Monday, September 24, 2007

What did you have in mind, eh?

With a dozen postings already up on the blog, I am beginning to enjoy the exchange that’s begun. However, among the postings and emails that have arrived, are some questions about the scope of my topics, the style of commentary I am providing, as well as some concerns about who exactly my audience is. So, I thought it is probably the right time to take this on and provide some feedback as to my views on all three of these issues. The picture I have included here is of me relaxed, looking out to sea, and I can't think of a better way to introduce the topic!

When it comes to the scope of topics I will cover, it was clearly outlined in my first Connection magazine column, the Real Time View, back in the July – August 2006 issue – when I said “I plan to focus exclusively on the data center, and to cover the many combinations of server platforms and infrastructure we all rely upon to support our business. This is not to dismiss other important areas within IT - but just reflects the area of interest that I am most passionate about”.

I recently had an exchange with a couple of folks in Cupertino on this topic, and I think it’s worthwhile to repeat it here in my blog. But since putting it together for them, I have had a little more time to think it through, and now believe that the scope of my topics will center on three themes:
1. The platform,
2. System attributes (or fundamentals), together with a recent addition,
3. Data Bases and Business Intelligence.
Within these three themes, I will cover a fair amount of territory, as follows:

1. Platform

Blades: I foresee dramatic changes on the horizon (2008?) as Blades first make an appearance in support of NonStop – this to me, bundled in potentially hybrid packages, will put NonStop directly in the cross-hairs of IBM and its System z. I say this not because there’s anything wrong, or bad with this eventuality, but to think of such a positioning in terms of having a choice.

Open Systems: I really liked what Wendy Bartlett said in a recent blog comment to the “Got Security?” posting I made a few weeks back. In her comment she said “while OSS is POSIX compliant, OSS is not POSIX, UNIX, or LINUX. OSS does use the high-level interface code from the OSF/1 implementation (http://www.osf.org)/.” Wendy then went on to add “however, the low-level kernel code was implemented by HP on HP’s NonStop Operating System to our own software engineering standards and therefore inherits the NonStop Operating System fundamentals.” This is huge, and something we should all remain cognizant of, and actively promote within our corporations!

Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Journey: I continue to follow this topic as I see us transition to a services model and my previous blog served as an introduction to this topic (Service? I’ll give you service … Sept 21, 07). From the early days of Web services, on to SOA, and potentially, to an Event-Driven Architecture (EDA), I have been an active participant, and I see great potential here, not only with the product-set from HP, but from the vendor community as well. I have borrowed the phrase SOA Journey from another user group but really I do believe the deployment of an SOA suite is but the first big step on a journey that will continue for many years to come.

2. System Attributes

Availability: I am pretty passionate about this topic and truly believe it is the most important product differentiator. I see this as fundamental to the question of “why NonStop”? I see every need to have systems that have no downtime due to unplanned outages. I am also actively involved with the Business Continuity SIG as the SIG leader where concerns over availability are front-and-center of the discussions within this SIG.

Scalability: I am equally as passionate about this topic and view it as an attribute that is often skipped and/or glossed over. There are three great lies in this world –

“The check is in the mail!”
“I checked, and your meal will be right out!”
“This system will be as big as you need!”

Many of us sat through a great presentation at the ITUG event in 2006 I believe, when the ANZ bank (Australia) talked about their migration from NonStop, to a cluster of Intel servers running NT. The work they did to address availability moved them close to NonStop, with a couple of exceptions – but just as they were about to go into full production, the ANZ bank bought another bank and they found they could not quickly scale-up to meet the new demands. The return to NonStop, for them, was purely based on the scalability of NonStop.

Security: And, winding it’s way through all of this will be Security – something I have become extremely sensitive to lately – and not just because my wife who joined XYPRO last year, talks to me about it over coffee (not the specifics of her products, mind you, but in general terms), and not because at GoldenGate, data integration and business continuity is bumping into security as well, but because it’s right at the top of the list of concerns with every CIO I have talked to recently.

3. Data Base and Business Intelligence

Real-Time: I don’t think we can escape this subject anymore, as the term-real time is becoming more important as discussions turn to Business Intelligence (BI). I view the definition of real-time along the lines of the IEEE Standard Dictionary, Sixth Edition (John Wiley, 1996), when it states “the actual time in the real world during which an event takes place … an event or data transfer in which, unless accomplished within an allotted amount of time, the accomplishment of the action has either no value or diminishing value …” Again, this is an attribute of the data base that runs on NonStop that puts a lot of distance between it and what some other platforms can provide. In a real-time world, there’s increased pressure to remove the downtime due to planned outages.

Software / Data Integration: I foresee we will all be playing in a world of “busses” as we interconnect our servers. Will the catching the bus be worth the price of a ticket? Part of this I see tied to the emergence of data virtualization or, the data base backplane, as I put it, while another part is tied to the growing trend in look-to-book configuration optimization. In other words, while we have sorted out the communications / network pieces and no longer think about how to assemble networks and access data, there is a heck of a lot of issues around ensuring the data we do end up seeing is the right data for our purposes.

As for the style of writing you will find in this blog – consider it as lying somewhere between Peter Egan’s columns in Road and Track (Side Glances) and Cycle World (Leanings), and the fictional Carrie Bradshaw and her Sex in the City column. I am a huge fan of the anecdotal style of Peter Egan, but I also like the questioning style of Carrie. While I have a passion for user groups I am also just as passionate about cars and motorcycles! And while I like technology in general, this blog will stay focused on Computer technology.

In my very first Connection magazine column (Real Time View July – August 2006) I said that "I am writing (the column) with the expectation of presenting a slightly different view of NonStop than might be presented elsewhere and I am writing it to generate further discussion. I am openly soliciting your feedback and I can assure you I will be reading all correspondence that I receive."

Following an anecdotal style gives me the freedom to entertain as much as inform. I don’t want to become repetitive or boring. As I run across topics that interest me or become engaged in conversations that I find enjoying, I will work out ways to include them here. Availability touches all of our lives today and has an influence over many of the decisions we take on technology so I can’t believe I will ever run out of subject matter for this column.

With respect to the audience for this column – this is still a work-in- progress. For those of you who have stayed close to this blog and have been reading my postings, you will see that I have thrown together a mix of topics for a very broad audience. Right now, it’s a bit of a dilemma for me, and it could go either way. Whether I engage in a dialogue at the bits and bytes level, or approach from a business perspective still has to be worked out. However, what is obvious to me following the comments of the past few weeks, is that I will be heavily influenced by the comments I receive. What triggers an active exchange will have an impact on the direction I head and on the column-inches I put together on the subject.

To wrap up this posting, I would like to address one final point. The creation of this blog is not in competition to any other exchanges that exists within the ITUG community, it is being undertaken to complement other programs. The thought behind the production of this blog is that across today’s community there are different generations of users. Some of us are more comfortable reading a trade publication while we are on a plane, some of us prefer to email our friends, while others like to get information from a number of online sources, including blogs. It would be a miss on the part of ITUG not to have such a channel as this operating.

As just another volunteer, I will try to maintain “the separation between Church and State”, between my day job and my hobby, and between the different user groups I support - so, please remain open and blunt with your comments and let’s see if we can build something we all can enjoy.

2 comments:

Steven said...

Richard,

My vision may be too narrow, but I would suggest that "security" (access control, compliance, et al) is going to run headlong into business intelligence. I worked on both the security and BI aspects of the NonStop system and I believe that unless great care is taken, it will be all too easy to "mine" a vast amount of data and end up with information that, in a standard database, would normally be off limits. Here is one more place for where the NonStop can shine: the architecture of the database can be used to implement various levels of "security" in ways that permit a layering approach to data.

Steven Moriarty

RT Writer said...

Yeah - that's been bothering me as well! Pull all the data back into your EDW and without care, you could expose data previously protected. So,can you give me an example of what you had in mind when you mention that the architecture of NS SQL (I assume) can be used to (secure) ... layers?
Thanks ...