Tuesday, July 18, 2017

When things go horribly wrong …

How a few cents of wire lying unnoticed on the road can cripple a vehicle as large as an RV; we continue to value availability and it’s time to double down on the benefits of NonStop!

The most essential attribute of NonStop today is its fault tolerance capabilities. Availability is as highly valued as it has always been and yet, there are many parties advocating that it really isn’t an issue any longer. Push apps and data into the cloud – public or private, it matters little at this point – and the infrastructure on offer from cloud providers ensures your apps and indeed you data is protected and available 24 x 7. But is this really the situation and should CIOs contemplating a future for their IT centered on cloud computing be immune to the many ways apps and data can be taken offline?

Unintended consequences! We read a lot about such outcomes these days and it is a further reflection on just how complex our interdependencies have become. Push a button over here and suddenly way over there, something just stops working. They weren’t even on the same network, or were they? Throw malware onto a Windows server looking after building infrastructure and suddenly, the data on a mainframe is compromised – who knew that they shared a common LAN? Ouch – but it happened as we all know oh so well.

For the past two months, Margo and I have been fulltime RVers. That is, we are without a permanent address and have been living out of our company command center. We have driven to numerous events all of which have been covered in previous posts to this blog. Our travels have continued and this past week we headed down to Southern California to meet with a client and the trip took us through Las Vegas. In the heat of summer in the desserts of Nevada we hit temps exceeding 110F. Overnighting at our regular RV site, we found a collection of fluids pooling underneath the RV and sheer panic set in. After all, this is our home; what has happened?

It has turned out that unknowingly we had run over wire mesh that was completely invisible to the naked eye. But those strands of very thin wire managed to wrap themselves around the drive shaft of the RV where they became an efficient “weed whacker” – you know, those appliances we often see being used to trim hedges and lawn borders. In a matter of seconds our own drive shaft powered these thin wires such that the result was multiple shredded hydraulic lines and air hoses – who could have imagined such innocent strands of wire could be so disruptive or  that they could completely cripple a 15 plus ton coach in a matter of seconds. Yes, unintended consequences are everywhere and for the most part, lie outside any of our plans and procedures, where detection of the event comes too late.

It is exactly the same with all platforms and infrastructure, on-premise or in the cloud, or even hybrid combinations of both! If you don’t design for failure – even the most far-fetched – then you are destined for failure. It is as simple as that. In my time at Tandem Computers we often referred to an incident that led to Tandem systems always being side-vented and never top-vented. The reason for this was that, at an early demo of a NonStop system, coffee was accidentally spilt on top of the machine effectively stopping the NonStop. Now I am not sure of the authenticity of this event but would welcome anyone’s input as to the truth behind this but it does illustrate the value of experience.  Designers would immediately have caught on to the possibility that coffee would be spilt on a system the day it was being demoed but for Tandem engineers, it led to changes that exist to this day.

Experience has led to more observations which in turn have generated more actions and this is all part of the heritage of NonStop and in many respects, is part of the reason why there isn’t any competitors today to NonStop. You simply cannot imagine all of the unintended consequences and then document them in their entirety within the space of a two page business plan. But design them you must and as I look at how the platforms and infrastructure being hawked by vendors selling cloud computing today are dependent solely on the value proposition that comes with redundancy (which is all they ever point to), my head hits the table along with a not-too-subtle sigh in disbelief. Redundancy plays a part, of course, but just one part in negating potential outages but availability needs so much more. But at what cost?

The whole argument for cloud computing today revolves around greatly reduced IT costs – there is an elasticity of provisioning unlike anything we have experienced before but more importantly, given the virtualization that is happening behind the scenes, we can run many more clients on a cloud than was ever conceived as possible back when service bureaus and time-sharing options were being promoted to CIOs as the answer to keeping costs under control. With the greatly reduced costs came the equally important consideration of greatly reduced staff. And this is where the issue of unintended consequences really shows its face. Experience? Observations? Even plans and procedures? Who will be taking responsibility for ensuring the resultant implementations are fully prepared to accommodate elements that fail?

There is a very good reason why pilots run through check lists prior to take off, landings, changes of altitude, etc. Any time an action is to be taken there are procedures that must be followed. When I turn on the ignition of the RV, there is a check list that appears on the digital display and for the same reason as pilots have checklists – too many bad things can happen if you miss something and I have managed to inflict considerable damage to our RV through the years when I forgot to follow all the items on the checklist. And there are best practices in place today at every data center that have been developed over time based yet again on experience – so when next we talk about availability as we head to clouds, who is preparing the next generation of checklists?

It is pleasing to me to see the efforts that OmniPayments is putting into providing cloud computing based on NonStop. For the moment it is solely providing payments solutions  to select financial institutions but even now, the number of clients opting to run their OmniPayments on the basis of SaaS rather than investing in platforms and infrastructure themselves sends a very powerful message to the community. Don’t discount the value of NonStop as has been demonstrated through the ages – get to virtualized NonStop (vNS) as quickly as you can and go champion within your enterprise that yes, you now have the best possible solution that can survive even the strangest of unintended consequences. It’s just what NonStop was designed to do and it keeps on doing it.

You run on NonStop X so you will run on vNS. There is much that can go wrong with traditional physical systems just as there is much that can go wrong with clouds. Simply going for more clouds and leaving it to redundant banks of servers isn’t the safety net any enterprise should rely upon so take it to the next level. Let all you know how NonStop is taking its most prized attribute, availability, high and wide into the clouds! After all, these clouds are every bit as vulnerable to failure as any primitive hardware built in the past and NonStop knows failures when it encounters them and just doesn’t stop! 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Growth is not optional; it is a must!

NonStop keeps on going no matter what system failures may arise – but is this enough? What follows here is purely speculative on my part but is worth raising with the NonStop community. And yes, any and every comment more than welcome …

Travelling around Colorado these past few weeks it’s so clear just how much growth has occurred. Lakes and reservoirs are full to overflowing – more than one state park we have visited had pathways closed due to local flooding – grasslands are standing tall and trees and bushes are a brilliant green everywhere you turn. Spring rains have continued into the summer with afternoons subject to intense thunderstorms, most days. I can recall that in the past such storms were forming at this time of the year but rarely did the rain reach the ground, but this year there have been more late afternoon storms than I can recall.

Living in a motor coach makes us a little susceptible to inclement weather but so far, we haven’t suffered anything more than a fright from an unexpected thunderclap. The rainfall that continues well into summer isn’t something we aren’t pleased to see of course but the growth these rains have helped produce has turned the Colorado front ranges greener than I have seen for a very long time. It may all be problematic later in summer if it all dries out as we have seen more than our fair share of wildfires with summer’s end but until then, this extended period of growth does a lot of good to the state. Any reader who has also seen photos posted to my Facebook and Twitter accounts may have already seen what I am talking about but just as a reminded, I have included one of the photos above.

For the past week I have been working with vendors on the next issue of NonStop Insider that should appear later this week. What really has struck me is the number of references to growth. Where will it come from? Does the business value proposition of NonStop remain as strong as it once was or will NonStop struggle to sustain double-digit growth year over year? The theme of this issue of NonStop Insider was transformation – you will see numerous references to transformation in the articles that were submitted – but does transformation lead to more sales? It’s questions like these that have come up more than just a couple of times this week and it made me rethink some of the answers I had previously provided to my clients after I had been asked this question.

The business value proposition is as real today as it ever has been – it’s all about availability after all. Out-of-the-box, supported by middleware and utilities that are all part of an integrated stack, from the metal to the user interface! From the perspective of any user developing an application, there is always concern about what will happen if something breaks and knowing that your application will continue to function even as all around it may fail is not something that can be lightly discounted. It’s really a very valuable attribute with an almost “holy grail” consideration about it – just talk to those now building their very first application and watch their reaction when you say you work with a platform that survives failure and just keeps on running. Like the famous “Energizer Bunny!”

However, for most of us, we had this all before. We know the value of NonStop but it’s a strange development environment with legacy tools and some very strange ways of doing things – what’s this about checkpointing? What’s this about redundant storage? Isn’t it all very expensive and don’t you have processors that simply don’t do anything until they are needed? Recently, I have heard just about everything being addressed except for the most important aspect of all – out-of-the-box, it just works! No, you don’t write NonStop programs, you simply let NonStop run the programs you write. You have a rich choice of languages and development environments – NonStop supports it all but with the addition of fault tolerance. It not only just works, but it keeps on working. The Energizer Bunny will eventually stop – its battery will run down. It may last a lot longer than other batteries, but as a power source, it will eventually fail. Not so with NonStop!

So, yes we have the susceptibility to failure covered. But growth? To paraphrase the Apollo space mission, for NonStop growth is not an option. In some respect we have to be very thankful that HPE has given NonStop every chance to build a larger population of users. There has never been serious consideration to discontinuing the NonStop program despite what rumors you may have heard – there are just too many blue-chip customers for HPE to turn them out onto the streets. As witnessed last year at HPE Discover, from the CEO on down, there is a strong appreciation for the value proposition NonStop brings for even the most fastidious of users. However, today’s HPE looks nothing like the company that existed just a few short years ago. Now HPE is looking to all of its products to start producing the type of growth any new company demands.

But here’s the rub; there is opportunity for growth with NonStop for sure but not likely in its present form. Surprised? Well you shouldn’t be. It’s been coming for a very long time – NonStop is going to wash over every product and every HPE system will contain some elements of NonStop as HPE looks to differentiate itself based on availability. A stretch? Dreaming? Perhaps this is taking it a little too far – but then again, is it? Imagine for a moment that any distribution of software HPE builds has a little of NonStop flowing through it, and applications running on HPE as a result just keep on running, would that of itself be the source of future growth for NonStop?

Stepping back for a moment, you will find nothing of this in any NonStop roadmap presentation. For now, the NonStop development team has so much on its plate and as fast as it is moving, there is still so much more to do. However, the judicial placement of a couple of knowledgeable developers within other projects and this could all change in a heartbeat. Yes, NonStop still contains a certain amount of special sauce but it is NonStop’s special sauce and it is NonStop development that has the recipe. Let a couple of chefs loose in other kitchens and stand back – NonStop is no longer just a product but a philosophy and that’s not diluting the business value proposition, to contrary, it certainly would create growth.

You just have to look at NonStop in an entirely different light. It’s not best practices, although best practices have always been a factor in having NonStop applications be as available as they are. Furthermore, it’s not rocket science as much as there are those who think you need a team of specialists to keep NonStop running non-stop. This fear of a graying population of lab-coat wearing engineers is just way over blown. Our graying population is retiring but guess what, there is a developing talent pool of much younger folks that I am not prepared to discount or suggest that they won’t cut it!

Earlier I used the phrase “NonStop is going to wash over every product” and it wasn’t by accident as this phrase too came up in discussions this week. Think of the incoming tide pushing further up the beach and spilling onto rock formations until the tide eventually covers everything. This is exactly one vision I have of NonStop and while I may be the only one predicting such a possibility, HPE has everything to gain in letting the NonStop tide roll in – indeed, let’s go one big step further. Let’s make NonStop open source! Let’s integrate NonStop with OpenStack. Let’s shake it all up – and lets just see who follows NonStop. I know that this highly problematic as well, but why not?

Enterprises will still want a managed software distribution as they continue to abhor the current model of fixes and patches arriving by the hour. Stability and predictability – a new release every summer is something they can handle, but not every hour. So, NonStop becomes a special distribution of OpenStack built to meet these requirements of enterprise IT execs. Think SUSIE, RedHat even Debian – supported distributions are important and have found markets. Put this down as another potential benefit that NonStop brings to the party – availability, scalability and yes, predictability!

In today’s transforming world of IT, there is no such thing as staying within the lines and keeping inside the box. It’s cliché but it’s also very true – to succeed think differently. While much of what I have written above will probably not come to pass even as it’s a stretch to ever think HPE would make NonStop open source, in order to grow and become the best software platform on the planet – HPE has to think of doing the unexpected! The dramatic! And I think it can do just that and it may be coming very soon. Move over Energizer Bunny, not only will NonStop keep on going on but will do so long after your bunny’s battery has died!        

Friday, June 30, 2017

Shipping containers are being repurposed; could we see something similar happening with NonStop!

Seated at a bar made up of repurposed shipping containers prompted me to think of NonStop. Just as shipping containers can be repurposed, with the arrival of Virtualized NonStop can we see NonStop being repurposed as well?   

It was way, way back in 2009 when I wrote a post to this blog site about how HPE was packaging up shipping containers loaded with blades and peripherals and marketing them as a specialty POD – actually, as a “Performance-Optimized Datacenter” and to read more about this, check out the post of July 2, 2009, Common standards, uncommon advantages! I have no real idea of how successful this market campaign proved to be but I only heard that the program was discontinued sometime last year. 

And the reason? HPE was moving beyond blades, where today it was all about hyperconverged infrastructure, hybrid IT and yes, Synergy. Perhaps I was too quick to dismiss Synergy as just software as the more I have dug into HPE Synergy, the first thing I noticed was that it included a whole new approach to hardware packaging to where blades have become legacy technology. Ouch!

I was reminded of the POD this week as I was writing an article to be published shortly on Banking Tech, a publication and web site I support these days. The article focuses on shipping containers and, in particular, the considerable re-purposing of shipping containers that is going on right now. Here in Boulder, inside the local mall, there is a bar that is comprised solely of two 40’ shipping containers lying side by side, slightly offset, out of which a bar operates serving a variety of local craft beers. There’s another one too that was set up a little earlier in Estes Park and, by all accounts, they are both proving to be very popular.

However, setting up a bar in a container is probably not the best example of repurposing of shipping containers. Want to develop a mini hydro-power station in a box? Well, the city of Melbourne has done just that with a shipping container. Want to build a swimming pool that you can take with you when you move? Well, that too is being done with shipping containers – 20’ and 40’ – proving ideal for the purpose.

Need to erect a shopping mall quickly following a natural disaster? Well, check what Christchurch did with shipping containers and the unique shopping experience that they created in the heart of Christchurch following a massive earthquake. After five and a half years it may be winding down but it certainly provided a unique shopping experience. Want low cost housing in the east of London? Well, Container City I and II may be the trick. Shelter for our homeless veterans then yes, it’s being done already in Orange County, California – new housing made from shipping containers.

Point is, the standards that were embrace in the 1960s across the transportation industry not only proved to be disruptive but spawned a number of unrelated industries, not even imagined at the time. Unfortunately standards too are subject to becoming legacy and of late it seems to be happening at an accelerated pace. The big deal here is that the demise of the IT expert or specialist is happening within enterprises across all industries leaving decision making in the hands of new-age managers prone to jumping aboard the next technology wave totally driven by what they just saw in an airline magazine.

There was a time not too long ago where we called this McDonalds Architecture. You know, the arches that symbolize McDonalds,  take another look; did you know there was a bell curve immediately followed by another bell curve that symbolized how quickly architects oftentimes jump from one product or technology curve to the next? And then, of course, the next one, ad nauseam!

With the amount of marketing weight HPE is throwing behind simplifying the transformation to hybrid IT, we already are beginning to see vendors looking at their options with some of them beginning to view the process of transformation as an open invitation to move in different directions. Consider, for example, the homogeneity of the simplification efforts of HPE – for enterprises the investment in Synergy isn’t going to be minor. It’s a big undertaking. However, how many enterprises out there will be all-HPE? So yes, NonStop with its history of being a player among many within the data center has thrived when there has been considerable heterogeneity present.

Could the roll-out of something like Synergy benefit from NonStop for simple connectivity to the rest of the enterprises IT infrastructure? Unfortunately, once you start thinking along these lines it’s hard to see how this could be simplified but surely, there are standards? Ethernet comes to mind and with Virtualized NonStop (VNS), there is RoCE – RDMA over Converged Ethernet.  The Synergy solution does not support RoCE enabled mezzanine cards today, but I can imagine Synergy does have a robust roadmap that may include RoCE support in the future.

And yet, Synergy with its frame that will fit into any regular, industry standard, 19’”rack, “is designed to accept multiple generations of compute, storage, fabric and management modules. It is built on industry standards so it fits easily into existing and new data center environments while preserving the ability to leverage existing storage and connectivity resources.” There it is again, standards. But what standards? Well, it is not about blades anymore, that’s for sure, as today blades have become legacy and are a part of what we are now referring to as traditional computing.

“The direct-connect midplane delivers 16.128 Tbps of bandwidth and is future-proofed with a photonic-ready design that could exceed bandwidth requirements for the next decade.” OK, so photonic-ready is picking up on some of the deliverables from The Machine project from what I could see while on the exhibition floor at HPE Discover. But midplanes are scary things – and rarely provide standards as each vendor tailors them to their own needs – will a Dell or Lenovo 2 or 4 socket “board” plug into the Synergy midplane and work? I haven’t seen anything to suggest that likelihood.

So it’s not blades per se but rather modules, or resources, the items you need today to better support “a broad range of operational models such as virtualization, hybrid cloud and DevOps.” If you do want to know more about HPE Synergy then check out the easy to follow write up that describes Five Steps to building a composable infrastructure with HPE Synergy.

As I look at the containers being repurposed the various transformations that result are kind of mind-boggling. Who knew? However, there is genuine excitement surrounding the repurposing of NonStop – taking it to the virtual world. Again, who knew? I am often asked about the marketing effort HPE is putting behind NonStop, particularly now that the new NonStop X systems are shipping. Well, no surprises here – there will be very little marketing effort. But rather trying to syphon off marketing dollars for NonStop X, the NonStop team is moving NonStop closer to where the marketing dollars lie.

That’s right, VNS isn’t just a cool piece of technology but rather, a really big jump out of traditional systems to where it can finally gain some of the bright spotlight being directed at all things related to simplifying hybrid IT. VNS is aimed at both today’s NonStop users as well as at building a new NonStop user base. And yes, looking at as I tend to do of late, it represents a very effective (and qquite legitimate) repurposing of NonStop!

There is nothing on the VNS roadmap suggesting there is anything under way to bring VNS to Synergy. For the moment, the priorities of the NonStop development lie elsewhere and to some extent I covered that in my previous post, Right time, right place – NonStop lights up the horizon! However, as noted earlier, there are always unintended consequences from actions taken by a major vendor such as HPE even as there are unrelated “industries” likely to appear – for the most part, I am expecting them to surface among the service providers looking to better integrate Synergy with whatever else may be in the data center and where VNS may be of assistance.

Another source may indeed be solutions vendors well versed in NonStop who see opportunities to better differentiate their solutions by capitalizing on both Synergy and VNS. But even with Synergy not making an appearance on any NonStop roadmaps, VNS or otherwise, I cannot imagine that at some point, their paths don’t cross. Perhaps it will come down to whatever happens within HPE’s own data center where NonStop has a presence already.

In many respects the age old truism that the good thing about standards is that there will always be plenty of them quickly comes to mind. Shipping containers started out with 20’ containers only to add 40’ containers into the mix. Now they are almost any size with US containers following a different standard to Asia-Pacific and Europe. We now see containers that are 8’ 6” high even as we see others that are 53’ long.  

Synergy may be unique to HPE even as NonStop provides unique capabilities but ultimately, for it all to work in HPE’s favor, Synergy may need VNS as much as VNS might benefit from Synergy. And not solely for the marketing dollars (although they will help)! Redundancy is highlighted in the Synergy documentation but as well know, today’s enterprises need more than just redundant elements. In wrapping up this post, it is worth noting (as was covered in that previous post to this blog), anything that is manufactured will break and it is NonStop’s ability to recover from breakages that will ensure the ongoing viability within the data center and yes, for the next decade, too!      

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Right time, right place – NonStop lights up the horizon!

Given time to reflect on NonStop particularly as we hear more about where it is heading, should be encouraging for all in the NonStop community – vendors included!

It’s been a while since I caught something at the right time and in this case, the right time just happened as I picked up my iPhone and snapped a picture of a sunset. Margo and I have now spent well over three weeks in our company command center – out temporary office and home – and we have been on the move for a lot of that time. From that initial drive down to Dallas for N2TUG and then across to Las Vegas for HPE Discover, it’s all been covered in recent posts to various blogs. But as the picture above depicts so well, sometimes you just manage to capture something at the right time from a place that proves to be just right!

There is an upside to long drives across America’s interstates. You get plenty of time to just sit back and think! To reflect! And with the many customer events of late, where the focus has been all HPE, with for the most part a lot of NonStop thrown in for good measure. For the NonStop community, excitement levels are once again on the uptick. As is simple curiosity! By this I mean, the sheer volume of new products and features coming from HPE NonStop development is almost unprecedented. To some, the changes are coming more quickly than they can comprehend while for others, it is as if there is a whole new OS and integrated stack appearing on the horizon. For them, there is some puzzlement too as to whether it’s NonStop or something else entirely.

For the record, I believe that it is indeed NonStop and that it represents a major shift of focus. As IT looks to simplify all that is part of IT, at a time when major vendors are looking to do more of the heavy-lifting when putting functioning systems together (think converged and hyperconverged systems), NonStop already has passed this particular test and has done so for decades. Much to the surprise of my blogging friends at HPE Discover, when NonStop is delivered to a customer site, it’s ready to go. No assembly required! The emphasis that the NonStop team has placed on making sure the pieces all work together and that when it comes to software, there’s an integrated stack from the metal to the application, remains a novelty for these bloggers. And yet, that has become the goal for just about everyone else supplying systems and platforms to customers these days.

As the latest issue of NonStop Insider went to press, so as to speak, I was struck by how many of the articles looked at what was said at these recent customer events. The opinions expressed in these articles varied as widely as the locations, of course. Not everyone who submitted articles made it to every event but even as the opinions varied, the sentiment was oftentimes similar. In going from NonStop X to Virtualized NonStop, HPE is making a big bet that it will gain new opportunities even as it retains its core constituency. But here’s the big question being asked by everyone that I approached – will the work being done to continue to keep NonStop atop the technology wave take it away from its core fault tolerance capabilities? In other words, stray too far from the metal and into the world of software-only, will this lessen the level of availability we are so used to from NonStop?

Reflecting on sunsets is easy to do. Depending on where you are at the time, sunsets can be majestic in the way light reflects off the environment, be it mountains or seas. I have often witnessed such powerful displays of colors that are almost magical in the way they appear and then almost immediately are gone. Majestic! Magical! However you treat them it does give you pause to consider matters that perhaps otherwise escape us in the hustle and bustle of life and for anyone with an interest in IT, perhaps we should spend more time reflecting. Few architectures have sustained markets for as many decades as NonStop and yet, perhaps the sun is truly setting on the traditional way in which we view NonStop. No longer just a system made up of chassis, boards and peripherals but rather, an approach to solving business problems in a way that assures its users of no downtime.

When you do reflect on how we got here the role of solutions available for NonStop systems (all right, Tandem Computers, if you are going back to the beginning) plays an important role. After all, the success of NonStop is intimately tied to the applications that became available on NonStop. It may not be unreasonable therefore to think that ultimately, where HPE takes NonStop and what its capabilities turn out to be, when it comes to availability and fault tolerance, if solutions vendors believe that NonStop gives them an edge in this respect – their solutions are more available than alternate offerings – then this is really all that matters. We can argue over how these solutions vendors came to the conclusion that they did but if their solutions survive failures, with no down time, isn’t it OK to call the underlying NonStop just as fault tolerant as he original?

With this in mind I turned to my client, OmniPayments, LLC whose solution continues to focus on NonStop. Even as modern configurations include Linux and Atalla processors right alongside NonStop, OmniPayments markets its solutions as being fault tolerant, running 24 x 7, forever. It’s hard to ignore OmniPayments’ CEO, Yash Kapadia, when he points to lines in his PowerPoint presentation that state, “A single system supports 10,000 transactions per second (TPS); 99.99999% reliable, immense linear scalability, bulletproof data integrity!” Yes, seven 9s – and Yash is adamant that this is being achieved today by his customers. So yes, reflecting on what a solutions vendor provides on NonStop today only begs the question – will such solutions be making the same claims in the future as they accommodate the new NonStop coming to us from HPE NonStop development?

"OmniPayments has been out front testing with the latest offerings coming from HPE NonStop development. There have been many and it is clear to OmniPayments that the NonStop team is in transition as it throws more support behind virtualization and clouds. With OmniPayments keeping costs low, these efforts are indeed welcomed as it helps maintain a very competitive posture for OmniPayments," came the response from OmniPayments’ VP Business Development, Craig Lawrance. Like many vendors I talked to, OmniPayments clearly understands that there is a new mantra echoing across NonStop development, “yes, we can!” And it’s evident that where NonStop development is taking NonStop is into unchartered waters – a software only solution that yes, is the best software platform on the planet. It’s all about running mission critical workloads and according to NonStop development Director, Andy Bergholz, "Our goal is to make HPE Virtualized NonStop hardware agnostic, with the exception of utilizing Intel x86 microprocessors and RoCE enabled NICs.”

I caught up with Andy at HPE Discover and while the extent of our conversation was just the exchange of a few ideas, I have been reflecting on his assertion ever since. Valuable insight coming out of a customer event where it proved relatively easy to catch up with HPE senior management; HPE Discover has always produced surprises! Returning to my exchange with Craig Lawrance following HPE Discover, I raised the matter with him that with all the changes coming out of NonStop development, how was it impacting OmniPayments? Were there any reservations about pushing ahead with NonStop X, and then with Virtualized NonStop?

"For anyone in the NonStop community that has attended recent customer events it would be hard to miss the increased presence of OmniPayments at such outings. Given an opportunity to talk about our move to NonStop X, our support of OmniPayments as SaaS in public and private cloud configurations based on NonStop X, the demonstrated performance improvements audiences world-wide have witnessed, and being among the first to bring real-world testing to Virtualized NonStop, all this collectively puts OmniPayments well ahead of the curve when it comes to the payments marketplace."

Most important of all, I heard no comments whatsoever from OmniPayments management that NonStop development was in any way diluting the message of NonStop! In other words, future OmniPayments products were going to be every bit as available on new systems and platforms, no matter what form they will take, as they believed HPE is fully committed to ensuring NonStop development provides a platform capable of maintain the levels of availability OmniPayments demands, whether on physical systems or virtual and whether on-premise or in the cloud. We may continue to debate the merits of NonStop and the path it is taking but if those making a living from selling solutions differentiated by their implementation on NonStop continue to see NonStop fulfilling their mission then I think this debate will quiten-down rather quickly.

OmniPayments is not alone in this regard – there are many other vendors that I talked to that remain committed to NonStop, no matter what shape it happens to take in the future. If all that NonStop becomes, in a hybrid cloud environment, is hidden behind a check-box item asking whether the need of the solution is to run 24 x 7, then I’m quite OK with that.
In my previous post to this blog I noted that whatever runs on NonStop is just another workload and with products like SimpliVity and Synergy – not forgetting HPE’s latest move, HPE NextStack – could it mean that NonStop can participate without any further work required of NonStop!?!?

Imagine that – NonStop already has the jump start on practically every other traditional enterprise workload – mission critical requirements can be easily and readily addressed right out of the gate. This is bound to light up the sky for many who really need such capabilities. And somewhere in an office in Palo Alto I sense just the tiniest of sparkle in the corner of Andy Bergholz’s eyes – it isn’t a significant concern for NonStop development, it just works! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I feel it coming in the air tonight …

Time spent at user events these past two weeks – small and large – has made me more appreciative of just how well NonStop embraces HPE’s vision for IT

Living life out of an RV, on a somewhat permanent basis, where there’s nothing to fall back to other than a hotel room, is something each and every one of us should experience at least once in a lifetime. It’s been a couple of weeks since we turned our backs on the only home Margo and I have ever bought together and resorting to a gypsy lifestyle wasn’t something we ever thought was in the plans. And yet, even as it hasn’t gone entirely to plan, it’s given us a whole lot of time to discuss recent events.

By recent events I mean the time we have spent with the NonStop community. In just two weeks we have covered 3,000 plus miles and visited with NonStop folks in Dallas for N2TUG as well as the much bigger event staged by HPE, the annual Americas instance of 2017 HPE Discover. But what have we learnt and just as importantly, what have we observed? I title this blog post with a line from that very famous song (of the same name), sung by Phil Collins – and anyone who can remember either the Budweiser commercials introducing Monday Night Football or scenes from Miami Vice will appreciate the meaning. The lines from this song almost always were associated with the unexpected. An upset (in a game) and a showdown (in a movie) but always and not without stressing too fine a point, change!

It’s hard for me to say it any other way; change is coming and yes, I feel it in the air tonight! For me, a premonition about what is yet to pass? Too dramatic, perhaps! Even an over statement? And yet, has anyone in the NonStop community seen NonStop moving and evolving as rapidly as it has these past three years? At a time when some elements in the community would dearly like to see NonStop development slow down, giving time for NonStop users to take a good long look at where NonStop product roadmaps suggest it is headed, but for me it’s more of a case of  “bring it on!” It’s been long overdue for NonStop to once again prove itself to be a disruptive technology.

The two weeks I have spent on the road behind the wheel of a rather large RV towing a trailer with a car on top, has taught me a lot about thinking ahead. Rolling down America’s highways with 60 feet of motorized rig doesn’t give you as many options as say a less than 20 foot sports car. And no, it neither brakes nor turns like the sports car and yet the RV has height. And with height comes visibility as to what is coming – and with visibility comes opportunity to take the initiative. So it is with NonStop and recent user events, we do have visibility to what is coming and with visibility we not only have opportunity but time.

So what did I take with me following these recent events? Looking at what transpired at N2TUG the image I took with me was that when you promote a good agenda and when you pick a good venue, you can certainly pull a crowd. N2TUG demonstrated the upside from doing both. Furthermore it attracted the attention of HPE NonStop head of product management, Karen Copeland, who made the trip to Dallas to spend time with NonStop customers and to provide an updated presentation on the product roadmap for NonStop. It was really good to see Karen taking time to do this as there is no substitute for face time with the NonStop community.

Then again HPE Discover was something entirely different and perhaps, for the NonStop community, not quite as interesting. However, for me, it proved to be even more important than local customer events for a couple of reasons. And I had the good fortune to go behind the curtains for a photo op with Exec VP Antonio Neri. Yes, I felt it in the air that night!

HPE’s stated strategy is to simplify hybrid IT, power the intelligent edge and to provide services to make it all happen. But for the NonStop community there is a lot more going on here than is represented by the messages that accompany this strategy. For starters, NonStop has always been a hybrid system and converged and even hyperconverged infrastructure are nothing new to NonStop.

Can any NonStop user ever recall a NonStop solution arriving at a loading dock in pieces leaving it up to the enterprise to figure out how to put all the pieces together and then firing up the operating system and associated middleware only to find that there was no integration across any of the resulting stack …

I have always been impressed by how much upfront work is undertaken by HPE and the NonStop team to ensure what arrives at our loading dock can be quickly transported into the data center and made operational immediately. A crucial message of NonStop and fault tolerance should always be about how simple it is to deploy and that aspect of NonStop is so often overlooked. Is it important?

Well, talk to the other teams involved in building other products present today on HPE’s product portfolio  and they begin responding with hybrid IT, converged and hyperconverged infrastructure as if it is all brand new insights as to how systems should be delivered.

It is good to have goals that include words like simplify and yes, software-defined (everything) even as it is good to develop a strategy around openness, commoditization and standards. The only issue I have is to look at yourself, when pursuing such goals, as you may already have achieved all you are setting out to do without being aware of your previous accomplishments.

There is so much that NonStop can teach the rest of HPE but having written this, I am very much aware that among the ranks of the senior executives there is more knowledge about NonStop than many may assume – recent personal promotions and shifts have seen former leaders of the business as well as the products in groups putting together the pieces in support of the goals.

Leaving this year’s HPE Discover event, here is my epiphany. In having accomplished all that it has done to date in terms of simplification and integration, it now makes it so much easier for NonStop to contribute in the transformation of IT that HPE so aggressively pursues (and promotes). In other words, all the rhetoric surrounding NonStop suggesting NonStop is the best software platform on the planet better positions NonStop to not only be independent of the hardware but of the platform. What runs on NonStop is just another workload and everything presented in support of products like SimpliVity and Synergy – not forgetting HPE’s latest move, Project NewStack – means that NonStop can participate without any further work required of NonStop!

Imagine than – NonStop already has the jump on practically every other workload – mission critical requirements can be easily and readily addressed right out of the gate. You want simple well, there you have it. Of course, it will not be that easy when it comes to educating HPE marketing and slipping this little gem into the team meetings of the strategy group but here’s hoping simple blog posts like this one can turn the conversation around for more favorable consideration of NonStop. I see that it has already begun as at HPE Discover, listening to other independent bloggers, there wasn’t quite the distance between us as there was only a few years ago.

It all does come back to building a compelling message for our business leaders. There is no question that for NonStop to lift its game in public then HPE needs to “articulating a compelling value proposition and strategic vision to improve outcomes to business executives,” one NonStop vendor CEO wrote in an email to me. What this highlights is that HPE just has to do a better job of telling the story of NonStop to these business executives and it shouldn’t be that hard – yes, NonStop is already ahead of the game when it comes to the goals and strategies HPE has set for itself.

This shouldn’t be kept secret and most of all, those business executives deploying NonStop today should have the bright spotlights turned on them and their accomplishments should be brought to the attention of the IT industry at large. This is something that does need to change at HPE! After all, these NonStop users are the ones turning simple rhetoric into powerful and compelling examples of the value proposition that comes with deploying NonStop. Today! Can’t you just feel it coming in the air tonight?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

It’s time for Vegas!

A post from the road – the road, that is, to Las Vegas! HPE Discover 2017 has rolled around once again and for me it’s a mixed bag of anticipation together with whatever might happen that is unexpected …

The week began with us pulling out of the street where we had lived for nearly two decades to pursue the life of technology gypsies! Homeless; no fixed abode, with just a PO Box to keep us connected with the rest of the world. And no longer in possession of keys to the front door of the house we had made our home and where over the years we had entertained many of you.

Of course this isn’t a permanent change for Margo and me, but life on the road has always been something we have enjoyed. The timing, of course, couldn’t have been any better as we had committed to attending the HPE NonStop customer event in Dallas – N2TUG. Followed, just a week later, by arguably the more important HPE big tent marketing event, HPE Discover 2017!

If you look under Labels, to the right of these posts, you will see that I have been posting on HPE Discover from 2011 and then before that, HPTF from 2008 (even as Margo and I had attended the last ITUG Summit hosted by the then HP Technology Forum in 2007. Before that? More than a decade spent attending the ITUG Summits held prior to HPE becoming involved. While the focus on NonStop seems to have lessened with the passage of time it’s still important to hear the message of Mission Critical Systems from HPE executives in an unfiltered manner.

I am not expecting a big turnout from the NonStop community. With budgets always tight I anticipate most NonStop customers will be saving their pennies to ensure that they can make it to the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, which in many ways has been capturing the spirit of ITUG Summits past. On the other hand, I will not be surprised when I run into a familiar face in Las Vegas and I am expecting that there will be more than just a few NonStop customers making “the trip to the strip!”

Perhaps more surprising for Margo and me is that it’s June, we are heading to Las Vegas and it is the first time we are doing this in 2017. In the past, by the time HPE Discover came around, we have already been to Las Vegas on three or four occasions. But not this time – and put it down to the building of our new home. Readers will know that this year, we have stayed very close to Boulder and not made it to the NonStop Partner Symposium in Palo Alto or to the pan-European eBITUG event in London, even though we had both firmly inked-in on our calendars. When it comes to a project like building a new home there is always a healthy mix of anticipation along with responding to the unexpected.   

The unexpected does happen and plans do change and it has left me to wonder what unexpected developments may overtake HPE and perhaps even NonStop? Are we sure we truly understand all that is happening in the world of NonStop? While many of us were aware of the deep port of NonStop to the Intel x86 architecture there were fewer of us who were aware of the project to support virtual machines. And what of NonStop running on virtual machines comprised of commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware? There has been much these past couple of years that can only be described as unexpected.

When it comes to experiencing the unexpected at big tent events, like HPE Discover, it always starts at the top. The tone will be set from the moment HPE CEO, Meg Whitman, steps out from behind the curtain for her opening remarks at the first general session. In the past, these have drawn large crowds with many standing outside the auditorium watching Whitman on big screens liberally scattered around the exhibition hall. This year, it will be interesting to observe just how big a crowd is drawn to the occasion as the show will be all about the products, together with some services, that make up the product portfolio of just the HPE Enterprise Group (EG).

Long gone are the folks interested in PCs and printers. Those interested in software and services will likely be absent from the show as well. No, this is like a much larger version of ITUG projected onto a much larger stage. There will be demonstrations of working elements of what was unveiled a couple of years back – The Machine. But much of the drama surrounding this enormous undertaking by HPE has lessened as plans now call for elements of The Machine to be released gradually as part of traditional computing offerings. As for what will take center stage this year I expect whatever is presented by Whitman will continue to center on openness and standards and on projects like OpenStack as well as the tools and services in demand by those moving to hybrid IT.

Cloud computing will be the subject of much of what HPE presents, I expect. As too will converged and hyperconverged infrastructure. Synergy, and the efforts to move to software-defined everything will also be highlighted but for the NonStop community, when it comes down to what business problems are being addressed, even with the attention these high profile themes will be given, it is still a bit of a yawn. According to presentation given by the NonStop team of late, including at this week’s N2TUG customer event, isn’t today’s NonStop system already a good example of hyperconverged infrastructure? Isn’t the latest NonStop X systems already being used by one solutions vendor as the technology powering their cloud offering?

Since the very first NonStop rolled off the production line and shipped directly to a customer, the hardware and all the required software had been not only packaged but rather been installed and tested. NonStop represents the industries best example of an integrated stack, from the metal to the user APIs. Talk about converged – it has already been done for NonStop customers, and has for decades. Hyperconverged? Well of course, with the arrival of CLIMs running on Linux boxes interconnected via InfiniBand fabrics – there is a lot to be said about NonStop being the only example shipping today supporting true hyperconverged infrastructure.

What I am anticipating to hear and see more of, and what unexpected developments could prove exciting? For some time now there have been slides in the NonStop product roadmap presentations that address topics such as IoT and Blockchain. I will be anticipating hearing more about NonStop and IoT as I have come to appreciate that IoT will gradually evolve into a tiered implementation, where important events will absolutely have to make it into the data center (whatever that ends up looking like). But this really is more of the same – placing a NonStop system in the transaction path to ensure mission critical data makes it to where it’s needed. While I am not expecting to see NonStop present in any IoT demo situation I sure would like to be surprised to see NonStop doing exactly this at some point.

On the other hand, when it comes to something as intriguing as Blockchain and the support of new-age applications demanding support of a distributed ledger, as we read about in almost every paper we pick up of late, there is movement on this front with regard to NonStop and at N2TUG this week, we were tipped off to expect to see NonStop participating in a demo for exactly this – Blockchain being supported by NonStop. Could this prove to be a tipping point for Virtualized NonStop? Could this be the one key development that truly does favor support by NonStop?

Arguably, it’s a stretch to make the comparison but when ATMs’ first arrived and the need was to ensure they operated around the clock, the appearance of the earliest NonStop systems proved to be a godsend for a number of software houses looking to support these new devices. As a result an industry was created where NonStop played a premier role. With so many concerns about security and indeed accessibility associated with Blockchain, could a similar situation arise for NonStop? In time, could NonStop prove to be the go-to system for support of Blockchain by financial institutions everywhere?

I have purposefully asked a lot of questions in this post and for good reason. Each time I head to HPE Discover I have lots of questions. Even as I am anticipating much and yes, looking for the unexpected to happen, I am reminded that in times past, dating back to the earliest ITUG Summits, vendors have held back a couple of critical developments just so that they can showcase them at their big-tent marketing events. Every attendee expects a little drama. Apple were the masters of the “one more thing …” approach and while I am not anticipating anything close to a major Apple reveal, I am not ruling out that there will indeed be something special announced.

And with that, I return to the road as Las Vegas is still a couple of days drive away and with the weather looking like it will continue to be a problem, I have even more on my mind. Should you make it to HPE Discover and should you be interested in hearing more about NonStop then yes, you will likely find something that surprises you. But even with that prediction the NonStop community has a lot to be thankful about as who would have imagined (just a few years ago) how rapidly NonStop has evolved to where today, it’s a platform, a system and yes, it’s software. Onward then to HPE Discover, 2017!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

eBITUG - Fantastic vibe, great vendor footfall and genuine interest in all things NonStop!

Jimmy may have been a drawcard but NonStop has come a long way from its Tandem roots and recent user and industry events are highlighting much that is really new for NonStop!

A casual reading of posts to Facebook or tweets to Twitter and the like quickly reveals just how much networking is being done today by those pursuing new business opportunities. Barely a day passes without someone or other highlighting a cityscape or a restaurant complete with a caption or two recommending the venue and the people. It isn’t as though I don’t do that fairly often but rather, just further examples of how so many of us turn to digital media – social as well as business – just to keep up with what is happening around the world. Then again, there’s still no substitute for networking in the real world
While it is a truism that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry it came as a complete surprise to Margo and me that the very week of eBITUG would coincide with packing up our home, readying it for the movers that came this week. As a venue London and, in particular, that part of town close to the Tower always grabs my attention. The cityscape is now so different to when I worked there from late 1975 to early 1976 and yet, any chance to catch up with the NonStop community in London is always a treat!

Putting to one side any further excuses, now that the event has wrapped up and those participating in the 2017 pan-European eBITUG conference and exhibition have returned home, there has been a steady stream of emails arriving in my inbox. Perhaps it was the presence of Tandem Computers founder, Jimmy Treybig, pictured above (and a special thanks to my good friend Craig Lawrence for sending the photo to me) or the rooftop bar overlooking the Thames or maybe it was the content and enthusiasm that was on display from all those giving presentations.

All the emails were positive about the event – I didn’t receive a single email that contained any criticisms indeed in one, reference was made to a comment coming from GTUG member who said that not only was the event good for the NonStop community but that it would now be putting pressure on GTUG to deliver next year; a situation I think GTUG will warm to with the same level of enthusiasm as was on show at eBITUG.

So what were the comments and where did they come from? There were clearly positive comments coming from those of the HPE NonStop team that were present. But there were also positive comments from solutions, middleware and services vendors. One point that came up more than once – the opportunity to visit the “Shard” and enjoy the networking opportunity it provided and thanks have to go out to CSP for making it all possible. Well done!

OmniPayments, LLC., had a presence at the show and was part of the program. Observations that came from both Craig Lawrance and Jessica Nieves were very upbeat about the event and their responses to my inquiries were positive even as they addressed more than just what was central to OmniPayments’ participation. “vNonStop was probably the biggest talking point,” said Craig. On the other hand, Craig also shared a comment that was common to all responses that I received when he noted how, “Some attendees are saying the OpenStack software will be so expensive that’s it’d be cheaper to buy a NonStop X system!”

As for Jessica, she was even more forthcoming when asked about NonStop X she responded with, “I certainly saw that customers are either migrating or making plans to migrate from older systems to NonStop X” When pressed as to what trends she recognized that were developing among the NonStop user community, Jessica said. “The Cloud has been on the top of almost every conversation that I had. And it’s not just been at eBITUG, mind you, but throughout all the events where we have participated during the year, no matter the region of the Globe. Certainly modernization and continuous delivery are also topics of interest among customers and I heard it being openly discussed.”

Jessica observed that even at eBITUG, there were discussions concerning the need “to deliver new features or changes at a faster pace and having the tools and processes that support embracing such a faster pace is key. Companies are incorporating technologies such as big data, node.js, splunk, java frameworks to modernize and create innovative solutions – something that was also the topic of a number of sessions. And innovation does not end in NonStop!”

To this point, Jessica then explained that, “as a matter of fact, the Under 40 SIG that met during the event, is advocating for modernization and educational initiatives as it looks forward to growing the awareness of NonStop as a platform to run modern applications and attract young talents.  I was part of the Under 40 SIG meeting at eBITUG and had the honor of listening to the Tandem father saying words that I won't forget: ‘It's not about the NonStop platform, it's about the applications that run on it.  Going back in history, there was no need of Tandem, they needed ATMs!’”

All the numbers that were provided – number of registered attendees, number of end users, vendors, etc. – were impressive. It was left to Iain Liston-Brown, Master Technologist working for the EMEA Pre-Sales Organization to post on LinkedIn that, 
“We had about 258 registrations. Just over 1/3 were customers and a little more were vendors/consultants with the rest (50ish) being HPE. The customers represented 35 companies. Delegates came from the UK & Ireland, Europe (including Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy & Greece), Thailand, New Zealand and Australia plus the USA - so quite a broad spectrum!”

And then there was praise too for the HPE NonStop team involved in presenting the latest news about NonStop with a continued emphasis on NonStop being a lot more than what you may have seen with more traditional NonStop systems. Echoing what OmniPayments’ Jessica had said, it was the HPE source who reported that “Andrew Bergholz and Roland Lemoine (had) focused on what we have just delivered and what is coming next regarding Virtualised NonStop (vNS) and NonStop SQL/MX Database Services/Compatibility. ATC focused on DevOps, SQL/MX 3.5 Database Services and also Middleware/Microservices. So this was anything but legacy!”

All agreed with HPE that there had been a “Fantastic vibe, great vendor footfall and genuine interest from delegates across the two days. The vNS demo was running throughout the two days and all the customers and vendors were enthusiastic and glowing with praise.” And this wasn’t all that was said. According to Frans Jongma, Master Technologist, NonStop Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in a post to LinkedIn how, “the SQL/MX DBS demo was a nice thing to add to the vNS one. It only took a short bit of time to create an easy to access demo using iTP web server simple HTML pages that invoke the DBS API. Even I was surprised how easy it was; thanks to the booth staff for running the demo!”

There is definitely renewed interest in NonStop. In my own business environment where I am in dialogue with parties not traditionally associated with NonStop there has been more than a casual interest in NonStop as word begins to spread about vNS, OpenStack and the potential to run in a cloud environment. Perhaps even multiple hybrid cloud environments!

There was acknowledgment by the community gathered at eBITUG over the pricing of vNS and OpenStack and that for many of them, simply upgrading to a new NonStop X made better financial sense. But that’s the point. If you have experience with the hardware and the integrated stack then stay with it. However, if you already have your x86 servers in place and are deploying apps along with data (provisioned as is done with clouds) then why not introduce NonStop to provide better availability whether supporting apps or even NS SQL/MX?

The coverage of NonStop and clouds didn’t stop with the vendor community as it was left to TCM CEO Tony Craig to add a different element to the exchanges I was having, following eBITUG, even as he too posted to discussions that followed on LinkedIn. “Firstly, a big thanks to the eBITUG committee who delivered a really great 2017 eBITUG event. TCM, as platinum sponsor, was delighted with the turn out. We were extremely busy over the 2 days with considerable interest in our range of NonStop services.”

Once again, as had been the case at last year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp, an interesting and yes, somewhat poignant breakout presentation “Adapt or Die – The NonStop Skills Gap” by Daniel Craig, covered the well-known aging Nonstop community issue and how TCM is addressing this going forward by investing in their Centre of Excellence, youth training and System Management cloud based services. And yes, Daniel is another member of the NonStop community who is right at home in the Under 40 SIG that OmniPayments’ Jessica had referenced earlier in this post.

What caught Tony’s attention? “Most popular was the TCM cost-effective cloud based Systems Management service which can complement and embed within an existing client's team or be the total answer for a client's system management needs, ensuring a complete end-to-end support solution. This is a Global solution and we certainly received global interest at the event!” And for more information about TCM’s services, Tony reminded me, just contact him directly at tony.craig@tcm.uk.com as I am sure he would like to hear from you.

Occupying the booth adjacent to that of TCM’s was that of comForte and few have missed the pictures taken of TCM’s Natalie Craig blending in well with the stylized portrayal of comForte management in a James Bond setting. comForte made quite a splash with this James Bond theme which they carried through from the booth, the outfit of our guys and even in John Bycroft's presentation on Tokenization.

Among the highlights for comForte’s Thomas Gloerfeld, was the reaction coming from HPE NonStop EMEA boss, Dave McLeod. “He was excited about his NonStop business for the first 6 months - killed the targets - and remains bullish for the second half - continuing to grow.” From comForte's perspective, it was a “great event; busy with customer and partner meetings alike; managed to progress existing and uncover new opportunities.

We are now in the height of the Regional User Group (RUG) event season with many more to follow from New York to Dallas to Sydney. Some of these are being held in hotels, others in the offices of HPE and yet others in the offices of vendors. Of course, 2017 HPE Discover will be soon held in Las Vegas and that’s one I rarely miss. What is being showcased is a whole new story from HPE featuring NonStop – yes, we are now over the shock of NonStop X and vNS even as we embrace the new features (and compatibility) of NonStop SQL/MX – even as NonStop takes to the cloud.

Who knows what else HPE has planned and who dares second guess HPE NonStop at this time? What we do know, however, is that investment in NonStop continues even as the interest in NonStop gains further momentum. We also know that there is an Under 40 SIG that is gaining visibility with each event and shouldn’t be discounted but given greater support by all of the NonStop community.

Perhaps the enthusiasm evident in London will prove contagious and should that happen, the rest of the regional events planned for this year will be something none of us will want to miss – so yes, see you soon and hopefully, eBITUG will be the last large event either Margo or I miss for the remainder of 2017. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Missed the boat – could have been in London!

To all those about to participate in this year’s eBITG event – the pan-European revisit to Euro ITUGs of former years – for me, nothing will match the event in Lyon in 2002 but then again, it’s all about the people so it may very well succeed in doing  so …

I know that I don’t make the number of overseas trips I once did and following the likes of Striim’s Sami Akbay as well as HPE’s Randy Meyer on Facebook, it’s hard not to think back on the journeys I once made and simply at the time, took for granted. Sami? Randy? Keep up posting as it’s fun to see the places you’re visiting, although I have to admit, I can’t help noting how long those trips often last. Not to say that I want to return to those days but rather, the opportunity to spend facetime with friends and colleagues had always always been a highlight of any trip for me. And I know that this is what drives both Sami and Randy. On the other hand, over the course of the last couple of years I have seen more of America than I have in the previous twenty plus years I have lived here and that’s not a bad second prize.

At this time last year I was headed for London to participate in the BITUG event. While there we were given an opportunity to walk the venue for the then under-consideration, pan-European eBITUG event and spending a late afternoon rooftop at the outdoor bar of the DoubleTree by Hilton, made up my mind for me. I would be attending the 2017 eBITUG event, no matter what. Adding to the excitement was the prospect of having Tandem Computers’ founder, Jimmy Treybig, participate well, what can I say. I just had to make this trip happen. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be even though one of my clients stepped forward and was planning to have me attend as part of their team.

If you missed my coverage of last year’s event you may want to check out the post of May 11, 2016, “London Calling” to which I can add, “Anchors Away!” as well as the post that followed on May 22, 2016, NonStop on forward path – and it’s just not stopping! Both of these posts covered that event and, in particular and in fact of importance for every member of the NonStop community, the reappearance of a more youthful group of attendees than I had seen for some time. Looking back to ITUG days, there was always a major event held each spring that attracted participants from all of Europe and the palpable excitement each event generated made holding the event worthwhile.

My very first trip to Europe was for an ITUG event, held in Munich, was in the spring of 1991. As a program manager overseeing the development of NonStop NET/MASTER, I was to provide an update for the community but unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it. The Amsterdam office of Tandem Computers was all I saw of Europe on that occasion. However, for the spring event in 1992 that was held in Nice, I did manage to make it to Euro ITUG and I have referenced that fist event in several posts to this blog over the years. Should you be wondering about the mugs featured above and unsure as to where the mug from Nice is - check the post of Mat 4, 2015, where you will see depicted in the photo that mug, The road to Vegas and further discoveries … Unfortunately, it has been packed away for now but will make its reappearance in my office in our new home.

Euro ITUG, Nice 1992, proved to be a turning point in my relationship with NonStop and with the NonStop community and began a journey that continues to this day. In the lead-up to the annual San Jose ITUG event in 1999, it was announced that I had been elected to the board of ITUG and my association with major and regional user-group events has been a constant in my working life ever since.

Many of the miles I did travel were as a direct result of my support for events no matter their location, type or number of participants. So with London calling, once again, I want to list what I view as the main reasons why members of the NonStop community should always make plans to support user group events. It’s a small list, mind you, and may differ from other lists you may have seen, but these items have always represented the key considerations that influence whether I make the effort to board a plane or not. There have been times when events in support of NonStop were held by NonStop vendors, including ACI and GoldenGate that I particularly liked and that have been covered too in posts to this blog but at the end of the day, there is never any substitute for those events solely catering to the needs of the NonStop community.
The surprise! Top of my list is something I like to call the surprise. Whether it is the location and there have been many that have turned out to be excellent even if at first they may not have suggested that a surprise was in stall – take for instance, the ITUG event in Lisbon back in 2001, I believe, where the conference center turned out to be subject to a major renovation just as event participants began arriving. No advance warning here but the event proved successful – there was even a Williams F1 (sponsored by HP) in the entrance “tunnel.” But surprises mostly have to do with what is said and for me it was the announcement of the port to the Intel x86 architecture that was surprising as it was good news for the NonStop community even if a number of its members had already been informed, but sworn to secrecy.

No surprises here but on any given quiet evening, I still raise a glass of Cognac and toast the likes of folks like Marty Edelman who, too this day, kind of knew that I was among the informed but restricted from publishing anything about “Project Cognac!” So much for being a blogger, eh! And then there was the surprise presentation by HPE NonStop Japan about a migration from Oracle to SQL/MX that included recovery times following a CPU being down on NonStop versus an Oracle RAC Node outage!

The pivot point! Running a close second on my list is the opportunity to be right there when something is announced that has the whole community buzzing. Not so much coming as a complete surprise but none the less the subject of many late night musings over how the NonStop market would react. The reference by then HPE CTO, Martin Fink, to NonStop running in a virtual machine that was as casual as it was stunning signifying a completely new way to look at NonStop has proved pivotal to the future of NonStop. It had only been a short time before that reference that NonStop had started to be called the best software platform on the planet but seeing a future where NonStop would come with the option to run on real and virtual machines was awesome!

The unintended consequences! Third on my list is the observation that can be made about unintended consequences. Coming from a simple statement by an HPE executive or the unveiling of a new utility or solution, speculation about the future starts almost immediately. And being there to hear it first hand is, as they say, priceless. More importantly, for those attendees that hear about the announcement, participation in the subsequent conversations can be the first to leverage the value that arises. Perhaps the best example of this came at last year’s Boot Camp event when everyone saw for themselves, virtualized NonStop (vNS) running on commodity HP ProLiant servers. Could we just license vNS directly from HPE and then configure and run on ProLiant servers we already had purchased? Could we run it on x86 servers including a couple of laptops in our office or development center? Could we run on servers we purchased from Dell, Lenovo, Asus?

While there has been a lot of clarification concerning vNS that may have stalled some of these conversations, nevertheless there are a lot of smart people who continue to mull over what may be possible and perhaps this isn’t as HPE had intended, but with this genie out of the bottle, I am expecting a lot of excitement being generated as a clearer picture emerges of exactly what HPE is supporting with vNS. And yes, this time next year we should know a lot more about vNS on VMware which will really kick into high gear any thoughts you may have about running vNS inside a cloud – public as well as private.

The networking! Always listed as a benefit from attending an event but sometimes, treated cautiously – we don’t want to turn events into recruiting opportunities – the fellowship among participants is hard to hide. Returning to my observations from that first ITUG event I attended in Nice, the executives that then camped out at the bar of the hotel and ran a tab on then-Tandem for the duration, certainly knew what they were doing. It took only a matter of hours before everyone knew that they could raise any topic that they wanted to chat about with an executive who had the budget to execute. If only they could successfully argue their point and argue they oftentimes did, and yes, with some success it turns out as you look back at the history of NonStop. Networking? Over an adult beverage - maybe even a Cognac? Yes, it continues to happen and it remains a highlight for many within the NonStop community.

All of us have our lists of reasons for attending and no two lists will be the same. But this year, I have definitely missed the boat and will be relying on the feedback from those who did manage to make it to London for eBITUG. As to why I will not be there it’s all about the timing of our move from our home and office of the past two decades to a new location that will shortly become our new home and office. A weak excuse perhaps, but I just couldn’t see leaving all the work to Margo as being a fair exchange but then again, the timing was a little serendipitous. Unfortunately but there will be other events to keep us current on all things NonStop. Serendipitous? Well now, maybe I need to add a fifth item to my list of reasons why I like to attend events; there’s always something to be observed – a chance meeting, an overheard conversation, an exhibit not widely promoted. Yes, I think I do need to add one more item to the list after all. So then, I have to ask; what’s on your list?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can see for miles and miles …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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