Thursday, May 26, 2011

Over the horizon!

In this first part of a two post series on network modernization featuring uLinga, there’s much that can be learnt from spending time with those who retain close ties to the user community and who evangelize new solutions …

I finished the week in San Francisco by joining Frank Slovenec for dinner. Frank had suggested meeting at a restaurant called NoPa, an abbreviation, I was to later learn, for the district of San Francisco referred to as north of the Panhandle. This is an area that I wasn’t all that familiar with, but having spent a few hours walking its street, it’s an area that I would recommend any visitor to San Francisco takes time to visit.

Frank had just spent a couple of days with the comForte sales team. As the head of America’s sales, Frank is responsible for a variety of products on which many within the NonStop community have relied upon for years. I have attended these meetings in the past, and as Frank gave me a quick update I remembered how much fun, and educational, these events often proved to be. As I left the NoPa restaurant, Frank suggested that as we were on Hayes Street, I should follow it east as over the horizon, out of sight, is one of the best views of San Francisco.

I first visited San Francisco in the mid-1970s, but spent my time by the waterfront. I had collected post cards for several years and recognized the sights, but as for knowing where each attraction could be found, I was pretty clueless. Driving up Hayes Street I pulled alongside Alamo Square and as I crested the hill I caught the glorious sight of the city skyline, bathed in late afternoon sun, with the row of Victorian houses, the “painted ladies,” filling the foreground. A complete surprise but a wonderful distraction!

"The reason to bring sales people together is to understand our customers and look at our business and our business solutions from the customer's perspective,” Frank had remarked. “For each customer we look at our products / solutions in the light of the real business impact that they can have for our customer." And when it came to the newest product family, uLinga, I was interested to hear more of the value it was providing and of the impact it was making.

I have been associated with uLinga from the very beginning. With a history of several decades in communications and networking products this shouldn’t surprise anyone, but whenever a new approach is attempted and when customers are asked to look at something completely new, there are always elements of risk and uncertainty. This time however, Frank assured me, the news was good!

comForte supplies a number of products under the overall umbrella of Connect. For the most part, these products address terminal emulation, but Connect does include uLinga, a wealth of code addressing a variety of networking options. Connecting SNA applications running on NonStop and IBM, but via TCP/IP, is perhaps the most widely known capability of uLinga, but increasingly (and in recognition of the preference of users to approach cautiously, with baby steps) connecting SNA client devices to NonStop over TCP/IP has gained considerable awareness among NonStop users.

Data Link Switching, or DLSw, completes the picture when it comes to moving to an all TCP/IP network. Client devices can now leverage commodity components when connecting to NonStop, and the NonStop server can itself be better integrated with other servers in the data center without resorting to the costs of maintaining legacy networking architectures. Frank’s news was that the number of Proof of Concepts in plan had grown considerably and that the early pilots were proving successful. The NonStop community was beginning to give uLinga more than a cursory look and now, the numbers were beginning to look good!

I hope to be invited back to another sales meeting and to catch first-hand the news from the field – listening to the unabashed enthusiasm that comes from sales folks is always contagious! But it will be a long time before I forget about the evening with Frank and the view on the other side of the horizon. It’s all too easy to ignore suggestions and to make the effort to go just a couple more yards, but every now and then, the rewards can certainly outweigh any misgivings we may have had!

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