Sunday, May 22, 2016

NonStop on forward path – and it’s just not stopping!

Attending gatherings of the NonStop community remain a priority for me and getting the opportunity to join BITUG in London proved enlightening. NonStop is definitely on a roll and the NonStop community is enjoying a return to growth!

It was a quick trip to London. The BITUG Big SIG was the venue and it proved to be a popular event – congratulation’s to Kevin and the rest of the BITUG team for pulling this event together within the walls of Trinity House, a building I walked past on a daily basis back in the mid-1970s when I worked in London. Being called upon to give a 30 minute presentation and to man a vendor table, carrying as I did a collapsible promotional banner wasn’t completely unexpected and is something I do like doing.

Fortunately, with London as the destination, there was more than enough upside in making the trip to compensate for the time away from my office. Even though my time in the air these days has been trimmed to the bare minimum, I have to admit, there’s no other practical option than to fly when it comes to spending time with our European brethren.

The NonStop community certainly has an extra bounce in their walk these days, maybe even a swag. Having just come off participating in a number of Regional User Group (RUG) meetings in America, it’s great to see this recent uptick of interest in all things NonStop. If you missed my post of last week, “London Calling” to which I can add, “Anchors Away!”, which I wrote just before BITUG kicked-off, you may recall that I said I expected there to be surprises and that I wasn’t ruling anything out. As it turned out, there were surprises, not the least being just how popular the event proved to be with NonStop users – several faces I recognized from past events, but the majority of the attendees were new faces to me.

My presence at BITUG came about at the request of OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. Even though I had been providing an update on the OmniPayment’s Fraud Blocker offering in America I was interested to see how big a crowd I could attract. Whether it was my personal charm or simply that the NonStop roadmap presentation given by Vanessa Kaupp, NonStop Program Manager, HPE, followed immediately after my presentation, the room was full. I have become well-versed now in what OmniPayments can offer and while there really isn’t any substitute for Yash presenting his own product, I was pleased that there weren’t any difficult questions thrown my way.

I am always asked whether payments solutions can be exported. Do products selling well in one hemisphere will prove successful somewhere else? There’s no hiding that the OmniPayments payments solution is doing very well in the western hemisphere with deployments across the Americas that includes one of the biggest deployments on the planet in support of one of the top three American banks.

If the numbers 40,000,000 transactions per day and 700,000,000 transactions per month do not impress you then perhaps you may want to also consider that this runs on NonStop and just happened to be a showcase migration from another well-known payments solution to OmniPayments. For financial institutions across EMEA considering their options, the numbers like these are sure to impress.

I posted to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, of how BITUG gathers NonStop community together in London ... and about how I lost my way the first afternoon of my stay. I was familiar with the area but so much has changed, the cityscape was unrecognizable. I ended up hailing a taxi in order to find the offices of HPE where NonStop sales head, Dave McLeod, resided. Much of what we discussed was covered in the update he provided during the BITUG lunch but even so, the impression I came away with is of Dave as excited as I can recall over just how well NonStop X sales are going. I may have lost my way, but clearly, NonStop is very much back on track.

OmniPayments has been the primary reason for my attendance but manning at the OmniPayments table gave me the opportunity to catch up with other vendors. Prominent, as they so often are, comForte continued to be the center of many conversations about security and modernization. Shortly I will be posting to comForte blog updates on modernization so check this blog site over the next couple of days to see what I have to say about modernization, particularly as it pertains to modernizing networks.

If as yet you haven’t read my most recent post to the comForte Lounge blog, you may want to take a few minutes to check out the post, HPE NonStop Continues Driving Deeper Into the Data Center . “Yes, HPE has changed its business models, its culture, its funding of R&D, and perhaps most importantly for the NonStop community, its salesforce,” I noted. “Evidence of this, in addition to what we have seen with the rapid introduction of new NonStop systems as a result of stepped-up funding for NonStop R&D, has been the addition of sales folks charged solely with targeting new business opportunities for NonStop.”

McLeod is beaming over recent successes and yes, his is not the only face to be seen as there are some faces I hadn’t seen before at HPE Sales Team and I came away thinking that over the next year, McLeod will be adding even more. NonStop is on the ascendancy and seeing this develop, as I did in EMEA, is particularly encouraging as news from some countries had indicated that an erosion of the presence of NonStop was under way.

However, proceeding down this path may prove to be premature as I sense there is more than one current NonStop user looking to change that is weighing their future plans – yes, if you haven’t already noticed, the Unix market is on an unrecoverable downward spiral. Placing all your chips on the Unix square probably wasn’t the best decision to make – somehow, and against all odds, the best odds are squarely back with NonStop.

For as long as I can recall much of the angst over staying or not staying with NoNStop has had to do with recruiting and retaining staff. Whether it was memories of the miniature bottles of Scotch whisky on their table at last years’ Boot Camp – 18yr old Glen Livet single malt, as I recall – or the sight of a much bigger bottle being given away to one luck user, I just had to stop by the TCM table. NonStop users in the western hemisphere may not be as familiar with TCM as those NonStop users in EMEA are, but TCM is providing a much needed consulting service focused on keeping as many NonStop systems operational as possible.

“Quite simply, we are the NonStop experts (and) we are at the forefront of NonStop support,” says the TCM web site and the more I talk with these folks, the more I tend to believe them. And no, not for the opportunity to sample another fine single malt! For a company that has been in business for as many years as it has been, TCM still proved to be a surprise package and if like me, you would like to know a little more about the company, check out the web page About TCM.

The presence of such a sizable organization focused solely on services in support of NonStop systems should assuage any misgivings about whether access to skilled NonStop personal was problematic and I plan to take a much closer look at the full scope of TCM’s offerings in future posts. I am not sure when my next trip to London might happen but I do know TCM folks are planning on attending this year’s Boot Camp and I am sure I will catch up with them once again.

It would be remiss of me if I forget to mention conversations I had with ETI CEO, Andy Hall. It’s no secret that ETI has wrapped up a couple of acquisitions. It’s no secret too that ETI would like to do more nor is it a secret that HPE executives would like to see a number of NonStop vendors become much larger. For Andy, seeing how positive on NonStop McLeod has become is very encouraging and as I walked away from my conversation with Andy, I just had to wonder, what’s next for ETI? 

Much of what is becoming central to the messages emanating from HPE NonStop sales has to do with hybrid computing. From the most senior HPE executives on down, the message about transforming to a hybrid infrastructure continues to resonate at every user event where HPE has a presence. In a recent HPE promotion for a joint HPE and IDG presentation, Use Cases for Hybrid IT Enablement , this message was strongly reinforced by the following observation. “The right hybrid delivery strategy is based on standards, built on a common architecture with unified management and security, and enables service portability across deployment models.

Just published in a paper aimed at CIOs, co-written with HPE, The Changing Face of Mission-Critical IT in an Always-On World, “More than six in 10 respondents to the IDG Research survey of 200 IT and business decision makers said mission critical has increased in importance as an IT investment focus over the last two years.” In case you were wondering whether HPE was behind NonStop and supporting it in the media, scroll through this paper to where customer use case scenarios are covered and the very first reference is of how Rabobank banks on HPE Integrity NonStop to ensure 24/7/365 global operations.

Perhaps HPE NonStop sales head, McLeod, has a reason to have an extra spring in his step. Perhaps too NonStop vendors are turning out in force to promote products and services in support of NonStop. And did I mention too how there were new, young faces stepping up to take ownership in the NonStop marketplace – no more gray hairs among those I talked to, from HPE’s Vanessa Kaupp to TCM’s Daniel Craig, to a number of those at comForte.

Youth is definitely on display at NonStop. And perhaps their presence in support of NonStop as much as the messages coming from HPE and the community are an even bigger cause for optimism over the future of NonStop! I may have lost my way on arrival in London but when it comes to NonStop, the path forward is very clear. And yes, from the smiles evident on faces everywhere, this path forward just doesn’t stop!  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

“London Calling” to which I can add, “Anchors Away!”

It’s London and it’s the BITUG Big SIG. The NonStop community is gathered to hear more of NonStop and it’s a lot happier community these days. Before it starts I thought it may be good to reflect on what NonStop has accomplished already in just two years since support for x86 was announced. 

Few readers of my blog posts will have missed my many references to cars and music and walking around London for nearly a week there was plenty to remind me of both. A Rolls Royce here, a McLaren over there and yes, plenty of Aston Martins everywhere! Sometimes you simply forget how successful the English have been through the years when it comes to cars. As for a small point of fact, nearly all of the F1 teams have their headquarters around London, from Red Bull to Williams to now the first North American team in ages, Haas F1, chose to complement its North Carolina operations by setting up shop nearby in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

On the other hand, when it comes to music, what needs to be added! As a child of the sixties, there was no place producing as much music as the British Isles. In fact, my first phone call back to Margo started out with, “London Calling!” Then again, it is impossible to escape the maritime heritage of the place as indeed, it was while working for the shipping line, Overseas Containers, Ltd., that the first opportunity to move far from Sydney’s shores eventuated. And look what that led to – some seven international moves later I’m now a US citizen. However, this year’s trip to London is a lot briefer and with a specific purpose in mind – participating in the BITUG Big SIG event.

Following so soon after the very successful GTUG event in Berlin, where there were more than 200 participants (of which there were 100+ users from some 50+ customers), so my expectations are running high. Right now though, looking out the window of my hotel onto Tower Bridge Road (yes the Tower Bridge itself is only a matter of a hundred yards or so up the road), it’s raining. And it’s May. I recall that apart from London Calling, there was a EuroVision song a couple of years ago, London Rain (nothing heals me like you do) and I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to reference:
Close your eyes and count to ten
May not feel this way again ...

Before waxing any further philosophical, is it just me or has everyone else in the NonStop community experiencing a heightened, indeed accelerating, pace of change surrounding all things NonStop. Perhaps it’s the accelerated rate that is catching my attention – it was only two years ago that HPE announced NonStop would support the Intel x86 architecture. Well, it’s delivered already and added a second model to the NonStop X family of systems. InfiniBand (IB)? Also delivered, and now a way to exploit IB in hybrids, Yuma. Yes, delivered, too. Virtualization, and the opportunity to run NonStop in private clouds, capitalizing on both vNonStop and vCLIMS?  You bet; it has become more than lines and boxes on a whiteboard. Delivered? Well, not yet for this last item – but are we all that sure it hasn’t found a home already in one telco or another? For sure, come the next NonStop Technical Boot Camp in San Jose, we will likely hear more and I would not be surprised to learn that there’s a customer already in production.

NonStop running on an x86 server? Something that become a discussion item at GTUG, where the answer is why not? The fact remains that NonStop is now software – the best software platform on the planet. Running on anyone’s x86 package, especially if they configure a Linux / KVM setup and run vNonStop. Piece of cake … and what about public clouds? With the work being done in support of Yuma and hybrids it’s clear to me that it’s not just IB being supported but high-speed Ethernet as well and it’s with this Ethernet support that I wouldn’t want to rule out eventual support by vNonStop of public clouds.

No, you may not feel this way again … But who is the audience for such products? In a world being overrun with Linux is there still a need for systems like NonStop? The short response is yes, and for a very good reason. Just talk to HPE executives. Talk to major users in finance, telco and even healthcare. There will always be information that needs to be locked tightly away, inaccessible to all, save a few mission critical applications. For the remainder of my lifetime there will be a need for HPE to supply complete NonStop systems and in the usual way statistics are produced, while 80% may be on the Linux server binge, there will still be that 20% needing NonStop.

That’s a very big marketplace and one the HPE executives are now behind – the investments in x86, IB, Yuma, vNonStop and so forth (and I’m sure there will be even more surprises coming in November, 2016) aren’t small and definitely not being hidden from financial and budget planners at the highest level within HPE. This is all happening and it’s not by accident. Dress it up any which way you want but there’s big money behind NonStop and its trajectory is deeper into the open space – and yes, for a reason as well. While IBM mainframes continue to track down the proprietary path, NonStop is heading in the opposite direction – open. For many within the NonStop user community this is exactly the right direction to be heading.

I am often asked about the future of NonStop, not so much among existing users but within the broader context of HPE itself. Here’s the latest news flash on this score – NonStop X, yes a world-beater; SuperDome X, not so much. The relationship between Unix and SuperDome has been very strong, joined at the hip, so as to speak, but did we all see the upshot of the recent hip replacement surgery? Well, SuperDome no longer supports Unix and even as it’s a superb scale-up package, the new world of Linux and Windows is all about scale-out. And NonStop delivers scale-out by the bucket load whereas SuperDome X can only look on. Ouch.  Far be it for more to advise HPE on its product directions but isn’t it time to start thinking that perhaps continued investment in SuperDome X is a lost cause? Give the money to NonStop and let’s run with NonStop as fast and as we can!

However, it’s not just the cadre of current NonStop users who see the need to continue with NonStop as secure, locked-down, systems at the very heart of their mission critical systems. There will be others attracted to the traditional properties of NonStop systems for the first time, given the new investments being made in runtime platforms – Java 7 and 8 as well as Node.js. Chose you poison – you can deploy on NonStop what you are developing today. First with microservices, I suspect, but in time, complete services – whole solutions that we may not have ever contemplated seeing run on NonStop. There will be surprises I am sure, but I am not ruling anything out. In an increasingly mobile world where apps and microservices reign, NonStop just may prove to be the answer to many of the yet unasked questions!

Yes, you may not feel this way again … Looking around the banks of the Thames there’s images of anchors everywhere. Real anchors of antiquity, stylized anchors as art, and then again, working anchors holding fast giant cruisers. It all begs the question – has NonStop been too tightly anchored inside of HPE? Have these anchors restricted its ability to steam away from the shore as much as they have provided safety during tempestuous times? London may be calling and in truth, we may not feel this way again about NonStop. But seriously, isn’t it time to cut the chains holding NonStop back (as we already are seeing happening within NonStop R&D)? Yes, it’s come time for Anchors Away!  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hybrids continue to make headlines …

Who would have guessed just how much that is happening in the auto industry applies to IT. Bottom line? Don’t underestimate what hybrids can deliver and yes, I am talking about NonStop!

First it was the news about an upcoming entry-level Tesla that had everyone jumping. The early revelation that some 200,000 plus orders that Tesla received was mindboggling, even to a car guy like me. The Tesla Model 3 has been long anticipated but never before in the auto industry has any company opened the order books to this extent while the deliverable is so far away – more than a year out. Just this week, according to Fortune Magazine, Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, confirmed that there had been no letup in interest in the Model 3 with the books now holding some 400,000 orders! Yes, staggering numbers and quite unbelievable – isn’t the economy still in dire straits?

There are numerous reports coming in from colleagues in the NonStop community who have placed orders for the Model 3. In some cases, multiple orders so each member of the family can have their own. As for me, I am still a little unsure about heading out onto the highways in an all-electric car. Perhaps for city and suburban usage they have advantages, but I need more. I need a backup – yes, I need a combustion engine. Reciprocating or rotary, gasoline or diesel, I don’t really care, but something has to be there to keep the batteries topped up when I am hundreds of miles into the deserts of Arizona and Utah.

Just a week ago, my local BMW dealer gave Margo and me the keys to a BMW i8. The engine is tiny by our standards – the same small turbo-boosted inline three cylinders as you find in current model Mini Coopers. Oh yes, and a couple of small electric motors powering the front wheels. But go? Yes it does and with acceleration having some of the same characteristics we enjoyed from the Nissan GT-Rs we used to own. Again, wow! Talk about redefining the luxury-class of hybrid cars, sales of the i8 are running away from the competition. And this is becoming the same shared experience of members within the NonStop community running their own Model 3s – the HP Integrity NonStop X NS3 X1 (NS3) to give it it’s full name. The latest NonStop system that is “Redefining entry-class continuous availability for x86”, as the team at HPE’s Mission Critical Systems likes to remind us.

And like families ordering multiple Tesla Model 3s so each family member will be happy, so too are we beginning to hear of customers’ orders being processed within HPE that are for multiple NS3s. Recently I gave a presentation on the OmniPayments, Inc. payments solution to the NonStop community attending the DUST Regional User Group (RUG) event where I was able to talk about the multiple NS3s OmniPayments had purchased. Indeed, my participation came about as a result of CEO, Yash Kapadia, opting to stay in San Mateo to watch over the delivery of his latest purchase. If I counted the numbers of fingers on the hand he showed, I would speculate that having three systems already delivered, there is another four likely to be deployed across the growing base of OmniPayments customers.

However, this isn’t all that Yash is doing. He too is a very big fan of hybrids and while I won’t give away all of the story, the next time you talk to Yash, ask him about his preferred vehicle. HPE is adamant that IT needs to transform; moving beyond the legacy systems that hold center stage inside many data centers and embracing the scale-out, scale-up commercial, off-the-shelf blade servers that power the open, industry-standard processors that are needed to handle the more data, the more apps, the more infrastructure, indeed, everything more (and the scaling issues that go along with all of this) that Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, HPE, reminds whenever he talks about runaway technology these days. HPE’s message about transformation with its emphasis on transforming to hybrid systems and hybrid infrastructures isn’t lost on anyone in the NonStop community – the story has been told and retold so often that there’s almost nothing newsworthy about the story.

Yet as with anything major the details about any transformation continue to hold our attention – connecting what we have today with what is coming still requires focus and prioritizing. The majority of the NonStop community relies on systems of the NonStop i family – blade systems featuring Itanium chipsets. With as much focus as hybrid systems and architectures are getting, doesn’t it make sense to shine the same spotlight on hybrid NonStop i and NonStop X systems? In much the same way as new-age hybrids comprised of NonStop and Linux are presented with applications on Linux and databases on NonStop X and even in reverse, with online platforms on NonStop and My SQL on Linux (as a number of NonStop customers have done through the years), isn’t the first steps towards hybrids simply getting NonStop X more fully integrated with the NonStop i systems we have?

HPE NonStop continues to sell NonStop i systems to users who have investments in NonStop i and who have plenty of spare chassis capacity to accommodate additional blades. As long as supplies of Itanium (and supporting) chips continues, many users will find going down this path a viable option and I know of users where this remains a less risky option. But even the staunchest supporter of Itanium blades knows that there will come a day where supplies will simply dry up and the sooner they gain knowledge of NonStop X capabilities, the less traumatic an eventual switch to NonStop X will be. Perhaps it’s just another connectivity option to explore and with both NonStop i and NonStop X demonstrating strong support of Ethernet LANs, this too remains a less risky option.

Adding a NonStop X node to an already present multi-node cluster isn’t all that hard to do. According to the HPE, in its brochure, Engineered for the highest availability – HPE Integrity NonStop family of systems, when it comes to Expand-over-IP networking, “All HPE Integrity NonStop systems support Expand-over-IP networking, using high-speed Gigabit Ethernet links to interconnect multiple NonStop systems over a local or wide area network.” Astute users of NonStop systems know that networking NonStop systems whether NonStop i or NonStop X can lead to some pretty big systems – as many as 3,500 processors in one system alone, as is the case for one user in the AsiaPac / Japan region – so consideration of hybrids that include NonStop X with NonStop i while not the current trending definition of hybrid, certainly qualifies when hybrid includes chipsets of differing architectures. Diesel or gasoline as part of your power train? It doesn’t matter; the net result is the continuous processing of online transactions.

Talking of connectivity, Tom Bittman, VP Distinguished Analyst, Gartner, recently gave the Striim’s audience the podcast, The Four IT Megatrends Driving Transformation. In this presentation he reiterated well-known trends under slightly different headings than we may have seen used in the past, even by HPE executives. Gartner proposes that the four IT Megatrends are “Digitalization, Hybrid, Protection, Information.” The emergence of rapid connectivity between competitors, customers, constituents and employees – yes, the creation of digital commerce; a variety and flexibility of technologies – yes, the melding of more than one platform; security, but just as importantly, recognizing the shift from merely protecting and defending to one of facilitation; and finally, Big Data in all its forms are the four IT Megatrends. Sounds a lot like the cloud, hybrid, security and big data we hear repeated as the key focus areas of HPE whenever HPE executives take the stage at any major event. And for good reason – these are what is driving our need to come to terms with transformation. Traditional, conventional or legacy – it doesn’t matter how we describe the systems we have in place – simply cannot cope with what’s coming without a lot of help. There is a point where there’s nothing left and applications left running on these systems falter and eventually stall.

These past weeks have seen a rush to embrace the Tesla Model 3. It’s the new car – the one with a different power train. For many consumers it will do just fine, but a long line of battery-powered cars formed at one charging station in Vale recently left many drivers frustrated by the experience, according to one eye-witness I talked to this week. For a car guy like me, hybrids are still the better option and while the BMW i8 may not be everyone’s first choice, it certainly is among the most attractive hybrid cars on the market. NonStop X systems will increasingly be deployed as part of a hybrid infrastructure and whether the other participant is a cloud, a server farm, a Linux processor or even an existing NonStop i system makes little difference (apart from it being an almost logical step for many NonStop users) to me – what is most important of all is that yes, NonStop X can play a role and with the NS3, the entry price has become so enticing that wouldn’t it be good to see 200,000 orders and more in the coming year!   

Monday, April 25, 2016

Snakes and ladders – the games continue!

Looking back at what was presented at recent Regional User Group (RUG) meetings here in America it was clear that the commitment to keeping NonStop systems attractive to the next generation of developers is materializing. And it all has to do with HPE’s commitment to open systems and industry standards …

While dancing across the grass this past week with our just-turning-three granddaughter Ella, I was reminded of the fears of youngsters. It was a simple case of not wanting to attract insects and bugs for me, but for her, it was all about the possibility of running across snakes. In a suburban Boulder garden? Not likely, although there was an occasion where good friends from one of my clients joined us for an outside barbecue only to see one of Colorado’s rat snakes slither along the stonework of our home. So perhaps it wasn’t such an unusual concern of Ella’s, after all.

Reading the latest update from the Node.js community I couldn’t help but remember this incident even as my immediate reaction to the article also brought back childhood memories of playing the game Snakes and Ladders where, on the roll of the dice, you could either ascend to higher squares after landing on a ladder or worse, descend to lower squares should you land on a snake.

The April 12, 2016, article New Node.js Foundation Survey Reports New “Full Stack” In Demand Among Enterprise Developers referenced Python, after all, but there was more to this article than a reference to a snake as it was the ladders I visualized that held a lot more importance for members of the NonStop community actively engaged in developing new products, services and features.

“With over 3.5 million users and an annual growth rate of 100 percent, Node.js is emerging as a universal platform used for web applications, IoT, and enterprise,” was the article’s opening sentence. Yes, the “and enterprise” reference might surprise many who continue to think Node.js may just be for simple tasks associated perhaps with mobile phones, the “chat” option, and the like. Having just briefly mentioning Node.js in my previous post, The more things change, the more they stay the same … it is safe to assume I was primed to be receptive to what I was reading. 

Fortunately, the article then adds that, “The Node.js User Survey report features insights on emerging trends happening in this massive community that serves as a leading indicator on trends like microservices architectures, real-time web applications, Internet of Things (IoT). The report paints a detailed picture of the technologies that are being used, in particular, with Node.js in production and language preferences (current and future) for front end, back end and IoT developers.”

But here’s where the reference to snakes and ladders came to the fore and while some readers may think more in terms of swings and roundabouts, either image is hard to ignore. When it comes to the “Other languages, beyond JavaScript, that were popular for all three developer types included PHP, Python and Java,” there are winners and losers. JavaScript is clearly winning, “However, when looking to the future, back end, front end and IoT developers planned to decrease their use of Java, .Net and PHP (PHP averages a 15% decrease) and increase the use of Python and C++.” 

There are those images of snakes once again – not so much rat snakes, of course, but pythons. On a more serious note, the erosion of support for Java continues and you have to begin wondering whether Oracle 0versight of Java has turned away many potential advocates or could it simply be a case of moving forward once something better has come along. For the NonStop community, having the option today to develop applications on the new NonStop X family in languages including JavaScript , Python and C++ is a real boost for NonStop finding greater acceptance among the more forward thinking of our development community.

In the post of March 13, 2016, Pulling at the RUG; NonStop resilience firmly on display around the globe! I promoted upcoming RUG events in Chicago, Illinois, and Columbus, Ohio, where HPE’s Keith Moore was scheduled to give updates on IoT and Node.js, including a demo of Node.js running on NonStop X systems in the Advanced Technical Center (ATC). In that post I wrote of how, according to Keith, “Almost all of the demo is using InfraSoft’s new bomBora product and I make a point of saying this.” Keith then shared how, “There are two new tools / features I will highlight: firstly, Node.js (bomBora), which I call out, and then secondly, Redis which is the pub/sub database.”

I have since followed up with Keith to get feedback following these presentations and demos in order to get a better feel for how the message of Node.js was being received. “There is more and more curiosity about JavaScript and the possible future uses of Node.js on NonStop,” Keith told me. “To-date, no customer is jumping on the product but literally every day I hear someone ask me (specifically) about JavaScript on NonStop.”

To which Keith then added, “I think that 2017 is the year where it becomes more of a requirement. This is because we are just now hearing movement toward JSON and RESTful services on NonStop. Those discussions eventually lead to websockets and web apps, which eventually lead to JavaScript.” While the deep port of Node.js to NonStop is available, support is strictly for NonStop X systems as it leverages the underlying Intel x86 architecture. However, this represents a really big opportunity, according to my contacts inside HPE.

With as much usage of NonStop i systems as there are today together with the promotion by HPE of hybrid infrastructures, the more forward thinking members of the NonStop user community might be well served looking at Node.js for deployment on NonStop X systems as they deploy them right alongside existing NonStop i systems.

Hybrids of NonStop X and NonStop i Systems are to be expected in the near term and adding something as modern as Node.js with the boost in productivity it provides, will be something the team at HPE NonStop will be promoting in the lead up to summer. While 2017 may indeed be an accurate forecast for when Node.js on NonStop really takes off in the eyes of the NonStop user community, what is taking place this year are several initiatives within the NonStop vendor community and already a number of them have reached out to me for further information as to where I am anticipating a number of intensive PoCs to begin this summer.

Obviously the developers at InfraSoft are well aware of these vendors’ requirements and continue to complement the services already supported as part of bomBora with a couple more key services. Support for Pathway and IPC will be joined by support for other important NonStop subsystems and I hope to be able to write about it shortly.

Snakes and ladders; swings and roundabouts, even what goes up must come down. Everyone is familiar with such expressions and it takes very little to conjure up appropriate images. Determining what is most appropriate for your business continues to come with many tradeoffs. However, at a time when there is mounting concern over just how much experience is leaching from the NonStop community as staff reductions, layoffs and even retirements are having a dramatic impact on just how many knowledgeable NonStop people remain in the industry but I am holding out hope for the future. It’s not all gloom and doom when it comes to the next generation appreciating NonStop.

Those students graduating from college and entering IT are firmly grounded in platforms and languages such as JavaScript, Python and C++ and with Node.js on NonStop, these options lessen any apprehension they may have about investing time in NonStop.  An influx of younger generation of developers working with the technologies and platforms familiar to them, on hardware on which they have been educated, represents a huge step up for all involved in NonStop.

This is a message we all need to actively communicate to everyone we come in contact within the businesses where we work. There will always be missteps even as we dodge the snakes and look for the ladders, however, isn’t it good to know NonStop possesses the critical ladders that can keep us ascending to new heights and for that, the thanks has to be liberally given to all members of the NonStop community – HPE, the vendors and indeed the users willing to roll the dice just one more time. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

For a decade and a half, Martin Fink, EVP & CTO, HPE has been a recognized pioneer in bringing the world of open source into the commercial world. For the NonStop community this is well understood even as open source plays an important role in the growing popularity of NonStop systems today.

Fair enough, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. There’s no sense of accusing me of waxing eloquent, but this week I was compelled to dig deep for just the right exclamation. By the way, this reminds me of my father who, when I was a child, called his cars “eloquent” and every Saturday afternoon he would pull them from the garage just so that he could wax eloquent!

Nothing original in this, as I am sure families everywhere in the English speaking world can retell something similar, but what strikes me is not so much the reference to cars, but the reference to waxing and waning as in phases of the moon. The reason waves lap the beach, moving up the sand just a few inches at a time before the once prominent sandy beach is completely covered by water is all connected to the moon.

The same can be said about the seasons – but instead of the moon, it’s all about the sun and the change of seasons. Of course, spring is rather easy to recognize even as it varies region by region, country by country and even hemisphere by hemisphere. The picture I have included at the top of the post is a clear reminder that change is under way - everyone looks forward to springs first blossoms. Year in and year out, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Out of habit I troll through Twitter looking for eye catching statements and this past week, I was intrigued to see HPE tweet the above chart. It was part of a tweet of April 8, 2016, by HPE Servers:
Why #OpenCompute relies on symbiosis between your hardware and software  #HPECompute

Now, in part it promotes the Open Compute Project, but follow the link, and things get very interesting. Under the heading, Infrastructure software: The key to realizing Open Compute benefits guest author, Leo Leung, VP of Corporate Marketing at Scality, states: “The ultimate goal of any organization that embraces scalable computing must be optimization at every layer, with the ability to enhance each layer without creating imbalance elsewhere. For example, increasing efficiency in Open Compute storage hardware requires increased responsibility for availability and durability in the software layer. Only with this symbiosis between hardware and software can administrators and users reap the many rewards of scalable computing: incredible efficiency at scale, always-on stability, and budget and resource alleviation.”

The use of italics and bold font are my own but the point remains the same – there’s not only a symbiotic relationship between hardware and software but increasingly, there’s a symbiotic relationship between scalability and availability. When you see your very first presentation by HPE Servers on the NonStop X family of systems, this symbiosis will strike you immediately, and for good reason. Solve the availability and you will solve scalability. Address scalability and you will find yourself enhancing availability. Then again, looking back at the schematic, what really stands out is that in satisfying the need to scale, you don’t stray too far from the message of open. 

When I interviewed Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, HPE, following his keynote presentation at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (and addressed in subsequent emails), there’s no missing just how committed HPE is to all things open. Just like the waves inching up the beach, the message of open is permeating everything HPE is doing today. Any discussions about open platforms, systems and software always brings the conversation around to standards and to the need for all vendors to remain cognizant of business fundamentals – yes, companies big and small can make a lot of money from participation in the open movement. The infrastructure software above simply illustrates what HPE views as leadership projects and how it is plugging them together to underpin future generations of software that everyone else in the HPE ecosystem will be relying upon.

None of this should be news to the NonStop community. When Martin became the head of the NonStop Enterprise Development organization in the early 2000s he had just published the book The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. Scattered throughout numerous chapter summaries are some very strong indications of just where Martin’s priorities lay and remember, this book was published in 2002. “There are too many companies, too many groups, and too many individuals for it to go away anytime soon. The momentum is there to guarantee a bright future for a wide assortment of open source applications, and more of these will take a share from their commercial counterparts.”

Much later in the book, Martin reiterates how, “You must still understand your addressable market and customer needs. All of the other elements of building a profitable business are still required. Open source is simply another element that can open opportunities to either build a new business or enhance an existing business.” Martin also highlights, under the heading, Know your Value, that “Open Source has the effect of accelerating the commodity effect of the value you are trying to deliver. Your goal is to continually deliver more and higher value to your customers. This implies that components you deliver lower in the stack are not components for which your customers are willing to pay as much as they were willing to in the past.”

This takes me back to my early experiences at IBM, but in reverse. When it came to pricing systems as intelligence began being distributed, as a rule of thumb you could expect something on your desk to cost $10K, something in your office to cost $100K and something in the data center to cost $1M. And yes, the operating systems and key subsystems were free.  Now we see that the most powerful computer components in our server are being priced for pennies, the OS and key subsystems being priced in the thousands and the solutions – which lie at the top of the stack – is where the value truly lies and these being prices accordingly.

For the NonStop community, we have been on the frontlines witnessing all of this activity firsthand. We have seen the processors embrace open with the migration to the Intel x86 architecture, InfiniBand, SQL, Java and so forth with yet still more to come. Hybrid infrastructure takes openness even further as it is “another element that can open opportunities to either build a new business or enhance an existing business.” Is NonStop waxing even as industry pundits misread the signs, suggesting instead it was waning? Apparently so, even as HPE continues with significant investments in NonStop!

My clients continue to ask me about the future of NonStop and just as importantly, the future of their own businesses tied as they are, just as symbiotically to NonStop as hardware is to software and availability to scalability. Some of my clients are now beginning to consider returning their open platform implementations of products and features back to NonStop – the availability of Java 8 on NonStop is certainly good news for many of them. Other clients are taking a serious look at Node.js (via InfraSoft bomBora) with its support of JavaScript on NonStop even as they eye with more than a little envy just how much functionality is coming to market as a result of the JavaScript open source project.  

Seasons change. Phases of the moon trigger events among them, the incoming tide. However, there’s a sameness, or consistency, being demonstrated even as you look around; the heat of summer is followed by the chill of winter only for summer to return. The mere fact that there are seasons, each different from what came before, is only marks on a timeline that extends into infinity. What’s constant is that we have a breathable atmosphere about which we have been cognizant almost from the time we were born.

For HPE, there are recognizable strategies even as we see trends developing that for a company with such a diverse product portfolio may suggest a waxing and even waning in popularity for some products. Central to all that HPE does today is the pursuit of all that is open and it comes as no surprise. This has been a pursuit of HPE that has roots going back more than a decade and NonStop has been an insider right from the outset. No matter at which level in the stack we  view, whether top or bottom, there’s an open influence but it all comes back to value and where business perceives value and for the NonStop community, it has always been about the solutions. 

Market segments supported by NonStop have waxed and waned over the years but forty plus years on, they may just be marks on the timeline of NonStop that perhaps doesn’t quite extend into infinity but certainly extend a whole lot further than I can see. As Martin observed, and we at NonStop can see too, “The momentum is there to guarantee a bright future!” Yes, he was talking about open source, but we at NonStop see it, too!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Consolidate and diversify – reshaping the vendor vista!

Randy Meyer, the former senior manager overseeing all of NonStop, who is now Mission Critical Systems VP and GM, has been lobbying all and sundry within the NonStop vendor community to become bigger and M&A actions offer one way to achieve this. The news coming from ETI-NET has been hard to miss of late and now, there’s even more changes taking place …

Visitors to the Las Vegas strip, whether it is to attend the HPE Discover conference or a similar event will be hard pressed to miss the condominium complex known as Veer Towers. Leaning away from each other, in a manner that suggests they will fall down, Veer represents an engineering wonder but its quirkiness also adds to the overall carnival-like atmosphere of Las Vegas where anything is possible. Its symbolism isn’t lost on me – a kind of engineered contrarianism, where, should you go left, I will most likely go right! Veering from center is something I frequently do, although less kindly souls might remind me that all too often I stray far from the beaten path.

At the recent ATMIA US Conference in New Orleans I had the opportunity to catch up with ETI-NET CEO, Andy Hall. Working for the start-up Netlink, Inc. in 1986, I was deep into a discussion with Tandem Computers about a likely investment in Netlink and… who should show up at our Raleigh offices but Andy Hall! When I returned to Sydney in 1987 and joined Tandem Computers, Australia, out of nowhere, Andy calls me to tell me he is in Melbourne, at the offices of the Tandem distributer MIS, trying to sell used cars! If there is anyone in the industry that shares my preferences of straying far from the path then it has to be Andy, but unlike me, where my moves were anything other than chess-like, Andy always had a purpose. 

I kept the above photo, taken as the deal between Tandem and Netlink was completed, as it was only recently that I realized flanking the other distinguished gentlemen was Andy and me. Andy, alongside Jerry Held, his boss at the time, and me, alongside Tandem CEO Jimmy Treybig. Like others in the NonStop community, I continue to run across Andy at one user event or another and whether it was a simple wave from afar, or a nod as we passed each other on escalators, we kept in touch. Sitting in the lobby of the New Orleans hotel, draining a glass or two of wine, with many of the ATMIA event participants around us, it was an occasion to catch up, but even then I was unaware of what was to follow.

On becoming a part of HPE’s Mission Critical Systems group a portfolio that included Unix, Linux and Windows together with NonStop, it is Randy Meyer, the former senior manager overseeing all of NonStop, who is now the group’s VP and GM. With a heritage in NonStop Randy made it clear to all and sundry that for NonStop to grow and sustain a real presence in the Mission Critical Systems portfolio the NonStop vendor community needed to consider consolidating around a fewer number of much larger NonStop banner wavers. Perhaps more importantly, these same NonStop banner wavers needed to consider diversification – it would be good to see solutions and middleware capable of spanning systems from NonStop to Linux.

Following recent announcements we can include ETI-NET in this list of up and coming banner wavers. In November, 2015, we all saw the news of ETI-NET purchasing Insider Technologies where, according to a news release of November 4, as published on ETI-NET’s web site, “Joint engineering between the companies is already underway to adapt Insider’s SENTRA and REFLEX technologies with ETI-NET’s open systems archive architecture and to enable high-velocity monitoring of payment transaction execution, fraud identification, social media sentiment and compliance research, as well as maintaining oversight of high-value message traffic delivery.”

I have to admit I had lost track of Insider Technologies and wasn’t up to speed on its products.  It wasn’t so much a case of Insider Technologies being left unnoticed, flying under the radar, as it was a case of me being focused on other vendors. The last time I sat down with Insider Technologies’ management was in the early 2000s when I was still working for ACI. However, irrespective of its place within the NonStop vendor community, simply finding a home in a bigger and better financed organization, such as ETI-NET, isn’t a situation to be ignored. ETI-NET has its work cut out for it but digesting Insider Technologies will be a lot easier for Andy to accomplish than selling a garage full of used cars.

This isn’t the end of news coming from ETI-NET as they have just wrapped up another purchase and indeed, this is going to see them get a lot bigger. On March 22, 2016, came the news that “ETI-NET, the worldwide leading provider of backup systems for industries that never stop, completed today the acquisition of Virtual Tape Systems (VTS) and SPHiNX.” Furthermore and reflecting the scope of the deal, ETI-NET reported that, “The acquisition includes VTS and SPHiNX software, intellectual property, research and development, customer contracts and support agreements.”

Crossroads product portfolio included software apart from VTS and SPHiNX, most notably, the Strongbox product business and this will find a home in a new subsidiary, Strongbox Data Solutions, Inc. (SDSI), set up for the purpose of focusing on storage solutions for unstructured data. SDSI will become a peer of ETI-NET with Andy continuing as CEO of ETI-NET as well as being on the board of SDSI. In a bold move to further diversify, while VTS is well known to HPE and to the NonStop community, SPHiNX adds support for platforms apart from NonStop.

While I will hold back from providing more information on SDSI for a later post, the important news for the NonStop community is that this deal really strengthens ETI-NET’s position in the back-up, data protection, and disaster recovery marketplaces. While it will signal to the NonStop community that ETI-NET now has more than one solution for back-up, in talking to Andy as well as other executives close to the deal, it’s very clear to me that ETI-NET will continue working with VTS customers, providing them with the level of support as well as with the new features and releases that they expect given the nature of the contracts in place.

“There will be no changes in this respect from the customer perspective when it comes to VTS,” Andy reiterated. “We aren’t going to veer from our plan to grow and having said that, there’s not going to be any first or second tier users; they will all be ETI-NET customers. We have simply consolidated our position in the marketplace even as customers will have a choice based on the options we now bring to the table. We know that tape is not dead. We know that even with cloud computing files ultimately have to go somewhere – whether it’s an issue of regulation or simply having at hand files for research purposes, we have cost effective solutions for whatever today’s applications call for from today’s data center managers. It’s also a really good group of people we will now have that too bring added diversity to the skill sets we are assembling and this should be good news not only to customers but to HPE as well.”

Consolidation within the NonStop vendor community is of value for a very simple reason – both NonStop customers and HPE are looking for a select number of much larger vendors in the NonStop marketplace, where the risk of failure, or indeed, simple atrophy as founders retire, is greatly lessened. While NonStop will unlikely ever attract the likes of Microsoft, Google, Oracle or even SAP-HANA, there’s real value for all stakeholders within the NonStop community in the presence of bigger vendors and ETI-NET is clearly demonstrating a desire to be among the biggest. And the M&A activity is far from over, even as Andy works on the finer details of integrating a diverse group of companies into a single consolidated entity.

Pursuing consolidation, while at the same time adding product diversification, will always be challenging for anyone in the NonStop vendor community. However, looking at the imminent impact HPE’s transformation to hybrid infrastructures will likely have on all products in the HPE Mission Critical Systems portfolio, files will have to have backups and data will need to be archived. The NonStop banner wavers will not be ignored and NonStop customers will be better served by vendors with much deeper pockets and those with broad product portfolios. From what I have read these past few weeks and from the discussions I have had, ETI-NET may have just pulled off one of the deals of the year and for that, the folks like HPE’s Randy Meyer must derive satisfaction – the NonStop vendor community is strengthening even as it is getting bigger!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Payments? ATMs? Are we seeing the full story?

Making time to check the flowers may not be a priority for business and yet, as challenging as it was to arrange, financial institutions are facing bigger challenges as they look to better serve a rapidly changing constituency.   

My attendance at the recent ATMIA US Conference in New Orleans wasn’t just a time for networking and for sampling a little of what New Orleans offers but, more importantly, it was a time to hear firsthand what was happening in the world of ATMs, ATM networks and the payments solutions supporting them. For more years than I care to recount, I have been in and around payments solutions and so it would be very easy for me to become a little jaded and yet, with each conference, I run into a presentation that truly proves enlightening. Such was the case when I walked into the presentation A Blueprint for Next-Generation ATM Networks by Peter Kulik, Director, Digital ATM, Citibank.

The ATM network at Citi represents the face of Citi as seen by its customers everywhere on the planet and for much of the planet’s population the Citi brand is projected solely by the branding on show at each of its ATMs. Before diving into the future blueprints for ATM networks, Kulik stated that, for the foreseeable future, Citi would continue to rely on proprietary software for the interface to ATMs. When it comes to talking about visions, Kulik was even more forceful as he admitted visions are as much aspirational as they are goals as “there are technology challenges for which we don’t have answers.”

Over the course of the past forty years, we have seen many changes taking place in the way we interact with ATMs. Not every intention or opportunity panned out as expected but at the very least, financial institutions were prepared to try different things to keep ATMs a viable option when it comes to supporting consumers. When I watched as the first Nixdorf Computers’ ATM arrived in Sydney being uncrated in a warehouse, we were all bemused to see that the option to keep the fascia heated had been included even though it was a feature only required in northern latitudes where winters temperature would have otherwise froze operations. Maybe the challenges of working in the heat of an Australian summer had confused those assembling this ATM back in Paderborn.

For Citi however, challenges were coming fast and often – pulling together a vision therefore included both near term as well as longer term objectives. A Proof of Concept (PoC) has been underway – indeed, from the nature of what was presented there may have been more than one PoC under way with, at a minimum, one focused on the thin client and another on message routing and translation – and questions continued to be raised. The current situation had seen Citi supporting some 64 ATM functions but clearly, not every location around the planet needed them all so simply coming up with a scheme whereby each location had just the functions they needed was the first item to be addressed as this directly impacted the code within the payments solution they ran. However, this was going to be easy when compared to many of the other tasks slated for inclusion in the Citi vision.

However, one interesting aspect of tuning the functions on hand was that in select markets Citi was already offering a number of PIN-less transactions, including PIN-less Credit Card Payments. Obviously, what hacker would want to insert real cash to pay down a consumer’s credit card! So no, PINs weren’t a requirement. Then again, banking laws differ across markets too, such that in other select markets, Citi was supporting personal loans, prepaid mobile phone “top-up” and even charitable donations, all directly from the ATM. In Latin America there was even the option to perform currency conversions directly on the ATM as consumers could opt for accounts in currencies other than their own. All of which was fuel for the Citi vision as their current network architecture didn’t support a global customer experience.

The transformation of the ATM network was being driven, according to Kulik, “as part of a broader digital transformation being pursued by the bank and yes, this includes global customer experience whereby the user can interface with the digital ‘richest’ experience” that Citi can provide. As for the design centers anchoring the blueprint, there were a number of them and it was a key consideration in order for Citi to move beyond simply having a blueprint to where they would have a modern ATM network.

Among these design centers were the obvious – maintain a leading user interface and transaction- while laying the foundation to better support future enhancements. Also, it was imperative that they integrate the design with Citi’s banking technology infrastructure for mobile, online, internet, branches, etc. everywhere in the world. In other words, Citi wanted a single global code base to efficiently accommodate Citi’s diverse country and regulatory requirements and key to this was a future code base architected to support “micro services, enabled and aligned with continuous delivery and deployment.” These micro services would in turn, support backward compatibility, multi-vendor ATM support, be ATM OS agnostic (to allow choice of software stack), and a preference by Citi to rely on thin-clients wherever feasible.

Finally, and news that would be welcomed by any NonStop user, “Citi’s future technology will have a service based architecture that is built on a decoupled, scalable and responsive application that runs in a cloud!” Think of deploying an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) – from any of IBM, Tibco, Oracle, etc. – into which plug the many micro services Citi envisions having. With clarity, surprising for bankers, Citi sees its future as having micro services as “reusable componentized services that are bound to specific business capabilities (and that) allows for release by module thereby reducing dependencies, shortening test cycles and enabling faster deployment.” That’s it – the blueprint for Next Gen ATMs.

Again, coming from NonStop I was both shocked and surprised. Dare I add, a little disappointed – is this the full story? So much of what was covered appeared to me to be routine considerations for the development of any modern solution on NonStop, but then again, we are talking about the most conservative marketplace of all. The business of dealing with our money, where change happens at a glacial pace! And yet, Citi folks while talking about clouds, service architectures, talked very little about off-the-shelf solutions even as they considered commercial, off-the-shelf hardware for both ATMs and the systems that they interface to as being important considerations when it comes to improving the overall TCO of their ATM network.

Furthermore, this blueprint only covered the ATMs that Citi owned and there was a gap in their overall vision when it comes to the many more ATMs that Citi simply doesn’t own and yet needs to support. More startling, with the necessity to migrate from Windows XP to something like Windows 7 or 10, when it comes to security, Citi is happy with what they see included as part of either version of Windows. And again, that’s it – leave it to MS (or perhaps, Android or even Linux both of which are being considered as future ATM OS options)!  No, the blueprint had very little to say about security and that kind of left me cold.

All of which is to say, with what NonStop provides today together with the ecosystem of partners focused on middleware, tools and monitoring, there’s ample evidence of NonStop support of ATMs will continue to grow. Lesser priced NonStop X systems are developing traction among tier 2 and 3 banks and retailers – just check with OmniPayments CEO, Yash, who took delivery of his third NonStop X system recently and has plans now for four more – and the potential for even greater choice among vendor solutions only adds to the longer term viability of NonStop in payments.

My recent travels have taken me through many states and driving conditions have been challenging at times. At the same time I have seen the desert bloom in Death Valley, something not witnessed for more than a decade. The challenges facing the big banks, on the other hand, are a lot bigger than simply stopping to check the flowers. To see a bank the size of Citi reverting to a do-it-yourself approach startles even as it frightens and begs the even bigger question – will they ever get to roll out anything new? Of course, kudos need to go to Citi and to Kulik for giving the attendees such a presentation.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all that Citi will face comes down to just this final point, and one I know many within the NonStop community have seen before and oftentimes cringed when it’s first encountered: Will the acknowledged differences between what is aspirational and what is real destine blueprints such as Citis to become just another footnote in the history of technology introductions within banks?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Pulling at the RUG; NonStop resilience firmly on display around the globe!

Spending time at RUG meetings and I have been a fan for more years than I care to count, is what I enjoy doing more than practically anything else. Shouldn’t you be participating? Often times, this is where news on NonStop breaks first!

Shortly we return to the road; destination – the DUST event in Scottsdale. This time I will be presenting on behalf of a client, OmniPayments, and I am really looking forward to the opportunity to meet-and-greet fellow members of the NonStop community. Originally I had planned on driving up to Chicago and across to Columbus to attend MRTUG and OTUG events but supporting my clients always comes first, so perhaps, next time.

Ever since I became involved with the NonStop Regional User Groups (RUGs), back in 2001 and on behalf of the ITUG Board, I have really enjoyed the camaraderie that emanates from RUG events no matter where they are held. I have travelled on a ferry boat between Stockholm and Helsinki for VNUG, the gathering of Viking NonStop Users and I have spent a very enjoyable week on Australia’s Gold Coast with OzTUG! South Africa? Terrific group of very enthusiastic users and I will always remember attending their inaugural meeting at a golf course that kicked off the current SATUG organization.

There have been times however, where I wasn’t all that sure the community would survive and several times I arrived at a venue only to find two or three users present – on one occasion, and I seem to recall it was in London, only one user participated but they were very well entertained, I must admit. At its peak, back in the mid-2000s, there were approximately 35 active RUGs with plans in place to add a handful more groups. In the decades I have been involved with one user community or another, it’s been at the grass roots level where I truly see what’s important for users of a vendors products and services.

User groups are all about community and being among fellow advocates of a technology you yourself are most likely to be very fond of – whether it’s an inherited emotion following decisions taken years, even decades, earlier by others or as a direct result of actions you initiated, seeing your positive opinion reflected in the eyes of others is a sensation like no other in the world of technology. And as Martin Fink, EVP & HPE CTO, so tellingly revealed, across the whole product line of HPE there is no other group that knows the value proposition of its product more than the NonStop community does.

There’s resilience within the NonStop community that is very hard to define and oftentimes, justify. It’s steeped in legends even as it’s alive with favorite anecdotes – the evening trip down a river adjacent to the Emerald Resort outside Johannesburg, South Africa, remains my all-time favorite end-of-day activity and being able to move among HPE executives, product managers and a rich variety of consultants and end users, well it was a magical time. Can someone pass me another Castle beer?

Missing out on MRTUG and OTUG means I will not get to hear the presentation by HPE’s Keith Moore. Keith is on the leading edge when it comes to ensuring the latest technology makes it onto NonStop systems and has been a key contributor in helping other vendors bring frameworks and even languages to NonStop.

His presentation and demo featuring The Internet of Things (IoT) “is the hot topic for next generation of the Internet. NonStop servers are great enablers for collection, analysis, and distribution of this new type of information,” according to the brief description on the agenda for the OTUG event, but I believe Keith will be providing a similar presentation to attendees at MRTUG as well. “Almost all of the demo is using InfraSoft’s new bomBora product and I make a point of saying this,” Keith said.  “There are two new tools / features I will highlight: firstly, Node.js (bomBora), which I call out, and then secondly, Redis which is the pub/sub database.”

Again, the whole point of conducting events like this on a regional basis is to allow attendees to see first-hand what product roadmaps are telling the community and what solutions architects working with applications are telling just about everyone with whom they come into contact. If you really want to know what’s hot across the NonStop community you can expect to hear it first at a RUG event. Oftentimes, it’s a presentation given by a vendor that proves to be the turning point for fledgling products just coming to market and to see the responses from the audience in person, well, there really isn’t any substitute.

Sometimes the product or feature being introduced is a little ahead of any identifiable market need but that too is an outcome of the businesses NonStop serves as they are at the very heart of many of the major financial transaction processing solutions. It’s not every day you expect to see change but even so, it happens! It’s gradual and it’s measured – the element of risk is never far from the scene and for these businesses it’s just not an option to mess things up royally. No, it’s over coffee and the occasional adult beverage that business learns a lot about what’s happening right now as well as what to expect to see very soon.

I have a lot of enthusiasm for Node.js coming to NonStop. Attendees at both MRTUG and OTUG should be sure to catch Keith’s presentation as within the slides there will be further updates on the progress of Node.js on NonStop. I have written about this development many times over the years and gradually, the pieces are coming together and the availability of a viable product is at hand. But more importantly, it’s as if Node.js was designed with NonStop in mind, unlike Java. 

If you missed my early posts, the most important post was that of barely a year ago on November 13, 2014, Modernization – and NonStop is a key part of the landscape! Even as long ago as 2014, “Node.js has been gaining popularity as underlying technology for enterprise applications,” note Neil Coleman and Dave Finnie of InfraSoft Pty Ltd – the company behind the very deep port of the Node.js platform. “Large organizations including Wal-Mart, eBay, PayPal, MasterCard, and LinkedIn have all rolled out Node.js applications.”

More importantly in hindsight, and something that really first attracted me to the work done on the port, “
The Node.js model of event-driven, non-blocking I/O that is particularly suited to I/O bound applications - it may have almost been dictated by the fundamental concepts of writing a high-performance OLTP application running on the NSK operating system.” While current implementations of Node.js, obviously, do not possess the level of fault tolerance and scalability that software running on the HP NonStop Server can offer it’s all about to change with InfraSoft’s bomBora.

In the lead up to these RUG events, I asked Keith Moore about his demo and of the potential scope of the opportunity from having support for JavaScript on NonStop. “To-date, no customer is jumping on the product,” said Keith. “But literally every day I hear someone ask me (specifically) about JavaScript on NonStop. I think that 2017 is the year where it becomes more of a requirement. This is because we are just now hearing movement toward JSON and RESTful services on NonStop. Those discussions eventually lead to websockets and web apps, which eventually lead to JavaScript.” Based on what I am hearing, expect an article in an upcoming Connect magazine with more details on IoT enablement using Nonstop.”

This reference to JavaScript on NonStop is just one example of what’s new on NonStop that every attendee at these upcoming RUG meetings will be hearing about – but there’s a lot more than just JavaScript. Clearly, there will be considerable interest in hearing more about the availability of Yuma and the opportunity to better, and indeed more simply, develop solutions for hybrid environment comprising (most likely) NonStop and Linux. And perhaps, if the right questions are asked we will hear even more about NonStop running in a virtual environment following the demonstrations given at the recent Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.

Hybrids, Virtual Machines, JavaScript – just email this post to your CIO and line of business managers and see what response you get. Where did you hear all about this – well, at the recent RUG event and well, there’s even more coming. Can’t wait for the next NonStop Technical Boot Camp – perhaps management should plan on checking it out for themselves!

Conversations similar to the above are more than likely going to happen as more information on the future of NonStop is revealed. Of course, this isn’t to downplay the importance of this summer’s upcoming HPE Discover event. In case you didn’t recognize the photo atop the post – it’s the lobby of The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas where in just three months’ time, from June 7 – 9, HPE’s big-tent event will be held.

I have always been a big supporter of RUGs and will always find space and time to write about them. Driving across the country to participate in as many as I can is not a chore but a calling of sorts – it’s what I like to do. So, if you see me by the coffee machine then stop me, introduce yourself, and let me know what brought you to the RUG. I am more than happy to spend as much time with you as I can as, after all, it’s our community and let’s not ever lose sight of that! 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Covering all points on the compass, NonStop is hard to miss!

Nothing but clear skies ahead even as the highway beckons! At the ATMIA US Conference the panel sessions proved to be an interesting backdrop to challenges still facing financial institutions and yet, financial transactions still pass through NonStop … 

The ATMIA US Conference in New Orleans was the must-to-go place for everyone involved with ATMs. Whether it’s the devices themselves, the parties involved with moving the cash around or those involved in providing payments solutions, this rapidly growing event had it all.

Of course, the conference itself featured an exhibition hall with 85 plus exhibitors and there certainly was a lot to take in. It was also good to see companies with strong ties to NonStop exhibiting and this included companies such as FSS and FIS as well as Visa and Pulse / Discover.

However, for me, the real excitement came with the numerous panel sessions where ATMIA did a very good job of ensuring a representation from all interested parties were included and that often extended beyond simply users and vendors to include analysts, the press and even consultants close to ATMIA itself.

The result was not just a balanced discussion but ensured more than one aspect of the topic was covered. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinions and when it comes to cash, there were as many opinions as there were attendees.

There’s a growing sense that the bad days of winter are behind us and that, as the temperature begins to climb, we will be spending more time outdoors and for me, this also means more time on the road. Rest areas are clear of snow and while it’s a cliché, there’s nothing like driving under clear blue skies! As I noted in the last post, with February drawing to a close, we have driven across nearly twenty states as we have taken in Las Vegas and then Dallas and New Orleans.

This week will be our last in Boulder as this time next week, we hit the highway once again as we head to Scottsdale, Arizona, to attend DUST – the Regional User Group that accommodates NonStop users from Tucson and Phoenix and all points in between. It also is a hidden gem, when it comes to fine dining in America.

Time spent on the road means interacting with NonStop on a regular basis. When you stop to pump gas anywhere, use your Visa debit to pay for fast food or coffee, your MasterCard to check into your hotel, your AT&T smartphone to text a message, there’s every chance whatever I am transacting is passing through at least one NonStop system, oftentimes even more than just one system.

To attempt to explain all of that to even the most frequent attendee at events like the ATMIA still draws a blank with many of them and yet, it’s still important that as a NonStop community, we continue to emphasize just how widely used are today’s NonStop systems. But in reality it’s hard to ignore just how strong an influence NonStop commands today in the world of transactions.

A central theme at the ATMIA event had to do with the commercial servers in each ATM – Windows XP no longer will cut it and all networks need to make moves to upgrade with either Windows 7 or Windows 10 being the preferred replacement OS. There are some though considering Android and even Linux, but for the most part, the move will be to a more modern version of Windows.

What makes the discussion lively is the fact that while the bigger banks have moved off of Windows XP and yes, OS/2 and even Windows NT/2000, many of the smaller to medium size deployments are only slowly migrating even though Microsoft support for Windows XP ceased in April 2014, from what I heard.

But the point remains, 21st century ATMs are all commercial server based that are sourced from multiple vendors. The onus now is on the big ATM suppliers to continue to add to their security offerings even as the migration off Windows XP is being dovetailed with the need to support the EMV mandate. Security was clearly a big topic at the ATMIA event but the surprising thing for me to hear was that even though it’s a mandate, not everyone is rushing to embrace EMV!

Quite the contrary, many POS devices haven’t been swapped for new generation terminals supporting chip and pin but rather, where they have been introduced (and mostly by the big box stores like Home Depot and Target), they are chip and mag stripe. ATMs of the major banks seem better setup to handle chip and pin, certainly, but as for the rest, they are pretty much in the same boat as these less protected POSs. Yes, for the most part, we have all received chip-enabled cards but it’s pretty much universally accepted that in America we will be on chip and signature for quite a long time.

Not even equipped with NFC or QR capabilities, these devices aren’t doing anyone a favor but it’s part of the American way – we all move at the same rate as the last business to embrace and if you want to use your smartphone, it’s still a hit and miss proposition. For many attendees at the ATMIA event, even as our eyes rolled to the back of our heads, we all agreed that fortunately, we still had cash and surely, having cash ensured us the highest possible level of security. As Charlie Brown would say, after Lucie pulled the football, Ahhhhhhh!

But ATMs using commercial servers that are essentially PCs takes us back to language surrounding NonStop of late. In posts and commentaries provided elsewhere there’s been extensive coverage of the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. While it has now wrapped up, if you visit the HPE web site and check out the page Showcase, you will see sitting atop the list, of all that is being showcased by HPE, the heading Transform to a Hybrid Infrastructure

Cool, but follow the link and you will find sitting atop that list the heading Virtual NonStop Infrastructure.  In case you missed it, what attendees were being encouraged to do was to "Visit this demo to learn about the future of highly available and massively scalable infrastructure for your core network. This is a live demonstration featuring a potential HPE virtual NonStop environment with x86 COTS hardware."

And here’s where I have seen for the very first time NonStop systems being described as COTS,  Commercial-Off-The-Shelf, hardware and I am wondering whether the new "NonStop as Software" now free from hardware and becoming clearly free from infrastructure will find a home on just about anyone’s COTS hardware.

Probably not, and as best I can tell, this is not on the NonStop roadmap so don’t go making calls to IBM for instance any time soon. NonStop remains firmly a HPE Mission Critical Systems solution. There is still a lot more to NonStop than just a sliver of OS capable of running on the Intel x86 architecture as, remember, it’s the whole stack!

Time spent on the road is always educational and the variety of transactions you initiate are almost endless but every time you perform a transaction, there is every chance your transaction will pass through at least on NonStop system. And no system continues to provide the value proposition that NonStop offers.

Perhaps comparing an ATM with a NonStop system is a stretch but then again, perhaps not – as branch offices begin to fade from the scene and are replaced with far more complex systems (check out Quantum Systems, MonRo, complete with its robotic arm for a glimpse at one perspective of what that future may look like), as NonStop gets even smaller future comparisons may not be quite as off-the-wall as we would like to think.

Trust I will see you all at DUST and travel safe!