Wednesday, December 17, 2014

For NonStop users, this is our season!

Yes, it’s only one quarter away from being shipped to customers, and already the NonStop vendor community is very much on-board with this latest addition to the NonStop family of products …

Kicking back and beginning to take it easy as preparations for the holidays continues unabated, even as our home embraces the festive seasons. The tree is up and decorated; the wine cellar restocked; and the food is in the pantry only needing to be cooked. Preliminary parties are behind us – only the big one to go and it will be over. However, this is also the season to simply take a deep breath and to be thankful we have made it through another year as we all begin planning for 2015. For the NonStop community, it’s going to be a very big year.

Pictured above as a half-height blade, NonStop X, featuring a Xeon 4-core E7 processor - the latest product family in a long line of fault tolerant systems coming out of Silicon Valley, is tantalizingly close to reality. Just a couple of months to go before shipments begin in earnest. Just as there is with every festive season there’s also an element of surprise along with a huge sigh of relief when all that we hoped for is realized. While the HP NonStop sales organization is still holding a few cards close to its chest it’s apparent to everyone in the NonStop community that if you want to be aggressive in your dealings with HP and you want to ensure you get the best introductory offer possible, then you may want to get after your favorite HP salesman as quickly as you can.

Catching a little television, as we wrapped packages and placed then under the tree I watched the latest advertisement from the United States Postal Services (USPS). Of course any time a NonStop user comes across the airwaves, I always perk up a tad. “We’re about to make more deliveries to more places than anybody on earth,” says Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Donahoe. “Football has its season. Baseball has its season. This is our season!” I can see very few reasons why not to believe him – with family members scattered across the nation, nearly everyone in America is sending a package or two to a loved one or three!

NonStop maintains a presence in mail and package delivery marketplace – a lot more than many within the NonStop community may realize - and as the competition between carriers increases, the real-time flow of information only gets larger. Much of the infrastructure delivery services in place, including the planes, trains and automobiles carrying mail and packages, touch a NonStop system whether it’s a train scheduled by NonStop systems or simply a delivery van built on a vehicle chassis assembled with the help of a NonStop system.

However, as I listened to the advertisement by USPS the point they made struck home. NonStop support of the Intel x86 is a really big deal and has potential to see NonStop systems find additional homes. Coming at a time as it so happens when other vendors’ platforms are beginning to look a little tired, HP could mount a serious challenge to IBM and Oracle / SUN. As I posted last week (and it’s worth repeating here), with NonStop X then, according to an interview of one strategist by the Wall Street Journal, “The bigger question is how IBM and Oracle will look competitively a few years down the road. Developing your own platform with Power and Sparc are very large investments and getting bigger. Intel can literally leverage billions in R&D.”

One of the benefits from participating in as many NonStop user events as I have this past quarter is that I was able to spend time with vendors and draw from them insights about how they view the arrival of the NonStop X family. I was curious about the impact to their business and to what extent they would be investing in this latest product family from HP. Overall, the sentiment was extremely upbeat and it wasn’t difficult pulling optimistic quotes from any of them. Middleware vendors, tools and utility vendors, solutions vendors – all expressed a positive outlook for NonStop X, even as they all agreed the NonStop season was upon us.

“Of course, like many vendors, any potential expansion of NonStop usage is exciting, and of interest to DataExpress. We have been around long enough to have witnessed numerous changes to the NonStop systems, but this time the potential of having NonStop servers in an attractive price bracket is bound to attract much wider enterprise attention,” said DataExpress President, Michelle Marost. “Specifically, as some of HP’s traditional product lines are showing signs of being in decline, NonStop may very well plug the gap and see much greater customer acceptance with their new initiatives.” Reacquainting myself with DataExpress products this year has certainly been a surprise that many of the largest financial institutions on the planet rely on this product for secure, managed, file transfer in an age where “real time” dominates the agenda, it’s sobering to recall that we still need to move vast libraries of files around to ensure our enterprises continue to run.

With their solutions and working as they do with heterogeneous systems, Tributary Systems are at the forefront of data center build-out and as such, provide insight into why NonStop will be beneficial to modern enterprises. “We believe that the ongoing business trend in IT is converged infrastructure and the unifying of data centers into single unified architecture serving diverse business needs as opposed to the older ‘silo’ approach of proprietary and open systems,” said Tributary Systems CEO, Shawn Sabanayagam. “The introduction of the x86 NonStop system presents unique opportunities for Tributary to further consolidate and unify data protection across all HP platforms not to mention HP’s competitor platforms with Storage Director running on all HP hardware!”

Along similar lines, when it comes to the utilization of industry standards and commodity packaging, WebAction Cofounder, Sami Akbay, told me that, "Having enjoyed a long association with the NonStop Community, we are excited about the new NonStop X product family running on commodity servers.’ Furthermore, and every bit as important, according to Akbay, “This shift should help grow NonStop among Global 1,000 Companies, creating opportunities in real-time analytics, where the partnership between HP NonStop and WebAction can offer new solutions." Maintaining a NonStop presence within the enterprise data center is one thing, but being able to better integrate NonStop with everything else being deployed was a reoccurring theme not only of Akbay but of the previously quoted vendors as well.

When it comes to attractive price brackets this too was what comForte Marketing VP, Thomas Gloerfeld, homed in on telling me that while, “It’s a bit early to fully understand the ramifications of NonStop X the obvious one is the renewed / enlarged commitment by HP to the NonStop platform. As to the non-obvious ones it will depend on some choices HP will make in the new future, for instance whether they want to introduce a true ‘entry-level’ system and, if so, how they will price and ‘limit’ (sic!) it. Ideally, the entry-level system would encourage more people to work on and develop for the platform – while not cannibalizing the existing high quality, high-availability product. Either way, I think there are exciting possibilities ahead with NonStop X and that the next twelve months will show what new possibilities arise.”

Looking at the NonStop X from a purely comForte perspective, Gloerfeld was quick to point out that, “With its rich, flexible and somewhat modularized product and through its partnership with innovative companies like Infrasoft, comForte is certainly well positioned to take part in any new developments, providing the required additional infrastructure as needed.” Such self-promotion wasn’t limited to comForte as everyone I talked to this past quarter was quick to point out how they were going about adding value to NonStop X. More surprising, perhaps, wasn’t what was being talked about but rather what actions were being taken by the vendor community.

“We received our first (pre) order, and have to deliver a preliminary version of x86 Shadowbase for testing by late January. So, it is a HERE AND NOW effort for us”, said Gravic Executive VP, Paul Holenstein. Certainly, and understandably, Gravic, “is very excited to see these systems running in the field as they have substantial performance capability beyond the existing NonStop I bladed line, and we expect customers to snap them up pretty quickly. For this need, we are preparing for bi-directional and active / active with x86 NonStop, as well as to and from the other NonStop I models as well as other server systems (e.g. Windows and Linux).”

Going one step further, OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, was putting down his own money. “I have purchased a NonStop X to see how we can leverage the latest technology for our OmniPayments and Big Data solutions,” said Yash. “Since the announcement by HP that NonStop would support the x86 architecture, their announcement of the NonStop X family is cause for celebration. And for two reasons – the positive reinforcement it gives to the NonStop platform remaining strategic to HP as well as the continuing push for greater use of lower-cost commodity technology. As we see it, there’s now nothing unique about the hardware, it’s all a software play for HP and we can work with that!”

There were many more vendors within the NonStop community who told me similar stories about the work they were doing in support of NonStop X and of their upbeat expectations about the greater potential for sales that will come from having a NonStop system based on a popular, widely-deployed commodity chip-set such as HP will have with x86. Turning away from the television set following the broadcast of the USPS advertisement, I had to agree with the sentiment expressed even if I did apply it differently to what Postmaster General Donahoe was extolling. Looking at where the marketplace is headed how could we not think of NonStop X as being the product that will turn 2015 into our season?  Yes, it’s our time and it’s our season! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

HP makes headlines; NonStop message will distract the competition …

HP grabbed more than its normal share of headlines this past week and it was all good! To see as many references to Superdome and NonStop in the same sentence has set a precedent – on equal footing, attracting equal time in the spotlight, is a harbinger of good days to come!

I maintain two distinct office spaces complete with walls, windows and most importantly, doors, so that when it comes time to talk on the phone, I take myself away from my PC. I need to maintain this separation as I am prone to excessive multitasking, so much so that it becomes a distraction. Just by walking across a corridor I am in a new, considerably less stimulating place than where I spend most of my time. In a business environment dominated by the ubiquitous cubicle, one side effect from having a separate business work space in the home is that I have a real office where my daily routine doesn’t disrupt anyone else!

These past couple of weeks, distractions have been on a whole different plane. Reading the constant scroll of company and product news releases as well as newspaper and magazine headlines it seemed that HP had cornered the market. 2015 HP Discover Barcelona was proving to be a popular venue for providing fresh information to a hungry press and it ended up proving to be too big a distraction to ignore. First thing, Monday morning of the event, there was an email from good friend, Kevin McGushion of InkaBinka, informing me that he and cofounder, Chris Brahmer, were on site and relishing the opportunity to further promote InkaBinka and it made me realize just how much I miss participating in major HP events.

Following the end of the event, McGushion emailed me again. “With an emphasis placed on our natural language processing (NLP) to deliver condensed news and information, we demonstrated the power of using InkaBinka as a search tool,” said McGushion. This is the latest development as InkaBinka continues to evolve. “By directing InkaBinka to perform search, driven by Google’s API, we can deliver instantly summarized search results that quickly get to the point. InkaBinka’s powerful ability to net out important information fast when thrown against something as vast as Google, and this attracted the attention of Meg Whitman’s executive team.  According to McGusion, “One of the team members said, ‘we have to sort through large amounts of information to make informed decisions and InkaBinka could be very effective in helping us do that quickly.’ Needless to say we are very excited by the possibilities of doing the for HP.”

In a very early post to this blog, back in May 12, 2008, I wrote
The Clouds in Spain where I described a couple of days spent in the city prior to departing on a sailing cruise. I had arrived just a few weeks after the HP Technology@Work event had taken place and had reported on presentations made by key HP BCS executives. The highlight I had stated was the presentation of Martin Fink, Senior VP of HP BCS, where he talked about the move from Monolithic to Polymorphic computing. And now, seven years later it’s hard to argue that Martin Fink’s televised interview with US financial news channel, CNBC – HP's 'Machine' of the future if you skip the advertisement what follows is fun to watch.

Trying to add controversy to the exchange, the CNBC reporter wanted Fink to compare the work being done on The Machine with the IBM Watson program. Without missing a beat, Fink suggested Watson is nothing more than an App and that The Machine is where you could run such an App. Ouch, that hurt – and I’m sure the marketers at IBM are now all over this, defending the huge investment IBM has made in Watson. Nothing more than an App? Surely not! But the venue for such an interview, HP Discover 2014 – Barcelona, speaks volumes of just how important this big-tent event is to HP and its executives.

Among the more catchy headlines last week was the Dec 3, 2014, story in the electronic publication, Seeking Alpha.
Reawakening The Sleeping Giant At Hewlett-Packard, so the headlines read for an article by journalist Gary Hirst. “Is Hewlett-Packard a dinosaur trying to learn new tricks? The harsh and true answer is, yes. But HP is catching up with the times in a bold and, frankly, courageous way,” said Hirst. “Building an entirely new computer architecture is a return to the company's roots, and according to Fink, ‘We think we have no choice.’” According to Hirst, “HP is pursuing a vision that, if successful, will put it years ahead of the competition in computer architecture (Intel), data analytics (IBM), and artificial intelligence (Google). Analytics is a gold rush waiting to happen.”

For the NonStop community it’s quite refreshing to be reading that HP will offer “Intel Xeon-based versions of its high-end Superdome and NonStop servers, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and other reports.” How many thought they would see Superdome and NonStop referenced in the same sentence? The quote above came from Yahoo Finance – read the full report,
That’s gotta hurt: HP to offer Xeon-based Superdome servers – but for me, it was the final paragraph that proved truly distracting. “The bigger question,” according to Patrick Moorhead, founder of analyst firm Moor Insights & Strategy, as told to the WSJ, is “how IBM and Oracle will look competitively a few years down the road. Developing your own platform with Power and Sparc are very large investments and getting bigger. Intel can literally leverage billions in R&D.”

Separately, it was Moorhead who, in another article published in the Dec 2, 2014, issue of the WSJ,
H-P Moves to Retain Corporate Customers Ahead of Breakup said when it comes to embracing Xeon, “It’s about keeping some very high-margin customers.” This came after the WSJ noted that “Superdome and NonStop servers are still used by banks, telecommunications carriers and other companies particularly concerned with reliability.” More precisely perhaps, the WSJ then followed with, “The Nonstop line handles more sensitive jobs like ATM networks and stock exchanges. H-P inherited these crash-resistant machines from former operations of Tandem Computers Inc.” When was the last time so many articles featuring NonStop were published? 

Timed for the Barcelona event was the publication by HP of a new solution brief,
Redefining availability and scalability for x86. While there has been some discussion about it on LinkedIn groups, including Tandem User Group, a group whose membership is only just shy of 3,000 members and becoming a must-belong-to priority for many across the NonStop community, it’s refreshing to see HP marketing adding more collateral about NonStop to HP’s recently face-lifted web pages about NonStop. And I expect to see more between now and March 2015, as NonStop X availability draws nearer.

Martin Fink and The Machine; Kevin McGushion and InkaBinka. “We displayed InkaBinka in the Moonshot booth as InkaBinka runs entirely on Moonshot servers,” said McGushion. “The common thread seemed to be that everyone had either heard of InkaBinka or was using it to get their daily news.” In case you aren’t connecting all the dots it all goes back to Fink telling the audience at HP Discover Las Vegas that we will see early iterations of select The Machine components as part of project Moonshot. Watching the progress InkaBinka makes – yes, a few more dots to line up? They are big users of JavaScript including the server-side Node.js – is just part of watching one possible future of NonStop unfold.

With Intel reportedly adding support for 64bit x86 to Atom chips – according to one source I checked, “the ability of an Atom-based system to run 64-bit versions of operating systems such as Ubuntu or Debian GNU/Linux may vary from one motherboard to another” - would suggest that there may be a NonStop A on the horizon  once NonStop X is established alongside NonStop I. NonStop on Moonshot leading to NonStop properties on The Machine – makes sense to me!

Distractions can cause bodily harm. However, distractions can alert us to events about to happen that could influence the plans we have – obviously, major companies like Oracle and IBM will have read the same stories as I have just read. Their reaction will be interesting to watch in the coming weeks as any response at all will be a confirmation that they too have been distracted by the activities accompanying this latest HP Discover event. For the NonStop community the unstoppable progress being made to ship a second Integrity family – the NonStop X – is positive news. Having choice is always good news to those looking to upgrade or, perhaps, add to their installed portfolio of NonStop systems.

There are still a number of NonStop focused events taking place this month and taking nothing away from them, it’s hard to ignore the changing landscape of HP as a result of what was on display at both the Boot Camp and HP Discover. Simply by making headlines featuring servers HP will prove disruptive to the competition, distracting them in ways unseen for a long time. Just being elevated to be equal with the discussion involving the former halo product of HP’s Unix solutions, Superdome, is a milestone to remember and clearly wasn’t something HP pursued lightly – it has a lot of meaning to all who follow HP.

Perhaps my final observation should be to finish with the closing words from the Seeking Alpha article, already referenced. When it comes to the future of HP, “Buy HPQ before the pre-spinoff hype inflates the price too much, then sell off your shares of HP Inc. and put them into Hewlett-Packard Enterprises. It will be a hard road, but Hewlett-Packard Enterprises is pursuing a bold vision bridging Big Data and next-generation computer architecture.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Niches open and niches close and yet the versatile NonStop prevails!

A chance posting to Facebook had me looking at the attributes of NonStop and whether you argue for availability or perhaps scalability, in the end, just having the discussion suggests NonStop is still very much in the game …

Versatility! How many times have we heard a sales pitch that highlights the versatility of a product? In many ways, this is an approach to mitigating potential future obsolescence and it extends the product’s useful life.  Flipping through pages about NonStop on the web, I came upon a reminder of days past when NonStop was considered the Swiss Army knife of computing – versatile in its own right. This knife featured in a First-Friday skit by Jimmy Treybig that just came to my attention following a post on Facebook by long-time Tandem supporter, Maria Olivero. However, the original fault tolerant message has been replaced with new messages on availability, scalability, data integrity, security, networking, manageability and so on. So what really does propel NonStop to the fore in the twenty-first century? 

Looking around at the NonStop users present at the recent NonStop Technical Boot Camp it was pleasing to see a lot of familiar faces. Once again, MasterCard took home the NonStop Availability Award – a reminder too of the time I spent in Product Marketing as part of the NSA team under Dr. Tim Chou. However, this time MasterCard went home with a perpetual trophy as, after 20 years, the program has come to an end and it seemed only fitting that MasterCard be rewarded in this fashion having won the award more times than anyone else by my count. Seems that when it comes to availability, too many corporations are loath to talk about the levels of uptime they achieve and view the stats they may have as being strategic to the business. Even so, while some big name customers might be reluctant to talk about what they’re achieving, as far as SLAs go, I think that the bigger issue is talking about the processes that they have in place in order to achieve those SLAs. Wouldn't it be cool if we could get that discussion out into public forums! NonStop today may be about a lot more than availability but its importance to business shouldn’t ever be discounted. 

Measuring NonStop availability leads me into the subject of this post – there have always been markets where the attributes of NonStop have been greatly prized. Sometimes considered just a niche or a submarket, nevertheless, the expectations of what NonStop could provide propelled it to a place of preeminence. When it comes to niches, NonStop has a rich history of being able to dominate. Over the 40 years of NonStop systems being used, niches have proved to come and go with the fortunes of NonStop closely tied to each niche – it’s just good fortune smiling on the NonStop community that NonStop found one of the longest-lived niches in finance, for instance. For anyone who has followed postings to this blog, my fervent belief in niches, in tapping cool applications and in NonStop being at the heart of some very hard-to-do processes, have been hard to miss.

Across the NonStop community and from customers and vendors presence at numerous user group events it’s well known that German manufacturing giant, Mercedes Benz, depends upon NonStop systems at all of their plants and that these systems oversee manufacturing. In a recent editorial published in the January 4, 2015, issue of Motor Trend, Angus MacKenzie comments on how today, “If there’s a niche, fill it. And if there isn’t a niche, create a new one. That’s the mantra at Mercedes Benz these days.” I can’t think of any other way to express where I see NonStop heading than what Mercedes Benz states here and while that may not sit well with everyone in the community, there are few other viable options for NonStop if we want to talk about the next 40 years.

When you talk to the team at WebAction about their inclusion of NonStop as part of their Data Drive Apps program, the story is very much about a niche. The only reason the executives at WebAction were keen to keep NonStop in their program is that key mission-critical applications run on NonStop and as their goal is to “build and deploy real-time data driven Apps in days, not months or years” it made little sense to ignore the NonStop marketplace. WebAction, Inc. Cofounder, Sami Akbay, summed it up best last year when he said, “Niche means distinct, specific, and distinguishable. Niche doesn't have to mean small or dying. When it comes to the bigger picture of computers worldwide – then yes, NonStop is a niche.”

Along similar lines, it was OmniPayments, Inc. Yash Kapadia who told me that, working as long as he has on NonStop, that “There are times when we do struggle hard to make NonStop sound like a normal system and try our best not to call it a niche. However, when it comes to the bigger picture of computers worldwide – then yes, NonStop is a niche.” Both Akbay and Yash agree that once you appreciate that niches are indeed sub-markets, then when it comes to a sub-market as big as payments, NonStop is the predominant player.

However, is it the availability or the scalability value proposition that today fosters renewed viability for NonStop? And does it even matter if NonStop can continue to carve out niches best suited to its superior ability to support mission-critical applications? In the final analysis it still boils down to cost and perhaps, “cost – scalability”. Or, should that be “low – price availability”? According to DataExpress President, Michelle Marost “scalability to me means being able to start small, and grow.”

Marost than acknowledges that as of right now, this “is not evident in the NonStop environments, both hardware and OS, and until they are made more affordable by HP they won’t be considered ‘cost-scalable’. Like many within the NonStop vendor community watching for more news on the NonStop X product family, to exploit a niche or submarket, the price for newer models in the NonStop family have to be affordable to more submarkets and any improved viability of NonStop will likely be snuffed out, according to Marost, should there be any “elimination of a small (i.e. cheap) starting point”.

Scale-out and even, scale-up; have these attributes begun surpassing the availability story in terms of importance for the enterprise? “Guess what, we can scale to the wazoo and do you know what else? It doesn’t ever fail … cool, eh?” Will conversations like this become more prevalent in the future even among NonStop users? Just as importantly, are there even more niches for NonStop to occupy in terms of scalability than there are of availability? Is this the future for NonStop and if indeed scalability attracts the spotlight, will we likely see a greater presence of NonStop in the future? Possibly, even inside enterprise clouds?

There’s much anticipation over NonStop X and its price points just as there is over the arrival of a more industry-standard packaging of NonStop. No matter what transpires over the next few months – hopefully, a situation better clarified at HP Discover, Barcelona – NonStop is firmly entrenched in the twenty-first century with many more anniversaries to follow. Availability! Scalability! Indeed, demonstrable versatility! Pick your favorite attribute as you may want to do but in the end, just having discussions like this suggests NonStop systems remain a viable option and even as we read of companies looking at alternatives, we also hear about those that elect to stay with NonStop. And to look for new ways to leverage NonStop! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Does your interest in NonStop elevate it to being a hobby? Tell me more …

The strong turn out by the NonStop community for this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp was encouraging even as it was a testament to how strongly the NonStop system is supported by advocates spanning the generations. Could NonStop be viewed as a hobby for some and if so, did this contribute to NonStop thriving for forty years?

Many years ago my father asked me if I would be prepared to give up my Saturday afternoons to help out a friend who had just bought a yacht. I have touched on this subject in other posts – to be specific, the post of July 16, 2008, Specialist! Am I still needed? In that post I described how I began my time on a 40’ sailboat having no experience whatsoever, and that, in time and with experience, I became the sole for’ard hand responsible for everything in front of the mast. For a couple of years running, in the early 1970s, we were overall season’s winners in the category we sailed and I came to develop a real love for this “hobby”.

What I didn’t write about was of how I put back the time of my first wedding in order to be able to sail the final race only to be told by the owner, not to be that stupid – what if you slipped and broke your arm? On the other hand, it was indicative of how committed I can be to my hobbies. As for the picture above, it’s not of me but is from the same yacht club and that could have been me on the bow! Attending the 2014 NonStop Technical Boot Camp that wrapped up just a few days ago further highlighted, in a very tangible way, how strong the commitment to NonStop runs and even though hanging out with a bunch of likeminded folks was far removed from anything remotely associated with hobbies, there was still a similar feeling.

Folks at WebAction gave me an opportunity to kick-off a preconference session first thing Sunday morning -
What Does Big Data Mean for the NonStop Community? Introducing the topic of Big Data to a large NonStop group that had assembled for the four hours discourse on all things Big Data, I began my presentation with a quote by automotive icon, Bob Lutz. As far as careers go, Lutz had it all - Executive Vice President of sales at BMW, Executive Vice President at Ford Motor Company (think Ford Explorer), head of Chrysler Corporation's Global Product Development (introduced the Viper), finishing with a stint at GM as Vice Chairman responsible for all creative elements of products and customer relationships (yes, he gave us the Pontiac GTO – a rebadged Holden Monaro).

In a Q & A blog posting Lutz was once asked which job he would take. One that paid well but he didn’t like or another about which he was passionate but which paid very little. “Given the human need for food, warmth, shelter, and a decent car or two, take the well-paying job, give it your best,” responded Lutz, “and consider the other as a hobby!” And this left me wondering, how many of us would continue working with NonStop systems even if it were solely on the basis of being just a hobby? How many of those attending the Boot Camp would continue to be part of the NonStop community long after they derived any income from NonStop. It seems that NonStop, as a hobby, is appealing to many more folks than we may be aware of.

Coming up on 40 years of age – a secondary, celebratory theme of the Boot Camp – NonStop has outlasted many more famous products. The list is long – Wang, Prime, Data General, Four Phase, Pyramid, and so on, and that’s not including the BUNCH; when was the last time you thought of purchasing a Honeywell, or Control Data or even NCR let alone a Univac or a Burroughs system? In the mid-1980s the world was awash with Plug Compatible Mainframes (to IBM) and in Europe, the likes of ICL, through its connection with Fujitsu, and Nixdorf Computers produced PCMs and joined the ranks of Amdahl, Hitachi, Fujitsu and even Mitsubishi. But alas, all gone! Who in 1989 would have speculated that of all the names referenced here, NonStop (nee, Tandem Computers) would still be standing and prospering?

Perhaps, retaining a hobby isn’t that bad after all! Where the lines do blur is where the accumulated knowledge about a specific interest or topic elevates someone to a place of prominence – someone to go to for insight or simply an explanation. There are many instances where individuals are consulted about items of interest to others whether it is art, or wine, or gemstones and usually when an investment is likely. And yet, looking around the NonStop community gathered in San Jose, there was a wealth of knowledge on hand that was almost priceless.

So many times we lose sight of the human factor – so many NonStop systems continue to support mission-critical applications, forty years after the first NonStop system rolled into a data center, because there is access to a community of talented individuals all just as enthusiastic to share their experiences as they are to discuss your own special case. Even though it would appear that a number of NonStop supporters are leaving the fold, there’s every indication that a younger generation is beginning to appreciate NonStop.

During a casual conversation with one participant from HP NonStop Education, it was revealed that a 25%, year over year, increase had occurred with respect to new entrants looking for education on NonStop. Some were coming from other systems inside the data center but just as many were new to the data center and not familiar with any large system offering. And this is just a start; while this is good news to many, what may not be as pleasing (at least, to a different group within the NonStop community) is the apparent lessening of tenure among CIOs. 

There was talk that the average tenure for a CIO had dropped to eighteen months and when I checked the web site, FedScoop, in the report
Survey: 2014 brings challenges, wind shift for CIOs it was stated that whereas “In 2013, the average tenure of a CIO was 5 years, nine months, and in 2014 it will be two months longer than that, according to the report. (The average tenure of a government CIO is about 18 months.)”  Indeed, there is a strong argument in favor of breaking IT down and removing the need for a CIO entirely.

A quick check of the web site CIO Insight found a report, dated September 1, 2014, Why CIO Tenures Aren't Longer, where author, Larry Bonfante, suggests that “There are many reasons why CIO tenure continues to be shorter than that of other C-suite executives. One factor is a general perception of IT as a business ‘disabler’. IT is viewed in many companies as the ‘Land of No and Slow!’ Everything seems to take forever and things don't seem to get done at a high level of satisfaction.” There may be merit after all in embracing NonStop as our hobby. On the other hand, perhaps we should be pleased to see as many individuals as we now see embracing NonStop as in some situations, they will likely outlast any CIO espousing “computing de jour” for no other reason than for changes sake.

An enthusiastic cadre of NonStop expertise; a growing population of “freshly educated” NonStop personal; a rapidly churning base of CIOs; and an architecture that continues to flourish some forty years after its introduction! It may confound business school types even as it puzzles the media but all the same, whether a highly-charged career or simply a hobby, NonStop continues to flourish and in so doing, retain its “halo position” within a much sought after niche within the industry.

It’s probably selling too many members of the NonStop community short by suggesting that they stay involved on the basis that NonStop has become their hobby, but it isn’t something we can either dismiss too readily or even ignore. It may take up more of their time than a Saturday afternoon and there’s nothing competitive about it at all and yet, you cannot escape the thought that without such support, would NonStop continue to flourish some forty years later? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Modernization – and NonStop is a key part of the landscape!

Even as many NonStop users need to look to modernize their existing applications there’s a pressing need to include modern platform support on NonStop to attract new applications – and shortly, at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp we will hear more of one project in support of such a mission.


Pictured to the right is an architect’s representation of an addition to the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and from what I read this morning it would appear that it is about to open to the public. In an article just published in The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, UTS unveils 'paper bag' building, the future home of the UTS business school certainly isn’t escaping comments –calling it a paper bag, tells its own story.

However, for those who have seen some pretty far-out structures in Prague, Vienna and even Barcelona, they can’t help but wonder about the intrusion of highly fluid lines that has worked their way into the form of these buildings. Whether or not they appeal to everyone, they do stand out as very modern interpretations of what a structure can look like – fluid? Definitely; when it comes to modernization of a city’s skyline the eye tends to gravitate to these examples of somewhat extreme architecture.

Watching Sydney develop in the 1970s was surely entertaining. On the one hand, we experienced considerable façade architecture being practiced – something I touched on several years ago in the article Façade - Architecture! One Way to Avoid Scarring As We Soar Into the Clouds that was published in the May – June, 2011, issue of The Connection. Back then, I wrote that when it comes to modernization and using modern technology to empower an enterprise to become more innovative, it comes as no surprise that CIOs are loathe casting aside all that is in place.

In other words, there were very legitimate reasons why modernization programs built on what already existed – a fresh coat of paint, a new entrance lobby, even a complete gutting of the premises – preserving the foundations while presenting a new face to the general public was considered an important element in retaining the distinct characteristic of the city. What was happening to Sydney in the 1970s has born a lot of similarity to what has been happening across IT and CIOs everywhere have been able to bring a wealth of business logic into the 21st century.

However, there is a very big distinction between the pursuit of modernization and the creation of something that is modern. I touched on this just recently in a private emailing to a number of managers and executives that I work with, but it’s worth repeating to a wider audience. Whenever the topic of modernization is raised across the NonStop community, it generates considerable passion even as it pushes community members into different camps. Such discussions, I observed, go down one of two paths: modernizing what is already in place or leveraging modern tools, services and frameworks for something new.

Both camps are well served today by a number of middleware vendors and the product offerings from the NonStop vendors such as comForte, CAIL and NuWave represent the end-result of considerable investments they have made. All financed off their own dime, no less. This was something I wrote about in my most recent post to the comForte blog, For those NonStop systems looking too much like legacy; replacement potential is high! It was comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, who made the case for modernization even as he observed that at comForte, “from our roots in terminal emulation and our desire to freshen the user experience, I think the opportunity for comForte supporting modernization is about as large as the market for security. We do have plenty of material in this area – as of late, the NonStop for Dummies book as well as the modernization white paper.”

Not surprisingly, what concerns Burg most of all is that, when it comes to modernization, “it’s unfortunate but still a realistic observation - with no modernization effort undertaken, even the most recently deployed application will be gone in as little as five years and with their demise, the explanation will likely include references to NonStop simply being an old (dare we say, legacy) system and that today, makes my blood boil.” Fortunately, modern applications are appearing and the success of some solutions vendors can be attributed to those applications being based on modern technologies, architectures and platforms.

The most apparent examples come from the Payments Processing marketplace. Lusis Payments and OmniPayments have enjoyed success of late as they have both embraced modern methodologies. With embracing SOA and incorporating a hybrid NonStop / Linux configuration, OmniPayments, Inc. has produced an extremely price competitive solution that focuses on NonStop even as it has not neglected including features all Financial Institution’s demand, and in so doing, highlights the benefits from leveraging modern programming languages, database systems and network connectivity. However, following the announcement of NonStop support for the Intel x86 architecture, focus has swung back to the consideration of supporting additional services, frameworks and product utilizing the latest programming models on offer today.

In the upcoming November – December 2014 issue of the NonStop community magazine there is an article jointly written by InfraSoft Pty Limited founding executives, Dave Finnie and Neil Coleman. Based in Sydney, Australia, InfraSoft has already successfully introduced a modern approach to networking with their product uLinga and is now in the early stages of launching services, gateways and APIs to make Cloud access transparent with their maRunga product. Now InfraSoft has elected to capitalize on the arrival of NonStop on x86 in a rather novel, yet highly significant manner.

The article, under the heading Node.js on the HP NonStop Server is as much an announcement of a new product – yet again, leveraging the Australian Aboriginal language the product is named bomBora - as it is a primer on the value of developing modern applications using Server Side JavaScript (SSJS). “For the last 18 months, Node.js has been gaining popularity as underlying technology for enterprise applications,” note the authors. “Large organizations including Wal-Mart, eBay, PayPal, MasterCard, and LinkedIn have all rolled out Node.js applications. Why? For many candidates for both increased usage and new adoption of the HP NonStop, modernization of existing applications is no longer the challenge. The Node.js platform has the potential to support applications that meet a wide range of business requirements.”

But what really makes it pertinent to NonStop, particularly NonStop on x86? “The Node.js model of event-driven, non-blocking I/O that is particularly suited to I/O bound applications,” the authors state. “It may have almost been dictated by the fundamental concepts of writing a high-performance OLTP application running on the NSK operating system. Current implementations of Node.js, obviously, do not possess the level of fault tolerance and scalability that software running on the HP NonStop Server can offer. One of the attractive attributes of Node.js is its ease of extensibility. Areas that we have extended, especially those that will be familiar to NSK users, include:

Process-pair support so that Node.js runs non-stop, without any extra work by the application.


Enabling Node.js to run as a TS/MP serverclass, transparently providing the inherent scalability and persistence that TS/MP offers.

Providing a simple JavaScript Pathsend interface so that a Node.js application can front-end TS/MP.

Extensive operational control and diagnostic capabilities built-in to simplify usage and contribute to maintaining availability.



So yes, this is pretty cool stuff. 

How close are Dave and Neil to having a commercial product in place? After developing an effective Proof-of-Concept on much older MIPS-based S-Series servers – something that will not make it as a product, according to InfraSoft - attention moved to x86-based servers and just recently, the team enjoyed seeing an early success that exercised a considerable amount of the code. As for a commercial product, there’s still more work ahead but the goal is now clearly in sight. Again, the forthcoming article in the November – December issue of The Connection will be a must-read for many in the NonStop community. 

Dave will be flying up from Sydney for NonStop Technical Boot Camp and will join HP’s Keith Moore for Monday morning’s presentation, HP-26 Going beyond SOAP for a cleaner, fresher web services architecture. The lads will face some stiff competition given that HP’s Jim Smullen will be giving the community a technical preview of NonStop on the x86, something I know many will be interested in hearing, but if you have already heard all you need to hear about x86, then perhaps you will find Keith and Dave presentation rather stimulating.

Last week I wrote about a refreshing new endeavor focused on NonStop and now, this week I am writing about another endeavor every bit as exciting. The point I hope isn’t lost on anyone within the NonStop community – yes, there’s numerous developments under way in support of NonStop that are all aimed at making it a lot easier to bring new applications to NonStop. And this is what I find just as important to ensuring NonStop remains a modern system. comForte’s Burg is absolutely right in stressing the sense of urgency that those looking after NonStop systems must embrace but adding the tools necessary for running the latest modern solutions is every bit as important. It’s going to be one very interesting Boot Camp, I suspect!

Like art in general, while we may not be able to describe what is modern, we certainly can point it out when we see it. City skylines have seen an explosion in modern architecture and it’s every bit as easy to spot as say, a painting. When it comes to solutions, there will always be those applications that all that is needed is a new coat of paint but there’s always room for something completely modern to be embraced. And with this, the NonStop community is the richer! Looking forward to seeing as many of you as I can so if you see me walking the corridors, stop me, and I will be only too happy to chat!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Johnny needs a fast car ... and NonStop rocks, again!

In the Chris Rea song, Johnny Needs a Fast Car, the lyrics are self-explanatory. “Johnny needs a fast one Johnny needs it now. You got to give him something to let him show you how.”  And just sometimes, we need to give developers something to show us how …

Over the past couple of years I have written posts that featured different cars Margo and I have owned at one time or another. However, what has lurked in the back of the garage (and rarely featured in any blog posts) is the car affectionately known within the auto trade as Godzilla – a Nissan GT-R. Left in a parking station it attracts glances only from 20-something individuals who each give it a respectful nod and yet, it’s rare to come across any other vehicle on the road with equivalent capabilities – it just goes fast. While we have essentially tracked all the cars we have owned, Godzilla has not seen the track and for a very good reason. Yes, it’s fast, but we like it far too much to risk damaging it, but when it comes to fast cars, then this is the car Johnny really needs.

Along similar lines as the words of the Chris Rea song is the better known line uttered in the movie Top Gun, “I feel the need … the need for speed”. Unlike references to Godzilla, this line was featured in a post to this blog. In the post of July 6, 2014, I feel the need for speed … I observed that should you accept that speed is of paramount importance to stock exchanges, for example, it would seem logical to consider having the order processing system partially handled by a plethora of optimized front-end processors. Furthermore, I noted in that post, for NonStop to keep up it would depend upon the overall design and the middleware chosen, but there are steps that can be taken, I added at that time, to reinstate the viability of NonStop and it’s something I know several sales folks at NonStop are seriously considering.

At the time of writing, less than six months ago, I had become aware of work being done by NonStop community consultant, Dean Malone.  Over the course of this year I have had a number of telephone exchanges with Dean and then, during CTUG, I was able to sit down with him and discuss in more detail his own plans for NonStop. You see, what Dean is championing is the potential of a very fast NonStop system now that HP NonStop development is well-advanced in its endeavors to have NonStop support the Intel x86 architecture, along with the replacement of ServerNet with industry standard InfiniBand (IB). His vision is to introduce blazingly fast new capabilities for NonStop that will make it a serious contender again in lost verticals like stock exchanges as well as new verticals where extreme throughput plus the exclusive linear scalability and fault-tolerance of NonStop are valued; but without having to significantly re-engineer those existing SMP solutions.

While Dean is known to some of the NonStop development community, as yet he is not a household name across the entire community. For the most part, Dean has worked deep down, “in the weeds”, so as to speak, where he’s been cutting code close to the metal. While not a part of NonStop development per se, he has had numerous NonStop professional services engagements at the likes of Tandem, Compaq, HP, IBM, Target, Logica/CGI, DirecTV, etc. as a solutions architect or product development /integration / deployment specialist. To say Dean has excellent credentials when it comes to NonStop is an understatement – these engagements have spanned multiple decades.

As we head to the 2014 NonStop Technical Boot Camp I have become aware that Dean will be attending as well and will be in discussions with numerous members of the NonStop community. Fortunately, for those who would like a little more insight or who may simply not have the good fortune to attend Boot Camp, I have recently enjoyed a lively exchange with Dean that picked up on a number of points raised over that dinner during CTUG. For me, the most important component here was speed, and just how much additional speed could be extracted from NonStop on x86 / IB solely from middleware.

“When AMSYS North America was engaged jointly by IBM and Tandem Computers to do a deep port of MQ Series on NonStop,” said Dean, “I was engaged as the Chief Architect because of my prior MOM credentials, chairing panels at COMDEX and porting Momentum Software’s XIPC product to NonStop.” However, Dean’s experience doesn’t stop there. He explained how he “produced a verified design for a massively scalable message switch for ORBCOMM - a leading provider of global machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions with the only commercial satellite network 100% dedicated to M2M - that is predicated on a hybrid environment, although this was not on NonStop.”

He is also particularly proud of his role “as telecommunications infrastructure architect in 1993 for the Government of Ontario where we implemented the world’s first wireless WAN under the Mobile Workstation project that brought police, carrier enforcement and health ambulance mobile workstations with direct access to computer-aided dispatch, federal, provincial and regional criminal offences databases, an electronic ticketing application and more.”


It is with these experiences behind him that Dean has been increasingly concerned about NonStop remaining relevant, especially in those instances where applications depend upon the overall performance of the platform. This is particularly interesting as the NonStop community looks for more solutions to be ported to NonStop – indeed, even the word “port” generates a cringe among developers like Dean because of the incongruence of SMP versus MPP.  In reviews of Godzilla, trade publication MotorAuthority observed, “The (Nissan) GT-R doesn't look like the voluptuous exotics it competes with either, though it does cut a unique and instantly recognizable profile.” Moreover, and something everyone knowledgeable of NonStop can appreciate, “the car is a Japanese performance machine that can outrace some of the world's top supercars … all of which add up to something greater than the sum of its parts.”

According to Dean, “NonStop has always been about more than the sum of its parts, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t more that can be done to improve some aspects of the NonStop architecture and clearly, performance has always been something where a little more TLC can be given.” With the announcement of NonStop support for the Intel x86 architecture, together with the introduction of InfiniBand (IB), Dean recognized that there was an opportunity to rethink the way applications can be put together in a manner that could outperform even the slickest of applications available today on commodity clusters. 

“Back in 1992, I was working on message switches for brokerages and EFT/POS networks, and I read about a new software product called Pipes Platform.  It was one of the first of a new breed of software now known as Message Oriented Middleware, or MOM. Momentum Software, who had a product called XIPC, asked that I port the product for them to NonStop after Sprint expressed interest. When completed, there were discussions with NonStop development, but at the time, with K-Series processors (and DynaBus), the product was terribly I/O bound on Guardian IPM. Although it was later to be installed on an Integrity (Itanium) server where it did over 15,000 shared memory operations per second (although only 1/5th of what the same code on an Itanium HP-UX server can do with shared memory), ServerNet made a huge difference.” Shared memory? Isn’t this flying in the face of one of the very basic of premises for NonStop - shared nothing?

“Within ServerNet, there is an RDMA capability that Tandem never exploited.” Dean said. RDMA is remote direct memory access from a process of one computer into the memory of another without involving either the sender’s or target memory’s operating systems. This permits high-throughput, low-latency networking, which is especially useful in massively parallel computer clusters. Given that the handprint of ServerNet is all over IB, Dean then told me that he “was pretty sure RDMA would be there too.  I went to the InfiniBand Trade Association’s web site and downloaded the Volume 1 software specification.  Sure enough, there it was.  IB RDMA is simply an awesome game-changing technology that is going to radically change the computer industry.”

Awareness that this very basic RDMA capability is a part of IB led Dean to make another key observation. “All SMP implementations, without exception, are housed on a single node with a single shared memory address space.  With RDMA, all of that changes because now any process can access the shared memory of another node at extremely low latency and at extremely high transfer rates.  On the new X86 platform, the OFED RDMA libraries can be implemented so that at least as a raw primitive, it is technically possible for Guardian and OSS processes to access the shared memory of another processor.  I am quite sure this will take a few releases to expose to customers and vendors, though.”

According to the OFED web site, The OpenFabrics Enterprise Distribution (OFED™) is open-source software for RDMA and kernel bypass applications. OFED is used in business, research, and scientific environments that require highly efficient networks, storage connectivity and parallel computing. This is why I am so interested in what Dean has been researching – any speed bumps that lie in the path of migrating new applications need to be removed. And one of the biggest has typically been the SMP nature of almost all modern applications; what would happen if this particular speed bump was removed, and what if, in doing so, the defining attributes of linear scalability and fault tolerance that make NonStop unique can be leveraged along the way?

Perhaps this shouldn’t be considered a panacea for all applications on NonStop, but what if by providing an additional MOM RDMA component new frameworks, platforms and even applications looking to support x86 were suddenly easy to port? Among the folks I contacted in preparation of this post there were comments from “Yes, if available we would leverage it” to “Wow, this indeed could change everything!”


Should you be wondering about what new platforms could be coming to NonStop then make sure you attend Keith Moore’s mid-morning Monday presentation at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2014 – about which I can reveal little at this point. There’s some possibility that “dots may be connected in time!” Returning to SMP – the point here is that high-speed/low-latency fabric to facilitate inter-CPU communication has been inside NonStop for a while and is the reason ServerNet radically out-performs DynaBus. With IB, the game changes yet again as RDMA and its other core capabilities reach new heights (or lows, depending on your axis).

“Plans are significantly advanced to provide a product capable of delivering UNIX IPC services (i.e. shared memory, semaphores and queue-based messaging) over IB to NonStop, Windows and Linux.  We have demonstrated these capabilities over TCP/IP on ATC NonStop and HP-UX servers.” said Dean.  “Every bit as importantly, we demonstrated that the NonStop’s IPC resources are fault-tolerant by using DIVER to bring down the CPU where the shared memory resided and all the transactions in flight recovered with no loss or duplication of data – even the HP-UX processes that were accessing these remote NonStop IPC resources.  We seek to deliver a product that will do all of this over InfiniBand with multiple orders-of-magnitude more throughput.”  


And there’s a lot more coming from Dean as well. “We have mapped out how to provide fine-grained user authentication and authorization security over individual IPC resources (i.e. a semaphore, a message queue or a range of shared memory) to thwart hackers from reading this shared memory.  We would also provide the ability to monitor these resources across a network for debugging and monitoring purposes and integrate metrics and statistics for products like Prognosis, Business Process Monitor, BPM Anywhere and AppPulse.  It has taken many man-years to produce what has already been built and we are not very far from the finish line.  I’d say we are second down, 5 and goal!”

Dean will be attending Boot Camp and will be only too happy to take up this topic with users and vendors alike. Delivering on his plans will require help and there’s already a steadily growing list of interested parties. Like Godzilla, hiding in the shadows (a supercar in disguise), NonStop has always been a sum of more than its parts but with the attention Dean is giving to critical components close to the metal, it will more than likely make NonStop of the future every bit as feared by the competition as the Nissan is today.  If the Apple turn-around of the last decade has taught us anything, it is that you shouldn’t count superior architectures out.  I see a Renaissance-in-the-making for NonStop here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Countdown to Boot Camp 2014 – It was a little over 20 years ago ...

A flashback to 1993 and an ITUG event in Orlando gave me the introduction I was looking for with this post about who's talking at the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2014 ...


It was a little over 20 years ago – October, 1993, as I recall – that I attended the annual ITUG event in Orlando. I was with a group from development that included Margo Holen and we were showcasing a project we all called Chameleon – featuring “twin tails” connections between PCs, and Tandem computers. Cut one “tail” and the other took over – it was all based on Ethernet and took advantage of custom NICs from Ungermann-Bass (UB).

Joining Tandem developers was Michael Ladam from UB. Michael, Brad Poole (now with comForte), Margo and I took a drive to Cape Canaveral and we stopped for gas alongside a tourist shop selling practically everything. To this day we all will not readily forget Michael’s exclamation while perusing western belts, each one featuring a flashy belt buckle, when he found a belt with “a buckle that says nothing at all!”

More recently, I was driving back from Mississauga, Ontario, having just participated in the CTUG event that is proving ever more popular with the years, and stopped in at the world’s biggest truck stop. Alongside Interstate 80 in Iowa, this truck stop is indeed huge, so much so that when satellite radio station channel, Outlaw, held a free concert recently they had to broadcast where exactly on the site attendees could find the performance.

Imagine my surprise then as I passed a display (pictured above) that boldly proclaimed: Buckle’s Attitude – Let your Buckle do the talking! For a mere $20, you could wear a belt buckle advertising anything you wanted. I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snap a picture even as Margo couldn’t help but prefer to be anywhere else but with me at that moment. However, there are only a few weeks to go before the NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2014 and having checked out the list of presentations it would be remiss of me not to highlight some of the sessions already scheduled.

While I was unable to attend the first restart of this important community event when it was held in 2012, I did make it to last year’s event and will do so again this year. In fact, as much as I really like the show HP puts on each summer – the big-tent HP Discover event in Las Vegas – there’s just something special about being in San Jose and listening to vendors and customers alike talking about their plans for NonStop.

When it comes to vendor presentations what really struck me is the return of the solutions vendors. In times past, it was more or less an event given over to tools and utilities vendors and while they are an important integral part of the NonStop community – indeed, whose continued generosity allows the Boot Camp to flourish, hearing about the aspirations of those vendors who truly live and die depending on the market competitiveness of NonStop, there are many a home truth disclosed about just how popular NonStop is these days among real users.

Topping my list of must-attend sessions therefore is the presentation by OmniPayment’s CEO, Yash Kapedia. His presentation this year is C-11: The Smarts Behind EMV Smart Cards on Monday at 2:30 in the Chynoweth room and I suspect that there will be more than a few interested parties wanting to know more of what Yash has been up to when it comes to securing our card information in these days of apparently easy-access by any bad-guy committed to stealing such information.

“When it comes to adoption of EMV within the U.S., it’s not so much a case of if but when and whether it can be completed before any further regulation occurs. Indeed, there are instances of merchants going ahead regardless – it’s important for them to retain customer loyalty in the face of highly-publicized hacking attacks,” said Yash. “However, more importantly, as from August 15, 2015, any U.S. merchant that does not process most of its transactions with EMV-compatible POS terminals will be liable for fraudulent transactions, rather than the issuing bank as is the case today.”

An important issue for the NonStop community, as Yash reminded me, “Since HP NonStop systems have a significant presence in payment-card transaction systems, it is important that the NonStop community be familiar with smart-card technology. OmniPayments has a number of years’ experience with EMV implementations elsewhere across the globe.” Yash assures me that he will be more than willing to provide the benefit of his experiences to date during his presentation, and plans to be available for discussions with any interested parties at pretty much any time during the event.

While it’s early and there’s a raft of NDAs in place, one session should prove interesting and well worth the effort spent finding the session. Part of the Application Modernization track, the session HP-26 Going beyond SOAP for a Cleaner, Fresher Web Services Architecture at 10:30 Monday morning (in the Guadalupe room) will feature a joint presentation by HP’s Keith Moore and InfraSoft’s Dave Finnie. For any parties interested in potential market opportunities for NonStop running on Intel x86 architecture this may very well be a glimpse into a bright new future for NonStop. I have already seen a little of what will be covered and it's impressive!

The NonStop community has the presence of a real powerhouse vendor in the Big Data space, recently recognized by CIO Story as one of the
20 Most Powerful Big Data Companies, that is providing product that supports NonStop – to the best of my knowledge, a first. Sami Akbay, WebAction Cofounder will be joined by Jim Knudsen (JK) for a Sunday afternoon (1:00pm - 5:00pm) Pre-conference seminar How to Take Advantage of Big Data with NonStop. At this point I would like to just add a little late-breaking news. I will also be participating in this presentation, albeit not to the technical level of Sami and JK.

According to Sami, a good reason to attend is “this will be a true Big Data background and primer focused on just how Big Data impacts NonStop and where you will see how WebAction is already assisting the NonStop ecosystem, bringing with it Big Data context and richness.” Furthermore, Sami told me, “We are looking forward to seeing Big Data being adopted into the NonStop ecosystem and want to be enable and accelerate that evolution. We are seeing novel ways of using data from outside the NonStop ecosystem and the real business advantage that can be gained with deeper insights.” 

Talking of the Pre-conference seminar that will be held Sunday, comForte has a couple of rooms and have populated a number of sessions. I have covered this in a new blog post you can find on the comForte web site – check out For those NonStop systems looking too much like legacy; replacement potential is high! For me the commitment to the user community by comForte is outstanding and many of the company’s executives and management will be highly visible.

There will be some new, or at least less familiar, faces present as well and I am pleased to see Susan Raye from DataExpress attending this event. I have begun working with DataExpress and the more conversations I have with these folks the more I am impressed. If you missed my latest post to ATMmarketplace, check out Lift the flap ... what's behind it? and watch too for an interview with the folks from DataExpress that will appear shortly in the Nov – Dec, 2014, issue of The Connection.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to include a reference in passing to my own presentation – this year, on monitoring. While it will feature my own observations and opinions about monitoring I will be pulling some material from that given to me by IR. The new releases surrounding Prognosis 10 are bringing a lot of modernization to monitoring that really goes a long way to simplifying the tasks and I for one am interested in all new developments targeting monitoring – look for the presentation C-13: Overwhelmed by Complexity? Looking for Business Insight? What's really going on inside your data center? at 5:00pm Monday in the Guadalupe room.

It’s hard to imagine where twenty plus years went and no, I suspect I’m not the first to make such an observation. However, the very presence of a major NonStop user event still drawing a crowd is something very special and not to be taken for granted. I write a lot and true, I talk a lot – no, there’s no such thing as a Buckle that says nothing at all, and with that, as the days wind down, I’m looking forward to catching up with you all!



Monday, October 20, 2014

The value of partnerships – NonStop VAR program?

As the price of gas at the pump continues to drop in the US, it’s hard to miss the flow-on effect to the community. Could we be getting value for our money at last? When the topic is increasing the sales reach of NonStop value too is important. Could we see the return of VARs?

Have you all seen what’s been happening with the price of gas at the pumps here in America? Is the same thing happening everywhere? In the US we have seen the price of gas drop to $2.89 per US gallon (3.8 liters) as depicted above where I just filled up the Jeep. Remarkable! Considering our family has nothing but vehicles with large displacement engines, this is proving to be a blessing for us and it feels like getting an unexpected tax break. With the US now awash in sea of oil, thanks to the wonders of fracking, and the market laws of supply and demand kicking in, the price at the pump is likely to go down even further – the days of $2.00 per gallon gas may just be coming back. For now, $2.89 for gas? Remarkable!

Whenever I read about discussions on value and on value-add, I can’t help but wonder whatever happened to the Value Added Resellers (VARs) that so many of us depended upon in the past. My fondest memories of the early days of Tandem were about the wonderful Alliance program Tandem had assembled and among the list of Alliance partners, there were many VARs. The specialization VARs brought with them – whether it was a specific market, such as travel, or a regions such as Kenya or Columbia – made the process of selling systems much easier. Perhaps the days of VARs are over given how commoditization has brought with it considerable easing of prices. And yet, this may not be completely true when it comes to NonStop, or so it would appear.

Listening to presentations given these past few weeks at both MATUG and CTUG it’s very clear that with the arrival of a family of NonStop systems utilizing the Intel x86 architecture, the plan will be to pursue new markets with new partners rather than simply flipping the base one more time. It is completely understandable that HP doesn’t want to convert a $1million business into a $100thousand business – the most basic of business schools frown on such approaches. That isn’t to say that there will be some existing customers who will provide fertile ground for these new x86 systems, but that will likely be because the new systems will open new doors for new applications, complementing the present Itanium systems, but I expect that to be the exception. No, HP wants to add to the NonStop business, not just pursue yet another one-for-one migration.

What was also obvious from the presentations to the user groups is that HP wouldn’t be all that keen for the sales teams to add a couple of hundred new salesmen to address these new markets. Solutions sell systems today and that’s very much a given, even for the new HP we face, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. So why not engage the solutions companies more closely and reopen the doors for VAR sales of their solutions with NonStop systems?  While nothing that could be viewed as a commitment was given by any of the HP personnel involved in the events, nevertheless to anyone who thought through the mechanics of adding a complementary marketing program it seemed a pretty obvious conclusion. VARs selling NonStop? Indeed, every bit as remarkable as $2.89 gas I suspect!

In talking with NonStop partners the reaction was positive overall. According to the CEO of the OmniPayments, Inc., Yash Kapadia, “Yes we can be VARs and we have discussed being a VAR with HP many times.” But Yash was also quick to note that there would need to be a lot more discussion this time around as in those earlier discussions, according to Yash, “At one time they wanted me to take responsibility to generate more sales than all of EMEA !!!!” Why doesn’t this surprise me? The NonStop sales team that we have working globally is a lot different from what we have had in the past and there’s some level heads watching over NonStop today. If a discussion develops around the subject of VARs the way I would like to see if happen then I think it will be a case of introductory baby-steps in the early stages.

In talking to middleware vendor, IR, there was support for VARs as well although not quite as exuberant as solutions vendors and yet, putting the topic under a different light. In an email exchange with America’s Sales Director, Jay Horton, he began, as I expected, with how he, “Wouldn’t see our large users moving away from a direct relationship with us, (certainly not in the near term anyway) but with the presence of VARs, it would open the door for IR to scale and pick up business we are not able to chase currently.” Horton then added that, “We don’t have resources with knowledge of NonStop to chase a lot of these new markets; however, an HP NonStop VAR channel would allow us to scale. It would require us to put a more dedicated NonStop channel support model in place.”

Andre Cuenin, President Americas & Europe at IR Inc. did remind me that a NonStop Distribution / VAR model is in place in geographies apart from the US. For example, in EMEA and AP-J many markets are being served through local NSK distributors / VARs. “In these countries, these partners  typically sell Prognosis. In the US market, most of our NonStop customers are traditionally, direct customers. However, with our Payments partnership with ACI, we do see a shift to more channel revenue in the US as well.

Could a middleware vendor like IR become an HP NonStop VAR? I asked this more out of curiosity than anything else as I anticipate that this would be of interest to solutions vendors and Yash had already expressed that, should a VAR program be launched globally, he would be more than interested. From an IR perspective they do not see themselves as becoming a NonStop reseller, however Cuenin mentioned that, “working with HP and its respective channels to align its go-to-market model is the strategy”. Horton shared that “we have explored bundling a Prognosis Lite version with platform vendors and NonStop on x86 seems a good target for this approach.”

For some time now I have thought that comprehensive monitoring solutions were butting right up against the line that separates middleware from solutions and with just a little more capability, monitoring solutions would be able to stand on their own merits. Should IR pursue this aggressively, and for a reasonable value-add pricing, then I cannot see why they wouldn’t reconsider becoming a VAR for NonStop, and possibly, in conjunction with offerings from other middleware vendors. Had you purchased a laptop from BestBuy you would notice that it comes with a lot of pre-loaded software offered on trial bases – could this become the norm for NonStop sales?

When I put this prospect to a NonStop manager just recently the response was expectedly cautious. “Just last week, we had a customer ask about becoming a VAR, selling both hardware and their application.” However he also acknowledged that for him, he wasn’t sure “if one request is showing a trend, but I think the x86 does open the eyes of existing and new VARs.” And that’s about as far as the discussion went on the topic of a VAR initiative today – but I’m on the edge here and think this could go either way. Complementing classic sales with a thriving VAR program? Again, that would be remarkable.

The key word in VAR is value – a VAR program would have to provide value for the target marketplace. Customers would need to realize savings they otherwise wouldn’t expect to see – or leverage the partnership in a more competitive manner than their rivals. Companies today see value as having many shades and what one customer views as dross another may prize highly and it would be up to the VAR to clearly demonstrate the value proposition. While I have only talked to a very small selection of NonStop vendors, I know there are more that may be toying with the idea, so it will be interesting to watch whether a much broader program that included the US eventuates and whether the participants truly bring with them the value we all would expect.

$2.89 gas! Less expensive NonStop systems? New partners and new markets! A thriving VAR program … there’s still time for something to develop but from where I sit and following the conversations I have had, I am hoping that this time, it will be a positive outcome. Selling more NonStop systems addressing more markets to even more companies is what we all would like to see and while a thriving VAR program is not an automatic answer to some of the most pressing questions about how to get more NonStop systems sold, it has merit and I truly hope for the best this time around.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Finding our way …

While driving into unfamiliar surroundings, a GPS is handy – perhaps, two of them, to make navigation easier. For HP, in entering new waters, splitting in two should allow the company to better navigate in two completely different marketplaces!

This weekend it was a case of a quick drive along the Hudson River, the “river that defined America”.  As it is still fall and the leaves continue to change color, it was one of the drives we had always wanted to do and the color show didn’t disappoint. Final destination Sunday night was Montréal where we will be spending a little time on business before enjoying more of what Montréal has to offer. As you can see above, the old Montréal Port and grain processing plant look great in the autumn sunshine!

While the route up the Hudson was straight forward, finding our hotel in the center of town proved challenging. Given that we were later to find out that there were several streets with the same name, our first attempt to locate the hotel via our vehicles GPS led us to an industrial site some 15 miles from the city center. Being typical NonStop aficionados, we pulled out our backup tablet and used it’s GPS and once we shut down the stream of instructions that continued to emanate from the first GPS we threaded our way through city construction zones and found our way to the hotel.

This week, it will be CTUG that is very much on my mind. It was only a week ago that we attended MATUG, held in a hotel just outside Philadelphia, a circumstance I commented on briefly in the last post. NonStop has always been defined by its community and so there was a strong showing by HP and the vendor community with a sprinkling of customers thrown in for good measure. NonStop has always enjoyed energetic supporters, of course, but looking ahead to CTUG, I am hoping for a little larger turn-out of users.

The good news for those tracking HP NonStop developments of support for NonStop in the Intel x86 architecture is that it all looks to be going well with HP looking for even greater community participation in the Beta program.  While I can only speak on behalf of a handful of vendors who have tested their products on x86, there’s only been a few minor hiccups to report all of which were quickly addressed by NonStop development. If I were to speculate, I suspect there will be a couple of users nearing production rollout of their applications on x86 in the new year – very impressive indeed!

However, even as I was thinking about this post over the weekend, there was very little news coming from the financial and business press to highlight what has so quickly transpired over the past 48 hours or so. Yes, we are going to have two HPs now, not one. The much heralded split between consumer and enterprise customers is going to happen and we will be seeing the formation of two independently operating companies. Certainly it is going to liven up the agenda for HP Discover (Europe) that will take place in Barcelona, December 2-4, and I sure wish that I could find a way to participate.

I have kicked off a discussion on the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop, and if you are a member of this group you will see that comments have already started to appear. It is true that splitting the company was rumored as being on the agenda of the former CEO, Leo Apotheker, but as soon as Meg Whitman took over, she went to great pains to downplay such a move by HP. However, as this quarter’s results were published and as Whitman responded to the financial community, no matter how good the latest news appeared, HP stock took another hit.

According to a post to the site, Seeking alpha, one analyst wrote of how, “The company is going to be splitting into two divisions, putting more action into practice as it continues its restructuring and comeback under CEO Whitman.” Furthermore, said the analyst, “After the street didn't seem to like the strides the company had made last quarter, it eventually came to its senses. HPQ has dipped over the last month, however, shedding nearly 10% of its value.”  It’s a tough crowd for sure, but in the end, few other options remained for Whitman and HP after focusing on profitability and operational costs. The company is “huge”, as I noted in the LinkedIn discussion, and generally, Wall Street prefers companies tightly focused rather than the sprawling portfolio conglomerates among which HP was now counted.

The specifics? As the news officially broke this morning, it was not surprising to read in the official HP Press Release that “HP has announced its plans to separate into two new publicly traded companies: one comprising of HP's enterprise technology infrastructure, software and services businesses, to be called Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and HP Inc., which will comprise of personal systems and printer ops; Meg Whitman will become President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise; Dion Weisler will become President and CEO of HP Inc.; Immediately following the transaction, which is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal 2015, HP shareholders will own shares of both Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.”

I have always taken with a liberal number of grains of salt that there was synergy between a consumer, PC company, and a business, enterprise-system company, but I was prepared to let that slip on by for the sake of better story telling. There were so many ways to write about value that a company as big as HP provided but it was getting harder and harder to keep a straight face. Yes, the addition of support for x86 brought some synergy but anyone who has looked at the Intel roadmap for Xeon knows all too well that there’s a swag of different Xeon chips covered by the roadmap and to the naked eye, it was easy to get lost among the numerous pages that comprise the roadmap – different charts for consumers, small business and the enterprise.

Appointing Weisler as the new President and CEO of HP Inc. looks promising, as I’m always pleased to read of any Australian doing well in corporate America, but he will certainly face a challenging job – Lenovo overtook HP just recently and if Australians are just one thing, it’s that they are furiously competitive in all that they do – apart from our Kiwi brethren across the Tasman, I know of no other nation as competitively minded as Australia, including America. But there’s a whole lot more here than just freeing up the PC business to compete, as there is a real need to sew together a competitive mobile offering and even though I thought the Palm deal was a solid beginning, now I am not so sure what HP Inc. will be doing to develop a presence in this part of the market.

Across the aisle, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise lacks a couple of items – a unifying database technology (IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle all have strong database plays), a unique OS (apart from NonStop, of course), and a virtual platform. And this raises the question; should EMC spin off VMWare, should HP buy VMWare? With all that I am watching in the telco space I think a very good case could be made for such an eventuality, particularly as talks to acquire all of EMC apparently broke down a short time ago. But again, even if such a deal transpired, what of NonStop?

For the last couple of years – in my Wishes for NonStop posts to this blog, as well as within my more recent user event presentations – I have openly discussed the morphing of NonStop into something quite different to what we see today. While I have stressed that should you check all the right boxes, you will still be able to order a NonStop system, more than likely, the future will include NonStop as a set of features, services and libraries atop a next generation Linux along the lines of what HP CTO, Martin Fink, has been referencing of late as part of his vision for The Machine. I have no real evidence in support of this other than my own observations so it may prove very interesting times for NonStop development during the next couple of years.

HP does need a course correction. It does need to find its way again and perhaps a complete turnaround is required. In the HP Press Release, Whitman did say, “The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan. It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders. In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders.”

CTUG now beckons and I am sure that this latest news from HP will generate numerous discussions. All we need to do is figure out how to depart 
Montréal for the drive south, along the St Lawrence Seaway. I’m pretty sure I will be able to find my way to Mississauga with the help of my GPS aids, but nothing is ever certain. Like HP, hoping for renewed market interest with a turnaround that involves doing the splits, I too am hoping I can make it without any further course corrections or U-turns. Looking forward to seeing many of you shortly, at CTUG, and I am certain that with this latest announcement from HP, there will be many discussions to follow!