The NonStop Symposium is only a few weeks away. As I poll various stakeholders, the news looks a little better and the numbers are encouraging. From my own experience with ITUG Summits in early 2000s, the early figures always look pretty dismal only to produce a major correction four to five weeks out – and this year, “the registration curves” I am familiar with appear to be returning. In an email exchange with Wendy Bartlett, I was also encouraged to hear that there will be a sizeable foreign contingent participating as well.
In former times when the community came together under the banner of ITUG, there was always an air of excitement – new products, new solutions, new partners, new people. As I put this post together I am only a few hundred miles away from the venue of the 1992 European ITUG event held in Nice, France and the memories flood back of evenings around the bar with Jerry Peterson, Randy Baker, and many others from Tandem and the ISV community. I was still a part of the DSM organization at the time, working on NonStop NET/MASTER but it was during that event that I interviewed with Chris Rooke and Gary Sabo for a marketing position that led me to join Chris a few weeks later.
As fate would have it, I suspect Chris is only a couple of hundred kilometers away somewhere in Germany and if the planets and moon align just so, we may pass each other in a few days time, in a blur so as to speak, on one of Germany’s primary autobahn’s – the A5! We may even be able to hook up for a quick beer and pork knuckle. Friendships that develop at user events, such as we had with ITUG, seem to last for a lifetime and the bonds that were created around the Tandem computer have proved particularly strong.
We are no longer part of a Tandem community but part of a much larger HP community. In particular, the Business Critical Server group, within the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking business unit that is a major part of Enterprise Business within HP. In other words, now renamed NonStop, the Tandem many of us grew so familiar with is just another server offering within a gigantic $50(plus) Billion group within HP – a position many of us lose site of from time to time.
The significance? A consistent thought now across the many stake holders that make up the NonStop users community is just how exactly does any company influence a $130(plus) Billion corporation? Let alone an individual? What does it take to get the good ship HP to alter course and what chance is there of anyone on the bridge ever seeing me afloat in the sea of IT? Just as sailors try to avoid the giant container ships that ply the international sea channels, are we better off just getting the heck out of the way?
I’ve spent a lot of time driving through townships and small villages as I transit from one major city to the next and so far covered more than 1,500 miles. Whole communities that have simply grown up around a junction in the road or an intersection of a byway with a river, where you can see the church in the center of town, the castle on the hilltop, and the small square where everyone gathers. The residents of these towns are part of a region that is part of a country that today, is part of the European Union. With a population now greater than the United States and an economy that, in good times certainly, looks every bit as large and as robust as that in the United States. And yet, the voice of the township is never lost in the bigger picture – there’s always an ability to influence policy and to orchestrate change, as and when it’s needed.
Today, I sense the user communities behave in much the same fashion. It’s all too easy to just look at a large vendor, like HP, IBM, or Microsoft and concede that there’s little that can be done. Can policy be influenced or a change be orchestrated any less than before, when the community was developing around the Tandem computer? Or has HP become way too big for us? As I head to the NonStop Symposium I am going to be paying a lot of attention to just how much engagement develops between all of the community stakeholders including HP.
In the past we had so many users participating in the process but today, and in many respects, thankfully, vendors have become a lot more active. I put this down to the thinning of the user ranks that has occurred over the past decade where barely a NonStop customer has the staff in place to cover the basics (of operation, maintenance, and support) let alone large development groups with enough capacity to let individuals actively participate in the running and oversight of a community. Very few companies today can afford to give individuals the time that they would need to be effective and to this end, we now see so many ISV’s holding regional events, staffing registration desks and monitoring sessions. And I am sure that this will be very visible in San Jose in September – indeed, the very occurrence of this NonStop Symposium came about following a gathering of ISVs concerned about the future of user events.
Yes, we can still influence HP and yes, we can be agents of change. The forum may be far different from what we are used to and the community leadership may be struggling for an identity. But HP is still made up of individuals – managers and executives and if enough of them hear the same message, it will generate review and consideration. The communities past complaints about pricing have made an impact and the cries about the proprietary nature of the platform have been heard. Tandem is long gone, in many respects (and with no disrespect, either) and today we have NonStop and the community is the better for it! As we plough deeper into services models and await the emergence of enterprise cloud computing, there’s much that we should be lobbying for and I for one, will not be quiet on any of these points.
My time in Europe will be over shortly and I will head back to prepare for the NonStop Symposium. And as I do so, I will be acutely aware of how modern and progressive the NonStop platform has become and how the community had so much to do with this transition. Let’s just see what happens in the coming week and let’s not be passive about this after all, I see a future where NonStop is present in every platform HP ships!