Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What the future holds … are you scared?

We may be familiar with stories from the past including popular movies and publications but has securing private information become too scary? For the NonStop community there are lots of options ….

This week another trailer was released for the upcoming end-of-year new Star Wars movie: The Force Awakens. Billed as Episode 7, it follows a pretty uninspiring Episodes 1 through 3 that focused on utilizing new film technologies, including a lot of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) that left many a follower of Star Wars wanting a lot more, and with the release of multiple trailers it looks like Disney, the new owners of the Star Wars franchise, is delivering!  Another image from the most recent trailer features the return of Hans Solo, aka Harrison Ford, and following some scary scenes ends simply with the acknowledgement from Hans Solo, “Chewie, we’re home!” and as a quick glimpse into the future, Star Wars fans are resting easy.

However, for anyone in IT the future is looking a little scary these days even as it returns to computing we are a little more familiar with – the latest embellishment on the old service bureau models. Clouds and even hybrids have been with us, albeit under different guises, for decades and few within the NonStop community are fooled by the latest “window dressing” being applied – so, all my compute resources are off site? Cool! And sure, I can provision for my next application quickly (and with minimal human intervention)? I like it! Much of what is now taking place with respect to computing resources happens in real time and that is just one more attribute that looks familiar to the NonStop community, but with the latest application of make-over of a very old model come risks, uncertainty and a considerable amount of fear among those occupying the C-suites on mahogany row. If only we could turn away all potential intruders even as we make sure nothing truly terrifying has taken place. 

Before contemplating the future it’s good to know that our concerns about security have their roots dating back millennia.  In Biblical times, we read of how Eden’s tree of life was protected following the fall of Adam and Eve. According to Genesis, “Thereupon God appointed Cherubim to guard the path leading to the tree of life with a flaming sword which constantly turned its fiery edge in every direction so that none could pass forward without permission.” Turning to Nordic legends and of the worlds occupied by deities, we come across the story of Heimdall. According to popular beliefs of the time, Heimdall “is the all-seeing and all-hearing guardian sentry of the world, Asgard, who stands on the rainbow bridge Bifröst to watch for any attacks to Asgard. Heimdall can also ‘look across time, as well as space’”. Unlike the Cherubim of Biblical times, it is recorded that Heimdall didn’t so much depend on his sword as he bore the Gjallerhorn ("Yelling Horn"), which he would sound to alert all of Asgard to dangers threatening the city's gates.  

Returning to the issues facing modern day IT and looking too to what the future may hold, USA Today published an article on April 16, 2015,
2025 tech predictions both thrilling and scary. The article then asks readers, “And if things don't go as planned and all our data are allowed to bolt out of the corral?” what then?  It then quotes Rachel Maguire, research director at Institute for the Future, a non-profit think tank, "Well that's the dance that's happening now. We're in the age of omnipresence, so the question is, can we solve for the privacy issue so we and future generations can enjoy the benefits of technology?" 

The USA Today article then wraps up by circling back to the first shift in technology, security. “Under the heading ‘privacy-enhancing tech’ are predictions of cryptographic breakthroughs that hopefully will deliver us from a reality where it seems every major outfit is being hacked on an almost daily basis. Of all the shifts, however, this one clearly deserves the most attention,” the article concludes. Its final thought may be chilling to some but it’s what drives middleware vendors today to do even better, “Without encrypted and secure data transfer, our digital lives will fast become an open book. Says Maguire: ‘The question we need to keep asking is, simply, what is technology setting us up for over the longer term?’”

At the very heart of what scares IT and business executives the most today is security. And yet, there’s a lot that can be done right now to diminish the fear of what lies ahead. In a three part series of posts on Security written for the comForte blog, I began by asking, Does our interest in Top 10 …? In that post I quote comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, who also asks, “It is a mystery to me why it seems to be easier to sell a software product in the six digit price range than to convince customers to get paid-for advice by experienced folks like ourselves or our partners.” In the second post, Time to get fit? I quote comForte Marketing VP, Thomas Gloerfeld, who asks, “why would any of us expect to fully understand all the tools at our disposal if we truly didn’t know what they did or how best to use them?” The third post is yet to be published but it asks yet another question, “What about NonStop? Does NonStop inherently ward off all intrusions or do we need to be even better prepared than ever before?”

One vendor who is leveraging the work of another is DataExpress. Identifying their marketplace as addressing secure, managed file transfer, DataExpress leverage comForte SSL / SSH products provided as part of the NonStop operating systems. “This allows DataExpress to focus on differentiating functionality so important for us when it comes to growing our business,” said DataEpress CEO, Michelle Marost. But DataExpress is not alone when it comes to making sure private information stays exactly that; private!  

“Customers have often used Prognosis to supplement their security monitoring on NonStop. It can detect files being created or changed, abnormal process activity or event messages, and act on them,” said IR Product Manager, Jamie Pearson. “More recently, though, IR have provided a solution called Prognosis Change Auditor to assist with PCI-DSS auditing of configuration changes on the NonStop platform. It detects changes in the configuration of system and application components, which can then be reviewed and matched against approved change requests.”

“Today we provide the OmniAuth module that is used to define rules to reduce fraud, an all-important consideration for FIs and our entry in the all-important Fraud Blocker marketplace. But, OmniAuth is really Authorization which is of course checking security etc. plus checking if you have the money,” said OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. “Looking at OmniPayments as a whole, it comes already equipped with complete security functions for every financial transaction that it handles, including encryption-at-rest and encryption-in-flight. But yes, we acknowledge that it is an ongoing battle as we face-off with the bad guys.”

No discussion on security across American banks and retailers would be complete without some references being made to the looming October 1, 2015, date for acceptance of smart cards with embedded chips – my first card, from CHASE, arrived this past week giving me a total of one Chip and Pin card. In the post of November 10, 2014, The headlines say it all: EMV is an answer! to the blog ATMmarketplace, Yash said, "While it may be true that security will be a problem for all in IT — vendors and users alike — there are steps that can be taken to make life for the bad guys a lot harder." Furthermore, according to Yash, “Smart cards have been in use in most countries around the world for years, and they are now coming to the U.S. (and) since HP NonStop systems have a significant presence in payment-card transaction systems, it is important that the NonStop community be familiar with smart-card technology.”

HP is pursuing greater security options for NonStop systems and this is evident from recent statements made by HP NonStop security architect, Wendy Bartlett. "Defense in depth is critical, particularly when it comes to securing the applications running today on NonStop. We are continuing to invest in the security capabilities of our own products, including but not limited to Safeguard, even as we continue to leverage solutions from both HP's Enterprise Security group and our NonStop partners. There are many aspects of defense in depth, from intrusion prevention to intrusion detection, analysis, and response, so you cannot have too many eyes focused on security. HP NonStop customers expect this level of attention from their vendor and partners.”

Products, services, education plus a healthy assist from HP NonStop development are all readily available and can go a long way to help the NonStop community ensure there’s a depth of defense capable of warding off all but the most persistent attacker and / or someone who has gained inside information – the so-called weak link. Scary scenes from popular movies and legendary defenders from the dawn of time reinforce how important having adequate defenses truly has become – it doesn’t take a think-tank of futurists to keep as sensitized to what is really happening in the world.

As HP noted, when it comes to security, you cannot have too many eyes trained on the problem and looking for new way to add additional layers of defense. For the NonStop community this is encouraging and the fact that the numerous vendors continue to provide security products helps go a long way to slake the thirst of CIOs lining up at the well of safe IT -  yes, we have to solve for the privacy issue in order for future generations to enjoy the benefits of technology! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Industry Standard Rules, OK!

As for industry standards, it's been part of the game plan for NonStop to embrace industry standards fully and with NonStop X, HP delivers on this plan ...

From the very first time a container ship passed through the heads of Sydney Harbor at the end of 1969 I have been fascinated by the container industry. Spending my formative years of IT working for a container shipping company cemented that fascination and I have been following the industry ever since. So much for the container ships that carried a measly 2000 standard size Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU as today new-age behemoth ships transport almost ten times this number. What has really sparked my interest all these years later is what’s happening with containers today on dry land, as industries have grown up with novel ways to exploit essentially a standardized “building block”. 

According to one news source, the Port of Seville, Spain, is among the more recent converts using seagoing containers in unconventional ways. In an article of April 2, 2014,
Port of Seville receives shipping container-based cruise ship terminal the reporter wrote, “in order to accommodate the growing number of cruise ship passengers who regularly disembark at the Spanish Port of Seville – the country's sole inland port – a new cruise ship terminal has been built using shipping containers. Spanish architectural firms Hombre De Piedra and Buró4 took 23 well-worn shipping containers to construct the 508 sq m (5,468 sq ft) terminal.” The irony of this isn’t easily missed – boarding your cruise ship via containers; who would have guessed?

Few of us will forget the devastation caused by the February 22, 2012, earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. The devastation was almost absolute – barely a usable structure survived. And yet, as the city of Christchurch began to rebuild, one of the first structures erected was a temporary mall made up of yes, you guessed it, sea containers. In the news release Re:START - a unique shopping experience in the heart of Christchurch that describes the project to get the city back up and running, “The shipping container mall is one of the most striking features of the cities renewal …The brightly colored stacked boxes hold 27 stores (and) the mall offers a bit of normalcy to the residents, and some serious contemporary eco-style.” 

It would seem that embracing a standard, such as has been done by transportation companies, has not only streamlined the transportation industry and revolutionized the way ships are built, ports are constructed, and how supporting infrastructure functions in in general, but created numerous secondary industries as a result. For IT and the computer industry, the message is very clear – utilization of industry-standard components wins out and those holding onto proprietary solutions cannot win over the longer term. The time when mainframe plug-compatibles flourished was when IBM drove the standards, but today, no longer. It’s Intel that now drives the most important of all roadmaps – the chips we package within the systems we rely upon. 

In my March 31, 2015, post Here comes NonStop X and here’s to another decade or two, or four, of NonStop excitement! celebrating the official launch of the NonStop X family of systems – specifically, the first model, the NonStop X NS7 X1, I quoted Martin Fink, executive vice president and chief technology officer, HP. “It’s been a long journey to where we see NonStop running entirely on industry-standard hardware,” Fink had told me and I was reminded by others at HP just how important this message was. Scanning the press for additional news coverage of NonStop X, I came across the article HP’s long road to a single server architecture in the Australian electronic publication, ITWire.

In this feature journalist, Graeme Phillipson, observed, “HP inherited disparate architectures from Tandem, DEC and Compaq, as well as a couple of its own. Bringing them all together has been a long process, which is nearly complete.” Furthermore, said Graeme,   “Over the last decade or more HP has been evolving all these architectures, with their disparate chip sets and operating systems, towards one hardware architecture based on Intel processors.” However, it’s not just journalists that have picked up this message but also many within the NonStop vendor community share similar beliefs – embracing industry-standard technologies benefits everyone.

“After years of simply referencing WinTel as industry standard, it’s acknowledged within IT that anything incorporating Intel chips – particular, Xeon chips with their support of the x86 architecture – is industry-standard,” OmniPayments Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, told me. “But it is a lot more too – integrated support for Ethernet, with TCP/IP communications support a given - and it also applies to interconnect so embracing InfiniBand (as HP has now done with NonStop X) is a big plus. External storage support via SAS and Fiber Channel help round out the industry-standard message as well so yes, the industry standard blanket applies to a broad spectrum of technologies and while it’s not so much a case of acknowledging it as ‘something I would recognize when I see it’ so much as it’s endorsed by my customers and prospects without reservation.”

When I asked Yash whether NonStop X really does close the gap to industry standard or whether there is still more to be done, his response was informative as it was challenging. “Firstly, embracing industry-standard is a journey and a commitment as what constitutes industry standard is a moving goal line,” he began. “Newer, faster, cheaper, components are arriving all the time and where customers accept these components, all vendors need to be cognizant of the implications and stay true to their industry standard support. But secondly, and just as important from my perspective, industry standard also applies to the breath of solutions available – and I am expecting with the arrival of NonStop X that there will be many new solutions becoming available and with that, my task of selling NonStop X into markets I am already established in only becomes easier for me.”

When I put the question about the value of industry standard to InfraSoft VP of Engineering, Dave Finnie, his response reflected his primary focus on software. “I would have said ‘no, it doesn't matter what's underneath’ as I thought that the OS and supporting runtime environments, etc. were all that counted,” said Finnie. “However, I have now heard from a couple of people that NonStop has suddenly become a more accepted platform in their company (i.e. a possible move from ‘maintain’ to ‘invest’) purely because it is now using Intel x86 technology! I would never have thought that that would be an important factor, but obviously it is for some folk.”

However, there’s even more to the industry standard story than just HP’s embracing Intel x86 architecture. According to Finnie, “Industry standard now means support for all the commonly used languages and environments. POSIX support is important here, so the OSS support in NonStop plays a big role here. I think for this simple reason, NonStop X has closed the gap with competing products by embracing industry standard features across hardware and software.”  This sentiment is shared among other vendors I polled this past week, as indeed, standardization may be the tipping point for vendors considering accelerating their moves to OSS as NonStop X confirms for them the longevity of NonStop.

In an upcoming article to the April, 2015, issue of The Connection you will read of DataExpress President, Michelle Marost, explaining how, “Today, we have two distinct products, DataExpress NonStop (DXNS) and DataExpress Open Platforms (DXOP) and we are taking steps to see if we can now consolidate these under a single multi-platform product offering. While as yet we do not have a customer asking for our DXOP product on OSS, considering the built in redundancies that NonStop brings to the table, it just makes sense for us to go there.” To at least have the option to standardize their solutions in a way allowing the product to run on multiple platforms is surely a godsend to many middleware and solutions vendors.

“As I suspect with many vendors serving the NonStop community, the announcement of the General Availability (GA) of the first member of the new NonStop X family of systems strengthens our resolve to stay focused on NonStop systems – they have been a part of IR since it first provided application monitoring solutions,” came the observation from IR VP of Products, John Dunne. “Perhaps more importantly is HP’s commitment to industry standard technologies, which we see as a necessary part of growing a community, and introduction of NonStop X as a complementary product family, as it is doing, suggests that there will likely be new customers for NonStop in the near future.” It is this final point that I sense will foster even more discussion in the future – the NonStop X isn’t just for the NonStop faithful, but is a product for the times for all those companies looking for more secure, highly available (and scalable), industry standard systems. NonStop opens the door to a much bigger world and this is the real value that comes from being industry standard.

Providing a similar observation comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, noted that indeed, NonStop X “is an important step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.” Industry standard “is about much more than what hardware it runs on. It comes down to providing the right ecosystem and solutions, said Burg. “A key area will be the support of ‘Hybrid architectures’ making use of InfiniBand as a fast communication layer within the Hybrid system. Also, getting solutions vendors excited about NonStop will be the real confirmation about the validity of this new industry standard NonStop system. Intelligent Hybrid architectures should in fact enable easier and 'smarter' porting of existing applications to the NonStop X platform”. Like everyone else in the NonStop community the expectation within comForte is that with NonStop X, the community will grow bigger.

Raising this topic with OmniPayments, Yash made it very clear that, “today, industry standard has more to do with the platforms supported – can you run Java? .NET? JavaScript? Does the platform support SQL? And to a degree, can you run popular solutions – SAP being one example. The opportunity to configure the new NonStop X as part of a hybrid solution embracing both NonStop and Linux is a huge step towards finding greater acceptance as being industry standard but there really is a lot more to be done with respect of levelling the playing field when it comes to what IT sees as being an industry standard platform.” And by this, Yash as are many others in the NonStop vendor community, is hopeful that HP’s pricing model better reflects the arrival of industry standard solutions – that is to say, the NonStop X family breaks ground on lower, more competitive, price points.

“We have our NonStop X system now installed and all the OmniPayments code has been certified on NonStop X,” Yash then told me. More enlightening perhaps is that OmniPayments has “built our fraud solution on Nonstop X. OmniHub Payment services hub integrates with Linux and with big data feeds over InfiniBand.” Of course, Yash isn’t the only one certifying products and purchasing NonStop X systems. Already news is beginning to come in about one American user who has bought three NonStop X systems to complement existing large NonStop i Blade systems. A large retailer looking to better integrate NonStop into their business operations it is still early days for this American retailer but already I am openly speculating that this may just be a starting point.

For NonStop to embrace standards has been a popular theme of posts to this blog. Referencing unconventional uses for containers, likewise, has been featured before.

In the post of March 21, 2008, The need for standardization! I wrote about the coming of standardization and I referenced the thriving industry surrounding the reuse of sea containers. As I wrapped up that post, I noted how the arrival of standards for blades and blade chassis will continue to excite me. I noted too that I see tremendous potential to reduce costs while opening up the options and broadening the range of choices available. Seven years ago I had no idea that NonStop would come as far as it has.

There may not be a thriving secondary industry for NonStop X and I don’t see a range of office furniture or even garage hold-all cabinets being constructed from these latest additions to the family of NonStop systems. I can’t rule it out, mind you – there was a time when I hung IBM mainframe consoles as abstract art along my office wall – as this really isn’t the story here. Embracing industry standards, and having the vendor community on its side, tells its own story and the message is inescapable.  To re-quote InfraSoft’s Dave Finnie, “NonStop has suddenly become a more accepted platform in their company” and all thanks to HP rolling out NonStop on industry standard Intel x86.   

Monday, April 6, 2015

I am not ready for this, not yet…

There’s an article in theguardian.com that reads like a science fiction book or the plot from a Bond movie:

“Google has struck a deal with the healthcare company Johnson & Johnson to develop surgical robots that use artificial intelligence. Google’s life sciences division will work with Johnson & Johnson’s medical device company, Ethicon, to create a robotics-assisted surgical platform to help doctors in the operating theatre.”

The article then ends with: “Google’s life sciences team is also developing systems that can detect cancer and heart attacks using nano particles, and has worked on smart contact lenses that contain sensors capable of monitoring the signs of diabetes – technology that was licensed by the Swiss drug firm Novartis in July 2014 to develop into a practical medical application.”  The link to this article is here: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/27/google-johnson-and-johnson-artificial-intelligence-surgical-robots

There is more, this time from Japan, also from theguardian.com: “Meet Robear, an experimental nursing-care robot developed by the RIKEN-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research and Sumitomo Riko Company. Unveiled this month, the robot is designed to lift patients out of beds and into wheelchairs, as well as helping those who need assistance to stand up. Robear weighs in at 140kg, and is the successor to heavier robots RIBA and RIBA-II. ‘We really hope that this robot will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on caregivers today,’ said Toshiharu Mukai, leader of the project’s robot sensor systems research team. ‘We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle care to elderly people.’
That’s an increasingly urgent challenge in Japan, where the elderly population is growing fast. According to Riken, robots like Robear can play an important role in taking the strain off nurses and caregivers, who may be having to lift patients 40 or more times a day, risking lower-back pain in the process.”  The article is here:

I am not ready for this; not because I belong to the generation that soon will need Robear and hates change. No! I am not ready because all these technologies can and will fail at one point or another – one hopes not in the middle of the heart surgery or while transporting Grandma from her bed to the nearby chair…ouch! Knowing there is a system that is fail proof, designed to be always on, you know, NonStop … Why would you trust yours or your loved ones’ life to anything less? Say we will overcome it, and the technology will become available on NonStop. Is this solving the problem?

As we continue to differentiate the IoT from the Io (Mission-Critical)T I have the sense that greater demands for integrity and robustness will be forthcoming. After all, there’s a whole lot of difference between missing a nut or bolt on a production line assembling household furniture, for instance, to missing a screw while performing a back surgery. Should software updates be transmitted, as we so often see happening on our PCs, would the dreaded blue-screen of death take on more ominous overtones?

I have to believe that as this trend toward automation and AI intrudes into our very lives, NonStop systems will likely find a whole new market segment opening up. This may not be as fashionable as interacting with the latest smartphone or tablet, but really, we are talking about things way more important than fashion.

In the world of all things connected, communicating with each other and sending tons of information to their creators as well as to places where the data gets analyzed and understood, if you let it, there will be a caring robot to help you as you age. I wonder, will you be less alone? OK, as I said, I am not ready for this, not yet…

I am not the only one!

I came across a fascinating article: http://www.rustreport.com.au/issues/latestissue/oz-research-reveals-the-competitive-advantage-of-iot/

“A new Australian report into the application of the Internet of Things has highlighted the significant cost, revenue and productivity benefits for adopting companies, but also revealed an high level of business indifference to the technology. The research was conducted by analyst firm Telsyte on behalf of Microsoft.

Entitled ‘Cut through: How the Internet of Things is sharpening Australia’s competitive edge’, the report shows that two-thirds of organizations that have deployed and measured Internet of Things (IoT) solutions have achieved 28 per cent cost reductions in their day-to-day operations.

Despite those impressive returns, the report reveals there is a long way to go before the competitive advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) is fully harnessed by Australian businesses with just 26 per cent of the 300-plus Australian organizations surveyed indicating they have deployed Internet of Things solutions, and nearly half (48 per cent) have no immediate plans to deploy.”

Yes, half of the Australian companies surveyed are not ready for this, yet!

Telsyte recommends 5 steps toward implementing the Internet of Things, and I found the last one timely: “Prepare for real time data: The Internet of Things will generate real-time data — not just large volumes of data — across a range of business processes. Real-time data is about immediacy, and brings with it the potential for fundamental disruption. When possible, Telsyte recommends processes be modelled around the availability of real-time data to build long-term competitive advantage.” No surprises here for the NonStop community, as this is exactly what WebAction was saying all along!

So, as half of the Australian companies and I, the “new Australian”, are not quite ready for IoT yet, it is reassuring to see that at least one NonStop partner is leading this inevitable move toward taking advantage of the IoT and all the technologies that utilize it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Here comes NonStop X and here’s to another decade or two, or four, of NonStop excitement!

It’s been a little over a year since the NonStop community heard the news that HP was adding support for the Intel x86 architecture and now the day has come. It’s here with the first model, the HP NonStop X NS7 X1 just announced!

What a whirlwind time these past fifteen months or so have been for the NonStop community. From the time the news broke at the 2013 NonStop Advanced Technical Boot Camp that there were firm plans for NonStop to support the Intel x86 architecture, the NonStop community has been abuzz with interest – first selected vendors were invited into HP’s Advanced Technical Center (ATC) to validate their middleware and solutions and then select customers were able to validate their own mix of solutions and middleware such that today, as of just a few hours ago, the veil was finally lifted. Yes, the first member of the NonStop X family – the NonStop X NS7 X1 – is now generally available.

“It’s been a long journey to where we see NonStop running entirely on industry-standard hardware,” said Martin Fink, executive vice president and chief technology officer, HP. “Thanks to the significant investment HP has made in support of NonStop, customers will realize immediate value from the much improved price / performance that NonStop X now provides.”

According to HP, the “HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1 with InfiniBand (IB) delivers more than a 25 times increase in system interconnect capacity for responding to business growth, and up to 50 percent performance capacity increase to handle intensive transaction volumes. In addition, the NS7 X1 can add capacity online, with near-linear scalability and no application outage.” Furthermore, these new  “HP Integrity NonStop systems scale up to 16 NonStop CPUs within a single system (node), each running its own copy of the NonStop OS, and scale out to 4,080 NonStop CPUs on 255 networked NonStop nodes”. 

NonStop systems, based on industry-standard processors and interconnects has been long anticipated – in the post of November 4, 2013, The real deal - NonStop supports x86! I wrote of how, with the announcement, HP was demonstrating once again for the NonStop community that NonStop “is a timeless architecture,” according to HP VP and GM of Mission Critical Servers, Randy Meyer. I also referenced long-time supporter of NonStop and now Intel Corporation’s General Manager, Enterprise Software Strategy, Pauline Nist, who reminded me that whatever transpires with future chip products, the Intel Architecture will prevail! So yes, every cause for celebration across the NonStop community.

To read the announcement and to download the data sheet, follow these links back to the HP web site.

“In bringing NonStop to the x86 architecture, HP now offers customers a choice between it and the Itanium architecture. Both architectures can be relied upon to deliver resilient business foundation without compromise” said HP’s WW Product Manager responsible for HP NonStop systems, Mark Pollans. “What we are announcing today is just the first member of the NonStop X family, the HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1 and it is first available with a 4 core software license.”  According to HP, the HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1, built on proven HP ProLiant BL460c server blades, is powered by Intel Xeon E5-2600 v2 series processors and supports up to 192 GB of memory per NonStop CPU, with single system (node) memory capacity greater than 3 TB.

“The partner Beta program that we ran during 2014 proved popular and successful. We had all the major middleware and solutions vendors involved so that when our customers began testing, the process went smoothly for all involved,” added Karen Copeland, Manager of HP NonStop WW Product Management. “By adhering to strict design methodologies, very few problems were found and the ones that were discovered were quickly fixed and dispatched to the Beta participants. What became clear to all involved was the performance was really great on the new system, so we are expecting the price / performance offered with the NS7 will be attractive for many of our customers.  By the way, for any vendors who still need to test their products on NonStop X, we’ll continue to provide compilers for free and access to the systems in the ATC until the end of this year.”

When it comes to performance there’s no doubting that the NS7 represents a marked improvement over previous NonStop family members. The latest information from HP notes that the NS7 X1 is licensed as a 4-core system with up to 50 percent more performance capacity when compared to the HP Integrity NonStop BladeSystem NB56000c also licensed at 4 cores. The NS7 X1 combines the economies of newly enhanced, standards-based, modular computing with the trusted 24x7 fault-tolerant availability and data integrity of the HP Integrity NonStop architecture. Some of these gains can be attributed to the chip itself but the inclusion of IB also helps considerably.

HP called this out in references it has included in its HP Integrity NonStop X – NS7 X1 data sheet made available with today’s announcement. “InfiniBand double-wide switches to create the foundation for the NS7 X1 system interconnect. These switches, based on a switched fabric, provide up to 56 Gbps full bi-directional bandwidth for extreme scalability, fabric flexibility, high throughput, low latency, and quality of service. The use of half-height server blades connected by InfiniBand enables the NS7 X1 to double the NonStop CPU density within a single c7000 enclosure.”

“The decision to move to InfiniBand (IB) reflects the industry trend to embrace standards even for technologies that, for the most part, are buried deep within the system,” observed Pollans. “Having said this, we are also pleased that our IB system interconnect simplifies hybrid environments featuring NonStop X and we anticipate partners will find this capability attractive. Some coming IB features will allow NonStop to have direct and immediate data transfers between NonStop and systems running Linux and even Windows.” If IBM’s mainframes today include a mix of zOS and zLinux we shouldn’t be surprised to see NonStop OS and Linux hybrids coming from HP.

“The development of NonStop X has been the biggest undertaking during my tenure as VP of NonStop Systems Development, and I’m extremely proud of what the team has accomplished. It was an important program that brings our mission-critical capabilities to the Intel x86 architecture. The result is a family of systems that provide customers with the only flexible approach to a fault- tolerant infrastructure with the choice of Itanium® or x86 architectures,” said Sean Mansubi, VP of R&D for HP's NonStop Integrity and x86 family of servers, database, and middleware software and solutions. “I am particularly excited about our opportunities to offer hybrid solutions, which are NonStop servers directly tied to other x86 servers running Linux/Unix/Windows via InfiniBand (IB) to create low latency, high performance heterogeneous solutions. We are planning on delivering a Limited Beta Program for partners and customers later this year.”

With respect to hybrids, in the post of January 25, 2015, Floating in space, I need a lifeline … I wrote about this topic and that it was part of the conversation I had with Ric Lewis, HP’s VP and General Manager, Enterprise Server Business, where Lewis did acknowledge that early usage of hybrid computers based on the x86 architecture that included NonStop were under way. Clearly I am hoping to hear a lot more about that in the coming months and it will be something I will be pursuing in conversations and meetings at the 2015 HP Discover event in Las Vegas. Whatever is made public will likely showcase the potential for NonStop as part of the evolving hub strategies being promoted by many – Intel with its Data Hub and Gartner with its Payments Services Hub being current examples – and the capabilities of the HP Integrity NonStop X – NS7 X1 will more than likely see many HP customers prompt renewed interest in NonStop.

It was only a few days ago, March 23, 2015, that I posted Can you believe it? “Pragmatism trumps spectacle”! In that post I referenced HP Master Technologist, Justin Simonds, who has been championing the Internet of Things loudly, but his observations on the history of NonStop shine a very positive light on the future of NonStop now that the availability of the HP Integrity NonStop X  NS7 X1 has been officially  announced. When it comes to NonStop systems, Simonds explained, everyone involved knows of the “very clear mission – to build a computer that won’t fail.  All our development is in sync with the mission and every developer hardware and software has to answer the question ‘what happens when this fails?’ Not if, but when.”

Yes, all those years ago, Simonds notes, “Tandem was the first to have no single point of failure.  That has been copied.  Tandem was the first to have online repair.  That has been copied.  But NonStop after 40 years is still rated by IDC as an Availability Level 4 (AL4), a full level higher than any clustered system.  NonStop still has the lead but many systems are catching up.” And then Simonds added with some delight, “That’s why I am very happy that we are relooking at Indestructible, Scalable Computing.”  The history of NonStop has just opened a new chapter but in doing so, completing the move to commoditization as has been forecast for many years by HP leaders such as Randy Meyer, it’s by no means the final chapter.

Forty years is a very long time in technology and, by my reckoning, NonStop has been continuously developed longer than perhaps any other platform apart from IBM’s mainframe. Certainly, no analyst predicted Unix to decline as rapidly as it has done and Windows, as we know it today, hasn’t enjoyed the longevity of NonStop. Having said this, I truly welcome the new customers and indeed, new partners to NonStop systems that this announcement will clearly create – NonStop X throws open the doors to new opportunities to grow the NonStop community. The doors? Well, for me these doors that are swinging wide are the inclusion of x86 not to mention the imminent arrival of hybrids that are inclusive of NonStop.

The whirlwind times the NonStop community has experienced over the last year and a bit is giving way to a new reality – NonStop X. However, it’s good to remember that this latest product from HP, the HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1, is but the first member of a new family and as such, will likely be joined by many other system offerings shortly. Exhaling, as we may be doing – perhaps even sighing with relief – will be short-lived as this is the start of a journey for NonStop systems that will ensure we will be celebrating another decade, or four.

Monday, March 23, 2015

To what extent would you go to help with research?

For the longest time I have not thought of Ikea – I hate furniture assembly, the tool I know how to use is my phone, so in the end it is not even worth it to buy “assembly required” stuff. Reminds me of the time at Tandem when a new printer arrived with the instructions composed somewhere outside of the English speaking zone and one step listed was to fringer the part in place. Ever since all of us involved in the exercise of assembling this printer say “go fringer!” whenever a situation calls for “go figure!”

But I digressed. The thing is in the past few days I have been forced into thinking about Ikea. First, CNN Money reported how the new Ikea night tables will charge our phones wirelessly. See http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/02/technology/ikea-furniture-charge-phones/?iid=EL Getting rid of the wires has been my personal dream for the longest time,  for a very evident reason, too.

Well, today I read an article in the Fortune magazine about Ikea growth and expansion to the less developed countries, http://fortune.com/2015/03/10/ikea/

Author, Beth Kowith, wrote a particularly disturbing paragraph about Ikea:
“One way Ikea researchers get around this is by taking a firsthand look themselves. The company frequently does home visits and—in a practice that blends research with reality TV—will even send an anthropologist to live in a volunteer’s abode. Ikea recently put up cameras in people’s homes in Stockholm, Milan, New York, and Shenzhen, China, to better understand how people use their sofas. What did they learn? “They do all kinds of things except sitting and watching TV,” Ydholm says. The Ikea sleuths found that in Shenzhen, most of the subjects sat on the floor using the sofas as a backrest. “I can tell you seriously we for sure have not designed our sofas according to people sitting on the floor and using a sofa like that,” says Ydholm.”

And this brings me to my question: To what extent would you go to help with research? The presence of the cameras, the ability of things I use to “spy” on me and report – just see the offer from AT&T: https://my-digitallife.att.com/learn/ShopHomeAutomation.html .

I am not sure I really like it, and today I read another story about Ikea: http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/17/news/companies/ikea-hide-and-seek/index.html Virginia Harrison writes: “The Swedish furniture retailer wants shoppers to stop playing hide-and-seek in its stores as the game attracts a growing following on social media. We are very happy that people are playful but safety must prevail," said spokesperson for the Ikea Group Martina Smedberg. "Please don't play hide-and-seek in Ikea stores." It all started in Belgium last year when a woman put playing hide-and-seek in a Ikea store on her pre-30th birthday bucket list. Smedberg said she turned up with some of her friends and everyone had a great time. The game has also been played in Sweden.

But now things are getting out of control. The practice looks set to ramp up from a few friends to something much bigger. Word is spreading on Facebook and similar events are planned in Europe and Canada. 19,000 people have signed up to an event at an Amsterdam store next month. That's prompted the furniture retailer, which has 315 stores in 27 countries, to call time on the games.”

I am thinking it is only fair that people play hide and seek in the stores of the company that does its research by installing cameras and watching what you do on your sofa in the privacy of your home!  Yes, Ikea found out that folks “do all kinds of things except sitting and watching TV” – and I for sure would not consent to cameras in my family room! Perhaps, setting aside sections of their stores where real customers can be filmed using select furniture pieces as a follow-on to hide and seek may be a solution!

Getting rid of the wires certainly needs little additional research. No one needs to mount cameras in my office to fully understand the problem. Something needs to be done – and perhaps it’s already being addressed and I just have to find something that works a lot better in my environment. When it comes to NonStop systems as long as I recall the vulnerability was in the connections; there were wires plugged into chassis by NonStop engineers installing systems on customers’ premises.

I travelled to Australia in the early 1990s to look at government-funded research into very high-speed wireless connections with the intent to verify if the then to be announced S-Systems could be packaged with wireless interconnect. Such a connection model would mean NonStop would come with a life-time warranty. Something Product Management was keen to explore. Perhaps the failure to proceed with the technology was more a case of not being able to present a viable business case, but then again, as I look back on that trip, maybe I should have taken a lot more photos or, at the very least, set up a video feed for potential clients to check out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Can you believe it? “Pragmatism trumps spectacle”!

Influenced by the recent post of Margo Holen, the Internet of Things certainly is attracting more than its fair share of the media spotlight. However, it’s also fair to say that with more and more things communicating, your primary systems just can’t fail!

For true car racing enthusiasts, including those who still harbor hopes of becoming a world champion, Racer is the must-read magazine each month. It provides not just in-depth analysis but pages of data about team and driver performances. And oh yes, the pictures look really cool, too. Margo and I are about to start our eighth year of High-Performance Driver Education (HPDE) track outings across the western states of America and, while using the word race remains taboo, we are on track at least four times a day for 20 – 25 minute “sessions”. Having said this, we are amateur enthusiasts at best and only on a good day.

The picture above comes from the very first post of June 6, 2008, to our social blog, Buckle-Up-Travel, Off to the races ... and it continues to surprise many that it is Margo behind the wheel of our C6 Corvette; a vehicle that has been in production for more than sixty years and has come to define what today we call America’s sports car. Muscular, flashy and always ready to put on a show! But as I read the latest issue of Racer magazine I came across a brief editorial page with the heading, “Pragmatism trumps Spectacle” and my thoughts turned to the more than forty years that Tandem computers, now NonStop systems, have been supporting the most mission-critical of all business applications.

NonStop systems have stuck steadfastly to the task of providing 24 X 7 NonStop availability, with near linear scalability, but without the flash or even the fanfare that today heralds the arrival of something new.  Announcing the Apple Watch, as Apple has just done with its high-energy, spectacular, Spring Forward event immediately after the switch to daylight savings (quite the marketing coupe that grabbed everyone’s attention) was a flashy affair but shortly HP will be officially taking the wraps of the next family of NonStop systems – NonStop X. I doubt there will be much to show by way of fanfare and bright lights, but the message will ring true. If you have mission critical applications to support, where failure is not an option, then NonStop delivers.

The NonStop X family of systems is arriving at an opportune time – much faster performance than many of us had thought back in 2013 when the wraps were taken off the program for NonStop to embrace the Intel x86 architecture . But then again, occupying center stage of many companies transaction processing, it’s going to get really busy really soon and faster systems will prove a blessing. No more so than when it comes to the changing landscape of mobile device usage. In his article “Survival of the fittest – NonStop in mobile networks” published in the May/June 2014 issue of The Connection, HP Telecom Business Development Manager, Rene Champagne, observed how “Modern usage of mobile services has shifted from voice and text as the primary services, towards mobile broadband services. Real-time services based on smartphone apps are the defining characteristics of this decade.”

It’s hard to argue against this observation and the importance of this shift, Champagne went on to note was that, “The real-time nature of these apps makes service interruptions immediately apparent as social media updates cease to operate, and as services such as cloud storage become unavailable.” When it came to quoting the results from studies undertaken by the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), specifically their second Annual Incidents Reports, Champagne highlighted that availability was still very much an issue. “The determination that the root cause for most incidents was ‘System failures’, and that ‘hardware failures’ were the most common root causes,” Champagne quoted from the report even as the report  noted how this determination, “diverges from general IT norms which generally find that operations and administration, and software failures are the most common outage sources.”

Remaining steadfastly focused on the task of providing NonStop availability with near linear scalability for forty plus years may not have been a bad thing to do, after all. Even as system failures and hardware failures happen less frequently, the impact of failures observed by many customers can quickly become a different kind of spectacle, and one quite likely to make the evening news. The increased dependency on mobile devices and their ability to initiate mission critical transactions is only the beginning as it will not just be humans on the other end of the line but machines.

The impact of the Internet of Things (IoT), and in particular, as HP Master Technologist, Justin Simonds,  has been highlighting in his recent presentations, the Internet of Mission-Critical Things (IoMCT), where outages not only will disrupt production lines and transportation but healthcare and even security will be hard to ignore. One thing we can be very sure about is that with the arrival of such streams of information, changes will be constant and necessary. As we transition to the world of small, highly focused, apps keeping up with it all will be a challenge for all but the most mature of infrastructures.

In the real-time IT world systems, platforms, operating systems, middleware and applications are all providing updates about their operational status, I suggested in the post to the WebAction blog, In a Realtime World, NonStop Customer Experience Can Change in an Instant! A constant barrage of data makes tracking the performance of an application difficult; who can tell whether basic SLA metrics are being met? Add into this the added complexity that comes with hybrid computers, not to mention the use of clouds and the task befalling those responsible for ensuring customers are being served in a timely manner appears more like black magic than pure science. Yes, availability still matters and HP being pragmatic about this key attribute of NonStop is something we can all be very proud of – outages today are simply unacceptable.

The support of things, the majority of which are likely to be machine sensors and instruments including the many such devices present in our cars, may not all be supercritical or warrant the supporting technology infrastructure that we associate with NonStop, but with increasing legislation and a healthy appetite from some market segments such as insurance, one man’s nice-to-have may very likely be another man’s must-have and command the presence of the most available systems possible. In an earlier post to the WebAction blog, How Will the Internet of Things Impact Streaming Data? WebAction Director of Marketing, Jonathan Geraci, made similar observations. Referencing research by Forbes journalist, Mike Kavis, Geraci states that, “This sentiment is aligned with our thoughts that we are moving away from a software world of ‘query/response’ (ask a question, get an answer) and moving toward the sensing enterprise.”

Building on this sentiment, Geraci then goes on to suggest that, “In the sensing enterprise software monitors your streams of data and acts autonomously to specific correlated events in your streams. The IoT drastic increase in the number of connected devices will dramatically increase streaming data volume, velocity, and variety. The next logical question is how will you handle all of the streaming data from the Internet of Things? The WebAction platform provides stream analytics applications that are extremely efficient and easy to use.” And yes, as we are now seeing, WebAction supports the many logs and event files that are maintained on a typical NonStop system.  

In my most recent exchange with HP’s Simonds, he reiterated the value that comes from being as pragmatic as the HP NonStop R&D team has demonstrated to be through the years. When it comes to NonStop systems, everyone involved knows of the “very clear mission – to build a computer that won’t fail.  All our development is in sync with the mission and every developer hardware and software has to answer the question ‘what happens when this fails?’ Not if, but when.” Yes, all those years ago, Simonds notes, “Tandem was the first to have no single point of failure.  That has been copied.  Tandem was the first to have online repair.  That has been copied.  But NonStop after 40 years is still rated by IDC as an Availability Level 4 (AL4), a full level higher than any clustered system.  NonStop still has the lead but many systems are catching up.  That’s why I am very happy that Wendy is relooking at Indestructible, Scalable Computing.”

When Margo and I first turned a wheel on a race track it was in a fully automatic Corvette – the C6 Corvette in the picture above - it was for very pragmatic reasons; it allowed us to concentrate on learning the track. Trust me; when it’s your first time on a track, you are looking everywhere to make sure you don’t hit another driver. With the volume, velocity, and variety of data streaming into our data centers, having a system rated an AL4 lets you worry about the processing and all that such processing entails without having to look down at the console to see which process is actually running and whether failures have occurred at a critical time. Can you believe it? NonStop thriving after all these years?

To be truthful, perhaps we should be going back to our CIOs and asking how alternate offerings survived at all – being pragmatic, of course, perhaps CIOs already know of this and have a lot more to do with the longevity of NonStop than we care to acknowledge. Maybe NonStop isn’t as big a secret as some of us suspect and maybe, just maybe, a spectacle isn’t really what a CIO is looking for today!