Friday, July 30, 2010

Of iPads and Garage Mechanics …

The headline across the top of a magazine advertisement for a major electronics vendor simply states “in my world, not connected means not in business.” This ad was placed in the issue of Bloomberg Businessweek where “The Tech 100” list was unveiled, and where well-known companies such as Visa, Mastercard, and Verizon were mixed in with companies like KDDI and Expedia as well as service providers like Tata Consulting and ADP.

Doing well in second place was Apple – perhaps not surprisingly, but all the same, demonstrating a remarkable comeback for a corporation literally down and out in the early 90s. With a market capitalization today of $235 Billion it is only $33Bilion behind the combined market caps of HP and IBM – who would have thought. And today, there’s almost nobody on the planet who hasn’t heard the phrase, “we’ve got an app for that, too!” Essentially, Apple’s appliances are the epitome of what’s cool and of what it means to provide a modern consumer interface.

Much of what contributed to Apple success is the richness of its user experience – there’s not a person at my coffee shop who doesn’t want to show me something new that they are using on their iPhone or iPad – if early indications pan out it will not be long before even the corner garage mechanic, shirt hanging out and the ubiquitous red flannel rag hanging from a back pocket, is checking on auto parts suppliers with a few strokes of his fingers on an iPad. For the most part, even someone as far removed from IT as he is, this mechanic couldn’t tell you which server he was in communication with from any other server he may know of, even as he enjoys a positive user experience. The user interface provided with the client device is defining his service interactions.

I recall some 18 years ago when I was back in Sydney, Australia and noticed that the building janitor emptying trash cans had a mobile phone on his hip! In the US at that time, mobile phones were just beginning to appear as the country had a substantial investment in a terrestrial telephone system and the adoption of mobile phones proceeded at a much slower pace than down-under. But I digress. In the U.S. the take up rate of Apple’s latest client devices has been unprecedented.

In the paper “Roadmap to the Megaplex” produced by The Standish Group as a follow-on to an earlier paper, “Megaplex, an odyssey of innovation” the author writes of how “the impact of modernizing the user experience will change the perception of the users and management regarding the applications,” before adding somewhat surprisingly for many “and the NonStop platform.” You see, in a world where human interaction with IT is with client devices so far removed from the servers providing the business logic and data, in most cases, it makes little difference what the server is – so long as it supports the client user interface. The connection between clients and servers has become so detached that almost none of us can identify with whatever may be at the end of a communications link servicing the requests we make.

The Standish Group defined Megaplex as “a collection of server blades acting together as a single system using multiple types of operating systems, databases, and other computer resources. The Megaplex is the cornerstone technology for the truly integrated data center where resources are acing in virtualized peer collaboration. The Megaplex will operate Linux, Microsoft Server, NonStop OS, OpenVMS and various types of Unix including NonStop OSS.” No matter the weight you may give reports from industry analysts such as The Standish Group, or how highly you value their projections, when it comes to discussing the shape of things to come, in this instance I have to side with Standish – what they describe has merit from where I stand.

But how will it all work? Again, it is the image of the corner garage mechanic that holds the key – just as they have no idea what’s at the end of the wireless service, neither will we as we walk row after row of servers – their physical appearance masking whatever operating system or middleware component that they may be running. In the world of IT that is rapidly re-forming, everything is externalized and consumed as a service. From the very first time we interfaced to a web site and were able to pull down information, we were working with a completely new information paradigm.

What we are witnessing is the transformation of applications. As The Standish Group reported “applications are no longer islands, and the NonStop applications must play with all the other applications in order to survive and prosper in this new world.” Yet again, The Standish Group references NonStop in the same sentence as “all the other applications.” The Standish Group then goes on to suggest that “however, the most compelling reason for modernizing NonStop applications and the NonStop environment is the sheer flexibility and cost-reward benefits. As applications decompose into services, each service can then be evaluated on an important scale … higher-importance services can operate on the higher-grade system services.”

Not being connected, for a company may imply no longer being in business, but for an application not accessible as a service may imply no longer being relevant or useful. Right now, business needs to take a long hard look at how they are pursuing their migration to a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and at the balance between deploying new services versus decomposing existing applications and externalizing them as services. Tools, utilities and products exist in abundance, even for the NonStop community, and there really are few barriers to exposing NonStop applications as a service. NonStop is perhaps the best positioned of all higher-grade systems today to support the higher-importance services that The Standish Group has identified.

Documenting users experiencing modernization in their paper, Roadmap to the Megaplex, The Standish Group wrote of how “a positive user experience is a core element for advanced systems and for a way to effectively bridge business and IT.” It could have probably added of how a set of good services is a core element for advanced applications and a way to effectively bridge user and machine.

We have left the world of computer code and system procedures and have entered an era of services – and the corporations at the head of industry and technology lists are those who are capitalizing on services the fastest, as well as on the transforming of their applications. For businesses that continue to rely on NonStop this cannot be a bad thing, or anything other than a positive indication of an even stronger role to play in future deployment of services!

No comments:

Post a Comment