Sunday, January 25, 2015

Floating in space, I need a lifeline …

Cloud computing continues to dominate much of the popular discussions of late, but when it comes to putting real systems to work in support of real applications, there’s much to be said about the inherent value that comes with hybrid computing deployments and this is becoming netter known within the NonStop community …

During the holiday we watched the Clooney / Bullock movie, Gravity. It was a very well made, not-so-quite SciFi drama, set in space but believable in that it was about the International Space Station and a fictional journey of recovery in an old-fashioned space shuttle. The imagery was beautiful and portraying work in space entirely believable. So much so that I gradually inched forward on my seat, anxieties building and really appreciative of the tethering they enjoyed to the shuttle and to the telescope that they were repairing. Obviously, Clooney ever the adrenaline junkie was enjoying himself untethered as he drifted around doing a “spacewalk” and checking out the view.

However it was a short sequence in the movie that brought me back to earth rather quickly – and yes, it was the manner by which astronauts returned to earth. For as long as I have been watching space exploration it seems to me that rocket ships and space vehicles were hybrids. An engine module with a separate capsule or a command module and a lunar module made up the moon orbiters of the Apollo program. Space shuttles rode into space on the back of fuel modules and so on – providing unique modules in support of very specialist operations seems to be travel de rigeur for all astronauts. Even the expected flights by Virgin Galactic are based on a hybrid craft.

When the wraps first came off the Infrasoft product, maRunga, at the 2013 HP Discover event there was an emphasis on cloud bursting – Java applications running on NonStop, for instance, could burst into a cloud environment should unexpected peaks on a NonStop system occur. However, in the time that’s passed since the wraps came off the product, the conservative nature of many NonStop users makes leveraging of cloud computing resources, in any manner, unlikely in the near term. After working with the sales arm of InfraSoft, the Team at comForte, steps are now being taken to redefine the value maRunga provides with attention being directed towards hybrid computers, even as it becomes apparent that there’s increased interest in NonStop hybrids with the arrival of NonStop X.

“maRunga, at its core, represents extensions to Pathway that embrace platforms apart from NonStop,” said InfraSoft Managing Director, Peter Shell. “Just as Pathway broke new ground with Advanced Cluster Services (ACS), maRunga can be considered as a further extension of ACS, whereby other platforms such as Linux and Unix can be included. The presence of Pathway domains overseeing multiple Pathway nodes can now be all-inclusive of any platform that may be found participating in heterogeneous configurations, such as we are now seeing appear as hybrid computers.”

The dearth of references to NonStop within hybrid computers to date belies what really has been developing at a grass-roots level among some of the more adventurous vendors looking to put distance between their solutions and those of competitors.  “With hybrid, there’s the value aspect that translates to less cost but there’s also better fit in terms of both development languages and platform optimization,” was how OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, explained his decision to include hybrid configurations in support of his payment processing and switching solutions. “We have focused on NonStop but we use Linux for the monitoring / user interface support. Even as HP is talking about packaging both NonStop and Linux x86 blades in the same chassis, we can see advantages of making even greater use of two adjacent systems as this is consistent with what we have been building ourselves – to have HP build it and support it? Even better!”

And when it does come to Clouds and NonStop, for a lot more on this topic, check out the feature OmniPayments Introduces the OmniCloud as Host for Affordable Financial Transaction Switches in the January, 2015 issue of the Tandemworld eNewsletter. Watch for a future post on OmniPayments and OmniCloud in an upcoming post to this NonStop community blog.

Likewise, the folks at DataExpress include hybrid configurations as part of their DataExpress solutions. After securely moving files between systems, business managers can opt for updates via email and with almost universal adoption of internet protocols, separation of host functions from notification features (most likely, deployed as a DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) point-of-presence) provides another, yet very important, level of security. “We acquired two products – DXNS for NonStop and DXOP for open platform – when we purchased what today we sell as DataExpress”, explained DataExpress President, Michelle Marost. “It turns out that having platform options and the ability to support hybrids will provide the best of both worlds for our customers.”

At the 2014 NonStop Advanced Technical Boot Camp, held in San Jose, I had ample opportunity to chat with Sean Mansubi, VP of R&D for HP's NonStop Integrity and x86 family of servers, database, and middleware software and solutions. Mansubi asked me about the NonStop communities interests in hybrid configurations and at first, I had little to add but after the event, I checked with vendors and like the quotes above from OmniPayments and DataExpress, it seemed there were others quietly developing product extensions that were dependent on the presence of more than one system architecture. So, after the event, I emailed Mansubi to apologize for my less than complete response to his question.

A short time ago, Margo and I had the opportunity to sit down with Ric Lewis, HP’s VP and General Manager, Enterprise Server Business – Sean Mansubi’s and Randy Meyer’s boss. While much of what we discussed isn’t for public consumption (and was mostly for my own “education”), Lewis did acknowledge that early usage of hybrid computers based on the x86 architecture that included NonStop were under way. I didn’t press for anything more, but it was clear to me that housed in a common chassis were x86 blades running NonStop as well as x86 blades running Linux. All the same, nothing more than whispers and dropped hints, I thought. But where there’s smoke, was there also even just a few sparks?

Readers of this NonStop community blog, if you read the previous post of January 14, 2015, Repurposed … NonStop the better server for database? you may have missed the comments that followed. But for me, these are the interesting aspects of blogging and I am always thinking of topics that hopefully will generate a discussion. In case you missed it, HP NonStop Product Manager, Ajaya Gummadi, stepped in and provided some rather illuminating insights. Gummadi is responsible for all things database as well as cloud computing and it was Gummadi who tipped me off about the hybrid architecture adopted by OmniPayments. However, in her comments Gummadi was anything but shy when it came to x86 blades being used in support of hybrid systems.

“NonStop X comes with Infiniband (IB) giving you 25x improvement in system interconnect capacity. What is exciting for me is that at the other end of this IB fat pipe could be a Linux or Unix computer server doing the crunches and accessing NonStop X database over IB,” said Gummadi. “Need to update the NonStop X database with the results of a number crunch just executed on the Superdome X? Sure, go ahead and send it over the IB. Need sub-second transaction data from NonStop X to include it for some real-time datalytics? Pull it at IB speeds! NonStop X is indeed enabling a new class of apps to be written. Let us get back to writing cool software.”

It has been my understanding that with NonStop X there is no externalizing of the IB pipes. IB simply terminates with controllers or adapters that support a variety of connectivity options. When it comes to NonStop X, the only thing running over the pair of IB fabrics was the next generation software equivalent of ServerNet, and unless someone was prepared to duplicate this capability on Linux or Unix, what could you really do with IB connections should they be externalized? And yet, with the improved speed IB provides and the tantalizing prospect of seeing x86 blades populated with IB chipsets, present for NonStop as well as these other systems, could this eventually become a viable part of the connectivity equation?

When I pointed out the lack of IB controllers for external connectivity, Gummadi posted the tantalizing response, “As they say, markets drive R&D and R&D shapes the market. In this case, let us start with the Use Cases and let the Roadmap evolve.” Perhaps beneath the smoke was more than just a few sparks, as clearly, some real heat is being thrown off by something taking on more serious form. The possibility of NonStop throwing its mantle around commodity processors has been a tantalizing dream of many working with NonStop and the prospect of something real eventuating is now looking a lot more likely.

And so, the new marketing message for maRunga, as it adds support for hybrid computers based on the x86 architecture, appears to be timely addition. NonStop users have traditionally been conservative and rarely open to suggestion of integrating other systems as part of a NonStop based solution. However, with the adoption of x86 hybrids, the question is turned completely around – now that you have portions of the solution running on platforms apart from NonStop, wouldn’t it be preferable to have these portions operating under the embrace of Pathway? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to be tethered to a system that ensures maximum availability? In other words, could the pull effect from deploying hybrid computers that include NonStop systems become more influential on the outcome of maRunga?

Space travel has always been depicted with hybrid vehicles – one for the long space flight with another, and more than likely multiple vehicles, for the trip to a planet’s surface. Both vehicles important in their own right with very specialized task to accomplish and yet, knowing that the mother ship is orbiting overhead, means there’s always the option of recovery no matter what eventuates. It may be a tenuous comparison but for the NonStop community, the image is all too real. Hybrid computers are coming and yes, NonStop is involved. Hybrids, by definition, are tethered and wouldn’t it be to all our advantage to make sure we keep Pathway involved? As in science fiction movies today, extending Pathway to include what else makes up the hybrid may prove to be the lifeline that keeps the hybrid whole and this might be that special market that drives the R&D that truly shapes the market in favor of NonStop!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Repurposed … NonStop the better server for database?

Architects and intellects worry about what to do with former pristine examples of technology in their day and yet, left to creative individuals, there’s no limits to what can be done to breathe new life into what otherwise might be trashed. For the NonStop community some examples raise interesting questions including the database …

One of the more interesting developments I have witnessed these past decades is the repurposing of buildings – historical buildings catering to entirely new, and often unexpected, patrons. Think Starbucks opening in the foyer of an old Sydney bank branch, near the famous Circular Quay. Think too of the former Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, one of hundreds of decommissioned churches, that was turned into a skate park – a situation that the former elders could never have contemplated as a likely eventuality. The photo above? It’s of a former Lutheran church in Edinburgh, Scotland, that has become of all things, a Frankenstein-themed bar according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). But seriously, aren’t there limits to how far we take this repurposing trend?

In the January 2, 2015, edition of the WSJ reporter, Naftali Bendavid, highlights how
Europe’s Empty Churches Go on Sale  . According to Bendavid, this “reflects the rapid weakening of the faith in Europe, a phenomenon that is painful to both worshipers and others who see religion as a unifying factor in a disparate society.” Painfully for many to read, the WSJ reporter (referencing the Netherlands), then notes how “‘the numbers are so huge that the whole society will be confronted with it,’ says Ms. Grootswagers, an activist with Future for Religious Heritage, which works to preserve churches. ‘Everyone will be confronted with big empty buildings in their neighborhoods.’”

On the same day, the Huffington Post came out with the headlines Piano Stores Are Closing As Fewer Children Take Up The Instrument where reporter, David Pitt, reflected on the fall from grace of a once major pastime for all teenagers. “Some blame computers and others note the high cost of new pianos, but what's clear is that a long-term decline in sales has accelerated,” observed Pitt. Quoting Larry Fine, a Boston-based piano technician, consultant and author, Pitt then added "Computer technology has just changed everything about what kids are interested in.” Moreover, “People are interested in things that don't take much effort, so the idea of sitting and playing an hour a day to learn piano is not what kids want to do."

Loss of churches; loss of piano players – are the two related, I wonder – and it doesn’t stop there. According to BGR, a leading online destination for news and commentary focused on the mobile and consumer electronics markets, “Movie attendance dropped by a surprisingly sharp 5.1% in 2014.” In another post of January 2, 2015, BGR reporter, Tero Kuittinen, headlines with
Netflix is starting to wound the movie industry where it hurts most and goes on to write that “The most worrisome data nugget concerns Americans aged 14-24 — people in this age bracket delivered a stunning 15% decline in movie-going. This comes right after a reported 17% decline in the previous year.” Perhaps these commentaries are a tad too tough on our younger generation as I am sure there are many exceptions; but interesting data points all the same.

All of this news broke on January 2, 2015, and that leads me to make the following observation – was I the only one to pick up on this? There’s a lot of (news) data out there that has to be analyzed and every day, I suspect, nearly all of us are doing some level of broad-brush filtering / analysis – and securely too for that matter (as it’s all in our heads) – but are we really the best prototype of what to expect from Big Data and Business Intelligence / Analytics we know lots about? At a time when there’s no counting the number of times I am being asked about the relevance of Big Data by the NonStop community, is it about time to examine the repurposing of NonStop to better take advantage of one of its best attributes of all – security?

HP NonStop systems represent HP’s halo product offering when it comes to transaction processing – when it absolutely has to be processed no matter what, NonStop comes to the fore. There’s little dispute from anyone who has taken advantage of NonStop about this very important attribute of NonStop, but in a world where “almost-NonStop is good enough” is being heard more often, can we repurpose NonStop to better serve data? As one HP expert counseled me recently, “shouldn’t we be positioning Nonstop as a failsafe and secure database server?”

If real time data analytics is important to us, and the correlation of incoming streams of data, be it transactional, historical, reference, or whatever, shouldn’t the most important data be filed away in a failsafe and secure database enterprise store? My understanding that today, the younger generation doesn’t go to movie theaters, doesn’t go to church and doesn’t play the piano has led me to believe that the interests of younger people lie elsewhere and that technology has much to answer for (and for us, much to worry about, I imagine). Furthermore, such an intersection of stories from numerous sources was something I did in real time – my real time, mind you – and that time is the factor.

Today’s youth apparently doesn’t want to spend an hour practicing the piano, an hour and a half at church or even two hours at the theater. In the always-on world we have created consumers want results immediately, and for the most part, want these results to come with little effort expended on their part. But this is just one example that I have come up with from just reading a couple of newspaper stories and I suspect that there are many more examples that can be recalled by anyone else in the NonStop community. Forgive me for not mentioning that today’s youth doesn’t want to drive, let alone own, a car, but you get the point. In our everyday lives, we are doing exactly the kind of analytics proponents of Big Data are championing; we use our brains to house the application and we access our memories each time we read a new article in the press.

It’s not a stretch to view the similarities here between what we routinely do and what NonStop systems have proven capable of doing for decades. We never go off-line; at least, for our allotted “three score years and ten.” As the HP expert referenced earlier noted, “Nonstop just makes sure that the data always remains available and intact, can't be stolen or tampered with” and that when it comes to simply having data stored on a NonStop system, “that approach can be implemented quickly and with relatively little effort.” Furthermore, and good to know as well, “Experts from HP Enterprise Services tell me that we already excel at serving Java applications connected via JDBC and for C/C++ connected via ODBC.” Not without effort, I must add, as not all Java / Database applications can be easily ported – there’s still considerable effort required, but it’s not the impossible task that some migrations in the past proved to be!

To be very clear, I am not suggesting for a moment that NonStop will be the sole database server in a Big Data framework, but rather, one where the data needs to be free from any possible contamination and where the data contribution to analytics performed against it are free from potential interference. The most important aspect of Big Data for me is to support enterprises making the same observations that I just made (with the news published January 2, 2015), in real time, such that conclusions important to the business can be reached and business outcomes positively affected. CEOs looking over their shoulders at those providing them insight are aware of the temporary nature of their tenure if they don’t adequately shore-up their data and having data on Nonstop as a failsafe and secure database server should lessen their fears substantially.

New opportunities for NonStop? Every vendor I have talked to over the festive season is anxious about just how much commitment HP will be putting into the roll-out of NonStop X – new partners, new applications, new markets are all being discussed openly, so perhaps, adding just one more use-case scenario will be welcomed by all within HP. I have always believed that NS SQL is a key differentiator for NonStop systems – proactively marketing it as an extra special “secure” database server just makes sense. And all I think needs to happen is for more of us within the NonStop community to champion the potential of NonStop – so let me know. What do you think? Is the world now ready for a repurposed NonStop system with a database in residence that never breaks, no matter what!  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome to 2015!

It takes very little encouragement from the HP NonStop team for me to provide my own commentary on what to expect to see in the coming year and for the first post of 2015, it just made perfect sense to blog about it!

Few residents of North America would have missed hearing the news about just how cold New Year’s Eve turned out to be; here in Colorado, a centuries old record for the lowest minimum temperature was set. Recordings at the Denver airport dropped to -19 Fahrenheit by 9:00pm on December 30th, with the high reading of just 1 Fahrenheit being a new record lowest high temperature for December 30th. Nothing cheery or celebratory about this, and even though we had to step outside for a brief period on the afternoon of the 30th, it was very much a case of staying indoors and simply enjoying being rugged up around the fireplace.

As for my ancestral roots, my family tells me that with 2015 being wrung-in, Sydney-siders were enjoying something completely different - temperatures soaring well past the 80s and into the 90s were pretty much the norm and fully expected at this time of the year. BBQs poolside, sailing on Sydney Harbor and catching the waves at Cronulla, Bondi or Manly pretty much summed up the occasion. However, no matter where the celebrations took place and irrespective of what the weather threw our way, it is always good to welcome a New Year and, as the countdown is completed, with the bells ringing out and the fireworks exploding begin to contemplate all that may take place in 2015.

Of course, there will be birthdays and anniversaries but this is not a topic I relish any longer. On the other hand, NonStop has celebrated 40 years and of course, that’s an incredible accomplishment for any technology / architecture given the high rate of failure among alternate product offerings. While I will leave it for another post, I fully anticipate the final days of Sun, as part of Oracle, will take place (yes, speculation is under way that Oracle will split with Sun and that Dell will likely pick up all that’s left) even as I agree with those predicting that Microsoft will spin out the Xbox unit.

More importantly I suspect for the NonStop community is the introduction of the NonStop X family of NonStop servers. It joins the NonStop I family of NonStop Integrity servers, and its arrival marks the last steps to fully commoditize the components that make up today’s modern NonStop system – everything from the chips to the blades to the connectivity fabric, it’s all off-the-shelf technology and it’s being shared with the larger HP Superdome X systems. It’s also being used by “the world’s most scalable and best performing x86 Linux system”, as HP’s Diana Cortes wrote in her post of November 19, 2014, New possibilities to transform your mission-critical environment are just around the corner to the HP Mission Critical Computing Blog – a site I routinely visit and strongly recommend to everyone in the NonStop community.

Social media will be playing a very significant role in the roll-out of NonStop X systems, and why not? In a day where information is shared instantly and globally, more members of the NonStop community are turning to blogs for insight into NonStop deployments than ever before. The opportunity to interact with the bloggers can often sort out fact from fiction and even anecdotal information is proving a godsend to many looking for insight about fellow community members’ use of NonStop today. The tabs across my own browser are predominantly populated with links to blogs from vendors and industry experts and I have to assume this has become common practice throughout our community.

Among my own clients, support of blogs is rampart although the approach taken is a reflection on the communities they serve. For some it’s the inclusion within more popular posts while for others it is maintenance of their own blogs – a similar situation to what we have seen with old style magazines and newsletters. It’s always attractive to gain a couple of pages in a well-read magazine or to be on the front page of a well-read newspaper, electronic or otherwise. My own perspective on this, naturally enough, is to ensure a steady stream of vendor information is always contained in my primary blog – the one you are reading now – Real Time View.

In discussions with InfraSoft’s  Managing Director, Peter Shell, - gaining visibility in other party’s blogs is important and represents a crucial element of Infrasoft’s marketing program. “For us, being referenced in blogs like this as well as in vendor blogs such as those maintained by comForte and IR as well as industry blogs such as ATMmarketplace, assures us far greater readership than if we had our own blog,” Shell told me. “Just generating buzz about our products is what we need and we are most interested in recent events within the NonStop community which are simply confirming our understanding about the value of having the community talking about us. As for 2015 then even as we welcome the New Year we are welcoming new customers and with that, we think all the buzz about us has helped.”

InfraSoft has been in business less than a decade but a similar sentiment has been expressed by DataExpress President, Michelle Marost. “The benefits from participating in more widely-read blogs cannot be disregarded. Providing interesting stories to bloggers to ensure greater participation brings with it a lot more visibility for us and our products than simply going out on our own,” Marost said during a recent conversation. “Naturally blogs are proving invaluable to us through sheer breadth of exposure and the more references to DataExpress the better no matter where such references surface. Of course, we are into securely moving files which is a very hot topic so I suspect whatever anecdotes we provide will find interest and possible traction within the NonStop community.”

Straddling the fence are the good folks at WebAction, where gaining as much visibility as possible is paramount. Even though evangelism is a key element of their messages to the NonStop community as the topic of Big Data and Data-Driven Apps is promoted, WebAction has taken the steps (almost from day one of being in business) to maintain their own WebAction blog. I am very supportive of WebAction and of the need for the NonStop community to be more actively engaged in Big Data so I am among the contributing bloggers to this site where my focus is totally on NonStop. “We are appealing to the broader enterprise industry,” said WebAction Cofounder and EVP, Sami Akbay, “It is important for us to engage with specialist technology bloggers to demonstrate the industry-specific value of WebAction.”

When it comes to my support of vendor and industry blogs it take very little time scrolling through sites like LinkedIn to become aware of those I support – some of the already referenced in this post – but the most important advice I received many years ago, when I first started, came from HP Vice President & General Manager, Integrity Servers, Randy Meyer. When I first posted to this NonStop community blog I advised Meyer of my intentions and his response has stayed with me through the years (and been referenced more than once). “As long as you generate a buzz around NonStop and there’s more ink ‘out there’ on NonStop,” came the advice from Meyer.

And even today, this sums up the real power of social media – in times where even large vendors have shifting priorities, there’s often occasions where little is heard about a specific product or solution but bloggers posting monthly or even weekly, fill the void. There’s little excuse for any member of the NonStop community not being aware of something taking place in the community as it will be reported on one social media channel or the other. And if it’s just the latest about a specific vendor, then a quick check of these same social media channels will more than likely provide coverage.

2015? Well, we just can’t wait to see what really transpires and as the year unfolds and plans are realized, make sure you check out your favorite blog for all the latest news! NonStop X? InifniBand? Security? Clouds? Big Data? Node.js? New solutions? It’s all about to start and a highly visible presence of NonStop in social media will be hard to miss. Yes, welcome to 2015!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Yes, we are getting it!

Along the drifting cloud the eagle searching down on the land; Catching the swirling wind … Go closer, hold the land feel partly no more than grains of sand; We stand to lose all time a thousand answers by in our hand …” so go the lyrics from a YES song written decades ago and yet, it foresaw we stood to lose a thousand answers …

In a play on a title I used for the final post of 2012, Yes, I get it! closing out 2014 brings with it a lot of anticipation. There will be NonStop community members – users and vendors alike – that have placed orders for NonStop X and more than likely have been testing their applications on NonStop X for some time. The prospect of installing your own NonStop X system is bound to arouse excitement typical for this time of year. For all of us living in the northern hemisphere, the prospect of spring seems a long way off, as winter has us fully in its grip, but spring will come, no matter what, and that’s how I sum up NonStop X. It’s coming, no matter what!

Perhaps more importantly for the NonStop community at large, and let me just change gears here, as it’s very easy to forget the real story of NonStop and of the journey that will now see the passing of a major milestone. NonStop thrives because it brings unquestionable value to the most important transactions of all – those reflecting the interaction between business and consumers. Behind the increasingly richer consumer experience all business is pursuing there’s the execution 7 x 24 x 365 in support of every enterprise as they participate in today’s always-on world. This passage in the journey of NonStop will see it flourish as the ability to bring the most modern applications to NonStop proves more practical than at any time in the past. Commodity, openness, embracing standards, and having raw performance is a heady mix for anyone in IT.

Yes, we get it! When it comes to fulfilling its mission for the enterprise, like something from a movie plot – whether Star Wars or simply Lara Croft – we are witnessing changes on a scale that I have not seen in the many decades I have been part of the IT world. The Internet of Things (IoT) will influence all we do in unimaginable ways with literally streams of data passing us by as grains of sand. Yottabytes of data will become commonplace for many of the larger enterprises. With the arrival of IoT, Big Data will take on an even bigger role within the enterprise – we just have to know about these “things” to stay competitive in our marketplace.

HP Master Technologist, ES&A Americas, Justin Simonds, has been giving presentations on IoT a lot of late, including at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp in November, 2014. Among the slides he used one featured excerpts from the book, Fundamentals of Stream Processing, where the authors spelt out the requirements for processing the streams of data arriving at our door. “Parallel Processing”, the “Ability to Scale” and “Fault Tolerance” top the list, and for good reason. “Other application segments however cannot tolerate any failures as they may contain a critical persistent state that must survive even catastrophic failures,” the authors observe, yet another observation not lost on the NonStop community.

When we talk about clouds I foresee clouds to be just as we see them above us, in the sky – there will be thunderous cumulous clouds rising to great heights, cirrus clouds also riding high in the sky, stratus clouds much closer to the ground and of course combinations of all three. Commodity clouds, enterprise clouds, industry and association clouds and yes, as with real clouds, combinations of them all. Whiteboards everywhere will be depicting clouds within clouds intersecting with other clouds and all in the name of flexibility and versatility – the potential to dream as big as we want to.

Yes, now we are getting it! I have participated in a number of discussions of late that bemoan the fact that much of the NonStop installed base is among very conservative clients. By the very nature of the applications being supported, there is considerable resistance to change of any sort, less these mission-critical applications should founder. So watching the take up of the latest iteration of NonStop – the new NonStop X family – will be more than interesting to watch. Will the traditional strongholds of NonStop in banking, retail and the vast networks of credit and debit processing that support these industries find new ways to deploy NonStop X?

IoT will mandate Big Data just as Big Data will mandate Clouds – it’s the only way the enterprise can keep up and with Clouds, x86 will dominate for the foreseeable future and finding a home in the Clouds will be NonStop. Of that I am extremely confident – ask OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. In the December, 2014, edition of the eNewsletter, TandemWorld, there’s the heading
OmniPayments Is First NonStop Partner to Take Delivery of a “NonStop X” You will need to page down a little way to read the story that follows, but suffice to say OmniPayments Inc. will be the first HP NonStop partner to take possession of the new NonStop X server and the NonStop X is on schedule for delivery by the end of the year! Talk to Yash about where he is headed and it’s all about clouds – a basic cloud service utilizing NonStop is already operational at OmniPayments.

Returning to what will likely trigger initial interest across the NonStop community in IoT I have the sense that it will come from mobility and it will just as likely impact the very same banks and retailers already referenced. In the very near term, many of us will dispense with our wallets, other than as fashion items, and turn increasingly to our mobile phones. As “smart devices” we will be using them for much more than purchasing a latte and the subsequent explosion in network traffic will be obvious even to the most conservative of NonStop users – nothing startling here, I suspect. “Mobility is ushering in a new peer to peer paradigm from the older client / server browser / server model,” I was told by one knowledgeable source within HP, leading me to believe we will most likely see a change in the type of applications deployed on NonStop as the computing model continues to evolve.

Inside the data centers themselves expect to see not just NonStop systems but IBM mainframes as well – all networked and all engaged in the support of modern applications. Writing a little too soon, I suspect, an IBM blogger posted last month
The ultimate JavaScript environment: Node.js and Linux on System z. In today’s discussions about modernization, Node.js is never far from the spotlight. According the IBM blogger, “For those of you looking for a screaming server-side JavaScript environment, your search is over. IBM recently made available IBM SDK for Node.js Version 1.1 (even though it ‘is not formally related to or endorsed by the official Joyent Node.js open source or commercial project’) for Linux on System z. It is ideal for high-performance JavaScript server applications or to consolidate many server applications to one system to save time and money.”

Given the work being done by InfraSoft with considerable cooperation and feedback from the HP NonStop organization, as one HP source told me this past week, “Once again NonStop is out of the gates early with a JavaScript offering”. If you have just received your copy of the Nov – Dec, 2104 issue of
The Connection magazine you will have seen that the cover features the headlines, “Node.js on the HP NonStop Server” so clearly, IBM with Linux on System z doesn’t have a lock on Node.js inside the data center.

IBM System z CICS and HP NonStop Pathway are being taught entirely new dance routines and it’s a credit to their original creators that they are proving to be as adapt as they are to change. The better NonStop X and System z work together, the more prestige NonStop will enjoy and with NonStop X supporting higher LAN speeds (thanks to the InfinBand fabric supporting LAN adapters) it’s safe to say that what NonStop brings to the enterprise, in terms of price point, availability and indeed, scale-out, will be welcomed inside the data center of many an enterprise.

It’s the holiday season and it’s a festive occasion for all of us, no matter where we reside. There were many pleasant surprises among my extended family as we ripped wrapping paper from gifts and all the while I was remembering just how far we have all come on this NonStop journey. Forty years ago, NonStop were among the earliest systems to feature terminals from day one of their release. They adapted to the client server world easily and the arrival of the internet with browser access barely caused a ripple. Mobile devices? No worries – piece of cake.

Likewise, from files and tables to databases to SQL and now to Big Data, even noSQL – integration with whatever data model is most needed by the enterprise hasn’t halted the progress of NonStop. Open the next surprise gift, take a quick look and yes, a process here and a routine there and it’s supported as has been every technology introduced for the past forty years. NonStop is just that versatile and we all get that, some sooner than others, naturally.

So welcome to 2015 and yes, welcome the NonStop X family; embrace Big Data, Clouds, Mobility, IoT – work at better integrating with all we find inside the data center; Blue, Red, or otherwise. You aren’t doing anything wrong or different from what many others in the NonStop community will be doing and celebrating. Most of all? Don’t miss, as the song writer exhorted, those thousand answers that lie in our hands! And with 2015, the next part of the journey begins and it won’t be long before the industry gets it, too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

For NonStop users, this is our season!

Yes, it’s only one quarter away from being shipped to customers, and already the NonStop vendor community is very much on-board with this latest addition to the NonStop family of products …

Kicking back and beginning to take it easy as preparations for the holidays continues unabated, even as our home embraces the festive seasons. The tree is up and decorated; the wine cellar restocked; and the food is in the pantry only needing to be cooked. Preliminary parties are behind us – only the big one to go and it will be over. However, this is also the season to simply take a deep breath and to be thankful we have made it through another year as we all begin planning for 2015. For the NonStop community, it’s going to be a very big year.

Pictured above as a half-height blade, NonStop X, featuring a Xeon 4-core E7 processor - the latest product family in a long line of fault tolerant systems coming out of Silicon Valley, is tantalizingly close to reality. Just a couple of months to go before shipments begin in earnest. Just as there is with every festive season there’s also an element of surprise along with a huge sigh of relief when all that we hoped for is realized. While the HP NonStop sales organization is still holding a few cards close to its chest it’s apparent to everyone in the NonStop community that if you want to be aggressive in your dealings with HP and you want to ensure you get the best introductory offer possible, then you may want to get after your favorite HP salesman as quickly as you can.

Catching a little television, as we wrapped packages and placed then under the tree I watched the latest advertisement from the United States Postal Services (USPS). Of course any time a NonStop user comes across the airwaves, I always perk up a tad. “We’re about to make more deliveries to more places than anybody on earth,” says Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Donahoe. “Football has its season. Baseball has its season. This is our season!” I can see very few reasons why not to believe him – with family members scattered across the nation, nearly everyone in America is sending a package or two to a loved one or three!

NonStop maintains a presence in mail and package delivery marketplace – a lot more than many within the NonStop community may realize - and as the competition between carriers increases, the real-time flow of information only gets larger. Much of the infrastructure delivery services in place, including the planes, trains and automobiles carrying mail and packages, touch a NonStop system whether it’s a train scheduled by NonStop systems or simply a delivery van built on a vehicle chassis assembled with the help of a NonStop system.

However, as I listened to the advertisement by USPS the point they made struck home. NonStop support of the Intel x86 is a really big deal and has potential to see NonStop systems find additional homes. Coming at a time as it so happens when other vendors’ platforms are beginning to look a little tired, HP could mount a serious challenge to IBM and Oracle / SUN. As I posted last week (and it’s worth repeating here), with NonStop X then, according to an interview of one strategist by the Wall Street Journal, “The bigger question is how IBM and Oracle will look competitively a few years down the road. Developing your own platform with Power and Sparc are very large investments and getting bigger. Intel can literally leverage billions in R&D.”

One of the benefits from participating in as many NonStop user events as I have this past quarter is that I was able to spend time with vendors and draw from them insights about how they view the arrival of the NonStop X family. I was curious about the impact to their business and to what extent they would be investing in this latest product family from HP. Overall, the sentiment was extremely upbeat and it wasn’t difficult pulling optimistic quotes from any of them. Middleware vendors, tools and utility vendors, solutions vendors – all expressed a positive outlook for NonStop X, even as they all agreed the NonStop season was upon us.

“Of course, like many vendors, any potential expansion of NonStop usage is exciting, and of interest to DataExpress. We have been around long enough to have witnessed numerous changes to the NonStop systems, but this time the potential of having NonStop servers in an attractive price bracket is bound to attract much wider enterprise attention,” said DataExpress President, Michelle Marost. “Specifically, as some of HP’s traditional product lines are showing signs of being in decline, NonStop may very well plug the gap and see much greater customer acceptance with their new initiatives.” Reacquainting myself with DataExpress products this year has certainly been a surprise that many of the largest financial institutions on the planet rely on this product for secure, managed, file transfer in an age where “real time” dominates the agenda, it’s sobering to recall that we still need to move vast libraries of files around to ensure our enterprises continue to run.

With their solutions and working as they do with heterogeneous systems, Tributary Systems are at the forefront of data center build-out and as such, provide insight into why NonStop will be beneficial to modern enterprises. “We believe that the ongoing business trend in IT is converged infrastructure and the unifying of data centers into single unified architecture serving diverse business needs as opposed to the older ‘silo’ approach of proprietary and open systems,” said Tributary Systems CEO, Shawn Sabanayagam. “The introduction of the x86 NonStop system presents unique opportunities for Tributary to further consolidate and unify data protection across all HP platforms not to mention HP’s competitor platforms with Storage Director running on all HP hardware!”

Along similar lines, when it comes to the utilization of industry standards and commodity packaging, WebAction Cofounder, Sami Akbay, told me that, "Having enjoyed a long association with the NonStop Community, we are excited about the new NonStop X product family running on commodity servers.’ Furthermore, and every bit as important, according to Akbay, “This shift should help grow NonStop among Global 1,000 Companies, creating opportunities in real-time analytics, where the partnership between HP NonStop and WebAction can offer new solutions." Maintaining a NonStop presence within the enterprise data center is one thing, but being able to better integrate NonStop with everything else being deployed was a reoccurring theme not only of Akbay but of the previously quoted vendors as well.

When it comes to attractive price brackets this too was what comForte Marketing VP, Thomas Gloerfeld, homed in on telling me that while, “It’s a bit early to fully understand the ramifications of NonStop X the obvious one is the renewed / enlarged commitment by HP to the NonStop platform. As to the non-obvious ones it will depend on some choices HP will make in the new future, for instance whether they want to introduce a true ‘entry-level’ system and, if so, how they will price and ‘limit’ (sic!) it. Ideally, the entry-level system would encourage more people to work on and develop for the platform – while not cannibalizing the existing high quality, high-availability product. Either way, I think there are exciting possibilities ahead with NonStop X and that the next twelve months will show what new possibilities arise.”

Looking at the NonStop X from a purely comForte perspective, Gloerfeld was quick to point out that, “With its rich, flexible and somewhat modularized product and through its partnership with innovative companies like Infrasoft, comForte is certainly well positioned to take part in any new developments, providing the required additional infrastructure as needed.” Such self-promotion wasn’t limited to comForte as everyone I talked to this past quarter was quick to point out how they were going about adding value to NonStop X. More surprising, perhaps, wasn’t what was being talked about but rather what actions were being taken by the vendor community.

“We received our first (pre) order, and have to deliver a preliminary version of x86 Shadowbase for testing by late January. So, it is a HERE AND NOW effort for us”, said Gravic Executive VP, Paul Holenstein. Certainly, and understandably, Gravic, “is very excited to see these systems running in the field as they have substantial performance capability beyond the existing NonStop I bladed line, and we expect customers to snap them up pretty quickly. For this need, we are preparing for bi-directional and active / active with x86 NonStop, as well as to and from the other NonStop I models as well as other server systems (e.g. Windows and Linux).”

Going one step further, OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, was putting down his own money. “I have purchased a NonStop X to see how we can leverage the latest technology for our OmniPayments and Big Data solutions,” said Yash. “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!”

There were many more vendors within the NonStop community who told me similar stories about the work they were doing in support of NonStop X and of their upbeat expectations about the greater potential for sales that will come from having a NonStop system based on a popular, widely-deployed commodity chip-set such as HP will have with x86. Turning away from the television set following the broadcast of the USPS advertisement, I had to agree with the sentiment expressed even if I did apply it differently to what Postmaster General Donahoe was extolling. Looking at where the marketplace is headed how could we not think of NonStop X as being the product that will turn 2015 into our season?  Yes, it’s our time and it’s our season! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

HP makes headlines; NonStop message will distract the competition …

HP grabbed more than its normal share of headlines this past week and it was all good! To see as many references to Superdome and NonStop in the same sentence has set a precedent – on equal footing, attracting equal time in the spotlight, is a harbinger of good days to come!

I maintain two distinct office spaces complete with walls, windows and most importantly, doors, so that when it comes time to talk on the phone, I take myself away from my PC. I need to maintain this separation as I am prone to excessive multitasking, so much so that it becomes a distraction. Just by walking across a corridor I am in a new, considerably less stimulating place than where I spend most of my time. In a business environment dominated by the ubiquitous cubicle, one side effect from having a separate business work space in the home is that I have a real office where my daily routine doesn’t disrupt anyone else!

These past couple of weeks, distractions have been on a whole different plane. Reading the constant scroll of company and product news releases as well as newspaper and magazine headlines it seemed that HP had cornered the market. 2015 HP Discover Barcelona was proving to be a popular venue for providing fresh information to a hungry press and it ended up proving to be too big a distraction to ignore. First thing, Monday morning of the event, there was an email from good friend, Kevin McGushion of InkaBinka, informing me that he and cofounder, Chris Brahmer, were on site and relishing the opportunity to further promote InkaBinka and it made me realize just how much I miss participating in major HP events.

Following the end of the event, McGushion emailed me again. “With an emphasis placed on our natural language processing (NLP) to deliver condensed news and information, we demonstrated the power of using InkaBinka as a search tool,” said McGushion. This is the latest development as InkaBinka continues to evolve. “By directing InkaBinka to perform search, driven by Google’s API, we can deliver instantly summarized search results that quickly get to the point. InkaBinka’s powerful ability to net out important information fast when thrown against something as vast as Google, and this attracted the attention of Meg Whitman’s executive team.  According to McGusion, “One of the team members said, ‘we have to sort through large amounts of information to make informed decisions and InkaBinka could be very effective in helping us do that quickly.’ Needless to say we are very excited by the possibilities of doing the for HP.”

In a very early post to this blog, back in May 12, 2008, I wrote
The Clouds in Spain where I described a couple of days spent in the city prior to departing on a sailing cruise. I had arrived just a few weeks after the HP Technology@Work event had taken place and had reported on presentations made by key HP BCS executives. The highlight I had stated was the presentation of Martin Fink, Senior VP of HP BCS, where he talked about the move from Monolithic to Polymorphic computing. And now, seven years later it’s hard to argue that Martin Fink’s televised interview with US financial news channel, CNBC – HP's 'Machine' of the future if you skip the advertisement what follows is fun to watch.

Trying to add controversy to the exchange, the CNBC reporter wanted Fink to compare the work being done on The Machine with the IBM Watson program. Without missing a beat, Fink suggested Watson is nothing more than an App and that The Machine is where you could run such an App. Ouch, that hurt – and I’m sure the marketers at IBM are now all over this, defending the huge investment IBM has made in Watson. Nothing more than an App? Surely not! But the venue for such an interview, HP Discover 2014 – Barcelona, speaks volumes of just how important this big-tent event is to HP and its executives.

Among the more catchy headlines last week was the Dec 3, 2014, story in the electronic publication, Seeking Alpha.
Reawakening The Sleeping Giant At Hewlett-Packard, so the headlines read for an article by journalist Gary Hirst. “Is Hewlett-Packard a dinosaur trying to learn new tricks? The harsh and true answer is, yes. But HP is catching up with the times in a bold and, frankly, courageous way,” said Hirst. “Building an entirely new computer architecture is a return to the company's roots, and according to Fink, ‘We think we have no choice.’” According to Hirst, “HP is pursuing a vision that, if successful, will put it years ahead of the competition in computer architecture (Intel), data analytics (IBM), and artificial intelligence (Google). Analytics is a gold rush waiting to happen.”

For the NonStop community it’s quite refreshing to be reading that HP will offer “Intel Xeon-based versions of its high-end Superdome and NonStop servers, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and other reports.” How many thought they would see Superdome and NonStop referenced in the same sentence? The quote above came from Yahoo Finance – read the full report,
That’s gotta hurt: HP to offer Xeon-based Superdome servers – but for me, it was the final paragraph that proved truly distracting. “The bigger question,” according to Patrick Moorhead, founder of analyst firm Moor Insights & Strategy, as told to the WSJ, is “how IBM and Oracle will look competitively a few years down the road. Developing your own platform with Power and Sparc are very large investments and getting bigger. Intel can literally leverage billions in R&D.”

Separately, it was Moorhead who, in another article published in the Dec 2, 2014, issue of the WSJ,
H-P Moves to Retain Corporate Customers Ahead of Breakup said when it comes to embracing Xeon, “It’s about keeping some very high-margin customers.” This came after the WSJ noted that “Superdome and NonStop servers are still used by banks, telecommunications carriers and other companies particularly concerned with reliability.” More precisely perhaps, the WSJ then followed with, “The Nonstop line handles more sensitive jobs like ATM networks and stock exchanges. H-P inherited these crash-resistant machines from former operations of Tandem Computers Inc.” When was the last time so many articles featuring NonStop were published? 

Timed for the Barcelona event was the publication by HP of a new solution brief,
Redefining availability and scalability for x86. While there has been some discussion about it on LinkedIn groups, including Tandem User Group, a group whose membership is only just shy of 3,000 members and becoming a must-belong-to priority for many across the NonStop community, it’s refreshing to see HP marketing adding more collateral about NonStop to HP’s recently face-lifted web pages about NonStop. And I expect to see more between now and March 2015, as NonStop X availability draws nearer.

Martin Fink and The Machine; Kevin McGushion and InkaBinka. “We displayed InkaBinka in the Moonshot booth as InkaBinka runs entirely on Moonshot servers,” said McGushion. “The common thread seemed to be that everyone had either heard of InkaBinka or was using it to get their daily news.” In case you aren’t connecting all the dots it all goes back to Fink telling the audience at HP Discover Las Vegas that we will see early iterations of select The Machine components as part of project Moonshot. Watching the progress InkaBinka makes – yes, a few more dots to line up? They are big users of JavaScript including the server-side Node.js – is just part of watching one possible future of NonStop unfold.

With Intel reportedly adding support for 64bit x86 to Atom chips – according to one source I checked, “the ability of an Atom-based system to run 64-bit versions of operating systems such as Ubuntu or Debian GNU/Linux may vary from one motherboard to another” - would suggest that there may be a NonStop A on the horizon  once NonStop X is established alongside NonStop I. NonStop on Moonshot leading to NonStop properties on The Machine – makes sense to me!

Distractions can cause bodily harm. However, distractions can alert us to events about to happen that could influence the plans we have – obviously, major companies like Oracle and IBM will have read the same stories as I have just read. Their reaction will be interesting to watch in the coming weeks as any response at all will be a confirmation that they too have been distracted by the activities accompanying this latest HP Discover event. For the NonStop community the unstoppable progress being made to ship a second Integrity family – the NonStop X – is positive news. Having choice is always good news to those looking to upgrade or, perhaps, add to their installed portfolio of NonStop systems.

There are still a number of NonStop focused events taking place this month and taking nothing away from them, it’s hard to ignore the changing landscape of HP as a result of what was on display at both the Boot Camp and HP Discover. Simply by making headlines featuring servers HP will prove disruptive to the competition, distracting them in ways unseen for a long time. Just being elevated to be equal with the discussion involving the former halo product of HP’s Unix solutions, Superdome, is a milestone to remember and clearly wasn’t something HP pursued lightly – it has a lot of meaning to all who follow HP.

Perhaps my final observation should be to finish with the closing words from the Seeking Alpha article, already referenced. When it comes to the future of HP, “Buy HPQ before the pre-spinoff hype inflates the price too much, then sell off your shares of HP Inc. and put them into Hewlett-Packard Enterprises. It will be a hard road, but Hewlett-Packard Enterprises is pursuing a bold vision bridging Big Data and next-generation computer architecture.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Niches open and niches close and yet the versatile NonStop prevails!

A chance posting to Facebook had me looking at the attributes of NonStop and whether you argue for availability or perhaps scalability, in the end, just having the discussion suggests NonStop is still very much in the game …

Versatility! How many times have we heard a sales pitch that highlights the versatility of a product? In many ways, this is an approach to mitigating potential future obsolescence and it extends the product’s useful life.  Flipping through pages about NonStop on the web, I came upon a reminder of days past when NonStop was considered the Swiss Army knife of computing – versatile in its own right. This knife featured in a First-Friday skit by Jimmy Treybig that just came to my attention following a post on Facebook by long-time Tandem supporter, Maria Olivero. However, the original fault tolerant message has been replaced with new messages on availability, scalability, data integrity, security, networking, manageability and so on. So what really does propel NonStop to the fore in the twenty-first century? 

Looking around at the NonStop users present at the recent NonStop Technical Boot Camp it was pleasing to see a lot of familiar faces. Once again, MasterCard took home the NonStop Availability Award – a reminder too of the time I spent in Product Marketing as part of the NSA team under Dr. Tim Chou. However, this time MasterCard went home with a perpetual trophy as, after 20 years, the program has come to an end and it seemed only fitting that MasterCard be rewarded in this fashion having won the award more times than anyone else by my count. Seems that when it comes to availability, too many corporations are loath to talk about the levels of uptime they achieve and view the stats they may have as being strategic to the business. Even so, while some big name customers might be reluctant to talk about what they’re achieving, as far as SLAs go, I think that the bigger issue is talking about the processes that they have in place in order to achieve those SLAs. Wouldn't it be cool if we could get that discussion out into public forums! NonStop today may be about a lot more than availability but its importance to business shouldn’t ever be discounted. 

Measuring NonStop availability leads me into the subject of this post – there have always been markets where the attributes of NonStop have been greatly prized. Sometimes considered just a niche or a submarket, nevertheless, the expectations of what NonStop could provide propelled it to a place of preeminence. When it comes to niches, NonStop has a rich history of being able to dominate. Over the 40 years of NonStop systems being used, niches have proved to come and go with the fortunes of NonStop closely tied to each niche – it’s just good fortune smiling on the NonStop community that NonStop found one of the longest-lived niches in finance, for instance. For anyone who has followed postings to this blog, my fervent belief in niches, in tapping cool applications and in NonStop being at the heart of some very hard-to-do processes, have been hard to miss.

Across the NonStop community and from customers and vendors presence at numerous user group events it’s well known that German manufacturing giant, Mercedes Benz, depends upon NonStop systems at all of their plants and that these systems oversee manufacturing. In a recent editorial published in the January 4, 2015, issue of Motor Trend, Angus MacKenzie comments on how today, “If there’s a niche, fill it. And if there isn’t a niche, create a new one. That’s the mantra at Mercedes Benz these days.” I can’t think of any other way to express where I see NonStop heading than what Mercedes Benz states here and while that may not sit well with everyone in the community, there are few other viable options for NonStop if we want to talk about the next 40 years.

When you talk to the team at WebAction about their inclusion of NonStop as part of their Data Drive Apps program, the story is very much about a niche. The only reason the executives at WebAction were keen to keep NonStop in their program is that key mission-critical applications run on NonStop and as their goal is to “build and deploy real-time data driven Apps in days, not months or years” it made little sense to ignore the NonStop marketplace. WebAction, Inc. Cofounder, Sami Akbay, summed it up best last year when he said, “Niche means distinct, specific, and distinguishable. Niche doesn't have to mean small or dying. When it comes to the bigger picture of computers worldwide – then yes, NonStop is a niche.”

Along similar lines, it was OmniPayments, Inc. Yash Kapadia who told me that, working as long as he has on NonStop, that “There are times when we do struggle hard to make NonStop sound like a normal system and try our best not to call it a niche. However, when it comes to the bigger picture of computers worldwide – then yes, NonStop is a niche.” Both Akbay and Yash agree that once you appreciate that niches are indeed sub-markets, then when it comes to a sub-market as big as payments, NonStop is the predominant player.

However, is it the availability or the scalability value proposition that today fosters renewed viability for NonStop? And does it even matter if NonStop can continue to carve out niches best suited to its superior ability to support mission-critical applications? In the final analysis it still boils down to cost and perhaps, “cost – scalability”. Or, should that be “low – price availability”? According to DataExpress President, Michelle Marost “scalability to me means being able to start small, and grow.”

Marost than acknowledges that as of right now, this “is not evident in the NonStop environments, both hardware and OS, and until they are made more affordable by HP they won’t be considered ‘cost-scalable’. Like many within the NonStop vendor community watching for more news on the NonStop X product family, to exploit a niche or submarket, the price for newer models in the NonStop family have to be affordable to more submarkets and any improved viability of NonStop will likely be snuffed out, according to Marost, should there be any “elimination of a small (i.e. cheap) starting point”.

Scale-out and even, scale-up; have these attributes begun surpassing the availability story in terms of importance for the enterprise? “Guess what, we can scale to the wazoo and do you know what else? It doesn’t ever fail … cool, eh?” Will conversations like this become more prevalent in the future even among NonStop users? Just as importantly, are there even more niches for NonStop to occupy in terms of scalability than there are of availability? Is this the future for NonStop and if indeed scalability attracts the spotlight, will we likely see a greater presence of NonStop in the future? Possibly, even inside enterprise clouds?

There’s much anticipation over NonStop X and its price points just as there is over the arrival of a more industry-standard packaging of NonStop. No matter what transpires over the next few months – hopefully, a situation better clarified at HP Discover, Barcelona – NonStop is firmly entrenched in the twenty-first century with many more anniversaries to follow. Availability! Scalability! Indeed, demonstrable versatility! Pick your favorite attribute as you may want to do but in the end, just having discussions like this suggests NonStop systems remain a viable option and even as we read of companies looking at alternatives, we also hear about those that elect to stay with NonStop. And to look for new ways to leverage NonStop! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Does your interest in NonStop elevate it to being a hobby? Tell me more …

The strong turn out by the NonStop community for this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp was encouraging even as it was a testament to how strongly the NonStop system is supported by advocates spanning the generations. Could NonStop be viewed as a hobby for some and if so, did this contribute to NonStop thriving for forty years?

Many years ago my father asked me if I would be prepared to give up my Saturday afternoons to help out a friend who had just bought a yacht. I have touched on this subject in other posts – to be specific, the post of July 16, 2008, Specialist! Am I still needed? In that post I described how I began my time on a 40’ sailboat having no experience whatsoever, and that, in time and with experience, I became the sole for’ard hand responsible for everything in front of the mast. For a couple of years running, in the early 1970s, we were overall season’s winners in the category we sailed and I came to develop a real love for this “hobby”.

What I didn’t write about was of how I put back the time of my first wedding in order to be able to sail the final race only to be told by the owner, not to be that stupid – what if you slipped and broke your arm? On the other hand, it was indicative of how committed I can be to my hobbies. As for the picture above, it’s not of me but is from the same yacht club and that could have been me on the bow! Attending the 2014 NonStop Technical Boot Camp that wrapped up just a few days ago further highlighted, in a very tangible way, how strong the commitment to NonStop runs and even though hanging out with a bunch of likeminded folks was far removed from anything remotely associated with hobbies, there was still a similar feeling.

Folks at WebAction gave me an opportunity to kick-off a preconference session first thing Sunday morning -
What Does Big Data Mean for the NonStop Community? Introducing the topic of Big Data to a large NonStop group that had assembled for the four hours discourse on all things Big Data, I began my presentation with a quote by automotive icon, Bob Lutz. As far as careers go, Lutz had it all - Executive Vice President of sales at BMW, Executive Vice President at Ford Motor Company (think Ford Explorer), head of Chrysler Corporation's Global Product Development (introduced the Viper), finishing with a stint at GM as Vice Chairman responsible for all creative elements of products and customer relationships (yes, he gave us the Pontiac GTO – a rebadged Holden Monaro).

In a Q & A blog posting Lutz was once asked which job he would take. One that paid well but he didn’t like or another about which he was passionate but which paid very little. “Given the human need for food, warmth, shelter, and a decent car or two, take the well-paying job, give it your best,” responded Lutz, “and consider the other as a hobby!” And this left me wondering, how many of us would continue working with NonStop systems even if it were solely on the basis of being just a hobby? How many of those attending the Boot Camp would continue to be part of the NonStop community long after they derived any income from NonStop. It seems that NonStop, as a hobby, is appealing to many more folks than we may be aware of.

Coming up on 40 years of age – a secondary, celebratory theme of the Boot Camp – NonStop has outlasted many more famous products. The list is long – Wang, Prime, Data General, Four Phase, Pyramid, and so on, and that’s not including the BUNCH; when was the last time you thought of purchasing a Honeywell, or Control Data or even NCR let alone a Univac or a Burroughs system? In the mid-1980s the world was awash with Plug Compatible Mainframes (to IBM) and in Europe, the likes of ICL, through its connection with Fujitsu, and Nixdorf Computers produced PCMs and joined the ranks of Amdahl, Hitachi, Fujitsu and even Mitsubishi. But alas, all gone! Who in 1989 would have speculated that of all the names referenced here, NonStop (nee, Tandem Computers) would still be standing and prospering?

Perhaps, retaining a hobby isn’t that bad after all! Where the lines do blur is where the accumulated knowledge about a specific interest or topic elevates someone to a place of prominence – someone to go to for insight or simply an explanation. There are many instances where individuals are consulted about items of interest to others whether it is art, or wine, or gemstones and usually when an investment is likely. And yet, looking around the NonStop community gathered in San Jose, there was a wealth of knowledge on hand that was almost priceless.

So many times we lose sight of the human factor – so many NonStop systems continue to support mission-critical applications, forty years after the first NonStop system rolled into a data center, because there is access to a community of talented individuals all just as enthusiastic to share their experiences as they are to discuss your own special case. Even though it would appear that a number of NonStop supporters are leaving the fold, there’s every indication that a younger generation is beginning to appreciate NonStop.

During a casual conversation with one participant from HP NonStop Education, it was revealed that a 25%, year over year, increase had occurred with respect to new entrants looking for education on NonStop. Some were coming from other systems inside the data center but just as many were new to the data center and not familiar with any large system offering. And this is just a start; while this is good news to many, what may not be as pleasing (at least, to a different group within the NonStop community) is the apparent lessening of tenure among CIOs. 

There was talk that the average tenure for a CIO had dropped to eighteen months and when I checked the web site, FedScoop, in the report
Survey: 2014 brings challenges, wind shift for CIOs it was stated that whereas “In 2013, the average tenure of a CIO was 5 years, nine months, and in 2014 it will be two months longer than that, according to the report. (The average tenure of a government CIO is about 18 months.)”  Indeed, there is a strong argument in favor of breaking IT down and removing the need for a CIO entirely.

A quick check of the web site CIO Insight found a report, dated September 1, 2014, Why CIO Tenures Aren't Longer, where author, Larry Bonfante, suggests that “There are many reasons why CIO tenure continues to be shorter than that of other C-suite executives. One factor is a general perception of IT as a business ‘disabler’. IT is viewed in many companies as the ‘Land of No and Slow!’ Everything seems to take forever and things don't seem to get done at a high level of satisfaction.” There may be merit after all in embracing NonStop as our hobby. On the other hand, perhaps we should be pleased to see as many individuals as we now see embracing NonStop as in some situations, they will likely outlast any CIO espousing “computing de jour” for no other reason than for changes sake.

An enthusiastic cadre of NonStop expertise; a growing population of “freshly educated” NonStop personal; a rapidly churning base of CIOs; and an architecture that continues to flourish some forty years after its introduction! It may confound business school types even as it puzzles the media but all the same, whether a highly-charged career or simply a hobby, NonStop continues to flourish and in so doing, retain its “halo position” within a much sought after niche within the industry.

It’s probably selling too many members of the NonStop community short by suggesting that they stay involved on the basis that NonStop has become their hobby, but it isn’t something we can either dismiss too readily or even ignore. It may take up more of their time than a Saturday afternoon and there’s nothing competitive about it at all and yet, you cannot escape the thought that without such support, would NonStop continue to flourish some forty years later? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Modernization – and NonStop is a key part of the landscape!

Even as many NonStop users need to look to modernize their existing applications there’s a pressing need to include modern platform support on NonStop to attract new applications – and shortly, at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp we will hear more of one project in support of such a mission.

Pictured to the right is an architect’s representation of an addition to the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and from what I read this morning it would appear that it is about to open to the public. In an article just published in The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, UTS unveils 'paper bag' building, the future home of the UTS business school certainly isn’t escaping comments –calling it a paper bag, tells its own story.

However, for those who have seen some pretty far-out structures in Prague, Vienna and even Barcelona, they can’t help but wonder about the intrusion of highly fluid lines that has worked their way into the form of these buildings. Whether or not they appeal to everyone, they do stand out as very modern interpretations of what a structure can look like – fluid? Definitely; when it comes to modernization of a city’s skyline the eye tends to gravitate to these examples of somewhat extreme architecture.

Watching Sydney develop in the 1970s was surely entertaining. On the one hand, we experienced considerable façade architecture being practiced – something I touched on several years ago in the article Façade - Architecture! One Way to Avoid Scarring As We Soar Into the Clouds that was published in the May – June, 2011, issue of The Connection. Back then, I wrote that when it comes to modernization and using modern technology to empower an enterprise to become more innovative, it comes as no surprise that CIOs are loathe casting aside all that is in place.

In other words, there were very legitimate reasons why modernization programs built on what already existed – a fresh coat of paint, a new entrance lobby, even a complete gutting of the premises – preserving the foundations while presenting a new face to the general public was considered an important element in retaining the distinct characteristic of the city. What was happening to Sydney in the 1970s has born a lot of similarity to what has been happening across IT and CIOs everywhere have been able to bring a wealth of business logic into the 21st century.

However, there is a very big distinction between the pursuit of modernization and the creation of something that is modern. I touched on this just recently in a private emailing to a number of managers and executives that I work with, but it’s worth repeating to a wider audience. Whenever the topic of modernization is raised across the NonStop community, it generates considerable passion even as it pushes community members into different camps. Such discussions, I observed, go down one of two paths: modernizing what is already in place or leveraging modern tools, services and frameworks for something new.

Both camps are well served today by a number of middleware vendors and the product offerings from the NonStop vendors such as comForte, CAIL and NuWave represent the end-result of considerable investments they have made. All financed off their own dime, no less. This was something I wrote about in my most recent post to the comForte blog, For those NonStop systems looking too much like legacy; replacement potential is high! It was comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, who made the case for modernization even as he observed that at comForte, “from our roots in terminal emulation and our desire to freshen the user experience, I think the opportunity for comForte supporting modernization is about as large as the market for security. We do have plenty of material in this area – as of late, the NonStop for Dummies book as well as the modernization white paper.”

Not surprisingly, what concerns Burg most of all is that, when it comes to modernization, “it’s unfortunate but still a realistic observation - with no modernization effort undertaken, even the most recently deployed application will be gone in as little as five years and with their demise, the explanation will likely include references to NonStop simply being an old (dare we say, legacy) system and that today, makes my blood boil.” Fortunately, modern applications are appearing and the success of some solutions vendors can be attributed to those applications being based on modern technologies, architectures and platforms.

The most apparent examples come from the Payments Processing marketplace. Lusis Payments and OmniPayments have enjoyed success of late as they have both embraced modern methodologies. With embracing SOA and incorporating a hybrid NonStop / Linux configuration, OmniPayments, Inc. has produced an extremely price competitive solution that focuses on NonStop even as it has not neglected including features all Financial Institution’s demand, and in so doing, highlights the benefits from leveraging modern programming languages, database systems and network connectivity. However, following the announcement of NonStop support for the Intel x86 architecture, focus has swung back to the consideration of supporting additional services, frameworks and product utilizing the latest programming models on offer today.

In the upcoming November – December 2014 issue of the NonStop community magazine there is an article jointly written by InfraSoft Pty Limited founding executives, Dave Finnie and Neil Coleman. Based in Sydney, Australia, InfraSoft has already successfully introduced a modern approach to networking with their product uLinga and is now in the early stages of launching services, gateways and APIs to make Cloud access transparent with their maRunga product. Now InfraSoft has elected to capitalize on the arrival of NonStop on x86 in a rather novel, yet highly significant manner.

The article, under the heading Node.js on the HP NonStop Server is as much an announcement of a new product – yet again, leveraging the Australian Aboriginal language the product is named bomBora - as it is a primer on the value of developing modern applications using Server Side JavaScript (SSJS). “For the last 18 months, Node.js has been gaining popularity as underlying technology for enterprise applications,” note the authors. “Large organizations including Wal-Mart, eBay, PayPal, MasterCard, and LinkedIn have all rolled out Node.js applications. Why? For many candidates for both increased usage and new adoption of the HP NonStop, modernization of existing applications is no longer the challenge. The Node.js platform has the potential to support applications that meet a wide range of business requirements.”

But what really makes it pertinent to NonStop, particularly NonStop on x86? “The Node.js model of event-driven, non-blocking I/O that is particularly suited to I/O bound applications,” the authors state. “It may have almost been dictated by the fundamental concepts of writing a high-performance OLTP application running on the NSK operating system. Current implementations of Node.js, obviously, do not possess the level of fault tolerance and scalability that software running on the HP NonStop Server can offer. One of the attractive attributes of Node.js is its ease of extensibility. Areas that we have extended, especially those that will be familiar to NSK users, include:

Process-pair support so that Node.js runs non-stop, without any extra work by the application.

Enabling Node.js to run as a TS/MP serverclass, transparently providing the inherent scalability and persistence that TS/MP offers.

Providing a simple JavaScript Pathsend interface so that a Node.js application can front-end TS/MP.

Extensive operational control and diagnostic capabilities built-in to simplify usage and contribute to maintaining availability.

So yes, this is pretty cool stuff. 

How close are Dave and Neil to having a commercial product in place? After developing an effective Proof-of-Concept on much older MIPS-based S-Series servers – something that will not make it as a product, according to InfraSoft - attention moved to x86-based servers and just recently, the team enjoyed seeing an early success that exercised a considerable amount of the code. As for a commercial product, there’s still more work ahead but the goal is now clearly in sight. Again, the forthcoming article in the November – December issue of The Connection will be a must-read for many in the NonStop community. 

Dave will be flying up from Sydney for NonStop Technical Boot Camp and will join HP’s Keith Moore for Monday morning’s presentation, HP-26 Going beyond SOAP for a cleaner, fresher web services architecture. The lads will face some stiff competition given that HP’s Jim Smullen will be giving the community a technical preview of NonStop on the x86, something I know many will be interested in hearing, but if you have already heard all you need to hear about x86, then perhaps you will find Keith and Dave presentation rather stimulating.

Last week I wrote about a refreshing new endeavor focused on NonStop and now, this week I am writing about another endeavor every bit as exciting. The point I hope isn’t lost on anyone within the NonStop community – yes, there’s numerous developments under way in support of NonStop that are all aimed at making it a lot easier to bring new applications to NonStop. And this is what I find just as important to ensuring NonStop remains a modern system. comForte’s Burg is absolutely right in stressing the sense of urgency that those looking after NonStop systems must embrace but adding the tools necessary for running the latest modern solutions is every bit as important. It’s going to be one very interesting Boot Camp, I suspect!

Like art in general, while we may not be able to describe what is modern, we certainly can point it out when we see it. City skylines have seen an explosion in modern architecture and it’s every bit as easy to spot as say, a painting. When it comes to solutions, there will always be those applications that all that is needed is a new coat of paint but there’s always room for something completely modern to be embraced. And with this, the NonStop community is the richer! Looking forward to seeing as many of you as I can so if you see me walking the corridors, stop me, and I will be only too happy to chat!