We still need files – letting go of the function may be part of the plan for NonStop users, but not throwing the concept of files away!
In recent communications with industry experts I was reminded of the predictions made in the early 2000s that files of any type would be long gone by now. It was a Google executive who made the observation that when it comes to files, in particular, their users’ files, there wasn’t much to discuss as files were so 1990s! To be accurate, the context for these comments by Google came about when comparisons were made between Google Apps and Microsoft Office.
As one analyst wrote in the post Microsoft Office is so 1990s. Google Apps is today, “I was so used to going to ‘file’ and then clicking on ‘save’ when I made major changes in Word, but now I don’t even get the option to save because Google docs does it so frequently on its own.” In other words, in the world of Google, the function or action “file” has gone away, and while this is an important development, it’s not really representing the demise of files per se. No, we aren’t throwing away the concept of files.
Documents are what many IT users today understand – filing being a process rather than anything more. “Files? No, I have my documents saved in a folder,” is the typical response. And yet, for any system manager it’s all about the files and so it is for NonStop systems. What may be placed in a folder on your device, be it desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, can be anything from a document, a picture, a song or a book, it’s still very much a file to all the system processes responsible for its eventual appearance on your device. No, files aren’t going anywhere soon – they are as fundamental to our interactions with technology as the power-on button.
The users are familiar with moving a document around and perhaps, on occasion, creating and sending a ZIP file. However, for the enterprise, a lot more is involved with the ramifications from the failures – the loss of the files – far more serious than the lost corner of a favorite photo. In the past I was very familiar with the Document Exchange business – highly secure boxes where important, mostly legal, documents could be left for retrieval by appropriate recipients. Today, the requirement still exists, but as our documents are electronic, the need to move the document (as a file) is every bit as important with the downside from loss every bit as concerning but perhaps more expensive) as in past times.
“So, a file is a file is a file,” DataExpress’ CEO, Billy Whittington, told me recently. For DataExpress, the company being in the business of securely managing the movement of files, there’s very little evidence of files going away any time soon. “It may contain numeric or alphabetic data, it may be a media content file or even an object code component – yet if you look at it from the top down, it is still a file contained within a folder (or dare I say ‘dataset’)? Fortunately for us, we are data agnostic, we don’t care what’s inside, we will grab it, shake it, move it and eventually ‘let it go’ to tap popular sentiment.”
Put it down to being something similar to the demise of IBM mainframes, suggested Whittington. “Yes, we have heard this ALL through my career. I was still working MVS (pre-XA) when I heard mainframes would become part of the scrap heap, yet if you go into any big shop, you will see mainframes still thumping away in the background – billions of dollars of them.” NonStop is coming off its 40th anniversary and like IBM’s mainframes will continue to provide value for many more decades and the data stored in files will be important to others throughout all those decades. And this is not lost on the NonStop community, as it isn’t lost on DataExpress – we may let files go, but yes, it’s still all about files and of talk of no more files, I am not expecting to hear anything more.