Monday, November 23, 2015

What did I learn from 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp?

How do the words of a Jimmy Buffett song, a car magazine’s report of the Viper and the message from Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, “Fix it, or Exit” have in common? Only at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp would you make such a connection … 

Sometimes you just know that, at a time when you least expect it, your travels take a detour. Now, having said that, and with winter beginning to make its presence felt, getting hit with an icy, wintery blast shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But hit us rather hard, it did!

In the opening stanzas of the song, Jamaica Mistaica, by Jimmy Buffett there’s a couple of lines that I find appropriate at this time of year:

But every now and then, the dragons come to call
Just when you least expect it you'll be dogin' cannon balls

Having successfully traversed the Sierras and made the passage through Nevada and Utah to pull up the mountains and into Wyoming, well sure enough, we were dodging snowballs as Interstate 80 was closed east of Rawlins effectively cutting us off from any hope of making it home by Saturday night. On the other hand, Sunday morning saw the Interstate open once again, and even with some vehicle restrictions, we made it home in one piece.

However, the thought of “dogin’ cannon balls”, or in our case, snowballs, took me back to where we had been, San Jose, California. The event that occupied our attention for nearly all of last week was the NonStop Technical Boot Camp and there’s always mixed emotions whenever this event comes around.

I remember all too well the ITUG Summits of former times and miss them a lot, but Boot Camp, after an inauspicious reboot a few years ago, has come on strongly these past couple of years so much so that the events are beginning to resemble ITUG Summits of past years. If you had as yet not made up your mind as to whether you would ever return to San Jose for Boot Camp than be concerned no more – plan for it as NonStop is only now beginning to flex its technology muscle in ways many of us thought we would never see again.

Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, gave an enthralling keynote address that was, almost to the day, a decade after he took the reins of the then NonStop Enterprise Division. So, yes there was something celebratory in his presence. What he covered in his keynote I am going to address in my next post to this blog but I want to make sure I did include one point Martin made right from the get-go. 

It now seems that Martin was given very specific marching orders as he accepted the leadership position of NonStop – “Fix it … or, Exit!” Now, there were a few exhaled breaths following this declaration by Martin but immediately after telling us about this directive he then added that he never really contemplated an exit even as he was given little room to get the business healthy. Talk about dodgin’ cannon balls!

Now for a first; in the presentation the following day by NonStop management, talk turned to the NonStop vision with an update as to where NonStop was headed in the coming years. From a possible exit of the market to a comprehensive discussion of a vision for NonStop in just one day” Kudos to a corporation willing to green-light a bright future for NonStop and this wasn’t missed by any of the attendees!

For me it is still very much about what happens in the exhibition hall and for this year’s event a lot of business was transacted around the tables.
The set up of the exhibition floor, with coffee served on a regular basis and the tables used for all meals, there was ample time to talk with vendors. Throw in so many presentations by vendors on topics we all wanted to learn more about – NonStop X migrations, hybrids, new solutions and much more, and you gained a real sense that interest in all things NonStop was beginning to return to a community long on patience, but just a tad short of significant and indeed, cool technology.

My own personal favorites were those pertaining to the arrival of node.js on NonStop and with it, the support of JavaScript. From presentations given by the HPE solutions architect, Keith Moore, to the skinny on what was being provided in the initial release by the developer deeply involved in the port, InfraSoft VP R&D, Dave Finnie, there’s no greater endorsement of the contemporary nature  of the NonStop X family than seeing something as important as Server Side JavaScript becoming available. If you would like to participate in the early release phase of bomBora – the node.js deep port from InfraSoft - contact InfraSoft’s Managing Director, Peter Shell.

And in case you missed it or were unaware of what transpired, in the joint presentation by HPE solutions architects, Keith Moore and Justin Simonds, with some assistance from Alan Charley, set up some sensors that were in the room and where two of these sensors were transmitting – one was sending out current temperature and the other was a button that sent a message out when someone hit the button. The other two were receivers with one displaying the temperature from the first one, and the other would light an LED when someone pressed the button on the other one. So what’s so cool about that? 

According to Simonds, “Well the two transmitters were sending their information to a NonStop X7 at the ATC over MQTT running into Mosca (Node.js, javascript middleware) that wrote it to a Redis keystore database, also running on NonStop and available because of InfaSoft’s bomBora.  (MQTT - formerly MQ Telemetry Transport - is a publish-subscribe based ‘light weight’ messaging protocol for use on top of the TCP/IP protocol. MQTT.js is a client library for the MQTT protocol, written in JavaScript for node.js and the browser.) Redis is a pub/sub database and the two receivers in the room were getting data from this database, not from the sensors in the room.  Pretty dang cool and only available because of node.js!”

Running a close second was the sheer numbers behind the success of OmniPayments. In a presentation, Migrating to OmniPayments, CEO Yash Kapadia (pictured above during the presentation) talked openly of the architecture and modules that make up OmniPayments, but two items clearly resonated with me. If you have ever wondered about the scalability of NonStop, then stop! It’s now a moot point.

At one customer site, the message bus underpinning all OmniPayments products runs across 3,000 CPUs – more than the installed base of NonStop users running BASE24, for instance. The other significant item is the arrival of OmniCloud X where Yash has standardized on NonStop X systems to populate the cloud and if you were wondering about sales of NonStop X systems, then it’s probably a good idea to talk to Yash. He’s installed one of the 7s in his shop, loaded up and shipped out 2 more 3s and has orders in for a couple more 3s – all to brand new users of NonStop!   

High on my list too is the success with the NonStop community WebAction has had with its Striim (pronounced "stream") product. While there are factions within the NonStop community who express concerns over the viability of Big Data Analytics having an impact on NonStop then the initial deployment brings it all back to earth. Imagine having the math to be able to reduce a NS SQL database to a pattern then instantly knowing whether the NS SQL database at a backup site is current or a few seconds or indeed a few minutes behind? And then imagine too heavy penalties for falling behind by too much and simply not knowing it – well, Striim is doing exactly that for one big NonStop user.

With so many new discussions on virtualization springing up around almost every table, I should reference my latest white paper on storage virtualization together with support of both IaaS and PaaS. Written for the team at Tributary Systems, Inc. it is now available and downloadable from their web site under the heading of Storage Director: Avoid the “Lost Ark” with Critical Business Data, I cover the capabilities of TSI’s Storage Director product, which I believe is a big step forward as far as virtualized storage goes.

All things considered – and yes, there were many other presentations given including a couple where I participated (WebAction / Striim and DataExpress) that included support of Big Data and Big Data Analytics – it would have been a very brave NonStop advocate to suggest, only a couple of years ago, that the topics covered at a user event would include contemporary languages, clouds, big data and virtualization. But so much has changed and all of it for the better. NonStop as a software offering coming from HPE shortly, I think we all need to follow the vision for NonStop more closely in the coming months.

A special thanks to folks like HPE's Justin Simonds who co-presented with me on IoT Analytics (IoTA) and DataExpress's Susie Raye who helped me connect the dots between secure file transfer and big data. And watch for promotion of a webinar I am planning on doing featuring what is touched on in this post and much more that is part of an ongoing series of webinars I am doing for the team at IR and check out their web site for more details including how to register.

“Any time you’re feeling depressed about the state of the world today, just remember the Viper ACR exists, that there is actually a functioning corporation out there willing to give the green light to the consumer sale of what is essentially a (street-able) racer.” So wrote a journalist this month in the motoring magazine, Road and Track. Furthermore, “Driving a Viper, like riding an open-piped Harley (Davidson) is to place one’s self outside the influence of anything so stifling as ‘rules.’”

Arriving home from Boot Camp I cannot come up with anything better to describe the “Miracle on Hanover Street” any better as yes, the traditional, dare I add, stifling, rules of servers have been left behind with the availability of NonStop X. HPE has proved many of us wrong, the cannon balls have been dodged and the “Fix it!” plan is working so much so that NonStop now is at the very pinnacle of enterprise server achievements within HPE. Kudos all round and until next year’s Boot Camp, thanks too for all the material you all provided that will work its way into many more posts to come.   

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Time to partner up – NonStop needs you!

“We need to be frugal with how we apply both capital and engineering resources. Given the reality that we’ve got many market segments that today remain very obvious gaps in our portfolio, we need to address those,” important for the NonStop community, who of us would have guessed made this observation?

There are many parallels today between IT and other industries. The novelty of IT being different from any other business has long gone as the CEOs all share similar interests – a responsibility to provide a degree of predictability along with improved returns to each stakeholder. When I first entered IT as a “cadet” – apprenticed, as it were, to a large steelworks to learn the trade of computer programming – the internal EDP department (as it was called), was separate from the rest of the company with the understanding that there was something special about those technicians overseeing data processing.

But no more – as technology is in the driver’s seat for every business; just to stay in business no matter the business, enterprise goals are intimately intertwined with the computer technology. In the November 1, 2015, issue of Fortune magazine, in the cover article, Every Aspect of Your Business is about to Change, it quotes former Cisco CEO, John Chambers. “Soon, you will see huge companies with just two employees – the CEO and the CIO.” As Fortune notes, “It’s crazy except that Chambers has a record of making crazy predictions (like opening your hotel-room door with your smartphone) that eventually come true. 

In another publication I rarely put to one side, I came across a very interesting quote from a senior executive. “While we are part of a titan car company, Cadillac must also earn its keep within the General Motors stable. That’s our agreement. There will be strong investment in the brand, but we need to hit various brand-development milestones, and obviously included in those would be required returns to shareholders. And that also means that we need to be frugal with how we apply both capital and engineering resources. Given the reality that we’ve got many market segments that today remain very obvious gaps in our portfolio, we need to address those.”

The source was the December, 2015, issue of Motor Trend and the executive was Johan de Nysschen, CEO of Cadillac. Considered a “halo product” in the GM product portfolio, Cadillac now depends on its engineering partners whether they be across the shop floor working on other GM products in the portfolio or further down the street at independent companies. In the early days of the auto industry the likes of GM built everything right down to the tires but no more – think not just of tires but wheels and even engines, transmissions, suspensions and brakes. Even the blades on window wipers! Without strategic partnerships, the auto industry couldn’t build affordable cars and this is a message not lost on anyone in IT. Particularly, when it comes to something like NonStop!

However, before I continue further with comparing Cadillac to HPE NonStop systems, it’s only fair to point out that such comparisons can only go so far. Unlike Cadillac, where addressing a market in China versus what  Cadillac needs to do for its American customers can open up gaps in GM’s car portfolio this is not the quite the same situation NonStop faces. For NonStop, opportunities to move the platform into new areas has to be weighed against fulfilling commitments in technology areas that are already funded and are the sole responsibility of NonStop development to address.

And yet, like some ancient poster from war efforts long ago that championed the message, “your country needs you!” so too does NonStop need partners. When new business opportunities arise that align with work already in plan for NonStop then it has always made sense for NonStop development to pursue. However, where opportunities come up that require development in areas not fully funded and where vendors are already involved and perhaps, well advanced with a viable implementation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find the NonStop business forging a partnership with such vendors.  

In my previous post of October 28, 2015, I raised numerous eyebrows even as there were several members of the NonStop community who took the opportunity to chastise me for what appeared to them to be a clear case of letting the side down. Nothing could be further from the truth as the post,
Prepping for what's to come ... new HPE, upgraded Boot Camp, and more NonStop X!  was all about choice and of having an opportunity to exploit a new hybrid option to better take advantage of inherent needs of any given solution. Can everything run on NonStop? Absolutely! But increasingly today, does it all have to run on NonStop? Not exactly!

I upset supporters of Java even as I noted the shortcomings of NonStop when it comes to running Java and yes, I could have thrown SQL into the mix as well. It wasn’t my intention to go down that path but rather, I wanted to highlight how wide the net is being cast to attract partners to work with NonStop development to address opportunities as they arise. While it is true that NonStop development is fully funded when it comes to further development of Java and SQL, both areas continue to see new opportunities materialize so much so that there are plenty of opportunities for vendors to augment the work NonStop development is doing.

When you attend NonStop product presentations, seeing just how many partners are involved in addressing these opportunities in both the hardware and software areas is quite impressive. Security? Check – have a couple of partners. Monitoring? Check, again. Virtual Tape? Check, as well! Data replication and integration? Of course, strong partnerships have emerged such that the comparison to Cadillac may not be as unfair as first stated. 

With the key focus areas of HPE being Security, Mobility, Big Data and Clouds – when it comes to NonStop, partners will be involved once again. It’s the “need to be frugal with how we apply both capital and engineering resources.” At the last CTUG user event I attended, which unfortunately was a year ago, being judicious about what was tasked to NonStop development was made patently clear by Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Servers at Hewlett-Packard, Randy Meyer.

And for good reason, NonStop was now just one of a number of product lines in the portfolio he was managing under the banner of mission critical servers. So no, NonStop development cannot do it all and the ecosystems of middleware and solutions vendors are becoming the go to folks for everything from “tires, wheels and even engines, transmissions, suspensions and brakes.”

There will be those members of the NonStop user community who would prefer to buy everything from HPE and there are reasons for that. Larger users want to be able to add leverage with HPE through the sum of all purchases whereas smaller users want to have a simplified contractual process. Good reasons, and very understandable, and to this end NonStop product management has been very diligent about ensuring a selection of products are available right off the price book and this is proving beneficial to all parties.

Almost all of my clients are in the situation where partner products can be bought through HP NonStop sales.  I see the potential for even more vendors being included as this is just a normal progression for NonStop business and as we see in every other industry, think of parts of the NonStop organization becoming not just the retailers but the wholesalers as well for all things NonStop.

What I like most with this ongoing trend is the confidence it breeds among vendors. Combine that with a higher degree of assurance customers will develop given their ability to pick and choose from a bigger list of options on offer from HPE, and cycles will develop. With better opportunities to sell more products, these now-confident vendors will develop even more products, all on their own dime.

The word “ecosystem” falls in and out of favor with the media but its meaning isn’t lost on anyone – I sometimes wonder if those pushing back on the word simply don’t enjoy the benefits of having an ecosystem of their own. There’s no downside, in my opinion, to NonStop enjoying all the benefits from having its own, financially strong, ecosystem in support of NonStop systems.

The very positive byproduct from having an ecosystem of vendors supporting NonStop is that cooperation develops where there is less and less overlap between what NonStop development groups provide versus what is on offer from the vendor community. When it comes to NonStop development, there’s simply too much to do to invest funds in the pursuit of opportunities where a partner solution may already exist.

Again, it would be hard to miss during any product roadmap presentation of late that it is the strategy of NonStop development to focus on the work they alone can do and what we have seen with the work undertaken to modify the operating system in support of the Intel x86 architecture is just the most recent example of NonStop executing on this strategy.

It may appear that NonStop will always face challenging times, as it faces opportunities in different market segments, but that’s only part of the story. Demonstrating that they can make money from working with the NonStop business will surely attract other vendors to the market and that’s a good thing for everyone in the NonStop community. It is the mission of the NonStop business to ensure that NonStop systems are meeting the expectations of customers and prospects alike, delivering NonStop systems that have the attributes required of them for the market it serves. Leaving opportunities to be addressed by experienced vendors represents a degree of maturity long in the making and fueling an emerging ecosystem the way it is now doing, is a credit to NonStop management.

All the more reason, of course, to make it to the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp in San Jose – it’s only a week or so away. Be on the lookout for vendors as you may be surprised just how many are participating and yes, of course, watch for the product presentations. You may just be pleasantly surprised to find that one of your favorite middleware, tools or even solutions vendor now has a place reserved for one or more of its products on the HPE portfolio – a partnership that has no downside for any member of the NonStop user community.   

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Prepping for what's to come ... new HPE, upgraded Boot Camp, and more NonStop X!

Welcome to the “Idea Economy” and here’s a big idea! NonStop helps the enterprise with the transition even as the NonStop community makes the preparations for greater participation …   

This week it was all about getting ready for the arrival of winter. If you live in America and you have seen the weather maps you will know that, starting Wednesday of last week, snow has been falling across the continental divide with some places, such as Wolf Creek Pass, getting more than 20” plus of snow in one 24 hours period. If you are into skiing, and I am sure many of you are, the resorts are capitalizing on the ground chilling and snow making machines are working around the clock. Just a week ago business took us to Beaver Creek where we spent the night – and there wasn’t a snowflake in sight, as the picture of Margo here highlights. But almost as if right on cue, one week later there’s the first blanket of snow clearly visible wrapping itself around the nearby peaks. Winter is coming!

With October drawing to a close and the first snowfall in evidence, it was also a time to check the condition of the tires on the vehicles we rely upon for winter. Adding a front wheel drive Mini to the mix certainly will help our short trips around town and it came with new all-season tires which should suffice. As for the AWD Jeep, that was another story and it took all of five minutes to realize new tires were in order so on went a set of all-season tires as well. We have chains as well, as all-season tires have their limitations – one day I am going to have to do a dry run of sorts and take the chains out of the bag – and it’s only a matter of a few short weeks before we make the drive across the Rockies and the Sierras to participate in the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp.

It is probably a good time to talk about other preparations under way. Yes, Boot Camp is on the minds of many of us as the date for submission of presentations has closed and the agenda is now rapidly being finalized. This year add one more member benefit to the program in case you missed it – on Monday night there will be a late night reception for all those attendees returning from their numerous vendor sponsored dinners. The details are pretty much being sorted out as this reception is being sponsored by OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. It’s recognition that in previous years, following these usually well-attended vendor dinners, there wasn’t any place to go to end the night other than the bar and at the Fairmont, this isn’t always the ideal place for a group to congregate. Yash’s reception will run from 9:00 pm till midnight so even the tardiest of stragglers should be able to make it. As for me, this is an upgrade to Boot Camp and that one I am going to support, with vigor!

I wrote a couple of posts these past few weeks that have highlighted anniversaries we’ve celebrated. This blog has passed another milestone and yes, our company Pyalla Technologies celebrated being in business for one more year. But perhaps what’s most important of all for the NonStop community is that this is the last post from me where HP still exists – when the next post is published, we will have the separate HP Enterprise and HP Inc. up and running. And I have to believe there will be a huge sigh of relief coming from all those at HP who have been involved in making the split a reality. Perhaps there will be a number of HPE folks involved with the split at Boot Camp and perhaps too they will find their way to Yash’s reception as they may find themselves wanting to support it every bit as vigorously as I will be doing!

There are a couple of technologies and programs worth watching as the strategy of HPE unfolds. For those who may have missed other posts of mine to vendor blogs, I found the
cover story of the Fall 2015 issue of Connect Converge (9C2) very informative. An interview with Sue Barsamian, Senior Vice President and General Manager, HP Enterprise Security Products, is featured and it’s hard to miss her main points even as you can’t miss the initial highlighted quote right at the very start of the story, “A company’s most prized assets are their people, applications and data. The interactions between these parties are increasingly difficult to protect because they often go beyond the traditional perimeter.” Now the rest of the story features her take on security which is well worth reading but as she introduces the topic of security, she covers some of the strategic goals for the new HPE.

“Our strategy is comprised of four key areas that represent what we believe are the most significant transformations companies must execute to bridge from traditional IT to a new world where you can turn ideas into business value faster than at any time in history,” Barsamian tells the interviewer form C2. And how were these four key strategies identified? Well, turns out that they all add weight to expediting the transition to what HPE is calling the “Idea Economy” which, according to Barsamian, is the “environment in which ubiquitous access to technology and digital connections provides the opportunity to turn ideas into business value faster than at any time in history.”

Barsamian then notes that a HPE defines these four areas as being:
Transform to a hybrid infrastructure to power the apps that run your business
Protect your digital enterprise
Empower a data-driven organization
Enable workplace productivity and superior customer experiences
Topping the list is my own personal favorite, the transformation all of industry is talking about, that being a transformation to a hybrid infrastructure. And it’s not just slideware or simply market-speak.

Even IBM is preaching hybrids and indeed, in a recent presentation I saw, IBM now talks about “Systems of Record” and “Systems of Engagement”, separated by a firewall, of course, but where there’s “continuous feedback and improvement” between engagement and record – yes, it’s a hybrid where mobile, for instance interfaces with the systems of engagement whereas the database is part of the system of record – and no kidding? You will need an IBM System z to be the system of record whereas an IBM Power System (System p, most likely) for the system of engagement – follow? Could you work with just a single mainframe running as a hybrid with z/OS and zLinux? As soon as you virtualize the firewall, then certainly.

But definitely, transforming to a hybrid system, whether it’s from HPE or IBM or whoever else elects to get with the program, tops the list of HPE’s four key areas. And for good cause – we have gone way past the days where general purpose computers did it all. Optimization continues to be the phrase most vendors associate with the transformation to hybrid systems. This is simply short hand for saying that different processes can be best supported by processors designed for their optimal operation – think horses for courses, naturally. As everyone in the NonStop community has come to recognize it’s not that easy to port a Unix application to NonStop even with the OSS personality pretty much up to par with the Guardian personality.

Java still has issues and unless you really want to dig into the code, move stuff around and even rewrite select routines, it has it’s issues – sure, on NonStop X it now runs fast but not as fast as on other systems. So let it run on the part of the hybrid that’s optimized to support Java. “Nothing more to talk about here – move along,” so it seems we hear daily from news feeds around the world. Then again, I am pretty chuffed to see the effort put into bringing support of JavaScript – totally unrelated to Java, but that’s another story – where the dependency on that bugaboo of all NonStop systems, heavy kernel level threading, no longer is an issue. Yes, if you have separated your systems of engagement from your systems of record, wouldn’t it be beneficial to have a common programming language available on both sides of any wall?

It is against this background of HPE now focused on “helping customers transform to the new economy” that the news came out just a few days ago that HPE will be backing away from offering public cloud support, preferring instead to focus on private and potentially managed clouds. This makes a whole lot of sense – Microsoft and Amazon own the lion’s share of this marketplace and in reality, this horse has definitely bolted from the barn and, for all intents and purposes, is a solution uncatchable by others. This for many in the NonStop community represents a wise choice on the part of HPE and brings the discussion back to hybrids – clearly, NonStop as the system of record and a private cloud for the system of engagement recognizing all too well that when interfacing with consumers and clients alike, there’s no reckoning with how much processing power will be needed by individual processes such that the elasticity clouds provides will be a further boon for the enterprise.

So for now, it is all about preparation. As a community, do NonStop users have a plan for what runs where? In any movement from proprietary, legacy and just plain old custom code, to a hybrid infrastructure in our pursue of the idea economy, the latest NonStop X systems bring with them many obvious benefits – it’s open, industry standard, x86 / InfiniBand – do we know where to split? Does our investment in Pathway over the years that has given us “knowledge of the HP NonStop server requester-server concept” now provide us with an edge over other architectures? Of course this comes down to how good an API NonStop development delivers, as part of the YUMA Project, together with our own enthusiasm to explore each and every opportunity that we come across, but the pieces are all there - in fact, think of this as part of the preparation for a new beginning for NonStop!

With Yash providing a nightcap for all participants at this year’s Boot Camp, together with the previous night’s traditional Beer Bust, there will be more than enough occasions to talk about this over adult beverages and a couple of coasters and I am sure that this will happen even if there was no stimulus provided. NonStop is right there – past important crossroads and on a widening path to broader industry acceptance. It’s a critical system in the portfolio of products to be sold to enterprises by HPE – again, have we begun to prepare for our business to participate in the idea economy? See you at Boot Camp in just a few weeks’ time …

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Still talking; still writing; most importantly, still here!

What will NonStop look like in the future? Worth discussing of course but what NonStop can do right now is very impressive. When it comes to hybrids, being cloud-ready and indeed, virtualization a closer look at NonStop may surprise you …

The other week I attended MATUG – the opening welcome address pictured above - and it was well attended and full of energy. However, this week I had time to recall some pretty bleak days of about the same time, late 2009. While sitting in my favorite Simi Valley Starbucks the news came of the passing of my father.

Members of the ITUG board had the opportunity of meeting my father shortly before I became Chairman of this organization as our home was a popular venue for board meetings as well as gatherings of the executive team. Other members of the community may also have encountered him – back in Sydney there was more than one Tandem employee who took advantage of the services he provided, be it picking up folks from a railway station or simply fetching a good bottle of red wine which he was known to enjoy later in life. Reminiscing about my father’s passing was something I covered in the post of August 30, 2011,
Stories we could tell …

Year 2009 was also the year GoldenGate was acquired by Oracle and a short time before Oracle launched into its bloody battle with HP over Itanium, the upshot being that all involved with UNIX, Oracle included, watched a rapid downward spiral in interest in all things UNIX. Today, the UNIX business is only a shadow of its former self and as all participating at the recent MATUG event heard, with the emergence of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), there’s good news for the NonStop community. Avoiding such labels as old, proprietary, or even legacy HPE grouped its current mix of products under the heading of Continued Innovation. Included in this group were HP-UX, OpenVMS and NonStop. However, looking ahead at what will be participating in the HPE product portfolio going forward, under the heading of Transformational Advancement, all present at MATUG saw just Linux, Windows and NonStop listed – no more UNIX and no more OpenVMS. How times have changed, and fast!

Perhaps the highlight for me was that in October of 2009 I started my own company focused on consulting, research with some analysis, and writing; Pyalla Technologies, LLC. I continue to be asked about Pyalla and what it means, but it’s really all very simply. Pyalla is an Australian Aboriginal word for “to talk”. And just like that, six years have passed by and the best part? I continue to really enjoy what I am doing – perhaps this small business thing isn’t such a bad gig after all! It was with some trepidation, I have to admit, that I wrote in that first post of October, 2009, Let's talk ...  of how this was to be the beginning of a new phase, a change of seasons, of adjustments better aligned with what I really like to do, and yes, even back then, I had to admit that it’s a new world even as I acknowledged that I was having a lot of fun – fortunately, creativity and enthusiasm are still in great demand and I just love to talk!

They say the first year of business is the hardest and should you survive, you will be fine. What they never say is that the first five years are even harder, or that with each passing year it gets even harder.  Having elected to focus on the NonStop community I may have limited my business model, but here’s the deal. Looking ahead at where NonStop is headed I am getting the sense that limits of the past may be falling away and that my decision to stay focused on NonStop knows no boundaries. Yes, I am part of the enterprise community and that’s where the most dramatic technology changes will occur. Over the course of the next four years, to when I will be celebrating ten years of being in business, can we guess what the NonStop will look like? And which market segments NonStop dominates?

How about looking nothing like it does today, even as HPE will be only too happy to supply you with NonStop systems no different from the familiar ones of today, even as their presence in market segments will continue to grow? New languages, new tools and frameworks, new plug and play integration, all using common industry standard components and underpinned with tried and true familiar attributes of NonStop. Solutions that can be easily “dropped in” on any NonStop system, and yes, newfound desire within HPE to “seed NonStop” within other projects and platforms – I expect that in another six years’ time, we will see a vastly different world of NonStop.

How so? It would be easy for me to look well beyond my headlights and try to describe the shadowy shapes that I see in the murkiness well beyond the illumination my headlights provide, but it wouldn’t be of that much value to those making decisions today. However, having said that, I do foresee a time when NonStop is a part of other platforms and solutions making up HPE’s product portfolio. Wouldn’t we all like to see the defining attributes of NonStop leveraged more broadly by HPE – with an uptick demand for the skills we all share when it comes to building products for NonStop?

In the near term, what is shining brightly in my headlights is the upcoming hybrid support for NonStop. That is, NonStop participating as part of mixed system configurations such that a common chassis will house NonStop X blades along with Linux and even Windows. The work being done by development as part of the Yuma project – the provision of an API in support of accessing adjacent systems in the common chassis – has reached the point where there are a handful of important partners participating in a PoC, but talk of hybrids also brings with it discussions about NonStop being cloud ready and I have to admit, NonStop having a hand in cloud support, and in so doing adding additional security and robustness to the cloud, is a tantalizing vision shared by many in the NonStop community.

It would be remiss of me, however, to consider hybrids and cloud-readiness without providing some commentary on virtualization as the more we see in our headlights the more we realize that there’s a need for a virtualization story. It may come as a surprise to many when they see the latest NonStop roadmap presentations that includes the slide, Fully-Virtualized Integrated Stack. It may also come as a surprise that in Pathway today, NonStop has a process virtual machine already sharing many of the same properties as a language-specific virtual machine. But of course, the presence of the more popular system virtual machine, such as many of us are familiar with in IBM’s z/VM and EMC’s VMware, has as yet not shown itself to the NonStop community. Here the image begins to fade back into the night but even so, I am convinced that when it comes to NonStop, it will not be left out of future discussions on virtualization. 

Don’t get me wrong, for as far as I can see into the remainder of the decade, the NonStop community will still have a choice of NonStop systems from both, the i and X families. But again, in a very brief exchange with Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Servers at Hewlett-Packard, Randy Meyer, he reiterated that indeed, there’s a lot NonStop can do around hybrid, cloud-ready and virtualization. With Randy sharing the stage with HP EVP and CTO, Martin Fink, consider this just one more plug for the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp in San Jose this November. In the meantime, there’s more writing I need to do, even as I remain as enthusiastic as always about all things NonStop!

Yahoo News just wrote of how Americans shift away from traditional jobs: study. “More than 42 million Americans are part of the independent workforce, representing a shift away from traditional jobs as more people join sectors such as the ‘on-demand’ economy,” says Yahoo reporter, Rob Lever. Here it is again, the “on demand” economy. By this, Lever notes, “The study by MBO Partners covers a variety of professions, but a growing portion of those are made up of young workers taking "gigs" with startups.” Gene Zaino (founder and chief executive of MBO) is reported to have said, "The independent workforce is thriving, and we're predicting that it will expand at more than five times the rate of the overall hiring growth in the United States in the next five years."

Perhaps my taking up this gig as Pyalla isn’t so strange, after all. Perhaps it’s not just about having fun as much as it’s about taking a giant leap of faith and joining the on demand economy that is gaining as much attention as it is these days. Irrespective of your own assessments of the work I have done, these past six years the initial message I received from Randy Meyer still resonates strongly with – it’s all about generating more ink for NonStop and there’s little to detract from how I have kept that message front and center in all that I do. So yes, here’s to the next six years and as always, I really enjoy the feedback you provide and I suspect on this occasion, there will be little to restrain any of you from passing a comment or two.

Friday, October 2, 2015

How many DBAs does it take to change a light-bulb should it not be NonStop?

Taking a look at street signs may not be the best way to tell in which direction you are headed but on the other hand, NonStop roadmaps contain strong signage as to what is coming next …

Standing at the intersection of Confidence Drive and 100 Year Party Court, I knew I was back in Boulder County. It’s nearby our home and a place we routinely visit for early morning muffins and bagels.  Apart from having a good dose of confidence it would be presumptive for most of us to suggest that they could keep any party kicking along for a hundred years and yet, after some forty plus years in the marketplace, NonStop is doing just fine and might even make that anniversary. Irrespective of that possibility it did get me thinking this week about what all is involved in ensuring something just keeps on going – just like the famous Energizer Batteries in the television commercials.

No matter the month or even the year, picking up on this theme, it seems as though I can never escape routine maintenance. Whether it’s a car needing new tires, the outside BBQ needing a thorough clean (as fall approaches) or changing light bulbs inside the house! I just finished pulling out the old bulbs and replacing with newer, more eco-friendly variety, and once I started I was surprised at just how many light bulbs had failed over the summer. Then again, I was reminded that maintenance is never a one-time shot as no one has ever suggested that any apparatus only ever needs to be looked at just once.

Since time immemorial, data centers have been subject to regular maintenance. At first, it was simply a case of cleaning the card reader and removing paper dust from the printers. Part of any service agreement for a major system included scheduled down time for maintenance for which enterprises paid a small fortune to ensure was performed regularly and to a plan. But can we safely ignore some tasks today and save the money? Surely, just rip out the server that’s failed and replace it with a new one – what’s the point of spending time trying to fix a computer that is little more than a board? Has the price of industry-standard components dropped to the point where we really do enjoy the luxury of having disposable systems?

Just recently I attended the MATUG user group meeting in Herndon, Virginia. This was held on the HP property that is located on EDS Drive, close by Washington D.C.s Dulles airport. Even though our navigation system couldn’t help but call the thoroughfare Ed’s Drive, nevertheless, we were reminded how times change and how street names once thought impervious to change harken back to former glory days. Nearby where we live, here in Boulder, CO, are the former premises of the once mighty Storage Technology and while the buildings were all demolished a while ago, off the arterial highway that now takes you to a shopping mall there are sign posts for both Disk Drive and Tape Drive that lead nowhere at all.

HP Product Manager, Mark Pollans, did an excellent job of reviewing the NonStop product roadmap and while he had the audience literally “Oohing” and “Ahhing” on a regular basis, one item did catch my attention. I know I have heard reference made to it in the past, but for some reason this time it had me thinking. When it came to supporting Solid State Disks (SSDs), that are essentially extensions to the thumb drive technology we all have come to depend upon of late, it wasn’t a straightforward task for the engineers at HP.

The problem is that they just wear out. Just when you least expect it, they're not going to let you write anything more. Who knew; makes me take a second glance at all the thumb drives I have stashed in a side draw of my desk that each carries a different PowerPoint presentation. The wear out monitor is a feature of the drive and it is externalized via Open System Management (OSM); it is OSM that will alert you as an SSD is getting close to wearing out – giving customers ample time to replace the drive.

But here’s the thing, as I understood it from Mark, when it comes to the HP NonStop systems using SSDs, there’s now new capabilities incorporated into the drive that provide feedback on just how long they can be used so that monitoring software can graph the potential failure time so enterprises will not be caught out by surprise.

Vendors working in the application monitoring space are also aware of this property of SSDs on NonStop and assure me that they have this base well and truly covered. All sounds rather simple when you think about it – letting us know when you can no longer write data to an SSD - but no, seems that bringing this to our attention (as it is about to happen) was a requirement of the HP NonStop team.  Ooh! And yes, Ahh!

And this cuts to the very core of why we have faith in the NonStop engineering team. Not for them is an easy path, but rather, tackling every problem from the perspective of the user and not just individual items in isolation, but how they impact the total operation of a NonStop system. I am often told of just how good the hardware has become and I am being questioned about the continuing relevance of NonStop.

To many folks, it’s once again a case of thinking that good enough is well, yes, good enough. But it isn’t and it’s proven time and time again in the real world. Outages hurt and there’s no ducking the issue and yes, planned outages hurt every bit as much as unplanned outages – I still become highly agitated when my online banking application tells me that it will be down for maintenance Sunday between the hours of 4:00pm and midnight. What the heck is that all about … But now, for users of NonStop systems with SSDs it’s safe to run even the most accessed NonStop SQL (NS SQL) tables on the latest in SSD offerings from HP.

When the NonStop developers first started discussing the need to provide an SQL database on NonStop one of the most important properties covered was how to keep SQL up and running even during times of maintenance? As I am so often reminded, the very nature of SQL and the relational database manager supporting it, database administrators (DBAs) need to run certain utilities that check out just how fragmented the database has become and then, after gathering statistics, and then perform routine maintenance. All the while, the database is offline as with all other popular SQL implementations, you have to take down the database and have some other option for handling queries that may continue arriving at the application.

Several years ago I wrote a research note on NS SQL for HP (that is no longer available on the HP web site, but can be provided upon request), and the fact that NS SQL was a part of the “integrated HW, SW and OS stack” simplified NS SQL in ways other implementation simply couldn’t emulate. In that research note I made the observation of how, from the server’s hardware and disk storage subsystems to the operating system itself, on up through the platforms low-level access methods and audit, logging and recovery features, at every turn the DBA faces compromises and trade-offs when it comes to tuning an SQL database.

Whether it’s simple maintenance or more complex modeling to cater for growth; trouble-shooting because of user input errors and unexpected resource locks; monitoring performance, running statistics, and updating query plans, there’s no let-up in the demand it places on DBAs. Perhaps central to what drives much of the activity of the DBA is the underlying problem that the SQL database instance is but one of many technology “layers” the DBA needs to be aware of. Even with the tools on offer today, there’s still much that simply relies on the judgment calls of skilled DBAs.

“I think ease-of-management is a valid argument,” said Sami Akbay, formerly VP of Marketing, GoldenGate Software, and now Cofounder and EVP of Striim (Nee WebAction). “Having fewer systems instead of ‘fragmented’ infrastructure is something that favors the NonStop SQL offerings!” Just as importantly and highly valued by DBAs supporting NS SQL/MX is the ability to run mixed workloads as a byproduct of this tight integration without, for instance, competing resource management schemes. “We update statistics and query plans on a monthly basis, for most objects and we do it on the fly!” Rob Lesan, formerly of AOL and now part of the vendor community, confirmed all of the above before adding “maintenance? Truly, we run reorgs, statistics, splits, column adds, etc. all without taking anything down. It’s the NonStop fundamentals!”

Of all the attributes of NS SQL that I know the NonStop community value most of all is that there’s no need to break for routine maintenance – it all can be done on the fly while the database is being accessed by NS SQL applications anywhere in the network. Ooh! And yes, again, Ahh! Try that out with Oracle or even SQL Server without resorting to complicated cluster options together with background data replication in place, all glued together with complex scripts demanding a whole lot of operator attention. Gee whiz, hope nothing breaks right now! Of course, the answer to the question of just how many DBAs do you need when not running on NonStop becomes a sore point for enterprises. 

SSDs that degrade with warnings and SQL that doesn’t have to be shut down all help reduce the maintenance load expected of NonStop systems and this is proving to be a major consideration going forward. If you want to enjoy that 100 year party you need to look very seriously at all that NonStop offers and yes, have the confidence to promote internally! No, when it really matters most, NS SQL, and the integrated stack it is part of, remains unmatched in terms of underlying technology than any competitor’s offering and for this, the community can sit back and exhale – ooh! Ahh!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It’s all goodness; some useful and important information!

Where am I bound, it don't matter
Pocket dialing halfway 'cross the nation
What do I hear? Mindless chatter
All this useless and important information

Jimmy Buffett, "Useless but Important Information"

Pulling the company command center into our Boulder, Colorado, home for what will likely be the last time in 2015, it would be remiss of me not to mention just how useful having this RV has proved to be. Racking up more miles this year than any other, we have attended 2015 HP Discover, swung through the state of Texas with a visit to N2TUG before heading across to California and now the trip to Washington D.C. with a visit to MATUG before weekending on the outer banks of North Carolina, essentially seeing most of continental USA from out of the windscreen of our RV. Looking at a McDonalds sign above the exit to the city of Champaign seemed every bit as incongruous as it appears on first sight, but then again, what we see on the road we do need to share with friends. Yes, another case of “All this useless but important information.”

Unfortunately, for our trip to San Jose, with a visit to the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC), it will be back to a vehicle we can trust to get us through potential snowfalls in the Sierras or the Rockies, as given the timeframe, there’s a likelihood we will meet winter’s arrival at some point. The Jeep SUV has proved every bit as trustworthy as our command center RV, but all the same, checking into and out of roadside hotels has become rather blasé. There’s something to be said about taking it all with you! We sure will miss the command center.

Future trips always have me pulling out the maps to ensure the route isn’t one we have travelled before - after all, for us, we both like variety! I have an ancient paper map of the continental United States and after several years of abuse, the yellow highlight is fading from many of these  routes so picking out something entirely new is becoming a challenge, and yet, the thought of doing a trip that takes us somewhere completely different always excites us. With both Margo and I born far from these shores and having missed the annual family excursions in the station wagon, it’s all still very new to both of us.

With this having been said, there is quite a lot that’s similar to what we are experiencing today with NonStop. Even the most jaded NonStop supporter will recognize how each trip with NonStop is across virgin turf and that, facing any new project the first task undertaken is to bring out the product roadmaps. After all, so much has been changing with NonStop it’s almost inevitable that the yellow highlight has faded as well. It’s been twenty years this coming January since I last worked for Tandem Computers and yet, it’s hard to fathom at times – the Tandem blood flows strongly through my veins. And product roadmaps continue to keep that blood flowing prodigiously!

I have to assume by now that every member of the NonStop community has become aware that the keynote speaker at this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) will be then HPE EVP and CTO, Martin Fink. Probably the most influential technical mind inside of HPE, it’s also common knowledge that a number of years ago, Martin headed the then NonStop Enterprise Division, or NED, as it was referred to by the NonStop community. After spending many years as an ITUG volunteer I finally was elected to the ITUG Board at the end of 1999 and went on to serve as a director from 2000 to 2006 being the Chairman from 2004 to 2005.

While this may be ancient history for many in the NonStop community, by coincidence, 2004 was when Martin ascended to the top position in NonStop and I recall vividly how we both shared the stage for ITUG Europe in Berlin, 2004. I wasn’t all that sure what to expect from a HP manager, but any uneasiness was quickly put to one side as soon as Martin began talking about the benefits of NonStop and while he has taken up other posts, and his days at NonStop only a memory, Martin continues to be a supporter of the NonStop community so his agreement to be the keynote speaker at TBC didn’t come as a big surprise for many of us who are HP watchers.

At this point I have to give the game away. I am fully expecting that we will hear some pretty useful and entirely important information. It wouldn’t be anything else coming from Martin. I have always held the belief that NonStop is the unpolished gem in the greater HP product portfolio and this has been very much on my mind these past couple of days following the MATUG event outside Washington D.C. To be completely honest, my time spent this past weekend on the outer banks saw me playing the beachcomber as I searched fruitlessly, as it turned out, for the odd Spanish silver piece of eight that may have washed up on shore overnight. For the NonStop community that gem is the inclusion of NonStop as a key participant in the product roadmaps of HPE – alongside Windows and Linux, NonStop is the sole participant from a much broader product portfolio  of just a short time ago.

Expecting such useful and important information I emailed Martin for some insight and fortunately for the NonStop community he was pretty responsive to my request. “At a high-level the plan is for me to tell the story of ‘what really happened’ over the last years with Nonstop.” write Martin. “Folks see the new products and what we’ve done, but there’s the story behind the story that’s not visible to many.  I’ll tell that story.” Nothing too obscure with these remarks – we are going to hear it all. Of course, much will come down to Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Servers at Hewlett-Packard, Randy Meyer, but there’s little doubt in my mind given the usual Labs folks seeking the support of the field organization that Randy will be on board with Martin’s program. At any rate, given that Randy’s presentation immediately follows Martins, we should all know Randy’s position pretty quickly.

In a later exchange with Martin I was able to find out that as part of his presentation he would be providing, “a sneak peek into my CTO-level vision for future opportunities for the NonStop software and capabilities.” For some time now I have observed that the future role of NonStop may not be limited to just the box and the integrated stack that comes with it and essentially, ships as a fully operational system. No, for me, the game looks to be broadening to where its influence may be a tad bigger than anything we imagined, but I will stop with this as Martin hasn’t given any indication that this is part of the plan. So like you, I will be in the audience at TBC waiting to hear exactly what it is Martin has in plan for the bigger NonStop!

That I will not be sharing the stage with Martin or Randy doesn’t really count as useless but important information, but you catch my drift. Those days are behind all of us and yet, there is a real sense of continuity that almost every other platform I have been associated with through the decades simply hasn’t enjoyed. NonStop, some forty plus years on, is still commanding attention and that the most influential technical mind inside HP is coming to TBC is of significance of itself – want to hear a stronger message about NonStop? Well, try this on for size, we have Martin coming to fill in all the blanks in person.

I could add that there will be numerous vendor dinners, and cocktails will be readily available throughout the week. I could also add that there will be numerous presentations as well as product demonstrations – it will be a very full program. I could also add that there will be educational opportunities that many attendees will take full advantage of. But you guessed it. Anything more I could add now would only be seen as a lot of "Useless but Important Information". Yes, pack your bags, book you flights and accommodation. Martin is coming to TBC and it’s all goodness for the NonStop community!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cup of Joe; a quick “Squiz” of the Headlines; and back to Work!

Camped outside Lincoln, Nebraska, as I head to the MATUG event outside Washington D.C., I realize that there’s much to be learnt from being on the road. Not the least being the time to be able to think of what future NonStop systems might look like and to catch up with innovative companies that may yet impact NonStop.

Much of my summer months I’ve spent on the road. With the better weather conditions for driving it’s an opportunity to mix with the NonStop community – vendors and users equally, and the insight that this provides is always valuable. It’s a very simple equation really, to write one needs to first listen and then just as importantly, read and comprehend. The basics, right! However, it still comes as a surprise when I encounter something unexpected and so it’s never about the destination, as the saying goes, but the journey. Or to put it another way, information is out there. It exists. You just have to want it. Even if you are in the middle of the road attentive as ever as you hang on to your stop sign and yes, with not a whole lot to do, you can always pull up the news on your smartphone!

If there were one thing I could revisit it would have to do with my ability to learn and then retain information on any topic via some kind of infusion process. Touch an apple and immediately I would know everything that makes an apple what it is – juicy and nutritious. Or even easier, tune in to everything, everywhere and know it all, instantly.  This has been the theme of numerous films and television series, the most recent being the upcoming series Limitless that will debut this fall in the U.S. Based on the premise of there being a brain-boosting substance, available in a pill, that enables it’s user to use 100% of their brain capacity.

My interests in part in companies developing products and solutions in fields I consider adjacent to NonStop have always been important to me. Over the last couple of years this has led me not only to be part of companies porting new platforms to NonStop, or even developing simple solutions for better hybrid NonStop to Linux / Windows integration and exploitation, but to vendors working in Clouds and Big Data areas as well as others working on HP systems a little further afield, like the new Cloudline and Moonshot. Not being a part of HP or privy to the internal roadmaps means that I spend a lot of time looking at the tealeaves and speculating about possible outcomes, so validating assumptions with vendors much closer to these roadmaps always proves valuable. But even so, there’s always surprises awaiting me when I dig a little deeper.

For some time now I have been involved in InkaBinka – not as close to the development as if I were a product manager, but close enough to be well informed about the evolving technology and the research that is behind it. Some of the patents the InkaBinka folks have filled, I have to admit,  are a little beyond my pay grade, but that’s OK too. I do get what the intent is so don’t approach me for specifics on the implementation as the knowledge of the fine details of any product I have ever been associated with hasn’t been my forte. But InkaBinka is special in that it tells me what can be done today using very modern languages, models and frameworks with the implication that all roads eventually intersect and at some point, solutions built for one platform will have applicability on any other platform, including NonStop.

Over the course of the past couple of years I have included updates on the progress being made by the team at InkaBinka and for those who may recall, there have been several major revisions to the deliverables that make up InkaBinka. The objective hasn’t changed – can I get all the news I need in 2 minutes or so and can it be readable from my mobile device of choice? In other words, provide me with an intelligent synopsis of news as it happens and allow me to then click on icons that give me more details or even video clips on the story? Every morning on awaking I grab a coffee and sit down at my iPad and the first icon I click is always InkaBinka.

However, what really has been the major story behind InkaBinka has been the maturing of the most comprehensive approach to Natural Language Processing (NLP) I have ever seen. How they stumbled onto this and were able to complete as complex an operation as this (and in the timeframe we are talking about) is beyond anything I have previously experienced – the stories summarized for me aren’t created by a team of editors somewhere but rather are the result of continuous software analysis happening in the background. But now, as interest in what the InkaBinka NLP can do, the horizon for leveraging InkaBinka is widening significantly. As Kevin McGushion, Founder and CEO of InkaBinka, tells it, “In other words, if we built a machine that could teach itself and then teach you, quickly (that’s the essence of summary and as it turns out dialog) we will have created a very powerful technology to not only draw customers and advertisers, but to influence and educate the world.”

Now Kevin isn’t prone to talking up a big story simply by waving his hands around like an old-style big tent evangelist, as he is a true rocket scientist with the paten
ts to back him up. My first introduction to Kevin was captured in the post of June 2, 2010, What’s in your garage? and little did I know all those years ago where he was headed. But as he then explains, “We have applied for our first in a new series of patents on self-learning artificial intelligence that effectively teaches itself anything in milliseconds. It’s like that scene from The Matrix when Neo learns Kung Fu in milliseconds.” Love this video clip, by the way and one of the things I really enjoy watching on the home theatre are the Matrix movies.

As the late night television advertisers constantly remind us, “But wait, we did more! We gave this machine the ability to tell you a story in its own words,” Kevin adds. “After learning a subject it gives you the condensed version in words that are more economical (takes less time) and it enhances information with other information it has learned but may have been less accessible by you. It is an interesting paradox that at a time when information is most available, the sheer volume makes it inaccessible.  We aim to solve that problem.”

Kevin said, he and Chris Brahmer, COO and Cofounder of InkaBinka have formed a dynamic duo where, as quickly as he invents Chris builds.  Chris said it is through this highly interactive exchange at speeds that would stun most people that we are able to build so much revolutionary technology so quickly.  Kevin added, “Chris literally does all of the coding himself for InkaBinka, and its NLP and he has a unique skill set which allows him thrive in an environment of invention where most developers fail.”

Without going any further, it's worth remembering that InkaBinka is available as an App that can be downloaded from your choice of App Store or equivalent. The server side is where the action all takes place and yes, it should come as no surprise to readers to hear once again, this server implementation has been developed using Server Side JavaScript together with a full stack of complementary components all packaged within the popular framework, Famo.US.
 You don’t have to go back too far through previous posts on InkaBinka to understand why I am a huge supporter of the InfraSoft folks with their deep port to NonStop of the critical engine behind JavaScript, Node.js. But today, InkaBinka runs 100% on HP Moonshot and if you were ever wondering about the type of solutions that best fit with the goals of the Moonshot project, InkaBinka happens to be among the most successful Moonshot use-case scenarios.

In a world where the big project is fading from memory and where each and every business problem is being solved with mini-apps following an incremental “build” model, InkaBinka makes a compelling case for just how sophisticated a solution can be built using this methodology. In a recent private client email I set forth the case for solutions being built in a day – even less – and, as an industry, meeting such a goal isn’t all that far away. As a meaningful demonstration of the practical aspects from going down this path, InkaBinka is a very good example but there’s a whole lot more even for the hardest of die-hard NonStop advocate. So much is about to change as plans of HP to expand product offering to enterprise customers shifts gears – Hybrids, Converged Infrastructure and Converged Systems, Cloudline and much more.

All of which is to say, what a future NonStop system might look like shouldn’t deter us from looking closely at what’s happening on these many adjacent systems as in time, and with user input, they may just become an integral part of NonStop. Who wouldn’t want a NLP capability as exists today to help up with data analytics in real time? Take NonStop out of the box, think of it as a capability or property and then challenge HP to deliver – who would have thought that before Converged Systems began being packaged we would see Windows on x86 together with a Linux on Moonshot (ARM) in the same cabinet?

Before finishing our discussions, in true NASCAR-winning style, Kevin wasn’t shy in talking about and indeed thanking, his developers. “With a team of 7 people, we have done what no one else has ever done,” says Kevin. “We will continue to build on this. And yes, I truly owe a special thanks to Chris Brahmer for personally sacrificing so much to make all of this possible.”  And to the team, my own thanks as their efforts went a long way to seal my own enthusiasm for this approach to development and the fun it has generated – and now, it’s back to reading the headlines with time aplenty to finish my cup of coffee while it’s still hot! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Autonomous computing; tempting, but we still need input from a good design!

The story lines may take unexpected twists and turns but the enthusiasm for NonStop remains straight and true. For me, there’s much that we can discuss about NonStop but the design of NonStop? Well, with NonStop X, it’s as modern a computer as anything in the marketplace today!

For the first post of my ninth year of blogging I would be hard pressed to start with anything other than yet another metaphor derived from the auto industry. It has to do with self-driving vehicles – an abomination, from my perspective, and something that would give me pause to reconsider whether I would like to continue driving at all. No, I am not even tempted to go down this path, no matter what the signs might suggest! Even now I cause some discomfort among my friends whenever I criticize a popular vehicle solely on the basis of it providing very little driver feedback – don’t you want to be aware of the conditions of the road you have chosen to drive down? Can’t you sense the input the car is providing and doesn’t that just add to the enjoyment that comes with driving?

Readers of my posts to this NonStop community blog will also recall that the associations I draw from the world of automobiles and computers are not only frequent, but something we sometimes don’t see on first glance. Who would have thought writing about the C6 Corvette having its exhaust system improved for better performance, as was noted in the September 2, 2008, post Blood and corpses everywhere! Really? (and yes, check out the picture used) would then segue to where  I said that there’s no emerging social discontent with computing that has chip manufacturers planning some voluntarily limits to their performance. Virtualization will be part of the new landscape on NonStop.

But again, connecting the dots between exhaust manifolds and extractors to virtualization is what keeps readers thinking about what comes next and so it was that this morning I read an interesting exchange in an interview published in the September, 2015, issue of Road and Track. While this is one of the publications from which I draw inspiration it was an interview with McLaren’s design chief, Frank Stephenson, that caught my attention – and yes, at a time when the pundits are working overtime to extol what the future of computer manufacturers is with automobiles, as anyone invested in the likes of Google and Apple can attest.

When Stephenson was asked about autonomous driving and whether it has a place at McLaren, his response wasn’t unexpected. “Autonomous driving is the last thing you want from a sports car, but imagine a track day,” Stephenson responded. “The car knows the best line, the speed, the gears. It teaches you in those first few laps. You’re feeling the input from the car. After five laps, you can give it a go yourself.” Of course, this could be expected from a designer of one of the world’s finest supercars even as it renews its presence racing in Formula 1. But applying what we are watching other auto manufacturers are developing in support of autonomous driving to teaching us to be much better drivers, now that’s something I can work with.

When it comes to IT and data centers much of what I have been writing about of late has to do with the evolutionary steps being taken by companies building monitoring solutions. As the designers of today’s computers pull together mostly industry standard components and subassemblies, there’s little to differentiate one system from another and yet, as we move a little further up the stack and away from the bare metal, industry standard together with open software allow the computer designers a lot of free play when it comes to exploiting the benefits provided by the common architectures. At a time when some industry analysts still question the need for NonStop as they overlook just how modern NonStop has become, up and down these hardware and software stacks, things just fail.

However, as we look out further in to the future at what computer designers are considering building there’s a couple of items that stand out and that, in many ways, play into the hands of NonStop. As previously covered, we are definitely headed towards a software-designed-everything and I have to admit, I am pleased to see the industry headed down this path. But software-designed-everything will lead us to a level of virtualization that many within the NonStop community continue to scratch their heads about – won’t that simply compromise the capacity for NonStop to provide fault tolerance at the highest level?

On the other hand, software-designed-everything coupled with virtualization takes us into the world of self-learning and indeed, eventually, self-healing. Autonomous computing is at hand and for many CIOs, this has become the Holy Grail – whereto the high priced / highly valued systems managers, we will then be asking of ourselves? In times when so many of us are taking a step back from the industry, surely there has to be a demand for our skills as we teach tomorrow’s systems how to learn and heal? Unfortunately, this may not be the case as we head towards a world where a few clever people will lay down the foundations for all systems.

In my discussions with those inside of HP working with software-defined-everything (and no, there’s no product yet so don’t call your HP sales folks just yet), fully virtualized and with the ability to provision for any occasion, what we will see at first is something pretty basic and most likely template based. Given this industry and running this solution, here’s some basic rules to determine when to run an application, where to locate it and give it access to the resources it needs and yes, what to do when something goes wrong. But again, companies building monitoring solutions have already began taking steps along the path to predictability, learning and self-healing. And for good reason – future systems will require a higher level of intelligence to step in at the appropriate time and drive the healing. Completely autonomously and without any operator intervention!

Well, this may fly with some folks in Armonk and along Redwood Shores but for me, even where the computer knows the best time to run an application, the resources the application will require and the steps to take to recover any failed or compromised processes, I would prefer that this was all done initially in kind of a tutorial manner so that after a short period of time, it teaches us rather than dismisses us. Autonomous computer systems will be fine but at some point, it’s still the responsibility of businesses everywhere to know at any point in time what is transpiring on their systems. For NonStop then, this opens the door not only to house the intelligence overarching all that is happening but be the control box for our steering wheel that provides us with the input we need to traverse an increasingly hostile global everything-connected world.

Yes, there is still cause to celebrate good design and as much as the rest of the computer world embraces standards and builds cookie-cutter systems differentiated only on price and perhaps services, NonStop continues to provide value and in a way that is headed in the right direction. NonStop buried within a hypervisor? Why not! NonStop provisioning according to the “availability needs” template / profile? Again, of course! And yes, NonStop as the control box – even as one vendor has begun calling the latest NonStop family, the NonStop X systems, the X Box – allowing us to learn to observe and to step in with all the input needed to steer any desired course.

From the same issue of the same magazine comes the back page article, Driven by Design. Former Vice Chairman of GM and before that, Executive VP at Ford, with just a brief stint at Chrysler long enough, mind you, to bring the Dodge Viper to market. “There aren’t any bad cars anymore. They just don’t exist,” writes Lutz. “The days of seeing a comparison test of four cars where one is the obvious loser are gone, replace by a new age of automotive equality. Reliability, braking, steering, handling, ride, and refinement are all largely on par across automakers and segments. That leaves just one chief differentiator: design.”

Monitoring solutions are only going to get more important over time. But perhaps the attribute that gives these monitoring solutions the option to see it all is that they are running on the box that’s always there, X Box or not. For this to continue, the onus falls on the bevy of designers looking after NonStop systems today and to everyone in the NonStop community, what they do still cannot be replicated – and with that, autonomous computing or otherwise, we truly do have assurances that NonStop has a definitive role to play and I for one, look forward to seeing this role for NonStop eventuate as the designers work to bring us all software-defined-everything!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another anniversary … and NonStop still holds center stage!

Anniversaries are always important and there’s always consequences should we fail to remember them. When it comes to blogging there’s no similar downside but all the same, from a bloggers perspective, there’s a genuine mix of surprise along with the thought of only having just begun – so yes, thanks for all you support!

Last year I was a couple of days late in posting the anniversary post and opened with an apology that kicked off with me reminding myself not to forget writing the post; after all, remembering anniversaries remains an important consideration in all we do. But I do forget key dates and for many years now, following an incident I will not get into in any detail, the number of our car that we have driven on road courses for many years is 161 – yes, a reminder of the 16th of January, my wedding anniversary. With the completion of this post, I will commence my 9th year of blogging having first posted on August 20, 2007. As for the cars now in the garage, Pyalla 1 and Pyalla 2, think of them as being Primary and Back-Up!

Numbers of posts don’t really tell the complete story nor does it reflect the many changes I have seen across the community. In the fall of 2007, shortly after I started blogging, the NonStop community was gathered in Brighton, just to the south of London, for the European ITUG event. It was memorable simply because participants came up to me and said that they had started reading my posts and this was all the motivation I needed at the time. Now, supporting numerous industry and vendor blogs, I have really warmed to the task of writing incessantly about all things NonStop and in so doing have watched many others do likewise. At a time when so many in the NonStop community express concern that NonStop is overlooked by the mainstream press, the cumulative work of the NonStop folks delivering content to social media channels fills a very important niche.

Soon I will be pulling out of the driveway yet again for a week’s sojourn on the west coast, visiting both southern and northern California. Brief meetings of investors will occupy our time in SoCal whereas vendor meetings will hold center stage in NoCal. The weekend will be an entirely different matter as we spend time at Sonoma for the final track event of the Indy Racing League (IRL) where our good friends’, Brian and Jan Kenny, together with their son-in-law, Bryan Herta (who owns an IRL team Bryan Herta Autosport ), who will be contesting this final event of the year. Talk about anniversaries. Yes, it was the Bryan Herta Autosport team that won the 100th Anniversary running of the Indy 500 race in 2011 and where the winnings and publicity spurred him on to build a team to run fulltime – the weekend at Indy for that Indy 500 event he won just happened to be a one-off for the team. Success can lead to some surprising outcomes so our trek to Sonoma is bound to be a weekend full of surprises.

My attention this month has been on the topic of modern. The upcoming Sep / Oct, 2015, issue of the community magazine, The Connection, has modernization as its theme, but rather than writing another article on the act of modernization my thoughts this time have been on what exactly is modern? Does something today considered to be modern have clearly identifiable attributes? A modern house, a modern car, a modern television – what does it mean to be modern? Is something considered by one community as being cool be immediately agreed-upon by society as being modern? Do we all share a single appreciation for what’s modern and does this understanding cross over to computer systems?

On the LinkedIn group, Mainframe Experts Network, an interesting discussion developed when a member posted the headlines, 71% of all Fortune 500 companies have their core business on the mainframe. Forget for the moment that this is posted to an IBM mainframe centric group and read on. “The mainframe is a hugely viable business asset. The alternative is not necessarily better, or cheaper. Mainframe's have a marketing problem, not a quality, function or reliability problem. Why? because perception is, it is more expensive and every IT hardware, software and services company or alternative, is aggressively creating FUD because they all have something to gain if they can persuade prospects to move off what had been labelled as ‘legacy’”.

Forget too for the moment that the IBM crowd is complaining about others using FUD on them – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. FUD has been the stock-in-trade response of IBM for decades to any counter-proposal to using the mainframe. But the observation that perception that (the mainframe) is more expensive and that businesses can gain from moving to another platform resonates with everyone belonging to the NonStop community. Then again, this could be expected as after the IBM mainframe, the NonStop is now the second oldest architecture managing to out-survive highly popular systems from the likes of Prime, Wang, Data General, Four Phase and the like. And as a community we fully understand that the alternative to NonStop doesn’t always end up being better or even cheaper.

However, here’s the kicker. Whereas IBM moved on from proprietary chips and fabrics / backplanes to its own proprietary Risc chips, NonStop elected to head in a different direction as it kept evolving to where today, no piece of its hardware is proprietary. While both systems today support languages, tools and frameworks that make programming applications no more difficult to do than on any other platform, be it Wintel or something else, NonStop continues to deliver an integrated stack in support of openness – something IBM hasn’t quiet managed to do after all these years. I know I will get push-back on this observation but with IBM there’s options and with options comes complexity and complex systems are inherently less robust and tend to fail more often.

As for NonStop, how many of us have forgotten just how much Pathway does for us – in terms of being a framework in support of our applications as well as a working model on how to build other middleware and frameworks with the same characteristics? While it’s still the realm of development shops to do the heavy lifting needed to support fault tolerance, the ability to develop persistent applications on top of these fault tolerant core management and monitoring components has become easy to do. But this is exactly what a modern system needs to possess today – an integrated stack from metal to data that lets developers focus on logic.

Where the commentary on this LinkedIn group heads is familiar territory. Training of the younger generation of IT professionals. “It is always a challenge to convince the younger management group to believe in IBM, and especially so when they ask the question, ‘who can we hire once you retire,’” was one observation that generated further comments. And for many in the NonStop community, this is also true. That is one reason I continue to blog as I do – I may not have the answers but I sure do know who to contact and where to direct questions. NonStop systems are modern systems by any standard of measure and HP has invested considerable funds into NonStop, making sure it is industry standard and open – equipping the next generation of IT professionals to be capable of fully exploiting its capabilities. It all comes down to setting expectations. NonStop is not a general purpose computer, but rather, it’s a transaction processing system capable of processing transactions in real time.

However, modern systems aren’t all we need to communicate as the NonStop community is aware that today we live with modern perceptions along with modern expectations. By this I mean that the model of “good enough” being fine, and yes, “No Service” being a temporary nuisance, shouldn’t apply to the systems at the heart of our business solutions. Having interviewed as many IT professionals as I have over the past eight years it still comes as a surprise to realize that what the NonStop community values so highly is of only passing interest – oh really? The system never fails? NonStop systems must be expensive and complex and very hard to program! All of which is to say, my uneducated IT professionals would likely pushback on having to work on such a system even if it is as modern as we know it is.

NonStop is not a general purpose computer and as such it will never capture the share of Global 1000 corporations many other systems claim in their marketing promotions. But again, that’s not the point – we are talking transaction processing. So the numbers HP is now throwing up on the big screen during presentations about the ongoing success of NonStop in markets like finance, Telco, retail, manufacturing and transportation are impressive. In particular the potential for growth in the mobile phone network markets, looks impressive and is one market segment I suspect few have been aware of the presence of NonStop before seeing HP’s presentations. The signs are all there – just talk to any member of the NonStop vendor community about sales figures this year – in all likelihood, the business of NonStop turned a corner earlier this year. Chalk that up to yet one more modern perception that is in dead wrong – NonStop is shifting into a growth phase and that may be the most surprising observation of mine over the course of eight years of blogging.

Numbers of posts don’t tell the story, but all the same, they do highlight the many channels through which the message of NonStop travels. From association blogs (e.g. ATMmarketplace and more recently, BAI), to vendor blogs (IR, comForte, DataExpress, WebAction, etc.) to NonStop community blogs like this one, Real Time View, there have been more than 1000 posts with readership anywhere from 350,000 to 500,000 plus over the past eight years. I often blog about the difference individuals can make and while I remain bullish on this front, I also think persistence counts for something. As does growth - have you noticed, too, just how many orders have been placed for the NonStop X? If you missed it, look for another post on this topic shortly. And so, for the immediate future I will persist – expect many more posts to follow, naturally! Thank you all for your support these past eight years as you too have all played a big part in making a difference, too.