Were you to have been asked that question some years ago, the answer most likely would have bee “I’m not sure”....
Challenges for the NonStop Ecosystem …
Whenever you talk to industry analysts or even with the press, one aspect of the conversation almost invariably turns to the topic of ecosystem. Any vendor wanting to leave a lasting impression in the marketplace that isn’t aggressively fostering and nurturing an ecosystem in support of their products and services is not likely to succeed in the long term, according to these experts. And for a good reason, too! If your products and services aren’t attractive to the many vendors working on tools, utilities and supporting middleware see little value in working with you, as a vendor you will be hard pressed to influence prospects to take that initial step and invest in your products and services.
Very early on in the history of Tandem Computers, considerable effort was put into the creation of an Alliance Program. It was among the best partner programs conceived by any major vendor and its Alliance Partners’ catalogue was about an inch thick and could keep open any door no matter the strength of the spring! Oftentimes, when first encountering a Tandem Computers sales or marketing team, the first slides they used featured Alliance Partners after all, this was a time when solutions sold systems and having a portfolio of solutions vendors spanning multiple market verticals was a key ingredient in making sales happen.
The world of IT has evolved considerably since those times. “Software for Free” and “Open Source” communities sprung up around the world. For a while it looked like all you needed to support, as a vendor, was LAMP – get a supportable LAMP stack ported to your system and you were back in the game. Of course, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) gained favor even with the overheads of XML. And whatever happened to the world of objects with Object Request Brokers and the whole OSI stack? Point is, the focus of partnerships changed dramatically. Gone was the prestige of having a hefty volume cataloging partners as the mood of the industry turned around in favor of running everything! If you supported Java, for instance, and your Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) supported the latest release of Java then any application could be run on your system.
Solutions, developed using standard languages and interfacing to middleware using industry APIs (think, SQL, for instance), began to be viewed as interchangeable and over time, even more standards appeared. NonStop and the world of transaction processing, saw some leakage as the world of Client / Server morphed into today’s world of Apps and Services. All the while, however, the enterprise still wanted to implement solutions and good solutions drove systems sales. How quickly we forget the dominant role SUN once played or of how Netscape was the browser that opened the doors to a world of unfathomable information. And all through it, the NonStop vendor kept adapting with the times – ACI rolled out WebGate with a SOAP Server and a SOAP Client; comforte secured our TCP/IP; GoldenGate gave us the opportunity to move between databases – to name just a few of the partners that helped NonStop play in a much bigger world.
Having said this, what of the ecosystem supporting NonStop? How long a list of solutions vendors exists today? And, does any of this matter at all given today’s emphasis on Hybrid IT? Just look at Blockchain and R3 who are building out an ecosystem of partners just to help establish a credible presence in the marketplace – does having a thriving ecosystem even relevant any longer for mature systems vendors? When the picture of the VLX was referenced in a Tandem publication, it was noted how VLX was supporting a wide variety of industries including finance, telecommunications, manufacturing and retail. In many respects little has changed since the arrival of the VLX when it comes to marketplaces and yet, as NonStop systems, the markets deploying NonStop has grown even more diverse through the years – who would have thought a Japanese bakery would depend upon NonStop even as I am prompted to say, there’s no solutions vendor involved with that implementation!
Today, the ecosystem itself is equally just as diverse as the markets NonStop serves. And a lot of this growth in diversity can be attributed to the blossoming of social media. Think for a moment about just how many web sites, blogs, groups, pages, etc. have more than a passing reference to something or other about NonStop! But what is all the fuss about supporting an ecosystem and indeed, what is an ecosystem today? The primary purpose of an ecosystem to many vendors is to have a bigger community talking about your products and services that you could assemble and fund yourself. It’s a microcosm of IT with all its foibles and failings and yes, noise! It is solutions and middleware vendors. It is educators and consultants. It is journalists, bloggers and podcasters. It is associations and forums and chatrooms and groups. It’s all of us and more – it is everyone who throws a NonStop branded backpack over their shoulder or who pulls out a NonStop pen on carries a NonStop badge in their lapel whether literally, or by association. Yes, a partners tradeshow giveaway oftentimes has a NonStop reference even as it’s practicality may be questionable – someone will see it somewhere!
The ecosystem isn’t an exclusive badge to be worn by a select few vendors who make it onto the NonStop price book. It’s not even that cadre of specialists we see supporting NonStop at RUG events. It’s the operator who tells a friend over a beer that their system hasn’t gone down in five or more years. It’s the banker who says to his staff that the upgrade everyone has been talking about has already been done and there was zero outages as a result. It’s even the company director who says yes, NonStop can run in our private cloud – I heard HPE CEO Antonio Neri mention it at a conference I attended. The NonStop ecosystem, may have its roots deep in the Tandem Alliance Program and it may even consider their support of ITUG Summits and NonStop Boot Camps a badge of honor but in all seriousness, the challenges of creating and nurturing an ecosystem for NonStop are well and truly behind us. We have one of the best ecosystems in place, functioning, supporting, promoting and growing that any IT professional can point to – so yes, whenever you hear the question being raised about a NonStop ecosystem in need of being developed simply smile and say, when it comes to NonStop and its supporters, we should be happy in knowing, “It’s simply the best!”