Saturday, January 26, 2008

Neoview; a new view?

I have just spent a couple of days in London catching up with HP as well as with the folks from BITUG. As usual, my trip to London was eventful – with flight changes, faulty equipment, security lines, and flight delays, but I managed to make it into the City in time to catch up with the BITUG leadership.

We met at a restaurant called the Paternoster Chop House, located in a square just behind Cheapside and in sight of St Paul’s Cathedral – and I have included a photo of the restaurant. Paternoster Square takes its name from Paternoster Row – a street from medieval times, where the clergy of St Paul’s would walk chanting the Lord’s Prayer “Pater Noster”, being the prayer’s opening line in Latin. With so many of the clergy to be found here, many of the nearby premises formed the center for book publishing in old London. Much of it was severely damaged during the Blitz of World War II, but today the London Stock Exchange has just taken up residence by the Square.

After lunch, we caught up with Charles Penney, a former BITUG Chairman who was heavily engaged with last year’s joint BITUG and European ITUG event. Charles led us across Cornhill to the Counting House Pub, across the road from the Bank of England and just up the street from St Paul’s. Purchased recently by the Fuller brewery, it’s been transformed into a showcase pub with much of the old d├ęcor remaining. While the real history of the premises isn’t all that clear, it came as no surprise to me to hear from a local London tour company that “within the maze of alleyways nearby, Charles Dickens placed the counting house of A Christmas Carol’s Ebenezer Scrooge”. However, it remains recognizable as a former banking establishment and, with the onset of evening, it continues to draw the financial community to its marble counters.

The following morning, I returned to the City to catch up with Dave Barnes. Dave produces the widely read Tandemworld Newsletter that is another channel that I plan to support with commentary. We met for lunch at an eatery in Poultry Lane, a busy thoroughfare between Cornhill and Cheapside that dates back to pre-Elizabethan times. It become the center for London’s poulterers, who processed fowls and feathered game before sending them to be prepared by the scorches in, yes, Scalding Alley. Now you can find some of the best looking banking branch offices that I have ever seen, with one of Lloyd’s so modern that I just had to ask Lloyd’s Neil Barnes, and a BITUG committee member, about it. He told me “the branch you saw there (now being called a store) has been open for less that a year, but the Bank is trying to move all it branches to this style.”

What I took away from the few days I spent in the City was the resilience of the establishments and how each, in their own way, responded to changing market conditions and client requirements. It was a testament to this resilience to see how counting houses – what used to be back office settlement offices – had become wonderful pubs; the poulterers and scorches have had their former premises turned into banking stores as modern as any I have seen worldwide; and the former lanes traversed by the clergy of St Paul’s Cathedral been transformed into a thriving restaurant and trading square.

And it was against this background that I have had many conversations lately with HP, and with HP users and partners, about the NonStop technology. This year will be particularly revealing as we witness a number of crucial new product introductions.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the top-end NS16000 / NS1400 NonStop Advanced Architecture models, featuring the latest Intel chip technology, will remain at the top of the NonStop product pyramid – but over time, I see this product family taking on more of a “bespoke” image as it’s appeal narrows to a small number of industries that really demand the capabilities the models in this product family provides. Perhaps it could even involve more engagement from the services groups of HP.

Furthermore, and purely as more speculation on my part, I find it hard to believe that the current low-end NS1000 models of the NonStop Value Architecture will remain a parallel product line once we see the new Bladed Architecture packaging begin to ship sometime mid-year. Transaction processing will always have mission critical elements, and the support of these elements will always benefit from the NonStop architecture. But will this technology be supported by a dedicated server package or will it be a configurable component of an industry standard server package? Will we see a product emerge that allows users to configure a variety of different operating systems, based on optimal price points, and where only mission critical transactions will be routed to a future NonStop instances? With common hardware underpinning all servers coming from the BCS group, could NonStop just become one more OS option? I believe that this could become an eventuality and where NonStop could be just part of a much bigger picture with no unique hardware dependencies beyond its need for access to more than one processor!

But what really has me rethinking my observations of where HP is headed with NonStop is the Neoview OLAP application. While I haven’t devoted mush space to this Business Intelligence (BI) solution in previous blog postings, I am beginning to suspect that it will be with Neoview where we see more about the likely direction NonStop will take. As potentially the biggest application ever to exploit NonStop technology, it will drive more NonStop processors off the production line and out the factory door than any previous NonStop solution. The sheer numbers involved – with typical packages based on server configurations of 128, 256, and even 512 NonStop processors – it will only take a few more deals for the presence of NonStop servers in support of traditional OLTP applications to be left far behind. And I have seen enough from the Neoview executives to believe that they will be successful in the short term – already the press releases announcing major wins has begun to flow, and on a pretty regular and routine basis.

In a recent email exchange with Ron Thompson of Cail, I asked him a couple of questions on this topic and Ron responded “Neoview is the future of NonStop. From an HP Executive perspective, they need to consolidate all their computing platforms into a single architecture with numerous system configuration options to address a variety of needs.” He also went on to add, more soberly, that “my only point is that, given HP is so very strong technically, how more successful could the company be if they could just tell a much better business story in front of the Customer?”

London’s City financial district has changed many times across the centuries. They have proved resilient and often forward-thinking as they have adjusted to changing market conditions. The buildings, the platforms in support of the business, have remained and the streets and passageways between them are all still very visible.

The NonStop architecture has always been valuable to the application, to solutions exploiting the unique availability, scalability and data integrity attributes they support - you just wouldn’t purchase a NonStop without there being an application fully dependent on these unique attributes. So will we see the NonStop architecture be as adaptable and as resilient as London’s City?

From the custom, bespoke NonStop servers needed by the most demanding applications, to being a configuration option of a multi-OS package of blades in support of mission critical transactions, as well as to participating in a complete integrated hardware / OS / application package (as we now see with Neoview), the influence of NonStop technology on future HP product families is beginning to be more visible. And all these product families relying heavily on the data base infrastructure products NonStop has spent years refining and optimizing and now positioning for any combination of transaction processing and data warehousing.

And in particular, as Ron has already observed, with the arrival of Neoview I believe we will soon see this very special use of NonStop technology become the most complete NonStop offering propelling it to be the newest, and most compelling champion ever, of the NonStop story!

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