Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Yes, once again, I ask – are our wishes truly important?

Once again, I am writing a preview of what will follow next February as my update to My Three Wishes for NonStop will be posted. Like my previous preview, I am keeping a few items close to my chest … 

Over the past two week I have been on the road and for nearly all of that time the heavens have opened up and it’s been a hard rain for more days that I care to recall. Driving was erratic at times even as setting up camp proved challenging – the drive into the RV facility on North Carolina’s Outer Banks happened just 30 minutes after a tremendous deluge that left the facility flooded. But the opportunity to discuss business with numerous folks made it worthwhile and overall it all added to a growing impression that the software industry is heading for tough times and that, without a few more concessions coming from major hardware vendors, our future choices may be greatly reduced even as users may be tempted to return to writing critical middleware and tools themselves.

Driving all of this is the simple fact that there’s just very little money heading towards traditional software vendors. Well, almost all software vendors. Those providing solutions remain optimistic of course as there is a direct line between the business problems they address and their own ability to charge accordingly. There continues to be significant discrepancies between the many solutions on offer but the actual price paid for any given solution ultimately rests with the users themselves – they can walk from deals and consider alternatives. However, when it comes to middleware and tools there are usually only one or two choices and for the NonStop community this is particularly true.

It’s unfortunate that with the rightsizing of NonStop system prices that has led to NonStop being priced as competitively as it is now – on par with almost every other server cluster offering and streets ahead of equivalent mainframe offerings – a new pricing expectation is being set for middleware and tools. And yet, we expect our preferred middleware and tools vendor to accelerate the level of investment in their products to cater for changing hardware architecture. Throw into this mix the availability of NonStop as Software, capable of running virtually, and the expectations of users are beginning to step beyond the lines of reasonability. HPE NonStop expects these vendors to remain part of the NonStop ecosystem but I am not sure how many NonStop vendors will be motivated to do so and this may be to the detriment of everyone in the NonStop community.

Every three years I update my three wishes for NonStop. It all started back on February 12, 2008, in the post,
"My Wish" for NS Blades. Since then I have published successive Wishes for NonStop posts in 2011, 2014 and now 2017 is fast approaching when I will once again be publishing my next three Wishes for NonStop. However, given how quickly events can turn on a dime, with my post of July 19, 2013, Are our wishes still important? I set the scene in terms of what to expect next and this year, I am continuing that pattern. The post of 2017 may be fast approaching but it may be useful if I provided you with a sneak preview about what is yet to be posted. And yes, there is lots to discuss.

But here’s the catch. Are making three wishes for NonStop still relevant today? I have asked the same question every time and each time, the responses have been positive. It would seem that we all have our private list of Wishes for NonStop and consider them important. On the other hand, can we say NonStop has now caught up with the industry to where we are all prepared to go with the flow? Is same-o, same-o, become acceptable and in fact, become the new norm? Is NonStop differentiation even relevant in 2016?

My first response is one of gratitude that HPE stuck with NonStop where today the investments HPE is making, in NonStop systems, are hard to ignore. Who could have imagined that NonStop would be where it is today, on the verge of being available pretty much any way we want it – running on HPE hardware, on commercial off-the-shelf hardware and potentially, not just in private clouds but possibly in public clouds underpinning a selection of services including database. Making three wishes for NonStop is still relevant but given how much is changing of late, I will leave it till that post of February 2017 what I think my next three wishes should be.

In the meantime, and as a precursor to what may follow, when I look at how best to characterize the NonStop ecosystem as it exists today, then there are three items that stand out – transparency, cooperation and engagement. These are very important topics for the NonStop community today given all we are hearing from HPE. Change upon change upon change – the reshaping of an industry stalwart to better address the conditions of the day. Not a cliché, but reality. It’s so easy for us these days to drift back to memories of former times and wish for their return. But IT is a thriving, multi-faceted industry that only knows progress. IT is like a powerful car that only has forward gears.

Transparency? Overriding every discussion I have had with my clients of late is the urgency for greater transparency with respect to their dialogue with HPE and I have to believe the same holds true for NonStop users. C’mon, HPE – we can’t just be forced to read the Wall Street Journal to find out what HPE is up to – a briefing call on the day (or yes, a little in advance) would be great. Having said this, I do have to say I admire the steps that HPE NonStop Product Management have taken of late to be more transparent with the vendor community and I want to see this develop further – quarterly calls, if it’s possible! And yes, I know all about the SEC rules – but as they say so often in the movies and on television these days, “read us in!” And when it comes to transparency, how about letting us all know just how many NonStop customers exist today and just how many NonStop systems are deployed.

Cooperation? Quite simply, there is so much to do and HPE R&D cannot do it all. Numerous steps have been taken already with select partners and again, this is good news. But develop a program that is more comprehensive and don’t push back each time with observations that well, yes we have something already in the works. Don’t do that – it just doesn’t win you any friends and quite frankly you don’t have the breadth any longer to be competitive on every front. Let the specialists who are prepared to invest their own dime in bringing a tool, utility or major feature to market, take the lead. It’s not that big a concession to make but cooperation will buy HPE NonStop an awful lot of good friends in many of the right places.

Engagement? The tricky element! You may already ask whether this has been covered with transparency and cooperation but I want to call it out as its own challenge. Let’s start with partner programs. For the most part, the NonStop vendor community doesn’t want to be lumped into a generic all-encompassing partner program. I know, I have been there! More than once! The needs of the NonStop vendor community vary significantly from those of your typical Unix or Linux or even Windows development shop. For starters, the marketplace for NonStop is finite and tightly focused – we don’t need to be given access to a couple of PCs or a Linux server. The Advanced technology Center (ATC) has been a godsend to many NonStop vendors – explore ways to broaden its engagement with the NonStop vendor community. For free! The NonStop Technical Boot Camp has been a surprise windfall for all involved – let’s keep it up and somehow manage to find resources to export it to EMEA and AP-J.

There is also one more thing – related, but more on the periphery of everyone’s radar screens. The freelancer! The time of having job security, working for a large organization, is long gone – those very same large organizations have seen to that. I don’t know of any other IT segment where the skills lie with as many freelancers as exists today across the NonStop community. Freelancers should not be ignored even as they don’t have the backing of a large corporation but having said that, they are more likely to be better equipped and motivated. It’s a huge resource around the planet that just needs greater recognition. 

Returning to my opening comments; HPE does expect the NonStop vendor community to remain part of the NonStop ecosystem. It’s very important for HPE and indeed, the expectation is that new vendors will be found and brought into the NonStop fold. But it’s a two way street with many one-way side streets leading NonStop vendors away from the main thoroughfare. Keeping everyone engaged is not a nice-to-have but rather the biggest imperative of all for HPE NonStop. The NonStop vendor community is heading for tough times and truly needs concessions from HPE. Yes, we would all benefit from new solutions for NonStop even as we would all benefit from making it even easier to port what we like to NonStop. But we absolutely must find the right way to sustain a thriving software industry that will remain focused on NonStop!

If you were at all curious about what my first three Wishes for NonStop were back in 2008, while the words were a little different they called for industry standard blades capable of running not just NonStop but Linux, Unix and even Windows; they called out the need to embrace virtualization and the benefits that would likely come if we could programmatically provision NonStop. If you want to read these three previous posts, then follow the link, Wishes that is listed under Labels. There is also now a label for Wishes – Preview where you will find this post included as well. 

But I have to admit, before wrapping up this post, that in the years since 2008, HPE NonStop has taken incredible strides to bring NonStop into the mainstream and with the new NonStop X family has succeeded in a manner that has taken me by surprise. There’s a saying that you need to be careful about making wishes in case they come true, but I have to admit, I wish big! So, look for the post of February 2017 to read more about my wishes for where I would like to see NonStop head over the course of the next three years. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Misconceptions – all computers will never be the same!

There are numerous misconceptions about many things we routinely come into contact with but as NonStop becomes capable of running on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and yes, even from within a cloud, I turned to one solutions vendor to gauge just how big an impact this may have on future NonStop sales …

It’s a common misconception that America’s interstate freeways provide a speedy and stress-free way to drive across the country, but they are neither free nor fast, or even stress free. Denoted speed limits change frequently, portions of the freeway have become toll-roads and many miles of freeway are under repair and have been turned into unforgiving cone-surrounded autocross courses. And then there are the freeway interchanges to contend with – oftentimes beautiful, yet terrifying to the uninitiated. The photo above was taken by the award-winning commercial and fine art photographer, Peter Andrew, who has turned many of these high interchanges into works of art.  No, it’s simply a shortsighted mistake to think sticking to America’s interstate freeways will be the best route to take.

It’s also a common misconception that we are headed down a road where all computer systems will be the same, that, in their eventual ubiquitousness, we will find a kind of Valhalla. In other words, price parity will be reached and vendor differentiation will be marginalized, perhaps differing only in the chosen color schemes of the metalwork, but Valhalla may not be all that we envision, or even welcoming site, with its doors wide open. We may be heading to a box sameness, but there will always be at least two competing architectures, for as far out into the future that I can see, competing x86 and Power architectures, for instance – such that the doors to Valhalla will remain firmly shut. No, it’s just as shortsighted a mistake to think that all computers will be the same. 

This topic came up in numerous discussions of late. Fueled by observations made at recent user and industry events, passing kiosks that populate exhibit halls, you get a superficial sense that it’s all the same and resorting to photo reproductions plastered onto the same cut-out frames as if they were advertising on a NASCAR race car, doesn’t help one bit. When did we move away from exhibiting real computers? I must have missed the memo, but quite frankly, it’s not helping. However, there’s more going on inside today’s computers than we may realize – you can’t really identify a computer by what covers it – this is not about technology that is only skin deep. What lies inside makes all the difference in the world!

There has never been any misconception among the NonStop community about what lies within the cabinets. NonStop systems are just different and will always be different, or, is this not really true anymore? Will a NonStop systems manager be able to tell the difference when all the basic components are commercial, off-the-shelf, hardware? Fortunately, HPE is investing in NonStop at a rapid rate such that today’s image of a NonStop system is shifting in some very important ways, all of which are being discussed with a level of fervor among the NonStop vendor community and these vendors are more excited than I can recall in a long time.

Recently I wrote in my client weekly update of NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the service, each of which provided the highest level of availability even as it is capable of scaling up as well as out in a manner that meets the needs of any user. If you want to be able to put your arms around a NonStop system that is delivered in a crate to your loading dock then yes, you can get it from HPE. If you want to download NonStop from a web site to run on your Dell x86 servers interconnected by multiple Mellanox InfiniBand switches, well yes, you can get that software too from HPE (or shortly will be able to, in my opinion). If you want to provision on your private cloud that consists of generic x86 servers then that too shouldn’t be a problem and will likely be the way many applications get to access the best database on the planet, NS SQL/MX. And for those prepared to wait just a little longer, if you really need to run in a public cloud I fully expect that too will be possible.

You only want to deploy open source? Indeed, stay tuned as again, it is my opinion that NonStop (in part of in whole) is headed for open source so yes, you may need additional services from knowledgeable folks but go right ahead. Watch for a NonStop distribution being floated by the NonStop community in a year or two! Although following the retirement of HPE CTO, Martin Fink, the potential for the NonStop operating system heading to open source may have lessened. What is not a misconception by anyone tracking technology trends is the price of hardware is dropping (some would say, sinking) with the acceptance of commercial, off the shelf hardware. Middleware, tools and infrastructure are following this downward trend as well. But solutions? Well, this is where the value is provided and while there may be some steading in the price of solutions, the impact is less noticeable.

In the post of June 3, 2016, Burgers for cash ... or burgers and cash? published on the ATMmarketplace site, I turned to OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, for his views on payments solutions and possible integration with robotics but I also asked him for comments on Hybrids and vNonStop. In that post I quoted Yash after he had told me of how, "For more than a year, we have been building our own systems around NonStop and ProLiant Unix processors with Atalla boxes included (as well, for security). After we build and test them, we ship the complete package to our customers and for the most part, all they see is OmniPayments via a browser to the extent the underlying technology is invisible.”

According to Yash, "HPE is demonstrating NonStop and Linux hybrids with InfiniBand and NSADI (formerly, Yuma) connecting the two and we are watching this development with keen interest. If HPE provides packaging that reduces the work we currently need to do then that will keep our costs down and that will be a big plus for our customers. Furthermore,  if we can now build our systems from any x86 servers on offer, applying our own skillsets to properly install and deploy it all, and run NonStop virtually, then I can see this allowing us to deliver a true payments solution to even the smallest of FI.”

Of all the payments solutions on offer today that run on NonStop, OmniPayments has been developed as a pure NonStop play capitalizing on all the features NonStop has to offer. Whereas all but one other payments solutions has been ported to NonStop, OmniPayments leverages NonStop to be as big or as small as the customer situation dictates but there’s even more on the horizon. As Yash so often highlights at customer events, OmniPayments is already embracing cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS), and has multiple in-house sites up and running.

"For some time now we have been successful with our OmniCloudX offering whereby we provision OmniPayments as a Service for our customers. Now that HPE has demonstrated virtual NonStop systems running on commodity, off-the-shelf x86 servers this opens the door to a vastly different environment for NonStop and one where we will need to devote time to fully understand all the ramifications. The priority for OmniPayments will be not to detract from the levels of availability NonStop provides even as we need to consider what additional tools might be required as now there will be additional systems software to support. However, this said, we view the emergence of vNonStop as a positive outcome and one that will help OmniPayments keep the costs low for our customers," concluded Yash. 

As for the potential move of NonStop into the open source arena, Yash is just as bullish about the prospects for OmniPayments with any such distribution that may eventuate from HPE. “In my opinion - open sourcing of Nonstop will lead to more vNonStop sales,” Yash told me. “That is good for us because our software will run on more machines, giving us even more customers. What’s wrong with that?” Some of what I have covered in this post will come to fruition and some may not. For those who have been attending recent user and industry events and entered into discussions with their peers, there seems to be very few limitations as to where NonStop will head and this possibly is the most exciting news about NonStop of all!

Of course this is just the perspective of one solutions vendor but in the coming months I will be working with other vendors in order to gain further insight. Clouds and offering NonStop from within clouds is an entirely new game for OmniPayments so it will be very interesting to watch. However, preliminary feedback is that indeed, there is a growing list of new sales for NonStop X systems as a result.

Misconceptions abound in all walks of life. They are not limited to taking the freeway or buying a computer system. Sticking too long with a misconception can prove dangerous as well – I cannot count how many systems have passed from the technology landscape where the fields are littered with the relics of once prosperous architectures. No, Valhalla as enticing as it may sound is nowhere to be found but the good news is that very soon, you will be able to order up a NonStop variation exactly the way you need it and it may be all the good news anyone in the NonStop community really cares about. And make no mistake, that’s not a misconception at all no matter what your initial reaction on hearing the news from HPE may have been!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It's good to be alive right about now … NonStop rocks!

Back from HPE Discover 2016 and with opportunities to converse with my clients, the news about NonStop is good. All involved in the NonStop community see the development of NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the services as positive and there’s excitement and anticipation evident everywhere I turn …

HPE Discover 2016 continues to occupy my thoughts even as I am now deeply involved in a number of projects arising from conversations with my clients. Las Vegas may not be to everyone’s liking but when it comes to the biggest of HPE marketing events, HPE Discover 2016 does throw a lot at you in a very short period of time. For me it has always been about the sidebar conversations, the opportunity for a brief exchange with an executive and the chance, and often quite unexpected, meeting over cocktails. This year, there was a reception for the NonStop community hosted by America’s sales head, Jeff Skinner, and that proved to be the place to be Tuesday evening.

The question I was asked most often at HPE Discover was who are the members of the NonStop community? Why do they continue to invest in NonStop and yes, how is it possible that after all these years there remains such a healthy ecosystem of vendors, consultants, service providers and even bloggers continuing to thrive from supporting NonStop? More often than not, when I began talking about this ecosystem, the degree of surprise coming from whoever I am talking to only grows bigger with each example I provide, to the point where I am more than sure my audience begins to assume I am simply exaggerating.

On the trip to Las Vegas, we took it rather leisurely with an overnight stop in Cedar City. Opting to bring the company command center along with us and with our Mini strapped to our trailer the resultant big rig proved challenging coming down through the narrowing Virgin River Gorge of Arizona. There has been considerable bridge repair being carried out and warning signs posted as you enter Arizona that vehicles over ten feet wide cannot make it through and with our big rig slightly wider than eight feet, there was little room for error.

Concentration was the order of the day as we threaded the needle. Suffice to say, we made it through the gorge unscathed. But challenging situations seem to be the flavor of the day now that I have returned to Boulder and my thoughts continue to take me back to Las Vegas and to the dual themes of Digital Transformation and Digital Disruption.

When travelling, there are numerous occasions where you come upon forks in the road; whether it’s changing from one interstate freeway to another or simply exiting for diesel, gas or food. Not surprisingly, with the big rig we have to be judicious about which turns we take as we remain vigilant about exactly how we will return to the freeway should it prove necessary. More than once we have made a wrong choice only to face restrictions on how best to make it back.

And I have been reminded of this dilemma as well – there have been numerous members of the NonStop community that left the NonStop freeway based on signage erected long ago. Concerned about the narrowing gorge they faced they elected to take the exit even as they missed the signs that the path chosen was not heading in the direction they wanted to take, after all.

Challenging situations being met by a unified and now incredibly strengthened community is the message coming from HPE following HPE Discover 2016 and it resonates loudly with the NonStop community as much as with the bigger HPE. Furthermore, “Tomorrow belongs to the Fast” is definitely something I understand and such a message is proving attractive as it is encouraging. But there’s something more here as well and it’s to do with collaboration. HPE is openly willing to work with partners, something that hasn’t been all that clear in the past.

At last year’s event the music being played before the first keynote presentation by Meg Whitman, HPE CEO, seemed a very strange mix of songs and something I raised with those around me from HP – seems that nobody really paid much attention to the mix beforehand. I don’t plan to write about that mix other than to say the mix of music was much different this year for HPE and one of the organizers came up to remind me that yes, they did pay attention this year and no, Larry Ellison wasn’t responsible for the choices made for 2015 as I had suggested!

For 2016 the opening numbers began with the song, Wake Up whose lyrics included the lines:
So wake up
Your sleeping heart
I know sometimes we'll be afraid
But no more playing safe, my dear …

Followed by the song Lean On with the lines:
Will we walk down the same road?
Will you be there by my side?

All we need is somebody to lean on …

And then a song or two later we all heard the Coldplay son, Adventure of a Lifetime, which seemed more than appropriate when it suggested:
Turn your magic on … Everything you want's a dream away

Cause you make me feel like I'm alive again …

Follow? Wake up followed by lean on followed by the adventure of a lifetime and for those from the NonStop community, the message couldn’t have been clearer. Collaboration – yes, it’s out there and I expect many takers of HPE’s invitation to wake up our sleeping hearts. Of course, it would be remiss if I didn’t add that the final song played as Whitman took the stage was Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah):
Now all my dreams are coming true, ya
I've been waiting for this moment

Nice! And corny as it may sound, NonStop too, now rocks!

The members of the NonStop community come from many industries. Of course, there were the financial institutions along with the telco industry that continue to be the perennial stalwarts of the NonStop community. But there were those present from government, transportation and entertainment that make up the enterprise market segment where NonStop has held sway for decades. When you add in those today who are in manufacturing and distribution as well as the occasional hospital you can see a picture forming that reflects the perfect conflux of technology, products, use-case scenarios and end-user engagement. We all know that technology today is being driven by the consumer experience and the rise of apps and microservices is a reflection of that trend. But this conflux is exactly right and timely for NonStop – yes, NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the service.

When I put the question to the NonStop vendor community about just how popular this newfound willingness to push NonStop in different directions and separating NonStop the system from NonStop the software, the responses were all very positive. In their post of June 24, 2016, to the DataExpress NEWS / BLOG,
NONSTOP INITIATIVES – HOW RELAXED SHOULD WE BE? DataExpress executives are quite open about their views on these directions as they state, “Full of anticipation, coupled with a little trepidation together with an acute awareness that we can react to what we see coming, we may not be quite as relaxed about the new NonStop as we are when relaxing by the pool this summer. But there is no denying that among the team here at DataExpress, there is excitement developing over the future of NonStop.”

As for comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, he too shared with me much the same sentiment. In a recent email on the matter, Burg reiterates how at comForte, “Yes, there is plenty of change coming from HPE NonStop lately but we are THRILLED! EXCITED! (And) why wouldn’t we?” Indeed, as far as comForte is concerned, Burg simply concludes with, “Who wouldn’t be impressed to see the market for NonStop broaden to be all inclusive no matter the systems preferred, just NonStop or hybrid; real or virtual; private (cloud) or public! We see no downside from all that is changing.” Clearly, HPE’s support for NonStop is palpable but just as importantly, it has the attention of senior executives and is now an integral part of the plans for the new HPE IT.

“It’s time to get excited – NonStop is the standard for large scale enterprises who demand secure availability,” said Tony Craig, TCM Solutions (TCM) CEO. And what he has looked at to date, leads him to make yet another important observation that speaks volumes of NonStop now appealing to markets apart from traditional enterprise market segments. “With the Hybrid and Virtualization, NonStop becomes the obvious choice for the Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) market where security and availability is also key to their success,” Craig said. 

“This potentially doubles the NonStop target market place - exciting times ahead. We are looking to expand our NonStop consultancy operation for the delivery of both on-site and remote service solutions to meet the demands for expert NonStop support and cost-effective complete managed services.  We have been doing this successfully for 20 years and this is definitely the most exciting development we have seen in NonStop!”

The photo was taken of our big rig at rest place alongside the freeway at Grand Junction and yes, rather fittingly, we too as a community have reached our own grand junction. NonStop is generating excitement even as it embarks on numerous different journeys. Will it all pan out? Will it generate a whole cadre of new users both big and small? Will the NonStop user community continue to invest in NonStop? Will internal HPE politics become a factor and will the need to address more than just NonStop become a factor in many NonStop vendors’ plans.

When I put this to Andy Hall, ETI-NET CEO he was very straightforward with his remarks. It has been hard to miss the acquisition trail ETI-NET has been pursuing of late and of how these acquisitions include support of platforms apart from NonStop. Excitement? Politics? Perhaps cultural differences? “Operational politics take on new significance when NonStop applications must cooperate, accommodate, or insulate themselves from surrounding events,” said Hall.

And of course, when it comes to the ETI product set, they have “thrived on these hardware and software interdependencies since our inception and we have a culture that understands the organizational factors that result in technical success or failure.  And our most recent acquisition of open system monitoring software is an added asset in this quickly changing landscape.” More to the point, when it comes to where NonStop may be headed, Hall was also quick to add, “ETI-NET is well-positioned to capitalize on NonStop software co-existing with open systems in a commodity hardware framework.”

The questions kept on coming at HPE Discover 2016 but the simple truth remains. HPE values NonStop backing this up with major investments; HPE is supporting NonStop usage in their own data center and yes, the market for NonStop will grow – if the NonStop vendor community is excited then all stakeholder in the NonStop community that constitute an ecosystem that others would enjoy having need to rejoice – as for me it’s simply a case of I've been waiting for this moment! It’s good to be alive; Hallelujah!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hybrids, Connectivity, Analytics and Natural Language Processing … NonStop, of course!

What was on display at HPE Discover 2016 led me to take a closer look at some of the start-ups where Pyalla Technologies has a presence and the results add further weight to the argument about just how far NonStop systems have come – who would have guessed just a year or so ago! 

Wandering the exhibition hall at this year’s HPE Discover, for me, it was a treat to see as many cars on display as there were. Whether it was the HPE sponsored Formula E or what I recall was a Nissan Leaf or even the BMW i3 pictured above, there seemed a lot more engagement with cars at this show. Of course, there was the opportunity to race a car against other attendees; that was part of the HPE Labs exhibit but the “controls” were a tad artificial and not to my liking, so I wasn’t tempted to join in the fun.

The BMW i3 is a pure electric play and where HPE was involved had to do with gathering information from many sources in order to keep the car on course and in practical terms, safe. The i3 had communications to the HPE IoT Platform where the integration allowed “for rapid installation of new services or applications, as well as for communication with nearby connected devices.” What this integration covered was, “Advance warning of rain, high winds, and potholes using “swarm” intelligence; Smart home/infrastructure integration and Geo fencing to alert drivers to restrictions as they cross international borders.”

Of course this was all complementary technology to whatever autonomous car technology develops but it was a graphic way to demonstrate a future where unheralded volumes of data are routinely examined with potentially important data communicated to where it’s most wanted. For the NonStop community all of this may be peripheral to the core function of processing transactions, but for many years we have heard presentations by classic bricks-and-mortar retailer, Home Depot, of how it has integrated weather feeds from the internet directly into its transaction processing on NonStop systems in order to ensure the right merchandise is in the right store when local weather crisis develops. And yes, this is only just the beginning.

Part of what Pyalla supports are a number of start-ups where my involvement has run the full gamut, from product management and marketing to business development to simply supporting media outreach programs. One start-up centers on NonStop while another includes NonStop. The third is not on NonStop, even as it is a huge user of HPE products. However, there is a synergy evident in these start-ups. They are all bridging the old with the new and helping us get a firm foothold in solutions that will allow us to tap vast resources, no matter how the data is captured, processed or stored. Given the renewed focus on NonStop within HPE, the associations I have with each of these startups is likely a foretaste of what the NonStop users will become very interest in over the course of the next 18 to 30 months. And the catalyst for all of this interest has been the arrival of hybrid infrastructures where NonStop X is playing its part.

My involvement with
InfraSoft dates back to its earliest days as the company came together. Based in Sydney, Australia, it was only natural for Pyalla Technologies to remain engaged with a company that influenced the choice of company name – Pyalla. Following considerable market success with its uLinga communications product suite, it has been its deep port of Node.js that has really interested me. So many applications written in JavaScript have to do with processing data that it’s not surprising to see the need to support Node.js’ gain as much momentum as it has.

For those who participated in the presentation by HPE IT at HPE Discover 2016, we heard of the choice of JavaScript and Node.js underpinning their applications (with JDBC access to SQL/MX on NonStop) and this is only the beginning. The processing of voluminous amounts of data and then doing something with the data that is of interest is right at the center of the sweet spot for JavaScript and with as much talk as there is of late about microservices, it’s good to see that there is a solution for NonStop X systems and whereas Node.js may be thought of as a platform running on Linux as part of a HPE hybrid infrastructure, the addition of NonStop can only elevate the importance of Node.js for many users where NonStop has a presence.    

When it comes to data and data analytics however, in my opinion the premier vendor in this space that should be on the radar screens of every NonStop user is
Striim. Originally called WebAction and established by former GoldenGate Software executives, the transition from simply supporting data integration as was being done by GoldenGate to where the data itself was the interesting element shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in the NonStop community.

The first PoCs among NonStop users are being done and shortly there will be news about a number of successful use-case scenarios everyone in the NonStop community will be able to relate to – Striim is synonymous with data stream analytics and there will not be a transaction process solution operating anywhere without the deep ties to the environment that Striim so effectively supports. Like InfraSoft, Striim is platform neutral where Linux is perhaps the more viable choice of platform making it an even stronger candidate for running on HPE hybrid infrastructure.    

Whereas my ties to InfraSoft are deeply rooted in my ties to all things Australian and my ties to Striim are associated with my good times at GoldenGate, my connection with InkaBinka can be traced directly to time spent at Starbucks, Wood Ranch, Simi Valley. Chalk it up to unintended consequences or simply to serendipity, but from the time I met InkaBinka founder, Kevin McGushion, over a Starbucks’ Latte, I was hooked. And today, what started out at InkaBinka with its news application, a neat way to read news summaries while standing in line for that Latte has developed into a serious piece of raw feed processing utilizing very advanced natural language processing. 

Or, as Kevin recently explained it, “InkaBinka has created a state variable, neural network that can summarize vast amounts of information by writing about a subject, emulating human abstraction. This is especially powerful in internet search, where 300 million results are common for a single search term. This neural network, through learning and building of a summary, creates new ways of visualizing information while allowing rapid discovery of new information that would have been hidden by the sheer volume of content.”
 

For me it’s a case of InkaBinka developing an optimized neural network that learns over time and creates and adjusts relationships between ideas, something Kevin now calls “connectedness,” as those ideas evolve. InkaBinka then uses a form of neural network that relates more abstract ideas to summarize large volumes of data. “Artificial neural networks at a basic level emulate the function of neurons where, if new information is introduced, processes may be applied to learn about those new things, essentially allowing the system to become smarter,” said Kevin. 

And of course, from a high-level, macro perspective, “It’s hard to apply these concepts to abstract things such as language. Traditional NLP (natural language processing) works sequentially where a next state is dependent on a previous state and works well for things like spell checking, grammar checking, translation even code breaking. This is not how the human brain tends to work.”

Before diving even deeper into what was behind InkaBinka today, by way of explanation Kevin then suggested that I should, “Take, for example what the human mind does when it begins to formulate a sentence, a series of sentences or a thought. It does not create each sentence with each word sequentially. Rather, it takes into account the main ideas to be covered and the order in which they are to be covered. This may depend on a number of things, such as most important concepts, most recent concepts, or even bias. The mind then takes those main ideas in a prescribed order and weaves them together with individual words, taking into consideration what has been said and what is left to be said.” 

In the example below (and now viewed many times on numerous social media sites), 10,024 websites may be learned from in order to create a summary and a connectedness map of basic ideas covered in these sites. Any node of the connectedness map may be selected and a new summary created based on the relationship between these words.  Information can be quickly discovered without the need to sort through page after page of internet searches, representing a ‘wall of text.’   



It is often a mystery to a user how internet search engines relate or rank information but now, with InkaBinka search, the connectedness is graphically understood and manipulated. Like for many in the NonStop community, visualization works best and the above goes a great way to explaining the powerful transition under way inside InkaBinka. 

InkaBinka runs completely on HPE Moonshot processors and is implemented using JavaScript and Node.js. And it’s heavily focused on data, search and visualization – all sounding rather familiar given the interests of Pyalla. When it comes to hybrid infrastructure we have already seen SLQ/MX on NonStop X being accessed by microservices on Linux (at HPE IT), so thinking in terms of NLP on Linux being accessed by transaction processing on NonStop doesn’t represent too big a stretch of our imagination.

With the looming presence of virtual NonStop, running on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware, where all that is required is a Linux and KVM (think OpenStack) perhaps there will be those looking for an even lower cost hardware option where Moonshot may become an option to consider. If not Moonshot – how much attention is being paid to HPE CloudLine as here too, there is another alternative for use with virtual NonStop. In other words, it would be unwise to place any fences around HPE and NonStop as to where it’s products will surface or is it wise to rule out participation in a solution by any one product.

Microservices, data analytics and natural language processing, all are involving NonStop today. In many ways, too, pointing to where NonStop is headed as well as to the types of platforms we will likely see NonStop becoming a part of. The support Pyalla is providing is not accidental nor is it random and even though these associations developed several years ago where, as the time, their likely impact on NonStop transaction processing may have been dubious at best and a completely off-the-wall at worst, it’s symbolic in many ways of just how wide the net is now being cast when it comes to future possibilities for NonStop.  HPE Discover 2016 opened many eyes not the least being my own. The question now for the NonStop community is simply one of how open are your eyes! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

What we discovered in Vegas!

HPE Discover 2016 was the “big-tent, marketing event” we have come to expect. Hearing HPE CEO Meg Whitman introduce Home Depot onto the stage as a NonStop user was great! With uptick in interest in all things NonStop (including HPE IT) we're going to need a lot more help from services providers …


A year may not be a long time between HPE Discover events and then again, when you also factor in Boot Camp having been only half a year ago, it continues to intrigue me how HPE has picked up the pace so dramatically. Often relegated to being old-school or even a leftover from a previous era, it’s all too easy to denigrate a company that’s been in business for three quarters of a century, but this is far from being an accurate depiction of HPE today. 

The breakup of the former HP into the two companies, HPQ and HPE, was executed extremely well such that today HPE is single-mindedly focused on the needs of enterprises everywhere. Furthermore, the decision by HPE to spin off its services group – a legacy of the times when buying EDS seemed such a good idea – with the plan to combine it with CSC to form a new entity focused solely on services, further frees HPE’s hands to pursue leadership in the enterprise systems business.

As HPE CEO Meg Whitman reported at the time of the announcement, "As two stand-alone companies with global scale, strong balance sheets and focused innovation pipelines, both HPE and the new company that combines CSC and HPE's Enterprise Services segment will be well positioned as leaders in their respective markets. For HPE, our balance sheet, capital allocation strategy, and cost structure will now be fully optimized for a faster growing, higher margin and more robust free cash flow business. And, the new company will be in a stronger position to win than either organization could have been on its own."

While HPE’s competitors thought this all very strange even as they were doubling down on software and services investments, this announcement doesn’t discount the need for services – just different type of services. From what I heard at HPE Discover 2016 was that the HPE Enterprise Services group wasn’t producing the goods consistently enough, and not to make too fine a point of it, the tens of thousands of individuals still resident within HPE Enterprise Services had made it the last resting place of former EDS consultants that couldn’t find a home elsewhere. There remains within HPE an active services group – still thousands of individuals spread around the globe – that is more closely aligned with the product directions now being pursued.

HPE is going to need not just the help of the thousands of folks that are part of the HPE Enterprise Group but of a much bigger ecosystem closely aligned with individual products and indeed, technologies. By this I mean key technologies like OpenStack and yes, security, monitoring and perhaps most importantly of all, virtualization. The rapid march to virtualization is unquestionably the biggest takeaway from HPE Discover 2016. The good news for the NonStop community is that NonStop is becoming a key contributor in this march – with HPE IT swinging its enormous weight behind virtual NonStop (vNonStop). 

The merits of the SQL/MX database haven’t been ignored by HPE IT even as it let slip the prospect of increased usage of its own products. Introducing SQL/MX into the mission critical transaction processing aspects of HPE IT, even as the migration of NonStop to the Intel x86 architecture has brought renewed credibility to NonStop, pretty much was a no-brainer both in terms of better functionality and the severance of ties to former proprietary products. Changing business circumstances often produce unintended consequences and the elevation of the profile of NonStop has come about in part because of a major rethink of the products HPE had been using internally in support of its business.

Migrating to vNonStop from real NonStop only required some minor retooling of the JDBC paths and users didn’t notice any difference and this all falls in line with what we had been told at the recent Partner Technical Symposium – “it just works!”  However, this time by an IT team familiar with the technology and with help only a phone call away. For the broader base of NonStop users, access to services is going to be more critical than ever and this is where I am seeing members of the NonStop vendor community doubling down to meet the needs.

NonStop vendors today represent an ecosystem of product, consulting, service and even media providers all prepared to invest in NonStop and after many years of the status quo where familiar names continued to ply their trade, I haven’t seen this powerful a stakeholder in NonStop looking healthier. The NonStop community often has many options to consider and this further encourages more participants and with the economies of the world encouraging even more freelancing, NonStop is likely to see its needs well met.


It was at last year’s Boot Camp where I first ran across TCM, a company out of Scotland – an incident I covered in my post of May 22, 2016, NonStop on forward path – and it’s just not stopping! Catching up with TCM again at BITUG gave me an opportunity to talk in more depth with Daniel Craig and Collin Yates. If you aren’t familiar with this company, as was the case for me up until recently, check out the TCM web site.

What impressed me most about TCM is that, in a world where services were being scrutinized to the extent that they are, and where recent decisions including that of HPE to split from its own HPE Enterprise Services group is the most recent example, the need for more tightly-focused, albeit specialist, services companies is on the rise. There’s never been an overabundance of skilled systems managers nor SQL/MX experts and this aspect of the NonStop marketplace shows every sign of increasing in importance.


What HPE Discover 2016 highlighted for me is that it’s not just products gaining the attention but the services needed to support those products. The appeal of NonStop X is going to see new first-time customers attracted to NonStop systems and while there will always be those influenced by individuals having gained knowledge of NonStop while working somewhere else, there will still be many others with absolutely no experience. It’s now becoming common knowledge among those who are close to NonStop sales that NonStop has turned a corner with an expected growth rate in the single digits but even if this sounds low, it’s still many more new NonStop users emerging than previously experienced.

Talking to the folks at TCM, what stands out for me is that they have a global reach offering remote operations support – yes, they can take full responsibility for a complete soup to nuts operation. TCM can order your system, set it up and deploy, and then remotely manage. They already have several decades of experience doing this and whether you are looking for a protracted arrangement or in need of short term assistance that is more project oriented (e.g. installing a new NonStop X system), the global reach of TCM allows them to work right alongside you, no matter the requirements you may have.

Migrating to vNonStop? Considering introducing vNonStop just for development, test and even PoCs? The intersection of operating system, hypervisors, and mapping guest systems for optimal spread across real processors – is a whole new ballgame for many NonStop stakeholders. Whether it’s to add a NonStop DBaaS via NonStop SQL/MX with nothing more than JDBC calls to NonStop or a comprehensive hybrid solutions spilt across many virtual machines, it will prove challenging to even the most experienced of NonStop sites. What I am expecting to see is a considerable uptick of interest in the likes of NonStop service providers such as TCM, so yes, watch for even more balance between solutions and middleware vendors and those providing services in posts to this blog in the lead up to Boot Camp later this year.

The emergence of service providers is extremely important to everyone in the NonStop community going forward – factor in an aging / retiring workforce with NonStop skills, a dearth of in-depth training coming from HPE, and deployments of NonStop systems into sites with little enterprise IT experience and you are looking at a recipe for potentially less than stellar deployments. And I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t all arrived at the doorstep of an important new category of NonStop stakeholders – these experienced service providers.

The need for an ecosystem of service providers in support of open, security, application monitoring in support of NonStop was perhaps the biggest takeaway for me from this HPE Discover event. It will be very interesting to watch just how this evolved over time as increasingly, NonStop isn’t what it once was – that data PBX in the corner with a chatty console. No, NonStop is not only becoming open and standard but pervasive and will likely show up in unexpected places providing extraordinary capabilities and looking after it all will be skilled operators populating support facilities practically anywhere on the planet!     


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Partner Summit – peaks the interest of the NonStop vendor community!

The days of partner summits takes me back more than a decade to when they were an integral part of major ITUG events. Seeing them return and be successfully managed by the NonStop team is really big news and is a indication that all is well at HPE NonStop!

Sitting in my home office after a whirlwind trip to Palo Alto, aware that this week I have a lot of writing ahead of me, it seems only appropriate that I begin paging through the notes that I took while in Palo Alto as well as read the numerous emails that have now taken flight! The reason for the trip was the HPE NonStop Partner Summit – the first such event held in many years and yes, it was a good one.

Like a NASCAR winner, let me make sure that thanks are extended to all in HPE who made this event as successful as it proved to be; I think all of us need to thank the product management and development teams at NonStop for taking the time to meet with the vendors and for providing much greater insight into where NonStop is heading. For every vendor, such insight is priceless as it removes considerable second-guessing and being able to chat with other vendors also meant gaining different perspectives as to what it all means. Bottom line? Better alignment! Better products!

Once again, it was a road trip and over the 8 days we racked up some 3,200 plus miles. The return trip took us to San Francisco Thursday morning, before we spent a leisurely afternoon driving up the northern coastline of California. I have lost count of how many times I have driven highway 1 but it’s always provided the perfect backdrop to let ideas percolate and have the results, from the many conversations that took place, take on a more solid form. And the highway didn’t fail to deliver for me, once again! Nor did the quiet lunch Margo and I enjoyed at Bodega Bay!


This week I will be talking with all of my clients and this time, there will be a level of enthusiasm from me that is much higher than normal – a rarity of itself, as I am always upbeat about NonStop. But now I have a real foundation supporting such enthusiasm. HPE is enthusiastic about NonStop and that really is a first – since the dark days of Compaq, I thought a return to prosperity wasn’t in the cards. Listening last year at Boot Camp to Martin Fink, EVP &CTO, HPE, talk about being given a directive to “fix it … or exit” reinforced just how big a challenge it would be to turn around the good ship NonStop.

Fortunately for us all, Martin had no intention of exiting the NonStop business and a decade later, NonStop is clearly one of the more significant contributors to the Mission Critical Systems revenue stream.  Looking at all that was covered in the Partner Summit, perhaps it’s best to start with the ending. As the day of formal presentations came to end, Randy Meyer, VP & GM, Mission Critical Systems, HPE, walked to the front of the room with an unmistakable spring in his step and a smile he just couldn’t shake. Unbelievable!

While portions of the Partner Summit cannot be reported at this time and very strict CDAs are in place – something I was constantly being reminded of during the day as I was busily taking notes – Randy appeared after the official results of the quarter had been announced. The infamous SEC mandated quiet period that happens in the days leading up to any quarterly results announcement from a publicly traded company was officially over and while HPE has a history of not breaking down the numbers by products, it was easy to see that from Randy’s perspective, NonStop sales globally had performed well. Just how well – this I will leave until we all re-gather for this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp in San Jose at the end of the year. If my impression holds true, I am sure that Randy will have a lot more to say on this topic.

From a very high level, I have three observations that I feel comfortable passing on given the CDA all participants signed. If there had ever been any doubts over making NonStop great, again, then forget about it – no apologies for throwing in a little politics or a little east coast slang. However, I think that this message has lain dormant for far too long. Too many enterprises are reacting to information that is now old and are heading down the wrong path – Unix? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! No, there should no longer be any CIOs harboring doubts about the future of NoNStop.

My first observation has to do with the audience itself. At this Partner Summit there were as many CEOs as there were product management types and even development leaders. And this begs the question – when it comes to future Partner Summits, given the size of the turn out, then perhaps the NonStop team may want to give consideration to a separate CEO track, as business issues – market positioning, competitive strengths, pricing, etc. really do need more in-depth coverage going forward as does greater emphasis on what Mission Critical Systems can do to better support the many vendor commitments to NonStop.

However, this shouldn’t detract from what follows here and I digress just briefly. When it comes to my second observation then what the NonStop community need to adjust to is the raw speed of NonStop development – in the past there was always time for a vendor to plug a product or feature gap but no longer. NonStop development is moving faster than at any time in the past. 


When we talk about Big Data there are several Vs that come to mind – Volume, Variety, Veracity and Velocity and I couldn’t help but think of how these same Vs could be directed at HPE NonStop’s R&D. Clearly, the velocity of change and the speed with which tasks are being accomplished is hard to miss. Variety and volume pretty much speak for themselves and as for veracity well, for some NonStop users there may be a degree of uncertainty about what the bigger HPE is up to, but not for the better informed. HPE NonStop is marching to a plan, and it’s clear, NonStop isn’t stopping any time soon.

As for my second observation well, it certainly is becoming very clear. If NonStop development is moving as quickly as it is, where is it headed? Why the rush? We all know a vacuum is abhorrent to nature and is quickly filled. The exit from former powerhouse operating systems (OS) and ecosystems such as Unix, OpenVMS, and even some mainframe stalwart operating system options is opening a new era in openness. While the focus is on Linux, what’s different this time is that the Linux badge is constantly evolving – not just with the distributions on offer but internally as so many contributors are at work. While such change is both good news and bad news – enterprises cannot simply throw up new releases every week, it’s moving the ball forwards at a rapid clip.

Enter the new NonStop - or should I say, virtual NonStop (vNonStop). Already referenced here and the subject or previous posts this is a very serious goal for NonStop development and in turn, is responsible for the rush. There’s a degree of measured anticipation of a new order for NonStop unlike anything I have previously witnessed and I was a product manager at Tandem Computers who was on the S-Series team when Tandem switched to MIPS and introduced ServerNet.

Yes, this is big – and the first base on which vNonStop will run is Linux with KVM – Kernel level, or based, Virtual Machine. Think OpenStack – if you haven’t been paying attention, you may want to spend time too on a beach thinking again about just how much emphasis HPE is placing on Open in general and OpenStack in particular.

The third observation is that your friendly NonStop vendor is going to be under increased pressure to consider providing more services than they have possibly ever considered providing in the past while specialty service-only providers are being given a huge opportunity to grow. How many current NonStop system managers feel comfortable adding Linux and VM to their roster of technologies to oversee?

And then there is monitoring more than one moving part – your NonStop is running very nicely, thank-you, and then someone kills the VM! Finally, security has to take a holistic view of a multi-tiered mesh of OSs. Handing off credentials as solutions navigate the many layers will require considerable orchestration.

Listening as Randy, Karen and then Andy Bergholz walk the attendees through the many initiatives under way recalled many of the good times at Tandem Computers. But whereas Tandem was trailblazing and needed to push into areas with proprietary, often very unique offerings, the new NonStop is embracing openness in a way that will ensure NonStop has a place everywhere. No longer is fix it or exit, an issue, but rather, more likely it is a case of flex it.

There’s real muscle on display across all of the NonStop programs!  And now the NonStop vendor community is in on the rush – and for having this opportunity, it’s just one more reason to thank the team at NonStop for the great work they did this past week in support of the Partner Summit! See you at Boot Camp in the fall. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

NonStop on forward path – and it’s just not stopping!

Attending gatherings of the NonStop community remain a priority for me and getting the opportunity to join BITUG in London proved enlightening. NonStop is definitely on a roll and the NonStop community is enjoying a return to growth!

It was a quick trip to London. The BITUG Big SIG was the venue and it proved to be a popular event – congratulation’s to Kevin and the rest of the BITUG team for pulling this event together within the walls of Trinity House, a building I walked past on a daily basis back in the mid-1970s when I worked in London. Being called upon to give a 30 minute presentation and to man a vendor table, carrying as I did a collapsible promotional banner wasn’t completely unexpected and is something I do like doing.

Fortunately, with London as the destination, there was more than enough upside in making the trip to compensate for the time away from my office. Even though my time in the air these days has been trimmed to the bare minimum, I have to admit, there’s no other practical option than to fly when it comes to spending time with our European brethren.

The NonStop community certainly has an extra bounce in their walk these days, maybe even a swag. Having just come off participating in a number of Regional User Group (RUG) meetings in America, it’s great to see this recent uptick of interest in all things NonStop. If you missed my post of last week, “London Calling” to which I can add, “Anchors Away!”, which I wrote just before BITUG kicked-off, you may recall that I said I expected there to be surprises and that I wasn’t ruling anything out. As it turned out, there were surprises, not the least being just how popular the event proved to be with NonStop users – several faces I recognized from past events, but the majority of the attendees were new faces to me.

My presence at BITUG came about at the request of OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. Even though I had been providing an update on the OmniPayment’s Fraud Blocker offering in America I was interested to see how big a crowd I could attract. Whether it was my personal charm or simply that the NonStop roadmap presentation given by Vanessa Kaupp, NonStop Program Manager, HPE, followed immediately after my presentation, the room was full. I have become well-versed now in what OmniPayments can offer and while there really isn’t any substitute for Yash presenting his own product, I was pleased that there weren’t any difficult questions thrown my way.

I am always asked whether payments solutions can be exported. Do products selling well in one hemisphere will prove successful somewhere else? There’s no hiding that the OmniPayments payments solution is doing very well in the western hemisphere with deployments across the Americas that includes one of the biggest deployments on the planet in support of one of the top three American banks.

If the numbers 40,000,000 transactions per day and 700,000,000 transactions per month do not impress you then perhaps you may want to also consider that this runs on NonStop and just happened to be a showcase migration from another well-known payments solution to OmniPayments. For financial institutions across EMEA considering their options, the numbers like these are sure to impress.

I posted to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, of how BITUG gathers NonStop community together in London ... and about how I lost my way the first afternoon of my stay. I was familiar with the area but so much has changed, the cityscape was unrecognizable. I ended up hailing a taxi in order to find the offices of HPE where NonStop sales head, Dave McLeod, resided. Much of what we discussed was covered in the update he provided during the BITUG lunch but even so, the impression I came away with is of Dave as excited as I can recall over just how well NonStop X sales are going. I may have lost my way, but clearly, NonStop is very much back on track.

OmniPayments has been the primary reason for my attendance but manning at the OmniPayments table gave me the opportunity to catch up with other vendors. Prominent, as they so often are, comForte continued to be the center of many conversations about security and modernization. Shortly I will be posting to comForte blog updates on modernization so check this blog site over the next couple of days to see what I have to say about modernization, particularly as it pertains to modernizing networks.

If as yet you haven’t read my most recent post to the comForte Lounge blog, you may want to take a few minutes to check out the post, HPE NonStop Continues Driving Deeper Into the Data Center . “Yes, HPE has changed its business models, its culture, its funding of R&D, and perhaps most importantly for the NonStop community, its salesforce,” I noted. “Evidence of this, in addition to what we have seen with the rapid introduction of new NonStop systems as a result of stepped-up funding for NonStop R&D, has been the addition of sales folks charged solely with targeting new business opportunities for NonStop.”

McLeod is beaming over recent successes and yes, his is not the only face to be seen as there are some faces I hadn’t seen before at HPE Sales Team and I came away thinking that over the next year, McLeod will be adding even more. NonStop is on the ascendancy and seeing this develop, as I did in EMEA, is particularly encouraging as news from some countries had indicated that an erosion of the presence of NonStop was under way.

However, proceeding down this path may prove to be premature as I sense there is more than one current NonStop user looking to change that is weighing their future plans – yes, if you haven’t already noticed, the Unix market is on an unrecoverable downward spiral. Placing all your chips on the Unix square probably wasn’t the best decision to make – somehow, and against all odds, the best odds are squarely back with NonStop.

For as long as I can recall much of the angst over staying or not staying with NoNStop has had to do with recruiting and retaining staff. Whether it was memories of the miniature bottles of Scotch whisky on their table at last years’ Boot Camp – 18yr old Glen Livet single malt, as I recall – or the sight of a much bigger bottle being given away to one luck user, I just had to stop by the TCM table. NonStop users in the western hemisphere may not be as familiar with TCM as those NonStop users in EMEA are, but TCM is providing a much needed consulting service focused on keeping as many NonStop systems operational as possible.

“Quite simply, we are the NonStop experts (and) we are at the forefront of NonStop support,” says the TCM web site and the more I talk with these folks, the more I tend to believe them. And no, not for the opportunity to sample another fine single malt! For a company that has been in business for as many years as it has been, TCM still proved to be a surprise package and if like me, you would like to know a little more about the company, check out the web page About TCM.

The presence of such a sizable organization focused solely on services in support of NonStop systems should assuage any misgivings about whether access to skilled NonStop personal was problematic and I plan to take a much closer look at the full scope of TCM’s offerings in future posts. I am not sure when my next trip to London might happen but I do know TCM folks are planning on attending this year’s Boot Camp and I am sure I will catch up with them once again.

It would be remiss of me if I forget to mention conversations I had with ETI CEO, Andy Hall. It’s no secret that ETI has wrapped up a couple of acquisitions. It’s no secret too that ETI would like to do more nor is it a secret that HPE executives would like to see a number of NonStop vendors become much larger. For Andy, seeing how positive on NonStop McLeod has become is very encouraging and as I walked away from my conversation with Andy, I just had to wonder, what’s next for ETI? 

Much of what is becoming central to the messages emanating from HPE NonStop sales has to do with hybrid computing. From the most senior HPE executives on down, the message about transforming to a hybrid infrastructure continues to resonate at every user event where HPE has a presence. In a recent HPE promotion for a joint HPE and IDG presentation, Use Cases for Hybrid IT Enablement , this message was strongly reinforced by the following observation. “The right hybrid delivery strategy is based on standards, built on a common architecture with unified management and security, and enables service portability across deployment models.

Just published in a paper aimed at CIOs, co-written with HPE, The Changing Face of Mission-Critical IT in an Always-On World, “More than six in 10 respondents to the IDG Research survey of 200 IT and business decision makers said mission critical has increased in importance as an IT investment focus over the last two years.” In case you were wondering whether HPE was behind NonStop and supporting it in the media, scroll through this paper to where customer use case scenarios are covered and the very first reference is of how Rabobank banks on HPE Integrity NonStop to ensure 24/7/365 global operations.

Perhaps HPE NonStop sales head, McLeod, has a reason to have an extra spring in his step. Perhaps too NonStop vendors are turning out in force to promote products and services in support of NonStop. And did I mention too how there were new, young faces stepping up to take ownership in the NonStop marketplace – no more gray hairs among those I talked to, from HPE’s Vanessa Kaupp to TCM’s Daniel Craig, to a number of those at comForte.

Youth is definitely on display at NonStop. And perhaps their presence in support of NonStop as much as the messages coming from HPE and the community are an even bigger cause for optimism over the future of NonStop! I may have lost my way on arrival in London but when it comes to NonStop, the path forward is very clear. And yes, from the smiles evident on faces everywhere, this path forward just doesn’t stop!  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

“London Calling” to which I can add, “Anchors Away!”

It’s London and it’s the BITUG Big SIG. The NonStop community is gathered to hear more of NonStop and it’s a lot happier community these days. Before it starts I thought it may be good to reflect on what NonStop has accomplished already in just two years since support for x86 was announced. 

Few readers of my blog posts will have missed my many references to cars and music and walking around London for nearly a week there was plenty to remind me of both. A Rolls Royce here, a McLaren over there and yes, plenty of Aston Martins everywhere! Sometimes you simply forget how successful the English have been through the years when it comes to cars. As for a small point of fact, nearly all of the F1 teams have their headquarters around London, from Red Bull to Williams to now the first North American team in ages, Haas F1, chose to complement its North Carolina operations by setting up shop nearby in Banbury, Oxfordshire.


On the other hand, when it comes to music, what needs to be added! As a child of the sixties, there was no place producing as much music as the British Isles. In fact, my first phone call back to Margo started out with, “London Calling!” Then again, it is impossible to escape the maritime heritage of the place as indeed, it was while working for the shipping line, Overseas Containers, Ltd., that the first opportunity to move far from Sydney’s shores eventuated. And look what that led to – some seven international moves later I’m now a US citizen. However, this year’s trip to London is a lot briefer and with a specific purpose in mind – participating in the BITUG Big SIG event.


Following so soon after the very successful GTUG event in Berlin, where there were more than 200 participants (of which there were 100+ users from some 50+ customers), so my expectations are running high. Right now though, looking out the window of my hotel onto Tower Bridge Road (yes the Tower Bridge itself is only a matter of a hundred yards or so up the road), it’s raining. And it’s May. I recall that apart from London Calling, there was a EuroVision song a couple of years ago, London Rain (nothing heals me like you do) and I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to reference:
Close your eyes and count to ten
May not feel this way again ...

Before waxing any further philosophical, is it just me or has everyone else in the NonStop community experiencing a heightened, indeed accelerating, pace of change surrounding all things NonStop. Perhaps it’s the accelerated rate that is catching my attention – it was only two years ago that HPE announced NonStop would support the Intel x86 architecture. Well, it’s delivered already and added a second model to the NonStop X family of systems. InfiniBand (IB)? Also delivered, and now a way to exploit IB in hybrids, Yuma. Yes, delivered, too. Virtualization, and the opportunity to run NonStop in private clouds, capitalizing on both vNonStop and vCLIMS?  You bet; it has become more than lines and boxes on a whiteboard. Delivered? Well, not yet for this last item – but are we all that sure it hasn’t found a home already in one telco or another? For sure, come the next NonStop Technical Boot Camp in San Jose, we will likely hear more and I would not be surprised to learn that there’s a customer already in production.

NonStop running on an x86 server? Something that become a discussion item at GTUG, where the answer is why not? The fact remains that NonStop is now software – the best software platform on the planet. Running on anyone’s x86 package, especially if they configure a Linux / KVM setup and run vNonStop. Piece of cake … and what about public clouds? With the work being done in support of Yuma and hybrids it’s clear to me that it’s not just IB being supported but high-speed Ethernet as well and it’s with this Ethernet support that I wouldn’t want to rule out eventual support by vNonStop of public clouds.

No, you may not feel this way again … But who is the audience for such products? In a world being overrun with Linux is there still a need for systems like NonStop? The short response is yes, and for a very good reason. Just talk to HPE executives. Talk to major users in finance, telco and even healthcare. There will always be information that needs to be locked tightly away, inaccessible to all, save a few mission critical applications. For the remainder of my lifetime there will be a need for HPE to supply complete NonStop systems and in the usual way statistics are produced, while 80% may be on the Linux server binge, there will still be that 20% needing NonStop.

That’s a very big marketplace and one the HPE executives are now behind – the investments in x86, IB, Yuma, vNonStop and so forth (and I’m sure there will be even more surprises coming in November, 2016) aren’t small and definitely not being hidden from financial and budget planners at the highest level within HPE. This is all happening and it’s not by accident. Dress it up any which way you want but there’s big money behind NonStop and its trajectory is deeper into the open space – and yes, for a reason as well. While IBM mainframes continue to track down the proprietary path, NonStop is heading in the opposite direction – open. For many within the NonStop user community this is exactly the right direction to be heading.

I am often asked about the future of NonStop, not so much among existing users but within the broader context of HPE itself. Here’s the latest news flash on this score – NonStop X, yes a world-beater; SuperDome X, not so much. The relationship between Unix and SuperDome has been very strong, joined at the hip, so as to speak, but did we all see the upshot of the recent hip replacement surgery? Well, SuperDome no longer supports Unix and even as it’s a superb scale-up package, the new world of Linux and Windows is all about scale-out. And NonStop delivers scale-out by the bucket load whereas SuperDome X can only look on. Ouch.  Far be it for more to advise HPE on its product directions but isn’t it time to start thinking that perhaps continued investment in SuperDome X is a lost cause? Give the money to NonStop and let’s run with NonStop as fast and as we can!

However, it’s not just the cadre of current NonStop users who see the need to continue with NonStop as secure, locked-down, systems at the very heart of their mission critical systems. There will be others attracted to the traditional properties of NonStop systems for the first time, given the new investments being made in runtime platforms – Java 7 and 8 as well as Node.js. Chose you poison – you can deploy on NonStop what you are developing today. First with microservices, I suspect, but in time, complete services – whole solutions that we may not have ever contemplated seeing run on NonStop. There will be surprises I am sure, but I am not ruling anything out. In an increasingly mobile world where apps and microservices reign, NonStop just may prove to be the answer to many of the yet unasked questions!

Yes, you may not feel this way again … Looking around the banks of the Thames there’s images of anchors everywhere. Real anchors of antiquity, stylized anchors as art, and then again, working anchors holding fast giant cruisers. It all begs the question – has NonStop been too tightly anchored inside of HPE? Have these anchors restricted its ability to steam away from the shore as much as they have provided safety during tempestuous times? London may be calling and in truth, we may not feel this way again about NonStop. But seriously, isn’t it time to cut the chains holding NonStop back (as we already are seeing happening within NonStop R&D)? Yes, it’s come time for Anchors Away!