Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Right time, right place – NonStop lights up the horizon!

Given time to reflect on NonStop particularly as we hear more about where it is heading, should be encouraging for all in the NonStop community – vendors included!

It’s been a while since I caught something at the right time and in this case, the right time just happened as I picked up my iPhone and snapped a picture of a sunset. Margo and I have now spent well over three weeks in our company command center – out temporary office and home – and we have been on the move for a lot of that time. From that initial drive down to Dallas for N2TUG and then across to Las Vegas for HPE Discover, it’s all been covered in recent posts to various blogs. But as the picture above depicts so well, sometimes you just manage to capture something at the right time from a place that proves to be just right!

There is an upside to long drives across America’s interstates. You get plenty of time to just sit back and think! To reflect! And with the many customer events of late, where the focus has been all HPE, with for the most part a lot of NonStop thrown in for good measure. For the NonStop community, excitement levels are once again on the uptick. As is simple curiosity! By this I mean, the sheer volume of new products and features coming from HPE NonStop development is almost unprecedented. To some, the changes are coming more quickly than they can comprehend while for others, it is as if there is a whole new OS and integrated stack appearing on the horizon. For them, there is some puzzlement too as to whether it’s NonStop or something else entirely.

For the record, I believe that it is indeed NonStop and that it represents a major shift of focus. As IT looks to simplify all that is part of IT, at a time when major vendors are looking to do more of the heavy-lifting when putting functioning systems together (think converged and hyperconverged systems), NonStop already has passed this particular test and has done so for decades. Much to the surprise of my blogging friends at HPE Discover, when NonStop is delivered to a customer site, it’s ready to go. No assembly required! The emphasis that the NonStop team has placed on making sure the pieces all work together and that when it comes to software, there’s an integrated stack from the metal to the application, remains a novelty for these bloggers. And yet, that has become the goal for just about everyone else supplying systems and platforms to customers these days.

As the latest issue of NonStop Insider went to press, so as to speak, I was struck by how many of the articles looked at what was said at these recent customer events. The opinions expressed in these articles varied as widely as the locations, of course. Not everyone who submitted articles made it to every event but even as the opinions varied, the sentiment was oftentimes similar. In going from NonStop X to Virtualized NonStop, HPE is making a big bet that it will gain new opportunities even as it retains its core constituency. But here’s the big question being asked by everyone that I approached – will the work being done to continue to keep NonStop atop the technology wave take it away from its core fault tolerance capabilities? In other words, stray too far from the metal and into the world of software-only, will this lessen the level of availability we are so used to from NonStop?

Reflecting on sunsets is easy to do. Depending on where you are at the time, sunsets can be majestic in the way light reflects off the environment, be it mountains or seas. I have often witnessed such powerful displays of colors that are almost magical in the way they appear and then almost immediately are gone. Majestic! Magical! However you treat them it does give you pause to consider matters that perhaps otherwise escape us in the hustle and bustle of life and for anyone with an interest in IT, perhaps we should spend more time reflecting. Few architectures have sustained markets for as many decades as NonStop and yet, perhaps the sun is truly setting on the traditional way in which we view NonStop. No longer just a system made up of chassis, boards and peripherals but rather, an approach to solving business problems in a way that assures its users of no downtime.

When you do reflect on how we got here the role of solutions available for NonStop systems (all right, Tandem Computers, if you are going back to the beginning) plays an important role. After all, the success of NonStop is intimately tied to the applications that became available on NonStop. It may not be unreasonable therefore to think that ultimately, where HPE takes NonStop and what its capabilities turn out to be, when it comes to availability and fault tolerance, if solutions vendors believe that NonStop gives them an edge in this respect – their solutions are more available than alternate offerings – then this is really all that matters. We can argue over how these solutions vendors came to the conclusion that they did but if their solutions survive failures, with no down time, isn’t it OK to call the underlying NonStop just as fault tolerant as he original?

With this in mind I turned to my client, OmniPayments, LLC whose solution continues to focus on NonStop. Even as modern configurations include Linux and Atalla processors right alongside NonStop, OmniPayments markets its solutions as being fault tolerant, running 24 x 7, forever. It’s hard to ignore OmniPayments’ CEO, Yash Kapadia, when he points to lines in his PowerPoint presentation that state, “A single system supports 10,000 transactions per second (TPS); 99.99999% reliable, immense linear scalability, bulletproof data integrity!” Yes, seven 9s – and Yash is adamant that this is being achieved today by his customers. So yes, reflecting on what a solutions vendor provides on NonStop today only begs the question – will such solutions be making the same claims in the future as they accommodate the new NonStop coming to us from HPE NonStop development?

"OmniPayments has been out front testing with the latest offerings coming from HPE NonStop development. There have been many and it is clear to OmniPayments that the NonStop team is in transition as it throws more support behind virtualization and clouds. With OmniPayments keeping costs low, these efforts are indeed welcomed as it helps maintain a very competitive posture for OmniPayments," came the response from OmniPayments’ VP Business Development, Craig Lawrance. Like many vendors I talked to, OmniPayments clearly understands that there is a new mantra echoing across NonStop development, “yes, we can!” And it’s evident that where NonStop development is taking NonStop is into unchartered waters – a software only solution that yes, is the best software platform on the planet. It’s all about running mission critical workloads and according to NonStop development Director, Andy Bergholz, "Our goal is to make HPE Virtualized NonStop hardware agnostic, with the exception of utilizing Intel x86 microprocessors and RoCE enabled NICs.”

I caught up with Andy at HPE Discover and while the extent of our conversation was just the exchange of a few ideas, I have been reflecting on his assertion ever since. Valuable insight coming out of a customer event where it proved relatively easy to catch up with HPE senior management; HPE Discover has always produced surprises! Returning to my exchange with Craig Lawrance following HPE Discover, I raised the matter with him that with all the changes coming out of NonStop development, how was it impacting OmniPayments? Were there any reservations about pushing ahead with NonStop X, and then with Virtualized NonStop?

"For anyone in the NonStop community that has attended recent customer events it would be hard to miss the increased presence of OmniPayments at such outings. Given an opportunity to talk about our move to NonStop X, our support of OmniPayments as SaaS in public and private cloud configurations based on NonStop X, the demonstrated performance improvements audiences world-wide have witnessed, and being among the first to bring real-world testing to Virtualized NonStop, all this collectively puts OmniPayments well ahead of the curve when it comes to the payments marketplace."

Most important of all, I heard no comments whatsoever from OmniPayments management that NonStop development was in any way diluting the message of NonStop! In other words, future OmniPayments products were going to be every bit as available on new systems and platforms, no matter what form they will take, as they believed HPE is fully committed to ensuring NonStop development provides a platform capable of maintain the levels of availability OmniPayments demands, whether on physical systems or virtual and whether on-premise or in the cloud. We may continue to debate the merits of NonStop and the path it is taking but if those making a living from selling solutions differentiated by their implementation on NonStop continue to see NonStop fulfilling their mission then I think this debate will quiten-down rather quickly.

OmniPayments is not alone in this regard – there are many other vendors that I talked to that remain committed to NonStop, no matter what shape it happens to take in the future. If all that NonStop becomes, in a hybrid cloud environment, is hidden behind a check-box item asking whether the need of the solution is to run 24 x 7, then I’m quite OK with that.
In my previous post to this blog I noted that whatever runs on NonStop is just another workload and with products like SimpliVity and Synergy – not forgetting HPE’s latest move, HPE NextStack – could it mean that NonStop can participate without any further work required of NonStop!?!?

Imagine that – NonStop already has the jump start on practically every other traditional enterprise workload – mission critical requirements can be easily and readily addressed right out of the gate. This is bound to light up the sky for many who really need such capabilities. And somewhere in an office in Palo Alto I sense just the tiniest of sparkle in the corner of Andy Bergholz’s eyes – it isn’t a significant concern for NonStop development, it just works! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I feel it coming in the air tonight …

Time spent at user events these past two weeks – small and large – has made me more appreciative of just how well NonStop embraces HPE’s vision for IT

Living life out of an RV, on a somewhat permanent basis, where there’s nothing to fall back to other than a hotel room, is something each and every one of us should experience at least once in a lifetime. It’s been a couple of weeks since we turned our backs on the only home Margo and I have ever bought together and resorting to a gypsy lifestyle wasn’t something we ever thought was in the plans. And yet, even as it hasn’t gone entirely to plan, it’s given us a whole lot of time to discuss recent events.

By recent events I mean the time we have spent with the NonStop community. In just two weeks we have covered 3,000 plus miles and visited with NonStop folks in Dallas for N2TUG as well as the much bigger event staged by HPE, the annual Americas instance of 2017 HPE Discover. But what have we learnt and just as importantly, what have we observed? I title this blog post with a line from that very famous song (of the same name), sung by Phil Collins – and anyone who can remember either the Budweiser commercials introducing Monday Night Football or scenes from Miami Vice will appreciate the meaning. The lines from this song almost always were associated with the unexpected. An upset (in a game) and a showdown (in a movie) but always and not without stressing too fine a point, change!

It’s hard for me to say it any other way; change is coming and yes, I feel it in the air tonight! For me, a premonition about what is yet to pass? Too dramatic, perhaps! Even an over statement? And yet, has anyone in the NonStop community seen NonStop moving and evolving as rapidly as it has these past three years? At a time when some elements in the community would dearly like to see NonStop development slow down, giving time for NonStop users to take a good long look at where NonStop product roadmaps suggest it is headed, but for me it’s more of a case of  “bring it on!” It’s been long overdue for NonStop to once again prove itself to be a disruptive technology.

The two weeks I have spent on the road behind the wheel of a rather large RV towing a trailer with a car on top, has taught me a lot about thinking ahead. Rolling down America’s highways with 60 feet of motorized rig doesn’t give you as many options as say a less than 20 foot sports car. And no, it neither brakes nor turns like the sports car and yet the RV has height. And with height comes visibility as to what is coming – and with visibility comes opportunity to take the initiative. So it is with NonStop and recent user events, we do have visibility to what is coming and with visibility we not only have opportunity but time.

So what did I take with me following these recent events? Looking at what transpired at N2TUG the image I took with me was that when you promote a good agenda and when you pick a good venue, you can certainly pull a crowd. N2TUG demonstrated the upside from doing both. Furthermore it attracted the attention of HPE NonStop head of product management, Karen Copeland, who made the trip to Dallas to spend time with NonStop customers and to provide an updated presentation on the product roadmap for NonStop. It was really good to see Karen taking time to do this as there is no substitute for face time with the NonStop community.

Then again HPE Discover was something entirely different and perhaps, for the NonStop community, not quite as interesting. However, for me, it proved to be even more important than local customer events for a couple of reasons. And I had the good fortune to go behind the curtains for a photo op with Exec VP Antonio Neri. Yes, I felt it in the air that night!

HPE’s stated strategy is to simplify hybrid IT, power the intelligent edge and to provide services to make it all happen. But for the NonStop community there is a lot more going on here than is represented by the messages that accompany this strategy. For starters, NonStop has always been a hybrid system and converged and even hyperconverged infrastructure are nothing new to NonStop.

Can any NonStop user ever recall a NonStop solution arriving at a loading dock in pieces leaving it up to the enterprise to figure out how to put all the pieces together and then firing up the operating system and associated middleware only to find that there was no integration across any of the resulting stack …

I have always been impressed by how much upfront work is undertaken by HPE and the NonStop team to ensure what arrives at our loading dock can be quickly transported into the data center and made operational immediately. A crucial message of NonStop and fault tolerance should always be about how simple it is to deploy and that aspect of NonStop is so often overlooked. Is it important?

Well, talk to the other teams involved in building other products present today on HPE’s product portfolio  and they begin responding with hybrid IT, converged and hyperconverged infrastructure as if it is all brand new insights as to how systems should be delivered.

It is good to have goals that include words like simplify and yes, software-defined (everything) even as it is good to develop a strategy around openness, commoditization and standards. The only issue I have is to look at yourself, when pursuing such goals, as you may already have achieved all you are setting out to do without being aware of your previous accomplishments.

There is so much that NonStop can teach the rest of HPE but having written this, I am very much aware that among the ranks of the senior executives there is more knowledge about NonStop than many may assume – recent personal promotions and shifts have seen former leaders of the business as well as the products in groups putting together the pieces in support of the goals.

Leaving this year’s HPE Discover event, here is my epiphany. In having accomplished all that it has done to date in terms of simplification and integration, it now makes it so much easier for NonStop to contribute in the transformation of IT that HPE so aggressively pursues (and promotes). In other words, all the rhetoric surrounding NonStop suggesting NonStop is the best software platform on the planet better positions NonStop to not only be independent of the hardware but of the platform. What runs on NonStop is just another workload and everything presented in support of products like SimpliVity and Synergy – not forgetting HPE’s latest move, Project NewStack – means that NonStop can participate without any further work required of NonStop!

Imagine than – NonStop already has the jump on practically every other workload – mission critical requirements can be easily and readily addressed right out of the gate. You want simple well, there you have it. Of course, it will not be that easy when it comes to educating HPE marketing and slipping this little gem into the team meetings of the strategy group but here’s hoping simple blog posts like this one can turn the conversation around for more favorable consideration of NonStop. I see that it has already begun as at HPE Discover, listening to other independent bloggers, there wasn’t quite the distance between us as there was only a few years ago.

It all does come back to building a compelling message for our business leaders. There is no question that for NonStop to lift its game in public then HPE needs to “articulating a compelling value proposition and strategic vision to improve outcomes to business executives,” one NonStop vendor CEO wrote in an email to me. What this highlights is that HPE just has to do a better job of telling the story of NonStop to these business executives and it shouldn’t be that hard – yes, NonStop is already ahead of the game when it comes to the goals and strategies HPE has set for itself.

This shouldn’t be kept secret and most of all, those business executives deploying NonStop today should have the bright spotlights turned on them and their accomplishments should be brought to the attention of the IT industry at large. This is something that does need to change at HPE! After all, these NonStop users are the ones turning simple rhetoric into powerful and compelling examples of the value proposition that comes with deploying NonStop. Today! Can’t you just feel it coming in the air tonight?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

It’s time for Vegas!

A post from the road – the road, that is, to Las Vegas! HPE Discover 2017 has rolled around once again and for me it’s a mixed bag of anticipation together with whatever might happen that is unexpected …

The week began with us pulling out of the street where we had lived for nearly two decades to pursue the life of technology gypsies! Homeless; no fixed abode, with just a PO Box to keep us connected with the rest of the world. And no longer in possession of keys to the front door of the house we had made our home and where over the years we had entertained many of you.

Of course this isn’t a permanent change for Margo and me, but life on the road has always been something we have enjoyed. The timing, of course, couldn’t have been any better as we had committed to attending the HPE NonStop customer event in Dallas – N2TUG. Followed, just a week later, by arguably the more important HPE big tent marketing event, HPE Discover 2017!

If you look under Labels, to the right of these posts, you will see that I have been posting on HPE Discover from 2011 and then before that, HPTF from 2008 (even as Margo and I had attended the last ITUG Summit hosted by the then HP Technology Forum in 2007. Before that? More than a decade spent attending the ITUG Summits held prior to HPE becoming involved. While the focus on NonStop seems to have lessened with the passage of time it’s still important to hear the message of Mission Critical Systems from HPE executives in an unfiltered manner.

I am not expecting a big turnout from the NonStop community. With budgets always tight I anticipate most NonStop customers will be saving their pennies to ensure that they can make it to the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, which in many ways has been capturing the spirit of ITUG Summits past. On the other hand, I will not be surprised when I run into a familiar face in Las Vegas and I am expecting that there will be more than just a few NonStop customers making “the trip to the strip!”

Perhaps more surprising for Margo and me is that it’s June, we are heading to Las Vegas and it is the first time we are doing this in 2017. In the past, by the time HPE Discover came around, we have already been to Las Vegas on three or four occasions. But not this time – and put it down to the building of our new home. Readers will know that this year, we have stayed very close to Boulder and not made it to the NonStop Partner Symposium in Palo Alto or to the pan-European eBITUG event in London, even though we had both firmly inked-in on our calendars. When it comes to a project like building a new home there is always a healthy mix of anticipation along with responding to the unexpected.   

The unexpected does happen and plans do change and it has left me to wonder what unexpected developments may overtake HPE and perhaps even NonStop? Are we sure we truly understand all that is happening in the world of NonStop? While many of us were aware of the deep port of NonStop to the Intel x86 architecture there were fewer of us who were aware of the project to support virtual machines. And what of NonStop running on virtual machines comprised of commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware? There has been much these past couple of years that can only be described as unexpected.

When it comes to experiencing the unexpected at big tent events, like HPE Discover, it always starts at the top. The tone will be set from the moment HPE CEO, Meg Whitman, steps out from behind the curtain for her opening remarks at the first general session. In the past, these have drawn large crowds with many standing outside the auditorium watching Whitman on big screens liberally scattered around the exhibition hall. This year, it will be interesting to observe just how big a crowd is drawn to the occasion as the show will be all about the products, together with some services, that make up the product portfolio of just the HPE Enterprise Group (EG).

Long gone are the folks interested in PCs and printers. Those interested in software and services will likely be absent from the show as well. No, this is like a much larger version of ITUG projected onto a much larger stage. There will be demonstrations of working elements of what was unveiled a couple of years back – The Machine. But much of the drama surrounding this enormous undertaking by HPE has lessened as plans now call for elements of The Machine to be released gradually as part of traditional computing offerings. As for what will take center stage this year I expect whatever is presented by Whitman will continue to center on openness and standards and on projects like OpenStack as well as the tools and services in demand by those moving to hybrid IT.

Cloud computing will be the subject of much of what HPE presents, I expect. As too will converged and hyperconverged infrastructure. Synergy, and the efforts to move to software-defined everything will also be highlighted but for the NonStop community, when it comes down to what business problems are being addressed, even with the attention these high profile themes will be given, it is still a bit of a yawn. According to presentation given by the NonStop team of late, including at this week’s N2TUG customer event, isn’t today’s NonStop system already a good example of hyperconverged infrastructure? Isn’t the latest NonStop X systems already being used by one solutions vendor as the technology powering their cloud offering?

Since the very first NonStop rolled off the production line and shipped directly to a customer, the hardware and all the required software had been not only packaged but rather been installed and tested. NonStop represents the industries best example of an integrated stack, from the metal to the user APIs. Talk about converged – it has already been done for NonStop customers, and has for decades. Hyperconverged? Well of course, with the arrival of CLIMs running on Linux boxes interconnected via InfiniBand fabrics – there is a lot to be said about NonStop being the only example shipping today supporting true hyperconverged infrastructure.

What I am anticipating to hear and see more of, and what unexpected developments could prove exciting? For some time now there have been slides in the NonStop product roadmap presentations that address topics such as IoT and Blockchain. I will be anticipating hearing more about NonStop and IoT as I have come to appreciate that IoT will gradually evolve into a tiered implementation, where important events will absolutely have to make it into the data center (whatever that ends up looking like). But this really is more of the same – placing a NonStop system in the transaction path to ensure mission critical data makes it to where it’s needed. While I am not expecting to see NonStop present in any IoT demo situation I sure would like to be surprised to see NonStop doing exactly this at some point.

On the other hand, when it comes to something as intriguing as Blockchain and the support of new-age applications demanding support of a distributed ledger, as we read about in almost every paper we pick up of late, there is movement on this front with regard to NonStop and at N2TUG this week, we were tipped off to expect to see NonStop participating in a demo for exactly this – Blockchain being supported by NonStop. Could this prove to be a tipping point for Virtualized NonStop? Could this be the one key development that truly does favor support by NonStop?

Arguably, it’s a stretch to make the comparison but when ATMs’ first arrived and the need was to ensure they operated around the clock, the appearance of the earliest NonStop systems proved to be a godsend for a number of software houses looking to support these new devices. As a result an industry was created where NonStop played a premier role. With so many concerns about security and indeed accessibility associated with Blockchain, could a similar situation arise for NonStop? In time, could NonStop prove to be the go-to system for support of Blockchain by financial institutions everywhere?

I have purposefully asked a lot of questions in this post and for good reason. Each time I head to HPE Discover I have lots of questions. Even as I am anticipating much and yes, looking for the unexpected to happen, I am reminded that in times past, dating back to the earliest ITUG Summits, vendors have held back a couple of critical developments just so that they can showcase them at their big-tent marketing events. Every attendee expects a little drama. Apple were the masters of the “one more thing …” approach and while I am not anticipating anything close to a major Apple reveal, I am not ruling out that there will indeed be something special announced.

And with that, I return to the road as Las Vegas is still a couple of days drive away and with the weather looking like it will continue to be a problem, I have even more on my mind. Should you make it to HPE Discover and should you be interested in hearing more about NonStop then yes, you will likely find something that surprises you. But even with that prediction the NonStop community has a lot to be thankful about as who would have imagined (just a few years ago) how rapidly NonStop has evolved to where today, it’s a platform, a system and yes, it’s software. Onward then to HPE Discover, 2017!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

eBITUG - Fantastic vibe, great vendor footfall and genuine interest in all things NonStop!

Jimmy may have been a drawcard but NonStop has come a long way from its Tandem roots and recent user and industry events are highlighting much that is really new for NonStop!

A casual reading of posts to Facebook or tweets to Twitter and the like quickly reveals just how much networking is being done today by those pursuing new business opportunities. Barely a day passes without someone or other highlighting a cityscape or a restaurant complete with a caption or two recommending the venue and the people. It isn’t as though I don’t do that fairly often but rather, just further examples of how so many of us turn to digital media – social as well as business – just to keep up with what is happening around the world. Then again, there’s still no substitute for networking in the real world
While it is a truism that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry it came as a complete surprise to Margo and me that the very week of eBITUG would coincide with packing up our home, readying it for the movers that came this week. As a venue London and, in particular, that part of town close to the Tower always grabs my attention. The cityscape is now so different to when I worked there from late 1975 to early 1976 and yet, any chance to catch up with the NonStop community in London is always a treat!

Putting to one side any further excuses, now that the event has wrapped up and those participating in the 2017 pan-European eBITUG conference and exhibition have returned home, there has been a steady stream of emails arriving in my inbox. Perhaps it was the presence of Tandem Computers founder, Jimmy Treybig, pictured above (and a special thanks to my good friend Craig Lawrence for sending the photo to me) or the rooftop bar overlooking the Thames or maybe it was the content and enthusiasm that was on display from all those giving presentations.

All the emails were positive about the event – I didn’t receive a single email that contained any criticisms indeed in one, reference was made to a comment coming from GTUG member who said that not only was the event good for the NonStop community but that it would now be putting pressure on GTUG to deliver next year; a situation I think GTUG will warm to with the same level of enthusiasm as was on show at eBITUG.

So what were the comments and where did they come from? There were clearly positive comments coming from those of the HPE NonStop team that were present. But there were also positive comments from solutions, middleware and services vendors. One point that came up more than once – the opportunity to visit the “Shard” and enjoy the networking opportunity it provided and thanks have to go out to CSP for making it all possible. Well done!

OmniPayments, LLC., had a presence at the show and was part of the program. Observations that came from both Craig Lawrance and Jessica Nieves were very upbeat about the event and their responses to my inquiries were positive even as they addressed more than just what was central to OmniPayments’ participation. “vNonStop was probably the biggest talking point,” said Craig. On the other hand, Craig also shared a comment that was common to all responses that I received when he noted how, “Some attendees are saying the OpenStack software will be so expensive that’s it’d be cheaper to buy a NonStop X system!”

As for Jessica, she was even more forthcoming when asked about NonStop X she responded with, “I certainly saw that customers are either migrating or making plans to migrate from older systems to NonStop X” When pressed as to what trends she recognized that were developing among the NonStop user community, Jessica said. “The Cloud has been on the top of almost every conversation that I had. And it’s not just been at eBITUG, mind you, but throughout all the events where we have participated during the year, no matter the region of the Globe. Certainly modernization and continuous delivery are also topics of interest among customers and I heard it being openly discussed.”

Jessica observed that even at eBITUG, there were discussions concerning the need “to deliver new features or changes at a faster pace and having the tools and processes that support embracing such a faster pace is key. Companies are incorporating technologies such as big data, node.js, splunk, java frameworks to modernize and create innovative solutions – something that was also the topic of a number of sessions. And innovation does not end in NonStop!”

To this point, Jessica then explained that, “as a matter of fact, the Under 40 SIG that met during the event, is advocating for modernization and educational initiatives as it looks forward to growing the awareness of NonStop as a platform to run modern applications and attract young talents.  I was part of the Under 40 SIG meeting at eBITUG and had the honor of listening to the Tandem father saying words that I won't forget: ‘It's not about the NonStop platform, it's about the applications that run on it.  Going back in history, there was no need of Tandem, they needed ATMs!’”

All the numbers that were provided – number of registered attendees, number of end users, vendors, etc. – were impressive. It was left to Iain Liston-Brown, Master Technologist working for the EMEA Pre-Sales Organization to post on LinkedIn that, 
“We had about 258 registrations. Just over 1/3 were customers and a little more were vendors/consultants with the rest (50ish) being HPE. The customers represented 35 companies. Delegates came from the UK & Ireland, Europe (including Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy & Greece), Thailand, New Zealand and Australia plus the USA - so quite a broad spectrum!”

And then there was praise too for the HPE NonStop team involved in presenting the latest news about NonStop with a continued emphasis on NonStop being a lot more than what you may have seen with more traditional NonStop systems. Echoing what OmniPayments’ Jessica had said, it was the HPE source who reported that “Andrew Bergholz and Roland Lemoine (had) focused on what we have just delivered and what is coming next regarding Virtualised NonStop (vNS) and NonStop SQL/MX Database Services/Compatibility. ATC focused on DevOps, SQL/MX 3.5 Database Services and also Middleware/Microservices. So this was anything but legacy!”

All agreed with HPE that there had been a “Fantastic vibe, great vendor footfall and genuine interest from delegates across the two days. The vNS demo was running throughout the two days and all the customers and vendors were enthusiastic and glowing with praise.” And this wasn’t all that was said. According to Frans Jongma, Master Technologist, NonStop Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in a post to LinkedIn how, “the SQL/MX DBS demo was a nice thing to add to the vNS one. It only took a short bit of time to create an easy to access demo using iTP web server simple HTML pages that invoke the DBS API. Even I was surprised how easy it was; thanks to the booth staff for running the demo!”

There is definitely renewed interest in NonStop. In my own business environment where I am in dialogue with parties not traditionally associated with NonStop there has been more than a casual interest in NonStop as word begins to spread about vNS, OpenStack and the potential to run in a cloud environment. Perhaps even multiple hybrid cloud environments!

There was acknowledgment by the community gathered at eBITUG over the pricing of vNS and OpenStack and that for many of them, simply upgrading to a new NonStop X made better financial sense. But that’s the point. If you have experience with the hardware and the integrated stack then stay with it. However, if you already have your x86 servers in place and are deploying apps along with data (provisioned as is done with clouds) then why not introduce NonStop to provide better availability whether supporting apps or even NS SQL/MX?

The coverage of NonStop and clouds didn’t stop with the vendor community as it was left to TCM CEO Tony Craig to add a different element to the exchanges I was having, following eBITUG, even as he too posted to discussions that followed on LinkedIn. “Firstly, a big thanks to the eBITUG committee who delivered a really great 2017 eBITUG event. TCM, as platinum sponsor, was delighted with the turn out. We were extremely busy over the 2 days with considerable interest in our range of NonStop services.”

Once again, as had been the case at last year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp, an interesting and yes, somewhat poignant breakout presentation “Adapt or Die – The NonStop Skills Gap” by Daniel Craig, covered the well-known aging Nonstop community issue and how TCM is addressing this going forward by investing in their Centre of Excellence, youth training and System Management cloud based services. And yes, Daniel is another member of the NonStop community who is right at home in the Under 40 SIG that OmniPayments’ Jessica had referenced earlier in this post.

What caught Tony’s attention? “Most popular was the TCM cost-effective cloud based Systems Management service which can complement and embed within an existing client's team or be the total answer for a client's system management needs, ensuring a complete end-to-end support solution. This is a Global solution and we certainly received global interest at the event!” And for more information about TCM’s services, Tony reminded me, just contact him directly at tony.craig@tcm.uk.com as I am sure he would like to hear from you.

Occupying the booth adjacent to that of TCM’s was that of comForte and few have missed the pictures taken of TCM’s Natalie Craig blending in well with the stylized portrayal of comForte management in a James Bond setting. comForte made quite a splash with this James Bond theme which they carried through from the booth, the outfit of our guys and even in John Bycroft's presentation on Tokenization.

Among the highlights for comForte’s Thomas Gloerfeld, was the reaction coming from HPE NonStop EMEA boss, Dave McLeod. “He was excited about his NonStop business for the first 6 months - killed the targets - and remains bullish for the second half - continuing to grow.” From comForte's perspective, it was a “great event; busy with customer and partner meetings alike; managed to progress existing and uncover new opportunities.

We are now in the height of the Regional User Group (RUG) event season with many more to follow from New York to Dallas to Sydney. Some of these are being held in hotels, others in the offices of HPE and yet others in the offices of vendors. Of course, 2017 HPE Discover will be soon held in Las Vegas and that’s one I rarely miss. What is being showcased is a whole new story from HPE featuring NonStop – yes, we are now over the shock of NonStop X and vNS even as we embrace the new features (and compatibility) of NonStop SQL/MX – even as NonStop takes to the cloud.

Who knows what else HPE has planned and who dares second guess HPE NonStop at this time? What we do know, however, is that investment in NonStop continues even as the interest in NonStop gains further momentum. We also know that there is an Under 40 SIG that is gaining visibility with each event and shouldn’t be discounted but given greater support by all of the NonStop community.

Perhaps the enthusiasm evident in London will prove contagious and should that happen, the rest of the regional events planned for this year will be something none of us will want to miss – so yes, see you soon and hopefully, eBITUG will be the last large event either Margo or I miss for the remainder of 2017. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Missed the boat – could have been in London!

To all those about to participate in this year’s eBITG event – the pan-European revisit to Euro ITUGs of former years – for me, nothing will match the event in Lyon in 2002 but then again, it’s all about the people so it may very well succeed in doing  so …

I know that I don’t make the number of overseas trips I once did and following the likes of Striim’s Sami Akbay as well as HPE’s Randy Meyer on Facebook, it’s hard not to think back on the journeys I once made and simply at the time, took for granted. Sami? Randy? Keep up posting as it’s fun to see the places you’re visiting, although I have to admit, I can’t help noting how long those trips often last. Not to say that I want to return to those days but rather, the opportunity to spend facetime with friends and colleagues had always always been a highlight of any trip for me. And I know that this is what drives both Sami and Randy. On the other hand, over the course of the last couple of years I have seen more of America than I have in the previous twenty plus years I have lived here and that’s not a bad second prize.

At this time last year I was headed for London to participate in the BITUG event. While there we were given an opportunity to walk the venue for the then under-consideration, pan-European eBITUG event and spending a late afternoon rooftop at the outdoor bar of the DoubleTree by Hilton, made up my mind for me. I would be attending the 2017 eBITUG event, no matter what. Adding to the excitement was the prospect of having Tandem Computers’ founder, Jimmy Treybig, participate well, what can I say. I just had to make this trip happen. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be even though one of my clients stepped forward and was planning to have me attend as part of their team.

If you missed my coverage of last year’s event you may want to check out the post of May 11, 2016, “London Calling” to which I can add, “Anchors Away!” as well as the post that followed on May 22, 2016, NonStop on forward path – and it’s just not stopping! Both of these posts covered that event and, in particular and in fact of importance for every member of the NonStop community, the reappearance of a more youthful group of attendees than I had seen for some time. Looking back to ITUG days, there was always a major event held each spring that attracted participants from all of Europe and the palpable excitement each event generated made holding the event worthwhile.

My very first trip to Europe was for an ITUG event, held in Munich, was in the spring of 1991. As a program manager overseeing the development of NonStop NET/MASTER, I was to provide an update for the community but unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it. The Amsterdam office of Tandem Computers was all I saw of Europe on that occasion. However, for the spring event in 1992 that was held in Nice, I did manage to make it to Euro ITUG and I have referenced that fist event in several posts to this blog over the years. Should you be wondering about the mugs featured above and unsure as to where the mug from Nice is - check the post of Mat 4, 2015, where you will see depicted in the photo that mug, The road to Vegas and further discoveries … Unfortunately, it has been packed away for now but will make its reappearance in my office in our new home.

Euro ITUG, Nice 1992, proved to be a turning point in my relationship with NonStop and with the NonStop community and began a journey that continues to this day. In the lead-up to the annual San Jose ITUG event in 1999, it was announced that I had been elected to the board of ITUG and my association with major and regional user-group events has been a constant in my working life ever since.

Many of the miles I did travel were as a direct result of my support for events no matter their location, type or number of participants. So with London calling, once again, I want to list what I view as the main reasons why members of the NonStop community should always make plans to support user group events. It’s a small list, mind you, and may differ from other lists you may have seen, but these items have always represented the key considerations that influence whether I make the effort to board a plane or not. There have been times when events in support of NonStop were held by NonStop vendors, including ACI and GoldenGate that I particularly liked and that have been covered too in posts to this blog but at the end of the day, there is never any substitute for those events solely catering to the needs of the NonStop community.
The surprise! Top of my list is something I like to call the surprise. Whether it is the location and there have been many that have turned out to be excellent even if at first they may not have suggested that a surprise was in stall – take for instance, the ITUG event in Lisbon back in 2001, I believe, where the conference center turned out to be subject to a major renovation just as event participants began arriving. No advance warning here but the event proved successful – there was even a Williams F1 (sponsored by HP) in the entrance “tunnel.” But surprises mostly have to do with what is said and for me it was the announcement of the port to the Intel x86 architecture that was surprising as it was good news for the NonStop community even if a number of its members had already been informed, but sworn to secrecy.

No surprises here but on any given quiet evening, I still raise a glass of Cognac and toast the likes of folks like Marty Edelman who, too this day, kind of knew that I was among the informed but restricted from publishing anything about “Project Cognac!” So much for being a blogger, eh! And then there was the surprise presentation by HPE NonStop Japan about a migration from Oracle to SQL/MX that included recovery times following a CPU being down on NonStop versus an Oracle RAC Node outage!

The pivot point! Running a close second on my list is the opportunity to be right there when something is announced that has the whole community buzzing. Not so much coming as a complete surprise but none the less the subject of many late night musings over how the NonStop market would react. The reference by then HPE CTO, Martin Fink, to NonStop running in a virtual machine that was as casual as it was stunning signifying a completely new way to look at NonStop has proved pivotal to the future of NonStop. It had only been a short time before that reference that NonStop had started to be called the best software platform on the planet but seeing a future where NonStop would come with the option to run on real and virtual machines was awesome!

The unintended consequences! Third on my list is the observation that can be made about unintended consequences. Coming from a simple statement by an HPE executive or the unveiling of a new utility or solution, speculation about the future starts almost immediately. And being there to hear it first hand is, as they say, priceless. More importantly, for those attendees that hear about the announcement, participation in the subsequent conversations can be the first to leverage the value that arises. Perhaps the best example of this came at last year’s Boot Camp event when everyone saw for themselves, virtualized NonStop (vNS) running on commodity HP ProLiant servers. Could we just license vNS directly from HPE and then configure and run on ProLiant servers we already had purchased? Could we run it on x86 servers including a couple of laptops in our office or development center? Could we run on servers we purchased from Dell, Lenovo, Asus?

While there has been a lot of clarification concerning vNS that may have stalled some of these conversations, nevertheless there are a lot of smart people who continue to mull over what may be possible and perhaps this isn’t as HPE had intended, but with this genie out of the bottle, I am expecting a lot of excitement being generated as a clearer picture emerges of exactly what HPE is supporting with vNS. And yes, this time next year we should know a lot more about vNS on VMware which will really kick into high gear any thoughts you may have about running vNS inside a cloud – public as well as private.

The networking! Always listed as a benefit from attending an event but sometimes, treated cautiously – we don’t want to turn events into recruiting opportunities – the fellowship among participants is hard to hide. Returning to my observations from that first ITUG event I attended in Nice, the executives that then camped out at the bar of the hotel and ran a tab on then-Tandem for the duration, certainly knew what they were doing. It took only a matter of hours before everyone knew that they could raise any topic that they wanted to chat about with an executive who had the budget to execute. If only they could successfully argue their point and argue they oftentimes did, and yes, with some success it turns out as you look back at the history of NonStop. Networking? Over an adult beverage - maybe even a Cognac? Yes, it continues to happen and it remains a highlight for many within the NonStop community.

All of us have our lists of reasons for attending and no two lists will be the same. But this year, I have definitely missed the boat and will be relying on the feedback from those who did manage to make it to London for eBITUG. As to why I will not be there it’s all about the timing of our move from our home and office of the past two decades to a new location that will shortly become our new home and office. A weak excuse perhaps, but I just couldn’t see leaving all the work to Margo as being a fair exchange but then again, the timing was a little serendipitous. Unfortunately but there will be other events to keep us current on all things NonStop. Serendipitous? Well now, maybe I need to add a fifth item to my list of reasons why I like to attend events; there’s always something to be observed – a chance meeting, an overheard conversation, an exhibit not widely promoted. Yes, I think I do need to add one more item to the list after all. So then, I have to ask; what’s on your list?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Seeing through the haze – for NonStop, integration leads to convergence

Our memories may fade but when it comes to NonStop then, after all these decades, it’s still the premier fault tolerant system available today!

We are preparing for a return to the road as we look ahead to upcoming events. Not just HPE Discover in Las Vegas but key Regional User Group (RUG) meetings as well. With just one road trip we plan on hitting Dallas for N2TUG and then pass through Phoenix and Scottsdale on our way to Las Vegas for 2017 HPE Discover. It may be the beginning of summer, where the temperatures in this part of north America really start to climb, but having the opportunity to spend time out on the highways, driving the company command center, is always something we look forward to doing. Each time we do it we find new things to look at and new places to stay and even though we may be old hands at all of this, there are still moments where our memories about a place isn’t as strong as we had expected them to be.

With the passage of time, the details become hazy. More often than not, memories I recall aren’t quite as accurate as they were just a short time ago. I am often being left to double check my facts before committing them to paper or as is more relevant today, the internet. And yet, when it comes to technology, I can recall with clarity almost every product and feature with which I have had a connection. Whether it was selling and installing operating systems for IBM mainframes, standing alongside the first Nixdorf ATM as it was uncrated in a Sydney warehouse, giving presentations on SNA following IBM’s introduction of token ring LANs, or simply promoting the latest NonStop system as it came to market.

I will always remember one of my last duties as your ITUG chairman of the whirlwind trip that took me from Copenhagen to Beijing to Seoul and then to Taipei as part of the NonStop team launching the HPE Integrity NonStop line of systems based on the Itanium chip set. Being welcomed into Beijing with a title of chairman didn’t do any harm either and I will always remember the warmth of the NonStop community with which I engaged at that time. But are the memories I have of Tandem Computers and, of late, NonStop, still relevant to today’s marketplace? Has the haze that so often clouded my memories altered reality? Or have the changes taking place with NonStop proving to be more substantial than everything that has come before – has the time come to take off my rose-tinted glasses and really look at how good NonStop has become?

The Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal are mine to see on clear days
You thought that I would need a crystal ball to see right through the haze

I can see for miles and miles …

These lyrics come from a popular song by The Who, I can see for miles. Margo and I joined with many from the NonStop community when, a few years back, they performed at a HPE event in Las Vegas. Just seeing them on stage performing brought with it many memories from my youth but about that, I will leave for another post. However, it was the reference to seeing “right through the haze” that has had me thinking about just how clearly we view the roadmaps for NonStop and just how clearly we see NonStop supporting our business. Yes, the technology that is NonStop is impressive but do we all share more than that with our colleagues – do we really see the contribution NonStop can make to our business or are we simply sitting back, hopeful that our crystal ball will be more revealing?

On the other hand, when it comes to crystal balls perhaps their role has lessened when it comes to seeing what’s coming next for NonStop. In fact, with what we now know, it’s as if there have been many doors thrown open, each of which calls for greater NonStop participation. What I mean is that even without the aid of a crystal ball, with just the inclusion of a few words here and there and a label thrown in for good measure, we can see what’s happening with NonStop with a lot more clarity that we could have seen only a year or so ago.

With the passage of time, the details become hazy. Have we driven through this township just a short time ago? Isn’t this road looking familiar and haven’t we seen this vista once or twice already? While it is true that landscape can look familiar, it is true that the solutions provided on NonStop can look familiar too. And this is no accident and is a reflection upon what NonStop does best. However, with what we are seeing coming from HPE is that we are crossing into new territory where the landscape no longer looks familiar.

These advances for NonStop reflect real business needs – some of these needs being driven by changing external forces, including financial and market presence whereas others by changing technology, such as cloud computing and the emergence of the IoT. Businesses want to cut costs, reduce their dependency on technicians (do we even want an IT department?), respond to market changes more quickly (can we support mobile devices?) as they look to innovate their way to attract new customers.

What NonStop does best is to provide the premier fault tolerant system to a world that now runs 24 x 7! A world where “almost” is simply not “good enough.” With all the bravado that they can muster, all of the big technology providers promote how well they have built in redundancy and yet, as we saw with the Amazon S3 storage outage, it is still not as continuously available as mission critical applications expect. No, almost available is not continuously available. What fault tolerance brings to the table is a manner of operational support that allows business to meet these needs to minimize financial loss from outages and any subsequent conflicts even as it satisfies the requirement for fewer technicians.

The HPE NonStop product management and development teams have been doing an outstanding job lifting the fog that has oftentimes surrounded NonStop. The group embraced standards and openness, as it moved to the Intel x86 architecture, and it added support for virtual machines. And yes, the integration we seeing being supported by such items as NSADI along with a willingness to talk about hybrid IT – the integration that results clearly points to further convergence in the future.

This is now becoming well-known throughout the community and is beginning to make an impression with leading industry analyst groups, including Gartner and Forrester Research to name a few. And as members of the NonStop vendor community continue to increase development funding for hybrid middleware and solutions, NonStop will likely become even better known among those tracking industry trends.

HPE Discover is always a litmus test of just how well NonStop is fairing within the bigger HPE. Last year, HPE CEO Meg Whitman welcomed Home Depot to the stage, one of only three or four parties to be on stage with Whitman. As she introduced Home Depot she made a specific reference to NonStop that was a surprise to many. I was sitting in the blogging community area and those bloggers turned to me and asked if I could tell them just a little more about NonStop. This year, we may not make it back onto the stage with Whitman, but it will be interesting to see whether NonStop continues to make inroads into verticals like telco and technologies like the Edge and IoT.

It is very true that with the passage of time the details become hazy. However when it comes to the memories I do have about the early days of Tandem Computers, for instance – and I arrived at Tandem just as the VLX was unveiled with stories circulating within the company about an upcoming smaller and lower-priced CLX – there is nothing hazy about them at all. The attributes of NonStop instilled in me all those decades ago remain.

Those earlier times are still very clear and with clarity come an appreciation for where Tandem, now NonStop, is headed. What the latest NonStop systems bring to the table is a capability that at the low-end should see inclusion in the Edge and IoT initiatives even as at the high-end should see inclusion in the Hybrid IT initiatives. And no, I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me that there will continue to be a strong market for NonStop for many more years to come.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What are we really telling the CIOs today about NonStop?

When asked to talk with the architects and builders working on our home, we have to be careful about what we ask for and much is the same when we talk about NonStop with our CIOs – are we ensuring the right message about NonStop is always being communicated?

I swore I wouldn’t build another house and yet, here we are some twenty years later, and having another go. Building isn’t for the faint of heart nor should anyone building a new home from scratch think that it can be done on budgets created early in the process. But perhaps the biggest issue that comes up early in the process is that there is a huge difference between the opinions of the architect, the project manager and the builder. When we last built a home – the one we just sold after a marathon effort – the architect, the project manager and the prime contractor were one and the same. But this isn’t the case today and you quickly realize that in dealing with these individuals you have to change the language you use even as you are oftentimes left to reset your expectations.

Many years ago I wrote a number of posts to this blog that looked at different roles and responsibilities we come across within IT today – posts that I listed under the label of C4 - Artists and Technicians. The individuals referenced in those posts included CTOs, CIOs, data center managers, architects and even the CBO – yes, the Chief Blogging Officer. The common theme across all these posts was simply to remind readers that the old lines that separated programmers from analysts from operators not to mention the EDP or MIS manager, is long gone and with their demise, we need to be cognizant of the language we use when interacting with rich variety of skilled IT personnel now on hand.

Few of us could have predicted the rise of DevOps just a decade or so ago and for people who baulked at the creation of systems programmers versus application programmers versus database administrators – it really is important that we explain technology carefully even to those we expect should know exactly what we are talking about. When it comes to NonStop and the NonStop community, it is of more importance than many of us care to admit, but the wrong phrase at the wrong time can set an IT organization down a path we may not have anticipated. If we are looking to expand the market presence of NonStop then we should always consider carefully what we tell our managers and what explanations we provide when it comes to exactly what resources are needed to ensure NonStop systems continue to support mission critical applications.

There have been many examples through the years where we have experienced a divide even as we share a common language. Take for instance the early discussions between data center operators and those responsible for telecommunications. Whereas the request to “scratch a data set” may mean the operator needs to delete a file, to those working with phones, it may mean defacing a telephone. What brought this to a head this week was a conversation with a member of the NonStop vendor community who told me of how CIOs he talked to couldn’t find college graduates who knew how to program NonStop! Ouch – even as I cringed at what was said I did understand the sentiment, but really?

By comparison, these CIOs knew of many talented college graduates who knew how to program Linux and Windows and I have to admit, my countenance fell as an overwhelming sense of sorrow quickly set in. When it comes to today’s NonStop systems who on earth programs NonStop! And the very same can be said about who on earth programs Linux? Surely, even the most talented and experience CIO should realize we don’t program NonStop or Linux, but rather, we program in C / C++, Java, Python, JavaScript and so on.  Some vendors may be using low-level languages to better interface with the Operating System but that is the role of vendors and that is one of the main reasons we buy their middleware and solutions – so we are not exposed to programming at this level.

When was the last time we heard a CIO ask for someone to program the equivalent of Pathway? Or, EXPNET? Clearly, we write programs to run under the monitoring oversight of Pathway, EXPNET, and so forth. Furthermore, with most NonStop users buying solutions from prominent vendors these days, the extent of “programming NonStop” is either via script modifications / extensions to what the vendor provides, changing some table entries, or should programming be involved, utilization of one of the programming languages already referenced.  The HPE NonStop team has covered a lot of ground over the past few years to ensure even the least experienced college graduate can bring with them their skills in one or more of C / C++, Java, Python, JavaScript, etc. and be productive on NonStop almost immediately.

Maintaining this “handle with care” or “needs special attention” attitude when it comes to NonStop isn’t doing any of us any good. Before anyone throws water all over my arguments, I am not saying that within the NonStop vendor community there remains a need for architects knowledgeable in all things NonStop who steer development projects down the right path – they will always be valued and their value is commensurate with the experience they have accumulated over time. However, with this said, it doesn’t rule out just how straight-forward it is to have Java or JavaScript code redeployed on NonStop with the rest of IT unaware of the port.

When it comes to mission critical applications, there remains the need to deploy them on platforms that provide the very best uptime possible and this remains the almost exclusive domain of NonStop. After decades of effort, no other vendor can provide the level of uptime – and yes, with it, the ability to scale out, ad nauseam. This is what we need to be telling CIOs today – forget about programming NonStop and instead, tell them how NonStop supporting a new application will ensure its operation 24 x 7 and hence, be better suited to running those mission critical applications without outages or loss of data, and yes, can be written / maintained in exactly the same programming languages / frameworks as are supported on other platforms, including Linux and Windows. And this message is going to become even easier to convey with so much being discussed about transformation to hybrid IT!

It’s becoming a lot easier because of more work being done by the NonStop development team as they add more and more features to NonStop SQL/MX (NS SQL). Among the most obvious inclusion that will help sway conversations in NonStop’s favor is the Oracle compatibility NS SQL is gaining. Just as you don’t program NonStop, Linux or Windows, when you dive into the languages popular with college graduates you will find considerable dependence upon SQL support and for many developers, this simply translates to Oracle. Now, no worries; you will be able to leverage these skills while writing programs for NonStop systems. And why NS SQL? Well, it’s that hybrid IT story again.

As the team at NonStop gets more exposure to this major initiative of HPE, they are seeing more interest in having NonStop a part of the hybrid and in particular, having NS SQL accessible from Linux and Windows on the basis of DBaaS! Many of the IT folks I have talked to weren’t expecting this development but if you track the presentations coming from HPE IT for more than a year now, you will see NS SQL occupying center stage when it comes to supporting mission critical data. Again, mission critical runs 24 x 7 so why  would you continue to rely on any other SQL not designed to run, out of the box, 24 x 7 – something that NS SQL has being doing since it was first released back in the late 1980s.

In talking to the architects, project managers and builders working on our new home I need to be careful of what I say as every now and then, I only add to the confusion. Likewise, we do have to be careful about what we tell our CIOs. We don’t need NonStop people so much as we need C / C++, Java, Python, JavaScript, etc. programmers and should they have skills in SQL, all the better. Many years ago, I was first recruited to be an applications programmer and in time, I became a systems programmer with responsibility for communications and data base management systems and I view this as a natural progression. If you are seriously concerned about having architects on hand, why not give the programmers a start and let them develop additional skills over time. After all, almost every programmer working on NonStop today didn’t suddenly come into work as NonStop architects … but they did get a lot of encouragement along the way. So, once again, let’s all tell the same story and let it be the right story – you need programmers and that’s all you need!   

Monday, April 10, 2017

NonStop and Hybrid IT; a natural for HPE!

HPE continues to emphasize the three pillars of their strategy, hybrid IT; the intelligent edge; and services. It’s only natural for the NonStop community to look at where NonStop fits and it is clearly hybrid IT.  

Coincidences and somewhat serendipitous situations often occur in our lives. For almost no reason at all, something will just appear or simply happens which take us completely by surprise to the point we are oftentimes left scratching our heads. “Didn’t see that coming,” being the operative thought whenever this does happen. And yet, perhaps it is because we have something on our minds that we become more sensitive to such incidents and let them take on more meaning than we would otherwise grant them. 

Stuck in traffic on a minor road in Boulder, Colorado, waiting for the traffic lights to change, I just happen to glance at the license plate on the car ahead of me – AUSS1E. Go figure; there is another Aussie in Boulder. What a coincidence! But then again, Boulder has attracted residents from all over the world – if you like to climb rocks, run marathons and cycle to the top of 14,000 foot peaks, then this is your place. It had only been a short time before that occurrence that Margo and I had been taking a serious look at the possibility of taking some time off to travel back to Sydney but no, Margo wouldn’t accept this coincidence as a sign that we should move quickly to confirm our tickets.

Out of a newly formed habit, I am now looking at the badges on cars to see whether or not they are hybrids as, in the city of Boulder, hybrid drivetrains seem to be everywhere. It is like buying a new car in black thinking your choice is unique only to return to the road and find almost every instance of the model you chose is black – why hadn’t I seen so many of these cars before? The HPE strategy anchored on hybrid IT continues to be the center piece of pretty much every official communication coming from HPE executives and that is no coincidence. If you have as yet not taken a good look at all that is happening around HPE and missed the emphasis being given to hybrid IT then you may just want to do a search. You may be surprised by what comes back as a result – it’s everywhere!

Among the more common definitions of hybrid IT to be found on the web are the explanations that tell us that hybrid IT is an approach to enterprise computing in which an organization provides and manages some of its IT resources in-house but uses cloud-based services for others. Gartner, on the other hand, has been a little more adventurous when it said that hybrid IT is all about transforming IT architectures and the role of IT itself and that hybrid IT is the result of combining internal and external services, usually from a combination of internal and public clouds in support of the business – a reasonable push promoting new-age IT as being solely based on a combination of private and public clouds. HPE, on the other hand is very public in its messaging that hybrid IT “is designed to accelerate your business, not work against it. (Hybrid IT) leverages the best of traditional IT, private cloud, and public cloud to enable the right mix to meet the needs of your business.” To hear more from HPE on hybrid IT, you may want to visit HPE’s web site and check out the pages, Why Hybrid IT?

Including traditional IT as part of hybrid IT is important. Very few enterprises I have looked into are preparing to dump their entire current IT infrastructure in favor of private clouds even as they turn to public clouds for some additional resources. Private cloud usage will come, but initially, it will be integrated with existing IT infrastructure if for no other reason than these enterprises will be looking to parallel run some applications – particularly those less-than mission-critical initially - and for a number of these organizations, the potential cost-savings may not be immediately realized. As with the introductions of all new technologies, architectures and services, there could very well be an escalation of expenses before they trend back down to what the industry believes should be achievable. Personally, I am suspicious of anything that looks too good to believe as in all likelihood, for many enterprises it will be exactly that; too good to be true!

Then again, looking around at what NonStop customers are considering it’s no coincidence that they are talking about mixing NonStop with open systems such as Linux. For many this is a first step down the path to hybrid IT. Concerned about the possible additional expenses involved, it’s almost a no-brainer to trialing applications spilt between NonStop and Linux, especially when Linux applications can now more readily capitalize on NS SQL running on an adjacent NonStop system – for data critical to the business, having access to a fault tolerant SQL on NonStop may be among the most cost-effective ways to get a toe in the water with respect to managing a platform that straddles two different operating systems. Clouds may still be a ways off for most NonStop customers but building expertise this way will prove highly beneficial down the road.

Ultimately, what HPE is promoting as hybrid IT, combining traditional IT with simple Linux server farms followed naturally enough by a mix of both private and public clouds seems the more realistic approach to take. Remember Sun, all those years ago (at the height of the dot.com boom), when one of its chief scientists “coined the phrase, ‘The network is the computer!’” as reported in the media? Well it’s just not that simple and so it is with hybrid IT – the data center is no more a cloud than the network was a computer. Our teenage offspring may think that their smartphones only need the net to function but IT professionals are fully aware of all the systems operating, mostly out of sight, on the other side of that net.

HPE CEO, Meg Whitman, when addressing financial analysts recently, following the release of the Q1, 2017 financial results, stated for the record that, “during the past few months, we’ve been preparing HPE to compete aggressively following the spin mergers of ES and software. To that end, we’ve been making significant changes to our organization, all during the final intense months before the ES separation and as the Software separation (was) underway. In just the last quarter, we’ve reshaped the entire Enterprise Group business to better drive the three pillars of our strategy, hybrid IT; the intelligent edge; and services.” While none of us could say that we didn’t see this coming but a trimmed down HPE focused on hybrid IT is really good news for NonStop and I can’t help wondering – is what we are seeing implemented within HPE’s own IT where NonStop is playing a very serious role, a foretaste of what’s to come for NonStop?

In other words, call it coincidence or call it simply serendipity, given the right amount of attention (with just a little more illumination coming from the HPE spotlight), is there more NonStop engagement within HPE than we may have previously thought? Is there traction developing between NonStop and the major initiatives supporting the three pillars of the HPE strategy? Now, as I look around at the NonStop community that I know so well, I am beginning to see signs that NonStop is doing a lot better than many are prepared to acknowledge. It didn’t even take me buying a NonStop system of my own – yes, please, in black – for these signs to be recognized.

Traditional NonStop systems operating in combination with server farms and clouds? NonStop, a part of hybrid IT?  Solutions looking to leverage the latest with NSADI for better execution across NonStop and Linux? From everything I am seeing of late, then yes! And more, yes! No matter how you look at the events unfolding there is more sightings of NonStop than I have seen in a while and for the NonStop community, there is a lot to be thankful for and gaining more and more of HPE’s mindshare is probably just the beginning. After all, when you think about it – with NonStop and the CLIMs dating back a decade or so - what other group within the HPE Enterprise Group has more experience running hybrid IT “in a box” than NonStop does? As best as I can tell, even with more than one glance at the greater HPE, no other group whatsoever!    

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

On the move …

A temporary change of residence is a reminder that oftentimes situations develop that necessitates a move. Given how HPE executives have identified three pillars supporting their strategy – hybrid IT, the intelligent edge and services, NonStop too is on the move and hybrid IT is its target!  

We pulled the company command center out of storage for a smog test – yes, these diesel pushers still need to pass the same smog regulations as cars do, but you have to take them to a special testing facility capable of handling the biggest of transportation rigs. There are lots of places that smog test cars, but only a few equipped to handle an RV. The RV did pass its smog test and is now all good to go for the next two years – hard to believe but 2017 will be the sixth summer we have ventured out onto America’s highways. For Margo and me, the picture above is also a reminder of where we once lived as the RV is parked alongside our former home in Boulder that is barely visible through the trees. Yes we have become temporary tenants in our former Niwot home.

It is common knowledge among many in the NonStop community that we are on the move – figuratively and literally. We have rolled the dice and are having another house built but as it turns out, there is a month or so where we will be homeless. You guessed it; we will be making the company command center our place of residence.  For the NonStop community, it wouldn’t take much to initiate a conversation about NonStop being on the move. After a lengthy period of simply holding onto its market and making sure the requirements of a core group of customers were being met the potential for NonStop to return to the mainstream and to be a force to reckon with is tantalizingly close at hand.

Could we see a real resurgence of NonStop and could enterprises begin valuing the NonStop attributes as highly as everyone in the NonStop community has been for decades? After all, no business likes to live through outages and no service provider, no matter how big they may be, can really dance around leaving their users floundering high and dry without and compute capabilities. The most recent outage at Amazon, and their S3 data storage offering, being the latest example of a major corporate embarrassment!

According to the data coming from the NonStop team, shipments of NonStop X systems are beginning to roll. The NonStop i family of systems – those Itanium based – may have held down the fort a little longer than some of us anticipated, but with 2017 the NonStop X family is on the ascendency and why not? With the last vestiges of proprietary components and packaging gone – it’s just an assembly of Intel x86 servers with InfiniBand interconnect fabric – the price/performance metrics reflect the reality that HPE has never before made a NonStop system this powerful, and for a lot less money.

As a user you still have to negotiate of course – wait for the last day of the quarter / year, naturally – but there are deals to be done and savings to be made. And this all leads to new applications being considered for NonStop. As one vendor told me late last year, there was so much headroom remaining on the NonStop X system that his company migrated two applications from Unix back onto NonStop and I am hoping to hear even more about situations like this as the year unwinds.

NonStop is on the move in other ways as well. It’s been almost two years now since we first heard of vNonStop, or more correctly, Virtualized NonStop (VNS). I understand from HPE that the primary driver for VNS was the telco industry following its collective move to Network Function Virtualization (NFV) – with NFV, any telco function “may consist of one or more virtual machines running different software and processes, on top of standard high-volume servers, switches and storage devices, or even cloud computing infrastructure, instead of having custom hardware appliances for each network function.” In hindsight, perhaps HPE had no other option than to pursue VNS for the telco marketplace but the upside here for the NonStop community is that yes, we now do have VNS.

VNS is no panacea. There’s a big price to be paid for running virtual – talk to anyone who first experienced VM on IBM Mainframes back in the 1970s. There’s also an issue of supported hypervisors and unless you are really into OpenStack, the real commercially-viable VNS solution may have to wait until VMware is supported. Even when VMware is supported, there is still the issue of the hardware itself. True, it only needs commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS), hardware but ultimately, the HPE NonStop team may be in a position to provide cheap x86 servers and all the associated switches and connectivity capabilities for less than it might take an enterprise to assemble a working cluster of x86 servers themselves. So the HPE NonStop team will not be entirely out of the systems game, no matter which way you cut and dice the offerings.

Where the move to VNS may develop traction and prove to be a financially-sound alternative is where an enterprise has already populated a private cloud with x86 servers. Those enterprises having container loads of x86 servers delivered to their loading docks will likely not be paying very much for their hundredth plus 2 or more x86 servers. On that scale, and with that degree of leverage that they might wield, those 2 or more x86 servers may essentially come for free – thrown in as a deal sweetener. No matter, the point is where private clouds begin being populated by racks of low-cost x86 servers, firing up VNS atop VMware may prove to be a cost-effective solution for some of the biggest users of NonStop. Think of VNS as taking advantage of the white-space often found in x86 server farms of this size.

And what would we find running on VNS is these situations? Here the moves by HPE IT tell an interesting story. By now the NonStop community should be very familiar with how HPE’s own IT is testing VNS supporting NS SQL/MX as a potential DBaaS offering and this makes a whole lot of sense for two reasons. It helps reduce the count of databases reported as being supported today – some 25,000 database instances – as it adds to the story of HPE using its own products. Within Silicon Valley the mantra “eating one’s own dogfood” still carries weight, even among the most jaded of investors.

What I have written here should be familiar to every reader. We have been watching NonStop on the move for a couple of years now and it is occupying center stage within the Mission Critical Systems product portfolio.  The only real question remaining for HPE – will the company finally go all-in on NonStop? Will HPE put its marketing muscle behind NonStop and will the NonStop team move heaven and earth to make sure NonStop truly participates in hybrid IT – one of the three pillars supporting HPE’s strategy for the enterprise.

The NonStop team still has a lot more to do to ensure NonStop stays on the move. They have come a long way in a relatively short time and Karen Copeland and Andy Bergholz are to be congratulated for their achievements to date but there is more that needs to be done and it all involves a new level of cooperation and participation with the bigger HPE. Will the bigger HPE want NonStop? Does HPE value the capabilities of NonStop as much as other products and solutions in its overall product portfolio? Will Mission Critical Systems be “weaned out” of HPE? There are only a few short months to go before 2017 HPE Discover in Las Vegas but already my level of curiosity has risen – how big a spotlight will be directed towards NonStop?

Much of this will be addressed in a follow-on feature, to be posted next month, where I will cover the just completed NonStop Partner Symposium that Karen Copeland put on for the NonStop vendors community. This is an important opportunity for one of the most critical stakeholders in all things NonStop. NonStop users have an event focused on their needs – the NonStop Technical Boot Camp. Enterprise management have their own event too (even when NonStop may be a secondary consideration) – HPE Discover. Seeing the NonStop vendors community being accommodated in this fashion is certainly a step in the right direction, but again, and further to the questions asked above – will NonStop become a featured product in the much bigger HPE Partner Symposiums / Summits that are scheduled to be held in just a few weeks’ time?

And that’s where the story stops for now. For their part, the NonStop team are doing everything they can to ensure NonStop doesn’t become an island. As every stakeholder in the NonStop community is coming to appreciate, as we watch the NonStop team reach out to the bigger HPE – isn’t it about time to see HPE reach down and give this NonStop team a hand up? After all, NonStop Team certainly has done more than enough to earn a presence on center-stage, under the spotlights. C’mon HPE – extend that hand! We all know that you can, so isn’t it about time you acknowledge just how well this new NonStop physical and virtual aligns with all of your major initiatives? If you aren’t sure then there is a community out there only too willing to help you better understand NonStop!