The Myth Of The Lone Gunman
The recent release of the Oliver Stone movie JFK has had a remarkable effect on people. While Stone's interpretation of the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination are to say the least thought provoking, there has been a corresponding amount of discussion and speculation regarding the likelihood of a conspiracy on the part of the government. As one of the more "mature" individuals who vividly remembers that November day, I have to say that while the tragedy of the assassination has dissipated, my desire to know all the facts in the matter has never waned. So where in the world am I going with this? Let's consider the state of TPF.
If we check the patient's vital signs there are no remarkable symptoms other than stunted growth, and some weight loss. The shifting of several business and economic factors has admittedly taken its toll on the TPF customer base. There have been no formal announcements regarding new licenses, and considering the state of affairs in the Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly the Soviet Union), I wouldn't rush to have my broker buy shares in Aeroflot, regardless of what they may have committed to for their reservations processing.
So what exactly is happening here? Have the economic hardships at IBM actually effected the TPF and Transportation Industry organizations? Is the move to SAA systems and mega-processors intended to eventually eliminate enough of the TPF marketplace to make it impractical for IBM to continue to support a small handful of TPF customers? And, if I can throw enough MIPS, and cached DASD, and ESCON channels, and 3490 tape drives out on the floor of my data center, why not lean towards CICS or IMS, which by the way IBM will recommend before even mentioning TPF. The question some of us may want to ask is, whether or not we have the makings of a different kind of conspiracy here.
Now I'm not saying that there is a conspiracy to "assassinate" TPF. In fact I personally don't think anything of the sort. There are however a lot of people out there that believe that TPF is high on the endangered species list, and that this is one fight that the conservationists are going to lose. If we take a good look at all of the "evidence" in this case, we might find ourselves a little closer to the truth. For example...
The new generation of processors, DASD, channels, tape drives, etc. are all currently supported by TPF, and will certainly continue to be supported by the technology. On an purely operating system basis, TPF can run circles around CICS and IMS, so hardware really isn't an issue.
From a marketing perspective, TPF is not always the best platform for a potential customer, and certainly only worth considering if you're dealing with very high transaction rates. "Aha" you shout, but what about ALCS? My response again is that ALCS can only help matters. The TPF customer base may lose a few of the smaller shops that find it increasingly difficult to justify the overall costs of staying on TPF, but that's not a lose-lose situation. If (or should I say when?) ALCS is announced and made available to customers within the U.S., those TPF shops that are looking for alternative solutions will more than likely move to ALCS, since applications can be ported (with some effort, obviously) between TPF and ALCS. That portability factor still makes those customers potential TPF users in the future. In the same vein, new ALCS customers which IBM is likely to acquire fall into the same category. By providing an ALCS base of potential TPF customers, IBM has the ability to retain and nurture the next generation of TPF'ers.
IBM has made a substantial investment in TPFDF, which is supported from the IASC in Brentford, United Kingdom. TPFDF and its close cousin C/370 are both supported under TPF as well as ALCS. Again the factors of portability, migration, and utilization of existing skill sets and personnel lend themselves to a logical evolution of technological direction.
As users, we have a role to play as well. Active involvement in the TPF culture is critical to the health of the patient. The TPF User's Group is the only forum where representatives from all over the world can meet to help sustain and shape the future of TPF. I encourage all of you to support and if possible, participate in the proceedings of the conference. Lack of participation does carry potential consequences for all of us in the industry. The role of the accomplice is no less criminal than that of the actual perpetrator. If in fact there is some conspiracy at hand, we should recognize our responsibility to uncover it, and confront it accordingly.