Saturday, August 10, 2013

Computer topologies change – and comForte keeps investing

With HP management extolling the virtues of modernization and of mobility, security, Big Data and clouds, it may come as a surprise to find that there are vendors within the NonStop community already investing in these key strategic focus areas.

Spending time on the road, as I have been doing this past week, has given me new perspectives on the southern states of the United States. It is something that flying doesn’t do a good job of addressing, as it all looks much the same from the 40,000 feet perspective. However, the emergence of a thriving auto industry, as Hyundai, Kia and Mercedes Benz have all built new factories in the south, is inescapable just as is the presence of so much history – each township along the way proudly promoting their role in one event or another!

Everywhere you go, there’s a mobile phone in use. Unlike the western states, the coverage in the south is very good. Access to Apps for just about everything you need to do is almost universal, so much so that in discussions with different vendors of late it’s as if the very definition of modernization has been hijacked by the mobile phone industry – how can you view an application as modern if you don’t provide an App for easy access?

Driving through the southern states may not represent a universal truth but all the same, it is a region that has routinely been described as being thoughtful and not easily persuaded to change, and yet when it comes to mobile phones, they were as quick to adopt here as by any other regional group. Giant billboards lined the highways promoting products and on many of them were the names of Apps that can be downloaded for a better support of the purchasing options.

However, what is happening among the NonStop community, and have investments in mobility already begun? Will there be additional product offerings coming from HP or will the vendor community step up to provide support? Perhaps, the introduction of mobile devices accessing Apps will be transparent for most NonStop users, with little to no change required. Perhaps mobile devices will all be front-ended by Cloud solutions.

“I am of two minds when it comes to supporting mobile devices,” said comForte 21 CTO, Thomas Burg. “On the one hand I think any major changes in support of new devices, particularly in the case of mobile phones, will likely come from the application vendors such as ACI.” Furthermore, Burg then explained, “On the other hand comForte possesses today the ideal tools (and have had for several years, maybe even decades); so we are looking at the value of taking a fresh shot at marketing comForte modernization in conjunction with new devices. In particular, smartphones and tablets.”

comForte 21 has a rich tradition in providing best-of-breed terminal emulation products in support of modernization efforts so it seems a logical progression to revisit simplifying (and even enhancing) the access experience of mobile phone users accessing applications on NonStop systems. While there are those in the NonStop community that view the need to support Apps as more of a fad than a real “new requirement”, when it comes to marketing services as being modern, without an App it’s looking increasingly likely that the perception by others will win out – no App, no modern interface!

In the August 8, 2013, edition of USA Today, the Money section carried the story Dell is repeating the wayward history of Wang. Reporter, Mark Veverka, writes of how “Dell was to client-server computing as Wang was to mini-computing. Yet all good things must come to an end, and for technology behemoths, the end seems to come sooner rather than later.” This end is being driven, according to Veverka, by Cloud computing and the emergence of providers better positioned to support new ways of interacting with servers. “IBM is the rare breed that has traversed the rocky shoals of mainframe to client-server to what is now the cloud-computing era … Dell made the transition to a full-service provider of technology … but it probably was too little, too late to compete with Google, Amazon.com and other cloud-computing stalwarts.”

To IBM I would add HP, as we have seen of late just how aggressive HP has become – new commercials are already appearing on television in support of Project Moonshot and the value it will bring to those looking to move to cloud computing. However, the inescapable fact is that for many applications looking to support mobile devices, they are turning to cloud computing as a resource to help mitigate the need to add additional servers. Perhaps it will not be ACI that embraces the cloud first but more likely, some of their new-age competitors such as OmniPayments or even ECS.

comForte21 has perhaps made the most progress when it comes to embracing mobility and along with it, cloud computing. It has successfully demonstrated its HTML5-based terminal application for smartphones and tablets including the iPhone and iPad as well as demonstrated CSL exploiting cloud computing offerings. With the early forays into providing Apps to the investments being made to productize cloud computing solutions (from demo’s provided by HP itself), these are the hallmarks of a company aggressively pursuing modernization. There are several market drivers underlying the business case that are inescapable – if your customers rely on mobile devices for interactions of all types then you better have plans to be able to reach them. If you haven’t embraced mobility or don’t have plans to pursue, then more than likely than not, your competitors are doing exactly this!

Beneath the surface, the business cases for supporting mobility and for exploring cloud computing to assist in any transitions are becoming obvious. The immediacy of the interaction and exchange gives you powerful insights into the interests of your customer along with a ready way to communicate back to them. The receipts so many of us receive with requests to go to a web site and complete a survey become passé overnight – we get to ask a couple of questions immediately even as we know the user is looking at their mobile device. Marketers everywhere are salivating at the prospects such intimacy can provide.

The NonStop community is well aware that NonStop servers have proved adaptable for four decades and aren’t disappearing off technology’s radar screen any time soon. Roadmaps are in place showing a future for NonStop well past 2020. To have vendors like comForte 21, in my opinion, prepared to invest in key technologies underlying the migration from client-server to cloud computing – even where they represent early baby-step approaches – is encouraging to everyone in the NonStop community and a true reflection on just how viable NonStop systems will remain through such transitions.

Here in the south, communities may not be prone to rush to anything new just on a whim. Nor are they likely to change the way they interact with each other. However, if their take-up of mobile devices is any indication of the world at large, the definition of modern is undergoing a major shake-up and if you are unable to download a free App (to support interactions), then you too are history, and there’s more than enough history in the south already …  

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