Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can see for miles and miles …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What are we really telling the CIOs today about NonStop?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

NonStop and Hybrid IT; a natural for HPE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

On the move …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Always a tight fit … the successful launch of NonStop Insider!

Sometimes you just have to work at it to fit a sizable project into an already tight schedule but for the NonStop community, the creation of the digital publication has truly been a labor of love …

Hustling the Jeep into the space normally occupied by our RV certainly shone the spotlight on just how little room there is to spare when we drive the RV into our allocated storage location. Blue skies above the facility go a good way to explain what was happening here – with temperatures along the front ranges soaring well into the 70sF (20sC) it was time to get the RV smog tested and begin the preparation for an early return to Americas highways. With the sale of our home and office and with a couple of week’s gap before we take up residence in our new home and office, this will become our temporary residence.

Getting into and out of tight spots has become routine for Margo and me, but it still is a tentative situation first up as the winter months finally shake their hold. And not soon enough by my book – I’m no longer a skier so the snow is something that keeps me indoors rather than provides a playground for winter activities. On the other hand, it does mean that I’m spending a lot more time at the keyboard than happens mid-summer and with event activity ramping up and social media channels requiring content, it’s not something I shy away from.

I enjoy a great relationship with many members of the NonStop vendor community as well as with HPE but whenever I am asked about where all the stories come from the simple answer is from all of you! I can’t imagine a week passing by without a vendor or user making either product, directions or organizational changes so it shouldn’t surprise any reader of this post that content is never the issue. Finding the right mix of content with the right media channel often leads to some parring of material just to squeeze it into the publication at the very last moment.

The March / April 2017 issue of The Connection will soon be landing on our desks. For me this continues to be a major communications vehicle for all NonStop stakeholders and whenever the opportunity presents itself, I do my very best to work up a story that fits in nicely with the theme. “Empower data-driven organizations with NonStop (e.g. databases / manageability, products that provide / move NonStop data for consumption)” is a topic near and dear to my heart. Having spent four years working at GoldenGate and before that about a decade working at Insession, the sales channel for GoldenGate, moving data for consumption was all I thought about. So look for this issue when it arrives and check for the story, “Data-driven organizations now realizing the value of NonStop – data has to be fresh and accurate!

However, it has been a publication of another kind that has really captured my attention and perhaps now has become even more near and dear to my heart, and that is the digital publication, NonStop Insider. Readers of my column in The Connection, Back for more … that appears on the back page of each issue may recall the column in the November / December, 2016 issue where I first referenced the appearance of this new digital publication. In that column I expressed how it was NonStop Insider Managing Editor, Margo Holen, who summed up best why NonStop Insider was created. According to Margo, “For some time now I have become aware that even with the newsletters and magazines available to the NonStop community there was a real need to provide unfiltered information covering all that is happening with HPE and with NonStop.” Furthermore and perhaps more to the point, Holen then added that “I consider it the goal of NonStop Insider to provide a variety of perspectives from many parties that continue to work closely with NonStop users.”

Yes, we all know that Margo is my wife and that together we founded Pyalla Technologies. However, what might not be as well known is that Margo sat on the board of ITUG and as ITUG Board’s Vice Chairman ,was instrumental in the creation of Connect where she was the first Vice President of Connect following in the footsteps of then ITUG Chairman, Scott Healey. It was at the prodding of both Scott and Margo that this blog, Real Time View was launched and now, with multiple vendor and community blogs together with a couple of magazines, some physical and some digital not the least of which continues to be The Connection, it was this emphasis of providing a forum for unfiltered information covering all things NonStop that continues to drive the editorial focus of NonStop Insider.

I closed my November / December 2016 column Back for more … with the admonition that developing one more media channel outlet still required the support of the NonStop community. As I said at the time, it’s well known that CIOs look first to their own IT organization for information on products and services; credibility is highest among those working the closest to the CIO. So all that is left for the user community to do these days is to make sure the many newsletters, commentaries and posts aren’t simply left in an inbox. Content is still very much the king so take all the steps you need to take to ensure NonStop content is as visible as you can make it within your IT organization!

It’s now six months on, and with the publication of the March 2017 issue of NonStop Insider there have now been six issues published where the number of articles, commentaries and OpEd pieces has steadily grown to where now, for the last couple of issues, it’s represents a significant body of work. Readership is via subscription and while the numbers continue to climb, it’s now past 1,250 subscribers. And for this and for all the technical support being provided, it would be remiss of Margo and me not to express our gratitude to the team at TCM Solutions for all the support they continue to provide. I am anxious to roll-out an App in support of NonStop Insider but that’s still a work in progress, but one I personally want to see unveiled as nearly everything I do these days is from my smartphone.

“From our perspective to see the work Margo is doing in her role as Managing Editor is not only keeping our folks on their toes,” said TCM Solutions CEO, “but her knowledge about all things NonStop and her expansive contact reach is something few executives we know can match. When we first threw around the idea for NonStop Insider, Margo was immediately onboard and the quality of the content in each issue is a reflection on her intension to guarantee only the highest quality material makes it into each issue is a reflection on both her integrity as well as her commitment to the NonStop community. We really are enjoying our association with Margo on every level.”

For those who view the latest issue of NonStop Insider for the first time, make sure you read Margo’s editorial. In her opening editorial remarks, Margo makes the observation that “NonStop Insider seems to have found its unique voice among the growing list of NonStop publications, and I hope we will continue to evolve into a ‘something for everyone’ magazine.” To that end, what you will see are a number of OpEd pieces from well-known thought leaders within the NonStop community. Whether the topic is security, replication and backup, database or even the business of being a NonStop vendor then expect to see many more contributions coming from very familiar voices within the NonStop community.

When it comes to parking the RV, it’s a very tight fit. It’s also a recognition that it takes work to make sure parking is done right. As for the NonStop Insider digital magazine it has been a tight fit to work it’s creation and sustenance into all of the other commitments we have made. But somehow, Margo has found the time and indeed the focus and energy to ensure this was never going to be about the publication of just one issue. Six months on and with subscriptions on the rise, it’s becoming very clear that the audience Margo was seeking – yes, providing a variety of perspectives from many parties that continue to work closely with NonStop users –has come to fruition. As for me, it makes my task of blogging so much easier as there is now a serious publication that each month provides me with more storylines than I could wish for. But about that well, that’s a story for yet another post ….  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Clouds in my coffee? Support for IoT will take us into clouds!

Clouds are coming and for NonStop it’s inevitable. One likely cause? The need to tap data from IoT – but be careful, clouds can burst and rain on our parade. 

As I walked into the kitchen the other morning to pour the first cup of coffee of the day I happened to look out the window. The view of the mountains to the west caught me by surprise with a vista of a bright orange glow edging the clouds – it may not look all that impressive, but now I know why the Denver Bronco football team wears blue and orange. I am rarely the first to wake up in our household and it always takes me a while to get going but on this occasion, as I poured the coffee into my mug, I took just a little longer to take it all in – breathtaking, indeed. I often wonder how many times circumstances catch us out. Surprise us, perhaps, and even on occasion, simply take our breath away.

Being IT professionals it takes a lot to really surprise us but on those occasions when we are surprised it’s rarely because something went wonderfully well. However, when it comes to clouds and IT, it’s not the hues that matter as much as the ahas! With the advent of cloud computing it’s almost as if we are quite prepared to ignore all the experiences we have accumulated over decades – let’s just leave it to the cloud provider to ensure we have access whenever we need it. The cloud is all rather nebulous anyway and could be anywhere – surely, it’s all virtualized to where it will find a path to a working server / comms / storage component no matter what. And to that I can add, that swampland I bought in Florida is begging to look very promising indeed. Do you have a couple of bucks and I will sell it to you, right?

Coffee and clouds or probably more specifically, clouds in my coffee. As Carly Simon used to sing all those year ago:
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee …

Yet, here we go again; dreaming! It takes very little to upset it all and suddenly it’s simply vapor. Nothing. Clouds in our coffee! What prompts these musings is my acknowledgment that without taking the necessary precautions, clouds can be as temperamental as any system and the level of availability as fleeting as any commodity server. And this brings me back to what transpired at Amazon last week. Their much-vaunted cloud offering, Amazon Web Services (AWS), went AWOL. Just like that, access to files and databases – anything that was pushed to storage – went dark. Literally hundreds of thousands of companies large and small no longer had working, operational, systems in support of their business.

If you missed reading about the AWS outage, it may be worth the time to check out the story in USA Today where the outage is addressed in mostly non-technical manner. In the February 28, 2017, article, Massive Amazon cloud service outage disrupts sites reporter, Elizabeth Weise, opens with the observation that the outage ‘didn't quite break the Internet, but a 4-hour outage at Amazon's AWS cloud computing division caused headaches for hundreds of thousands of websites across the United States.” Furthermore Weise quotes Dave Bartoletti, a cloud analyst with Forrester, who said, "This is a pretty big outage. AWS had not had a lot of outages and when they happen, they're famous. People still talk about the one in September of 2015 that lasted five hours.”

A few days ago I included the above as part of a weekly email that I provide my clients. I write this email to keep my clients alerted to events that perhaps otherwise they may have missed, but in this case, I don’t believe anyone missed such a newsworthy occurrence at Amazon. However, it was what I also included in that weekly client email that perhaps triggers more memories among the NonStop community. I jumped to the end of the USA Today article to something that the NonStop community could really take to heart.

“Companies have been steadily moving storage to the cloud because it is cheaper, easily accessible and more resilient. But the downside is that when there are problems, there's a cascade effect. It's possible to contract with multiple companies to avoid potential problems, but that strategy is pricey, so many companies make peace with the knowledge that on rare occasions they're going to have a very bad day. ‘Only the most paranoid, and very large companies, distribute their files across not just AWS but also Microsoft and Google, and replicate them geographically across regions - but that's very, very expensive, Gartner's (cloud analyst, Lydia) Leong said.”

Only the most paranoid?  Is that us? USA Today writes that it is only the most paranoid and yes, those very large companies (enterprises) we know well that distribute files across multiple clouds (and replicate) to make sure an individual cloud outage doesn’t impact their business, are the exception. Paranoid? Really? And yet, this has been the story of NonStop for decades – loosely coupled, shared nothing, massively parallel processing. Again, are we now to be considered paranoid because we bought a system that survives single points of failure? Rather humorous when you consider what is being implied, don’t you think? How many times of late have we proffered the advantages inherent with NonStop to senior management and business unit managers only to be looked upon as having two heads but then again, two heads? That’s another story, obviously. On the other hand, maybe you say paranoid like it’s a bad thing!

The innuendo from such discussions, when they occur, is that we are caught up in a legacy model that no longer applies to modern IT. Modern data centers, complete with redundant everything, no longer take outages or so we are told. They are reliable and there’s simply nothing to worry about – any additional costs to do something better is simply not worth the money. Well then, tell that to Amazon. Tell that to any of the airlines too who have seen cascading failures of their reservation systems. Tell that to some of the biggest stock exchanges as well.

However, not lost on anyone is the inevitability of cloud computing and of the inroads it’s already making into enterprise data centers. Staring out at the morning clouds, the aroma of fresh coffee unmistakable, I began to wonder; it may not be the applications we already run but brand new applications that we implement to leverage clouds. And for the NonStop community this may very well be the result of looking at Industrial IoT (IIoT). That’s not to say transaction processing is going away any time or that the ability to process transactions in real time is going to lessen in importance but rather a simple acknowledgment that more may be happening at the end points than simply the transaction.

Dr. Tim Chou, the keynote speaker at last year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp, just posted to the Avnet web site, Is IoT the killer app for cloud computing? According to Tim, “the major wave to using compute and storage cloud computing will not be driven by migrating existing applications. Instead, as with the move to client/server, the driver will be building completely new applications. So what are these applications? And what will be the killer app for cloud computing? Perhaps IoT.” This is something we often overlook in our discussions about NonStop and clouds – while some of us are busy trying to shoehorn existing applications into clouds perhaps we are missing the opportunity to come up with entirely new applications.

Take the humble ATM for instance. With each new generation of the ATM, more sensors are being added. This trend will likely only continue to where ATMs become agents for tracking largescale demographic and other social-related data. One connection will be involved in an ATM transaction while other connections will be transporting multiple data streams. New applications may simply start out by correlating cash withdrawal activity to the weather, what’s showing at the cinema and which direction passers-by are headed. There’s no limit and it’s this hybrid world of what Tim calls the Internet of People juxtaposed with the Internet of Things where the action may lay in the coming years. And NonStop exhibits no signs that it will back away from support of either. So yes, start dreaming big!

So, what did happen at Amazon? What was responsible for creating a four hour outage? It has now been revealed that members of the AWS S3 storage team “were debugging the billing system and someone entered an extra command. After accidentally taking the servers offline, the various systems had to do ‘a full restart.’” Yet one more instance of “Operator Error!” Recalling those lines by Carly Simon, “I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee,” maybe there are many of us within the NonStop community simply dreaming after all, but then again, having systems that don’t fail running in support of People and Things makes sense and it’s becoming a common practice to accept outages then surely, new business opportunities abound for those NonStop vendors and users who dare to disagree. And yes, perhaps IoT will bring out the best in the new NonStop after all!    

Sunday, February 26, 2017

For HPE NonStop users, ATMIA US Conference and a walk down memory lane …

A week in Orlando discussing ATMs may not be appealing for everyone but for NonStop users, the history of NonStop is very much tied to the history of the ATM!

It is not all that often that I meet truly famous people face to face, but at this year’s ATMIA US Conference the keynote speaker was NFL legend, Herman Edwards. A former defensive player who played for a number of NFL teams, most notably the Philadelphia Eagles before turning his hand to coaching the New York Jets. Today, you can see Edwards as an analyst on ESPN. “Doing the little things and executing vision,” was the title of his presentation at the ATMIA conference this year. To a packed hall, he walked attendees through a lively presentation liberally sprinkled with NFL anecdotes.

However, for me his focus on cash was of particular interest especially given the focus of the event. “I’m a cash guy. My wife gives me an allowance; I take the check to the bank and get the cash. If I run out of cash then I’m done!”  Nothing could be simpler and it was a theme repeated in other presentations at the conference this year. Why does cash survive and why does it remain popular? For many it’s a budgetary mechanism – only spend what you have. Increasingly, for others it’s a security issue – while someone could steal my wallet or money clip, the loss is manageable, which is not the case today with cybercrime. Again, simplistic but the data coming from industry analysts suggests there are but two of the four primary reasons cash continues to be popular.

In a different presentation to the one given by Edwards, about how cash makes us feel, cash in the pocket offers four primary experiences: comfort, security, freedom and duty. This last one was unexpected but turned out to be very true – when it comes to our duty, we typically repay our family and friends in cash. And yes, cash still dominated when it comes to gifts. You would expect such statistics to be forthcoming at a conference focused on ATMs but what you might not have expected was being informed that the venerable ATM was now fifty years old. In a pictorial display, under the heading of a walk down memory lane, pretty much every new development for the ATM was included and I was surprised to see just how back into the past my own memory stretched.  Seeing a promotional poster for the “new film”, The Graduate, brought a smile to my face – remember the Alpha Romeo Spider 1600 Duetto that Dustin Hoffman’s character drove?

For the NonStop community there is a very strong connection to this particular walk down memory lane. As the ATM moved out of the branch bank to become truly an automatic dispenser of cash, there were network implications that at the time severely limited just how many ATMs could be deployed and where. Communications was in its infancy and both the speed (slow) and the cost (high) put the brakes on just how rapidly ATMs spread across the landscape. Furthermore, once ATMs did begin to appear, there was an expectation that they would work all the time – surely, their whole reason d'ĂȘtre was to provide access to cash at times when normal branch operations were closed. However, since almost every financial institution ran their banking applications on IBM mainframes and these were primarily batch processors requiring downtime, the appearance of the first Tandem computer heralded a break with traditional computing models.

Many times we discuss technology solutions looking for a problem to solve but in the case of the appearance of Tandem, it’s as if a lightbulb went off somewhere – the perfect solution in support of a much larger rollout of ATMs. It’s no coincidence then to learn that the first Tandem computer ever sold was to Citi and while I am not exactly sure of the use-case scenario involved, it wasn’t long before Tandem computers and ATMs enjoyed a thriving symbiotic relationship. So much so that I have often been left to wonder whatever would have happened with Tandem computers if such an opportunity failed to materialize. But this walk down memory lane is all well and good even as it’s common knowledge within the NonStop community – but perhaps there is something else that is contributing to this story; the growth of payments solutions from many vendors, all electing to deploy on what today is new NonStop systems.

Without viable and well-supported payments solutions, Financial Institutions (FIs) would have been hard pressed to build out their ATM networks. As someone who has worked for both Tandem Computers and ACI Worldwide in a previous life I saw firsthand how the relationship between Tandem and the ACI product, BASE24, enabled so many FIs both small and large leverage the potential of the hardware and software to deliver round-the-clock, 24 X 7, services. In a world that clearly feels good about cash, the fault tolerance provided by the then-Tandem computers simply added to that feeling of comfort.  However, a lot has happened to NonStop over the years and the door has been thrown wide open to many more solutions in support of ATMs.

For some time now I have been very bullish on the prospects for OmniPayments, Inc. as it continues to meet with success with banks, retailers and switches. OmniPayments is joining the growing list of NonStop vendors who are taking their message of NonStop to conferences apart from the traditional NonStop venues where RUGs have dominated. And for me, this is good news for all NonStop stakeholders – it’s clear that HPE has limited resources these days to support NonStop marketing and as much as I would like to see this situation rectified I am not expecting anything to dramatically change in the near term. Simply put, there are no marketing efforts being expended in support of NonStop that I can see so it really is falling on the rest of us to champion the NonStop message. OmniPayments talking up the NonStop message to the ATMIA US conference was really good to see.

In the post, ATMIA US Conference – plenty of familiar faces! to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, following the ATMIA US Conference I wrote of how, when I picked up my badge (after arriving at the conference venue) I was handed my bag of goodies and there in the bag was a color flyer from OmniPayments. Making the rounds on the exhibition floor was Jessica Nieves, VP Client Services, OmniPayments Inc., who is now heading marketing for the company, stopping by exhibitors we all know well. Many within the NonStop community who attend RUG meetings will know about Jessica as she is doing a great job presenting OmniPayments. When I asked Jessica if we could expect to see OmniPayments supporting even more events she told me, most definitely.

“For many years now we have supported the NonStop community’s RUG events worldwide and there would be few members within the NonStop community that didn’t know about OMniPayments,” said Jessica. “However, we are winning even more business away from legacy vendors of payments solutions and with our move to provide OmniPayments on the basis of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) from out of our own cloud, we need to broadcast this message to a much larger audience. And yes, our OmniCloudX offering utilizes NonStop X systems, which is surprising many we talk to and it’s just the beginning. Our product roadmap for OmniPayments includes future support of Virtualized NonStop which will significantly enhance our ability of fast provisioning of OmniPayments payments solutions for those FIs who may want to modernize their infrastructure and solutions.”

There was a time not that long ago when news about NonStop was easy to find. There were regular news releases and there was a team committed to conveying the message of NonStop in every marketplace. As the ITUG Chairman I was invited to participate with NonStop marketing in events from Copenhagen to Beijing to Johannesburg. The memories of these times are still very fresh in my mind and there was excitement in the air – NonStop was embracing industry-standard Intel technology. Yes, it was Itanium but it was a huge move in the right direction that even today is still a big part of the NonStop presence at many enterprises. But as exciting as Itanium was at the time and the memories of working closely with HPE that still linger, the story of NonStop X and Virtualized NonStop are way, way, more important so as I watched Jessica moving across the exhibition floor with her compelling story of NonStop in payments, I was left wondering about how much more could be achieved if only HPE would put its full weight behind this lynchpin of its Mission Critical Systems business.

Memories of NonStop past just like memories of ATMs past and of how the histories of ATMs and NonStop are so strongly intertwined, ringed true with some of the words spoken by Herman Edwards. “There are two types of people – interested and committed. Everyone is interested – but are you committed?” Edwards addressed these comments to new recruits to his NFL team, of course, but the meaning shouldn’t be lost on the NonStop community. Perhaps, just as relevant to the NonStop community, was Edwards follow-on observation, “A goal without a plan is a wish!” OmniPayments clearly have a plan when it comes to the message of NonStop and with it, an achievable goal. Perhaps my wish then is that there were more kindred spirits willing to be both committed to NonStop and having plans to more aggressively promote NonStop. And finally, ask yourself and let me know, of course, will this be your goal in 2017? 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Three new wishes for NonStop that address the next three years!

Since 2008, every third year I have posted "my three wishes for NonStop." It’s now 2017 – what can we expect to read in this latest post and why is it important for the NonStop community? 

When an opportunity presented itself to add yet another vanity plate, it seemed like a good time to add PYALLA3 to the list and to mount it on the Mini. Although, being 3, there was some thought given to mounting it on the BMW, given its engine had only three cylinders, but after further consideration Margo and I decided that this may be a little too cryptic. On the other hand, Mini notwithstanding, three has become a significant number when it comes to the posts to this NonStop community blog – every three years I have written about the three wishes I have for NonStop and here we are, three more years have passed by since my last update.

To read all of the predictions I have made in the past, check out the label to the right of this post, Wishes, for more of what I had to say through the years as there are patterns that developed over time. Most important, the push for standardization, open software and yes virtualization. It all started back in February 2008, and even then I was lobbying for virtualization and for NonStop to be able to run as well on virtual machines as it did on physical systems. If you have as yet not read the article just published in the Jan – Feb, 2017, issue of the Connection (and you are a Connect community member) you may want to check it out as it covers much of this earlier material: Virtual World beckons - vNonStop is the only ticket we need!

For the better part of a year I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to a number of Regional User Group (RUG) events to give my speculative take on where NonStop is headed. For some time there has been uncertainty about the future of NonStop. There were other CIOs who considered NonStop to be little more than special-purpose computers while still others began to view NonStop as a legacy platform. However, the good news for the NonStop community is that NonStop development didn’t buy into any of those arguments and in no time at all, so it seemed, have turned NonStop on its head.

Today we see the NonStop X family of physical systems shipping to customers with vNonStop undergoing early testing offering support of NonStop on virtual machines. And all thanks to the work done by NonStop development in support of the Intel x86 architecture together with support of industry standard InfiniBand. We now see a revitalized NonStop as modern as any system and it has transformed the way these CIOs look at NonStop – there’s been so much chaos as airlines have been grounded because of computer glitches even as stock exchanges have experienced their own outages as well (see A short history of stock market glitches published last year by CNBC) that a truly fault tolerant offering is once again under consideration by enterprises that simply have little patience for outages of any kind.

Furthermore, we now see HPE IT deploying NonStop X and working towards deploying vNonStop with NS SQL/MX accessible via DataBase-as-a-Service (DBaaS). And this is great news for the NonStop community and we all are watching at every RUG event where HPE updates the NonStop roadmap for more news on how this project is progressing. So what next then for NonStop – if many of the above wishes are working
their way into what NonStop development is pursuing these days is there more dramatic news awaiting the NonStop community? Will NonStop make a return to the airline marketplace or to stock exchanges? Perhaps healthcare? And will NonStop find even greater success in its traditional markets of finance and telecommunications?

While there may be few within HPE willing to speak up about the return of NonStop to all of these markets, I am willing to bet that at some point NonStop may indeed play a part in the future of all solutions qualified as mission critical. But then what can we reasonably believe lies ahead for NonStop over the course of the next three years? It was a little over a year ago that I posted a preview of what might underpin my next three wishes. In the July 19, 2016
Yes, once again, I ask – are our wishes truly important? I broached the topic of my next three wishes for NonStop however I only posted about what I was wishing for in very general terms:

Transparency? I do have to say I admire the steps that HPE NonStop Product Management have taken of late to be more transparent with the vendor community and I want to see this develop further … how about letting us all know just how many NonStop customers exist today and just how many NonStop systems are deployed.

Cooperation? Surely it is getting much better! There is so much to do and HPE R&D cannot do it all … develop a program that is more comprehensive and don’t push back each time with observations that well, yes we have something already in the works. Don’t do that – it just doesn’t win you any friends and quite frankly you don’t have the breadth any longer to be competitive on every front.

Engagement? For the most part, the NonStop vendor community doesn’t want to be lumped into a generic all-encompassing partner program. I know; I have been there! More than once! The needs of the NonStop vendor community vary significantly from those of your typical Unix or Linux or even Windows development shop. So, where do we go from here? Have we seen enough about NonStop that we know the path it is taking? Is the NonStop product roadmap telling the full story?

Well what can I say – I want and indeed expect a lot more! And now it is time for a little “tough love” as there is a lot more to NonStop than just the path being taken by NonStop development. All of the stakeholders within the NonStop community have parts to play and as there are three main stakeholders – NonStop users, NonStop vendors and yes, HPE NonStop – all need to participate to ensure the future I see for NonStop coming to fruition over the next three years.

My first wish then is for the NonStop user to buy more NonStop systems – migrate to NonStop X and begin evaluating the potential to capitalize on vNonStop. However, in buying more NonStop systems, it will become very important to keep demanding more from HPE – as we all know it is the voice of the NonStop user community that still motivates NonStop development to pursue new initiatives. You want to run a vNonStop on an edge product and have real time analytics support – then make your demands known. Never for one moment assume that NonStop will not so something and turn to an alternative before giving NonStop development a chance to respond. It’s a new day for NonStop development but they need to hear your voice. So yes, it all begins with the NonStop user community buying more NonStop systems.

My second wish is for NonStop vendors to lift their game. Many of them look like the abandoned puppies we all see on late night television that are looking for new homes – beaten so many times that they can barely lift their heads. Yes, it’s been a tough decade for NonStop vendors but all vendors need to heed NonStop development’s aggressive plans as spelt out in their roadmap for NonStop. Vendors have taken a beating but that is no excuse not to have clearly articulated roadmaps for all their products!

My third wish focuses on NonStop development. Educate! Train! Mentor! Promote! There is a lot that NonStop users and vendors can do but ultimately all stakeholder will benefit from a more vocal NonStop development! We all appreciate the issues – understaffed, underfunded, underappreciated. But get after industry analysts and get after the press – there is a terrific story developing around NonStop and all of IT needs to know that they don’t have to put up with failure. Affordable, industry-standard, fault tolerant computers have returned – and yes, with a vengeance.

Tough love? Only so far as to say we have so much to do as a community if we really want to see NonStop shine. And after all these years I cannot hold back my enthusiasm for NonStop as markets are frustrated by outages with poor reliability and concerns about integrity are fueling many discussions among CIOs – do they really understand the story of NonStop today? And yes, the messages of transparency, cooperation and engagement remain as pertinent today as they were a year and a half ago; in 2020, when I write my next three wishes for NonStop, all I want to see topping the list of priorities is how big a hotel we will need to hold the NonStop Technical Boot Camp of that year.

Finally, let’s just take one last look at the barriers still standing in the way of success for NonStop. Oftentimes conversations turn to who is teaching the next generation of NonStop system managers and programmers. Well, guess what; that’s not where NonStop is headed! It’s a message that is often lost among the NonStop stakeholders. Where NonStop is heading is becoming a lot clearer; you won’t need to know anything at all about NonStop. Your favorite tools, frameworks, languages and utilities will all simply run on NonStop – for the most part you won’t even know NonStop exists. All you will know is that, when you ask IT to provision resources and you checked the box “24 x 7,” your application will simply run fault tolerant.

Cool? Yes – and it’s bringing NonStop to the world and not the other way around. It will not be dependent on dragging the world to NonStop! Here’s to the prosperity that will come for all NonStop stakeholders over the course of the next three years and I look forward to seeing as many of you as I can as I return to the RUG circuit with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. We may all have been badly beaten up over the past decade but there’s still a lot of fight left in this puppy!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

NonStop doesn’t age; NonStop simply keeps on processing …

Travels to Southern California with plenty of time to talk about NonStop made us more aware of just how big a marketing task HPE faces with NonStop and how, just perhaps, we all need to contribute to make the presence of NonStop more widely known!

The years have been kind to Margo and me and as much as we remind ourselves that yes, we are aging there’s that other side that says, “Na; you’re still young!” Leaving the cold and snow well and truly behind us we drove from Boulder, Colorado, to sunny Malibu, California. And yes, we had lunches at Dukes and Ocean Prime, drinks at Nobu, coffees at Starbucks and dinners at Brophy Brothers in Ventura and Mastro’s new digs surfside at Malibu. Business had taken us to Century City the first day in California but under these bright blue skies, Margo celebrated her birthday with good friends, the Kennys, whom we first met in Simi Valley many years ago.

Thoughts of aging are never far from our minds of late and it is no surprise to read that during the roadtrip between Boulder and Malibu the conversation returned time and time again to NonStop. Recalling the early days in NonStop’s history when we both worked for Tandem Computers it’s hard not to see the past through rose-tinted glasses and to recall the many friendships we formed most of which we continue to cherish even now. And yet, coming to NonStop now for the first time is so much easier to do than at any other time in the past. For many new users, looking at a console (oftentimes running application monitoring and management software from third parties) it’s hard to see anything that lets you know that behind the facades of the rows of servers happily blinking away, there lays a fully operational NonStop system. Or two!

With shipments of NonStop X beginning to gain momentum after being on the market for more than a year now, talk among the NonStop community is turning to what happens next. Where is this NonStop journey going to take us. With each passing year it’s another candle on the cake as another trip around the sun is completed and NonStop simply isn’t aging. The market for true fault tolerant systems continues to hold firm. Good enough still isn’t good enough when it comes to running mission critical workloads and the more we read about outages of systems vital to countries infrastructure, as we all have seen concerning the operational systems of many of the airlines, the more we come to appreciate the NonStop systems we have. No, the market for fault tolerant systems isn’t lessening any time soon.

NonStop development has not only signaled a future for NonStop by calling it the best software platform on the planet even as HPE considers NonStop a core software asset, there is still a lot of work to be done to convince enterprises to take NonStop seriously. And that’s a shame even as it’s a wakeup call to everyone at HPE that a lot more has to be done to get the message out into the marketplace. It’s simply not good enough to leave the entire task of promoting NonStop to just a handful of NonStop product managers and a few key development managers. As much as we all like listening to these folks, the bigger HPE has to step up its investment. Several years ago I was part of the blogging community that HPE supported at HPE Discover events, but for the last couple of years I was politely told that focus on mission critical systems and in particular on NonStop was too narrow a market for HPE to continue supporting me as part of the blogging community. As of 2016 HPE Discover – here in Las Vegas and again, in London – there is no support of NonStop marketing by HPE and this simply isn’t good enough. Furthermore, it’s somewhat insulting to the larger Global 1000 companies heavily invested in NonStop systems to see such little caring by HPE at their big tent shows.

Fortunately, at the 2016 HPE Discover event in Las Vegas, Home Depot came under the spotlight during HPE CEO Meg Whitman’s keynote presentation where she did make reference to Home Depot being a NonStop (and Aruba) customer. In fact, in a conference where the exhibition hall wasn’t divided into areas by system and where finding any presence of NonStop was a challenge, Whitman’s reference to NonStop was among the only server references made during any of the keynote presentations. The other members of the blogging community, those who knew me from past events? Well they came up to me for more information about NonStop and wanted to know where they could go on the exhibition floor to talk to members of the HPE NonStop team. Yes, HPE has got to do a lot better at marketing NonStop even at events where every single item is metered carefully and with precision.

The message of NonStop isn’t old! In talking to members of the NonStop vendor community that have branched out into supporting product offerings on platforms apart from NonStop – Linux and Windows, mostly these days – the flakiness of many of the commodity x86 servers they encounter is startling, to say the least. Often times running on x86 servers that are a ten years old isn’t a ticket to reliable computing and the added support costs these NonStop vendors incur working with clients whose servers are so poorly maintained leaves them scratching their heads in amazement. If you missed reading the latest post WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE DATAEXPRESS PROVIDED AS AN INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE (IAAS)? to the DataExpress NEWS / BLOG, you may want to check it out as it includes some interesting commentary.

“DataExpress has a lot of experience with the poor reliability exhibited by off-the-shelf hardware.  The impact this has on DataExpress customers, running DataExpress Open Platform (DXOP) with hardware that has not been scaled to meet the ongoing growth of the file transfer demands, very quickly becomes all too obvious,” writes Billy Whittington, DataExpress CEO. “One customer drew our attention to such performance degradation and reported DXOP as failing numerous times. But as soon as they upgraded their ten year old hardware, DXOP performed like the super star we know it is!” And DataExpress isn’t alone in witnessing such a situation – I am hearing this from other clients as well. NonStop isn’t old even if it has been with us a very long time and it’s fault tolerant, supporting solutions that in some instances have a heritage dating back to the earliest Tandem Computers ever shipped.

When it comes to marketing commodity servers, HPE is passionate about its storage offerings, its communications (including Edge products) offerings and its high performance computing offerings but then you look at the financial results of these groups. While HPE doesn’t break its numbers down by product they still produce figures showing the performance of servers, storage, networking alongside of technical services. We are awaiting the results of HPE’s first quarter, 2017, that should be produced during the early days of next month but based on the full year’s results for 2016, servers remained flat overall for the twelve months and yet, NonStop experienced a second year of double digit growth. There’s little additional explanation required about which product line is producing bottom line results that are helping sustain all the server lines but wouldn’t it be nice to read more about just how pleased HPE is with the results coming from sales of NonStop systems?

NonStop not only simply keeps on processing – but it is keeping on producing. Positive financial results, that is! I continue to post articles and commentaries on a number of industry blogs but just one recent incident highlighted the challenges facing all vendors working with NonStop systems. My pro-NonStop feature article Time has proved good for HPE and NonStop; banks everywhere can run networks, 24×7!  recently published in BankingTech, took two months of lobbying and negotiation before it was published on December 8, 2016. “I know you are a big advocate of HPE NonStop, but isn’t this somewhat a promotion of the tech/service? It almost has a commercial aspect to it,” responded the publication’s editor to which I responded, “HPE has not received very much attention of late among FIs so I thought I could engage and indeed prompt FIs into a more lively discussion.” It was a little while later that I received the response, “Ah, ok. Let me review it again and I’ll let you know!”

The final response from Banking Tech?  “Taking into consideration your comments, we’ve come to a decision that the article is fine for publication – no changes required. To be honest, none of us have in-house expertise of HPE NonStop … So we’ll rely on your expert view on this!” Yes, NonStop keeps on processing as it keeps on producing results but it’s going to take a lot more work from all of us to keep promoting the message. HPE can’t be left to carry this burden alone – it will require active participation from all of us. Is it worth it? Can NonStop win the battles? I absolutely believe it can and it will be an interesting future post with the passage of one more year. Don’t put those candles away just yet and let’s all make a lot of noise as we make yet one more trip around the sun! 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Transformation – let’s look at how far NonStop has come!

A message about how necessity drives innovation isn’t anything new for the NonStop community and yet, it’s pleasing to hear all the same!

During a recent extended power outage I was left to figure out how best to entertain myself. Margo’s family commitments left me alone in the house and I was happily working away on storylines I had been considering for a while – some of which have now appeared in the latest issue of NonStop Insider as well as in posts made to LinkedIn – when unexpected darkness descended. When Margo and I built the house we had looked into integrating a sizeable UPS / Generator but nothing materialized. We do have a huge generator of course with our mobile company command center (our RV), but while we often recharge the batteries from the house, we hadn’t considered adding the necessary connections for the RV’s generator to power some of the house’s necessities.

It was a very cold day in Boulder, Colorado. Improvising out of necessity I was able to find a way to create a little heat in the family room by igniting several of the cooktop range’s burners using matches. And then there were a number of candles I found that I quickly deployed. But as I settled into waiting for the power to be restored, there was more than ample time to hold a candle while mixing a martini and as readers to this blog will recognize, the early evening martini in our household is not just a tradition but oftentimes a necessity following days when all that is on my computer is a blank screen.

It is the message of necessity that has been in my thoughts a lot of late. It is often out of necessity that so many of our actions arise, whether it’s a trip to the store for a forgotten item, mowing the lawns and cleaning the yard or simply to put on any extra layer of clothing as we step outside of our homes to brave the elements. And as I looked through the presentations I gave during the past twelve months I was struck by how well the HPE NonStop team have progressed numerous initiatives that indeed many view as necessary for NonStop to continue to have a presence in the data center. Mission Critical systems are an important part of the HPE products portfolio but have come under increased pressure to embrace a world in transition. Traditional IT is succumbing to cloud computing both private and public and to sustain a presence in this new world NonStop had to fundamentally change not just the hardware it depended upon, but the complete, highly integrated, software stack.

During 2016 NonStop Boot Camp event attendees would have heard how Randy Meyer, Vice President and General Manager, Mission Critical Systems at HPE, said that for his group, “Our strategy is to build specialized solutions for target customer segments.” Today, the coverage of customer needs extends to support for mission critical applications to high performance computing to small business and branch operations. The Mission Critical Systems group needs to support extreme scale where customization is required, carrier grade computing where standardization is paramount, and hybrid, versatile along with security, for enterprise’s core applications.

NonStop systems have never been general purpose systems and so continued support for the very specialized roles NonStop plays is completely understandable. However, the target customer segments where the focus of NonStop has been directed, want a lot more from NonStop as they embrace the key messages coming from HPE – transformation to hybrid infrastructures. As Randy’s new boss heading the Data Center Infrastructure Group (DCIS), Alain Anderoli, was quoted as having said (and as published in promotional material for the recent HPE Discover event in London), “A Hybrid IT requires deep competence and fluency in all areas of the industry – servers, storage, networking, IoT, data center infrastructure, and everything else. So, DCIG represents a pooling of talent that’s as broad as it is specialized.” NonStop remains specialized but this also means it needs to be competent in more than being just extremely highly available.

Whenever today HPE creates a presentation on NonStop the slides highlight the key attributes of Continuous Availability, Massive Scalability and Business Continuity. These are further defined as having automatic failover protection, an ability to scale to thousands of cores in a single system image that in the real world, can support applications delivering 15,000+ tps and then, when networked with other NonStop systems extend traditional continuous availability across multiple sites via support for active / active, active / passive and now, “sizzling hot takeover!” While this is a continuation of the NonStop story and highly respected by those users who have come to appreciate what NonStop provides them, NonStop development is obviously fine-tuning a number of its products to better accommodate the transformation to the new, hybrid world of IT, users are demanding.

Perhaps no bigger change has taken place than what is occurring with NS SQL/MX. Take a look at any recent NonStop PowerPoint presentation and you will see multiple slides devoted to NS SQL/MX. Two items on the NS SQL/MX product roadmap stand out that are important items for anyone looking to NS SQL/MX being a key part of the transformation to hybrid infrastructure. These two items are Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) together with opening up access to NS SQL/MX for ANSI applications and in particular, those ANSI applications that today have been written to access databases such as Oracle.

No longer locked into expensive proprietary solutions, the NonStop development group is opening the door to access NS SQL/MX without massive amounts of application recoding and when it comes to running NS SQL/MX from within a private cloud, this should be beneficial to many more users that need not just access to SQL but to an SQL that is fault tolerant, supports a mixed workload that doesn’t necessitate any downtime whatsoever, maintenance tasks included, and can be served up from within a cloud as a service. Was this done out of necessity? Was the goal of the NonStop development team to make sure any transformation to a hybrid infrastructure didn’t leave behind NS SQL/MX?

Certainly these factors played a role but there was one more driver motivating NonStop development – HPE’s own IT group had been looking for ways to save money by rationalizing the number of databases they had deployed (more than 25,000 databases across all of HPE), and NS SQL/MX became an option. However, their requirement of NS SQL/MX not only drove the need for ANSI compatibility but also for multi-tenancy. How important is multi-tenancy for HPE IT (that will be reflected in support within NS SQL/MX for all NonStop customers) – it cuts down on hardware requirement even as it reduces license fees.

According to one source I referenced, TechTarget, “In cloud computing, the meaning of multi-tenancy architecture has broadened because of new service models that take advantage of virtualization and remote access. A software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, for example, can run one instance of its application on one instance of a database and provide web access to multiple customers. In such a scenario, each tenant's data is isolated and remains invisible to other tenants.” When it comes to HPE IT, the practicality of NS SQ/MX multi-tenancy becomes obvious – embracing an implementation that has NS SQL/MX available on the basis of SaaS, where many HPE IT users will need “provisioning” to happen on demand, much of the complexity of doing so in terms of operational intervention, is significantly reduced.

Where HPE IT is headed is beyond the traditional converged infrastructure, which for the most part addresses a convergence at the hardware level, and onto hyperconverged computing. This is being propelled with HPE IT standardizing on x86 servers to populate their data center and with commodity hardware in a hyperconverged environment - the hardware takes a back seat to the software. And here’s the real story – the necessity, if you like, for HPE IT to consider NonStop – according to an explanation on the  web site, “The software layer is built with the understanding that hardware can — and ultimately will — fail. The software-based architecture is designed to anticipate and handle any hardware failure that takes place.”

It is this bidirectional, indeed almost symbiotic, necessity that has arisen from both the NonStop development team and HPE IT that is propelling NonStop into a more mainstream role for those users looking to embrace not just hybrids but converged and hyperconverged architectures. Fault tolerance has always been a given when NonStop ran on proprietary hardware but now NonStop supports fault tolerance in the world of clouds where the necessity to understand “that hardware can — and ultimately will — fail” is well recognized. That NonStop development has also invested in NS SQL/MX to make it more attractive as SaaS is highly commendable and worthy of attention being paid by all of us.  And that’s something competitors will not be able to hold a candle to NonStop systems as they are being delivered today!