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. 

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