Friday, May 6, 2011

Checked the bathwater?

In a time when so much discussion has centered on the need for modernization, have we lost sight of what truly is modern? Looking at a photo, can we recognize it or must we highlight it with bright arrows?

It’s been well noted in posts I have made to other sites that I do enjoy driving my Corvette and while Corvette and Porsche owners do not always get along, for me, the Porsche 911 is perhaps the world’s most recognizable car. At the time of its introduction to the motoring public it represented the logical next-step, following the highly popular lightweight Porsche 356, but its success has made any further design changes totally unnecessary.

For many, the image of the Porsche 911 comes across a little old-fashioned. Usually, this is a perception based on longevity – it’s been a familiar sight on our highways for almost five decades. However, the car is as modern as any other vehicle you care to mention, and is a testament to the timelessness of the design. I like my sixth generation and very modern Corvette but when it comes to technology, there’s little of the Porsche that is any less modern than the Corvette!

Modernization is capturing much of the headlines in our trade publications, and recently it was the subject of a comForte webinar that I will cover in more detail next week. When I googled modernization, earlier this week, among the responses from the search were “to overhaul: make repairs, renovations, revisions or adjustments to” and perhaps better understood these days, advising us “to become technologically advanced.” A little closer to home was the suggestion that it represented altering “a property by installing up-to-date equipment, making contemporary cosmetic improvements, and deleting obsolete facilities” as well as “to change something to make it conform to modern standards!”

I can’t really put my finger on what it is that has made the architecture of the NonStop server as timeless as it has proven to be, nor can I give you a reason why it continues to thrive in processing mission-critical information. It was designed to be fault tolerant but along the way, in addressing fault tolerance challenges, it not only provided us with the most highly available platform on the market today but it can scale linearly to sizes that are mind-boggling, and it has proved to be impervious to rogue hackers looking for their 15 minutes of fame.

Modernizing a NonStop in one sense is about as necessary as modernizing the Porsche 911 and yet, headlines telling us that we need to overhaul the NonStop persist! We have to bring the NonStop platform up to date! We have to make the NonStop platform conform to modern standards!”

Really? The one image I took away from the comForte webinar slides I saw, as the webinar collateral was put together, was of a bathtub complete with baby and water. It wasn’t so much the picture itself that caught my attention as it was the bright arrows highlighting the baby and the water as though webinar participants could have been confused over which was what!

This is when it really hit me; NonStop users really don’t need to be hand-held as much as users of other platforms. It’s all pretty obvious to NonStop users what they need to do, if anything at all. NonStop may be timeless, but it’s not old! It conforms to modern standards – there are very few client development environments it doesn’t support. And there’s absolutely nothing more to be done to make it technologically advanced!

Modernization may be the topic of the month and for many within the IT community it involves significant changes. However, for all of those within the NonStop community, there’s instant gratification that comes from knowing all along how modern the platform has been.

The slide of the baby in the bathtub didn't make it into the final presentation used in the webinar and perhaps that makes a lot of sense; for NonStop users, there’s never been a need to include arrows pointing to the system that is modern or highlighting the differences between what’s legacy and what’s modern – the NonStop server is every bit as modern as anything else in the marketplace. On the other hand, tearing down the system, assigning it to a dumpster, is about as foresighted as throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

comForte has done a great job in bringing to market tools and features that help unlock the value of business logic wrapped inside applications developed using earlier programming models and dependent upon legacy networking protocols, and many users are grateful that they have gone down this path. Perhaps this is akin to making contemporary cosmetic improvements! And if this is all the NonStop requires to truly make the cut as a modern computer, then I am satisfied with that option.


  1. Ah Richard, but they have modernized the 911. It's called the mid-engined Cayman. ;-)

  2. While it’s certainly true that seasoned NonStop users don’t require much hand-holding, it’s probably not a bad idea for vendors to include simplified terminology and basic, if not conceptual images in their slide presentations. We have to consider that on some occasions the audience may be newer to NonStop or may include individuals in the organization, such as IT or project managers, whose familiarity with NonStop is somewhat peripheral.

    Myself and one of our NonStop systems guys recently hosted a company “Lunch & Learn – De-Mystifying Tandem,” seminar. We put the seminar on in the hope of giving the platform more general visibility and acceptance within the organizational trenches. For years, “the Tandem” carried a certain connotation of mind-numbing complexity. It was well attended and near full capacity to our surprise! We pretty much knew the audience would comprise employees who used the NonStop, but had almost no knowledge of the platform’s construct or operation. While it was difficult to do (as it would be for any long-term NonStop technologist), we managed to put together a very simplified, entertaining, nuts and bolts presentation. A post-presentation survey scored it as the best L&L presentation to date.

  3. This is terrific to hear ... But I do have a confession to make; the slide in question was used elsewhere but I hope the storyline still held up. Have you read part 2 posted Friday?

  4. @Nick: I do think you touch an important point here. We (comForte) used to have very technical slides on "how to modernize" which are well enough for NonStop experts but probably speak "complicated" to a higher-level audience.

    Have you seen comForte's Webinar on Application modernization ? If not, please check it out on Youtube, ; it is split in two parts due to YouTube constraints. It does *not* contain very technical slides; instead it does show how easy the platform and the applications on it can be modernized.