Friday, March 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, February 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

An end to a boisterous year … ready for the fun times ahead?

In private exchanges to clients and in updates on other social media channels, I have talked about winter weather but strong winds always come before warmer temperatures arrive; 2017 is going to be no exception. NonStop will be hot!

It has been quite the end to a boisterous year. The winds blew strongly through the Front Ranges of the Rockies and within a day the snow that had been falling for the past day or so, leaving behind a substantial layer of the fluffy white stuff, had all but been blown clear into Nebraska. When you lie awake of a nighttime listening to winds pushing past 75 mph, with gusts topping 100 mph, it can be pretty scary at times as window panes begin to shift in their frames but then as morning breaks, and skies return to the blue that makes Colorful Colorado famous, there’s always a sense of well, we made it! 


Category 1 hurricanes are said to have sustained winds between 74 and 95 mph whereas Category 2 hurricanes have sustained winds between 96 mph and 110 mph and as the chart above depicts, on Christmas day we were hovering somewhere between a category 1 and 2 hurricane – something most of Colorado’s citizens tend to overlook. Yes, the intense low pressure system brought a hurricane down on us Christmas and then again, just two weeks later. Faced with such a rowdy weather pattern, noisy and unruly, there was little to tempt us to journey far from home.

It has been quite the end too to a rather tumultuous year for the NonStop community. I spent more time on the road than I care to do of late. As I pulled out all the business expenses and added up the cost there was only one month where Margo and I didn’t travel to a user or industry event. There were a couple of times where we made it to more than one event in the month and as much as we have a distinct distaste for it, I had to fly on two separate occasions, although given the need to travel to London to join the NonStop community at BITUG, there was little choice. 

The uptick in travel to Regional User Group events (and no, I cannot get my head around Tandem and NonStop being organized around Chapters as I still prefer to call our regional communities RUGs) is symptomatic of a more general trend that emerged in 2016 that brought out more of the NonStop community to hear the message of NonStop than ever before. And that is a very good thing to see firsthand. However, before getting into more detail as to why I believe is the greater interest in NonStop – a revival of sorts, right – it’s been good to see the growth in readership of publications I support. The digital media reach, following posts and commentaries I provide, is highly encouraging and is further reflection of just how important a role NonStop plays within IT. 

If you have been following the monthly page views for posts to the NonStop community blog, Real Time View (this digital media channel), you will have noticed a steady climb in page views over the past four months. Following average monthly page views for the summer somewhere near 2,500 it now site north of 10,000, with a peak of 11,000+ attained just before everyone left for vacation. Numbers like this had only been reached once before, back in late 2015, but it is interesting and indeed somewhat revealing to know that when I first wrote about NonStop X the numbers soared and now, that I am writing about vNonStop, the numbers are soaring once again. 

If you deliver news about NonStop that has wider appeal the numbers certainly are a reflection of a continued interest in the future of NonStop and that’s always encouraging for a writer / commentator such as myself. But page views of this NonStop community blog are only one side of the story. Readership in more traditional media vehicles, such as The Connection, appear to have picked up. Email responses to my column, Back for more …, have been positive as well and there’s always a comment or two posted to LinkedIn discussions whenever I touch on material included in the column. 

However, it has been the decision Margo and I made to participate in the launch of a new digital publication focused solely on NonStop – the new NonStop Insider eMagazine – that has us highly motivated to continue writing feature stories on NonStop. This time, it’s been about the independent NonStop vendor community that has been the focus of many of the stories published to date and this continues with the fourth issue including even more articles than in previous issues.

There are now more than 1,000 interested parties who have become subscribers to NonStop Insider and for a new publication, with only a handful of issues published, this is a really good accomplishment following such a short incubation period.
And you can read the latest issue, at:


However, this hasn’t been achieved solely based on our own singlemindedness to succeed with something new for the NonStop community. Margo and I happily tip our hats to the good folks at TCM Solutions up in Scotland. If it wasn’t for Tony and Daniel Craig, together with the support from Collin Yates, this eMagazine wouldn’t have gotten off the ground. It takes a lot of resources to build the web site, add each issue and them market to the community. But the most important aspect for me is that the NonStop community benefits from having multiple perspectives created for all things NonStop related. There cannot be too many publications focused on NonStop and at a time when traditional sources of information continue to fall behind the times (when it comes to news about NonStop) we see NonStop Insider filling a very important niche. So yes, subscribe and always remember that publication of articles is free. Whether you are a NonStop user or a NonStop vendor, send all material to submissions@nonstopinsider.com

LinkedIn groups continue to prosper and there’s never a shortage of opinions when topics close to the heart of the NonStop community are broached. I’m always looking for unique ways to stimulate discussions and more than once I have been chastised for starting somewhat leading conversations. There are many LinkedIn followers of mine who are aware of my tactics but don’t for one moment think I am going to go easy in this respect for 2017. After all, it’s one of the best vehicles I know of to check whether the NonStop community still has a post and even now, several years after it was created, I really do enjoy kicking off something fresh to the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop 

None of what I am covering above could have taken place if there just wasn’t any news coming from HPE about NonStop. It is something that gets a tad overused in some circles but it’s hard to argue that NonStop is re-entering a new golden age for fault tolerant solutions. The sheer complexity of today’s IT as hybrids of just about everything are emerging and influencing the types of systems being deployed – hybrid is just another way to throw a blanket over transitions that leave traditional systems on the floor of the data center as new converged systems and cloud computing take hold.  The option to go with the new NonStop X family of x86 servers or to look further afield at running vNonStop are all exciting options NonStop development is rolling out in 2017.

There is likely still a lot of new material yet to be announced. I am often asked about the ongoing value proposition of NonStop. Having written a TCO paper on NonStop several years ago that threw considerable favorable light on NonStop in this regard, looking at what HPE is now doing for NonStop only makes TCO table look even more favorable for NonStop. It’s hard to argue with the savings that come from running NonStop on an x86 architecture. On the other hand, perhaps the biggest contribution of all to driving even more costs out of NonStop is yet to make an impression with CIOs. 

Look for big things to come in 2017 with regards to NonStop SQL/MX given the work development has undertaken to provide Oracle compatibility. I suspect this will catch many by surprise and perhaps no bigger user story on the success of NonStop SQL/MX replacing Oracle will be the story coming from HPE’s own IT where such migrations to NonStop SQL/MX have already begun.

There is a lull in the winds sweeping up the nearby Colorado Rockies. The front ranges have been stripped of snow that fell overnight. However, there is probably a lot more wind headed our way before there is any sign of spring making a return, and when it comes to NonStop I am expecting to see even more changes coming with many eyes focused on vNonStop whereby Nonstop runs in a virtual environment. It’s in Beta and it’s already being tested by at least one big solutions vendor. 

So, let’s not be too quiet about this. Let’s make as much noise as we possibly can. Let’s be boisterous in our enthusiasm as this is all exciting news for the NonStop community. Many years ago, following the launch of the Cyclone system, Jimmy Treybig suggested that in time, NonStop would be one of three – IBM, DEC and Tandem. Wouldn’t it be great if this now comes to be – Linux, Windows and NonStop. It’s all possible so stay tuned; the fun has only just begun!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lights are shining and NonStop takes center stage!

With the first post of 2017, we can now look forward to what will likely transpire for the NonStop community – new products and features, all aimed to growing the market for NonStop, will further highlight just how much is changing for the better …

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice is now behind us and the days are getting longer. Even if it’s just with the addition of a few seconds of daylight this will gradually extend to where we are having extra minutes of sunshine with each new day. With sunshine comes warmth and perhaps that’s the most important ingredient of all. Unless you live in the Florida Keys and don’t care all that much! Or you reside in the southern hemisphere were at this time of year it’s all about cricket and sailing and eating fresh lobster while imbibing on chilled chardonnay. Do I miss those lazy summer days of my youth when I lived in Sydney? Oh yes …

Walking out from my home early one morning, just before Christmas, to see if I had missed the arrival of packages the night before, I took the photo above. While the photo centered on the footpath light immediately in front of me, if you look closely you will see three other lights, further along the path and around the driveway, barely visible. But they were there, and as I ventured down the path, they shined even brighter. I didn’t stay out too long, mind you, as the temperature was well below freezing and the snow that had fallen overnight made any forward progress difficult. Did I just say how I still missed my summer days in Sydney?

But lights are shining and it isn’t limited to the illumination of our footpaths and driveways at this time of year. With the holiday season well and truly over as we return to the routines of our business lives, 2016 now appears to have been a time when lights began to shine more brightly for the NonStop community. Once again, what may have looked like a dimly lit path forward has had the spotlights turned on and the illumination from these bright lights cannot be ignored – NonStop has returned to center stage! The NonStop community has proved adept at navigating the NonStop roadmaps through the years knowing when to invest and when to embrace a new architecture or technology even as they have elected to embrace alternatives, but at no time did they ever elect to tune-out the messages coming from HPE nor did they elect not to prepare plans for what HPE NonStop was about to deliver.

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail," attributed to Benjamin Franklin but more often these days expressed as "Failing to plan is planning to fail" is still pertinent to the place and time where we, the NonStop community, have come to – 2017. While others have paraphrased this quote, including Winston Churchill who was reputed to have remarked, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail" the point remains and as I have corresponded with a number of parties that continue to be active in the NonStop vendor community, it’s clear to me that having taken a deep breath following the 2016 NonStop Technical Boot Camp, it’s become very much a case of “back to the whiteboards” as plans and schedules are reworked based on the substance of product messages and demonstrations provided in the last quarter of 2016.

In my last post for 2016, Mall insights, and NonStop 2016 in review … I made reference to a couple of vendors to better support a number of my observations about last year. It wasn’t by any means a comprehensive list but more a case of a selection of highlights. However, if you missed reading that post (and I hope that after reading this new year’s post you will take a fresh look at it), you will have seen that I included references to OmniPayments and Striim as well as to the changing landscape for those providing outsourcing. The practice of outsourcing is coming under increased scrutiny; the year 2016 has represented a period of re-thinking as cloud operators put outsourcing practice under the microscope. The culprit here is cloud computing, particularly the industry that has arisen with the advent of public clouds. 

Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are leading the way in a transformation that few could have imagined just a short time ago but here’s the wrinkle for the NonStop community – outsourcing may have run its course but to meet the needs of an expanding NonStop installed base, managed services is on the rise. Just as we have craft beer establishments now growing in popularity at a time when the large breweries have become giant operations, so too is the craft specialist IT “boutique” gaining in popularity right alongside the biggest cloud provider. Simply put, not every business and not every system and solution benefits from a general offering and what we consider as an ideal application for NonStop will continue to see the popularity of NonStop grow right alongside cloud deployments – plan on it!

I can more clearly see the path forward for NonStop now that HPE has the lights shining brightly on NonStop. Better illumination generates more interest and this is followed by more sales which in turn bring more lights to focus on NonStop. Analytics, Database and yes, the ability to run both real and virtual NonStop have all come about in a relative brief period of time – it was only two years ago that news broke about the port of NonStop to the x86 architecture and since then, there has been no letup in the rate of change coming from NonStop development. And it’s no time to simply sit back and continue with business as normal. The very concept of laissez-faire and the status quo should be alien to all of us as the year 2017 starts.

These may have been popular economic sentiments centuries ago but “leaving it to itself” and even that “leaving in the state it was before” (and yes, I am reminded too of just how many of us fondly remember earlier times with Tandem), isn’t an option. HPE is giving us opportunities to really differentiate the way we support the companies we work with (and for) – more reliability with greater performance for the mission critical transactions that keep these companies stay in business. Simplistic? It’s often repeated at user events focused on NonStop, but essentially it’s a truism. Solutions designed not to fail will not fail in delivering solutions – sound familiar? But we have moved beyond simply working with failures as they take place to where we need to think more seriously about our ability to predict failure and to be more prescriptive with our responses to failure.

It was early in 2016 when I wrote a post to the IR web publication, Big Data changes trajectory of application monitoring - Monitoring NonStop boosted by analytics in which I noted how Prognosis is already demonstrating that it is pushing beyond just the visualization of alarms and alerts, together with highlighting potential root causes of problems, to where it is prescriptive in nature; providing operations with a heads-up as to what is about to happen so that businesses can be better prepared to take action. In a similar vein, it was this time last year when I published another post to the Striim blog, I May Be Behind the Wheel, but Very Soon, It’s Likely Striim That Will Keep Me Out of Harm’s Way! Where I suggested how nowhere do we see there being any lessening in the demand for better, timelier, information on changing behavior and so, being able to correlate real world activities with predictive models and apply course corrections all in real time, for the NonStop community it is becoming a necessity and not just a nice to have. Almost every piece of IT infrastructure we can depict will come with some form of stream analytics built in. So yes, I don’t see a single solution not needing integration with analytics and already, following NonStop roadmap updates work is underway to ensure we leave the status quo well and truly behind us!

In the coming weeks I will throw more light onto what’s happening with database and with managed services providers as these are very important developments to which we all should be paying attention. As Tony Craig, CEO at TCM Solutions, keeps reminding me, further sales success for NonStop systems will result in there being the need to deliver tailored, 24 x 7, NonStop solutions around the globe, quickly, efficiently and cost effectively, at a time where trying to find the resource to provide these solutions is, at times (and in places), impossible! But crucially, we are committed to doing all this whilst safeguarding the future of NonStop support by creating an environment that fosters innovation, sharing ideas and learning through each other.  As a specialist IT boutique, gaining in popularity right alongside much bigger, but more generalized, providers, TCM differentiates by its expertise in NonStop, and it has much to gain in 2017 and perhaps, in the case of TCM, my previous references to the craft beer industry should have also included references to the craft Scotch whisky industry.

No, we cannot ignore the lights shining brightly on NonStop nor can we just keep on doing what we have always been doing. With the clients that I have today I am being continually reminded that there is so much to be gained from increasing the marketing in support of NonStop which breaks down into simply funding the creation of more information on the value proposition of NonStop that is directed at the broader IT marketplace. This is something I am focused on for 2017 and after almost a decade of making sure that the lights brought to bear on NonStop are not lost in this broader IT marketplace. And talking of beer and whisky, here’s to a prosperous 2017 for all involved with NonStop and let those spotlights shine brightly!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mall insights, and NonStop 2016 in review …

With the last post of 2016 we can look back at all the news surrounding NonStop systems and simply acknowledge just how quickly the world of NonStop is changing and yes, changing for the better …

Struggling to exit the local shopping mall with packages in both hands, as Margo and I left it almost to the very last day to finish our Christmas shopping, I took the opportunity this gave me to have a good look around at both the shops and their customers. So much has changed since I went back to strolling malls worldwide a decade or so ago – yes, I had lived in Edmonton, Alberta, as plans were being drawn up to build the West Edmonton Mall, pictured above and still the largest mall in North America (sorry, Minneapolis) – but after the birth of my daughter, Lisa, I found a Saturday morning filled with exploration and yes, of course, fresh donuts, an affable escape from normal routines.

The popularity of malls has ebbed and flowed through the years. Visitors to Silicon Valley who spent time at Tandem Computers will recall both Vallco Shopping and Valley Fair Malls and their trajectories couldn’t have been more opposite if they had tried. Vallco suffered a slow death whereas the mighty Westfield came in and completely resurrected Valley Fair and I can’t recall a trip back to Silicon Valley when I haven’t stopped by the Valley Fair Mall. As with much of what drives success today, those malls doing well have morphed into much more than a string of shops as they include food courts, many of which are now upscale eateries – think steakhouses, popular seafood restaurants and sushi bars – along with theater complexes and even gymnasiums. Someone in Texas will probably email to tell me that somewhere in the Lone Star State there’s a cathedral integrated with the local mall.

Looking back at the three months since the lead to Halloween, it’s as if the country has made a beeline to the mall at some point even as our shopping disposition has changed radically over the past few years. Our last minute visit to the mall only came about when the need arose to take a good look at a potential gift to check out it’s suitability for small children. All of our other shopping this year was done online and for the past week there have been almost daily deliveries of packages. With the combination of inclement weather and crowded parking lots it’s so much easier to shop with clicks than stroll through bricks and mortar. But again, looking back even further than just a couple of months, the number of mall closings hasn’t gone unnoticed and yet, there they stand. Changed in ways unimaginable but still capable of attracting crowds. Monuments to our need to watch fashions, check sizes, touch material and smell the aromas of freshly prepped meals.

When it comes to changes unimaginable, as I look back at the year that is coming to a close, for the NonStop community, 2016 has all been about speed and responsiveness. Traditional systems were being supplanted by alternate methods for computing. The cloud has arrived even if all the cloud really means to many CIOs is that the data center exists somewhere else and its oversight is now someone else’s problem. The arrival of clouds has brought a renewed sense that costs have to be brought under control and that there is a limit to just how much business will pay for systems, software and services. The recent spin-mergers announced by HPE are just a reflection of a return to focus and that generalization and multipurpose aren’t cutting it any more. Even longstanding practices of outsourcing are coming under increased scrutiny as 2016 has represented a period of re-thinking as cloud operators put outsourcing practices under the microscope.

For me, the highlights for 2016 have been many and varied with the most obvious change being the return to favor of user events. The two big events that brought this into perspective were BITUG and Boot Camp. I attended both and it was hard to miss the enthusiasm of all who participated and if you wanted to catch the action, it was always on the exhibition floor no matter how big or small that area was. Of course, there was HPE Discover 2016 in Las Vegas and that didn’t disappoint – the general sessions were all well attended and the background music was more appropriate this year – but over the years it has become purely a HPE marketing “big tent” event and not necessarily a priority for the NonStop community.

It was at Boot Camp that the community was given a brief peek into the future – virtual NonStop (vNonStop) running on a simple commercially available off-the-shelf pair of x86 servers, with Ethernet for the interconnect fabric. If traditional systems were on the way out here, sitting on a table, was possibly one future for NonStop. Maybe not inside the data center but certainly a candidate for consideration for developers, testers and those needing to pilot new applications. Not forgetting that with IoT and the need for edge products, there may be good reasons to begin thinking that x86 servers will start showing up on the edge. As we come to realize that some sensor events are more important than others, fault tolerance will become more relevant and could lead to yet another sea-change with the mission for NonStop.

IoT included in NonStop presentations was a highlight for me as I have had a strong premonition of late that we haven’t really understood all that deploying edge products entail. If a big box retailer fully digitizes the pricing of its entire store and integrates it with their supply chain, down to individual items, than events will be coming thick and fast with many of these events important enough to warrant the presence of fault tolerance. Does an entire retail store warrant edge products as is being promoted right now – again, it’s all a matter of perspective. In a paper to be published shortly, Top 20 Predictions for 2016, by CTO and Cofounder at Striim, Steve Wilkes, that I reference in an upcoming post to the Striim blog, you will read “IoT Platforms will grow in strength and capability incorporating device registration, management and communication features as well as integration, analytics and machine learning.”

According to Steve, “Simple IoT use cases such as the real-time tracking of the movement of people or packages via geolocation and time windowing will become prevalent across healthcare, travel, manufacturing and logistics.” Steve also notes how, in order for timely responses, “Reliability and security concerns will push real-time analytics to edge locations for IoT. This will become evident through connected cars, home IoT hubs, retail store-based gateways and other localized technology. Anonymized data will be pushed to the cloud for deeper analytics.” Reliability eh? I feel the need for fault tolerance in ways I haven’t felt for many years!

NonStop SQL also is making a huge comeback and has made significant strides in its return to center stage in the database arena. There is clearly an emerging division in database offerings with so much discussion centered on data lakes, operational stores, and OLAP. Analytics is on an unstoppable march and will impact every touch point we maintain with customers. But online transaction processing, or OLTP, is still a requirement and when it comes to recording a transaction without any possible interruption in our 24 X 7 world, NonStop SQL now has no peer. Watch for some really big deployments of NonStop SQl in the coming year and watch too, just how much advantage of NonStop SQL HPE itself makes as it further evolves its own transaction processing models. 

Getting to clouds and pushing out to the edge will also see transformation within the central hub – be it a hybrid of a traditional data center with private clouds or fully public cloud based. Making it real simple to integrate NonStop with private (and shortly, I am predicting, public) clouds just makes sense for NonStop development to pursue and already we see the benefits that can come from having NonStop X systems connected to open platforms at the interconnect fabric level. We saw this being demonstrated all year and I am predicting too that in 2017 we will see some sizable solutions vendors capitalize on such features, with OmniPayments being at the fore of such a possibility. And did you see the performance demo late Monday night at Boot Camp – just how well NonStop scales out was showcased by OmniPayments pushing past 5,000 tps and certainly, another highlight for me as I look back at 2016.

Successful malls are reinventing themselves as they work hard to address the changing needs of society. In cities where environments are extreme – think not just of Edmonton but Singapore, the Middle East and yes, Florida, being able to stroll some place warm (or cool) continues to entice many of us from our homes. Shopping will not be the only option at future malls but in essence, they are taking over from the village green. Mix in the pub, a church or two, some light-hearted entertainment and a place to entertain the kids for a few hours and you have history repeating itself. And so too for NonStop. The world of IoT and Analytics is going to need databases both OLAP and OLTP as it will demand fault tolerance all the way to the edge and even as it will demand high performance at reduced cost and in 2016, we all saw for ourselves, NonStop delivered. As for 2017, I just cannot wait to see how this all is applied as the ball has now been passed to solutions providers and I am expecting to read more about the rollout of the new NonStop throughout the coming year.

Happy New Year and bring on 2017!