To Seek Out New Life and Boldly Go Where No Man Hs Gone Before

It's the end of the year, and winter is upon us once again. The weather is turning colder and the leaves that were formally on the trees are piling up in the front yard. It's a time of renewal, as things go dormant in anticipation of the rebirth that will come in a few months with spring. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, bringing with it a time for families to gather and give thanks for the blessings of health and prosperity. One such gathering was recently held in Miami Beach as the TPF User Group met for it's annual Fall conference.

This was not your ordinary User Group meeting, and it quickly became apparent that a radical change is taking place in the TPF world. On the surface, there were obvious changes. The familiar crew was no longer on the bridge of the USS Poughkeepsie. The “Next Generation” has assumed command, charted a new course, and it's shields up, ahead warp factor 9.

IBM has finally taken the initiative and its long overdue melding of technology and marketing have yielded an exciting new direction for TPF that can only result in more customers and a well deserved shot in the arm for all of us. I say well deserved for several reasons. We all know that the Lab has done some incredible work over the past few years. TPF41 is a very healthy product and the introduction of new features like Folders & Pockets and Persistent Collections have opened the door to a wealth of opportunities. Support of C language is poised to bear new fruit, and VisualAge for TPF provides a viable standardized platform from which new advancements in TPF product development can be realized. But let's focus on the root key to success in this new equation.

In the past, the old approach to marketing mainframe technology was to present that technology as a standalone solution. If a customer had a high volume/high transaction requirement TPF was proposed as a single solution. The inherent problems in this approach were centered around unfamiliarity with the product, the substantial costs of staffing a unique skill-set, and issues surrounding cross-platform computing. Since we haven't celebrated the signing of any new licenses in the past 5 years, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that something had to change.

What has changed, and I might add changed for the better, is IBM's philosophy on TPF. Rather than selling TPF as a complete business solution, IBM is now selling TPF as an integrated part of a larger business solution. This isn't a case of “if you can't beat `em, join `em”, but more so a case of “let us show you how we can make a great solution even better”. The lessons learned on the UAB project (which by the way isn't a dead issue!) have not been wasted, and TPF's ability to interface with other technologies and other platforms opens several doors to incredible growth opportunities. We're only seeing the tip of the iceberg on things like the TPF Apache Web Server, MQ, and the move to C++ for application development. Just think of the possibilities!

While I was at the conference in Miami, I had an opportunity to meet with several of the IBM folks and when I brought up the subject of product awareness, I was asked a very interesting question; “Who makes the best X-ray machines in the world, or the best diesel truck engines?” Obviously I couldn't answer the question, but I suddenly realized that these products were the best available, and that the companies making them were financially strong, and continuing to grow in spite of the fact that the average person on the street had no awareness of them. The point IBM was trying to make was that TPF can be just as effective a product. When a company is looking for the best there is to satisfy their business requirements, TPF can answer that call as part of an overall solution. Without any of us realizing it, the people in the Lab and the people in the marketing arena have intelligently and shrewdly positioned TPF for the future. The product is in the right place at the right time, and I'm impressed as hell with what I can only describe as one of the monumental successes in strategic planning.

Back in 1620, a small group of people left England in search of a new life in a new land. Seeking to escape persecution for their beliefs and a chance to test their resolve, this group of pilgrims set sail on a journey that literally changed the world. In many ways, a new group of pilgrims is embarking on a similar journey today in Poughkeepsie. Armed with an able crew and a resolve as strong as their forefathers, these explorers are on a course that can once again change the world. As we gather with friends and family to celebrate the upcoming holiday, I suggest to you all that we have more to be thankful for than we may realize.

With that thought in mind, we would like to wish you all a Happy Holiday Season, and Best Wishes for the New Year!

Alan Sadowsky