Friday, February 27, 2015

NonStop in the “technology mix” for IT? Sounds reasonable …

Among IT professionals, when discussions turn to hybrids, it’s not just hybrid clouds being talked about but hybrid systems and for the NonStop community, this includes hybrids featuring the latest NonStop X systems …

I recently passed a car with a bumper sticker: “Yes, it’s a hybrid, it burns both gas & rubber!” One’s perspective on the environment may differ from others’, and sometimes quite radically, but even so, there’s a sense that whatever interests us and wherever our pursuits take us, if we can leave the environment better off, then that is to the benefit of us all. Saying anything more on this matter however, as the majority of the U.S. shivers under the impact of a severe and lengthy winter deep freeze, may prove controversial (and it has nothing to do with the rest of this post), but even so, the cold has many of us wondering where global warming has gone.

Living on Colorado I have become a big fan of natural gas – a sentiment I shared with others when I lived in Australia. For a very long time the option to power vehicles with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) has proved to be popular among Australian drivers and with the abundant supply of natural gas, now apparent to everyone pretty much everywhere we look (in the U.S. LPG is known as Propane, and referred to as Autogas), it’s still amusing to hear the debates on whether more refueling stations should be built and whether manufacturers should provide support for LPG on many more vehicles.

Despite all the talk, I fully expect to see at some point hybrid cars that are powered by combinations of LPG / electric just as I anticipate seeing diesel / electric hybrids sometime soon. The point of mixing technologies to better meet the needs of users has become a proven winner for many within industry and so, mixing technologies for IT sounds every bit as reasonable, and already from the messages coming from multiple vendors, it would seem that the day of practical hybrids is fast approaching.

I have been writing about the emergence of hybrid computers within the NonStop community for some time, and with each post, and the subsequent discussions that arise on LinkedIn groups, the degree of interest climbs. For as long as I have been involved with NonStop, there’s been a very strong argument to be made for making very sure everything supporting an application on NonStop stays on NonStop, as the all-important availability attribute is only as strong as the weakest link. Push processes off-platform and onto Windows and the expectation of availability levels we associate with NonStop is immediately lowered. Why bother, some have argued, to even use NonStop systems if part of the application proves vulnerable because of the inherent frailty of the secondary system.

Before getting any deeper into this post, for the sake of clarity, when it comes to NonStop X and hybrids, “a hybrid does not need to co-exist in the same chassis,” according to Manager, HP NonStop Product Management, Karen Copeland. “It can be an overall application configuration where different parts of the solution run on different systems that communicate with each other in real time to be seen as one application by the user, while using the best of breed for different parts of the system.”

The likelihood of reaching out to another system on the far side of the data center will be one option many CIOs will consider, and the way I hear it, where NonStop X is already being tested. The most important consideration by everyone in the NonStop community when thinking of hybrids, I was told, was to think big! Don’t limit your thinking about the value hybrid computing will bring based on past projects or what you read in the popular press!  

IBM has had hybrids for some time now. With their mainframes, the opportunity to configure both zOS and zLinux in the same mainframe has been an option for many – particularly when zLinux supports the front-end presentation services and page serving and zOS supports the database and some of the heavy-lifting associated with mission-critical transaction processing. Very much a working model for what HP will likely begin promoting aggressively with NonStop X and x86 Linux, now that we can expect to see both sharing the same chassis at some point it will be hard to imagine modernization projects in the future that don’t take advantage of such an option.

Unfortunately for IBM, but potentially good news for HP, a renewed push to right-size IBM has seen mainframe customers doubting the future of the mainframe – not from a technology standpoint but in terms of future support, along with consulting services. None of this has lessened IBM’s enthusiasm for hybrids and for those who may be interested, check out the latest IBM’s press release
IBM Cloud Makes Hybrid a Reality for the Enterprise.

My interest in what was prototyped by the HP NonStop solutions architects some time ago, under the general banner of Persistent Cloud Services (or, Guardian Angel) that was subsequently productized by InfraSoft as maRunga, goes back to my own appreciation that in Pathway may be the very glue that holds hybrids of NonStop and Linux together; in so doing, throwing the mantle of Pathway over systems apart from NonStop. Pathway Advanced Cluster Services (ACS) extended the reach of Pathway to adjacent NonStop nodes under the single definition of a domain, so why not continue expanding the reach of Pathway to include nodes other than NonStop, such as Linux. This is now evolving into the current message for maRunga, and while there’s still further refinement of maRunga required, InfraSoft remains committed to working with other vendors to capitalize on this product to better serve hybrid systems anchored by NonStop.

This reference to clouds, and cloud computing, turns the dialogue back to where hybrids first begun entering mainstream discussions. At the center of these discussions was the expectations of the enterprise – would they simply abandon all that they had invested in to date, or rather, complement select applications with processes running on much cheaper platforms. This question was addressed recently in comments to a discussion on the LinkedIn group,
Mission Critical Systems Forum (facilitated by Oracle). In response to the question, Are legacy systems a hindrance, or just the fall guys when things go wrong?, Ed Carp, a Linux Guru, observed that, “Contrary to the original article's assertions, legacy systems ‘just run’. As another poster pointed out, some are always looking for the next big thing - moving away from Java or whatever ‘because it's become legacy’”.

However, more importantly for the NonStop community, Carp then wrote that, “Moving to the cloud, while it sounds sexy and new and attractive, just pushes problems of scalability, reliability, security, and backup control to someone else's plate - and when your cloud provider goes down or just goes away, where's your data? How do you know who's managing it is reliable and keeping it secure?” This of course, touches a nerve of every NonStop proponent, but then Carp finished with how, “It seems to me that moving to the cloud as the sole option without a failover to locally cached data is a recipe for failure - and if you have to manage local data as well, why bother with the cloud, with the issue of network latency - unless you're running multiple locations (then data in the cloud becomes more of a win for you) - it just becomes an added expense”.

Could we see not just a hybrid made up of NonStop X and x86 Linux, sharing a common chassis or not, but also a hybrid of NonStop with one or more Clouds and where Pathway throws its mantle over the lot? Again, I anticipate that something like this will eventually prove extremely tempting to some in the NonStop community. When you look at the vendor community some are likely to opt to explore such configurations. As have been well documented to date, OmniPayments, Inc. now has its solutions operating from within a cloud, all based on NonStop, but imagine the potentially greater TCO, should some processes be run on Linux within the cloud. In his article, Payment-card transaction switching via the cloud, just published in the Jan – Feb, 2015, issue of The Connection, CEO, Yash Kapadia, observes that while it’s “not a general cloud offering for running customer applications” all the same, “it is a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud that specifically provides financial-transaction-switch services via HP NonStop servers.

Yash is not alone, as many of my clients provide products capable of running on either NonStop or Linux – and most of them, from a common code base. Whether there are issues of DMZ placement, as in the case of security or simply access to a richer presentation toolset, vendors including IR, WebAction, InfraSoft and DataExpress all seem to be well-suited to exploiting any mix of NonStop and Linux, whether found in a shared-chassis or in a NonStop overseen cloud.

According to Michelle Marost, President of DataExpress, “With as much talk as there is these days of the benefits derived from building hybrid computers around NonStop, and having the extra flexibility of selecting where DataExpress runs that only adds to the benefits that come with our secure managed file transfer suite.” IR is well positioned to provide a single pane of glass to monitor hybrids, even as WebAction has begun demonstrating the potential to track adherence to SLAs that span hybrid environments. WebAction Cofounder and EVP, Sami Akbay, was quick to observe that when it comes to, "Realtime process monitoring, alerting, and workflow enablement across hybrid systems is just one area where WebAction excels. We see this service as part of the future landscape for all enterprise systems."

The industry is behind deploying hybrids even if it is in support of hybrid clouds. Vendors within the NonStop community are prepared and are essentially looking for the first implementations – yes, news from HP supports this new direction with, apparently, a handful of new NonStop X hybrids already under test at customer sites. Perhaps most important of all for the NonStop community, new markets may be fueled following the option to run NonStop from within a cloud. As Yash noted, “Special consideration is given to mid-size retailers who have grown large enough to afford their own transaction-switching systems. OmniCloud can offer such retailers dedicated systems. These systems still run in OmniCloud, but they relieve the retailers of the purchasing and operation costs of obtaining their own system”.

And therein lays the real story of hybrid based on NonStop – becoming price attractive in markets where NonStop may still be considered expensive. The move to be fully commodity-based, together with the option to run standalone in hybrid configurations with other systems or indeed clouds, with the flexibility to support modern languages and platforms, is among the biggest message about the new NonStop X coming from HP. NonStop cannot be ruled out of any market or industry or from any use-case scenario – when it comes to technology and solutions, the enterprise today has many options that can be pursued and mixing technologies for IT sounds every bit as reasonable. Including NonStop now, as an option, will certainly draw greater attention and for NonStop to be in the mix is good news indeed for every member of the NonStop community. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Death of big projects?

A trip to Las Vegas is a reminder than not all big projects succeed and the story of failed big projects isn’t limited to construction as experienced IT professionals will quickly point out – but the issue today is whether small has become the new big!

This week has me back in Las Vegas for another event, the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA) US Conference, 2015. Under the overall banner of enhancing the consumer’s self-service experience, it has attracted the usual crowd of ATM vendors, payments solutions providers as well as all the service providers on the periphery of the ATM ecosystem. Among the sponsors are some familiar names, and it’s good to see a healthy representation from the NonStop community, and conversations started as soon as I left the registration desk. However, it was the familiar sites of the Las Vegas skyline that really caught my attention this week.

If you recall the last post to this blog, that of February 6, 2015, Of hubs and spokes; of niches, clouds and beyond the horizon; it all looks good for NonStop X! it contained the familiar site of the Las Vegas tower – home to the Stratosphere casino and hotel. The picture was taken from the window of my hotel, but this time, even though I am staying in the same hotel, my window faces the opposite direction and so the picture I have included above is of the view from this window. In case it is not obvious, the image represents an almost-completed site that has been standing abandoned for more than three years. Having changed hands a number of times, there’s still no indication as to when the development will be completed and yet, its primary building dominates this northern end of the famous Las Vegas strip.

It is not alone, however, as across the street and a little closer to the main attractions on the strip, is an even bigger vacant property sitting on 87 acres, the Asian-themed Resort World. With an access road already renamed Resort World Drive, there’s only a minimal number of structures visible with very little evidence that any work is being done whatsoever. At the other end of the strip, across the road from the Mandalay Bay complex, sit a couple of incomplete support structures for yet another Ferris Wheel for Las Vegas, even as the Vegas High Roller Wheel - the world’s largest observation wheel – has been completed and is operational. With rebar clearly rusting, these abandoned support structures are yet another reminder that not every major project in this city makes it to fruition.

When it comes to major projects floundering, many major IT projects have suffered similar fate. Back in the 1970s, during my trip to the US, there were advertisements placed by the Australian retailer, Myers in the American edition of Computerworld looking for experienced IT executives. Describing their need for additional resources for the biggest retail IT project ever, and offering starting salaries well above what any Australian IT manager had seen before, the project called for building two new data centers, equipping them both with some of the biggest IBM mainframes available at the time, and bringing online processing to every store, complete with online access to centralized databases. This was, at best, adventurous for the times (remember, 4800 baud communication’s lines), while at worst, a risky investment of corporate funds. Meyers did make it eventually, but after several delays and a move to distributed processing. More importantly, the financial overruns were fodder for numerous financial commentaries that made headlines even in the mainstream media.

Retailers, banks and government agencies are famous for the big projects they pursue. Many in the NonStop community will recall as I do the huge undertakings initiated by the Australian banks, Westpac (Core System 90?) and ANZ (a new platform proposed jointly by Dell and Microsoft?). These were equally famous for the many decision reversals that occurred along the way. I happened to be in the offices of a Westpac IT executive who calmly told me of the just-made, forward-thinking, decision to go with distributed IBM Series/1 computers at a time when their only use appeared to be to fill up empty warehouses (alongside, of course, the many unsold rebadged Stratus computers – the infamous IBM System/88).

Not everything big that we dream up comes to fruition, nor does the big idea develop into the game-changing, disruptive and innovative solution its proponents promise. However, apart from the news about failed outsourcing projects, of late there has been little news about the pursuit of the big project by an enterprise. So little news in fact that there’s been stories written about the death of big projects, given so few enterprises have the stomach anymore to tackle anything involving multiple years. Selling any project that may outlive the CIO’s likely residence in the corner office is becoming even more difficult to accomplish, so much so that for all intents and purposes, the big project has completely faded from the IT scene.

In the March, 2015, edition of the eNewsletter, Tandemworld, my Musings on NonStop column touches on the topic of big projects. Not so much about the death of big projects, but rather, the flip side of the topic – have all the big applications been written and has the need for big projects become a moot point? That is, with nothing big needing to be developed, are we approaching a time of change rather than a time to reboot with completely new processes? There’s no longer a situation where empty box outlines, describing functionality needed by the business, remain unfilled waiting, as it were, for a new product to appear on the horizon. Furthermore, I suggested, have all the applications been written? And just as importantly, is the science, or indeed art of large-scale application-writing, heading for the trash can? Will we all be witnesses to the death of the development of further enterprise applications?

Continuing with this idea, I then wrote that there will be exceptions, of course, but in general a strong case can be made favoring enhancing what we now have versus looking for what is new. As much as this may sound sacrilegious to the IT faithful, the dawn of the mini-applications, or simply, Apps, is hitting the enterprise and making large enterprise projects that most of us are familiar with, looking oh, so 1990s, to paraphrase recent comments made by a Google executive. Again, “in this age of mobility and information” the core of what we need to do as a business has been done, for the most part, leaving the tweaking of processing and presentation to better serve customers on the move – yes, the always-on world is forcing a modernization of our applications like we haven’t seen, well, since client/server computing, and yes, perhaps since the first distributed computer came onto the scene.

In a recent email exchange with WebAction, Inc. Cofounder and EVP, Sami Akbay, on this very topic, Akbay suggested that, “Traditional applications are dying. These applications used to sit between people and computers. They were optimized for human generated data to be the input. Humans also consumed the output.” And by traditional applications, for the most part these were the very big applications we had seen developed in the late 1980s through to the late 1990s, that anchored much of the IT processing of every enterprise. However, while they remain, Akbay suggested that there were complementary projects underway at nearly all of these enterprises. “The new generation of small applications sit between machine generated data and an infrastructure fabric,” said Akbay. “The input data is predominantly machine generated. Humans consume the output. Also other applications consume the output but that's the next generation ‘connected applications’”.

With so many discussions of late on the topic of modernization, it is often overlooked that modernization is more than just dressing up the look and feel of older, legacy, applications. What was the subject of the big project, decades ago, and remains operational, only requires a new GUI, or so conventional wisdom suggests. For many enterprises this is indeed the modernization projects being pursued. On the other hand, the advent of modern languages and frameworks has also seen incremental functionality being provided using some of these modern languages. This is the subject of an upcoming article in the March / April, 2015, edition of The Connection magazine that I am co-writing with InfraSoft Pty Limited CTO, Neil Coleman. In this article, the merits of using Node.js running on NonStop X and support JavaScript is actively promoted and there’s very little today that is more modern that Node.js.

The landscape of Las Vegas is liberally littered with the evidence of the failed big project. IT history tells us that Las Vegas isn’t alone in this respect – the numerous times that the IT big project failed likely continues to outnumber the IT big project that succeeded. It may be cavalier of me to suggest that the days of the IT big project are over, but by many counts, this may be truer than we realize. Embellishing the applications that keep enterprises in business seems to be the new reality and adding small applications, as Akbay observes, will likely play a bigger role going forward. Having a choice to run new platforms on NonStop X systems only makes going down this path seem even more realistic.

Big projects dead? Just look around your IT department and look at who has the appetite for more big projects and you will readily see that small is now the new big. It may not be as glamorous, and less likely to capture the media’s attention, but then again, as long as baby-steps remain in vogue, as we see today with small applications, then the likelihood of anyone in the NonStop community grabbing the spotlight will be close to zero. Put that down as yet another positive attribute for going with NonStop and one I have to believe every CIO will welcome!      

Friday, February 6, 2015

Of hubs and spokes; of niches, clouds and beyond the horizon; it all looks good for NonStop X!

The topic of NonStop being deployed as a hub has been a consideration for decades with several initiatives kicked off during that time. But with the arrival of NonStop, will an intelligent price-competitive hub featuring NonStop X make a difference and prove valuable to users?

In the post of February 3, 2015, to Buckle-Up-Travel (my social blog), In truth, we are but travelers …, I comment on how I have become a traveler in the sense that what’s immediately beyond the horizon is important to me. Not the destination, nor the road itself, but rather the act of moving, of travelling, as I said, that really motivates me and keeps me well-grounded in what’s happening in the world outside my office. I don’t always make the right decisions about the form of transportation I use, but so long as it gets me pointed in the general direction I want to go, it’s all good! This reminds me of the quote from 1951 Alice in Wonderland animated movie when Alice said: “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it!”

However, this post isn’t so much about travelling as it is about the shared expectations that I have with many of you about the future of NonStop now that NonStop X is about to ship. While I am sketchy with details about who will be the first to use NonStop, even as I am completely in the dark about where the first NonStop X systems will appear, I have a sense that there will be numerous surprises in store for all of us as HP lifts the veil on Project Cognac. From the time I was first briefed I have had a hard time keeping the lid on what I saw as a potential game changer, but now, the conversation has truly started and bit by bit, the expectations for NonStop X are beginning to see daylight.

A short time ago I started a discussion on the LinkedIn group, Tandem User Group, where I asked for members (willing to do so) to “provide a comment as to what you see as priority for HP as it starts selling NonStop X in 2015”. Among the responses was one from HP Master Technologist, Justin Simonds. In the past Simonds has been upbeat about all things NonStop so seeing him respond to the question didn’t come as a surprise. For Simonds, it was a case of reminding members that, “As I've said to anyone who will listen, (the Internet of Things) IoT is going to be huge and (capturing) a very small percentage of that would be a boon to NonStop.”

However, Simonds then moves onto a more interesting observation as part of his response. “NonStop in the SaaS area is where I see NonStop in (the) cloud,” Simonds proposes.  “Opsol is doing a lot of work in that area and I believe there should be more. In terms of verticals I would like to see NonStop in Healthcare (back in Healthcare), back with a strong 911 offering and energy. I'd like to see NonStop get involved with Supply Chain again.” Before he completes his response, Simonds shifts into overdrive, noting how within HP NonStop development, “We had some excellent ideas back in the ZLE days and with some of the new datastreaming partners such as WebAction and Network Kinetix we could again offer up unique and compelling advantages. I could go on but you get the point. NonStop X should mark an uptick in NonStop awareness and deployment into new areas.”

Confirming Simonds observation, in my post of February 3, 2015, In Novel Ways … WebAction for NonStop X Will Change the Way Business Operates! I reference WebAction’s Jonathan Geraci even as he agreed with Simonds, making the observation that, “With the arrival of HP NonStop X, companies will have the opportunity to use NonStop in novel ways.” Furthermore, I wrote, “NonStop systems have always been about ease of use and ease of management, but in supporting x86 the value proposition of NonStop takes a big turn in the right direction – lower overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).” The promise of even greater commoditization along with competitive pricing, can only help aid an uptick in NonStop awareness and with the turmoil IBM is going through right now re layoffs, even the staunchest of NonStop foes may concede NonStop X changes the game.

For many members within the NonStop community there are few fond memories of ZLE and yet, at the time, it was a bold move and one where perhaps HP NonStop development faulted as it crossed the starting line. Nevertheless, ZLE built on a lot of early work – remember some slideware in the 1990s in support of intelligent networks, etc. – and in its day ZLE had the potential for being a game-changer for IT. However, should we take a second look at ZLE and is there an opportunity to revisit its role as we near general availability of NonStop X systems?

Former ITUG Chair, Janice Reeder-Highleyman, wrote in the Nov – Dec, 2014, issue of The Connection about ZLE. In her feature, OmniPayment’s Yash Kapadia Was Happily Retired Until His Wife Demanded He Return to Work, Reeder-Highleyman includes the following comment, “Yet another Tandem / Opsol collaboration was the execution of ZLE for Tandem.” Naturally, this caught my attention as did the observations that followed. “Yash believed that there was more potential for ZLE than Tandem realized, so Opsol negotiated the acquisition of Tandem ZLE’s intellectual property rights. Soon after, ZLE was reborn as Opsol’s OmniHub, a NonStop data integration solution for companies requiring IT infrastructure integration in order to capture a single view of their customers’ transactional activities.”

For me, this was an open invitation to check directly with OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, to find out more about the influence of ZLE on his products and Yash didn’t disappoint. “Whenever a customer purchases OmniPayments there’s a strong case to be made for the purchase of OmniHub. Our clients see the potential value from OmniHub being the seamless integration of application code with as many banking or retail channels as they need supported – whether online banking, mobile banking or ATMs and POSs, OmniHub ensures any transaction can be accessed by customers no matter the channel selected.” Yes, sounds a lot like what I had previously read about ZLE.

In the real world, OmniHub has found customers and today, according to Yash, “We have deployed OmniHub in combination with OmniPayments at several Financial Institutions (FIs) including Banco Popular Puerto Rico (BPPR), as well as for the Mexican retailer, Casa Ley, and companies operating financial switches including one of the most recent wins for OmniPayements on NonStop systems, Carvajal.” For each of these customers, OmniHub has enabled customers to leverage functionality across different delivery channels greatly simplifying the customers’ support.

“When it comes to business services, what is provided today with OmniHub is that OmniPayments users can access numerous Business Logic Modules (BLMs). These include processes in support of OmniSCV (single customer view, OmniOffers (personalization) and OmniSI Server (stand-in processing) but what’s also worth keeping in mind is that adding new channels and new services is not complex.” Yash then added. “This can be accomplished with configuration changes and by accommodating additional data sets that reflect data from existing legacy services that need to be centralized on OmniHub. Such data sets can be easily created using the browser-based console.”

Supporting what Simonds had written to the LinkedIn group discussion, Yash then told me that as he “looked further ahead, with OmniHub supporting real-time access to all information and all relations of the customer with the bank, there is business intelligence available on consolidated and real-time data gathered by OmniHub and with Big Data / Analytics initiatives under way at many FIs, it’s a logical place for OmniPayments to provide the necessary interfaces and services in support of Big Data.” All up, a nice segue observation, as Simonds clearly observed, into the work being done by companies such as WebAction.

As for the mechanics about how OmniHub works, especially in light of what was leveraged from the earlier work done in support of ZLE, “OmniHub supports a variety of interfaces that enable easy integration of numerous channels, including TCP/IP, CORBA, SOAP/XML, HTTP, MQ, Tuxedo, Pathway and SNA. Addition of new channels and new services is not complex,” said Yash. “Should HP NonStop add support for external connections via InfiniBand (IB) following the introduction of NonStop X, then such support could be easily added via OmniHub.” Indeed, the more I consider the role of a modern day ZLE-like hub, the more the work being done in support of hybrids featuring NonStop X and Linux X, the more I am inclined to think the former sins of ZLE may have finally been excised.

When I posed the prospect of hybrid configurations based on NonStop X finding newfound popularity within modern data centers, Yash was very forthcoming with his observations on hybrids. “Even as there’s considerable talk across the NonStop community about hybrid X systems, comprised of NonStop X and Linux X (all on x86 blades, housed in the same chassis / cabinet), such hybrids will help reduce the cost of the hardware needed to support FIs,” said Yash. OmniPayments embraced hybrid architecture and according to Yash, “We see opportunities to leverage such systems should they come from HP. We have been deploying a hybrid architecture for some time that includes both NonStop and Linux and with HP contemplating further hybrid development, this would be very easy for us to support. OmniHub would most likely play a key role as it is a function of OmniHub to support channels no matter the protocol or services provided.”

And OmniPayments isn’t alone when it comes to hubs and hybrids. In the post of January 9, 2013 to the IR blog, Datacenters with hybrid systems; challenges persist for all who monitor… IR VP of Products, John Dunne, reassured me that, “If our customers determine that there’s value in having the oversight of the heterogeneous mix of systems, so typical of a modern data center, then IR will continue to ensure Prognosis features communicate with each other!” Likewise, in my opinion paper featuring DataExpres, DataExpress moves the data in a secure and managed manner that can now be downloaded from the DataExpress website, I quote DataExpress President, Michelle Marost, after she said, “With as much talk as these days of the benefits from building hybrid computers around NonStop, having the extra flexibility of selecting where DataExpress runs only adds to the benefits that come with DataExpress.”

Throughout the decades I have been involved in IT I have witnessed the pendulum swinging between distributed and centralized computing. Often this was driven by vendors promoting their proprietary systems as satellites – a useful way to introduce new technology into a customer’s data center with the intent of displacing the incumbent technology provider. Hub and spokes, hierarchies, networks, on- and off-premise, time sharing, service bureaus and even clouds, anyone with any sense of history of IT has seen it all. With hybrid computers I sense just the latest iteration of a balanced approach to IT that combines many of the above elements in a more manageable fashion – just look at the latest capabilities of IR-Prognosis with their easy-to-configure, side-by-side, dashboards, all under a single pane of glass. 

Simonds included in his observation how the, “tight integration with Linux for composite type applications, where portions of a service run on Linux and portions run on Nonstop and with NonStop overseeing the service,” may prove to be an option much closer to reality than many within the NonStop community might appreciate. I was passing through Las Vegas a short time ago and couldn’t help but notice how the town continues to be optimistic and with a great room that gave me this view to the horizon, such optimism proved contagious. And yet, the ever present blue skies seemed to go on well beyond the horizon suggesting that there was still a lot more to come,. Yes, it’s all looking very good indeed for NonStop X where deployment options will only be limited by our imagination and just how creative we dare to be!  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Floating in space, I need a lifeline …

Cloud computing continues to dominate much of the popular discussions of late, but when it comes to putting real systems to work in support of real applications, there’s much to be said about the inherent value that comes with hybrid computing deployments and this is becoming netter known within the NonStop community …

During the holiday we watched the Clooney / Bullock movie, Gravity. It was a very well made, not-so-quite SciFi drama, set in space but believable in that it was about the International Space Station and a fictional journey of recovery in an old-fashioned space shuttle. The imagery was beautiful and portraying work in space entirely believable. So much so that I gradually inched forward on my seat, anxieties building and really appreciative of the tethering they enjoyed to the shuttle and to the telescope that they were repairing. Obviously, Clooney ever the adrenaline junkie was enjoying himself untethered as he drifted around doing a “spacewalk” and checking out the view.

However it was a short sequence in the movie that brought me back to earth rather quickly – and yes, it was the manner by which astronauts returned to earth. For as long as I have been watching space exploration it seems to me that rocket ships and space vehicles were hybrids. An engine module with a separate capsule or a command module and a lunar module made up the moon orbiters of the Apollo program. Space shuttles rode into space on the back of fuel modules and so on – providing unique modules in support of very specialist operations seems to be travel de rigeur for all astronauts. Even the expected flights by Virgin Galactic are based on a hybrid craft.

When the wraps first came off the Infrasoft product, maRunga, at the 2013 HP Discover event there was an emphasis on cloud bursting – Java applications running on NonStop, for instance, could burst into a cloud environment should unexpected peaks on a NonStop system occur. However, in the time that’s passed since the wraps came off the product, the conservative nature of many NonStop users makes leveraging of cloud computing resources, in any manner, unlikely in the near term. After working with the sales arm of InfraSoft, the Team at comForte, steps are now being taken to redefine the value maRunga provides with attention being directed towards hybrid computers, even as it becomes apparent that there’s increased interest in NonStop hybrids with the arrival of NonStop X.

“maRunga, at its core, represents extensions to Pathway that embrace platforms apart from NonStop,” said InfraSoft Managing Director, Peter Shell. “Just as Pathway broke new ground with Advanced Cluster Services (ACS), maRunga can be considered as a further extension of ACS, whereby other platforms such as Linux and Unix can be included. The presence of Pathway domains overseeing multiple Pathway nodes can now be all-inclusive of any platform that may be found participating in heterogeneous configurations, such as we are now seeing appear as hybrid computers.”

The dearth of references to NonStop within hybrid computers to date belies what really has been developing at a grass-roots level among some of the more adventurous vendors looking to put distance between their solutions and those of competitors.  “With hybrid, there’s the value aspect that translates to less cost but there’s also better fit in terms of both development languages and platform optimization,” was how OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, explained his decision to include hybrid configurations in support of his payment processing and switching solutions. “We have focused on NonStop but we use Linux for the monitoring / user interface support. Even as HP is talking about packaging both NonStop and Linux x86 blades in the same chassis, we can see advantages of making even greater use of two adjacent systems as this is consistent with what we have been building ourselves – to have HP build it and support it? Even better!”

And when it does come to Clouds and NonStop, for a lot more on this topic, check out the feature OmniPayments Introduces the OmniCloud as Host for Affordable Financial Transaction Switches in the January, 2015 issue of the Tandemworld eNewsletter. Watch for a future post on OmniPayments and OmniCloud in an upcoming post to this NonStop community blog.

Likewise, the folks at DataExpress include hybrid configurations as part of their DataExpress solutions. After securely moving files between systems, business managers can opt for updates via email and with almost universal adoption of internet protocols, separation of host functions from notification features (most likely, deployed as a DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) point-of-presence) provides another, yet very important, level of security. “We acquired two products – DXNS for NonStop and DXOP for open platform – when we purchased what today we sell as DataExpress”, explained DataExpress President, Michelle Marost. “It turns out that having platform options and the ability to support hybrids will provide the best of both worlds for our customers.”

At the 2014 NonStop Advanced Technical Boot Camp, held in San Jose, I had ample opportunity to chat with Sean Mansubi, VP of R&D for HP's NonStop Integrity and x86 family of servers, database, and middleware software and solutions. Mansubi asked me about the NonStop communities interests in hybrid configurations and at first, I had little to add but after the event, I checked with vendors and like the quotes above from OmniPayments and DataExpress, it seemed there were others quietly developing product extensions that were dependent on the presence of more than one system architecture. So, after the event, I emailed Mansubi to apologize for my less than complete response to his question.

A short time ago, Margo and I had the opportunity to sit down with Ric Lewis, HP’s VP and General Manager, Enterprise Server Business – Sean Mansubi’s and Randy Meyer’s boss. While much of what we discussed isn’t for public consumption (and was mostly for my own “education”), Lewis did acknowledge that early usage of hybrid computers based on the x86 architecture that included NonStop were under way. I didn’t press for anything more, but it was clear to me that housed in a common chassis were x86 blades running NonStop as well as x86 blades running Linux. All the same, nothing more than whispers and dropped hints, I thought. But where there’s smoke, was there also even just a few sparks?

Readers of this NonStop community blog, if you read the previous post of January 14, 2015, Repurposed … NonStop the better server for database? you may have missed the comments that followed. But for me, these are the interesting aspects of blogging and I am always thinking of topics that hopefully will generate a discussion. In case you missed it, HP NonStop Product Manager, Ajaya Gummadi, stepped in and provided some rather illuminating insights. Gummadi is responsible for all things database as well as cloud computing and it was Gummadi who tipped me off about the hybrid architecture adopted by OmniPayments. However, in her comments Gummadi was anything but shy when it came to x86 blades being used in support of hybrid systems.

“NonStop X comes with Infiniband (IB) giving you 25x improvement in system interconnect capacity. What is exciting for me is that at the other end of this IB fat pipe could be a Linux or Unix computer server doing the crunches and accessing NonStop X database over IB,” said Gummadi. “Need to update the NonStop X database with the results of a number crunch just executed on the Superdome X? Sure, go ahead and send it over the IB. Need sub-second transaction data from NonStop X to include it for some real-time datalytics? Pull it at IB speeds! NonStop X is indeed enabling a new class of apps to be written. Let us get back to writing cool software.”

It has been my understanding that with NonStop X there is no externalizing of the IB pipes. IB simply terminates with controllers or adapters that support a variety of connectivity options. When it comes to NonStop X, the only thing running over the pair of IB fabrics was the next generation software equivalent of ServerNet, and unless someone was prepared to duplicate this capability on Linux or Unix, what could you really do with IB connections should they be externalized? And yet, with the improved speed IB provides and the tantalizing prospect of seeing x86 blades populated with IB chipsets, present for NonStop as well as these other systems, could this eventually become a viable part of the connectivity equation?

When I pointed out the lack of IB controllers for external connectivity, Gummadi posted the tantalizing response, “As they say, markets drive R&D and R&D shapes the market. In this case, let us start with the Use Cases and let the Roadmap evolve.” Perhaps beneath the smoke was more than just a few sparks, as clearly, some real heat is being thrown off by something taking on more serious form. The possibility of NonStop throwing its mantle around commodity processors has been a tantalizing dream of many working with NonStop and the prospect of something real eventuating is now looking a lot more likely.

And so, the new marketing message for maRunga, as it adds support for hybrid computers based on the x86 architecture, appears to be timely addition. NonStop users have traditionally been conservative and rarely open to suggestion of integrating other systems as part of a NonStop based solution. However, with the adoption of x86 hybrids, the question is turned completely around – now that you have portions of the solution running on platforms apart from NonStop, wouldn’t it be preferable to have these portions operating under the embrace of Pathway? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to be tethered to a system that ensures maximum availability? In other words, could the pull effect from deploying hybrid computers that include NonStop systems become more influential on the outcome of maRunga?

Space travel has always been depicted with hybrid vehicles – one for the long space flight with another, and more than likely multiple vehicles, for the trip to a planet’s surface. Both vehicles important in their own right with very specialized task to accomplish and yet, knowing that the mother ship is orbiting overhead, means there’s always the option of recovery no matter what eventuates. It may be a tenuous comparison but for the NonStop community, the image is all too real. Hybrid computers are coming and yes, NonStop is involved. Hybrids, by definition, are tethered and wouldn’t it be to all our advantage to make sure we keep Pathway involved? As in science fiction movies today, extending Pathway to include what else makes up the hybrid may prove to be the lifeline that keeps the hybrid whole and this might be that special market that drives the R&D that truly shapes the market in favor of NonStop!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Repurposed … NonStop the better server for database?

Architects and intellects worry about what to do with former pristine examples of technology in their day and yet, left to creative individuals, there’s no limits to what can be done to breathe new life into what otherwise might be trashed. For the NonStop community some examples raise interesting questions including the database …

One of the more interesting developments I have witnessed these past decades is the repurposing of buildings – historical buildings catering to entirely new, and often unexpected, patrons. Think Starbucks opening in the foyer of an old Sydney bank branch, near the famous Circular Quay. Think too of the former Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, one of hundreds of decommissioned churches, that was turned into a skate park – a situation that the former elders could never have contemplated as a likely eventuality. The photo above? It’s of a former Lutheran church in Edinburgh, Scotland, that has become of all things, a Frankenstein-themed bar according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). But seriously, aren’t there limits to how far we take this repurposing trend?

In the January 2, 2015, edition of the WSJ reporter, Naftali Bendavid, highlights how
Europe’s Empty Churches Go on Sale  . According to Bendavid, this “reflects the rapid weakening of the faith in Europe, a phenomenon that is painful to both worshipers and others who see religion as a unifying factor in a disparate society.” Painfully for many to read, the WSJ reporter (referencing the Netherlands), then notes how “‘the numbers are so huge that the whole society will be confronted with it,’ says Ms. Grootswagers, an activist with Future for Religious Heritage, which works to preserve churches. ‘Everyone will be confronted with big empty buildings in their neighborhoods.’”

On the same day, the Huffington Post came out with the headlines Piano Stores Are Closing As Fewer Children Take Up The Instrument where reporter, David Pitt, reflected on the fall from grace of a once major pastime for all teenagers. “Some blame computers and others note the high cost of new pianos, but what's clear is that a long-term decline in sales has accelerated,” observed Pitt. Quoting Larry Fine, a Boston-based piano technician, consultant and author, Pitt then added "Computer technology has just changed everything about what kids are interested in.” Moreover, “People are interested in things that don't take much effort, so the idea of sitting and playing an hour a day to learn piano is not what kids want to do."

Loss of churches; loss of piano players – are the two related, I wonder – and it doesn’t stop there. According to BGR, a leading online destination for news and commentary focused on the mobile and consumer electronics markets, “Movie attendance dropped by a surprisingly sharp 5.1% in 2014.” In another post of January 2, 2015, BGR reporter, Tero Kuittinen, headlines with
Netflix is starting to wound the movie industry where it hurts most and goes on to write that “The most worrisome data nugget concerns Americans aged 14-24 — people in this age bracket delivered a stunning 15% decline in movie-going. This comes right after a reported 17% decline in the previous year.” Perhaps these commentaries are a tad too tough on our younger generation as I am sure there are many exceptions; but interesting data points all the same.

All of this news broke on January 2, 2015, and that leads me to make the following observation – was I the only one to pick up on this? There’s a lot of (news) data out there that has to be analyzed and every day, I suspect, nearly all of us are doing some level of broad-brush filtering / analysis – and securely too for that matter (as it’s all in our heads) – but are we really the best prototype of what to expect from Big Data and Business Intelligence / Analytics we know lots about? At a time when there’s no counting the number of times I am being asked about the relevance of Big Data by the NonStop community, is it about time to examine the repurposing of NonStop to better take advantage of one of its best attributes of all – security?

HP NonStop systems represent HP’s halo product offering when it comes to transaction processing – when it absolutely has to be processed no matter what, NonStop comes to the fore. There’s little dispute from anyone who has taken advantage of NonStop about this very important attribute of NonStop, but in a world where “almost-NonStop is good enough” is being heard more often, can we repurpose NonStop to better serve data? As one HP expert counseled me recently, “shouldn’t we be positioning Nonstop as a failsafe and secure database server?”

If real time data analytics is important to us, and the correlation of incoming streams of data, be it transactional, historical, reference, or whatever, shouldn’t the most important data be filed away in a failsafe and secure database enterprise store? My understanding that today, the younger generation doesn’t go to movie theaters, doesn’t go to church and doesn’t play the piano has led me to believe that the interests of younger people lie elsewhere and that technology has much to answer for (and for us, much to worry about, I imagine). Furthermore, such an intersection of stories from numerous sources was something I did in real time – my real time, mind you – and that time is the factor.

Today’s youth apparently doesn’t want to spend an hour practicing the piano, an hour and a half at church or even two hours at the theater. In the always-on world we have created consumers want results immediately, and for the most part, want these results to come with little effort expended on their part. But this is just one example that I have come up with from just reading a couple of newspaper stories and I suspect that there are many more examples that can be recalled by anyone else in the NonStop community. Forgive me for not mentioning that today’s youth doesn’t want to drive, let alone own, a car, but you get the point. In our everyday lives, we are doing exactly the kind of analytics proponents of Big Data are championing; we use our brains to house the application and we access our memories each time we read a new article in the press.

It’s not a stretch to view the similarities here between what we routinely do and what NonStop systems have proven capable of doing for decades. We never go off-line; at least, for our allotted “three score years and ten.” As the HP expert referenced earlier noted, “Nonstop just makes sure that the data always remains available and intact, can't be stolen or tampered with” and that when it comes to simply having data stored on a NonStop system, “that approach can be implemented quickly and with relatively little effort.” Furthermore, and good to know as well, “Experts from HP Enterprise Services tell me that we already excel at serving Java applications connected via JDBC and for C/C++ connected via ODBC.” Not without effort, I must add, as not all Java / Database applications can be easily ported – there’s still considerable effort required, but it’s not the impossible task that some migrations in the past proved to be!

To be very clear, I am not suggesting for a moment that NonStop will be the sole database server in a Big Data framework, but rather, one where the data needs to be free from any possible contamination and where the data contribution to analytics performed against it are free from potential interference. The most important aspect of Big Data for me is to support enterprises making the same observations that I just made (with the news published January 2, 2015), in real time, such that conclusions important to the business can be reached and business outcomes positively affected. CEOs looking over their shoulders at those providing them insight are aware of the temporary nature of their tenure if they don’t adequately shore-up their data and having data on Nonstop as a failsafe and secure database server should lessen their fears substantially.

New opportunities for NonStop? Every vendor I have talked to over the festive season is anxious about just how much commitment HP will be putting into the roll-out of NonStop X – new partners, new applications, new markets are all being discussed openly, so perhaps, adding just one more use-case scenario will be welcomed by all within HP. I have always believed that NS SQL is a key differentiator for NonStop systems – proactively marketing it as an extra special “secure” database server just makes sense. And all I think needs to happen is for more of us within the NonStop community to champion the potential of NonStop – so let me know. What do you think? Is the world now ready for a repurposed NonStop system with a database in residence that never breaks, no matter what!  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome to 2015!

It takes very little encouragement from the HP NonStop team for me to provide my own commentary on what to expect to see in the coming year and for the first post of 2015, it just made perfect sense to blog about it!

Few residents of North America would have missed hearing the news about just how cold New Year’s Eve turned out to be; here in Colorado, a centuries old record for the lowest minimum temperature was set. Recordings at the Denver airport dropped to -19 Fahrenheit by 9:00pm on December 30th, with the high reading of just 1 Fahrenheit being a new record lowest high temperature for December 30th. Nothing cheery or celebratory about this, and even though we had to step outside for a brief period on the afternoon of the 30th, it was very much a case of staying indoors and simply enjoying being rugged up around the fireplace.

As for my ancestral roots, my family tells me that with 2015 being wrung-in, Sydney-siders were enjoying something completely different - temperatures soaring well past the 80s and into the 90s were pretty much the norm and fully expected at this time of the year. BBQs poolside, sailing on Sydney Harbor and catching the waves at Cronulla, Bondi or Manly pretty much summed up the occasion. However, no matter where the celebrations took place and irrespective of what the weather threw our way, it is always good to welcome a New Year and, as the countdown is completed, with the bells ringing out and the fireworks exploding begin to contemplate all that may take place in 2015.

Of course, there will be birthdays and anniversaries but this is not a topic I relish any longer. On the other hand, NonStop has celebrated 40 years and of course, that’s an incredible accomplishment for any technology / architecture given the high rate of failure among alternate product offerings. While I will leave it for another post, I fully anticipate the final days of Sun, as part of Oracle, will take place (yes, speculation is under way that Oracle will split with Sun and that Dell will likely pick up all that’s left) even as I agree with those predicting that Microsoft will spin out the Xbox unit.

More importantly I suspect for the NonStop community is the introduction of the NonStop X family of NonStop servers. It joins the NonStop I family of NonStop Integrity servers, and its arrival marks the last steps to fully commoditize the components that make up today’s modern NonStop system – everything from the chips to the blades to the connectivity fabric, it’s all off-the-shelf technology and it’s being shared with the larger HP Superdome X systems. It’s also being used by “the world’s most scalable and best performing x86 Linux system”, as HP’s Diana Cortes wrote in her post of November 19, 2014, New possibilities to transform your mission-critical environment are just around the corner to the HP Mission Critical Computing Blog – a site I routinely visit and strongly recommend to everyone in the NonStop community.

Social media will be playing a very significant role in the roll-out of NonStop X systems, and why not? In a day where information is shared instantly and globally, more members of the NonStop community are turning to blogs for insight into NonStop deployments than ever before. The opportunity to interact with the bloggers can often sort out fact from fiction and even anecdotal information is proving a godsend to many looking for insight about fellow community members’ use of NonStop today. The tabs across my own browser are predominantly populated with links to blogs from vendors and industry experts and I have to assume this has become common practice throughout our community.

Among my own clients, support of blogs is rampart although the approach taken is a reflection on the communities they serve. For some it’s the inclusion within more popular posts while for others it is maintenance of their own blogs – a similar situation to what we have seen with old style magazines and newsletters. It’s always attractive to gain a couple of pages in a well-read magazine or to be on the front page of a well-read newspaper, electronic or otherwise. My own perspective on this, naturally enough, is to ensure a steady stream of vendor information is always contained in my primary blog – the one you are reading now – Real Time View.

In discussions with InfraSoft’s  Managing Director, Peter Shell, - gaining visibility in other party’s blogs is important and represents a crucial element of Infrasoft’s marketing program. “For us, being referenced in blogs like this as well as in vendor blogs such as those maintained by comForte and IR as well as industry blogs such as ATMmarketplace, assures us far greater readership than if we had our own blog,” Shell told me. “Just generating buzz about our products is what we need and we are most interested in recent events within the NonStop community which are simply confirming our understanding about the value of having the community talking about us. As for 2015 then even as we welcome the New Year we are welcoming new customers and with that, we think all the buzz about us has helped.”

InfraSoft has been in business less than a decade but a similar sentiment has been expressed by DataExpress President, Michelle Marost. “The benefits from participating in more widely-read blogs cannot be disregarded. Providing interesting stories to bloggers to ensure greater participation brings with it a lot more visibility for us and our products than simply going out on our own,” Marost said during a recent conversation. “Naturally blogs are proving invaluable to us through sheer breadth of exposure and the more references to DataExpress the better no matter where such references surface. Of course, we are into securely moving files which is a very hot topic so I suspect whatever anecdotes we provide will find interest and possible traction within the NonStop community.”

Straddling the fence are the good folks at WebAction, where gaining as much visibility as possible is paramount. Even though evangelism is a key element of their messages to the NonStop community as the topic of Big Data and Data-Driven Apps is promoted, WebAction has taken the steps (almost from day one of being in business) to maintain their own WebAction blog. I am very supportive of WebAction and of the need for the NonStop community to be more actively engaged in Big Data so I am among the contributing bloggers to this site where my focus is totally on NonStop. “We are appealing to the broader enterprise industry,” said WebAction Cofounder and EVP, Sami Akbay, “It is important for us to engage with specialist technology bloggers to demonstrate the industry-specific value of WebAction.”

When it comes to my support of vendor and industry blogs it take very little time scrolling through sites like LinkedIn to become aware of those I support – some of the already referenced in this post – but the most important advice I received many years ago, when I first started, came from HP Vice President & General Manager, Integrity Servers, Randy Meyer. When I first posted to this NonStop community blog I advised Meyer of my intentions and his response has stayed with me through the years (and been referenced more than once). “As long as you generate a buzz around NonStop and there’s more ink ‘out there’ on NonStop,” came the advice from Meyer.

And even today, this sums up the real power of social media – in times where even large vendors have shifting priorities, there’s often occasions where little is heard about a specific product or solution but bloggers posting monthly or even weekly, fill the void. There’s little excuse for any member of the NonStop community not being aware of something taking place in the community as it will be reported on one social media channel or the other. And if it’s just the latest about a specific vendor, then a quick check of these same social media channels will more than likely provide coverage.

2015? Well, we just can’t wait to see what really transpires and as the year unfolds and plans are realized, make sure you check out your favorite blog for all the latest news! NonStop X? InifniBand? Security? Clouds? Big Data? Node.js? New solutions? It’s all about to start and a highly visible presence of NonStop in social media will be hard to miss. Yes, welcome to 2015!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Yes, we are getting it!

Along the drifting cloud the eagle searching down on the land; Catching the swirling wind … Go closer, hold the land feel partly no more than grains of sand; We stand to lose all time a thousand answers by in our hand …” so go the lyrics from a YES song written decades ago and yet, it foresaw we stood to lose a thousand answers …

In a play on a title I used for the final post of 2012, Yes, I get it! closing out 2014 brings with it a lot of anticipation. There will be NonStop community members – users and vendors alike – that have placed orders for NonStop X and more than likely have been testing their applications on NonStop X for some time. The prospect of installing your own NonStop X system is bound to arouse excitement typical for this time of year. For all of us living in the northern hemisphere, the prospect of spring seems a long way off, as winter has us fully in its grip, but spring will come, no matter what, and that’s how I sum up NonStop X. It’s coming, no matter what!

Perhaps more importantly for the NonStop community at large, and let me just change gears here, as it’s very easy to forget the real story of NonStop and of the journey that will now see the passing of a major milestone. NonStop thrives because it brings unquestionable value to the most important transactions of all – those reflecting the interaction between business and consumers. Behind the increasingly richer consumer experience all business is pursuing there’s the execution 7 x 24 x 365 in support of every enterprise as they participate in today’s always-on world. This passage in the journey of NonStop will see it flourish as the ability to bring the most modern applications to NonStop proves more practical than at any time in the past. Commodity, openness, embracing standards, and having raw performance is a heady mix for anyone in IT.

Yes, we get it! When it comes to fulfilling its mission for the enterprise, like something from a movie plot – whether Star Wars or simply Lara Croft – we are witnessing changes on a scale that I have not seen in the many decades I have been part of the IT world. The Internet of Things (IoT) will influence all we do in unimaginable ways with literally streams of data passing us by as grains of sand. Yottabytes of data will become commonplace for many of the larger enterprises. With the arrival of IoT, Big Data will take on an even bigger role within the enterprise – we just have to know about these “things” to stay competitive in our marketplace.

HP Master Technologist, ES&A Americas, Justin Simonds, has been giving presentations on IoT a lot of late, including at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp in November, 2014. Among the slides he used one featured excerpts from the book, Fundamentals of Stream Processing, where the authors spelt out the requirements for processing the streams of data arriving at our door. “Parallel Processing”, the “Ability to Scale” and “Fault Tolerance” top the list, and for good reason. “Other application segments however cannot tolerate any failures as they may contain a critical persistent state that must survive even catastrophic failures,” the authors observe, yet another observation not lost on the NonStop community.

When we talk about clouds I foresee clouds to be just as we see them above us, in the sky – there will be thunderous cumulous clouds rising to great heights, cirrus clouds also riding high in the sky, stratus clouds much closer to the ground and of course combinations of all three. Commodity clouds, enterprise clouds, industry and association clouds and yes, as with real clouds, combinations of them all. Whiteboards everywhere will be depicting clouds within clouds intersecting with other clouds and all in the name of flexibility and versatility – the potential to dream as big as we want to.

Yes, now we are getting it! I have participated in a number of discussions of late that bemoan the fact that much of the NonStop installed base is among very conservative clients. By the very nature of the applications being supported, there is considerable resistance to change of any sort, less these mission-critical applications should founder. So watching the take up of the latest iteration of NonStop – the new NonStop X family – will be more than interesting to watch. Will the traditional strongholds of NonStop in banking, retail and the vast networks of credit and debit processing that support these industries find new ways to deploy NonStop X?

IoT will mandate Big Data just as Big Data will mandate Clouds – it’s the only way the enterprise can keep up and with Clouds, x86 will dominate for the foreseeable future and finding a home in the Clouds will be NonStop. Of that I am extremely confident – ask OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. In the December, 2014, edition of the eNewsletter, TandemWorld, there’s the heading
OmniPayments Is First NonStop Partner to Take Delivery of a “NonStop X” You will need to page down a little way to read the story that follows, but suffice to say OmniPayments Inc. will be the first HP NonStop partner to take possession of the new NonStop X server and the NonStop X is on schedule for delivery by the end of the year! Talk to Yash about where he is headed and it’s all about clouds – a basic cloud service utilizing NonStop is already operational at OmniPayments.

Returning to what will likely trigger initial interest across the NonStop community in IoT I have the sense that it will come from mobility and it will just as likely impact the very same banks and retailers already referenced. In the very near term, many of us will dispense with our wallets, other than as fashion items, and turn increasingly to our mobile phones. As “smart devices” we will be using them for much more than purchasing a latte and the subsequent explosion in network traffic will be obvious even to the most conservative of NonStop users – nothing startling here, I suspect. “Mobility is ushering in a new peer to peer paradigm from the older client / server browser / server model,” I was told by one knowledgeable source within HP, leading me to believe we will most likely see a change in the type of applications deployed on NonStop as the computing model continues to evolve.

Inside the data centers themselves expect to see not just NonStop systems but IBM mainframes as well – all networked and all engaged in the support of modern applications. Writing a little too soon, I suspect, an IBM blogger posted last month
The ultimate JavaScript environment: Node.js and Linux on System z. In today’s discussions about modernization, Node.js is never far from the spotlight. According the IBM blogger, “For those of you looking for a screaming server-side JavaScript environment, your search is over. IBM recently made available IBM SDK for Node.js Version 1.1 (even though it ‘is not formally related to or endorsed by the official Joyent Node.js open source or commercial project’) for Linux on System z. It is ideal for high-performance JavaScript server applications or to consolidate many server applications to one system to save time and money.”

Given the work being done by InfraSoft with considerable cooperation and feedback from the HP NonStop organization, as one HP source told me this past week, “Once again NonStop is out of the gates early with a JavaScript offering”. If you have just received your copy of the Nov – Dec, 2104 issue of
The Connection magazine you will have seen that the cover features the headlines, “Node.js on the HP NonStop Server” so clearly, IBM with Linux on System z doesn’t have a lock on Node.js inside the data center.

IBM System z CICS and HP NonStop Pathway are being taught entirely new dance routines and it’s a credit to their original creators that they are proving to be as adapt as they are to change. The better NonStop X and System z work together, the more prestige NonStop will enjoy and with NonStop X supporting higher LAN speeds (thanks to the InfinBand fabric supporting LAN adapters) it’s safe to say that what NonStop brings to the enterprise, in terms of price point, availability and indeed, scale-out, will be welcomed inside the data center of many an enterprise.

It’s the holiday season and it’s a festive occasion for all of us, no matter where we reside. There were many pleasant surprises among my extended family as we ripped wrapping paper from gifts and all the while I was remembering just how far we have all come on this NonStop journey. Forty years ago, NonStop were among the earliest systems to feature terminals from day one of their release. They adapted to the client server world easily and the arrival of the internet with browser access barely caused a ripple. Mobile devices? No worries – piece of cake.

Likewise, from files and tables to databases to SQL and now to Big Data, even noSQL – integration with whatever data model is most needed by the enterprise hasn’t halted the progress of NonStop. Open the next surprise gift, take a quick look and yes, a process here and a routine there and it’s supported as has been every technology introduced for the past forty years. NonStop is just that versatile and we all get that, some sooner than others, naturally.

So welcome to 2015 and yes, welcome the NonStop X family; embrace Big Data, Clouds, Mobility, IoT – work at better integrating with all we find inside the data center; Blue, Red, or otherwise. You aren’t doing anything wrong or different from what many others in the NonStop community will be doing and celebrating. Most of all? Don’t miss, as the song writer exhorted, those thousand answers that lie in our hands! And with 2015, the next part of the journey begins and it won’t be long before the industry gets it, too!

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!