Monday, November 28, 2016

A last look at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2016

From the many activities listed in the NonStop Technical Boot Camp program there were presentations, panels and social events that I really liked. Each of them added a big exclamation point to the value proposition from attending this event …

Margo and I have always loved to travel even as we have always loved to entertain and there have been many miles covered in the years since leaving Tandem Computers even as there have been many good times around our BBQ and alongside our pool. In many ways, the willingness of Margo and I to entertain at our home have defined us to the community as looking back through Facebook and the social blog posts we have made, there is rarely a comment passed that hasn’t included some references to the fun times we have had.  If you were an ITUG volunteer or even an ITUG Board member not to mention a SHARE volunteer or SHARE Board member, you will remember the times you may have spent in our company.

All of this is by way of introduction to the fondness Margo and I have for all gatherings of the NonStop community – today's users of technology are often accused of adding fuel to a legacy model for networking but if that’s true, then Margo and I will willingly take some of the blame. But networking is just such a powerful communications tool that has so many side benefits that there is little chance of us ever scaling back on our willingness to continue sponsoring such gathering.

This past NonStop Technical Boot Camp was perhaps a strong reminder for us all just how much the NonStop community warms to the occasion and it’s such a great feeling to have as we left the venue knowing that in 2017 there will likely be even more attendees than this year – NonStop sales are growing at double digit pace so wouldn’t it be good to see future NonStop user events enjoying a similar level of growth.

What really captured my attention and what did Margo and I enjoy most at this year’s event? From presentations to workshops to panels to social events, there was a lot of good material from which to pull stories and there will still be many more written before the year winds down. However, what has been on my mind has been a mixture of social occasions, a panel session and yes, real user presentations.

Oftentimes, the networking opportunities that arise at events like Boot Camp are discounted and more or less relegated to the nice-to-enjoy bucket but they are valuable for determining what’s really going on across the NonStop community. I have touched on this in previous posts to this blog so won’t be revisiting the topic other than to start out with saying one of the highlights of this year’s Boot Camp was a farewell dinner comForte held for Dr. Michael Rossbach.

Michael has been a good friend of the community for many years and has been a strong advocate for user events ever since I began attending ITUG Summits and associated RUG meetings. He has stepped in numerous times to help out financially ensuring comForte always had a presence and over time, of course, this served him well as he saw comForte develop as one of the more influential partners within the NonStop vendor community.

The photo above was taken of Michael with his brother Knut on one of those occasions when we entertained clients at our home. At the time I snapped the photo I wasn’t sure what the topic was that they were discussing but it looked serious and that is one of the few times I have seen such intensity – Michael has always been a warm and friendly host whenever he has entertained guests and Margo and I wish him all the best for his retirement even as we will miss his presence at events like Boot Camp.

Networking of a different kind saw me participate on a small panel where the topic was services. Following the news from HPE that NonStop was now enjoying its second year of double-digit growth, a revelation to many of the attendees at Boot Camp, the topic of this panel session was how would companies manage to staff up to support the deployment of more NonStop systems as well as more applications on NonStop. Where was the knowledge going to come from as we entered a new era with virtual NonStop (vNonStop) capturing market share.

It is easy for HPE’s own IT to deploy vNonStop and to implement NonStop SQL on the basis of a new DBaaS offering – they had all the NonStop skills they would ever need just across the hall (or across the ocean) inside of the NonStop development team. But this is not the case for everyone else and coming at a time where there is a record number of retirements together with limited educational programs (and simply not offered in many regions) – how will access to skilled NonStop personnel grow in numbers commensurate with the double-digit growth in NonStop sales?

TCM Solutions led off the session with an aptly named presentation, Adapt or Die! A tad draconian for some tastes but it made the point that the audience agreed upon – there’s a compelling story behind the growth in companies providing managed services. TCM happens to be one such provider and they have found a willing market in Europe even as they plan on entering other regions, including North America. The questions that were directed my way during this session had mostly to do with whether or not there was a way to tap into the presence of a very knowledgeable and all together willing work force of retirees, all looking to continue to provide support. 

The shortest and simplest answer from me was to contact your nearest managed services vendor – something that the folks from TCM were only too willing to acknowledge. As enthusiastic as I am about another generation of NonStop supporters coming into the marketplace – something I acknowledged in a discussion I started in the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop simply called
NonStop "young guns" (If as yet you haven’t joined this LinkedIn group – you may want to consider doing so) I also have a great deal of respect for the knowledge and experience brought to the table by the retirees, many of whom did not really seek the opportunity to go fishing, but were persuaded with high payouts….

Managed services providers will see a major uptick in interest by NonStop users in the coming year and a half particularly as we see vNonStop making inroads into the data centers of the biggest NonStop users. However, existing solutions and middleware software vendors are already taking a serious look at either partnering with existing managed services providers or complementing their product offerings with Software-as-a-Service out of cloud computing environments they create.

One of the more compelling reasons to attend events like Boot Camp is to hear from other NonStop users who are deploying new solutions on NonStop. With double-digit growth, there has to be quite a number of them but even after hearing how well AsiaPac / Japan has done in terms of adding “new logos” it’s very important to hear from users a lot closer to home. OmniPayments supported two such presentations – Banco Agrario replaces Unix-based financial transaction switch with NonStop X solution which saw a new NonStop X system installed, and Casa Ley select new loyalty rewards program on HPE NonStop which excited me just as much.

Adding a second or third application onto an already installed NonStop systems is a healthy situation. As Craig Lawrance, VP New Business Development EMEA, OmniPayments, Inc., reminded me after the event, “End-user presentations created discussions which were hugely positive. To my way of thinking, every HPE field member should have been in that room after all, they want new Nonstop customers, right?” Following these user presentations OmniPayments hosted a late night “Nightcap” for attendees where they provided a live demo highlighting just how many transactions can flow through an OmniPayments switch.

According to OmniPayments VP Client Services, Jessica Nieves, “The NonStop System used for the demo was a NonStop X NS7 X1 featuring 6
quad-core CPUs. OmniPayments was configured to run in four of them while our simulators were configured to run on the other two. We sent over five million purchase transactions to OmniPayments and we exceeded 5,000tps. The CPUs were only running at half capacity while the average response time remained around 4ms. Shortly, there will be a video becoming available that describes this demo and I will let everyone know the moment that happens.”

Looking back at Boot Camp 2016 and at the presentations, panels and social events where I was present, they all reminded me of just how far NonStop has come in a very short span of time. The references here to comForte, TCM and OmniPayments are just a few examples from many that I could have featured when it comes to the variety of sessions that made up this event. I hope that as Boot Camp continues to grow, there will be many more I can reference in future posts.

Recalling the early days of Boot Camp going back to 2010 or was it 2009 when a NonStop-centered event was given a reboot, they were very humble beginnings indeed. And even as I wrap up this post, the final in the series on Boot Camp, I have to admit I am really looking forward to the return event which in 2017 will be held on Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco and I hope to see even more of you in attendance as that date rolls around!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

vNonStop – coming to a desktop near you!

NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2016 wrapped up a few days ago but with the start of a new week, it’s still very fresh in our minds. Did it meet all your expectations? Does the future of NonStop look bright for you? There are still many more questions but at least now we have so many more answers than ever before …

The NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2016 wrapped up last week and it left all attendees with much to think about. Not the least because attendance was, once again, up from the same event last year – more than 450 enthusiastic members from the NonStop community. And yes, there were plenty of NonStop users in the audience, which is a very healthy sign for all involved in organizing the event. My congratulations go out to every individual who in any way contributed to making sure the event went off without a hitch. More importantly, for those pondering the future of NonStop well, what can we say - the future now looks bright!

It was an easy drive for Margo and me this year – no sudden snowstorm in the Sierras and no road closures in the Rockies. We chose to take the northern route from Boulder, Colorado, that took us through Wyoming and then in to Utah and it proved easy going. It also gave us lots of time to speculate on what we might see and hear at the event as we drove westward to San Jose even as it gave us more than enough time on the return trip to Boulder to dissect what was actually said at the event. On the way over we were concerned whether it would be more of the same – generalities with soft dates but it didn’t go that way. On our way back it was more a case of now what! NonStop was staging a comeback unlike any of us had anticipated just a few short years ago.

Comeback? Seriously, NonStop re-energizing marketplaces? NonStop going virtual! NonStop inside the clouds! NonStop on the Edge! NonStop supporting Blockchain! There were moments during the event where Margo and I heard the very distinct sounds of an audience inhaling noticeably with surprise. As optimistic as I have been through the years – I’ve always been the “glass is half full” kind of guy when it comes to anything to do with NonStop – it’s clear that whatever restraints had been placed on NonStop have been well and truly cut. It’s now only up to the imagination of solutions vendors to find the boundaries of the new NonStop and even then, they will be hard to find. Just as importantly, it’s up to HPE marketing and sales to communicate a consistent message to the marketplace - #NonStopRocks!

Last year, it was all about Yuma and InfiniBand (IB) and the potential to couple NonStop with Linux in Hybrid Systems configurations, with just a side reference to the potential for NonStop to find a home as a guest of a virtual machine. Since then, Yuma has been productized as NSADI – NonStop Application Direct Interface – with middleware and solutions vendors openly discussing early adoption. One workshop, jointly conducted by comForte and DataExpress actually provided insights into what performance can be expected from using NSADI even as they openly admitted that there was even more work to be done before the real performance characteristics could be ascertained. When comparing IB to regular TCP/IP (over Ethernet and with CLIMs), the image that was presented was akin to comparing a multilane freeway with a well-paved two lane highway. Fill as many lanes as you can possibly do with IB and it looks as thought the performance scales linearly.

This year, it was all about virtualization and the likely impact of Industrial IoT (IIoT). These messages were introduced by Randy Meyer, VP & GM Mission Critical Systems at HPE, who began by quoting HPE CEO, Meg Whitman. "If you can't name the problem, you have no hope of fixing it," she said and something that was repeated in an article published late last year in Business Insider and even with its roots in organizational aspects of HPE it applies equally to product development. For the NonStop community this has particular relevance – and yes, there are always risks in taking the initiative – providing virtual NonStop (vNonStop) has its roots in real needs arising in the telco industry (who want to virtualize everything) but also in the very real needs of HPE IT.

The photo above is of two servers, each with two sockets housing Xeon x86 chips with 14 cores running OpenStack software, including the KVM hypervisor. Providing the fabric interconnect was a Converged Ethernet switch supported by RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). All off the shelf hardware and as you can tell, sitting atop a desk. The coffee cup beside the fully functioning vNonStop system gives you a good idea of just how much room these DL380 Gen 9 physical servers takes up and while a far cry from anything an enterprise might consider using in a production environment, just about every developer who saw the system wanted one to take home. Development, testing and QA as well as staging and piloting would all be good candidates for similar configurations and I fully anticipate such configurations entering the marketplace in the first half of calendar 2017.

Just as relevant and very timely was the keynote presentation given by former Tandem Computers leader, Dr. Tim Chou, who titled his presentation Precision Planet. Focused on IIoT, Tim walked the audience through the major transition from the Internet of People to the Internet of Things giving us all an appreciation that things aren’t people! Already there are more things connected than people and it’s only going to skew even more favorably for things versus people with the passage of time. “Things can be where people can’t (be)! Things have (way) more to say! Things can talk more frequently! Things can be programmed, people can’t!” And yes, Tim introduced us all to the prospect of a future with considerable “Digital Exhaust” and on the drive back to Boulder, never out of site of eighteen wheelers, this image of digital exhaust never left us.

Will there be a role for NonStop out on the edge? Will HPE provide Edgeline products capable of running NonStop? With the addition of new Edgeline products supporting Xeon and capitalizing on Moonshot packaging, we will soon adopt to IoT edge solutions that are both lightweight (buried in walls, etc.) as well as heavier weight servers spread throughout the network performing real time analytics. Of course, this plays well to the team at Striim and after meeting with Sami Akbay, EVP & Cofounder at WebAction, Inc. (the company behind Striim), “it’s really a different kind of analytics that’s taking place out at the edge – light or heavy – but one that the NonStop community should be very familiar with as it’s real time and transaction centric.” Perhaps those HPE solutions architects involved in very early stage consideration of NonStop on the Edge have something going for them after all!

Real breakthroughs with NonStop and more importantly, real breakthroughs in addressing customer problems – yes, we have plenty of business problems we could name and where NonStop could be a solution – provided plenty of material with which to work and as the week unfolded, I was able to post numerous times to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View. If you missed any of these posts, they have been summarized (with links to all of them) in a new post to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse. Check out: The week in review – a successful NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2016 or cut and past this link into your browser: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/week-review-successful-nonstop-technical-boot-camp-2016-buckle?trk=mp-author-card For each of these posts I included words from songs current and past as it’s just something I tend to do – see if you make the same connection with these popular lyrics as I did.

As Boot Camp came to the last night, there was a Reception and Casino night held on what had been the exhibition floor. Suddenly transformed into a fun venue where attendees could pursue their favorite Casino game whether Roulette, Craps, or BlackJack trying their best to bluff their fellow gamblers, it provided a much needed lighthearted forum for further networking. All the while, it was hard to ignore that vNonStop system we all had seen running in the corner of the exhibition hall. There was no faking or bluffing going on here among the HPE NonStop team – this was the real deal and a completely new approach to supporting NonStop that has all the potential in the world to take NonStop in a completely new direction.

And of course, seeing it on the floor of the Reception and Casino venue, it would have been hard for any of the attendees not to think of the lines from the Bog Seeger song of the 1980s, Still the Same:

A gambler's share
The only risk that you would take
The only loss you could forsake
The only bluff you couldn't fake

At a time when there is news of Global Temperatures Are Mostly Fake and of Record Crushing Fraud From NOAA And NASA after reports of readings from non-existent sensors, covering half the planet, were revealed and a situation that “would get them fired and probably escorted out of the building by security at many engineering companies.” And yes, at the same time, news too came of Facebook having released Inflated Ad Metrics, Fake News at about the same time that the U.S. population began to suspect data may have been faked with election polls in the lead up to the election, it’s good to see that vNonStop hasn’t been faked in any way – getting HPE to show its hand may likely get you vNonStop on x86 servers in ways we could have only dreamed about just a short time ago. And yes, it may even be coming to a desktop near you very soon!

Monday, November 7, 2016

There’s power in networking; NonStop community does it better than most!

Even as we scan the agenda and sessions-at-a-glance for next week’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp, the opportunities for networking remain high on the list of priorities for most attendees. And for a good reason – networking is the cultural heart of the NonStop community and shouldn’t be missed! 

The first Saturday of each month sees a gathering of car enthusiast at our local coffee shop. What shows up on any given Saturday can be anything from a rusty 1950s coupe to a  fully restored 1960s muscle car to a couple of full-on race cars. The Corvettes depicted above are from a nearby racing school, appropriately enough called GO4IT, and they are regular attendees at our local race track, the High Plains Raceway. Seeing the crowd that gathered around these two cars was a reminder of how it takes very little to attract car enthusiasts even as it also reminded me that networking among car enthusiasts is ultimately the major draw card as ownership of many of the cars on show changes hands with some regularity. 

While presenting at CTUG last month I opened with a couple of slides featuring blog posts and online commentaries and invariably one of the posts in the collage that was projected included a picture of a car. When I attempted to apologize for yet another car photo the audience responded with a chuckle or two before someone responded with “we like to see the cars!” As it’s been a couple of posts since I featured any car I felt it was perhaps timely to do so as the focus of almost everyone in the NonStop community this week is the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp. If the sight of many cars can be the draw card for networking among car enthusiasts then there is no bigger draw card that attracts networking among the NonStop community than Boot Camp.

From its earliest days, Tandem Computers valued networking. In fact, the original Friday afternoon beer bust on the Tandem campus in Cupertino, California, originated as a means for everyone to engage in open dialogue, no matter where they stood on the corporate ladder. Jimmy could be seen talking to a developer even as Dave Rynne or Bob Marshall could be seen talking to someone from manufacturing. Coming from Australia, the first time I made it to Friday beer bust I instantly warmed up to the practice as Australians had enjoyed informal beer busts as a means of enhancing communication for quite a long time. To see it formalized the way it was at Tandem left everyone who ever participated with a very positive impression about the level to which Tandem would go to encourage all employees to network.

Over the years, the NonStop community too has integrated beer busts into the many user events that were held around the world and at this year’s Boot Camp, it comes as no surprise that first up, Sunday night, starting at 6:00 pm, there will be the official Boot Camp Kickoff Beer Bust that to many will be a priority. I can think of no better way to start networking than over a couple of beers, especially as it follows a number of very interesting pre-conference workshops.

Want to know who’s really been testing and leveraging the NonStop Application Direct Interface (NSADI that, as of last year, what had been previously called the Yuma project) then join the workshop starting at 3:00 pm. As for a workshop on security then take your pick as there are several workshops starting much earlier on Sunday, with the first kicking off at 8:00 am.

Sunday nights’ Beer Bust takes us back to a more laid-back, casual, atmosphere where the NonStop community can freely discuss projects and implementations as well as plans for further roll-out of new solutions featuring NonStop. Contrary to many technology pundits expectations, NonStop continues to roll and for good reason. The unique benefits of today’s NonStop systems remain unmatched by any other product offering and yes, it matters – availability matters; scale matters; performance matters; efficiency matters.

Attendees at any of the lead up regional events will have heard this message numerous times and it remains key to the success of NonStop. If you aren’t all that certain, head to the Sunday night Beer Bust and just ask anyone in attendance as they will make this value proposition abundantly clear.

Scrolling down through the agenda for Boot Camp, the first nights Beer Bust isn’t the only opportunity to network. Monday night features not one but two separate opportunities to network. At 5:00 pm all attendees can join the Boot Camp Reception hosted by many companies from the NonStop vendor community. Monday night too has been the time when, traditionally, vendors take selected users to dinner but having the option to network on a grander scale is definitely going to prove attractive to the NonStop community.

After all, as it’s so often said, you cannot have too much of a good thing, right? Fortunately, whether you have joined a vendor for dinner or socialized with other attendees at the Reception, as these events wind down there’s still one more important opportunity that will start up at 8:30 pm.

Proving popular last year, even though it was held in a reception room that was a little hard to find, there will again be the Final Nightcap of the Day hosted by OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash. This time the venue will be the Gold Room located in the main building of the Fairmont Hotel, where earlier in the day several of the sessions will have been held. And as of time of posting, there is late breaking news!

OmniPayments, Inc. CEO Yash will be putting on a demo of just how fast transactions can be processed on NonStop X - yes, a 4,000 tps demo. This is something I want to see and I am sure there will be many others interested in watching a payments solution process this many transactions per second. OmniPayments are headlining this demo as “OmniPayments and NSX - Thunder and Lighting 4,000 TPS Demo!”


Yash tells me that last year, the similar event ran past midnight and so I have the sense that, with an even more convenient venue, that duration may be surpassed. There’s never any shortage of NonStop users willing to share their stories as they network with their peers to find out what other NonStop users are doing to better support the enterprises where they work.


If you would like to catch up with Margo and me we will both be in attendance at the Final Nightcap of the Day and we would be only too pleased to catch up with you – Margo has volunteered to help out Connect and so many of you will likely run into her working on the registration desk so of course say Hi! and yes, by all means, let her know of how you are looking forward to any and all opportunities to network over the course of the event. Who knows, you may catch her sipping on an adult beverage somewhere in the Fairmont. As for me, well, I may be off in a corner somewhere as I will be providing routine updates on the event to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View, as this is something I have been doing for many years now – and if as yet you haven’t joined this LinkedIn group, check it out!

There will be so much attention given to sessions by executives and to product presentations by HPE and the many vendors participating even as there will be a number of user presentations as well. This attentions shouldn’t be downplayed in any way as this is central to the success of Boot Camp – it’s the place to really come to terms with all that is transpiring in the world of NonStop. With as many as six separate breakout sessions running in parallel for most of the three days, there will be a lot of time where the NonStop community is scattered throughout the conference floor of the hotel.

The exhibition hall will be a constant draw card, of course, and from memory, coffee and drinks will be served on the exhibition floor. So yes, there will be many smaller conversations taking place but when it comes to networking with our peers, this event has left no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring there is a forum that any attendee will find attractive and highly conducive to networking.

It may be a tradition for the NonStop community. It may not be as flashy as a cars and coffee show (as far as what’s on display) and yet, it may be far more productive. As a former Tandem Computers product manager and then, much later, Chairman of the ITUG board, I have witnessed first-hand several discoveries made at NonStop events as “eureka moments” took place.

NonStop has always prided itself on having a very proactive ecosystem of vendors and that’s very beneficial for every NonStop stakeholder and perhaps Beer Busts and the like aren’t to everyone’s taste even as there may be those harboring some angst over the possible political incorrectness of it all, but if you want to be sure to catch Margo and me at some point, head to any one of these social events as for sure, you will find us there. Yes, GO4IT! and see you all at Boot Camp next week!
    

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Oh Canada! NonStop RUG, CTUG, enjoys a packed house.

Every successful system and platform attracts an ecosystem; whether it’s groups of users, vendors, service providers and even media channels all of them provide a vital “service” and NonStop is seeing it’s ecosystem continue to grow …

As readers of the NonStop community blog, Real Time View, know all too well, when opportunity to drive somewhere to meet with the NonStop community presents itself and there’s time on the calendar to make the tip possible, you can count on Margo and me to put in the hours behind the wheel to get there. And the drive to Mississauga, Ontario is always one of the longer trips on our calendar we do our very best to make sure we make it. Last year was a little bit of a let-down as for one reason or another we attended MATUG outside Washington D.C. but found we had no time to drive to Canada. Oh dear …

But logistics aside, we missed listening to Mr. T – Jimmy Treybig – and I suspect further opportunities to hear from Jimmy will lessen in time so yes, from that perspective, electing to drive can be sometimes problematic. As for this year, choosing CTUG meant we couldn’t make it to NENUG that this year represented a combination of community members from New England and New York. On the other hand, being a participant at this year’s CTUG event was reward enough to make the time behind the wheel enjoyable.

The HPE NonStop development team is moving fast. This has been the message coming from its leader, Andy Bergholz, whenever he has the opportunity to address a large gathering of NonStop users. It’s not something that Andy simply throws out there on a whim but rather, truly reflects all that is taking place in support of NonStop. To paraphrase a popular commercial, “You don’t know NonStop” if you have missed any recent NonStop events as it’s front and center in the march to hybrid infrastructure with converged systems. And it isn’t stopping with this as at CTUG we were briefed on much more that is in store for NonStop that continued to surprise even the hardiest of NonStop supporters.

The good news is that from my perspective, I am seeing the team from NonStop development working more closely with the NonStop vendor community. When one question was raised late in the day about the potential for NonStop development to develop a capability, the response was unequivocal. With three competitive products from the NonStop community already in the market, this wasn’t a priority for NonStop development – there would be no competing with NonStop vendors on this occasion.

Whenever business looks at technology particularly with new product initiatives be they a major solution from a well-established vendor or simply the latest project coming out of the open source initiatives, these businesses want to see a thriving ecosystem actively involved with the technology or product. Today, NonStop may not attract the types of major vendors that are better known within the media but that isn’t to say, the NonStop vendors active in the NonStop market are any less important.

Again, personally, I would like to see many more vendors in the NonStop marketplace but the core group of NonStop vendors that are committed to NonStop ensure that there is little that NonStop systems cannot do today – and when the discussion turns to issues of modernization, staffing and integration with what surrounds NonStop today, all the pieces that business would need are present. When another question was raised about NonStop doing more to bring down the costs of NonStop the response from NonStop development was immediate.

“Have you really looked at the costs to run NonStop compared to a Linux solution?” When you look at the tab to run a reasonably sized cluster of Linux and throw in the utilities, databases, replication, etc. licenses and then look at the associated support costs, the true value of HPE providing an integrated stack in addition to the NonStop operating system, most businesses would be shocked to see the bottom line – NonStop is more than competitive with the best of the open source offerings.

Several years ago I did a study on the true cost of ownership (TCO) of NonStop and compared it to both Windows and Linux offerings. The report I produced can still be found on the HPE web site and has been referenced in a number of NonStop presentations and it didn’t mince words. If you aren’t aware of this research note, then check out
NonStop offers the lowest TCO  in its class for complex  mission-critical applications And this was before the work that led to the release of the latest family of NonStop systems, the NonStop X. Point is, HPE has done a tremendous amount of work that has seen the TCO for NonStop drop to its lowest level all time. However, it’s not just the costs for a NonStop system itself that needs to be taken into consideration but the ecosystem of NonStop vendors.

What is often overlooked is that within this ecosystem, questions about configurations, APIs, integration at the file and message level, etc. can all be quickly and easily addressed with a single call or email. And more often than not, for free. Going one step further, raising a question on any one of multiple LinkedIn groups focused on NonStop and there will be multiple responses produced in barely a heartbeat – that’s what the NonStop community does best today. NonStop has a thriving ecosystem and it’s not just a group of product companies but increasingly today, it includes managed service providers as well.

Not sure how to manage a new NonStop X deployment – then call in any one of these managed service providers and they will be quick to set your mind at ease. Scattered globally there is bound to be a couple of them that serve your geography and increasingly, your industry. And don’t forget too, several of these managed service providers can actually do all the work necessary to order and then commission a brand new NonStop system. When I was at BITUG earlier this year and sat down with TCM CEO, Tony Craig, I was really impressed even as I was taken aback by just how comprehensive managed service offerings have become.

My earlier reference to a research note I wrote on NonStop also touches on the subject of publications and commentaries. This month, a new monthly publication has been launched and it is one that has Margo and I actively involved. Indeed, Margo is the Managing Editor of the publication, the NonStop Insider. By now, you probably have been emailed with the links but in case this is news to you, then read the
October issue and let us know what you think.

This is just the latest addition to a growing list of publications now supporting NonStop and whether your preference is for a Connect publication such as The Connection, or Tandemworld or even the Availability Digest, the good news here is that there are multiple sources you can turn to for up-to-date information on all things NonStop related. A thriving, indeed growing, media ecosystem is every bit as important as the ecosystem we have in support of products and services and I think that this is one of the big surprises that has come out of the recent RUG events we have participated in – so many members of the NonStop community are now deriving their income solely from supporting NonStop!

The upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp is now only a few weeks ago and a lot more will be written promoting this major NonStop event in those weeks. At the recent RUG events there has been much that has been hinted-at by the NonStop folks giving presentations so expectations among the NonStop community are running high. CTUG proved popular and was a packed house for the entire time I was there but hints about what was to come were being provided on a regular basis.

However, whatever is eventually disclosed at Boot Camp I suspect will still be only a small part of what NonStop development is pursuing as for sure, they are moving fast. A lot of the attention will be on the data base and the big changes happening with NS SQL/MX but like everyone else, I am going to have to wait to see what is announced on the day.

Ecosystems surrounding popular technologies, products and services are always a good sign for any business evaluating solutions. When it comes to NonStop then there is an abundance of vendors making up a very strong ecosystem. And whether it’s a product, a service, a simple question or two, the NonStop community has never been better served than it is today and this is something we all need to share with our associates and colleagues as for sure, I have to believe, for many of them, “They don’t know NonStop!”

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall is a time to take in change; RUG events likewise are time to reflect on change with NonStop

NonStop is evolving yet again as it heads down different roads. Just how disruptive a technology NonStop will become? Why don’t you participate in the next Regional User Group (RUG) meeting to find out!

In my previous post I wrote of my brief encounter with a simulated race track experience at HPE Discover 2016 and of how I didn’t much care for the simulator. This past week Margo and I drove through Colorful Colorado on our way to Scottsdale for the DUST Regional User Group (RUG) meeting and my earlier observation about not caring for simulation was justified. There’s nothing like the real thing and the display of color this year was as good as it has ever been. The photo above was taken while Margo was behind the wheel approaching the town of Durango, CO!

For this trip, we elected to skip the freeways and stick to paths less traveled. In so doing, we couldn’t help comment about the path HPE was now treading as it pushed ahead with dramatic changes for NonStop. And these changes are taking place rather rapidly – from a single NonStop system to a Hybrid NonStop with Linux (and Windows) to no system at all. NonStop running virtually on commercial off-the-shelf hardware, and while these transformations have been well broadcast before their availability there’s still considerable surprise over what we are now seeing coming from the NonStop development.

However, it just had to happen. For NonStop to continue to be a contributor to then bigger HPE, NonStop the system, the platform and the software had to change its ways. At no time did I ever consider that NonStop was a “club” where only those invited few would meet around drinks and talk of the good old days. One of the difficulties many vendor user groups have suffered from over the past decade is exactly this – as numbers of systems and number of installations declined, they closed ranks and simply enjoyed fellowship with each other. This is far from a healthy sign for such organizations and it’s so easy for the more established user groups to go down this path. For the vendors, it’s perplexing and not something that excites them any longer – why fund an organization that simply feeds itself?

I have been told more than once that user groups and the communities they serve are just one more example of legacy. We have always done this, so the commentary goes, and after four or even more decades, this is who we are. This is our culture and our comfort zone but unfortunately, it does very little to encourage newcomers to join the ranks. And this is precisely why I keep returning to the RUG events no matter where they may be held. NonStop RUGs generate such  positive energy for me that participation in them remains a priority and no, they aren’t becoming “exclusive” clubs. These days, I am pretty much restricted to those being organized in the Americas but the word I received following the recent VNUG event outside Stockholm seems to confirm that what I am witnessing here is very similar to what is happening elsewhere.

I have to thank
OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, for giving me an opportunity to present on his behalf at DUST. In so doing, I was given considerable leeway by Yash to frame OmniPayments latest services option – OmniCloudX – within the context of the changing NonStop landscape. Not too long ago I posted to the ATMmarketplace blog, Dressing up for the occasion ... where I referenced the work being done by OmniPayments to deliver a hybrid system, all LAN connected, in the one box. “Yash anchored HP standard chassis for rack-mounted processors with enough processors to support the key components of his payments solution running on HP NonStop. He then threw in a couple of Atalla security modules before topping off with ProLiant servers running Linux and Windows.”

However, that was just the start for Yash as he worked to better leverage what he saw coming in the NonStop roadmaps that were being presented at RUG events. OmniPayments may be offering its OmniPayments suit out of a cloud that’s based on NonStop X systems, but looking further afield, there is little to suggest Yash will not be adding support for NSADI / Yuma for faster access, exploiting more of the “white space” he has observed when running on NonStop. Translation? More applications coming back to run on NonStop! There are two other aspects of what Yash is pursuing that truly intrigue me – centralization and build-your-own!

Centralization; what the arrival of hybrid infrastructures with mixed NonStop and Linux (and Windows) does is foster greater centralization. Aren’t public clouds nothing more than Service Bureaus and Time Sharing Options (TSO) revisited? If you trace the roots of clouds back far enough in time, you will be surprised to see that their initial popularity was derived from the reality that business didn’t have access to qualified IT staff. With few businesses prepared to invest in training any more, isn’t it reasonable to expect centralization is a return to pooling of expertise in a very highly structured environment?


How many times have NonStop vendors reported that a customer has asked them to send on site their best developers to resolve a problem when in fact, the best course of action is to send someone who can best communicate what they observe, leaving the best developers to work with their development and test environments difficult to reproduce in the field? There is real value in having a small number of centers around the globe, each with enough skilled personnel to support the population of end users 
depending upon them?

By build-your-own then this too is nothing new but rather a return to the days of VARs. As we see more information about vNonStop being reveled and HPE puts in place the processes necessary for anyone to order vNonStop there’s the small issue of ensuring the “NonStop-ness” of vNonStop and as much as NonStop development sets forth a reference model, it opens the doors like never before for smart companies to begin on-selling their favorite white-label x86 server with OpenStack and vNonStop. Differentiation based on superior levels of availability all while supporting your favorite development environment – tell me what’s bad about that!

However,
 this goes a little beyond what has been historically associated with VARs. We have already read about OmniPayments becoming a VAR for both NonStop and Atalla in select South American markets where it fills a need in those areas no longer supported by the HPE NonStop team. The new crop of VARs that I am anticipating emerge will also provide remote management as well as a range of services from simple upgrades to the operating system and middleware to capacity planning on through to what had always been performed by on-premise systems managers.

There really isn’t any hiding from the fact that today, it’s not only that businesses aren’t investing in training but that the pool of knowledgeable talent is shrinking as the years pass by – the only place where such investments will continue is at these new age VAR “centers of excellence.” One example of this is
TCM Solutions who I have been working with this year and have come to really like its model as TCM tackles these exact same issues. TCM CEO, Tony Craig, is almost evangelical in his belief that, just as clouds are a return to centralization, so too is the emergence of managed services providers. Better to have all the expertise needed to support NonStop under one roof with the tools needed to support anyone at any time anywhere in the world?

There remain a lot of unknowns surrounding hybrid infrastructures and clouds and, when it comes to the deployment of NonStop, as either part of a hybrid system or within virtual machine, leadership will more than likely come from solutions providers. They have the most to gain from mastering either environment as remaining price competitive while offering a better solution is a major goal for them.

It would be simple for me to make the observation that this will all sort itself out over time but the simple truth is there’s no quick and easy fix. Just a lot of perseverance, as different models are tested. NonStop is evolving from what we once knew NonStop to be and is heading down different roads, meeting different needs and, in the process, there will be disruptions. Yes, this new NonStop will prove to be highly disruptive technology and it’s been a long time since words like this have been associated with NonStop.  

The DUST RUG event turned out to be well worth the time spent driving to it  - and the opportunity to spend time taking in the changing colors that the Colorado landscape never fails to provide at this time of year making up for the weekend spent in transit. Shortly, we will be returning to the road for the slightly longer transit to Ontario, Canada, for the upcoming CTUG event. We may be a little late to see the fall colors along the foreshore of Lake Ontario but CTUG will more than make up for any disappointments on that score.

NonStop, on the other hand, is definitely changing its ways and for that, and the impact it will have on the broader NonStop community, we have to thank the HPE NonStop team and I for one, am pleased to see the path it has elected to take. NonStop a part of every businesses cloud? In time it’s bound to happen – there is still no better way to offer up services from within a cloud than knowing that they will always be there, 24 X 7.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

More milestones – this time, it’s the 400th post! And did I mention that it’s all about NonStop!


For all the time I have been blogging, it never occurred to me that there would be 400 posts written over such a short period of time. And yet, the basic premise for NonStop in the marketplace hasn’t changed – we just don’t want outages of any kind. But wait ... there's a lot more to this story!

Celebrations always include moments of reflection. When a milestone is reached and where there is energy to keep going, these milestones can sometime be nothing more than bumps in the road. It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote a post about this blog entering its tenth year but with this post, we will be celebrating 400 posts. I was thinking early on that perhaps interest in posts to Real Time View will wane considerably with time but, in all reality, thoughts like this couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a growing audience for all things NonStop!

On the one hand, barely a month goes by without HPE being in the news. Likewise, the pace of development for NonStop has ratcheted up significantly over the past two years, so much so, should HPE deliver everything depicted in the current NonStop product roadmaps, NonStop will be available in different guises targeting many different marketplaces. Whether purchased as a complete system delivered directly to the data center or downloaded as software, NonStop continues to provide value and in a world deep in transition, bridging traditional IT with clouds private and yes, public – availability remains an issue that needs to be addressed. And NonStop continues to deliver.

As I look back and reflect on much that I have written to this point, I have never wavered in my confidence that HPE, in the NonStop product line, has a prized server capable of doing practically anything when it comes to transaction processing. NonStop inherently scales out even as its fault tolerance is once again becoming a talking point – how do large applications interacting with the general public, stay up and running 24 X 7? I have looked over countless publications and news releases by HPE for the past decade and it’s interesting to observe just how prominent the attribute “fault tolerant” has become – after a very long time of using almost every other term, it seems back in vogue within HPE.

Fault tolerant? It’s a story that once focused solely on the hardware. More recently, the key differentiator was the “integrated stack” that included the operating system, the database, the transaction monitor and all the logging that goes with it to ensure not only 24 X 7 operation for a single system but almost instant recovery and take-over by an “active” secondary (or even tertiary) off-site system. Yet the hardware, together with the integrated stack, isn’t the full story. NonStop is both a product, a technology and an architecture and it’s now heading down a path to give HPE customers and prospects a wide pallet of options from which to choose – all influenced of course by IT facing the difficult transition to clouds where availability and scalability and indeed security are of the essence.

It would be very easy to me to continue to look back at this time and recount the many highlights NonStop has enjoyed over more than forty years. However, it is the future that interests me most and while I was not privy to every “whiteboard discussion” held within NonStop development and product management over the years I have been pretty good at reading the tea leaves and making educated guesses. Had you been in the audience of SATUG back in 2008 you would have heard my presentation on just how important developing virtual NonStop was to the future of NonStop. And yes, if you had been in the audience of DUST this week, you would have heard even more!

NonStop as a product, a technology and an architecture – it is pretty obvious where NonStop is now headed. From a product perspective, HPE has made it clear that NonStop will continue to be available as a complete system, whether it’s one of the NonStop i family members (HPE is committed to taking Itanium chips from Intel through to 2025), one of the NonStop X family members or the hybrid product based on NonStop X with an InfiniBand fabric integrating Linux and even Windows. A product line in it’s own right and one I expect to see provided as a complete system at some point, like other products in the Converged Systems (CS) product family should market demand develop where such an investment makes sense – think Financial Institutions where payments solutions have argued for some time for a “programmable CLIM” supporting something apart from a Debian distribution of Linux.

Race to your digital enterprise! The photo at the top of the page was taken during HPE Discover 2016 and featured groups of “drivers” with VR goggles competing with each other in digital race cars. Of course something like this would attract my attention but being averse to using simulators (they don’t give you any indication of how much grip you have), I preferred to watch other. It is a race to a digital enterprise but not one that can be accomplished on one fell swoop - a ruthless and fierce undertaking not for the faint of heart! CIOs understand the risks of the pressures to succeed even as they are acutely aware of the downside risk. When it comes to global enterprises it only makes sense to enter such a race with incremental change – the heart of transitioning to hybrid infrastructures.

NonStop is proving to be more than just a product but a technology and the externalization of its interconnect fabric with an API that supports a direct to memory transfer between disparate stacks (i.e. NonStop with Linux) opens the door for applications running on one stack to be integrated with applications on another. For the NonStop community I suspect it will not be very long before the technology behind NonStop is used to provide an overarching mantle on everything connected to NonStop – the inherent property of NonStop take-over will be extended to application processes running on Linux or even Windows. Transaction Monitors on NonStop, in other words, will essentially wrap these application processes within monitoring capabilities – persistence, and hence even greater levels of availability, will extend beyond NonStop.

Technology is often described as being a “collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation.” In this sense, NonStop is a key ingredient in not just processes used in the production of goods or services but rather, is that additional “special sauce” that makes these goods and services available 24 X 7 whether the supporting methods are on NonStop or simply adjacent to NonStop. In essence with the hybrid, converged systems, I envision appearing in enterprise data centers, the shadow of NonStop will be indeed long and cover as much of the servers present in the data center that the CIO deems part of their enterprises mission critical operations.

NonStop, too, is proving to be much more than just a product and a technology as increasingly it is an architecture that is attracting more attention of late. As NonStop evolves to become a software platform, running in a virtual world, HPE development will be providing models, templates and yes, a “reference architecture.” One of the key messages coming from NonStop development is that with the release of vNonStop –a software only offering – this reference architecture will ensure configurations of vNonStop are truly fault tolerant.

With a reference architecture there will be a separation between HPE the architect, and HPE the general contractor. Maybe you will rely on HPE for everything – the hardware, the virtual machine including the hypervisor and vNonStop, but perhaps not. As software houses and managed services providers gaining confidence, a new ecosystem of general contractors will likely appear some of which utilize all the HPE offerings, whereas others will mix and match hardware, virtual machines and vNonStop. Maybe you will rely on general contractors apart from the HPE NonStop team?

In the time it has taken me to write 400 posts, NonStop has come a very long way. As a community, all associated with NonStop have held our collective breaths on occasion as we watched the changes unfolding at HPE but as we gave a collective sigh of relief when we heard of the sizeable investment HPE has been making in NonStop, we have witnessed firsthand the emergence of a very powerful and comprehensive response to the growing market need for fault tolerance along with scalability and of course security. This is a segment that NonStop alone can address and is doing so in a compelling manner. So yes, I look forward to all that is ahead and here’s to the next 400 posts!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Changes in procedures, changes in models – at HPE, NonStop set for further growth.

There have been numerous posts following recent press releases from HPE concerning Enterprise Services and Software. But for the NonStop community it’s all smooth sailing and the news says it all; NonStop is an integral part of HPE’s vision to become a major provider of infrastructure and platforms!

After decades of flying every week to every corner of the planet I seldom board a plane these days. In former times, however, even when not on business the first inkling concerning potential downtime would see me scanning airline sites for deals and checking my mileage balance to see what options I had. Neither my wife, Margo, nor me were born in the U.S. and arriving in the U.S. after we had become adults, American holidays didn’t mean all that much to us so we seldom hung around to participate. For a number of years we flew to Singapore, just for Thanksgiving, to enjoy chili crabs on Singapore’s south east coast.

In those days of constant flying I knew by heart all the different procedures in place at airports. Updates to terminals and gates were a constant test of one’s perseverance but I always managed to adapt pretty quickly. And yes, time zones never seemed to affect me back then and no matter the time of day, you would likely find me working away in a hotel lobby somewhere in the world. However, when I do get to fly these days I am so out of touch with current procedures that travel is no longer enjoyable and even the simplest requests by the airline staff can lead to stress – something I simply never experienced all those years ago.

We are all creatures of routines. For us, following protocols and understanding procedures simply reflect the order we desire as we go about living our lives. However, when it comes to large corporations it is though we live in times where we have to prepare for change to happen almost as regularly as some of us take to the skies. For the NonStop community, this has been the case almost from the time of the HP / Compaq merger. It seems that almost with every quarter that passes there’s news of one kind or another starting with the big announcement that HP was going to release NonStop on blades to where we now have NonStop on x86 from HPE. Exciting news, of course, and the stuff that keeps us focused on just how well NonStop meets our business needs. And when it comes to organization, change is happening almost as often.

In the last couple of posts I have written about the most recent changes hitting the newswire. HP has split to become HP Inc. and HP Enterprise (HPE). HPE in turn has announced the retirement of Martin Fink, HPE CTO, and then proceeded to pursue “spin-merges” of both its Services and Software organizations. If you were a shareholder in the former HP and had elected to hold onto your shares then life has become very interesting indeed and opened the doors to more astute gauging of the value proposition of your holdings. And this is an important backdrop to any new discussions the NonStop community is now having when it comes to the future of NonStop.

In all the years since the HP / Compaq merger, financial analysts were at a loss as to how best to categorize HP. Was it a consumer company selling through big box stores? Was it a server and software company? Was it a growth company or was it a value company? Was it even just a finance company? Of course this inability to categorize the HP of that time led to stock valuations well below what otherwise may have been considered fair value. After all, if there was no other company in the same category, was it even a legitimate category? Clearly, HP had to do something to (a) unlock the true value of HP for its shareholders, and (b) manage the different financial models under which each business unit operated.

All too often discussions within the NonStop community centered on HPE’s investments in NonStop. These discussions arose following questions on whether NonStop was profitable or not and whether the revenue was sufficient to justify continued investments in NonStop. When a company makes $130billion in revenue, does a product line bringing perhaps one or two billion really warrant as much management attention as was needed? Did marketing and then again sales, really need to invest resources to support? Again, it came down to categories – just how big is the market for fault tolerant systems? Surely, near 99% availability was good enough!

The spin-merge of HPE Enterprise Services with CSC and then, just recently, the proposed spin-merge of HPE Software with Micro Focus is welcomed news to financial analysts and shareholder alike. When the dust finally settles sometime in 2017 and with no further roadblocks appearing that could delay the process, shareholders will be holding stock in HP Inc. HPE, CSC and Micro Focus – shares in companies operating in four well-defined markets; Consumer, Enterprise Infrastructure and Platforms, Services, and Software.

But again, for the NonStop community, this spin-merge of services and indeed software, didn’t involve NonStop. After a year or so promoting NonStop as the best software platform on the planet, HPE has acknowledged that NonStop isn’t a part of the “non-core software” that participated in the spin-merge with Micro Focus. As for Enterprise Services, these weren’t the services HPE needed when it came to supporting customer deployments of HPE infrastructure and platforms. Rather, that is the role of the Enterprise group’s Technology Services (TS) which remains an integral part of the new HPE.

If you missed it, the HPE News Release of September 7, 2016, HPE Accelerates Strategy With SpinOff and Merger of Non-Core Software Assets With Micro Focus - HPE to retain key software assets to deliver on the promise of hybrid IT is a must read for everyone in the NonStop community. It describes, in no uncertain terms, what HPE considers as its non-core software assets even as it asserts that those software assets contributing to the delivering “on the promise of hybrid IT” will be retained. NonStop is one of those key software assets according to Randy Meyer, Vice President and General Manager, Mission Critical Systems.

I referenced this News Release in my post of September 15, 2016, Changes for the better? HPE to focus on what it does best; infrastructure and platforms! However, what I want to make perfectly clear is just how important the organizational changes that came with the news that Software was following Enterprise Services in its own spin-merge. Reflecting the changing revenue model of the slimmed down HPE – now expected to be just a little less than $30billion and a far cry from a year ago when the much bigger HP generated revenues of $130billion – the priority has been to bring greater focus onto the infrastructure and platforms HPE believes will be key to differentiating its portfolio from those of its competitors.

“When you consider the non-core assets that are part of this latest spin-merge, it’s important to understand that they operated within different business models, with different business processes and indeed, a whole different approach to financials,” said Randy Meyer. “These non-core software products represented software that competed in the software business arena whereas the software assets retained all contribute to HPE being able to deliver on its vision of being a major provider of infrastructure and platforms.”

Furthermore, when it comes to organization, the Enterprise Group has announced the formation of three major groups: one focusing on software-defined and cloud technologies, one focused on data center infrastructure, and one focused on edge technologies and the internet of things. Additionally, there is also Technology Services as noted earlier that was already established to help all three of these groups deliver on opportunities that arise from sales of infrastructure and platforms coming out of the Enterprise Group.

“Mission Critical Systems is part of the newly formed data center infrastructure group (DCIG) and for a reason,” said Randy Meyer. “NonStop remains a value play within the data center where fault tolerance is still required for select markets. It is making a financial contribution to DCIG at a time when there is disruptive transition under way as we watch private clouds take off and the melding of traditional IT with private clouds provides great potential for NonStop development.”


There are changes in procedures even as there are changes in business models. In the coming quarters we will see the appearance of virtual NonStop (vNonStop) that will be provided independent of the hardware and the NonStop group is busily sorting out the processes that need to be in place for the NonStop community to be able to order NonStop as software only. In all likelihood, Technology Services will be looking to provide best practices to ensure NonStop as software lives up to user expectations when it comes to fault tolerance – reference architectures will be developed even as the HPE sales and marketing teams work to identify new markets for NonStop. Yes, NonStop is going to be a big part of HPE, something that NonStop community is only getting its first glimpse as HPE IT commits to running its DataBase-as-a-Service based on NonStop SQL on virtual NonStop.

So let me be as unambiguous as I can. In case you still need to be reminded of the pertinent points following these recent news releases from HPE. NonStop is not considered “non-core software” but rather, an integral component as HPE pushes deeper into the marketplace for infrastructure and platforms. Furthermore, the NonStop organization remains firmly within the Mission Critical Systems (MCS) group and as such, is now a part of the core group, Data Center Infrastructure Group (DCIG). Randy Meyer remains the head of MCS and as such, has the responsibility for NonStop – no change there. And finally, NonStop today is in good shape demonstrating quarter over quarter growth with margin sufficient to support further investments in the NonStop product line.

It’s probably not inappropriate to say that we are all as pleased as we are today to see that NonStop has survived – the hard work to turn the NonStop ship around and return it to profitability has been done. Attendees at last year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp can all recall the challenge the NonStop team faced when asked to “fix it, or exit.” And fix it they did – NonStop X together with SuperDome X are running on the Intel x86 architecture and has proved to be a major positive turning point for NonStop. But it’s only the beginning.

The new HPE needs NonStop and the steps it has just taken to better address the needs of the financial industry and shareholders will be trickling down to individual groups within HPE and with that, for the first time in a long while, the NonStop community can rest assured in the knowledge that today, NonStop has become one of the all-important key software assets contributing to the delivering on the promise of hybrid IT!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Changes for the better? HPE to focus on what it does best; infrastructure and platforms!

Hard to miss reading one article or another on what is taking place within HPE and for the NonStop community, questions were being asked. NonStop had become the best software platform on the planet – was it being sold, too? The answer is no, it isn’t!

Fortune smiled on me rather gently this week. I returned to the local motorcycle shop to pick up my cruiser. A considerable amount of work had been done on it after it’s been sitting in our garage for more than two years, unused and somewhat unloved. However, it’s amazing what care and attention can do for an old-world cruiser but as I pulled into the shop, it began to rain. I haven’t been on a motorcycle for all of those two plus years, so looking as the clouds gathered and the raindrops grew heavier, I was a little concerned. Fortunately, getting back on the motorcycle revived past memories and no, you never forget how to ride a bike. You just have to get back into the saddle.

I have to believe that at HPE much the same concerns passed through the minds of its executives. It wasn’t so much the rain that was a concern as it was the clouds gathering on the horizon. And I am not posting about the clouds that cross our skies but rather, the growing presence of clouds in enterprise data centers. When it comes to clouds, just like those we see in the sky (many times taking on the shape of familiar objects), oftentimes all we appreciate is how fluffy they look and how soft they seem to be – software-defined everything is becoming the response from enterprises as they too contemplate the new IT order made up of constantly morphing pools of resources.  To HPE, all the recent investments in products and human resources that aren’t directly reusable in the cloud computing marketplace looked increasingly like they were addressing legacy requirements. They might be good cash cows in the short term but HPE wasn’t about to take a back seat and simply milk the past. HPE recognizes the need to tap the momentum developing around clouds and to ride that momentum well into the future. And so they have acted, and acted rather dramatically!

I suspect that by now you have all read the announcements from HPE this week. Yes, apparently the die has been cast and HPE is now out of the services business and out of the software business. Looking back over the past couple of months, even with all the rumors that circulated widely, it’s all happened pretty quickly. But what does it really mean for the NonStop community? After taking a lot of pride in cementing the role of NonStop as the best software platform on the planet, has that only led to an increased vulnerability for NonStop?

Before addressing these questions, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at what HPE is telling the industry. With the news breaking of the spin-merge of HPE Software with Micro Focus, HPE published the news release late September 7, 2016, CEO Meg Whitman on HPE’s Plans to Spin-Off & Merge Non-Core Software Assets With Micro Focus -Company doubles down on delivering software-defined hybrid IT solutions. In that news release was the explanation from Meg Whitman, HPE CEO, that, “When we launched the new HPE, we laid out a vision of being the industry's leading provider of hybrid IT, built on the secure, next-generation, software-defined infrastructure that will run customers' data centers today, bridge them to multi-cloud environments tomorrow, and enable the emerging intelligent edge that will power campus, branch and IoT applications for decades to come.” 

Explaining this further, Ric Lewis, senior vice president for the software-defined and cloud group at HPE, told Infoworld in the article that followed the September 8, 2016, announcement of the pending sale of HPE Software to Micro Focus, What's left at HPE is focused squarely on the hybrid and private cloud “To achieve this vision, we've been busy realigning our portfolio and product roadmap with our go-forward strategy. In just the last few months, we announced enhancements and new products across storage, infrastructure, converged systems, cloud and a truly differentiated set of edge compute products for the Internet of Things." Furthermore, added Lewis, “The whole world is talking about the public cloud growing, but not that many people are noticing that the private cloud is growing at double-digit rates as well. That's a huge opportunity for us.”

As Whitman explained the moves behind the realignment, she reiterated that, “Today's announced spin-merge of our non-core software assets with Micro Focus is another important step in our strategy to unlock a faster growing, higher margin, stronger cash flow company. As we said in the Enterprise Services announcement last quarter, both software and services remain key enablers of our go-forward strategy, and we are focused on building the right portfolio to win in our target markets. We believe the portfolio changes we've made over the past year are setting up HPE for long-term success while unlocking tremendous value for our shareholders." 

HPE has also unveiled a new look organization now that the company has become just a combination of the Enterprise Group and the Finance Group. As the article in InfoWorld noted, “‘HPE's strategy for the future is to focus on hybrid IT,’ said Ric Lewis, senior vice president for the software-defined and cloud group at HPE. Accordingly, it recently formed three core business groups within HPE's Enterprise Group division: one focusing on software-defined and cloud technologies, one focused on data centre infrastructure, and one focused on edge technologies and the internet of things. It is retaining the software efforts that are central to its hybrid IT focus, Lewis said in his interview with InfoWorld, including the CloudSystem brand, HPE OneView, Helion OpenStack, and its software-defined storage and networking products.”

Retaining software central to its hybrid IT focus is an important consideration. NonStop is now playing an active role when it comes to the ongoing transformation to hybrid infrastructures integrating traditional IT with private clouds and products have already begun to ship that make it easier for enterprise customers to capitalize on the benefits that come with private clouds. But again, what of NonStop and its current organization, Mission Critical Systems? According to Randy Meyer, Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Systems (MCS) at HPE, MCS is now “part of the Data Center Infrastructure Group (DCIG).”

With this return to infrastructure and platforms HPE may not be the size of company it was just a short time ago when the world knew of only HP. But the changes are definitely for the better. HPE may have sold off its legacy software offerings – yes, anything that isn’t contributing to a software-defined everything HPE has lumped into the legacy category – and the rapidity with which NonStop development has pursued virtual NonStop brings it now into the realm of software-defined infrastructure. And with MCS, including the NonStop organization, becoming part of the strategically important group, DCIG, for the NonStop community this is perhaps the most significant change of all!

Riding my own motorcycle up the driveway into my home, with the falling rain easing considerably,  can not be considered an accomplishment on the same scale as to what HPE has achieved these past couple of weeks. And yet as I turned skyward, there is never any rain without clouds! The more I look into the changes taking place within HPE the more I see a resurgence of enthusiasm in support of the many things NonStop does particularly well. NonStop SQL/MX, for instance, is the best-suited to OLTP of any databases available today – when it comes to mixed workloads, in parallel, it is simply without peer. With NonStop, customers can leverage the best software on the planet even as they are assured it is a platform crucial to HPE’s future.

The InfoWorld article closed with a particularly telling observation coming from Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “I’m actually relieved HPE is getting back to what everyone knows they do well, and that's infrastructure and platforms,” said Moorhead. “‘Big’ and application software didn't work well for HPE, and I think they have the potential to move much more quickly in the future in areas where they can make a real impact.” Perhaps then, all things considered, we should be singing right along with Eric Clapton – Let it rain! Let it rain! Let it rain!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The song remains the same – major events of importance to the NonStop community

Embracing virtualization, integrating analystics and turning to clouds may be all part of the plan but it may be the messages coming from industry and user events that influence us most. And the more technology appears to change, in reality, we stay the same!

In the coming weeks I will be attending numerous events but perhaps for me, the most beneficial of them all will be the two held on opposite sides of the continent. In late September, I will be travelling to Chicago, IL for the September 19-21, 2016, 2016 Bank Customer Experience Summit and then in November, I will turn around and head in the other direction, towards San Jose, CA, for the November 13-16, 2016, 2016 NonStop Technical Boot Camp. These two events will feature networking with customers from financial industries as well as interacting with HPE executives that will provide me with the ideal backdrop for the numerous stories and posts that will follow.

The 2016 Bank Customer Experience Summit, originally branded as the The ATM & Mobile Innovation Summit, is dedicated to exploring next-gen self-service, the reinvented branch, digital banking, mobile payments — and the people who use them. An August 11, 2016, post to the ATMmarketplace web site, by Suzanne Cluckey, 7 reasons why the Bank Customer Experience Summit should be on your fall travel calendar is well worth reading if you are looking for more information about this event and shortly my own post will be published on this site – look for it as well. For those NonStop users running payments solutions that would like to attend, simply follow this link, Register now and to save 30% off the price of registration, enter the promotional code, PYALLA30. If you would like to check out what will be taking place at the event you can follow this link, Agenda.

It is a reality today that in our always-on world we rarely think twice about how our communications works – for me it’s still close to magic as so much can go wrong between a client end-point and a services delivery end-point. People should be pleased when anything at all simply works, but yes, it’s very much magic by my books. The same can be said about mobile devices today as very few users of smartphones and tablets are aware of all that transpires whenever they text or download a picture. Streaming songs and movies? Unbelievable!

And yet it all happens with little consideration being given to just how it all happens. People have now reached a point where mobility is the new norm and so when it comes to an event on ATMs and Mobility, changing the name of the event to Bank Customer Experience just seems natural – why wouldn’t we assume mobility is a key factor in banking today and just part of any experience we may have when it comes to oversight of our financial affairs?

The HPE event on the other hand, plumbs the depths of technology. The essential plumbing that so many of us are simply ignorant about and where we always assume, it just works. From the introduction of the first ATMs to the general populace, Tandem Computers gave the world the potential to operate ATMs 24 X 7 and some of the earliest payments solutions targeted the Tandem Computer platform. Today, Tandem Computers is no more. Instead, renamed NonStop systems and a key part of HPE’s Mission Critical Systems product portfolio, they still account for the processing of much of the world’s ATM traffic. According to the latest figures from HPE, $3.6+ trillion in debit card (including bank cards and ATM cards) and credit card charge volume passes through NonStop systems each year and the largest retail payments processors in the world run on NonStop. 

Among the more popular solutions is OmniPayments and I have known Yash Kapadia, the OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, for many years. He has been a very good source for updates on how people worldwide interact with financial institutions. His products run exclusively on NonStop systems and he has become one of the largest users of the latest NonStop X systems having already populated three of OmniPayments data centers with NonStop X systems underpinning the new OmniCloudX services – yes, payments on NonStop from out of a cloud. At this next Boot Camp event Yash is throwing a reception mid-evening Monday night, specifically for the purposes of giving event attendees an opportunity to network among themselves following the sessions that day and if the past is any indication of what to expect, this reception is among the liveliest all week! I hope to see you in the Gold room Monday evening, the reception will start at 8:30 pm.

HPE and the Connect organization are now working through submitted proposals for presentations and this should be resolved shortly. If you want to keep abreast of who will be the keynote speakers and whose papers made the cut, then check the Agenda page on a regular basis and make sure you complete the Registration as early as you can. It will be tough to top last year’s program but I know that over the past year so much progress has been made with NonStop X, with perhaps the biggest news of all is just how committed HPE itself is to anchoring its own IT on NonStop with virtual NonStop (vNonStop) in support of NS SQL/MX running as a DBaaS at the very heart of HPE’s operations. Like many who will be attending I am more than interested in hearing all the details of how this has been helping HPE transform to a hybrid infrastructure.

Where I suspect the intersection between these two events will more than likely occur will be on the topic of Big Data and Data Analytics. Everything that takes place today is being influenced by companies understanding the ever-changing behaviors of people and this includes financial institutions as much as it does those vendors providing the underlying plumbing. We need to know what’s on the minds of people from the time they sit down for a coffee to the time they swipe or insert their card to purchase a product just added to their shopping cart.

I am finding that analytics is permeating almost every discussion I have had in the past couple of months – from security to application monitoring and SLA validation to the monitoring of the physical data center itself (Power, HVAC, Fire-Suppression, Communications and Networks, etc.). As my good friends at Striim Inc. so often remind me, providing “an end-to-end, real-time data integration and intelligence platform; ingesting data in real-time from a wide variety of sources; making it more valuable while it's streaming before loading it to common data targets” is all critical today for better interaction with people whether end users, business partners, or simply their IT staff.

We write and talk so much about our customers and about consumers but in the end, it’s all about people. What I particularly liked about the post by Suzanne Cluckey on the 7 Reasons to attend 2016 Bank Customer Experience Summit were her opening sentences. “The new Ikea catalog arrived at our house yesterday. I haven't thumbed through it yet, but I doubt anything in it will grab my attention the way the cover did,” Cluckey began. “It wasn't the photo that got my attention, with its predictable assortment of ultra-hipster types looking uber-cool around a NorrÃ¥ker dining table. It was the tagline above: ‘Designed for people, not consumers.’” The upcoming events may differ in agendas even as they differ in the networking opportunities that arise but the people attending the events, well, we remain people and not just clients, customers, prospects or users. And as people, we are the lifeblood that keeps all such events lively and yes, keeps us all coming back for more!

It was while I was travelling country to country in the 1970s that I first heard Led Zeppelin perform The Song Remains the Same:
Oh, yeah
Crazy dream, uh-huh
Anything I wanted to know
Any place I needed to go …

This was Led Zeppelin's lead singer Robert Plant's tribute to world music, reflecting his belief that music is universal. And the aspirations of people are universal as well. Even as we are witnessing a revolution in the way people interact with all that is around them – other people, commerce, news and in general, the environment each person moves through – staying connected to friends and family and being informed about what’s happening in the world at large, has changed very little. Furthermore, as what is around us is subject to the seasons - if you compare the photo above with that included in the previous post published just a week or so ago, you can see the changes taking place - so the ebb and flow between centralization and distributed continues unabated even as we continue to behave much the same way we always have.

We may carry less cash but we still shop. We may wear our computers and we may be constantly on the move but we still find time to stop by a coffee shop and take time to check out all that’s happening. And the oversight of our financial affairs is now something we do 24 X 7 even as we are less likely to pull out our bill fold or purse preferring instead whatever gadget of the day has captured our attention. While the instruments of commerce have changed dramatically of late we have remained essentially the same through all this change – something few of us will likely ever forget. Looking forward to seeing many of you at these events and should you see me passing by, don’t hesitate stopping me. I’m always open for any discussion you may want to have!