Saturday, August 20, 2016

You want to read more? Posts on NonStop enter their tenth year!

With this post to the NonStop community blog, Real Time View, I celebrate the beginning of my tenth year of blogging. Keeping to the theme of HPE , Mission Critical Systems and in particular, NonStop, has proved fertile ground for a storyteller and I expect no letup in new topics to cover in the years to come …

If there was ever a time when I thought I could simply kick-back, relax and write a few posts as I quietly ease away from technology I can no longer recall when that was exactly. This summer I have spent more time in front of the keyboard than I can recall ever having done before. However, the good news is that well, there’s more good news than ever before. And I cannot recall the last time I said that or said it without harboring lingering thoughts myself over whether or not I was pushing a little beyond the realm of reality. However, putting those thoughts to one side, Margo and I headed to our favorite Boulder steakhouse where we did kick-back and relax while we celebrated the passing of this milestone.

But no, for the NonStop community things are definitely looking up and I have to admit I really am energized by all that I am hearing about NonStop. Perhaps sitting down with Andy Bergholz, Senior Director of Development of HPE NonStop, during HPE Discover 2016 did it as his enthusiasm has proved contagious and it rubbed on me – and for that I have only Andy to thank. Did you see his column in the July – August, 2016, issue of The Connection? If you haven’t then you should as you will get a sense of what I am alluding to. It’s positively entertaining, to quote one popular television series I regularly watch.
There is a reason why we have the expression about enthusiasm being contagious. It’s hard not to become engaged when all around you there are people actively engaged in conversations about NonStop. Now, having said that there are a couple of words I have eliminated from my vocabulary of late – no more references to legacy, proprietary or even to special, unique or just plain different. What NonStop brings to the table is excellence.

In the key markets it serves, mission critical transaction processing, where every transaction executes in real time, NonStop excels. It’s at the top of the charts when it comes to availability and given the ongoing discussions after the fallout from some massive outages of late for airlines around the world, we should be shouting as loudly as we can about the merits of NonStop! If IDC continues to reward NonStop with the prestigious AL4 badge – something no other vendors can lay claim to, although IBM pushes close with its Parallel Sysplex configurations, but you try looking over the wall-charts describing all the paths between the mainframes in the Sysplex and you will understand that even for Parallel Sysplex it’s annotated with an asterisk!

My plans for kicking back and relaxing have been interrupted this week for one additional very good reason. With this post to the NonStop community blog, Real Time View, I start my tenth year of blogging on HPE and NonStop. If you missed it, page all the way back to the post of August 20, 2007, where I introduced myself to the community as perhaps the very first blogger supporting NonStop. In that post I finished with the observation and question - what did we all think about the recent HPTF&E - how many events do you go to each year?

HPTF&E has been long gone, replaced by HPE Discover that in turn has been complemented by the end of year NonStop Technical Boot Camp event, but the question – how many events do you go to each year? is a very relevant question and for me, very important. Local events have begun to flourish around the world – I had been hoping to make it to OzTUG for their event in a few days’ time even as others are preparing to travel to VNUG (I was present at a luncheon when the decision was taken to re-launch VNUG and to rename it VNUG from VTUG back in the early 2000s) but no, I couldn’t pull off the trip this year to the VNUG event or to find time for a trip down under.

For every member of the NonStop community they should be able to make it to a user event somewhere on the planet at least twice a year – their local user group meeting as well as more widely attended GEO event, either in EMEA or the Americas. If you aren’t able to pull off making the journey then you aren’t alone as I have to make some hard decisions and skip a couple each year but I will blog about each and every one I attend. And that’s the real value that comes with blogging – sharing information. Alerting the community whenever something exciting transpires! Keeping NonStop in the headlines no matter what.

As the day approached for the start of my tenth year, I emailed Randy Meyer, Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Systems, HPE. Through the years, Randy and I have exchanged many emails on the topic of spreading more ink on NonStop across the industry. On numerous occasions, as busy as Randy has been of late, he has found time to sit down with Margo and me over coffee and for that, we are both highly appreciative – it was Randy’s initial encouragement all those years ago that helped motivate me to blog.

Randy’s response to the news of this particular anniversary was to the point and yet again, reflective of Randy’s own enthusiasm for all things NonStop. “I’m not in the least surprised that you still have interesting and exciting things to write about, and that it’s more popular than ever,” said Randy. “The NonStop team continues to drive innovative solutions help the most demanding customers in the world run their businesses – all day, every day. Who WOULDN’T want to read about that?”

It was as I entered my third year of blogging that I talked about why social media was becoming as important as it is today – it’s where many of us first learn of something new. In that post of September 13, 2009, And the rockets' red glare! I quoted web-sales teaching guru, Brian Clark. “So, blogging can be vitally important, but most likely it will open doors for you that lead to revenue or help you promote things you are selling, as opposed to generating a ton of money from advertising,” he suggested. “There’s a huge shift going on thanks to globalization and the growth of the Internet, and those who can create and express ideas online will be at the top end of the economic spectrum.”

As with everything you run across on the Internet, I then added, you have to be a little careful when applying all that is conveyed by gurus and other thought-leaders. However, I continued in that post, the basic observations Clark makes remain valid; “product placements” in blogs are becoming just as important as in any other medium, and the trend today is that more and more people are relying on the Internet for all of their product information. Ignoring this medium and letting your competitors gain the upper-hand, will be tough to reverse when you wake up and finally “get it!”

And that has been one of the most encouraging aspects of my blogging – from the earliest days, even as I was working at GoldenGate, it was Sami Akbay, then VP of Product Management and Marketing, who told others at GoldenGate that indeed, I get it! And I have to admit, Sami did understand the potential to effectively and rather inexpensively communicate a message and when it comes to NonStop well, I blogged non stop. I also have to thank at this time Yash of OmniPayments. Without Yash’s longtime support and indeed encouragement, I am not sure I would have had enough stories to tell and as anyone who knows Yash well, there are plenty of stories yet to tell.

Do I envision kicking back any time soon and to seriously consider taking it easy? The short answer is heck, no! As a community we are sitting atop the best potential for NonStop making a difference, ever. Yes, ever. The market has truly turned and is coming to NonStop. And I have to admit, to reuse Randy’s words, with many more years to come and even more posts to be written, then “Who WOULDN’T want to read about that?”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Where do we turn for news? For the NonStop community, it’s all in blog posts!

Blog posts may very well have replaced any need for post-it notes but the goals are similar – simplified newsworthy communications targeting interested parties; for the NonStop community today’s many blogs are where much of what’s interesting about NonStop is disseminated!

Where do we get our information today? Where do we turn for the news that matters most? It wasn’t all that long ago that we took real photos and dragged them out only occasionally to remind ourselves of past experiences and as to our friends, well, they were grateful when we kept the evidence of past adventures well and truly hid away. But today? With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – we can see it all and blog posts keep the storyline moving along, no matter the audience. The question today is what did we do before social media exploded onto the scene as vibrantly as it has of late?

In an episode of the now defunct sitcom, Sex and the City, the central character, Carrie Bradshaw, complained bitterly to her friends about her boyfriend announcing the break-up of their relationship via a simple message on a post-it note stuck to her refrigerator. In a surprising update to this mode of communication it would appear that a blog post is having a similar effect for many in business – is reading about a change in responsibilities or worse, being let go, in a company blog on par with how Bradshaw reacted to that infamous post-it note?

Companies, technologies and indeed products, are all subject today of blog posts. Should you need to know what’s happening to your favorite tool, utility, product or solution – there is bound to be a post published somewhere! The press as well as business and financial analysts all have blogs and they have taken over as the principle source for news on current developments. No working hour goes by for me without checking a couple of blog sites to see if anything surprising has taken place, and of course it would be hard for me to ignore all that is transpiring at HPE! If you haven’t been keeping up with the steady flow of posts then for the past two years at least, they have provided me with many of the story lines you will have seen in posts to this and other blogs where I contribute.

All of this came back to me as I pulled up announcements concerning not only Martin Fink’s retirement from the post of CTO but also the recent elevation of Ric Lewis to oversee the new group, Software-Defined & Cloud Group, where previously Lewis had been the senior vice president and general manager of converged data center infrastructure.  Both Fink and Lewis had strong connections with the NonStop community and yet, according to the press coverage I turned to, the news apparently was announced in a company blog.

HPE is putting its Helion OpenStack and Helion CloudSystem businesses into a new “Software-Defined & Cloud Group (SDCG),” to be headed by Ric Lewis, formerly senior vice president and general manager of converged data center infrastructure. It was in a web update from Fortune Magazine where I read, and I quote, from the blog: “By bringing these assets together, we create a single organization tasked with a common mission—to provide best-in-class solutions that enable developers and operators to deploy their applications across traditional and cloud infrastructures, simply and effortlessly. Mark Interrante will lead this team.” And yes, “Interrante will report to Lewis.”

For everyone in the NonStop community sympathy with the folks at Fortune Magazine is highly likely, as even among this venerable institutions’ journalists, it was hard to ignore how “Change is the norm at HPE, especially in cloud.” Now, I am not one to criticize the decisions coming from HPE of late nor will I be the one who raises an eyebrow over how much is happening within the companies executive suites, but I am just so glad that the NonStop products within the Mission Critical Systems group are doing as well as they are these days.

From every indication that I have, following HPE Discover 2016, I am now reasonably certain that sales revenues from NonStop have pushed past other product offerings in the Mission Critical Systems product portfolio, but then again, this is just an opinion I have formed so don’t hold me to this too stringently. And yet, this is probably the real situation within HPE’s Enterprise Group and if it is, rarely do vendors the size of HPE go around pulling the plug on such success. More importantly for the NonStop community is the sheer size of the recent investments in NonStop as it first moved to support the x86 architecture, then OpenStack as NonStop became free of not just the hardware but the infrastructure as well.

But post-it notes and blog postings may not tell the whole story or indeed, through omission, simply divert attention to matters less important. Follow the link on the HPE web site to the Mission Critical Computing Blog and it will take you to a page with the heading, Servers and Operating Systems – a little confusing I have to admit. But scroll down and there are numerous blog posts but find one on NonStop? After almost an hour of trolling through pages and checking the archives, I found only two posts for 2016 (and just six for all of 2015) with one of the two 2016 posts being  a summary of all sessions involving Mission Critical Systems at HPE Discover 2016.

Contrarians among us would argue that the only posts being featured on the HPE web site are from those systems and servers struggling to maintain market share – for NonStop, no “break-up of a relationship” messages is perhaps a good thing and more a reflection on the continued strong demand for NonStop systems in the marketplaces they serve.

It is my expectation that we are living in times where shipments of the Itanium-based NonStop i family will show significant growth, enough to surprise even the pundits proclaiming the demise of this family of NonStop systems. I just had the opportunity to spend time with a customer who has just ratcheted up their investment in NonStop i and for good reason – it’s stable and it’s a known quantity and for the community NonStop serves these remain important considerations. However, knowing there are new NonStop systems coming to market is a reassuring and seriously, highly newsworthy, development – you can’t see NonStop losing its sheen within HPE with even more options becoming available to run NonStop.

It is also my expectation that we are moving to a time when complementing Itanium-based NonStop with x86-based NonStop will accelerate many enterprises consideration of hybrid solutions made up of traditional systems working in combination with private clouds deployed right alongside x86-based NonStop on the very same servers – the label of commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware is now inclusive of NonStop with the work being done on providing a virtual NonStop (vNonStop), and that too is a message that resonates well with me. A vendor the size of HPE simply wouldn’t go down this path if there were plans to move in a different direction and having executives familiar with NonStop now spread throughout HPE upper management is refreshing news to all who belong to the NonStop community.

Remember Sean Mansubi? Mansubi preceded Andy Bergholz as head of NonStop R&D and is VP, R&D - Converged Platform Software & Infrastructure at HPE. Like Lewis, he has considerable knowledge of all things NonStop and even as his current product line responsibilities will fit nicely with Lewis’s SDCG plans, I can’t help wondering whether at some point (particularly with vNonStop on the horizon), we will hear more about NonStop making a contribution in a world that is converging.

Of course, while on the topic of NonStop knowledge permeating the ranks of NonStop, it would be remiss of me to leave out references to Randy Meyer who is now Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Systems, HPE. For those in the NonStop community unfamiliar with conventions and protocols at HPE, whenever you run across an executive who has in his title General Manager then you have met an individual who has direct Profit and Loss (P&L) responsibilities. Meyer now looks after the complete product portfolio for all mission critical systems and with his background deeply anchored in NonStop, the success NonStop is enjoying just has to be an ongoing source of pride for Meyer, I would have to think!

I am sure there are other former NonStop managers now in executive positions within HPE and I would not be surprised to hear from them following this post. But that in itself is part of the story – just like me many of them wouldn’t let an hour go by without checking select blogs and according to the stats I review, it’s clear that many of my readers just happen to be located in Palo Alto. We no longer resort to post-it notes, although I still have plenty of them in my desk drawers. Transformation to a hybrid infrastructure, software-defined everything, including clouds, converged platform software and so forth all reflect the changes happening deep inside IT (and yes, not just for HPE has change become the norm)!

While there’s no publicity as yet about the presence of NonStop I am of the opinion that should the current efforts to integrate a virtual NonStop into HPE’s own IT organization prove successful, then it will be hard to keep that information from seeing the light of day in the marketplace. And should that likely event happen any time soon then yes, look to the blogs for the first news to break as for sure, as a blogger, I wouldn’t miss such an opportunity to post about it the instant I see announcements being made – post-it notes be damned!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Time to reach for the big guns – fighting for NonStop has begun!

Parking next to an impressive infantry field piece brought up images of big guns and when you consider all that’s surrounding HPE and yes, even NonStop are we seeing the emergence of a big gun in the mission critical transaction processing marketplace?

It was hard to ignore the potential metaphor when we first saw the transporter with a self-propelled artillery piece, albeit on the smaller side I have to admit. Nevertheless, the damage it could unleash at any point was unquestionable and just sitting alongside it was cause for something other than casual conversation – no, the driver of the transporter was not prepared to discuss what it was, where it had come from or talk about where it was headed. On the other hand, the color scheme wasn’t very desert friendly and as it was headed to the West Coast, we assumed it was off to the Far East.

Experiencing life on the open road is something Margo and I have come to enjoy immensely and there are few NonStop events we cannot reach with our mobile command center. We have found it useful in attracting customers and vendors alike to drop on by for a visit and no matter the adult beverage of preference, there will always be very little resistance on our part to shaking a martini for anyone who goes out of their way to spend time with us. Retirement? Well, heck no! Bizcations? Well, heck yes – while Margo collects shells by the seashore I have the perfect office set up and I am happiest when looking out across an unfamiliar landscape.

Naturally, the symbolism didn’t escape me as I drove right up alongside this big gun. While I am sure there will be those in the NonStop community that point out to me that this really isn’t a big gun. Useful as it would be in a battle, there are a lot bigger guns at the ready for generals in need of something more forceful. However, when it comes to technology in general, and IT specifically, I am coming to the opinion that HPE couldn’t have called up a bigger gun than Intel nor could they have produced better munitions for the fight than what we see today with NonStop X.

Intel is the big gun in the chip business. For a while, IBM was really hyping the Power 8 chip in the lead up to the introduction of new Power Systems (as well as the mainframe), but now all the talk is about the upcoming Power 9 chips. And for good reason; while the Power 8 looked good on paper, there were some pretty dreadful “unintended consequences”, according to my contacts deep within IBM. And yes, the report of May 11, 2014, by the team at financial analyst company, Motley Fool, didn’t hold back on its punches in any fashion. Yes, power at a price isn’t always the desired outcome major vendors are looking for.

“Intel's success has never just been due to performance leadership; a 6-core POWER 8 about matches a 15-core Intel Xeon, and the 12-core variant of the POWER 8 would utterly embarrass it in performance. The problem for IBM is that the equation for data-center dominance isn't simply about performance, but is instead about performance per watt per dollar. While it's too soon to get a read on the performance per watt of the IBM POWER 8 (although it's likely that this kind of performance doesn't come cheaply), the real problem that is likely to plague it is the cost.” And this is exactly what has transpired over the past two years – IBM couldn’t manufacture, or indeed sell, on the scale of Intel.

“Intel's Xeon E7 (Ivy Bridge-EX) is a 4.31 billion-transistor machine weighing in at 541 square millimeters built on a quite mature 22-nanometer FinFET process in factories that have to date pumped out hundreds of millions of 22-nanometer FinFET processors. While the volumes on this part are low, and while yields on this chip are almost assuredly trickier than a 1.4 billion-transistor Haswell notebook CPU, they are probably better than the IBM POWER 8's at this stage of the game,” concludes Fool analyst, Ashraf Eassa.

And yes, remember all the messages from HPE NonStop product management – we are simply following the Intel roadmap and, without elaborating further, could we see NonStop running on Broadwell? “This is Intel speak for their new
14 nanometer die shrink of its Haswell microarchitecture. It is a ‘tick’ in Intel's tick-tock principle as the next step in semiconductor fabrication,” so Wikipedia tells me. As of this post, NonStop X is based on Xeon E5-2600v2 series processors so, even as “Some of the processors based on the Broadwell microarchitecture are marketed as ‘5th-generation Core’ i3, i5 and i7 processors,” the images of the big guns persist! Well, IBM is still playing around with 22-nanometer FinFET processors – get the picture? That’s a big gun alright, but perhaps guns, with bigger bores, aren’t what is required in this gunfight.

There is a reason why NonStop is riding the Intel roadmap and there is a reason too for the naming convention HPE chose for NonStop – ever wondered what all those numbers and letters meant? A NonStop X NS7 X1 suggests one of the numbers refers to the generation with all indications supporting that the X1 simply means the first go-around of the Xeon chip. Doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that in time we will see X2, X3, X4 and so on – but don’t take my word on that. Check this out with your friendly NonStop product manager.

Suffice to say, as virtualization takes hold within NonStop development and supports regular, commercial off-the-shelf hardware, including Proliant as well as CloudLine as best as I can tell, perhaps these Xn suffixes tell us another story. Or could it be the occurrence of the first X telling us an even bigger story – will NonStop i and NonStop X be joined by a third line comprising servers taken straight from the stripped-down x86 server vaults and packaged in ways to meet customer needs (of the time)? Could we see something like NonStop O (for open) become the follow-on to NonStop i and NonStop X – it’s fun to speculate like this, even as it’s pretty harmless. However, just a few years ago when NonStop looked to be anything but strategic to HPE, such musings would have not been possible.

Turns out the big guns for HPE have nothing to do with size or indeed performance. Rather, the big guns are those that the users can aim directly at legacy and traditional applications – with the price points established for NonStop X there really isn’t a mission critical application that wouldn’t benefit from running atop a fault tolerant NonStop system. And maybe, just maybe, the NonStop community we are all part of today isn’t alone in its understanding of just how important this is to users everywhere. Did you all see the news late Friday, July 29, 2016?

According to one financial publication, HPE could go the way of Dell and become privatized.  No real surprises here for many HPE watchers who not only raised an eyebrow when HPE split out HPES with the intent to combine with CSC (on an equal basis) but openly discussed the possibility of further sales. I think by now we have all read stories of HPE looking for buyers for much of its software businesses – Autonomy, Mercury, Veridata, etc.  However, even as this Friday’s news reports raised the level of noise,
pushing the stock price of HPE higher, with one report suggesting that according to Barrons “multiple private equity buyers were kicking the tires … considering a possible buyout.” 

I am not quite ready to jump on that bandwagon. I will hold any further comment about this for a later post as I have to believe that there will be further reports in the coming weeks. But HPE provides value and HPE has brought NonStop into the very heart of its operations, and there are those who see considerable value in HPE as it continues to support the Intel x86 architecture across its product portfolio. 

On the other hand, no private equity firm appears to be looking at IBM and I suspect that too is a story unto itself. No value to be unearthed over there; move along! While it’s true IBM has sold off practically everything of value and would have sold off the Mainframe if it had been able to find anyone that was interested. IBM’s strategic initiatives in clouds and cognitive processing are moving very slowly and in some aspects, have begun to falter, losing ground to the competition – with all of its guns firing in support of clouds, it only grew its clouds business 30% in the latest quarter whereas Microsoft grew its cloud business by 150%!

It’s always important to be able to lay your hands on the big guns as and when you need them - yes, there’s nothing more comforting than knowing you brought the biggest gun to the fight. However, how we measure today’s big guns is vastly different from what was considered important just a decade ago. Today, it’s all about following standards, being open, tapping vast pools of talented staff and yes, let’s not forget, it’s also about price. And with adoption of the x86 architecture I believe HPE has pulled out the biggest gun of all and no matter what features come with Power 9 the market is beginning to understand IBM’s Power will only ever be second to Intel – the numbers simply speak for themselves.

Symbolism still has its place and watching the big gun on the trailer continue on its way, the symbolic nature of it heading towards the west coast where innovation and technology thrive – NonStop may not yet be the biggest gun within HPE but it has become a lot more visible as the big gun in fault tolerant mission critical transaction processing. In doing so, clearly the prospects of HPE are “looking up” as a result. Whether it becomes an extended family of NonStop i, NonStop X, NonStop O or whatever – the fact remains; NonStop is on a roll and taking aim squarely at blasting away at the days of being typecast as proprietary, closed and “too expensive for us!”    

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I am in your mirrors and am about to pass …

Could it be, after so many years, that NonStop systems are catching the venerable mainframe? Is it even conceivable that NonStop offers a better technology solution than its long time arch-rival? Possible? Well perhaps yes … the gap between the two is definitely being bridged!

I was only recently writing to my clients about the work being done on our track Corvette. After nearly a two year hiatus we hope to have the C5 Z06 track ready by the end of the month, with perhaps an outing or two in the fall,  just as driving in winter is out of the question in Colorado so too is driving in the heat of summer. The ‘Vette looks terrific even after all these years – thirteen years old but only a little over 20,000 miles on the odometer even if almost a third of those were spent on the track as well as in and around the pits and paddocks you find at every race track. Yes, former head of NonStop development, Hal Massey, has a lot to answer for (as does Mike Plum, also formerly of NonStop development) for having steered Margo and I down this path.

But it’s not really what the eye first glimpses – a shiny red paint and a nice leather interior – that is the important consideration. It most definitely is all about the state of the engineering that counts for almost everything. There are key components and then literally a raft of proprietary infrastructure that ensures a track car circulates quickly and safely around any racing track. I have written of this for the NonStop community on many occasions and I never tire from drawing comparisons between cars and computers, as the language and imagery is so similar.

So much is standardized on cars today and yes, so much is standardized on computers and for the NonStop community, the changes of the past couple of years couldn’t have come at a more opportune time – the industry is changing and while others are beginning to struggle, the roadmap for NonStop is now liberally sprinkled with industry standard conforming hardware and software that it is putting distance between itself and its competitors.

In road racing there a very important saying, “If I am in your mirrors, then I am faster than you!” In a sense, if you can see me behind you and a short time ago, you had nothing but clear track, then the saying makes a whole lot of sense and so it is that drivers at every level of experience are instructed on track protocols and respect the saying. Well, the analogy holds true for NonStop – following years of clear sailing, so as to speak, NonStop is now clearly in everyone’s rear view mirror. And, in many cases, NonStop is already executing a passing maneuver.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been looking into the overall performance of IBM. In particular, I have been looking at both IBM mainframes and IBM Power Systems. The latter is how IBM now sells it’s former AS/400 – System i servers, where IBM Power Systems have the ability to run any or all of OS/400, AIX and even GNU Linux. No longer separate System i or System p, today there is just a single system and just like their bigger brother, you configure LPARs (Logical Partitions) in order to run a required OS and you no longer have the option to run real. It’s all virtual today – just as we are watching the demise of manual transmissions it would seem that automatics dominate today and running virtually is akin to running an automatic. Don’t you worry yourselves about the specifics of matching requirements with power on hand!

Will IBM add support for zOS in Power Systems? In other words, will the Mainframe become just another LPAR on a Power System? This is a very loaded question as boundaries get crossed and the outcome is not related either to technology or even business as much as it is related to culture – the “mainframe crowd” would simply choke if they had to co-reside with the other crowd – the System i and the System p! However, it may happen. And it is against this background that the moves by HPE for NonStop to bring to market virtual NonStop (vNonStop) running on commercial, off-the-shelf x86 hardware, essentially “completes the circle.” Windows, Linux and NonStop will be running on exactly the same inexpensive hardware – take your pick. And it will run “automatically” atop a virtual machine.

But how long will IBM and the mainframe remain competition for NonStop? If you had an opportunity to read the many analyst reports following the latest quarterly results from IBM, you have to start wondering just how viable the mainframe will remain? I know my colleagues and good friends working with mainframes will likely choke when they read this but I am still struggling to comprehend why IBM didn’t embrace blades as did their other development teams and why is it sticking with Power? So much was expected from the latest Power 8 chips that when they started shipping (with support for mainframes), their performance wasn’t anything stellar and talk quickly reverted to discussions about the next chip, the Power 9.

Back to the latest quarterly results from IBM and to a couple of highlights. “Revenue for the quarter came in at $20.24 billion against the comparable year-ago figure of $20.81 billion. IBM's second quarter results mark the company's 17th straight quarter decline.” And then there is “Sales in the systems segment, which includes mainframes and the operating software that helps run them, declined 23.2 percent to $2 billion.” Almost immediately, questions began to be raised as to whether IBM was going to sell off the mainframe business. After all, IBM has sold off almost everything else from communications and networking to PCs and servers.

“IBM would probably sell the mainframe business if it could, but I'm not convinced that anyone wants to buy it. Mainframes may have more value as a continuing source of cash than what IBM could realize in an outright purchase.” As for that cash, just how many mainframe users know just how much cash is going back to IBM with each sale of a mainframe? “IBM's gross margins declined as well in all of its divisions, with the exception of its Systems division, where the gross margin remained stable at 56.5%.” That’s one big reason as to why IBM isn’t as upset as it otherwise might have been in not being able to find a buyer for the mainframe. No, customers are going to be led by the nose till the very end. Perhaps the rose in those rose-colored glasses worn by IBM mainframe salesman are simply a reflection of the very bloodshot eyes of increasingly enraged customers.

It’s absolutely time for every member of the NonStop community to push back on the mainframe protagonists – their arguments are wearing extremely thin. The above quotes were drawn mostly from a July 20, 2016, article by Mark Hibben and published in the electronic publication, Seeking Alpha. However, in that article was a chart produced by IDC that every member of the NonStop community should be aware of that is IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, June 2016:

The more I look at the data in this chart, the more I have come to appreciate the predicament IBM finds itself in today. Now, there are parties within IBM that point to how the new z13 gained another 13 new customers in the quarter bringing to 70 the number of new customers that the z13 has generated – a stat that can be found in posts to the LinkedIn group, Mainframe Experts Network. But if I happened to be working at IBM, I would be appalled at these figures based on previous history. What’s missing is just how many customers have left System z in the same period. And just how many of these new customers happen to be international subsidiaries of existing users? Bottom line, with less than 10% of the server “systems,” this is an embarrassing figure for IBM and one every CIOs would fancy flashing before their boards of directors. Coupled with almost a 33% decline, year over year, embarrassment may be the least of these CIOs concerns – properly managing risk comes to mind.

And yet the myths about the invulnerability of the mainframe persist. The mainframe protagonists are proving to be a hardy lot to shake but here’s the good news. Once viewed as being on the endangered species list, following the support for the Intel x86 architecture, NonStop systems have made it back onto the strategic list of one major bank and I am expecting more to follow in the near time and be something that is openly discussed by HPE management at this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp. No, NonStop is going to continue to thrive as a system and as a platform. It’s about time CIOs reliant on the performance of their mainframes to check their mirrors – NonStop is approaching and yes, with the commitment to the Intel x86 architecture, it is catching the mainframe and as we all know when it comes to market share, overall performance and yes, that all-important price consideration, it is now squarely in your mirrors!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Yes, once again, I ask – are our wishes truly important?

Once again, I am writing a preview of what will follow next February as my update to My Three Wishes for NonStop will be posted. Like my previous preview, I am keeping a few items close to my chest … 

Over the past two week I have been on the road and for nearly all of that time the heavens have opened up and it’s been a hard rain for more days that I care to recall. Driving was erratic at times even as setting up camp proved challenging – the drive into the RV facility on North Carolina’s Outer Banks happened just 30 minutes after a tremendous deluge that left the facility flooded. But the opportunity to discuss business with numerous folks made it worthwhile and overall it all added to a growing impression that the software industry is heading for tough times and that, without a few more concessions coming from major hardware vendors, our future choices may be greatly reduced even as users may be tempted to return to writing critical middleware and tools themselves.

Driving all of this is the simple fact that there’s just very little money heading towards traditional software vendors. Well, almost all software vendors. Those providing solutions remain optimistic of course as there is a direct line between the business problems they address and their own ability to charge accordingly. There continues to be significant discrepancies between the many solutions on offer but the actual price paid for any given solution ultimately rests with the users themselves – they can walk from deals and consider alternatives. However, when it comes to middleware and tools there are usually only one or two choices and for the NonStop community this is particularly true.

It’s unfortunate that with the rightsizing of NonStop system prices that has led to NonStop being priced as competitively as it is now – on par with almost every other server cluster offering and streets ahead of equivalent mainframe offerings – a new pricing expectation is being set for middleware and tools. And yet, we expect our preferred middleware and tools vendor to accelerate the level of investment in their products to cater for changing hardware architecture. Throw into this mix the availability of NonStop as Software, capable of running virtually, and the expectations of users are beginning to step beyond the lines of reasonability. HPE NonStop expects these vendors to remain part of the NonStop ecosystem but I am not sure how many NonStop vendors will be motivated to do so and this may be to the detriment of everyone in the NonStop community.

Every three years I update my three wishes for NonStop. It all started back on February 12, 2008, in the post,
"My Wish" for NS Blades. Since then I have published successive Wishes for NonStop posts in 2011, 2014 and now 2017 is fast approaching when I will once again be publishing my next three Wishes for NonStop. However, given how quickly events can turn on a dime, with my post of July 19, 2013, Are our wishes still important? I set the scene in terms of what to expect next and this year, I am continuing that pattern. The post of 2017 may be fast approaching but it may be useful if I provided you with a sneak preview about what is yet to be posted. And yes, there is lots to discuss.

But here’s the catch. Are making three wishes for NonStop still relevant today? I have asked the same question every time and each time, the responses have been positive. It would seem that we all have our private list of Wishes for NonStop and consider them important. On the other hand, can we say NonStop has now caught up with the industry to where we are all prepared to go with the flow? Is same-o, same-o, become acceptable and in fact, become the new norm? Is NonStop differentiation even relevant in 2016?

My first response is one of gratitude that HPE stuck with NonStop where today the investments HPE is making, in NonStop systems, are hard to ignore. Who could have imagined that NonStop would be where it is today, on the verge of being available pretty much any way we want it – running on HPE hardware, on commercial off-the-shelf hardware and potentially, not just in private clouds but possibly in public clouds underpinning a selection of services including database. Making three wishes for NonStop is still relevant but given how much is changing of late, I will leave it till that post of February 2017 what I think my next three wishes should be.

In the meantime, and as a precursor to what may follow, when I look at how best to characterize the NonStop ecosystem as it exists today, then there are three items that stand out – transparency, cooperation and engagement. These are very important topics for the NonStop community today given all we are hearing from HPE. Change upon change upon change – the reshaping of an industry stalwart to better address the conditions of the day. Not a cliché, but reality. It’s so easy for us these days to drift back to memories of former times and wish for their return. But IT is a thriving, multi-faceted industry that only knows progress. IT is like a powerful car that only has forward gears.

Transparency? Overriding every discussion I have had with my clients of late is the urgency for greater transparency with respect to their dialogue with HPE and I have to believe the same holds true for NonStop users. C’mon, HPE – we can’t just be forced to read the Wall Street Journal to find out what HPE is up to – a briefing call on the day (or yes, a little in advance) would be great. Having said this, I do have to say I admire the steps that HPE NonStop Product Management have taken of late to be more transparent with the vendor community and I want to see this develop further – quarterly calls, if it’s possible! And yes, I know all about the SEC rules – but as they say so often in the movies and on television these days, “read us in!” And when it comes to transparency, how about letting us all know just how many NonStop customers exist today and just how many NonStop systems are deployed.

Cooperation? Quite simply, there is so much to do and HPE R&D cannot do it all. Numerous steps have been taken already with select partners and again, this is good news. But develop a program that is more comprehensive and don’t push back each time with observations that well, yes we have something already in the works. Don’t do that – it just doesn’t win you any friends and quite frankly you don’t have the breadth any longer to be competitive on every front. Let the specialists who are prepared to invest their own dime in bringing a tool, utility or major feature to market, take the lead. It’s not that big a concession to make but cooperation will buy HPE NonStop an awful lot of good friends in many of the right places.

Engagement? The tricky element! You may already ask whether this has been covered with transparency and cooperation but I want to call it out as its own challenge. Let’s start with partner programs. For the most part, the NonStop vendor community doesn’t want to be lumped into a generic all-encompassing partner program. I know, I have been there! More than once! The needs of the NonStop vendor community vary significantly from those of your typical Unix or Linux or even Windows development shop. For starters, the marketplace for NonStop is finite and tightly focused – we don’t need to be given access to a couple of PCs or a Linux server. The Advanced technology Center (ATC) has been a godsend to many NonStop vendors – explore ways to broaden its engagement with the NonStop vendor community. For free! The NonStop Technical Boot Camp has been a surprise windfall for all involved – let’s keep it up and somehow manage to find resources to export it to EMEA and AP-J.

There is also one more thing – related, but more on the periphery of everyone’s radar screens. The freelancer! The time of having job security, working for a large organization, is long gone – those very same large organizations have seen to that. I don’t know of any other IT segment where the skills lie with as many freelancers as exists today across the NonStop community. Freelancers should not be ignored even as they don’t have the backing of a large corporation but having said that, they are more likely to be better equipped and motivated. It’s a huge resource around the planet that just needs greater recognition. 

Returning to my opening comments; HPE does expect the NonStop vendor community to remain part of the NonStop ecosystem. It’s very important for HPE and indeed, the expectation is that new vendors will be found and brought into the NonStop fold. But it’s a two way street with many one-way side streets leading NonStop vendors away from the main thoroughfare. Keeping everyone engaged is not a nice-to-have but rather the biggest imperative of all for HPE NonStop. The NonStop vendor community is heading for tough times and truly needs concessions from HPE. Yes, we would all benefit from new solutions for NonStop even as we would all benefit from making it even easier to port what we like to NonStop. But we absolutely must find the right way to sustain a thriving software industry that will remain focused on NonStop!

If you were at all curious about what my first three Wishes for NonStop were back in 2008, while the words were a little different they called for industry standard blades capable of running not just NonStop but Linux, Unix and even Windows; they called out the need to embrace virtualization and the benefits that would likely come if we could programmatically provision NonStop. If you want to read these three previous posts, then follow the link, Wishes that is listed under Labels. There is also now a label for Wishes – Preview where you will find this post included as well. 

But I have to admit, before wrapping up this post, that in the years since 2008, HPE NonStop has taken incredible strides to bring NonStop into the mainstream and with the new NonStop X family has succeeded in a manner that has taken me by surprise. There’s a saying that you need to be careful about making wishes in case they come true, but I have to admit, I wish big! So, look for the post of February 2017 to read more about my wishes for where I would like to see NonStop head over the course of the next three years. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Misconceptions – all computers will never be the same!

There are numerous misconceptions about many things we routinely come into contact with but as NonStop becomes capable of running on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and yes, even from within a cloud, I turned to one solutions vendor to gauge just how big an impact this may have on future NonStop sales …

It’s a common misconception that America’s interstate freeways provide a speedy and stress-free way to drive across the country, but they are neither free nor fast, or even stress free. Denoted speed limits change frequently, portions of the freeway have become toll-roads and many miles of freeway are under repair and have been turned into unforgiving cone-surrounded autocross courses. And then there are the freeway interchanges to contend with – oftentimes beautiful, yet terrifying to the uninitiated. The photo above was taken by the award-winning commercial and fine art photographer, Peter Andrew, who has turned many of these high interchanges into works of art.  No, it’s simply a shortsighted mistake to think sticking to America’s interstate freeways will be the best route to take.

It’s also a common misconception that we are headed down a road where all computer systems will be the same, that, in their eventual ubiquitousness, we will find a kind of Valhalla. In other words, price parity will be reached and vendor differentiation will be marginalized, perhaps differing only in the chosen color schemes of the metalwork, but Valhalla may not be all that we envision, or even welcoming site, with its doors wide open. We may be heading to a box sameness, but there will always be at least two competing architectures, for as far out into the future that I can see, competing x86 and Power architectures, for instance – such that the doors to Valhalla will remain firmly shut. No, it’s just as shortsighted a mistake to think that all computers will be the same. 

This topic came up in numerous discussions of late. Fueled by observations made at recent user and industry events, passing kiosks that populate exhibit halls, you get a superficial sense that it’s all the same and resorting to photo reproductions plastered onto the same cut-out frames as if they were advertising on a NASCAR race car, doesn’t help one bit. When did we move away from exhibiting real computers? I must have missed the memo, but quite frankly, it’s not helping. However, there’s more going on inside today’s computers than we may realize – you can’t really identify a computer by what covers it – this is not about technology that is only skin deep. What lies inside makes all the difference in the world!

There has never been any misconception among the NonStop community about what lies within the cabinets. NonStop systems are just different and will always be different, or, is this not really true anymore? Will a NonStop systems manager be able to tell the difference when all the basic components are commercial, off-the-shelf, hardware? Fortunately, HPE is investing in NonStop at a rapid rate such that today’s image of a NonStop system is shifting in some very important ways, all of which are being discussed with a level of fervor among the NonStop vendor community and these vendors are more excited than I can recall in a long time.

Recently I wrote in my client weekly update of NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the service, each of which provided the highest level of availability even as it is capable of scaling up as well as out in a manner that meets the needs of any user. If you want to be able to put your arms around a NonStop system that is delivered in a crate to your loading dock then yes, you can get it from HPE. If you want to download NonStop from a web site to run on your Dell x86 servers interconnected by multiple Mellanox InfiniBand switches, well yes, you can get that software too from HPE (or shortly will be able to, in my opinion). If you want to provision on your private cloud that consists of generic x86 servers then that too shouldn’t be a problem and will likely be the way many applications get to access the best database on the planet, NS SQL/MX. And for those prepared to wait just a little longer, if you really need to run in a public cloud I fully expect that too will be possible.

You only want to deploy open source? Indeed, stay tuned as again, it is my opinion that NonStop (in part of in whole) is headed for open source so yes, you may need additional services from knowledgeable folks but go right ahead. Watch for a NonStop distribution being floated by the NonStop community in a year or two! Although following the retirement of HPE CTO, Martin Fink, the potential for the NonStop operating system heading to open source may have lessened. What is not a misconception by anyone tracking technology trends is the price of hardware is dropping (some would say, sinking) with the acceptance of commercial, off the shelf hardware. Middleware, tools and infrastructure are following this downward trend as well. But solutions? Well, this is where the value is provided and while there may be some steading in the price of solutions, the impact is less noticeable.

In the post of June 3, 2016, Burgers for cash ... or burgers and cash? published on the ATMmarketplace site, I turned to OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, for his views on payments solutions and possible integration with robotics but I also asked him for comments on Hybrids and vNonStop. In that post I quoted Yash after he had told me of how, "For more than a year, we have been building our own systems around NonStop and ProLiant Unix processors with Atalla boxes included (as well, for security). After we build and test them, we ship the complete package to our customers and for the most part, all they see is OmniPayments via a browser to the extent the underlying technology is invisible.”

According to Yash, "HPE is demonstrating NonStop and Linux hybrids with InfiniBand and NSADI (formerly, Yuma) connecting the two and we are watching this development with keen interest. If HPE provides packaging that reduces the work we currently need to do then that will keep our costs down and that will be a big plus for our customers. Furthermore,  if we can now build our systems from any x86 servers on offer, applying our own skillsets to properly install and deploy it all, and run NonStop virtually, then I can see this allowing us to deliver a true payments solution to even the smallest of FI.”

Of all the payments solutions on offer today that run on NonStop, OmniPayments has been developed as a pure NonStop play capitalizing on all the features NonStop has to offer. Whereas all but one other payments solutions has been ported to NonStop, OmniPayments leverages NonStop to be as big or as small as the customer situation dictates but there’s even more on the horizon. As Yash so often highlights at customer events, OmniPayments is already embracing cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS), and has multiple in-house sites up and running.

"For some time now we have been successful with our OmniCloudX offering whereby we provision OmniPayments as a Service for our customers. Now that HPE has demonstrated virtual NonStop systems running on commodity, off-the-shelf x86 servers this opens the door to a vastly different environment for NonStop and one where we will need to devote time to fully understand all the ramifications. The priority for OmniPayments will be not to detract from the levels of availability NonStop provides even as we need to consider what additional tools might be required as now there will be additional systems software to support. However, this said, we view the emergence of vNonStop as a positive outcome and one that will help OmniPayments keep the costs low for our customers," concluded Yash. 

As for the potential move of NonStop into the open source arena, Yash is just as bullish about the prospects for OmniPayments with any such distribution that may eventuate from HPE. “In my opinion - open sourcing of Nonstop will lead to more vNonStop sales,” Yash told me. “That is good for us because our software will run on more machines, giving us even more customers. What’s wrong with that?” Some of what I have covered in this post will come to fruition and some may not. For those who have been attending recent user and industry events and entered into discussions with their peers, there seems to be very few limitations as to where NonStop will head and this possibly is the most exciting news about NonStop of all!

Of course this is just the perspective of one solutions vendor but in the coming months I will be working with other vendors in order to gain further insight. Clouds and offering NonStop from within clouds is an entirely new game for OmniPayments so it will be very interesting to watch. However, preliminary feedback is that indeed, there is a growing list of new sales for NonStop X systems as a result.

Misconceptions abound in all walks of life. They are not limited to taking the freeway or buying a computer system. Sticking too long with a misconception can prove dangerous as well – I cannot count how many systems have passed from the technology landscape where the fields are littered with the relics of once prosperous architectures. No, Valhalla as enticing as it may sound is nowhere to be found but the good news is that very soon, you will be able to order up a NonStop variation exactly the way you need it and it may be all the good news anyone in the NonStop community really cares about. And make no mistake, that’s not a misconception at all no matter what your initial reaction on hearing the news from HPE may have been!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It's good to be alive right about now … NonStop rocks!

Back from HPE Discover 2016 and with opportunities to converse with my clients, the news about NonStop is good. All involved in the NonStop community see the development of NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the services as positive and there’s excitement and anticipation evident everywhere I turn …

HPE Discover 2016 continues to occupy my thoughts even as I am now deeply involved in a number of projects arising from conversations with my clients. Las Vegas may not be to everyone’s liking but when it comes to the biggest of HPE marketing events, HPE Discover 2016 does throw a lot at you in a very short period of time. For me it has always been about the sidebar conversations, the opportunity for a brief exchange with an executive and the chance, and often quite unexpected, meeting over cocktails. This year, there was a reception for the NonStop community hosted by America’s sales head, Jeff Skinner, and that proved to be the place to be Tuesday evening.

The question I was asked most often at HPE Discover was who are the members of the NonStop community? Why do they continue to invest in NonStop and yes, how is it possible that after all these years there remains such a healthy ecosystem of vendors, consultants, service providers and even bloggers continuing to thrive from supporting NonStop? More often than not, when I began talking about this ecosystem, the degree of surprise coming from whoever I am talking to only grows bigger with each example I provide, to the point where I am more than sure my audience begins to assume I am simply exaggerating.

On the trip to Las Vegas, we took it rather leisurely with an overnight stop in Cedar City. Opting to bring the company command center along with us and with our Mini strapped to our trailer the resultant big rig proved challenging coming down through the narrowing Virgin River Gorge of Arizona. There has been considerable bridge repair being carried out and warning signs posted as you enter Arizona that vehicles over ten feet wide cannot make it through and with our big rig slightly wider than eight feet, there was little room for error.

Concentration was the order of the day as we threaded the needle. Suffice to say, we made it through the gorge unscathed. But challenging situations seem to be the flavor of the day now that I have returned to Boulder and my thoughts continue to take me back to Las Vegas and to the dual themes of Digital Transformation and Digital Disruption.

When travelling, there are numerous occasions where you come upon forks in the road; whether it’s changing from one interstate freeway to another or simply exiting for diesel, gas or food. Not surprisingly, with the big rig we have to be judicious about which turns we take as we remain vigilant about exactly how we will return to the freeway should it prove necessary. More than once we have made a wrong choice only to face restrictions on how best to make it back.

And I have been reminded of this dilemma as well – there have been numerous members of the NonStop community that left the NonStop freeway based on signage erected long ago. Concerned about the narrowing gorge they faced they elected to take the exit even as they missed the signs that the path chosen was not heading in the direction they wanted to take, after all.

Challenging situations being met by a unified and now incredibly strengthened community is the message coming from HPE following HPE Discover 2016 and it resonates loudly with the NonStop community as much as with the bigger HPE. Furthermore, “Tomorrow belongs to the Fast” is definitely something I understand and such a message is proving attractive as it is encouraging. But there’s something more here as well and it’s to do with collaboration. HPE is openly willing to work with partners, something that hasn’t been all that clear in the past.

At last year’s event the music being played before the first keynote presentation by Meg Whitman, HPE CEO, seemed a very strange mix of songs and something I raised with those around me from HP – seems that nobody really paid much attention to the mix beforehand. I don’t plan to write about that mix other than to say the mix of music was much different this year for HPE and one of the organizers came up to remind me that yes, they did pay attention this year and no, Larry Ellison wasn’t responsible for the choices made for 2015 as I had suggested!

For 2016 the opening numbers began with the song, Wake Up whose lyrics included the lines:
So wake up
Your sleeping heart
I know sometimes we'll be afraid
But no more playing safe, my dear …

Followed by the song Lean On with the lines:
Will we walk down the same road?
Will you be there by my side?

All we need is somebody to lean on …

And then a song or two later we all heard the Coldplay son, Adventure of a Lifetime, which seemed more than appropriate when it suggested:
Turn your magic on … Everything you want's a dream away

Cause you make me feel like I'm alive again …

Follow? Wake up followed by lean on followed by the adventure of a lifetime and for those from the NonStop community, the message couldn’t have been clearer. Collaboration – yes, it’s out there and I expect many takers of HPE’s invitation to wake up our sleeping hearts. Of course, it would be remiss if I didn’t add that the final song played as Whitman took the stage was Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah):
Now all my dreams are coming true, ya
I've been waiting for this moment

Nice! And corny as it may sound, NonStop too, now rocks!

The members of the NonStop community come from many industries. Of course, there were the financial institutions along with the telco industry that continue to be the perennial stalwarts of the NonStop community. But there were those present from government, transportation and entertainment that make up the enterprise market segment where NonStop has held sway for decades. When you add in those today who are in manufacturing and distribution as well as the occasional hospital you can see a picture forming that reflects the perfect conflux of technology, products, use-case scenarios and end-user engagement. We all know that technology today is being driven by the consumer experience and the rise of apps and microservices is a reflection of that trend. But this conflux is exactly right and timely for NonStop – yes, NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the service.

When I put the question to the NonStop vendor community about just how popular this newfound willingness to push NonStop in different directions and separating NonStop the system from NonStop the software, the responses were all very positive. In their post of June 24, 2016, to the DataExpress NEWS / BLOG,
NONSTOP INITIATIVES – HOW RELAXED SHOULD WE BE? DataExpress executives are quite open about their views on these directions as they state, “Full of anticipation, coupled with a little trepidation together with an acute awareness that we can react to what we see coming, we may not be quite as relaxed about the new NonStop as we are when relaxing by the pool this summer. But there is no denying that among the team here at DataExpress, there is excitement developing over the future of NonStop.”

As for comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, he too shared with me much the same sentiment. In a recent email on the matter, Burg reiterates how at comForte, “Yes, there is plenty of change coming from HPE NonStop lately but we are THRILLED! EXCITED! (And) why wouldn’t we?” Indeed, as far as comForte is concerned, Burg simply concludes with, “Who wouldn’t be impressed to see the market for NonStop broaden to be all inclusive no matter the systems preferred, just NonStop or hybrid; real or virtual; private (cloud) or public! We see no downside from all that is changing.” Clearly, HPE’s support for NonStop is palpable but just as importantly, it has the attention of senior executives and is now an integral part of the plans for the new HPE IT.

“It’s time to get excited – NonStop is the standard for large scale enterprises who demand secure availability,” said Tony Craig, TCM Solutions (TCM) CEO. And what he has looked at to date, leads him to make yet another important observation that speaks volumes of NonStop now appealing to markets apart from traditional enterprise market segments. “With the Hybrid and Virtualization, NonStop becomes the obvious choice for the Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) market where security and availability is also key to their success,” Craig said. 

“This potentially doubles the NonStop target market place - exciting times ahead. We are looking to expand our NonStop consultancy operation for the delivery of both on-site and remote service solutions to meet the demands for expert NonStop support and cost-effective complete managed services.  We have been doing this successfully for 20 years and this is definitely the most exciting development we have seen in NonStop!”

The photo was taken of our big rig at rest place alongside the freeway at Grand Junction and yes, rather fittingly, we too as a community have reached our own grand junction. NonStop is generating excitement even as it embarks on numerous different journeys. Will it all pan out? Will it generate a whole cadre of new users both big and small? Will the NonStop user community continue to invest in NonStop? Will internal HPE politics become a factor and will the need to address more than just NonStop become a factor in many NonStop vendors’ plans.

When I put this to Andy Hall, ETI-NET CEO he was very straightforward with his remarks. It has been hard to miss the acquisition trail ETI-NET has been pursuing of late and of how these acquisitions include support of platforms apart from NonStop. Excitement? Politics? Perhaps cultural differences? “Operational politics take on new significance when NonStop applications must cooperate, accommodate, or insulate themselves from surrounding events,” said Hall.

And of course, when it comes to the ETI product set, they have “thrived on these hardware and software interdependencies since our inception and we have a culture that understands the organizational factors that result in technical success or failure.  And our most recent acquisition of open system monitoring software is an added asset in this quickly changing landscape.” More to the point, when it comes to where NonStop may be headed, Hall was also quick to add, “ETI-NET is well-positioned to capitalize on NonStop software co-existing with open systems in a commodity hardware framework.”

The questions kept on coming at HPE Discover 2016 but the simple truth remains. HPE values NonStop backing this up with major investments; HPE is supporting NonStop usage in their own data center and yes, the market for NonStop will grow – if the NonStop vendor community is excited then all stakeholder in the NonStop community that constitute an ecosystem that others would enjoy having need to rejoice – as for me it’s simply a case of I've been waiting for this moment! It’s good to be alive; Hallelujah!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hybrids, Connectivity, Analytics and Natural Language Processing … NonStop, of course!

What was on display at HPE Discover 2016 led me to take a closer look at some of the start-ups where Pyalla Technologies has a presence and the results add further weight to the argument about just how far NonStop systems have come – who would have guessed just a year or so ago! 

Wandering the exhibition hall at this year’s HPE Discover, for me, it was a treat to see as many cars on display as there were. Whether it was the HPE sponsored Formula E or what I recall was a Nissan Leaf or even the BMW i3 pictured above, there seemed a lot more engagement with cars at this show. Of course, there was the opportunity to race a car against other attendees; that was part of the HPE Labs exhibit but the “controls” were a tad artificial and not to my liking, so I wasn’t tempted to join in the fun.

The BMW i3 is a pure electric play and where HPE was involved had to do with gathering information from many sources in order to keep the car on course and in practical terms, safe. The i3 had communications to the HPE IoT Platform where the integration allowed “for rapid installation of new services or applications, as well as for communication with nearby connected devices.” What this integration covered was, “Advance warning of rain, high winds, and potholes using “swarm” intelligence; Smart home/infrastructure integration and Geo fencing to alert drivers to restrictions as they cross international borders.”

Of course this was all complementary technology to whatever autonomous car technology develops but it was a graphic way to demonstrate a future where unheralded volumes of data are routinely examined with potentially important data communicated to where it’s most wanted. For the NonStop community all of this may be peripheral to the core function of processing transactions, but for many years we have heard presentations by classic bricks-and-mortar retailer, Home Depot, of how it has integrated weather feeds from the internet directly into its transaction processing on NonStop systems in order to ensure the right merchandise is in the right store when local weather crisis develops. And yes, this is only just the beginning.

Part of what Pyalla supports are a number of start-ups where my involvement has run the full gamut, from product management and marketing to business development to simply supporting media outreach programs. One start-up centers on NonStop while another includes NonStop. The third is not on NonStop, even as it is a huge user of HPE products. However, there is a synergy evident in these start-ups. They are all bridging the old with the new and helping us get a firm foothold in solutions that will allow us to tap vast resources, no matter how the data is captured, processed or stored. Given the renewed focus on NonStop within HPE, the associations I have with each of these startups is likely a foretaste of what the NonStop users will become very interest in over the course of the next 18 to 30 months. And the catalyst for all of this interest has been the arrival of hybrid infrastructures where NonStop X is playing its part.

My involvement with
InfraSoft dates back to its earliest days as the company came together. Based in Sydney, Australia, it was only natural for Pyalla Technologies to remain engaged with a company that influenced the choice of company name – Pyalla. Following considerable market success with its uLinga communications product suite, it has been its deep port of Node.js that has really interested me. So many applications written in JavaScript have to do with processing data that it’s not surprising to see the need to support Node.js’ gain as much momentum as it has.

For those who participated in the presentation by HPE IT at HPE Discover 2016, we heard of the choice of JavaScript and Node.js underpinning their applications (with JDBC access to SQL/MX on NonStop) and this is only the beginning. The processing of voluminous amounts of data and then doing something with the data that is of interest is right at the center of the sweet spot for JavaScript and with as much talk as there is of late about microservices, it’s good to see that there is a solution for NonStop X systems and whereas Node.js may be thought of as a platform running on Linux as part of a HPE hybrid infrastructure, the addition of NonStop can only elevate the importance of Node.js for many users where NonStop has a presence.    

When it comes to data and data analytics however, in my opinion the premier vendor in this space that should be on the radar screens of every NonStop user is
Striim. Originally called WebAction and established by former GoldenGate Software executives, the transition from simply supporting data integration as was being done by GoldenGate to where the data itself was the interesting element shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in the NonStop community.

The first PoCs among NonStop users are being done and shortly there will be news about a number of successful use-case scenarios everyone in the NonStop community will be able to relate to – Striim is synonymous with data stream analytics and there will not be a transaction process solution operating anywhere without the deep ties to the environment that Striim so effectively supports. Like InfraSoft, Striim is platform neutral where Linux is perhaps the more viable choice of platform making it an even stronger candidate for running on HPE hybrid infrastructure.    

Whereas my ties to InfraSoft are deeply rooted in my ties to all things Australian and my ties to Striim are associated with my good times at GoldenGate, my connection with InkaBinka can be traced directly to time spent at Starbucks, Wood Ranch, Simi Valley. Chalk it up to unintended consequences or simply to serendipity, but from the time I met InkaBinka founder, Kevin McGushion, over a Starbucks’ Latte, I was hooked. And today, what started out at InkaBinka with its news application, a neat way to read news summaries while standing in line for that Latte has developed into a serious piece of raw feed processing utilizing very advanced natural language processing. 

Or, as Kevin recently explained it, “InkaBinka has created a state variable, neural network that can summarize vast amounts of information by writing about a subject, emulating human abstraction. This is especially powerful in internet search, where 300 million results are common for a single search term. This neural network, through learning and building of a summary, creates new ways of visualizing information while allowing rapid discovery of new information that would have been hidden by the sheer volume of content.”

For me it’s a case of InkaBinka developing an optimized neural network that learns over time and creates and adjusts relationships between ideas, something Kevin now calls “connectedness,” as those ideas evolve. InkaBinka then uses a form of neural network that relates more abstract ideas to summarize large volumes of data. “Artificial neural networks at a basic level emulate the function of neurons where, if new information is introduced, processes may be applied to learn about those new things, essentially allowing the system to become smarter,” said Kevin. 

And of course, from a high-level, macro perspective, “It’s hard to apply these concepts to abstract things such as language. Traditional NLP (natural language processing) works sequentially where a next state is dependent on a previous state and works well for things like spell checking, grammar checking, translation even code breaking. This is not how the human brain tends to work.”

Before diving even deeper into what was behind InkaBinka today, by way of explanation Kevin then suggested that I should, “Take, for example what the human mind does when it begins to formulate a sentence, a series of sentences or a thought. It does not create each sentence with each word sequentially. Rather, it takes into account the main ideas to be covered and the order in which they are to be covered. This may depend on a number of things, such as most important concepts, most recent concepts, or even bias. The mind then takes those main ideas in a prescribed order and weaves them together with individual words, taking into consideration what has been said and what is left to be said.” 

In the example below (and now viewed many times on numerous social media sites), 10,024 websites may be learned from in order to create a summary and a connectedness map of basic ideas covered in these sites. Any node of the connectedness map may be selected and a new summary created based on the relationship between these words.  Information can be quickly discovered without the need to sort through page after page of internet searches, representing a ‘wall of text.’   

It is often a mystery to a user how internet search engines relate or rank information but now, with InkaBinka search, the connectedness is graphically understood and manipulated. Like for many in the NonStop community, visualization works best and the above goes a great way to explaining the powerful transition under way inside InkaBinka. 

InkaBinka runs completely on HPE Moonshot processors and is implemented using JavaScript and Node.js. And it’s heavily focused on data, search and visualization – all sounding rather familiar given the interests of Pyalla. When it comes to hybrid infrastructure we have already seen SLQ/MX on NonStop X being accessed by microservices on Linux (at HPE IT), so thinking in terms of NLP on Linux being accessed by transaction processing on NonStop doesn’t represent too big a stretch of our imagination.

With the looming presence of virtual NonStop, running on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware, where all that is required is a Linux and KVM (think OpenStack) perhaps there will be those looking for an even lower cost hardware option where Moonshot may become an option to consider. If not Moonshot – how much attention is being paid to HPE CloudLine as here too, there is another alternative for use with virtual NonStop. In other words, it would be unwise to place any fences around HPE and NonStop as to where it’s products will surface or is it wise to rule out participation in a solution by any one product.

Microservices, data analytics and natural language processing, all are involving NonStop today. In many ways, too, pointing to where NonStop is headed as well as to the types of platforms we will likely see NonStop becoming a part of. The support Pyalla is providing is not accidental nor is it random and even though these associations developed several years ago where, as the time, their likely impact on NonStop transaction processing may have been dubious at best and a completely off-the-wall at worst, it’s symbolic in many ways of just how wide the net is now being cast when it comes to future possibilities for NonStop.  HPE Discover 2016 opened many eyes not the least being my own. The question now for the NonStop community is simply one of how open are your eyes!