Friday, December 8, 2017

Big events; big agendas and yes, big news for the NonStop community

HPE is better articulating its message even as it is backing it up with product; NonStop community should be pleased to see the elevated position NonStop now occupies …

As the last days of the month come around I create a folder that I simply name for the coming month together with the current year. So, yes it was only a few days ago that I went to December 2017. Inside the folder I create another folder, Submissions. Yes, each and every month I follow the same process and all because of the desire to create a digital magazine, NonStop Insider. Others have pursued similar goals for a lot longer than I have while others have been more casual with their publication dates. But for Margo and me, it’s always been about pulling the magazine together during the first week so those we work with have a week to upload the content and to add all the necessary heading, links, etc.

I only dwell on this as this month, it has been a very difficult month and for a while I was hypnotized by a completely empty folder. If it wasn’t one thing it was another. There was the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) and then there was Thanksgiving. For bloggers like me these events just happened to be followed by even bigger distractions like HPE Discover and for someone who doesn’t like to fly any more – flying business or business first can sweeten the deal, of course – it was tiring all the same. With this many sources for new material I thought that there would be a lot to cover but for many of the NonStop vendors, it was also a time for company kick-off events and other worthwhile retreats.

Which is the long way around to say that the December issue of NonStop Insider has been a tough row to hoe! Then again, just as the empty folder looked back at me forlornly, the submissions began to arrive and for sure, the past couple of weeks have proved fertile backdrops for numerous stories. As I create the folder each month I also take time to send out a reminder to the NonStop community that you will find posted to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, and if you missed the latest post you can read it at:
Now the focus has come back on to my commitments for this month’s issue of NonStop Insider, but that is always a nice problem to face.

However, the back to back events of the past three weeks have really brought a lot of attention to NonStop. If you were to remember just one thing from TBC it had to be the emphasis placed on virtualization. Certainly, existing NonStop users with Itanium-based blade systems will continue to be supported for many years to come, but the reality is beginning to set in that the world for NonStop is virtual. Pulling together the separate threads associated with HPE’s grand mission of simplifying hybrid IT, it really only begins to take shape when virtualization has been achieved. All the new tools associated with clouds and software-defined everything can only be leveraged to the best of their capabilities when directed at virtual worlds.

For NonStop users however, simply getting to virtualization isn’t as easy a task to accomplish as has been other upgrades. The NonStop team has done a fantastic job when it comes to the L-Series operating system such that any application running today on L-Series can run on any underlying systems L-Series supports. And that means a choice of traditional systems as well as virtual machines. When it comes to hypervisors supported by L-Series it was good to hear of the progress made since last the NonStop community had met on support for VMware. While OpenStack and KVM may be options for some NonStop users when it comes to the traditional enterprise marketplace where NonStop has a presence, VMware is the more dominant hypervisor.

However, given how virtualized NonStop runs on systems apart from those provided by the HPE NonStop team  that is, commodity, off-the-shelf (COTS), hardware from any vendor with a system based on x86 and supporting RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). With those two foundation stones in place, any server can be used and together with the right switches, you can “roll your own” NonStop system. Well, not quite so fast. It’s turning out that it’s not that easy to do and to end up with a system as resilient as one sourced from HPE as a true, out-of-the-box NonStop X system. At TBC we heard for the first time that this situation would be addressed with a third product line being added to the NonStop product portfolio – the Converged Virtualized NonStop system (or as it has been whispered during sneak peeks, a NS 2).

All of this has been covered in commentaries published here and elsewhere but what is coming through loud and clear is that when it comes to bigger messages being articulated by HPE, the NonStop product line isn’t being left out or overlooked. There are plans where NonStop aligns itself more closely with HPE’s key strategic initiatives around simplifying hybrid IT as well as powering the intelligent edge. At polar opposites of the technology spectrum – the center versus the edge – HPE is seeing the rise in popularity of clouds (the center) and IoT / Edge (the outer ring) as places where it can provide value. And as HPE continues to articulate its message in forums around the globe, it’s always about HPE seeing its role in providing high-value solutions – cracking the difficult code pushed aside by other vendors. This too is a further acknowledgment by HPE of its return to its roots. It’s a technology company that once prided itself with the tag line, Invent!

At HPE Discover we heard this message being amplified in ways many within the NonStop community may not have anticipated. Yes, HPE is driving towards virtualization and software-defined everything and the work being done in support of Synergy frames is perhaps the best example as too is the technology implicit with SuperDome Flex. Both Synergy and SuperDome Flex, by the way, are early examples of leveraging the memory-driven compute model as extolled by those working on The Machine. That’s right, The Machine. Evidence was to be found on many of the exhibits of ways The Machine was influencing development of new systems. And now it has it's own logo, visible behind and to the right of HPE Labs Chief Architect, Kirk Bresniker.   

In a joint presentation to the group of bloggers whom HPE had invited to the event (many thanks Becca and Laura), pictured above and labelled by HPE as “influencers,” a representative from the former SGI openly talked about how they think the acquisition of SGI by HPE (and driven by our own former head of NonStop, Randy Meyer) is a match made in heaven. They too were developing hardware in support of memory-driven compute but they didn’t have the resources to address the software side of things. That now has all changed for the former SGI folks and the creation of SuperDome Flex incorporates much of what SGI had been doing in memory-driven compute. Hence the performance gains they are seeing running such things as SAP Hana.

Could future derivatives of Synergy and SuperDome Flex (remembering too that these are primarily Linux boxes capable of supporting KVM and VMware hypervisors) see NonStop finding a new home? This is not part of any product roadmaps today and indeed, as NonStop team’s VP, Andy Bergholz, was quick to highlight, the sweet-spot for these systems is scale-up and not scale-out, so it may be many years before any convergence between NonStop and these platforms occurs. But the fact remains, NonStop remains a core software offering of HPE and as such, will ultimately be an integral part of future new technologies where the memory-driven compute model gradually influences all development programs.

And why not? Today transaction processing isn’t an isolated application and while the scale-out suits the model for transaction processing as we know it today, that is all about to change. Think blockchain and in-memory retention of blocks. Think analytics and in-memory workloads looking at everything arriving at NonStop and yes, mandating analysis of many other data streams from social networks to networked sensors.

And yes, think too of the disruption that will accompany the growing “enrichment of transaction” their value also increases to where running fault tolerant will be the norm and not the exception. Many more advocates of NonStop will appear and don’t rule out just how many of them will come out of HPE itself as already, listening to those presenting blockchain at HPE with little to no background in NonStop have become overnight acolytes!

The December 2017 folder is now filling up nicely and already there are a dozen or so entries in the completed submissions folder. Shortly we will be passing it all over to the good folks at TCM in Scotland for loading and massaging so yes, it’s all very much on track for its regular publishing timeframe of late next week. For the NonStop community the articulation of key messages by HPE over the past couple of weeks is taking hold with its customers and prospects understanding the direction being taken by HPE.

The most recent big-tent marketing event, HPE Discover Madrid, was certainly a success and although translating the messages into deployed solutions will take time, I am now looking forward to this summer’s HPE Discover event, which I encourage as many of you as I can to participate. Hope you can make it as already, I am looking forward to seeing many of you June 18-21, 
2018 at Discover 2018 Las Vegas!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Impressions from Madrid – all to be discovered shortly!

And it is all about to happen - only hours away from the official kick off of this years HPE Discover Madrid event and already, following a brief visit to the venue all I can say with all the chaos going on - it's huge!

This is just an opening paragraph or two as I settle into Madrid after Sunday’s flight – don’t plan on passing through Newark of an afternoon and expect to make connections. Expect delays and book your entry into Newark a flight or two before the one any airline suggests – yes, the eastern corridor from Philly to Boston is a mess as airport traffic controllers back up flight departures all the way to the west coast. Yes, then need a NonStop or two – and isn’t there a couple buried deep inside the FAA? Seem to recall signs posted on the old Tandem campus directing FAA folks to training sessions but I digress. I made it and have been involved in the pre-event in formalities even as I call it a day.

Been busy on social media channels already – seen the tweets, and posts to LinkedIn and Facebook?  And by the way, forgive the typing miscues as I still stumble when it comes to using my iPhone but what the heck, I am getting better with time. But the point is, HPE is doing a terrific job in bringing together what they are calling an “influencer program” – and yours truly is among this group of influencers. Some of the participants are already familiar faces based on previous HPE Discover events in Las Vegas but others are completely new to me so it should be a fun week.

The serious side of the event will be when Meg and Antonio take the stage tomorrow afternoon and it is hard to believe how much has changed since HPE Discover Las Vegas this past June. If you were a HP shareholder just 12 to 18 months ago, you have done extraordinarily well as you now are invested in four companies whose combined market capitalization exceeds that of former times. In case you missed the critiques about HPE from some sources, this just came out today and it may surprise many:

Congratulations to Meg Whitman for her fine work at HP - and creating so much value for shareholders! And kudos for following the advice I offered 6 years ago: Stop HP's horribly destructive M&A and spin-off its enterprise, services and software divisions. Indeed, the old HP broke into legacy HP Inc. (HPQ) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) as well as the spin mergers of its service and software divisions.
Including its spun-off software (($9 billion) and services ($14 billion), HPQ and HPE together have a market cap of $80 billion. In 2011, I calculated breaking up would give HP an aggregate $80 billion market cap, precisely where we are today. The parts were indeed worth quite a bit more than the whole - $47 billion more, in fact.

Subscribers to Seeking Alpha financial reports may recognize where this came from in response to HP Inc (HPQ) announcements of late. But returning to HPE – everyone in the NonStop community has wanted HPE to be profitable and focused and that is what we are now seeing. The results are still mixed even as I remain bullish on the blockchain program centered on NonStop and NS SQL/MX and working at the enterprise clearly much slower to realize but the changes to the organization are beginning to have an effect. Industry Analysts are now paying a little more attention to the product portfolio now under the oversight of HPE’s new enterprise group management team.

I am expecting to hear a lot more about all of this firsthand in a matter of a couple of hours’ time but for now, it’s still very much a waiting game as all around me, speculation whirls. What will take center stage in terms of new product and technology solutions? Will it be much ado about software-defined (which I think it will) or will it be about sending computers into space (which they have done) or even about the race to build even bigger high-performance computing systems … we will just have to wait and see!

In closing after a very long day - there will be familiar faces at this event just as there will be others I simply don’t recognize. However, the mere fact that HPE continues to go these lengths to keep the community informed is admirable and being part of the folks HPE believes can shift the needle somewhat, helping them get it into more positive territory is equally as admirable. Stay tuned as yes, not only do we have to wait and see but yes, we also can anticipate hearing so much more that is simply positive for the NonStop community.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What will I Discover in Madrid this time around with HPE?

Bags packed! Heading for the car in the morning! The trip to Madrid for the year-ending HPE Discover event is about to start and I will be providing commentaries and posts every opportunity I get … stay tuned for more news to follow!

It’s only been a week since we drove back from the NonStop Technical Boot Camp and even as I finished up a number of posts and commentaries and finalized submissions to a couple of publications,  I have just had to return to the wardrobe to repack for another week away from home. The photo above was taken just as the first keynote session was about to begin and as you can see, the event pulled quite a crowd. I don’t do anywhere near as much travelling as I once did when it wasn’t unusual for me to make it to Europe for an ITUG event in May only to see that I had already passed 100,000 miles. And yet, it’s hard not to have many of the emotions from that past life resurface and they don’t help; a time to relax in business class? Not quite! For me, it’s a return to the back of the bus, as even with the status I have reached with United I simply don’t fly enough for any benefits to kick in.

When it comes to social media outlets like Facebook, many of you probably are part of groups similar to mine and share many of the same friends and it likely hasn’t escaped you that so many of our friends still do the heavy lifting when it comes to promoting NonStop and related NonStop software solutions. Look at the updates coming from HPE VP & GM, Synergy, Blades and Mission Critical Systems, Randy Meyer, for instance, or Striim Cofounder and EVP, Sami Akbay. No kidding, they live at the airport and the conversations over adult beverages late into the night at Boot Camp only reinforced the message of just how many air miles those in sales accumulate in a year. However, this time I am extremely thankful no matter what class I happen to land or where I end up staying as I am a guest of HPE. You will not be hearing any complaints from me! To the contrary, I am truly excited to be heading to this final HPE Discover event of the year. I will be a part of the “independent blogging community” and designated an “influencer” even as I continue to be active in the HPE VIP Community. On the other hand, as someone who is passionate about NonStop and yes, Mission Critical Systems (MCS) too, it looks as though I will be the sole voice promoting all things NonStop within the blogging community so we will just have to wait and see how much visibility I can generate for NonStop.

NonStop continues to be a very special product line within the MCS portfolio. It doesn’t escape the NonStop community that the spotlight rarely falls on NonStop these days and in many ways that is a shame. For sure, it is a technology-heavy product that plays in a well-defined niche but in all other respects, how users can go about exploiting its capabilities today has very few limits. The world is now connected, always-on and users expect services to be available 24 X 7 – we are coming off Black Friday in the US and already articles are appearing highlighting lost revenue opportunities due to outages, with Macy’s being the latest to acknowledge a slow-down of their card processing systems. Ouch! HPE Discover is a showcase for the entire product portfolio on offer to enterprises worldwide and Madrid should be a place where we see a little more attention being given to NonStop. Even though I have just read that the weather forecast for Madrid is for rain (should I be surprised – the Rain in Spain, etc.), I am hoping for some sunshine radiating from NonStop!

Back in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, I visited Madrid numerous times as part of NonStop Product Marketing and then again, as part of NonStop Product Management. However, my best memory of all was when NonStop Director of Product Marketing, Chris Rooke, called me in my Cupertino office and asked if I could leave that evening for Madrid. NonStop was on the hook for a comms and networking presentation to a major bank and there were no resources on hand in EMEA to give the presentation so out the door I rushed and grabbed that flight to Madrid. Transiting though Heathrow, it was only on arrival in Madrid standing in front of the Spanish immigration booth that I was asked for my visa – as a “green card” holder living in the US I was still an Australian citizen and I had to have a visa to enter Spain. Again, ouch! Seems like the Heathrow folks should never have allowed me on that flight to Madrid!

Well, as the story goes, the local NonStop country manager called the airport police, vouched for me, after which I surrendered my passport to the airport authorities in exchange for a 24 hour pass. Needless to say, I was focused and after a very late nightcap with Chris who checked into the hotel around midnight, I found myself back in my Cupertino office a short 54 hours later. I attracted little sympathy from my Cupertino colleagues, needless to say, when I told them that I was a  little exhausted from being jerked all over Europe! In subsequent years I enjoyed a more leisurely time in Spain and made sure that for each trip I had the right paperwork, but now, as a freshly minted US citizen it has become a lot easier to take those journeys into Europe.

The NonStop community may yearn for more attention within HPE and long for the white-hot spotlight to be directed onto NonStop, the HPE product, but this past week, it really has been all about HPE, the company. There has been so much news coming from HPE in the lead up to HPE Discover that at times I simply haven’t had enough time to digest it all. One of the things I like to do is to review various financial filings coming from HPE so it was very early on that I saw the footnote about current HPE CEO Meg Whitman preparing to hand over the role of CEO to current President, Antonio Neri. As from February, 2018, HPE will have a new CEO and one who has a firm grasp on technology, and for many in the financial industry, this is cause for some renewed interest in HPE.

According to a report in Bloomberg last week,
HPE Returns to Techie Roots Naming Neri to Succeed Whitman they wrote of how,  “‘The next CEO of the company needs to be a deeper technologist, and that’s exactly what Antonio is,’ Whitman said Tuesday on a conference call discussing the succession plan.” Blomberg then reported how,  “The CEO position is a different job now than what it was when Whitman first took over, and will focus more on the operational aspects of the company, said David Heger, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co.  ‘They’re at a point now where they need a different skill set than what she offered,’ he said. ‘They’re finished with doing spinoffs and re-engineering, and now what they have left is what they’re going to focus on going forward.’”

I think it is safe to say that Bloomberg wasn’t the only publication to highlight this shift in focus from financial to technology nor were they shy about the importance of the timing. There is a real sense of urgency about correcting the course HPE has set to better compete with companies already dominating in markets where HPE once held sway. There continues to be a lot of nay-sayers when it comes to the future prospects of HPE and yet, the NonStop community knows full well that the availability, scalability and business continuity attributes inherent in NonStop quickly separates it from the rest of the server pack. In many ways, it is time for HPE to move on from Unix and even OpenVMS – the time for mourning is long over and it’s time to embrace the hybrid world of Linux, Windows and yes, NonStop! If it truly is good for HPE IT then it is good for the rest of IT, no matter the industry – financial services, retail, telco, manufacturing and distribution, healthcare and yes, travel. 

It hurt to read in a post published by the investor-centric publication, SeekingAlpha, Hewlett Packard Enterprise: A Company In Chaos. According to their reporters, “The unifying theme is clear: HPE operates a portfolio of legacy businesses, and while it can manage to hang on to customers in the near term, it doesn't have any definitive brand leadership or reputation for quality in the markets that can drive sustained growth in the longer term. Everything that HPE does, other companies also do - perhaps even better.” Really? No definitive brand leadership? No reputation for quality? Even as it reflects the consensus view among investors it makes light of just how good the technology coming from HPE of late truly is – just ask Randy Meyer about their latest High Performance Computing (HPC) offerings!

Yes, it is time to pass the baton to a technologist. Yes, it’s time to feature all that differentiates HPE’s product portfolio from those of others. And it’s time, too, to direct that white-hot spotlight onto NonStop (did someone say, blockchain?)! Participating in the final HPE Discover big-tent event of the year is certainly going to prove interesting as we get to hear even more from heir-apparent, Antonio Neri, but every bit as important will be the attention given to all that differentiates HPE from its competitors. And safe to say, I will be watching for just how many references are made of NonStop and in so doing, use the references to blog, comment and post to as many social media channels as I can. And with that, it is off to the airport for my longest trip of the year!   

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Foundations are never glamorous but when it comes to NonStop, they’re making a big difference!

A solid foundation is important for any structure erected on a site and when it comes to NonStop, the NonStop Technical Boot Camp keynote presentations highlighted just how strong a foundation NonStop systems have today …

Planning for travel across the western states of the U.S. can be a gamble at times – will it snow or will we be blessed with sunshine? Over the years we have encountered almost every conceivable weather condition on the route that takes us north into Wyoming before turning west to that beautiful city by the bay. This year, the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) was held by the airport so our drive to San Francisco would mean tackling not only multiple mountain summits, but also some of the worst traffic in all the country. Naturally enough, we have left behind more sporting modes of transport in preference for the much sturdier Jeep. 

The picture above was taken just as we were about to leave for TBC. As you will note, work has now begun on the new home of our soon to be neighbor’s house and it’s been quite a project to get to this point – there was something amiss with the soil where they were excavating that needed more attention than normal, but nothing can be built without a sound foundation. And as we watched the proceedings over the past couple of weeks, the work proceeded at a cautious pace, but now, even as the snow began to fall, we can better see what the foundations will be supporting; the formwork already suggesting the layout of the home even as contractors waited for the concrete to be poured.

However, in a sign of things to come, the presence of snow at the outset of our trip was a little unsettling and yet, the rest of the drive to San Francisco was trouble free. I always pack the Jeep prepared for the worst – bags of kitty litter in case we get caught in a drift; chains we had made for the Jeep’s rear tires, but in truth, if the snow is that bad that we are forced to fit chains then we head to the nearest hotel and wait for better weather. We pack a shovel, candles, lots of water and a variety of snacks, just in case. The candles? It’s quite amazing how much heat a single candle can provide should we slide off the road and into a gulch.

But again, nothing happened, but I am reluctant to tempt fate and leave any of these items behind. When it comes to IT and to NonStop, TBC proved to follow a similar pattern. Oftentimes, the discussions on social media sites suggest that bad things are about to happen and, that as a community, NonStop users need to prepare themselves for the worst, but not this year. Just a lot of good news about the company, about the NonStop development team and about the NonStop products put a real positive spin on the goings-on of the event.

Right from the outset, Randy Meyer, VP & GM of Synergy, Blades and Mission Critical Systems, gave us the good news about NonStop we always like to hear. While HPE never gives out details of specific products, when it came to NonStop, Randy enthusiastically reported that for the third year in a row, NonStop beat its numbers! 

I am often asked for just what these numbers are – and I have asked many HPE managers this question through the years, but to no avail – when I look at what they potentially could look like, I have to admit that I continue to come up with a big number that covers everything (the systems, the storage, the network and yes, the software) then I seem to be attracted to a number between half a billion and a billion with perhaps the needle leaning more in the direction of the billion dollars, U.S. And as for the installed base I think the community is now somewhere close to 400 global enterprise customers.

At its peak, around 1990 (or a little before), sales of everything passed the two billion dollar mark but that included Ungermann Bass and Atalla and perhaps the pre-"spin-off" of TSA Inc. which, much later, became ACI Worldwide with revenues that in 2016 topped a billion dollars!  As for the installed base of NonStop systems all those years ago, a figure of close on 2,000 global enterprise customers comes to mind …

But the numbers don’t really matter anymore! It’s the transaction volumes that continue to climb with one bank here stateside already processing more than a billion transactions a month according to the data being provided by one NonStop solutions vendor. And the numbers don’t really matter anymore as HPE is truly focused on “high-value business” and there were many former NonStop users who probably should have looked at alternate product offerings.

At one time, Tandem Computers had a huge footprint across the newspaper industry even as it had an equally large footprint in police stations, but today, it’s clear that the value proposition of NonStop proves most appealing to financial institutions, retailers and of course, telcos. Manufacturing and distribution and yes, even transportation continue to see a sprinkling of NonStop systems around the planet but as a general purpose, fault tolerant system, NonStop has been deployed in numbers that support it being viewed as a niche solution. Now, after reading this I am sure there will be a number of NonStop community members that will take me to task over all this and so yes, I encourage you all to post comments! Could prove very interesting reading.

Terms like high value and niche aren’t to be scoffed at. Oftentimes, niches can be “owned” by just a single vendor and when you look at the data provided by industry analysts such as IDC, when it comes to the very highest levels of availability, what IDC calls availability level four (AL4), then the only legitimate system seen up at the top of this pyramid is NonStop. Yes, we all know IBM can provide a Parallel Sysplex cluster of mainframes, but you would be hard-pressed to acknowledge it provides fault tolerance out of the box. However, returning to the numbers game one last time, the number of nines supported is meaningful and very important to those processing customer transactions, 24 X 7.

Just ask any eCommerce company about lost business every time they report an outage and even stock exchanges, once the bastion of NonStop, but long since a haven for inexpensive off-the-shelf servers havn’t seen the levels of availability they once enjoyed with NonStop and more often than not, make the evening news with stories about their latest crash! Or hack! Yes, NonStop supports seven nines and beyond – that’s just what it does!

All of this is by way of a backdrop or introduction to what transpired at Boot Camp. We saw a lot more of the framework surrounding the future of NonStop even as we witnessed a new foundation being laid for NonStop systems, whether traditional or virtual. It’s all about the L-Series and no longer about the boxes. It’s all about compatibility being maintained across any deployment of the L-Series version of the NonStop supported OS and accompanying integrated stack. It’s all about what the application sees and there is no difference at the application level whether you run on a NonStop X system or on the Converged Virtualized NonStop, of which we all got a “sneak peek”, or on hypervisors deployed on any commercially available off the shelf x86 server cluster! Cool!

Yes, you read this right it’s all about the L and for the rest of the industry, catching L as they attempt to enter the niche owned by NonStop. And supporting a growing proliferation of foundations and frameworks, there is nothing stopping NonStop becoming a formidable presence inside the hybrid IT data centers or further afield, supporting real time streaming analytics platforms as part of the intelligent edge.

The return drive to Colorado, well, that didn’t go quite so well with Wyoming closing Interstate 80 part way across because of high winds, drifting snow and icy roads. We had always planned on stopping the night partway across and our hotel just happened to be where the boom was dropped across the highway. The following morning proved a difficult test of drivers’ patience but we made it out of these conditions intact.

As I was focused on negotiating the trying conditions it occurred to me, NonStop has really emerged from some testing times. It is so much stronger and a lot better suited to today’ needs. Yes, it’s a high value solution as seen by HPE but it’s also a very high value proposition for all those enterprises looking to stay out of the nightly newscasts. This was perhaps the biggest impression that was made on the community – run NonStop your way from a vendor who can support you any way. And that just has to be the money number for all of us!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2017 – it’s all about to happen!

In 48 hours’ time we will be back out on the highways mixing it up with all the big rigs, trucks and SUVs and even though it takes us three days, there is no way we would miss the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2017, in San Francisco. Will we be seeing you there?

If by now you haven’t heard about the biggest event of the year for the NonStop community, then listen up! This is a big occasion and already the number of attendees is crossing the line and approaching a really good figure – not sure exactly what the final count will look like but I do know there are a lot of people really looking forward to this event kicking off in just a few days’ time. The move to San Francisco may be one factor, or simply because it’s a chance to head to sunny California where the real appeal lies. No matter, the chance to hear the NonStop team outline the next milestones for NonStop and to hear firsthand about recent successes in the marketplace by HPE along with the vendors providing solutions on NonStop, remain important catalysts driving continued interest in all things NonStop.

For the past couple of weeks I have been out on the road. Mixing it up with current and former Tandem and NonStop developers, sitting at tables with multiple vendors and yes, participating in webex and goto meeting calls, have made one thing very clear. Any doubts I may have had about the potential longevity of NonStop and any thoughts as to whether the best days of NonStop are behind it are incorrect and quite misleading. It’s always easy for competitors to downplay the significance of systems and platforms – just look at the angst being expressed among the IBM mainframe supporters of late. Not to make too fine a point of it, but for as long as I can remember, I have been questioned over my support for NonStop and as time has passed there have been days when I may have had my doubts. But no longer!

When driving America’s highways it is hard to miss the impact that trucks, SUVs and crossovers have had on the driving population. Trying to find a coupé or even a sedan is proving harder to do as this niche market addresses those who rarely take their vehicles any further afield then their office. Or the airport! As for the humble station-wagon, fuggedaboutit! What is more surprising is that time and time again, there is only one person occupying the vehicle and while these automobiles are often filled with equipment or towing a trailer loaded with materials, it is still significant that the go-to vehicle of today is big, brawny and gas guzzling 4 X 4 whose owners expect to use them in many different roles. And so it appears to be happening within IT. No matter how we look at it, cloud computing deployed on-premise looks every bit as big as the largest systems we deployed back in the heyday of mainframes. Yes there are collections of industry standard servers but just take a look at the pictures used to illustrate the server farms supporting on-premise clouds and the racks of servers disappear far into the distance.

Point is, big is back and the distributed systems of just a few years ago are being pushed aside in favor of much larger configurations. Of course, we cannot ignore for one moment the huge uptick in volumes we are dealing with from our online networks, as everyone is connected. Everywhere! Nor can we ignore the waves of change heading our way as we begin to deal with IoT and the intelligent edge. The technology pendulum we know so well is swinging back to bigger centralized on-premise system complexes. Did we see this developing just a decade ago? As we turned the corner and entered this century, the populist thoughts were all on the network as the system where client / server computing prevailed. Certainly, aspects of what was talked about, all those years ago, remains but nothing really prepared us for the uptick in big systems that we see being deployed today.

When it comes to NonStop systems and where the NonStop community is headed, there is a developing wrinkle to this story. Consider NonStop Technical Boot Camp platinum sponsor, OmniPayments, who is happily populating their clouds with NonStop X systems. A very unique situation, but one worth watching all the same and yes, at TBC, I am sure we will hear from Yash about some of his recent successes originating from his ability to offer OmniPayments as a SaaS. But Yash is not alone. Already there are discussions at vendors as diverse as comForte, IR and even DataExpress about the value that might be realized in offering their products on the basis of IaaS / SaaS. In so doing, of course, adding the capability to support multiple enterprises can only be effective if they scale up their servers to meet the demands that could materialize.

Are we ditching our economy boxes? Are we retreating from our niche servers? The short answer is yes, we are. And it’s all about the value proposition of commercially available, off-the-shelf, hardware. As one source states, “Commercial off-the-shelf or commercially available off-the-shelf  (COTS) satisfy the needs of the purchasing organization, without the need to commission custom-made, or bespoke, solutions.” So yes, as one of my former bosses used to tell me, “The gigs up!” You either support COTS or you find another line of work. Really? Yes, really – in less than a decade, the NonStop systems we know so well will be relegated to museums even as virtualized NonStop permeates many enterprise clouds. Too dramatic – well, let’s just see. When TBC kicks off and we get past the opening keynote presentations, come visit me (I will be part of the Striim team, working the Striim booth in the Partner Pavilion, Booth # 52) and let’s have a coffee and talk about it. I think it will be hard to escape the inevitability of a substantial change in focus for NonStop development.

It is not so much a case of pursuing a path that takes us back to big general-purpose computers but rather the array of processes strung together in support of a cloud (or cloud-like) to provide more flexibility which allows enterprises to run pretty much everything they have needed in the past. COTS open the door to containers and virtual machines and whatever is your preference, you can fire up a configuration to suit even the most custom application you may have. In the same way we are headed to autonomous, driverless, if not totally boring but ubiquitous motoring experiences, so too we are headed to autonomous, operatorless (thanks to AI, machine learning and the like) and yes, ubiquitous computing experiences. Move some icons around a screen and Voila! There you have it – your computer provisioned just the way you like it …

Of course, none of this may take place in the immediate future and the market that NonStop serves so well today is notoriously slow-moving, but my reading of the tea leaves suggests it is inevitable. And I am happy to see that as niche markets, even those dominated by boutique players, eventually close down. Disappear! Giving NonStop wings to fly inside every cloud well – isn’t that a world we all have wanted to see for as long as NonStop has existed? The picture atop this post is of me in front of both an S-Series (note the Tandem badge) and an Itanium Blade system – the S-Series is pretty easy to identify but the older Blade system? Not so much; in the future, it will be next to impossible to locate where NonStop is running because the simple truth might very well be – it is running everywhere!

See you at TBC 2017 and safe travels!  

Monday, October 30, 2017

NonStop – a time to mentor!

At times of change you can be helped by the advice from a mentor. As we’re headed to Boot Camp, let’s take stock of what more we might like to do with NonStop!

This summer we have used our company command center – our home away from home – to attend many of the NonStop user events not to mention to host the many impromptu meetings with colleagues – the RV though was not the only vehicle that needed tender loving care. Our SUV had to get new tires all round and now, the CHECK ENGINE light appeared on our around-town Mini, together with the BRAKE light so yes, new tires have been put on the SUV and rear rotors and brake pads have just been ordered for the Mini. Things just wear out and only this morning, barely three months since we moved into our new home, the handle on the door leading to the master bedroom simply fell off. These days I find myself worrying a little too much about what next will disrupt our routine. From the picture above, however, taken last year and with a pile of chips in my hand, worrying about anything at all wasn’t on my mind.  

Yes, if the door handle is made of metal and is subject to movement it will fail oftentimes leaving you in a predicament that has you worrying about what to do next. No worries, YouTube to the rescue and we managed to fix it even as we lost a couple of hours because we weren’t familiar with the its internals. But here’s the thing with worry: in a post to LinkedIn (or was it on Facebook), someone stated how “Worry is a bully; it takes and never gives!” How true and for the NonStop community, in the midst of everything that is happening inside the data center, have we become immune to worry these days? Or conversely, are we worrying all the time about the future of NonStop? More importantly perhaps – are we helping those who may be worried?

As a young man, as I was just starting out in what was called EDP back in the day – yes, Electronic Data Processing – there were no online networks per se nor were there any CRT terminals. We had readers for punch tape that arrived by courier and were considered part of our online system and we had keyboards too that were wired directly into the mainframe and would only accept numbers but all the while, my family worried about when I was going to chuck it all in and return to university. “There is no future in EDP – it’s just another clerical role that will prove to be poorly compensated,” I recall my mother telling me. But no, I never worried about the choice in careers that I had made back then in the Australian summer of ’69!

Networking, and the importance networking plays in our business lives, can never be discounted and while we only mention it in passing, with the 2017 NonStop Technical Boot Camp (Boot Camp, or TBC) almost upon us, networking is an important aspect of why we head to such evets. However, networking is only part of the story as it is the opportunity to seek out coaches and to foster a mentoring relationship that is particularly important for everyone, no matter how old we are. As I take calls from colleagues and friends, there is clearly a very thin line between those telling me success stories and those who just cannot figure out why they have to leave their chosen careers to pursue something different. That’s the beauty of change – it’s happening all the time and without someone by our side, it can prove to be an extremely anxious time.

What separates these two groups is their willingness and indeed enthusiasm to embrace change. We all have heard the stories – if only I had learnt Java, or OSI protocols and services. If only I had left Tandem Computers and joined Cisco - a couple of my colleagues did exactly that and would you believe, never looked back! And yes, if only Tandem Computers had bought Apple Computers in the early 90s’ when the asking price for Apple was only slightly more that $300million but, at the time, a price the board of Tandem Computers thought was a tad too high as I recall.

All of us encounter mentors throughout our careers and during my own career there were a couple of standouts. John Fox, Managing Director of Computer Resources, a third-party mainframe leasing company was one such individual. As was Dieter Monch, Managing Director of Nixdorf Computers (Australia). Later in life, it was in the years before we were married and at a time when she was briefly my manager, that Margo helped steer my career to where today, I am doing exactly what I love doing – writing about tech, whether it is NonStop or payments or even networking.

Within the NonStop community there is clearly a thriving Under 40 SIG that has come together at times of the major events in Europe and the US and TBC always includes some enticement for the next generation to gather to talk and in general, provide each other encouragement. Wouldn’t it be good if the next step was a mentoring program for individuals within the Under 40 SIG – or has this already started and I am just behind the times?

As for me I just happened to be appointed Managing Director of a US software company, The Computer Software Company (TCSC) out of Richmond Virginia and, at the time of my appointment, I happened to be the youngest Managing Director of a US software company in Australia. I also happened to be the only person in the company. And yes, I needed help – a circumstance recognized by my management back in Richmond. So a young “hot shoe,” Brian Fitzgibbon, arrived, lived in my house and coached me – yes, I knew data base and I knew TP monitors but, the operating system? And how about hiring a team!

Again, fortune smiled on me as my first hire, Kevin McCormack, worked with Fitzgibbon and between them helped me through the transition from simply being a techie to being a manger and both remain good friends to this day (and I hope still read my blog posts)! As with everything in life, we need to be open to coaches that may be anywhere in the organization chart – we just have to open up to those willing to provide us with sound advice, both technical and business.

In a June 29, 2017, post
CTO Mentoring: A swipe right for first-time tech leaders to CTO Craft, coach Andy Skipper wrote of how, “The mentor / mentee relationship is a powerful one and something that arguably no one in the tech world should be without. The reality however, can be quite differentespecially for first-time tech leaders and those in executive-level positions.” Skipper then went on to say how, “First time CTOs and tech leaders face new challenges: some can be addressed through common sense and transferable skills; others can’t. Management, strategic and hiring decisions will fall to them and, without the firsthand knowledge and experience to deal with them mistakes can be made.”

In wrapping up the post, Skipper then closed with the remark and indeed an implied admonishment to all of us, “So, if you haven’t already, consider mentorship, just imagine where Mark Zuckerberg would be today if Steve Jobs hadn’t taken him under his wing.” However, for the NonStop community it’s a little more complicated and by this, I mean we are all witnessing a sea change with NonStop and it has more than a few of us becoming worried yet again.

However, we are being presented with opportunities unlike at any time in the past – want to keep running NonStop on traditional systems? How about looking at running NonStop on virtual machines? Want to move NonStop SQL/MX to the cloud and offer access on the basis of DBaaS? Is it time for a career change – do we want to become more involved in the technology itself? Want to try your hand at selling software? Why not?  Prefer to try your hand with selling solutions rather than middleware? Of course!

Want to get into AI and Machine Learning – well, you had better hurry as everyone wants to do that and as for becoming a data scientist already the shine is fading from that role. In a matter of days, we will begin the big event for everyone associated with NonStop –TBC. On hand will be some of the most experienced and indeed highly skilled individuals – is the time right to sit down and have a chat? Find a coach? Find a mentor? We talk about the opportunities to network on occasions like this but they are also a great place to find just the mentor you may have been looking for to guide you to what you do next.

Walking among your peers at TBC, as we all will do at some point, take a moment to look around. Then ask yourself, do you want to continue with NonStop and if the response is a resounding yes, a tad worried or not, explore your options. And here is the thing with mentoring – the relationships we develop may wax and wane in importance but over the long run, they will not wear out. And no, don’t worry, there will be no bullying as best as I can tell at TBC, only opportunities and for that, we really do have NonStop to thank – see you in Burlingame and let’s have a great event as we close out the year!  

Sunday, October 15, 2017

NonStop future – not all what it seems!

A week spent interacting with folks far-removed from NonStop and yet well-informed on all things IT; as time wound down, there was little to argue about – NonStop continues to reward those who step back to look at the big picture!

If you have been following Margo and me on Facebook you will know that we have spent the past ten days on the road. This time, the plans we put in place earlier this year didn’t take into account the dates for NonStop regional user group events so no, our travels didn’t include participating in events back on the east coast. Instead, we were off to the southwest where our destination was Albuquerque, New Mexico. We had wanted to catch up with some ex-Tandem folks we knew as well as find time for talks with other professionals and with prospective new clients. Always a fun thing to do for Margo and me!

While I am focused very much on all things NonStop, from time to time it is good to get the perspective of others not quite as close to HPE and NonStop as we are. To this end, a couple of items that came up proved consistent no matter who we talked to – there is a very big disconnect between the industry, the press and even analysts with what is actually happening within enterprise data centers. Ignoring for the moment a small number of enterprises attracting headlines with their pursuits, for almost every other data center it remains “business as usual” with nearly all of them continuing to upgrade their traditional systems even as they are being told about the financial benefits that come with deploying hybrid configurations that include clouds.

Apparently the only way a cloud finds an audience within enterprise IT is when a solution under consideration comes with an option to be configured within a cloud, either as a private cloud on-premise or a vendor’s managed cloud. One such example that is becoming better known among the NonStop community is the work that OmniPayments has done with its product offering OmniCloudX, but apart from that ambitious program and yes, with the success it is already achieving, not much else is happening that involves NonStop. Seriously? Quite to the contrary, as we continue to see NonStop rack up new wins for NonStop X systems even as some of the biggest NonStop users on the planet are electing now to bring in NonStop X systems to meet their future transaction processing needs.

I have always marveled at those artists painting extremely large works of art, even sculptors, as they too tackle a giant piece that is destined for public display, but even they have to step back sometimes just to take a look at the progress they have made and to keep track of proportions as well as ensure minor details haven’t been omitted. Perhaps the most famous statue here in the US is the Statue of Liberty even though for those who have made the journey to black hills of South Dakota, Mt Rushmore is equally as impressive. However, while the work is under way on any major art project should you stop and take a look, the early stages can prove very misleading.

Point is, there is always a need to take a step back from what is the task at hand to ensure it is coming together as conceived and for many IT professionals it appears that this has become a lost art and the repercussions are continuing to be felt to this day. Just think security, for instance, and the doors we simply leave open. Don’t bother me I know what I am doing and I will get to that option / issue / routine shortly … And when it comes to NonStop we are truly blessed to have as many places to turn for help should we elect to take a couple of steps back to take in the vista no matter it’s progress towards completion.

More recently, I have been marveling at just how many sources exist today that carry information about NonStop. Almost every vendor operating in the NonStop marketplace has a web site where you can find a blog that is current and informative. Sometimes even provocative, but all in a good cause – to get us thinking. Indeed, many of my own posts on vendor sites through the years are phrased to essentially “tweak your nose” as one commentator reminded my audience. Not to be taken literally, of course, but rather to get us all thinking about alternate perspectives on well-known issues. A reminder too, if you like, to take a step back from the products and features for a much wider view of the role NonStop plays in your enterprise.

In addition to the many blog sites there are numerous newsletters that vendors write designed to throw the best light possible on their own activities, be that an upcoming event or the latest data sheet. And then, there are the publications – traditional and more recently, digital, that have developed followings of their own. There is no lack of places to turn to for current information on NonStop with the only remaining challenge being just how widely we distribute the many articles and commentaries about NonStop and how much energy we put into keeping our IT brethren as well informed as we are. NonStop isn’t all that it might seem – it is a lot more. And its purpose remains unchanged – to provide enterprises with the most available platform in the marketplace and the only truly, out of the box, Availability Level 4 (AL4) option, according to IDC.

Of course, the publication dearest to our hearts is NonStop Insider – an ambitious project we started a year ago. We have just published the anniversary issue as we kick off the start of year two and what an issue it turned out to be, celebrating a couple of firsts. It proved to be our biggest issue to date with some twenty contributions. It also included a first from Micro Focus (by our good friend Ron who is part of Micro Focus) as well as a first from HEP NonStop (by another good friend, Frans). Their focus was on security and NS SQL/MX – so yes, check it out.

We also received and published words of encouragement. Frans opened his contribution, SQL/MX Update – Frans Jongma (HPE), with the very warm, “Let me start with congratulating NonStop Insider with their first anniversary. I think this format is great to provide information at a regular – i.e. monthly- basis.” And of course, our good friends at TCM opened their contribution, Happy Anniversary NSI and Roll on TBC ’17, noting how NonStop Insider, “had a clean and simple mission: to reach out to the NonStop community and provide a platform to share and learn about every facet of NonStop, from every corner of NonStop.”

TCM then added that, “Over the last year we’ve been delighted to see this mission realized. We’ve heard from the Vendors; companies just like TCM who provide much of NonStop’s supportive backbone including services, applications and tools. TCM has enjoyed both contributing and consuming NSI for the last year and wishes it well for the years to come. We are proud to have been a part of this magazine’s journey as it grows into a respected and valued member of the NonStop community.”

If as yet you haven’t checked out this bumper issue of NonStop Insider then check out Volume 2, Issue 1 at the NonStop Insider web site:
And make sure you read Margo’s editorial page before checking out each of the contributions and while on the web site, consider becoming a subscriber as we sure do appreciate all your support. And so the work on the next issue begins which you will see published just as you head to this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp, being held for the first time just outside San Francisco.

Shortly Margo and I will be back behind our desks in our new offices in Windsor, Colorado. Just down the road from HPE’s major campus in Ft Collins, a place we often drive past on our way to the mountains. HPE focus on NonStop continues to be very real and we see a very bright future for NonStop X systems as they seem to still find their way into data centers worldwide. We also see a future for virtualized NonStop (vNS) as it develops traction with telcos worldwide. As for a bigger future for NonStop – X and V – well, we may have to step back a little to grasp the full scope of its potential, but it is there. Already beginning to take shape.

As additional paint is added to the canvas I expect to see a much different form begin to appear but that is a picture I will happily discuss when we next meet at TBC! In the meantime, don’t let up with communicating the value proposition of NonStop to you peers and don’t stop reading the really good supporting material now out on the web. NonStop may not be what it seems; quite the contrary, when you give it serious consideration, it is a whole lot more!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

It’s all happening and it’s happening, non-stop!

Choices need to be made and I have chosen NonStop. HPE now faces some pretty big decisions and it’s become clear that, driving future NonStop sales will be done with partners!

There are times when many of us are left wondering about the choices we make. There are currently advertisements where actors are left wondering about their own choices and it led me to consider how we managed to arrive at this point of time developing, testing, operating and indeed promoting, all-things NonStop! Once again, I find myself scrolling through the photos on Facebook that were taken during the recent reunion of Tandem alumni and if you are interested in all things NonStop and have as yet not joined the Facebook group, Tandem Computers, perhaps you may want to consider joining. As we head into another round of user events in the run-up to the big one, the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC), and apart from everything that may be covered, it is THE gathering for all those IT folks who have made the choice to continue with NonStop.

Before we go too much further, I am one of those who have made the choice to support and indeed promote NonStop, non-stop! As we all know, HPE loves the technical side of IT but when it comes to marketing well, let’s just say anyone grading HPE’s performance over the past decade would have to note that there is “room for improvement!” Furthermore, it’s tough to get HPE relying solely on selling to the business the merits of working with HPE. For as many years as I can recall, it’s always been about the cool technology. Cool city? I toured cool city in Singapore and there was sure a lot of cool stuff being showcased, but again, no real tangible contribution highlighting how business can produce better outcomes as a result. No, it was all about just how technically innovative HPE continued to be at the expense of all else.

For many years I was on the road almost constantly meeting with NonStop customers and prospects, giving presentations on products as a product manager, even as I championed the cause of regional user groups in my capacity of the ITUG Chairman. As he picture above clearly conveys, my enthusiasm for being on the road, standing in front of a screen and telling a story, never waned through the years and I have to thank my good friend Rick Ploen for sending me this particular picture. The memories certainly came flooding back as I recalled the occasion which I think could have been the offices of Insession Technologies somewhere in Europe. Yes, my hair was darker and there was more of it. And so it goes…

As bleak as I sometimes paint the picture of HPE lately and despite the cautionary tales I tell my clients, there is still much that is happening that is positive and warrants further discussion. After all, HPE has embarked on perhaps the most ambitious course of action any major vendor has ever attempted – not for the faint of heart taking a $130+Billion enterprise to just $20+Billion and yet, once you look past the shareholder value unlocked in the process, there is now a new streamlined corporation with an increasingly flatter organization emerging, an organization that is totally focused on platforms and infrastructure, with the goal of simplifying the adoption of hybrid IT.

“The growth of cloud and industrialized services and the decline of traditional data center outsourcing indicate a massive orientation toward hybrid infrastructure services. As the market becomes dominated by the demand for agility and flexibility, this will drive the shift toward more industrialized, less-tailored options,” comes the word from the folks at Gartner. As reported in numerous publications, Gartner then adds, “However, the growth of hybrid infrastructure services will increase the complexity of selecting the right toolset to deliver end-to-end services in a multisourced environment, especially in a fast-changing digital business environment.” Should we be surprised? As IT professionals are we taken aback by the news that as we lean on hybrid IT to meet the demand for agility and flexibility, resultant systems become even more complex? Yes, it is all happening and the only real question – who is HPE going to turn to for assistance?

But fret not. Of late we are seeing the early signs of how the new HPE plans to go to market for almost all of its products – with partners. You want to know more about SimpliVity? Well, here’s a partner you can talk to. And the message HPE is taking to potential partners? “Join our Partner Ready Program and we’ll team with you to help expand your opportunities and increase the portfolio of solutions you can deliver.” HPE isn’t hiding anything from the marketplace. If you need to access skilled personnel for your upcoming project then you will need to engage a partner that’s local to you and with whom HPE is prepared to funnel its technology to you in a manner that is enhanced by the partner whether through the addition of other products and features or simply services and know-how to make the technology being procured work a whole lot better. It’s all about partners.

If it wasn’t for a steady stream of Congrats on your work anniversary! filling my inbox and all originating out of LinkedIn, I wouldn’t have remembered that when I first chose to tell stories, give presentations, write blog posts and to build a business around all of these activities  that I would be still at it some eight years later. But here we are and the choices I made all those years ago do not look quite as foolish as at first they may have appeared. Recalling my first post of October 7, 2009 that was published so soon after launching Pyalla Technologies, Let's talk ... Back then, I reflected on my choice noting that it was the beginning of a new phase, a change of seasons, of adjustments better aligned with what I really like to do. Now there’s every chance, of course, that remaining independent may change as well – privatizing individuals is just as likely as privatizing companies in this economy.

At that time I also remarked on how for me, it’s a new world and I am having a lot of fun – fortunately, creativity and enthusiasm are still in great demand and I just love to talk (Pyalla?) technologies! Fortunately, the world of NonStop just kept on evolving and providing a lot to talk about for eight years. Partnerships come in all shapes and forms and for me and Pyalla Technologies it’s fortunate that HPE encourages the ecosystem of independent partner bloggers that now follow HPE. So not only is there opportunity to continue to work with NonStop outside of HPE, there are many choices we can make as to exactly how to make a contribution. What hasn’t changed in the eight years is the value NonStop brings to businesses everywhere – the most robust, reliable, available platform on the planet. Bar none!

Shortly we will be publishing the first issue of the second year of the digital publication, NonStop Insider. If as yet you haven’t had the chance to read an issue it is easy to find – There was a lot of cooperation involved in getting this publication up and running but it is just one more example we can point to when it comes to what’s happening with NonStop. NonStop Insider joins a number of other publications both traditional and digital and as such is just one more perspective on NonStop and given today’s questioning of NonStop role in hybrid IT and in simplifying transformation to a hybrid IT architecture well, nothing could be further from the truth. Vendors and users alike are already testing the waters with one vendor already up and running with NonStop X anchoring its clouds as it offers the solution on the basis of SaaS.

It’s all happening and it’s all happening for NonStop and with little additional fanfare, the number of NonStop users is just starting to edge upwards ever so slowly. “New Logos” are being added and among the NonStop vendors partnering with HPE, there is a sense of even more interest in NonStop to come – we are only just scratching the surface of possibilities with virtualized NonStop (vNS) that will make even bigger demands of partners should it all pan out the way I suspect it will. As for the choices we can make, I have already made my choice and it is NonStop for the foreseeable future. So, get ready, it’s all happening and now that HPE is streamlining its business and operational models, it’s all beginning to happen, non-stop!   

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Volunteering, networking and blogging – it all helps!

The opportunities for NonStop programmers may not be as bountiful as they once were but this doesn’t mean we need to let the knowledge we have about NonStop be overtaken by current events …

Many years ago we took our car to a track where we had to do double duty as volunteer corner flag workers. Hadn’t done it before nor was I confident I would grab the right flag at the right time but as it was pointed out at the time, by volunteering we made track rental a lot less expensive and everyone I talked to was in favor of lower fees. After all, we still had to pay for gas, tires, brakes etc. so volunteering didn’t see all that bad. And did I say I was a corner worker at the time Margo was on track and there is no better close up of a driver than from behind the corner barrier! Or more entertaining than waving flags as hard as I could whenever Margo was right on the bumper of a lesser performing driver!

There are a lot of talented NonStop community members now on the sidelines, often times far removed from the action. When you consider what has happened across the NonStop community for the past decade it hasn’t been the best of times. Sure, NonStop systems are still playing a critical role within many enterprises and there are more than enough financial institutions and telcos committed to NonStop to keep many NonStop programmers gainfully employed, but increasingly, fully employed NonStop programmers are becoming scarcer by the year. Technology moves and continues to evolve and capitalizes on changing customer expectations as well as faster and cheaper components. Listening to the Apple announcement of their new phones and watches it was hard to ignore just how much computing power could be packaged within a watch – a dual-core chip, no less! In a wristwatch!

There continues to be numerous discussions over the strategic posture of NonStop – for a four-decade old architecture that hasn’t been matched by any other it’s a constant reminder of just how impressive the original architects had been in getting the basics of fault tolerant so right in a system so relevant even today. But this doesn’t change the prospects of NonStop programmers all that much other than to keep their expectations high – surely, there will be a new NonStop user nearby where I can continue to contribute and help deploy new applications on NonStop. Unfortunately, taking a leaf from the cloud phenomena, any demand being created isn’t quite what we expected as increasingly it’s a world best described as looking for NonStop programmers “as-a-service!” We used to call them contractors and even consultants, but mostly, independent contributors who are focused on projects.

So, what of volunteering? In part the answer is visibility – NonStop programmers cannot simply post resumes or hire companies to look for opportunities. The internet and social media have changed the game considerably but it is still mostly about the network and how strong our network remains is where I see so much talent being left warming the benches. As the likelihood of Insession remaining independent and the prospect of ACI acquiring Insession strengthened, I volunteered for ITUG and in due course, I managed to get elected to the ITUG Board of Directors. But this only came about because of my network – in the late 1980s I brought about the formation of a local RUG in Sydney that became OzTUG.

In due time, Tony Bond became head of OzTUG and it was through Tony, that I made it onto the ITUG Board. Margo and I were only looking back at how this all came about and it was really due to the support of some forward-thinking managers in the Sydney branch offices of Tandem Computers. However, here’s the bottom line. I had only been with Tandem Computers for just on a year and by volunteering to work on forming a user group, my visibility within the company and indeed, as it turned out, the local press, expanded considerably. As I left for fulltime employment with Tandem in Cupertino, the local Australian publisher of ComputerWorld approached me and asked me to write a feature story centered on my observations of life in Silicon Valley and this I agreed to do. He already knew that I wasn’t short of stories so perhaps this little nudge into the world of publishing was self-serving on his part, but the fallout from volunteering (I was an unpaid feature writer), was to expand my network even further.

Again, volunteer and build the network. I am recounting these experiences to encourage those NonStop programmers who are wondering where their next gig will come from. Finding a fulltime assignment that is well-paid isn’t on the cards for most NonStop programmers I talk to. Seriously, it’s very slim pickings out there and the time-off between productive days only seems to get longer. But we all have skills and they are mostly centered on what it takes to support a fault tolerant solution and how best to leverage the NonStop integrated stack! And here’s the really good news. The lack of training of the next generation of NonStop programmers is going to see the needle swing back firmly towards us – we are more than likely going to see a pickup in demand for our skills as junior, over there on his tablet, knows little about the real world of transaction processing!

There are a number of members of our community that you see commenting on posts to blogs, asking questions on social media groups – LinkedIn groups being one example – and yes, regularly contributing to their own blog. The one observation about opinions is that yes, we all have them. The same goes for assumptions as we all assume one thing or another even as we form and then communicate these opinions. We need to remember, however, when it comes to opinions, according to Australian writer, Peter Mulraney, “There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, as long as you understand that it’s just how you see it.” On the other hand, it was Isaac Asimov who wrote of how, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.”

Point is, our experiences with NonStop have placed us in a position where we can provide sound advice, most of the time, and as we continue to write we develop a brand that in time becomes recognized. So yes, to all my good friends out there who email me about what they should be considering doing next I am suggesting just three things – volunteer, network and yes, join the world of social media and find your voice. Blog! As I have already mentioned the world of NonStop is about to come to you.

Think for just one moment of what may transpire should virtualized NonStop (vNS) really take off. Consider too that the community of vNS users will most likely be entirely new and that they are running it on VMs within server farms and clouds – do you think for one moment HPE has the skillsets in place to cover such a possibility? When it comes to global coverage, HPE or their chanel partner selling vNonStop systems, is going to have to tap the knowledge that already exists and they won’t know about you unless you get ahead of the curve and build your brand!

As I look back at how I came to be doing what I am doing today I have just a couple of parties to thank – the managing editor at ComputerWorld (Alan Power along with Graeme Philipson); Tandem Computers, Sydney, manager Steve Bailey; OzTUG and later, ITUG Chairman, Tony Bond; GoldenGate Software executives Tim Rathbun and Sami Akbay; and finally, my wife Margo who today continues to be my primary editor. As you can see, it wasn’t a large group of folks and when you spread their input across the three decades involved, it didn’t require very much from them either. We all need mentors and for me, the mentoring I received came from this group.

In closing, we are coming up to this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp. It is still very heavily skewed towards vendors and HPE but then again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it is our objective to stay close to NonStop. Volunteering, networking and indeed blogging all benefit from opportunity so even as you may be considering just how to get off that bench and let the broader NonStop community benefit from your expertise, start thinking about where best to showcase your skills.

Boot Camp may be a tad too expensive for many but at a minimum, there are always the RUGs and after all, if it wasn’t for the time I put in as a volunteer in support of OzTUG, I wouldn’t be doing what I do today. Wouldn’t have happened! And should you happen to see me at one event or another and this is a path down which you would like to go then by all means stop me and I will be only too happy to chat about all of this and more. Waving flags or not, these are intriguing times so don’t let the opportunities that I see coming to fruition pass you by!      

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Look for the signs – NonStop community has much to watch!

Visions, missions, tactics, strategies – how does it all come together for NonStop and just how many paths is NonStop going down that will prove advantageous for the NonStop community?

Reading one of my favorite car magazines (and the source of many anecdotes for posts and articles already published), Road and Track, I came across a feature story on the Nürburgring – a magical place for all car enthusiasts and where Margo and I had the good fortune of laying down laps during a track-only day (no busses or motorcycles, just Porsches, Ferraris, Lotuses and Nissan GT-Rs).

Our time on the ‘Ring was back in late 2010 and you can read more of that in the post Respect the ‘Ring! of September 23, 2010, to our social blog Buckle-Up-Travel The Road and Track article, Master’s Program, informs its readers of how, “At most tracks, it’s not uncommon for a first-rate professional racing driver or even a talented club ‘shoe to be up to speed after as few as a dozen laps.” Then adding, “Not at the’Ring. You won’t come close.” More revealing yet, “Like any track, there are references that a driver can use to let them know exactly where they are, where the car should be positioned, and what the driver should be doing. (The) difference here is, there are easily 10 times as many of those reference points spread out over 14-plus miles.”

The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, for instance (depicted above and with Margo behind the wheel), is always exciting as it has few signs forewarning you about what comes next. All of which is to say that signage and reference points are important on race circuits and I am sure there are other activities where much the same can be said. Here in Colorado we understand and appreciate how downhill racers know every inch of their run down a snow-covered mountain. When it comes to computers, sometimes it’s more difficult to spot signs and catch important references. It also requires a completely different set of skills most of which take a very long time to develop.

For starters, what does strategic really mean and who really does set strategy? Where do we turn to for confirmation that something is relevant, important, and even strategic? Is it our favorite vendor or our primary vendor? Is it an industry analyst or simply a journalist we know well? Turns out that it is a combination of all of the above that somehow we need to weight and prioritize based on our experience with all parties. Not all information is the same nor does it necessarily reflect the real story – you just have to check the tangible reference points that are all around us.

For the NonStop community it is proving to be a very difficult time. The initial euphoria that came over the community when news first broke that NonStop wasn’t being spun out to Micro Focus as part of the offloading of non-core software assets gave the NonStop community a real boost. NonStop isn’t non-core after all. Furthermore it had escaped being relegated to a couple of part timers determined to keep the torch burning brightly, albeit with somewhat limited funds as had happened to OpenVMS. No, NonStop was proving to be special and something HPE valued more highly than other assets it had accumulated over time. However, being core or at least, not part of the non-core software portfolio, isn’t translating into strategic and that is where the concerns lie – if it is core but non-strategic, what does that mean?

Again, it’s time to check our reference points as we look for familiar signs that will help guide us with the decisions we have to routinely make. Do we continue to invest in NonStop systems? Do we bring additional applications to our NonStop platform? Do we invest in middleware and infrastructure products that will help lift our productivity? Will we even spend money sending staff to events and summits held in support of NonStop? Just as importantly - whereto Mission Critical?

The answers today are not that clear and with the passage of time following the completion of the various spin-merges and offloads, the silence coming from HPE is, as they say, deafening. Could it be that it is a simple case that HPE doesn’t know? Could it be that HPE has as yet not focused its own resources on looking at where NonStop could take them? Might it even be a case that NonStop has been forgotten? We often talk about “best-kept secrets” but when it comes to NonStop it isn’t productive to think this way, as it’s a bit of a cop-out reflecting the lack of any real marketing effort being expended by HPE.

At this point I am observing a paradox. NonStop isn’t strategic for HPE – just look at the HPE vision and you will see references to simplifying hybrid IT, empowering the edge / IoT and then offering services in support of both of these pursuits. As HPE adds additional products and indeed vendors to better support this vision and, essentially, map it into a workable strategy, there’s no specific reference to NonStop. Quite the contrary, look at project New Stack unifying management across on-premise systems and clouds private, hybrid and public as well as Simplivity and Synergy and there is no references to NonStop whatsoever.

Indeed, it would take considerable new development to bring NonStop into play and have it participate in any fashion – and yet, look at the strategy behind these products and you could see real advantages of having NonStop participate. No, NonStop isn’t strategic and isn’t making a contribution to HPE’s strategy at this point. And yet, it is still holding down a place in the HPE slideware pulled out on every occasion – so what gives?

There is no shortage of evangelists supporting NonStop nor is there any shortage of references highlighting exceptional use-case scenarios. We often look to finance and telco industries to find references to NonStop but in reality, NonStop clings to handholds in almost every vertical from manufacturing, distribution, entertainment and yes, even healthcare. With all the security issues we read about almost daily and the outages of critical infrastructure components we hear about almost as often, you would think a lot more attention was being paid to reliability but it just isn’t the case. The assumption is that all systems, no matter who the vendor is, provides 24 x 7 capabilities and outages by any of the systems was just an unfortunate incident most likely attributable to human error. A situation that will always be present as long as there is human engagement involved! So why even consider a NonStop system and all the added expense that would involve?

However, evangelism alone isn’t going to cut it – we need a lot more and we need it from all stakeholders. The simple truth is that NonStop will do very well without being strategic. When you consider other manufacturers you will see there are numerous categories for their products – strategic, tactical, utilitarian, general purpose and yes, even halo! Point is, champing at the bit to push NonStop to the top of the list of strategic products isn’t really going to get us anywhere – what is more important is returning to the topic of HPE having a strategy for NonStop. And this is where the signage is better illuminated.

Being strategic and having a strategy are very different pursuits and are oftentimes, unrelated. We expect HPE to be able to articulate a strategy for the company as a whole – we all want to be better informed about where it is headed. But when it comes to individual products in the portfolio, strategies will vary by marketplace, region and even personalities. Just take a look at the reference points surrounding NonStop today and you will get a good sense of not only where HPE sits with NonStop but where you are relative to a strategy for NonStop, best described as a holding pattern.

There are two very distinct and yes, quite separate NonStop paths today and they contain numerous pitfalls for both users and vendors alike. What may work when following one path will not necessarily work when following the other path. HPE will continue to make NonStop systems – it’s strategy for NonStop systems is to continue to follow the Intel roadmap that will give us the latest x86 chips as Intel regularly ups the performance. The key piece of the strategy here is that the marketplace for these NonStop systems will be existing users with only marginal increase in the NonStop user population at best.

In developing virtualized NonStop (vNS) however with vNS, HPE is taking NonStop down a completely untested path and here’s where the problems arise – we have no reference points. We are approaching blind corners and cresting hills with no visible signage as to where the road is headed. Having said that, there isn’t a firm strategy for vNS as yet and for the NonStop community it appears that the strategy for vNS remains a work in progress. And yet, vNS is anything but in a holding pattern – it may turn out to be the only outcome for NonStop that becomes strategic but for that to happen, vNS may not be solely resident within HPE.

When looking at these paths down which NonStops are headed, there may not be ten times the reference points we need to check but there is still much to observe. Hopefully with the NonStop Technical Boot Camp fast approaching, we may learn more even as these reference points consolidate and we come to see just a simple sign. For now, what matters most isn’t whether NonStop is strategic for HPE but rather, does HPE have a strategy for NonStop and will that strategy embrace the NonStop we know today even as it lifts the veil on the NonStop we all see coming. NonStop systems will likely be with us for a couple more years but as for vNS, well-executed and well-supported by HPE, it’s influence may be felt for decades to come!