Friday, January 29, 2016

Turning up the heat!



Piecing together comments made at number of recent conferences confirms just how big a role NonStop will play in HPE’s plans. Centered on transformation to a hybrid infrastructure HPE inclusion of NonStop bodes well for all who continue to invest in NonStop systems. 

It’s been a vicious winter so far for many of us living in the U.S. Watching the evening news has become an exasperating exercise – home shows highlighting the value of island life in the tropics continue to tempt many into chucking it all in to go native. Yes, it’s very cold and the eastern states are still shoveling out from one of the bitterest blizzard conditions many can recall. Here in Boulder, it’s been chilly for an extended period, with heavy snowfalls across the continental divide whereas in the west, the effects of El NiƱo storms are finally making their presence felt, particularly on the Golden State. To say there’s little heat coming out of California is only telling part of the story!

When Margo and I built our house, we asked for a bar to be included. This didn’t initially surprise our architect but when we told him just how big a bar we wanted, together with an adjacent wine cellar, the eventual scale of this feature took him back a tad – seriously? You want a bar how big? Being a mixed Polish / Australian family didn’t help comfort our architect, but he did get the picture. Eventually! Yes, that’s a photo of the bar taken this week and when the weather is this cold and we want to turn up the heat then, come five o’clock (somewhere), it’s where we both head for the evening. It’s at times like this, when the warmth coming from its fireplace is truly appreciated, that we are drawn to this bar, down under! 

Basements are a novelty to anyone raised in Australia – there was never a need for a mechanical room to house the heating system and strange as it may seem, few houses were built with central air conditioning even as temperatures always passed 100 degrees F in summer.  The landmass of Australia always did a great job in providing more than enough heat to handle so having the option to retreat to a cozy area, as we do, is a completely unexpected benefit from settling in a predominantly winter climate. However, it’s not only the time of year that is influencing the temperature but for the NonStop community, HPE has certainly turned up the heat beneath NonStop and there’s rarely a post written this year for the NonStop community that doesn’t highlight new possibilities for NonStop as HPE continues making sizable investment “big bets on NonStop.”

As I looked at HPE NonStop product roadmaps and begun to speculate on potential outcomes for the NonStop community, I am even more upbeat  about the future for NonStop than I have been in a long time. And that’s quite an admission coming from someone who has always been bullish about the prospects for NonStop. What is in stall for NonStop is unquestionably benefitting from the focus of HPE R&D plans for Mission Critical Systems. And isn’t the support of mission critical applications pretty much what every major IT system pursues today?

In prepping for this post I have talked with vendors, consultants and users and the picture that is forming and that has me anticipating a bright future for NonStop centers on NonStop participating in three different areas. It’s as if NonStop not only has come to a fork in the road, but more than one road is ahead of it and it’s headed down three of them, at a minimum. In short, I am speculating that we will not only continue to see NonStop the System, but NonStop the Software and NonStop the Service as well. Did anyone miss the posts that followed the presentation by Martin Fink, EVP & CTO, HPE at November, 2015, NonStop Technical Boot Camp? If you did you would have missed reading of how Fink now talks of NonStop as being the best software platform on the planet – for more of this, check the post of December 15, 2015,
Picking the line …

The completion of what reputedly was a $250 Million investment by HPE when it migrated NonStop systems from Itanium and ServerNet to the Intel x86 architecture and InfiniBand is sizable by any measure you care to use. However, making the NonStop X family of systems every bit as contemporary as its competitors is turning out to be only half the story. In what I suspect will be a further $200 Million investment, the new stated goal for NonStop is to make it independent of infrastructure and in HPE speak, infrastructure is the processors, the interconnect and networking, and storage we all associate with any system today. Freed from the shackles of a specific hardware configuration, contemporary NonStop will be able to grab all the resources it needs for the duration of any task that comes its way.

Cool! As my good friend and business colleague Sami Akbay, Cofounder at WebAction, Inc., likes to remind me, returning the cool factor to NonStop is essential to its longevity and if you want to attract the latest talent to work on NonStop, you have to sell its cool status. Without belaboring the point, bringing fault tolerance to solutions, whether running on metal or virtually, without changes to the application or the middleware stack is no mean feat and Andy Bergholz and his team of NonStop engineers truly do need to be congratulated.

Of course, this will all come down to an enterprises appetite for risk, but Bergholz assures me that as soon as the companion handbook, describing optimal configurations for NonStop needing to run in a virtualized world, is completed we will see the release of NonStop the Software. Again, purely speculative on my part, but I am predicting that this will likely happen mid 2017 with select users up and running before the next NonStop Technical Boot Camp in November, 2016. This option is being developed as there are industry verticals committed to running only in a virtual world and for these customers alone, the investment warrants the effort Bergholz and his team are making.

When it comes to working with, “fluid pools of disaggregated compute, storage and fast flexible fabric that can be quickly composed, decomposed and then re-composed according to the needs of an application or workload,” as Fink explained at HPE Discover 2015, London, equipping NonStop to participate alongside other software platforms will be much appreciated by the NonStop community and highly valued by users and vendors alike. You want cool? How much cooler can NonStop be than this!

“Running NonStop in a virtual (environment, based) on Linux? As an important proof point, we can absolutely get there!” This came from Fink in a presentation to the NonStop community at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, November, 2015. However, there was more, as Fink went on to say, “Wouldn’t it be cool to bring the NonStop value proposition to Linux and bring to market (more) powerful hybrids – a powerful combination.” This was just a sneak preview that NonStop wasn’t just going to be able to run in a virtualized world, but would be making a contribution to HPE’s future offerings. NonStop components underpinning elements of ContainerOS? Why not – and again, this is just speculation by me at this point.

However, what is highly likely is the ability to access NonStop SQL (NS SQL) as a Service and with that, the potential to access NonStop itself as a Service – you want a particular application to run AL4, then just check the box and NonStop components will be invoked. I covered this in a webinar sponsored by IR this week – and you can replay this webinar by following this link -
http://www.ir.com/prognosis-infrastructure/webinars/nonstop-x-the-new-goal-independence-from-systems-infrastructure  What many folks forget is just how well NS SQL scales, how inexpensive it is, and most important of all, how NS SQL supports mixed workloads, 24 X 7. Timeframe for NS SQL as a Service is a little further out, where I am not expecting to see product becoming generally available much before 2020.

The pieces are all there. Future generations of IT professionals will have option – carving out a NonStop, the system, configuring NonStop, the software, and tapping NonStop, the service. NonStop development is really going to be turning up the heat and there will be much we associate with NonStop today appearing in many places – imagination is all that is required. Hard to imagine and no, there will be no loss of the NonStop fundamentals as NonStop, the system, will continue to fly the flag for NonStop as we know it today and be an option for at least another decade. However, what turning up the heat is doing is giving all in the NonStop community the confidence to keep investing in NonStop and for me, that’s perhaps the warmest message of all coming out of California.      

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cooking up a storm …

When it comes to cooking it’s important to have the right ingredients and for the NonStop community, HPE has all the right ingredients are at hand. And not just for one tasty treat but for many – NonStop is factoring into many more plans of HPE …

I continue to be approached about my ongoing interest in NonStop systems, with my contemporaries asking me to give it a break! Surely, the industry has moved on and what once made NonStop so unique has little going for it today – industry standard solutions are so reliable, why would you pay any premium for fault tolerance, and isn’t fault tolerance essentially a waste of hardware? Redundant processors, duplicated controllers, limited application software offerings – isn’t the time of fault tolerant over? In today’s highly mobile world, where everything is low cost, why preserve with NonStop? And truly, are these ingredients still important for today’s fast-moving enterprise?

At this time of year, with much cooler temperatures and snow on the ground, North Americans forsake the grill and head indoors. From Thanksgiving onward there’s barely a week going by without some special meal or another being prepared as it’s a time to welcome family and friends – even small gatherings to watch the “big game” on television need catering and there are many reasons why the festive season becomes a marathon. Did I mention I like my food with a little extra spice?

Walking into the kitchen this weekend on more than one occasion I found the island littered with spices and vegetables in preparation for another meal. While Margo and I are neither vegetarians or have any diet restrictions our overriding compulsion is to enjoy meals that feature fresh fruit, vegetables and yes, meat, fowl and fish. Those of you who follow our Facebook pages know all too well of how much we enjoy food and indeed cooking and for us it really is all about the ingredients. We entertain a lot and almost exclusively our guests gather in the kitchen to watch, where the obvious question always arises, “What’s cooking?”

To even the most casual observer with an interest in technology, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is cooking up a storm, so as to speak. From its vision to its strategy to the goals for itself it has published, there’s a growing awareness that this isn’t the same old HP we thought we knew so well for so long. And change it has to do, as today, enterprises wanting to move quickly to capitalize on new ideas and new business opportunities have to be more responsive than ever before. No longer do we see these enterprises discussing their three or even five year plans or even talking about new initiatives that will begin to develop traction in a year or so. It’s all about what is being done today and which deployments are taking priority and even that vendor or partner is being leveraged.

For the NonStop community, in less than eighteen months we have seen the NonStop X family introduced, a sibling to the original systems unveiled (and shipping) and a new API developed in order to better integrate NonStop with key systems,  including enterprise Windows and Linux. The NonStop X NS7 X1 supports 2, 4 and 6 cores whereas the NonStop X NS3 X1 supports 1 and 2 cores – more variation than we have seen available from HPE for a long time and there’s still a viable NonStop i family on offer as well. The ingredients are all there for fast moving enterprises to capitalize on the “highest level of availability and reliability in high-stakes environments demanding continuous business and 100% fault tolerance.”

When it comes to low cost, that doesn’t mean our kitchen practices change – while we have eaten a hamburger and ordered pizza when away from our home, fast food and instant meals are rarely seen in our kitchen. That’s not to say meals cannot be quickly “assembled” and there’s been many a time when both of us have gone at it, prepping a meal when timeliness has been an issue. For us, speed doesn’t mean loss of quality or indeed, value. And yet, how many enterprises do we know that have simply abandoned normal business practices and simply blindly followed fashion – and the “Gucci Marketers” that champion process comprised of little else than “wood and straw.”

My biggest concern over wanting speed is to confuse speed with being fast. Expedient, versus efficient and optimal! The microwave oven in our kitchen is rarely used as the finished product is always less than desirable. I know there are many families when there are few alternatives and where the task of managing a large family intercede and for that reason, there will be a need to gravitate to the expedient but when it comes to enterprise IT, the same arguments cannot be made.

There’s a tempest to come and it has many names – M2M, V2V, IoT, etc. - where everything and anything will be communicating and where the world of sensors will dwarf the population of the planet. Already we are seeing commercials on television promoting GE as being an “information / computer centric company” that also makes trains, planes and even hospitals. “Do you know what GE is,” being the tag line of these commercials.

It’s been a long time coming from me but it’s time we all take a second look at HPE and ask a similar question, “Do we know what HPE is?” Unfortunately for a number of NonStop users, the wheels were put in motion a couple of years ago such that their enterprises are electing to move solutions to platforms apart from NonStop. Not as many as some in the industry predicted but nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore.

This was back when Itanium was under attack and when it wasn’t being made all that clear by former HP executives what the future of NonStop was going to look like. But now we know – HPE’s mission critical server portfolio, while it still includes Itanium, is all based on x86 and supports Superdome X running Linux, mostly, plus some enterprise Windows, and NonStop X.

And as we heard at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, NonStop is the best software platform on the planet! Yes, ingredients for tomorrow’s systems are on display and it doesn’t take a whole lot of second thoughts to realize that mission critical processing on NonStop is even more viable than at any time in the past. Just as important as NonStop, the product or even NonStop, the technology, is HPE’s confidence in NonStop to be a critical component of its high-end product portfolio.

Equally as importantly, NonStop as software that is independent of hardware and infrastructure, ensures it will be playing an important role in what’s to come – Converged Infrastructure? HPE Synergy? NonStop as a Service? You want leading edge then yes, you have it – NonStop is right there in the mix of some of the most advanced technologies HPE is working on, and for good reason. It’s a key ingredient that cannot be left out as it brings with it the fault tolerance; the always-on world of the planet requires it to deliver on user expectations.

Every three years around this time I post of my three wishes for NonStop. The next such post isn’t due until July, 2017 – if you missed the last one, check out the February 14, 2014 post to this NonStop community blog, Yet three more wishes! However, three years is a lot of time and so a few years ago I began blogging about what my wishes may end up being eighteen months before the date. Again, if you missed reading my previous teaser for the post above, check out the July 19, 2013, post, Are our wishes still important? There’s still six months to go (and another HP Discover event, June 7 - 9, 2016) but already it’s becoming clear to me what I expect of NonStop in the future.

We will know a lot more about NonStop running on virtual machines as well as real machines, and we will likely know a lot more about the compelling story line behind NonStop as a Service together with NonStop SQL as a Service. But perhaps most important of all, we should be seeing the transformation to hybrid computers HPE is promoting, to all and sundry, beginning to take shape and where NonStop will be a vital cog in their deliverables having the fault tolerance HPE is now promoting more aggressively than at any time in the past.

NonStop has never had wasteful, redundant processors, unnecessary duplicated controllers, or even limited application software offerings. There may have been times in the past where our confidence in having a specific solution running on NonStop may have been low but today, look at what can be done with Java and indeed, now with JavaScript – there’s very few solutions available today that cannot be ported to NonStop in whole or in part (with hybrids) so there’s no limit to where NonStop will play a role. Of that I am extremely confident.

What’s cooking at HPE? In truth, with the ingredients on hand, HPE has all it needs close at hand. When it comes to what it tastes like and how it presents, not to mention how much is ready to be consumed, then HPE has the ability to turn out NonStop systems almost at will – the x86 storyline has much to contribute on this last point. The confidence of the industry in HPE, as is my own confidence in HPE, may not be something that is equally shared by all but one very important consideration is very much on display. From Meg Whitman and Martin Fink on down, HPE is changing up the recipe and it’s for a treat that many of us thought would never come. Yet it has – NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the service. Of course, I will want mine with just a little extra spice!  


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Out of the ruins – transformation. For NonStop it’s all about speed and scale!

Familiar territory for the NonStop community – with NonStop X we have speed as well as scale – and with transformation under way together with the emphasis on hybrids, there’s much to cheer for when it comes to HPE NonStop systems!

Last year, around this time, Margo and I spent several weeks on the road, attending numerous industry events held across the western states of the U.S. On one such trip we found ourselves driving through southern Arizona where we came across the ruins of Casa Grande. We stopped to visit the ancient ruins and despite what we were told, I am not all that sure anyone knows precisely what was going on millennia ago, nor whatever  happened next. I touched on this briefly in the post to this blog of February 6, 2015, Of hubs and spokes; of niches, clouds and beyond the horizon; it all looks good for NonStop X!, where I referenced another post, this time to our social blog of February 3, 2015, In truth, we are but travelers … This latter post was where the photo (above) first appeared.

If there’s one theme underscoring every message emanating from HPE of late it’s been transformation. Whether it has been the recent NonStop Technical Boot Camp keynote presentations or even the more recent 2015 HPE Discover event in London, transformation is never far from the limelight. And for good reason, we are witnessing a major sea change under way at HPE as it vigorously inserts itself into a rapidly changing world where the makeup of tomorrow’s data center is undergoing radical surgery, according to every authority prepared to go on record. Transformation is what is happening within enterprises, everywhere, and the changes accompanying transformation are hard to miss!

Many years ago as I wrote a column for The Connection, I talked of changes taking place in the NonStop Enterprise Division (NED). I was kicking around the thought of leading with lines from the Donovan song (of the 70s), Changes, which included such lines as:
     Everyone is right
     Everything is wrong
     Don't let the changes get you down, man

However, then marketing head, Chris Rooke, proposed that I lead with something a little more upbeat and proposed I reference the Bob Dylan anthem, The Times They Are A-Changin', with lyrics that were much better known and put a more positive spin on change:
     Please get out of the new one
     If you can't lend your hand
     For the times they are a-changin'.

No matter your preference, the point remains the same. Transformation is underway and whether you see this as being something positive or cause for concern has, in fact, more to do with your background and perhaps the length of time you have spent in IT than the proposed transformation itself. Old ideas will be relegated to the dustbin.

In short order, even as new technologies are embraced, and the sacrifices being made are in the name of improving speed and productivity – there’s no better way to express the need to transform then wanting to stay in business. We all want a disaggregated world that is virtualized, and software-driven, “coming together on the day” to meet the challenges being faced! Change is happening right in front of us and if we aren’t seeing these changes taking place first hand, then we aren’t a part of it and that’s never a good thing for any of us.

With snow laying all around the house and temperatures in the single digits Fahrenheit it’s a time to watch movies. While channel surfing the other night I caught just a couple of minutes of a Julia Roberts movie – always a good way to take the chill off the evening. “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation,” observes Julia Roberts character in the movie of 2010, Eat Pray Love. And it really caught my attention.

Those living eons ago in what are now the ruins in Arizona may have hidden their intentions just as Roberts too expressed regrets about the past in her film. However, for the NonStop community, there’s no hiding that we do know what’s going on and we do know the intentions of HPE for the future of NonStop. We may not support the notion of former ruinous times but we do know we have somehow made it onto the road of transformation. But really, “ruin is a gift?”

Only the other day I was reading how transformation, to be effective, is a gradual process often building on what was once a thriving technology ecosystem. It has been my experience that change that is recognizable as transformational, particularly as it applies to technology, evolves and morphs even as successful transformations collect adherents along the way. Such changes, in order to develop the “stickiness” that leads to their eventual success, needs to be delivered in small incremental, yet digestible, bite-size chunks.

Too much change brought on by any transformation may overwhelm those involved. Mistakes will happen and opportunities will be missed leading to chaos and potentially distrust (of technology, products, as well as vendors) and there’s been ample evidence of this through the decades. Perhaps, in truth, that will prove to be the ruin of some of us! Maybe too a case of “Everyone is right; Everything is wrong.”

I have enjoyed my outings in our track-prepared car on famous American road courses and I hope I have the opportunity to return to such activities this year. One thing that always comes to mind is the approach every driver takes to improving their lap times, no matter what circuit they tackle. After a couple of observation laps, as the right driving line around the circuit is determined, improvements are only achieved through gradual changes to driver inputs. If you were taking a corner at 50mph, you would increase your speed by just 2mph the next time around, adjusting braking and turn-in points appropriately in response to what your car communicates to you – after ten laps you are comfortably taking the same corner at 65 mph, or even higher, and doing so smoothly. However, if you rush the process, jumping from 50mph to 65 mph in just one lap, the potential for disaster is assured.

For the NonStop community, HPE is now telling much the same story and for good reason – the potential for disaster is almost as assured for those who fail to plan for transformation. Clouds, public and private, open software, industry standard components and interconnects – it’s a new track few of us have had time to experience, let alone become comfortable with the approach needed (to really get the most from our time on track) to become proficient at supporting any of the former building blocks of transformation.

The most important element of transformation, according to HPE, is hybrids and, in particular, hybrids that include traditional data processing systems along with private clouds. HPE has made it clear that going alone with public clouds is no longer part of its own strategy (even as it’s willing to partner with those having a presence in public clouds) and it’s making big bets that for many of the enterprises it serves, the incremental changes required to include private clouds represent the gradual change these enterprises more readily accept.

Two words have recently entered the vocabulary of transformation that the NonStop community may find intriguing, if not a tad familiar. Speed and Scale – who could have guessed? HPE CEO, Meg Whitman, recently tweeted “Speed is really what it’s all about.”  Yes, a sense of urgency is now permeating the commentaries coming from HPE, and again, for good reason. HPE has to communicate what’s special about HPE, and do it quickly. Just as enterprises everywhere cannot afford to delay transforming – business ruins on the horizon become visible quickly – neither do they want to stray too far from following a more measured approach. No one wants to crash, of course, but we all want to be more responsive.

Just as important as speed is the issue of scale – as you start with transformation to a hybrid (including cloud) you quickly run into the problem of scale, according to Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. I have written on this topic in the January / February, 2016, issue of The Connection, published in my column Back for more … “As your business continues to demand faster insights from more data,” Martin suggests, then clearly “there will be more data and with more data there are more apps and this ends up meaning there is more infrastructure to where eventually you need more people.” Ideal? Well, not exactly!

As Martin states in the video capturing his general session keynote presentation at the recent event in London, HPE believes the path to a transformed hybrid infrastructure is composability but not just at a systems level or even infrastructure, but in support of applications as well. In fact it is the goal to have composable apps that drive composability deep down into the stack and in order to better equip developers and administrators to do this, containers enters the discussion. Yes, the goal of transformation is to accelerate productivity – a necessary yet significant change if the NonStop community is to meet the business demands for faster insights from more data. And yes, avoiding the potential of ruins, with speed utilizing systems without limits.

Speed and scale – perhaps, yet another lead into the topic of NonStop as a Service? Hybrids, where NonStop has a presence? Virtualization, from the metal up and yet, without a virtual machine! Containers we associate with virtual machines that no longer require them and indeed, are the new operating system? Changes aplenty of course but from a vendor we can trust – and this is every bit as important a transition for HPE as anything else on the roadmaps because the last couple of years have left many within the NonStop community a little short on trust.

I will have more to say on trust in a later post even as I am not advocating a ruined landscape to anyone in the NonStop community as a pre-req to this instance of transformation. Yet, speed and scale are going to usher in changes that will not be leaving NonStop out of the discussion and will go a long way to ensure NonStop systems don’t end up populating the landscape as nothing more than ruined relics. So no, don’t let the changes get you down. Embrace change, take the necessary baby steps and even if “ruin is the path to transformation”  let’s be happy that with NonStop, the ruins we encounter will more than likely be the systems of others who failed to step up and accept the challenges that comes with transforming IT.   

Monday, December 28, 2015

NonStop – why some may be fearful, quite wrongly, about the future (of NonStop)?


“You are what you read,” so read a headline of a column in Fortune magazine – but to many in the NonStop community, what we read about NonStop may not be all that appealing to us. But should we be fearful? 

At this time of year you more or less have to prepare yourself for gifts family will give you even if past experiences suggest not to be too surprised by what finds its way under the tree. However, this year, one of the more imaginative gifts I received was an apron to wear while I grill. Or pull corks from a bottle. The message was hard to miss, “Bites, Bytes & Blogs. I deliver.” Yes, I’m very much into bites, bytes and blogs.

Two years ago Margo and I made the trip to Denver and we repeated the journey once again. Even stayed overnight in the same quirky hotel and took time to walk the city streets to check out the changes – none bigger than the completion of the fully refurbished Denver Union Station. While more complete observations on the transformation of not just the railway station but the dwellings surrounding it will appear in an upcoming post to our social blog, Buckle-Up-Travel, it may end up proving to be a destination in its own right – has a great bar and an even better common area. 

Blogging for different clients and armed with different agendas has kept me fully occupied for yet another year. In my August 20, 2015, anniversary post to this blog, Another anniversary … and NonStop still holds center stage! I noted that over the years my business and social posts have attracted quite an audience. From association blogs (e.g. ATMmarketplace and more recently, BAI, IBS Intelligence), to vendor blogs (IR, comForte, DataExpress, WebAction, etc.) to NonStop community blogs, like this one, Real Time View, there have been more than 1000 posts with readership anywhere from 350,000 to 500,000 plus over the past eight years.

Today I consider myself a professional blogger, even as I view the work I do as no different to what more illustrious (and higher profile) industry analysts do, and increasingly, providing commentary and opinions both written and verbally, as in webinars, has begun to take more of my time. As a former Tandem Computers and ACI Worldwide product manager, this has to be expected of course. With the year coming to a conclusion, my first order of business is to thank each and everyone one of you who has read a blog posting by me.

While scanning my home page on LinkedIn a few days ago, I came across another blogger who’s one witty observation made a big impression on me. If you read LinkedIn on a regular basis I am sure you saw it too. It simply said, “A blog post is like a miniskirt; it has to be short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the subject.” While I blog I am also at heart a storyteller and coming up with new ideas is what keeps me awake at night – there’s not a day that passes where I am not on the hook to come up with two unique storylines for the clients I serve.

However, the observation has a point and so, depending on the communities I post to, the length of the post will vary, but at all times, there will be short hook that gets your attention and then what follows is the message I want to convey. In the end, of course, it’s all a moot point if you don’t read the post and furthermore, it’s even less interesting if I cannot get you to think about the message I provide or have you come up with ideas of your own. For the NonStop community, so much is going to change in the coming 24 to 30 months and while I am excited there may be many within the NonStop community who face this new future with dread.

In the December 15, 2015, issue of Fortune Magazine there appeared a column, “
The Big Think – You are what you read.”  The column opens with, “Innovation. Ideation. Out-of-the-box problem-solving. Creative decision-making. So much of what we value in the brave new economy depends on people having fertile, expansive, and dynamically open minds,” But then, the writer hits us with, “So it may come as a surprise to many that the default state for our minds seems to be, well, ‘closed.’ Or at least inhospitable to ideas that differ from the ones already set in our consciousness.”

Ignoring for the moment that the electronic version now available online differs from the written text in the magazine and now reads, “The Big Think - This Is Why You Can't Always Trust Data” but it is the same story and I will return to this thought a little later in this post, but for me, the thought that you are what you read along with the observation that the default state of our minds seems to be closed is something I have come to understand after all these years of blogging.

We may be technologists and we may all be involved in IT but that’s not any guarantee that we welcome change. On the contrary, it’s why I now believe so many within the Nonstop community are fearful of the changes coming to NonStop. Furthermore, why aren’t we exploring the many ideas we have for NonStop preferring, I am seeing all too often, to just keep on doing what we have been doing?

“This is an unfortunate state of affairs for a matter as important as,” in this case, let me just plug in NonStop for arguments sake. Quoting once more from the column, “But it also offers some insights that may be valuable for all of us—lessons about how we draw conclusions from data, and how leaders should act on data.” The reason I am focusing on this particular aspect of the column is that the writer outlines three important considerations applicable to all of us in the NonStop community.

“First, the process of generating ideas gives the illusion of novelty of thought. But very few ideas are new.” This is then followed with, “Second, decision-makers must frequently choose a course of action in the face of imperfect data. It is why we pay leaders—to make tough calls when circumstances are murky and the path is anything but clear.” And then, “Third, data analysis, be it in universities or in industry, is conducted by someone with a set of incentives.” Finally, summing it all up, the column ends with, “The challenge for all of us is to stay informed, but not fully formed in our views.” 

At this time of year I want to encourage the NonStop community to keep reading, to be ever wary of who is writing the post or article, and to not have a closed mind but also and yes, most important of all, accept the challenge of staying informed without already having “formed our views.” The revision to the subtitle of the Fortune column – in print as “You Are What You Read” whereas in electronic form, “This Is Why You Can't Always Trust Data” - are connected. Raw data from analysts and industry observers (and I include myself as a potential source), is everywhere. In today’s always-on world you can find data to support every possible position you would like to explore. But it isn't always correct or not without bias. 

Being smart calls for not just reading the data / information and weighing it against what you know within the context or framework of what’s happening, but rather being open to the thought that what you did know may no longer be in touch with any new reality. And for NonStop, it’s now a world that is opening up to us in ways we simply had not anticipated just a year ago. NonStop as software? NonStop independent of infrastructure? NonStop realizing value from virtualization without any dependence on a hypervisor? And perhaps, a lot more!  

The question we all have to face up to is whether we are on board with, “Innovation. Ideation. Out-of-the-box problem-solving. Creative decision-making.” Or, are we simply fearful of all that may transpire? If we up for thinking a lot more about NonStop then assuredly, we are just leaving the blocks as we entertain an exciting year to come! And yes, on this, watch for even more blog posts to come. I deliver? Well, let’s just see how that all works itself out in 2016.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Time for gifts and time to sing the praises of NonStop!

It’s so easy to become too pragmatic and to ignore the progress that comes with the passing of a year – but this year, the journey for NonStop has taken us all down a new path. NonStop as a software offering and solutions vendors are welcoming the transformation! 

This time last year I wrote of how I was kicking back and taking it a little easier and I wish I could write something similar now. There are but a few days to go and I am engaged in lively exchanges with a number of my clients as each of them looks to the New Year with a degree of renewed energy that I did not see being so high in quite a few years. But it’s hard to miss the holiday season with chorales singing outside crowded shopping malls and there’s still my own list of gifts that needs to be checked off even as the snow continues to fall along the Colorado front ranges. Even so, there’s still evenings when I can cook outside and I never miss an opportunity to fire up the grill!

One of the true benefits of being independent and yet enjoying strong ties with a goodly number of vendors focuses on NonStop systems is that you get as many opinions as there are vendors and this really helps when it comes time to summarize all that has transpired in a year. I always find time to email a question or two to my clients, particular in the lead up to important user and vendor events, and many times their responses help frame questions I ask of Hewlett Packard Enterprise executives and managers and I am still processing the results of what followed.

I have been spending a lot of time of late, too, picking over past blog posts as well as wandering onto web sites featuring technology and architectures I am interested in – there’s nothing like a couple of Google searches to put you right in the middle of some very interesting musings. I still think Gartner is old school these days, preserving their observations to only paying subscribers, but even here, many of Gartner’s key findings end up being referenced in publications like ComputerWorld as well as the likes of Fortune and Forbes magazines. 

However, there are a lot of columns out there in the ether well worth chasing down and even my posts are being more widely read. Recently, I was asked to grant permission for another payments focused publication to republish my posts to the forum ATMmarketplace on NonStop and payments solutions. Seeing my posts being reposted in the IBS Intelligence Blog is always a good sign, not so much because it’s my commentary that’s proving of interest as much as it is that posts featuring NonStop are fashionable once again.

In the lead up to the 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp I once again asked my clients a simple question. If you owned the NonStop HW / SW roadmaps, what would be your top three priorities? And let’s think big rather than just an outstanding RFE we need; “let’s go big, or go home,” as the song suggests. Among the responses there were the obvious, “Price / affordability needs to be high on HPE’s radar. We’ve lost a couple of customers simply because they’ve re-platformed.” 

And then there has also been a lot of attention paid to the database offering on NonStop including stark reminders that more work is needed. When you read about the need on NonStop for, “Redis, an in-memory DB, (together with) MongoDB, a document-oriented NoSQL DB.” The work associated with database received a boost when Redis running on NonStop was part of a demo by HPE solutions architects at Boot Camp (which in turn was referenced in the post of November 23, 2015, What did I learn from 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp? As for price / affordability then this has taken me down an old familiar path this week.

In the post this time last year, For NonStop users, this is our season! I celebrated the first shipments of NonStop X systems. At the time, I referenced an exchange I had with OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. Yash is always very forthright about where he sees NonStop heading even as he remains very bullish over his own potential to exploit NonStop in the markets he serves so it came as no surprise to hear of his initial purchase. “I have purchased a NonStop X to see how we can leverage the latest technology for our OmniPayments and Big Data solutions,” said Yash in that post in 2014. 

“Since the announcement by HP that NonStop would support the x86 architecture, their announcement of the NonStop X family is cause for celebration. And for two reasons – the positive reinforcement it gives to the NonStop platform remaining strategic to HP as well as the continuing push for greater use of lower-cost commodity technology. As we see it, there’s now nothing unique about the hardware, it’s all a software play for HP and we can work with that!”

We now refer to commodity hardware as industry standard even as we have come to accept NonStop as being all about software, with Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, telling us all at Boot Camp how NonStop now is “the best software platform on the planet.” But no other vendor I know is more excited by the improving price / affordability than OmniPayments so I went back to Yash for additional observations.  When I asked him whether, on the first anniversary of his comments above, did he remain as bullish in 2015 as he was in 2014, the response was more than I expected. 

“Yes, one year later and we are even more impressed with the NonStop X family that we were this time last year,” responded Yash. “Back at the end of 2014 we had purchased a NonStop X7 but since then, the equally impressive entry level NonStop X3 system has arrived with a price point that makes it highly competitive in the markets we serve. As a result we have already air lifted two NonStop X3 systems, fully populated with OmniPayments payments solution software, into South America – and they are now installed and will be operational shortly. And we now have two more NonStop X3 systems about to arrive in our California offices where they will be set up for new customers also in South America.”

When I then asked Yash whether the NonStop vendor community was equally as bullish and whether he needed any of their product offerings as I checked to see what the impact on OmniPayments pricing of solutions would have, the response was even more illuminating. “No, we don’t rely on other vendors for expensive middleware. That’s what allows us to competitively price our products and in the markets we serve this is helping us drive new business to NonStop. When it comes to OmniPayments there is no Pathway licenses, no replication software, no external monitoring software and we have negotiated a discounted NS SQL/MX license that we bundle with OmniPayments, passing the savings directly to our customers.”

Furthermore, said Yash, “As our architecture is based on a thin client model when it comes to connected terminals and devices so again, our customers need not budget for many items that other solutions mandate. For right now, we are finding new opportunities among midsize to small retailers who for decades have been overlooked by NonStop sales but for $5,000 per month, we are delivering a Rolls Royce solution for a competitive price.” Not content to leave the issue of other vendor participation at this point, I asked Yash if he saw value from advising his customers about what other vendors did provide and then exposing his customers to the thriving ecosystem of NonStop vendors active in the NonStop marketspace.

“Absolutely! Customers can augment our payments solution with other vendors’ middleware products and many of our customers have done that. We receive calls about options in a number of areas but the point is that with NonStop X3 in particular, the pricing is so competitive that traditional middleware vendors need to consider their own value proposition. 

It’s not for us to tell them how to run their business as that’s not our call but for NonStop X to continue to grow its presence in key markets, we all have to stop thinking in terms of selling million dollar systems to where we can now support hundred thousand dollar systems. Add into the mix that we are now selling OmniPayments as a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering from out of our own cloud configuration made up of NonStop x systems, and we begin to entertain even more aggressive pricing as we support pay-as-you-go models.”

When it comes to price / affordability, the ecosystem of vendors we have that are focused on the NonStop system know requests of HPE run both ways – it’s a question they ask themselves as often as they ask HPE. The simple fix each vendor tells me is for HPE to put more focus on NonStop and to sell more systems but today, this is a solution sell and the real answer lies in attracting more solutions to NonStop. 

This is an age-old, easily recognizable, “quick fix” and as a community we all have been promoting for a very long time. But not so fast! It takes considerable effort to turn those boats around but having said that, with the price / affordability we are now all witnessing, perhaps the first couple of boats to leave the flotilla and head NonStop’s way may happen.

In the post of November 29, 2015, To profit from business the business must profit! I blogged about Martin’s keynote presentation and wrote of his seven rules of strategy. Rule four of strategy, according to Martin, was “Know your Value Proposition.” As Martin retold the story, “I was blessed when I came to NonStop; everyone in NonStop knew the value proposition by heart – Data Integrity, Scalability, Fault Tolerance.” 

As a community perhaps the time has come for us all to consider adding a twist to this that is all of our own doing. Perhaps, today, it may be time to respond with yes, it’s scalable, available and by the way, affordable. With the holiday season in full swing this may be the very gift that all in IT need and we shouldn’t be bashful in heralding this latest addition to the value proposition of NonStop! 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Picking the line …

Following the interviews and discussions that took place during the 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp it was time to follow-up with those working more closely on the products featured in keynote presentations. And the storyline that develops here takes it cue from those discussions …

With the arrival of winter entering our garage is tinged with a degree of sadness with wires snaking around cars as they stand connected to battery charges. Not for the icy roads of Colorado are these rear-wheel drive sports cars and while we continue to transition to more suitable vehicles for our location, I cannot help but anticipate sunny days ahead even as I save away a few pennies for new tires on our track-focused sports car.

In any highly competitive car race, where there’s barely any separation between competing drivers, there’s little chance any driver will be able to hold the perfect line around the course. There’s simply too many competing for too few feet of track and every turn a circuit throws up at the competitors sees drivers prepared to try different lines to gain an advantage. As I was once advised, “observe and learn the racers line around the track as when it comes to the event, you will likely never be in a position to follow it.”

Point being, in a close field, every driver has to have something in reserve to counter what those around him do and while everyone is close to the edge (of disaster) the good drivers, and those who are perennial winners, just know when to feed in the corrections needed to avoid disaster while gaining that elusive winner’s edge. In IT, we call this transformation in the sense that we have to walk the line between what it is we need to support – those production applications that cannot afford to be disrupted – and where we need to be. Furthermore, for each step we take that moves us closer to the transformation goal we pursue, we need to ensure what we already have in place inches forward right along with the steps we take.

This past week has been tumultuous to say the least. Put it down to the proximity to the holiday season, or simply the end of a quarter or even end of year, but the type of inquiries being made and the number of questions being asked has been as high as I can recall in all my time as a blogger. Whether it is a private email or a more public exchange on one of the more popular online forums, there’s no questioning the NonStop community’s enthusiasm to participate in the debate over the future of NonStop and the direction it is clearly taking. Following a number of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) big tent events worldwide, including the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, the HPE spotlight has intensified its beam directed at NonStop.

At Boot Camp we heard from Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Randy Meyer, VP and GM, Mission Critical Systems at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Andy Bergholz, Director of Engineering, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where the outcome was certainly one that encouraged all who participated in the event. Not for a very long time had there been such a resounding message of support of NonStop given to the NonStop community and the fallout from the keynote presentations continues to reverberate through the NonStop community even now. For many of us it was a wake-up call to truly reconsider the future of NonStop systems as HPE has clearly made a sizable investment in its future even as it turns up the heat on the value proposition of NonStop systems – there’s little confusion or ambiguity about the intentions of HPE concerning NonStop. “NonStop X? It’s the best software platform on the planet!”

When Martin Fink took to the stage at Boot Camp, he walked the audience through the moves that were required to execute on a strategy and then projected a vision for NonStop unlike any we had heard previously. It was more than just the separation of NonStop from a dependency on hardware. It was more too than just the potential for NonStop to have an impact on developments taking place in areas such as clouds, virtualization and even the open source community. As Fink noted, “Adoption of open source is not a technology choice but a business choice,” and a reflection on changing attitudes within IT.

“Take NonStop to open source? Take a NonStop feature to open source,” Fink suggested at one point, even as he posed the question of whether HPE could, “Enhance existing projects with NonStop?” In other words, HPE could pick from many lines to take when it comes to NonStop, but even so, with other powerful interests all around HPE seeking the same track space as HPE, it was going to take a lot of concentration on the part of HPE engineering to steer NonStop clear of the competition.

However, when Fink touched on virtualization he touched a nerve with everyone in the audience. “Running on a virtual (environment) on a Linux,” Fink asked before adding, for those interested in the topic, “As an important proof point, we can absolutely get there.” Furthermore, looking at it a little differently, “Wouldn’t it be cool to bring the NonStop value proposition to Linux and bring to market (more) powerful hybrids – a powerful combination.” If there were to be a future for NonStop in clouds, for instance, then there has to be a future for NonStop atop a virtualized world.

Fink closed his keynote suggesting too that the NonStop community needed to consider the possibilities of a future where NonStop could be supplied as a service as well as NS SQL. Tantalizing, for sure, given the task of engineering NonStop to run on a variety of virtual machines atop of popular hypervisors – something that Fink alluded to as already happening deep within the NonStop engineering labs (as evidence of an important proof point being reached) – and yet surprising news all the same.

In the weeks that have followed Boot Camp I have been able to catch up with Andy Bergholz and if not immediately apparent to those attending Boot Camp, the source of much of Fink’s renewed enthusiasm for NonStop came about following discussions with Bergholz in the days leading up to Boot Camp. There have been numerous projects announced by HP in the years prior to the formation of HPE. Project Odyssey, Converged Infrastructure, and more recently, Composability and even the most recent announcement pertaining to Synergy and Docker. But the work on NonStop to firstly remove dependence on the hardware even as NonStop embraced the Intel x86 architecture has its roots in work done long before these projects received the attention in the press that they did.

“NonStop is not just about being independent of the hardware,” said Bergholz. “The goal for NonStop is to make it independent of the infrastructure; as we see it NonStop is above the infrastructure and our goal truly is to include within NonStop an infrastructure independence such that you can layer NonStop atop your choice of infrastructure.” As for markets, Bergholz acknowledged that “the ultimate goal of NonStop in a converged infrastructure market (so that) you can continue to buy NonStop systems and I want to be able to sell as wide as possible in terms of verticals. But there is another customer base that want to run clouds and NonStop needs to be able to run seamlessly across their chosen (cloud) infrastructure.”

And yes, they have NonStop running on top of at least one hypervisor without the need to add anything to the hypervisor and that, Bergholz added, “We have no plans to require changes to the virtual machine a customer selects even as we want to be able to run atop as many different virtual machines as may be out there.” Part of the work being done by NonStop development is to come up with a reference architecture whereby obvious configuration requirements will be provided – don’t configure two NonStop processors on the same CPU, for instance. “Our goal is for customers to fully understand the (likely fallout) from the configuration decisions they take.”

For some time now, the industry has accepted the definition by IDC, “the premier global provider of market research” of Availability Level 4 (AL4) and a reference to a level of availability only NonStop along with select implementation of IBM’s mainframe Parallel Sysplex can provide. Imagine a future virtualized environment, cloud or otherwise, where checking the box for AL4 brings with it the provisioning of a NonStop as a Service capability. Likewise, check the box for mixed workload SQL whereby tables can be simultaneously access online by transactions even as statistics are performed and the maintenance of tables is pursued, and NS SQL as a Service will also be provisioned.

For anyone who has been on a circuit competing with likeminded car enthusiasts, finding and maintaining the racers line is never an easy task. The challenge in doing so often calls for minute adjustments that take the car away from a preferred line but in so doing, the skilled driver can gain the upper hand. The course that has been followed of late by NonStop development hasn’t always been clear to the NonStop community but having been given the scoop on strategy, vision and now goals for NonStop, the picture is becoming a lot clearer. Avoiding potentially disastrous race-ending “incidents” is a priority for all racers and this is clearly something HPE engineering has been every bit as sensitive to as the most seasoned racer. And having said this, NonStop has picked the right line and it’s only clear track ahead!
 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

It’s time to give thanks …

As we focus on transformation of our data centers and consider hybrid computers along with clouds, once we are passed implementation then are we needed any longer? Will the prospect of driverless cars lead to unattended data centers and is this necessarily a bad thing?  


The turkey has been demolished along with all the trimmings and now it’s time to set about erecting the Christmas tree – or whatever it is that anchors your celebration at this time of year. Thanksgiving, Christmas and then the celebration of the New Year are always “cause for celebration” in our household. Over the past couple of years we have elected to escape the Colorado winter landscape in preference of something a little warmer but, with a growing tribe of grandchildren, all thoughts of escaping have been tabled for this year.

However, as I take the time to shake a martini, there’s still much that occupies my mind following the 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp even as I post to other blog sites and give webinars. My email inbox has been populated with some very interesting questions as the discussions I have started on LinkedIn have drawn more than one comment. The NonStop community can best be described as being anything but shy and I believe that remains one of the strengths of the community just as it’s a constant source of inspiration for new posts to this blog.

What stands out for me following Boot Camp is not just the growing complexity of our data centers as their transformation continues or even added intricacies that hybrid computing brings with it, but rather, the future of the data center operations teams. As I was often reminded, whenever it was my turn for a stint at the console more often than not it was with the explicit instruction, “don’t touch anything!” As a computer cadet in the early 1970s I had to rotate between writing code, shuffling tapes and card decks to storage outside the data center and yes, “watching the console” in case there were issues with the paper passing through what was still nothing more than an electric typewriter.

Being thankful for the turkey we roast is one thing and being thankful that our career choices took us into IT and with that, introduced us all to the NonStop system, is something we can be just as thankful about, but is it all about to change? Given just how much attention in the financial press pays to the intersection of business and technology and the transformation this is driving can we assume business people will become technologists with scant regard for the skills we possess? It was Meg Whitman, CEO at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who told the attendees at this year’s HP Discover in Las Vegas, “Every business is a technology business today.”

Whitman also referenced a report that had said, “IT strategy and business strategy are no longer separate, they have become inseparable.” To add even more weight to this observation, in the December 1, 2015, issue of Fortune Magazine, editor Alan Murray wrote of how, “John Deere, the 178-year-old tractor company, to stream real-time data on soil and crop conditions back to Monsanto headquarters.” He then added, “If John Deere is a tech company, who isn’t?” Both the remarks by Whitman and Murray made it into my most recent webinar and for a good reason; I see no lessening in the pace of transformation that is driving all companies into technology even as I see pure technologists becoming a dying breed.

AT 2015 HP Discover that was held in London last week, in an interview with the hosts of theCUBE (from the SiliconANGLE Media team) Antonio Neri, EVP and GM at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, gave us a little more information on the transformation HPE is help fueling. “The objective for HPE is to solve the issues that the enterprise is facing today, such as bridging the old to the new,” said Neri. “Deploying an infrastructure that is cloud ready, making the life of developers much easier and ultimately making a radical step forward in the way infrastructure should be provisioned deployed and managed.” True, this was an introduction to more information on what HPE now calls composability; “We think at the end of the day the enterprise has to become composable,” but it also places additional emphasis on technology that’s needed as we transform to become technology companies.  

My clients span a number of technologies and products but already I am beginning to see something similar to what is being talked about; every business is a technology business. With the work I do with Striim and the analytics the company performs on data streams in real time along with the work I do with IR and application monitoring, not forgetting the conversations I am having with comForte as they too look at adding to the depth of (security) defenses on offer, it’s all about dovetailing selections of data into processes looking for anomalies and patterns. It may be an oversimplification on my part, but we now have the power to see the needle even in a stack of needles – something I illustrated in a Boot Camp presentation on IoT when I referenced what Hertz was now doing when checking-in returning cars.

According to Hertz, “The Internet and new social media technologies have made consumers more connected, empowered and demanding. The average online user is three times more likely to trust peer opinions over retailer advertising.”  This drove Hertz to begin proactively scouring social media feeds whey they found out those patrons being transported back to an airport terminal had all the time in the world to blog about their experience. “Using a series of linguistic rules, the system categorizes comments received via email and online with descriptive terms, such as Vehicle Cleanliness, Staff Courtesy and Mechanical Issues,” Hertz reported. Adding how, “Automated tagging increased report consistency … and roughly doubled what the managers had achieved manually,” Hertz became more responsive to changing patron experiences as they happened, leading to greatly improved car return experiences.

Apply this to the oversight of myriad collections of applications supporting any business – with the technology now available is it reasonable to expect us, mere mortals, being capable of intervening in a timely manner and being consistent in all the responses we provide? I don’t think so. If there’s one thing I am sure about is that if a task needs human intervention then its ability to scale is questionable. After years of reacting to alarms and alerts, even with bigger dashboards giving us more of a clue as to the overall situation, surely it’s time to take us out of the loop?

The growing complexity of what is being introduced into the data center is only part of the problem as I see it. There’s something more fundamental at work here that compels me to give thanks over the imminent demise of the data center operator. At the same time my issue of Fortune magazine arrived so too did my issue of Motor Trend. In the January, 2016, issue of the Motor Trend editor Edward Loh wrote about autonomous cars and his recent experience at Google. When asked about a number of recent accidents involving Google’s self-driving car, “What has surprised me is the frequency, actually, of the number of times we’ve been rear ended … Humans are just not paying attention,” came the response from none other than Google founder, Sergey Brin.

“That’s not the end of the world,” added Brin, “but that speaks to the challenge, with all the phones and other distractions of our modern age, to drive. In those situations, the car is probably much better equipped to drive than the distracted human.” Exactly my perspective, too, on today’s contemporary computer systems including the latest NonStop X systems. Who can challenge that the latest NonStop X system is likely to be better equipped to handle any anomaly – particularly something involving multiple systems in a hybrid configuration – than a NonStop X system itself? Furthermore, and again at a more basic level, who can argue that even the most gifted systems manager or operator will not be distracted at the most inopportune time?

Is there a place for big data analytics, and in particular data stream analytics, in the real time world of transaction processing? Absolutely! And it’s only just the beginning of the era of pointing our own technology at ourselves – having the smarts to detect patterns as they emerge will be critical to the running of any data center including those where NonStop is present. Science fiction devotees have long known that space craft can only traverse space once the programming for the flight has been initiated – no pilot steers the ship once it’s jumped into hyperspace.  And as imaginative as this may sound there’s a recognizable element of truth about these actions.

Yes, NonStop systems are heading to where the trust we have in them will be commensurate with just how much we let NonStop systems manage themselves. It is great that, in these early stages of the transformation (of our IT), NonStop has the help from many of its partners. However, taking the operator out of the loop, in time, will be a given for many IT groups even as the focus of oversight moves to where it’s most needed – the managers of the business. If every business is a technology business as we now are coming to appreciate then every business manager is an operations manager. So yes, perhaps we still have much about which we can be truly thankful! 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

To profit from business the business must profit!

There’s very little need to introduce this post as the previous post signaled that this would follow – and yes, it’s all about the strategy and vision for NonStop as presented by HPE executives during the 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp.

Last year, at the 2014 NonStop Technical Boot Camp, I wrapped up my presentation on big data and its importance to the NonStop community by quoting race car driver, Rick Mears, when he said “To finish first, you first must finish!” I followed that reference with one of my own, to leverage big data, you first must participate. In other words, before you consider the potential value proposition from what big data has to offer, you need to take a couple of baby steps forward and try integrating with big data.

Now it’s a year later and this message remains as true today as it did back then. But here’s a new variation on that original remark by Rick Mears, to profit from business, the business must first profit. It’s a hard lesson the marketplace provides us all – a business needs to demonstrate its products make money before the business can become profitable and return dividends to stakeholders. For the NonStop community there’s no escaping the reality that the future of a NonStop system hang on by a thread for quite some time as first Compaq, HP  and ultimately, HPE, wrestled with how to return NonStop to profit – for many of us, the fact that Tandem Computers stopped being profitable back in the 1990s escapes us.

In my previous post to this blog, What did I learn from 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp? I included a teaser for this post when I blogged of how, in his keynote presentation, Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, told all of us that his marching orders when being promoted to head the NonStop Enterprise Division (NED), were “Fix it … or, Exit!”  I then added how Martin said he never really contemplated an exit even as he was given little room to get the business healthy. What I didn’t include was Martin’s follow on comment, “I needed a plan and I needed a strategy.”

What followed was cheat sheet for all future leaders faced with oversight of a business that wasn’t profitable; a guide map that leads to a significant turnaround (of fortunes). Martin called it his seven rules of strategy and right off the bat, as he began to walk us all through the list, it didn’t start with a customer centric focus. Nothing as cute as “Put the Customer First,” or similar, but rather, when it came to rule one it was “Be Selfish!” And here’s where he took control of the audience as he said, “If a company doesn’t make money, all other considerations are not possible.”

Several years ago, at a CTUG event, I was struck by the smile that grew across the face of Randy Meyer, VP and GM, Mission Critical Systems at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, when he told all gathered to hear his keynote of how the NonStop organization had returned to profitability. This I touched on too in the post of May 6, 2014, Step on the gas! where I referred to Randy’s presentation of the previous year, where his energy had been spent on righting the NonStop ship and plugging the leaks – the prognosis at the time was less than appetizing. It seemed, according to Randy, that with every shipment of a NonStop system, HP was losing money and on that basis, it would have been easy for HP to simply walk away.

If being selfish, as Martin admitted, resulted in the righting of the ship and a return to profitability, then many other executives should be just as selfish. But there were more rules of strategy Martin explained. If the first rule of strategy is Be Selfish, then next two rules fall somewhat into place – rule two is “Make a Contribution” followed by rule three, “Observe the Customer.” Martin then explained that for him, “I don’t just want to compete; I don’t just want to win: I want to make a contribution.” Furthermore, “In order to make a strategy, we need to observe your actions.” As opposed to “listening to your customer which is tactical.”

Talk to anyone in customer support or even product management and every community witnesses firsthand how every new widget needs to be supported even as every bug needs to be corrected and these are the most pressing issues of the day. Not! Having an opportunity to count how many x86 systems are arriving on the dock outside a data center can tell you a lot about where IT is headed and I picked up on the groundswell of support for the Plug-Compatible Mainframe (PCM) business when I first read of the plans by Fujitsu in Australia to move out of a small suburban office in Sydney to a very large new building overlooking Sydney Harbor. As they say, something was very much afoot!

Rule four of strategy brought smiles to the faces of everyone in the NonStop community, “Know your Value Proposition.” According to Martin, “I was blessed when I came to NonStop; everyone in NonStop knew the value proposition by heart – Data Integrity, Scalability, Fault Tolerance.” No matter who he talked to in the NonStop community, whether they were developers within his own organization, vendors, or customers, they all said the very same thing and this was a first for Martin. Nowhere else in IT is the value proposition as well understood as it is within the NonStop community. I believe that knowing your value proposition also brings with it incredible focus and an ability to make decisive moves in support of that value proposition, something we all have seen with the arrival of NonStop X.

Rules five and six evolve from rule four. “Understand the Technology at a Very Deep Level” followed by “Structure follows Strategy.”  Understanding technology was behind the decision to move on from ServerNet and embrace InfiniBand even as Martin’s staff at NED, all those years ago, became more and more focused on NonStop as a software offering. The transition from Fault Tolerant hardware offering to a NonStop software solution began with Martin’s promotion to NED. Readers of this blog will know full well of how long I have been writing about this transition and where it’s headed. If Martin revealed much about strategy the other word heard for the first time was vision, and with NonStop as a software solution, it’s time to think of virtualization and of a role for NonStop in a fully virtualized world.

The final rule? When it came to rule seven it was as if we were circling back to the beginning. According to Martin, this rule was “Know Your Business Model” When I heard this it brought back many memories from my childhood school days. I went to an all-boys high school as was the fashion in Sydney at the time, Normanhurst Boys High School. Our school motto was “Know Thyself” and I suspect around the planet, our school wasn’t alone in selecting such a dictum. One explanation of the meaning of Know Thyself I came across in the magazine Psychology Today, suggested that “Personal intelligence opens a privileged window into our own minds as well as into the most byzantine motivations of others.” In short, to be selfish, you need to know what it is you’re being selfish about – and for Martin, the deeper into his presentation he went, the more the audience could see there was no hiding from his enthusiasm for NonStop.

In future posts I am going to cover in more detail the vision for NonStop even as more information on this topic came the following day in the presentation by Andy Bergholz, Director of Engineering, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. As with strategy, expressing publicly a vision can only be done when there is confidence in the future of a product or service and the resounding message coming from this year’s Boot Camp was that NonStop was at the heart of numerous funded projects deep within HPE. A long term vision that has NonStop as a service? And what about NonStop SQL as a service?  There will be additional posts shortly on these topics so watch for them. Yes, truly, we have seen the return to profitability for NonStop and with profitability, all of us who are stakeholders in NonStop will profit from NonStop.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

What did I learn from 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp?

How do the words of a Jimmy Buffett song, a car magazine’s report of the Viper and the message from Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, “Fix it, or Exit” have in common? Only at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp would you make such a connection … 

Sometimes you just know that, at a time when you least expect it, your travels take a detour. Now, having said that, and with winter beginning to make its presence felt, getting hit with an icy, wintery blast shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But hit us rather hard, it did!

In the opening stanzas of the song, Jamaica Mistaica, by Jimmy Buffett there’s a couple of lines that I find appropriate at this time of year:

But every now and then, the dragons come to call
Just when you least expect it you'll be dogin' cannon balls


Having successfully traversed the Sierras and made the passage through Nevada and Utah to pull up the mountains and into Wyoming, well sure enough, we were dodging snowballs as Interstate 80 was closed east of Rawlins effectively cutting us off from any hope of making it home by Saturday night. On the other hand, Sunday morning saw the Interstate open once again, and even with some vehicle restrictions, we made it home in one piece.

However, the thought of “dogin’ cannon balls”, or in our case, snowballs, took me back to where we had been, San Jose, California. The event that occupied our attention for nearly all of last week was the NonStop Technical Boot Camp and there’s always mixed emotions whenever this event comes around.

I remember all too well the ITUG Summits of former times and miss them a lot, but Boot Camp, after an inauspicious reboot a few years ago, has come on strongly these past couple of years so much so that the events are beginning to resemble ITUG Summits of past years. If you had as yet not made up your mind as to whether you would ever return to San Jose for Boot Camp than be concerned no more – plan for it as NonStop is only now beginning to flex its technology muscle in ways many of us thought we would never see again.

Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, gave an enthralling keynote address that was, almost to the day, a decade after he took the reins of the then NonStop Enterprise Division. So, yes there was something celebratory in his presence. What he covered in his keynote I am going to address in my next post to this blog but I want to make sure I did include one point Martin made right from the get-go. 


It now seems that Martin was given very specific marching orders as he accepted the leadership position of NonStop – “Fix it … or, Exit!” Now, there were a few exhaled breaths following this declaration by Martin but immediately after telling us about this directive he then added that he never really contemplated an exit even as he was given little room to get the business healthy. Talk about dodgin’ cannon balls!

Now for a first; in the presentation the following day by NonStop management, talk turned to the NonStop vision with an update as to where NonStop was headed in the coming years. From a possible exit of the market to a comprehensive discussion of a vision for NonStop in just one day” Kudos to a corporation willing to green-light a bright future for NonStop and this wasn’t missed by any of the attendees!

For me it is still very much about what happens in the exhibition hall and for this year’s event a lot of business was transacted around the tables.
The set up of the exhibition floor, with coffee served on a regular basis and the tables used for all meals, there was ample time to talk with vendors. Throw in so many presentations by vendors on topics we all wanted to learn more about – NonStop X migrations, hybrids, new solutions and much more, and you gained a real sense that interest in all things NonStop was beginning to return to a community long on patience, but just a tad short of significant and indeed, cool technology.

My own personal favorites were those pertaining to the arrival of node.js on NonStop and with it, the support of JavaScript. From presentations given by the HPE solutions architect, Keith Moore, to the skinny on what was being provided in the initial release by the developer deeply involved in the port, InfraSoft VP R&D, Dave Finnie, there’s no greater endorsement of the contemporary nature  of the NonStop X family than seeing something as important as Server Side JavaScript becoming available. If you would like to participate in the early release phase of bomBora – the node.js deep port from InfraSoft - contact InfraSoft’s Managing Director, Peter Shell.

And in case you missed it or were unaware of what transpired, in the joint presentation by HPE solutions architects, Keith Moore and Justin Simonds, with some assistance from Alan Charley, set up some sensors that were in the room and where two of these sensors were transmitting – one was sending out current temperature and the other was a button that sent a message out when someone hit the button. The other two were receivers with one displaying the temperature from the first one, and the other would light an LED when someone pressed the button on the other one. So what’s so cool about that? 


According to Simonds, “Well the two transmitters were sending their information to a NonStop X7 at the ATC over MQTT running into Mosca (Node.js, javascript middleware) that wrote it to a Redis keystore database, also running on NonStop and available because of InfaSoft’s bomBora.  (MQTT - formerly MQ Telemetry Transport - is a publish-subscribe based ‘light weight’ messaging protocol for use on top of the TCP/IP protocol. MQTT.js is a client library for the MQTT protocol, written in JavaScript for node.js and the browser.) Redis is a pub/sub database and the two receivers in the room were getting data from this database, not from the sensors in the room.  Pretty dang cool and only available because of node.js!”

Running a close second was the sheer numbers behind the success of OmniPayments. In a presentation, Migrating to OmniPayments, CEO Yash Kapadia (pictured above during the presentation) talked openly of the architecture and modules that make up OmniPayments, but two items clearly resonated with me. If you have ever wondered about the scalability of NonStop, then stop! It’s now a moot point.

At one customer site, the message bus underpinning all OmniPayments products runs across 3,000 CPUs – more than the installed base of NonStop users running BASE24, for instance. The other significant item is the arrival of OmniCloud X where Yash has standardized on NonStop X systems to populate the cloud and if you were wondering about sales of NonStop X systems, then it’s probably a good idea to talk to Yash. He’s installed one of the 7s in his shop, loaded up and shipped out 2 more 3s and has orders in for a couple more 3s – all to brand new users of NonStop!   


High on my list too is the success with the NonStop community WebAction has had with its Striim (pronounced "stream") product. While there are factions within the NonStop community who express concerns over the viability of Big Data Analytics having an impact on NonStop then the initial deployment brings it all back to earth. Imagine having the math to be able to reduce a NS SQL database to a pattern then instantly knowing whether the NS SQL database at a backup site is current or a few seconds or indeed a few minutes behind? And then imagine too heavy penalties for falling behind by too much and simply not knowing it – well, Striim is doing exactly that for one big NonStop user.

With so many new discussions on virtualization springing up around almost every table, I should reference my latest white paper on storage virtualization together with support of both IaaS and PaaS. Written for the team at Tributary Systems, Inc. it is now available and downloadable from their web site under the heading of Storage Director: Avoid the “Lost Ark” with Critical Business Data, I cover the capabilities of TSI’s Storage Director product, which I believe is a big step forward as far as virtualized storage goes.

All things considered – and yes, there were many other presentations given including a couple where I participated (WebAction / Striim and DataExpress) that included support of Big Data and Big Data Analytics – it would have been a very brave NonStop advocate to suggest, only a couple of years ago, that the topics covered at a user event would include contemporary languages, clouds, big data and virtualization. But so much has changed and all of it for the better. NonStop as a software offering coming from HPE shortly, I think we all need to follow the vision for NonStop more closely in the coming months.

A special thanks to folks like HPE's Justin Simonds who co-presented with me on IoT Analytics (IoTA) and DataExpress's Susie Raye who helped me connect the dots between secure file transfer and big data. And watch for promotion of a webinar I am planning on doing featuring what is touched on in this post and much more that is part of an ongoing series of webinars I am doing for the team at IR and check out their web site for more details including how to register.

“Any time you’re feeling depressed about the state of the world today, just remember the Viper ACR exists, that there is actually a functioning corporation out there willing to give the green light to the consumer sale of what is essentially a (street-able) racer.” So wrote a journalist this month in the motoring magazine, Road and Track. Furthermore, “Driving a Viper, like riding an open-piped Harley (Davidson) is to place one’s self outside the influence of anything so stifling as ‘rules.’”

Arriving home from Boot Camp I cannot come up with anything better to describe the “Miracle on Hanover Street” any better as yes, the traditional, dare I add, stifling, rules of servers have been left behind with the availability of NonStop X. HPE has proved many of us wrong, the cannon balls have been dodged and the “Fix it!” plan is working so much so that NonStop now is at the very pinnacle of enterprise server achievements within HPE. Kudos all round and until next year’s Boot Camp, thanks too for all the material you all provided that will work its way into many more posts to come.