my own words. By this I mean out of necessity I have to put to one side my rose-colored glasses to be sure I am giving NonStop a fair shake. NonStop has come such a long way in a relatively short timeframe and yet, it’s only now that we are seeing enterprises deploying the new NonStop – a creative mix of traditional converged systems based on x86 servers and virtualized systems (including virtualized converged systems) capable of being deployed in private clouds.

What is really changing is that the shift to virtualized NonStop encourages enterprises to better leverage the skills of their IT organization through the use of the very same automation, orchestration and management tools that they rely upon when interacting with other servers. Suddenly, oversight on a single pane of glass becomes very real and with that, the cost of NonStop comes down significantly. Again, have you been keeping up with NonStop and have you relayed all you know back to the rest of the enterprise? For sure, NonStop has deep roots within Silicon Valley and supporting signage to that effect may be long gone but NonStop’s contribution to the enterprise hasn’t lessened in any way. It’s still providing the premier platform for enterprises’ mission-critical applications.

Thinking back to Dieter Monch and his hole-in-one this past week reminds Margo and me of the many times we sat in meetings in Cupertino as the Tandem Computers management team described the next big thing that they would deliver. Having sat through Cyclone, Himalaya and the S-Series there were always surprises lurking around every corner, none more so than when we all heard Microsoft Bill Gates had visited with management and was making an investment in fault tolerance. 

Wow! Fast forward to today and it’s encouraging to know that across Silicon Valley there are many vendors – think of Microsoft, VMware and the likes – where NonStop knowledge resides. And that’s perhaps the biggest take away from our recent trip to Silicon Valley as insiders everywhere know of the contribution NonStop continues to make for enterprises everywhere. If you have been keeping up with NonStop then perhaps this is the equivalent of the hole-in-one after all. As a community we certainly have a lot to look back on but more importantly, there is so much more still to come from NonStop. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

When things go right!

A trip to the west coast that crosses both the Rockies and the Sierras is always fraught with potential disaster but this time, a little snow didn’t deter us and things just went right for us …

This time last year I wrote the post, What does Sydney bring to the table … as Margo and I were wrapping up a three month stay in that most magical of cities. We had made it “down under” for the traditional New Year’s fireworks celebration on Sydney Harbor, my daughter’s birthday, and the SIBOS Sydney 2018 financial institution conference. I had also managed to arrive in time for my High School fiftieth reunion even as we found time to visit the farm of my sister-in-law. In other words, this time last year a period of full immersion in all things Australia was coming to an end. But this year, it’s time to head to America’s West Coast.

It’s early in the year but it’s an ideal time to spend a few days in Silicon Valley before heading south to tinsel town and to that other big tech center that has basically arisen overnight, driven by the gaming industry. The worlds of film, television, amusement parks and yes, gaming platforms are morphing in ways that challenge reality. Just watching the advertisements for some of the latest games during the run-up to Christmas was enough to leave me catching my breath – did I just see that? Just as interestingly – have we entered a new realm of mission critical applications where the follow-on effects from any outage is a substantial loss of audience to where business can fold with just one outage?

Perhaps, a little extreme and yet, when things go right for all involved, the excitement and thrills being created can be seen whether those interacting with a screen or whirling around on a stage. Getting to where amusement can be sustained is every bit as important as delivering a handful of banknotes at an ATM. Perhaps too it has a lot to do with the time of year, with snow on the ground and shorter daylight hours, but heading to sunny California always proves hard to resist at this time of year and yes, we succumbed to a number of invitations to visit that came our way and despite the weather, we drove our beloved Li’L Pumpkin, (our orange Range Rover Evoque ragtop) the 1,300 miles to the coast.

Refueling the Evoque in windy Wyoming, where the temperature hovered around ten degrees Fahrenheit, was not pleasant. Then again, when is Wyoming anything other than windy? As for that first driving stint we had to negotiate slick roads and blowing snow with the occasional light snow falling. On the other hand, what else could we have expected to encounter and besides, we were truly looking forward to being back in the Bay area just as we were looking forward to seeing former business colleagues! Yes, California, here we come! In a last demonstration of nature’s wrath, we had to weather snow falling in the Sierras that gave us a slick ride down the mountains!

One request we received that we dutifully delivered upon was a tour of Silicon Valley – our guests was a former Managing Director of a major European tech company in South Africa and later, in Australia / New Zealand. Not sure whether or not it was a case of following the Rugby, but his time leading the Australasian operation turned into a lifetime commitment to the country and he and his wife have remained in Sydney to this day, but the lure of Silicon Valley loomed large as it has been twenty plus years since he last visited San Francisco and even then, there wasn’t time to drive down 101 or even I 280. This all changed this time around, as we put plans in place to visit a number of the campuses of companies that essentially anchor the valley these days.

Despite the tricky drive into California, we took time to do a number of things we hadn’t previously done. This included visiting the HPE garage - the birthplace of Silicon Valley. It also included a side visit to the offices of Kleiner Perkins on Sand Hill road as well as a visit to the garage that was “borrowed” by the founders of Google as they kicked off their search engine project. And, of course, we took in the sight of “Spaceship Apple” even as we lamented the loss of much of the former campus of Tandem Computers. Biggest surprise? Go behind the Facebook sign on their campus and it still reads SUN …    

What really stood out for Margo and me is the complete fluidity of the place. Not just with the names on the buildings or even the focus of the companies themselves, but rather, the mass movement to both ends of the valley – San Francisco and San Jose. It’s as if the valley was looking more and more like the bone your dog might chew on. Yes, there are some major campuses in the middle – Apple comes to mind – but with the towering skyscraper in San Francisco that is home to Salesforce to the sprawl of new buildings spreading north and west of downtown San Jose, the once mighty clock tower of Stanford University seems to be little more than a central pivot point anchoring these two ends.

HP Inc. can still be seen but, unless you know the actual address, you really don’t stumble onto HPE by accident and perhaps this is a story in its own right. HPE is redefining itself in a very big way and it’s taking a while for the industry press to catch up. Taking note of the fact that HPE is exiting the low margin, high volume white box business even as it continues to gravitate towards much higher margin software and services businesses, you could be forgiven thoughts you may have that HPE was perhaps less interested in selling boxes any more. Up to a point this has a ring of truth about it but on closer inspection, it’s just that HPE views the Core more cloud-like even as it promotes the importance of the edge.

“HPE today remains a hardware company, as evidenced by the profile of its revenues, but the future looks software and services shaped,” noted The Register in a December 23, 2019 article HPE goes on the warpath, attacks AWS over vendor lock-in. “HPE seems to have a much clearer strategy since its split with HP Inc., and the sale of the Enterprise Services and Software sides of the house,” noted the reporter who then added, “But this isn't necessarily feeding through into the financial results yet.” 

On the other hand, it’s becoming clear even to jaded publications like The Register that even as there has been a “fall in sales of servers to tier one cloud builders” when it comes to the big picture, “Operating margins were, however, up in the hundreds of basis points, and were up to 13.2 per cent in Hybrid IT, a historic high.” Strategy is clear; the exit from tier one cloud builders is almost complete; company trajectory to “everything-as-a-service” is continuing – and now financial analysts are beginning to take note and to reassess their recommendations for HPE.

On December 12, 2019 Deutsche Bank resumed coverage of HPE “with a Buy rating and $19 target, a 20% upside.” Furthermore, analyst Jeriel Ong thinks “the core revenue declines are ‘likely overstated’ and sees a multiyear growth market for the core Total Addressable Market (TAM).” In combination, the press acknowledges that HPE has a strategy that it is pursuing that is making more sense by the quarter and now financial analysts are not only resuming coverage but see positive outcomes ahead. All of which is to say that yes, keeping the NonStop products as part of the mission critical product portfolio and embracing mission critical systems as a key contributor to Hybrid IT is certainly good news for the NonStop community! And yes, for the NonStop community, things can go right for the product line after all.

Finding HPE’s head office in Silicon Valley may not be as easy as it once was; a vast sprawling campus on the south side of Page Mill Road. But in a world that is increasingly virtual and where the cost of CPU’s is heading to zero, and where “Services companies give away the hardware because of the non-existent cost of CPU” should we be surprised to find HPE looking more and more like an Adobe or a SAP or even Microsoft? A company where HPE’s product portfolio is being offered on a consumption basis – essentially pay-per-use? A company, as Jeff Kyle, VP & GM HPE Mission Critical Systems, pointed out during his presentation at the November NonStop Technical Boot Camp, overseeing the transformation given how “Hybrid IT is the new normal – and it’s complex; (it’s a challenge) to deliver new products and services faster (while) keeping the business running?”

It is in such an environment that we find HPE becoming the systems integrator, on our behalf, that we have demanded over the decades. Providing solutions on commodity hardware utilizing industry-standard interfaces supported by open software – isn’t that what we wanted? What we are seeing today is the emergence of a new HPE with a product portfolio better aligned with business needs and that includes NonStop – as software, and virtualized. And with a new head office, in Silicon Valley where it truly belongs! The drive to the coast may not have been easy and the time we spent cruising Silicon Valley may have taken more time than we planned but even as we may miss the old Tandem Computers campus (and the swimming pool), as a community we all have to thank HPE for the investment it has made in NonStop and in making NonStop a part of a strategy that is now delivering for HPE!      

Seriously: Are you keeping up with NonStop?

Yet one more trip to San Francisco and this time, it was all about taking in the history of the place even as we came to better appreciate...