Perhaps the biggest surprise for many at HP Discover, was the demonstration of GuardianAngel – NonStop, capitalizing on cloud resources – and for Enterprise users, a whole new way to view cloud computing!
The picture above shows me standing in the center of the street surrounded by motorcycles stretched out as far as the eye could see. And the overwhelming choice of the rally participants was American-made bikes and the older the better. Surprising, there was even an exhibit by the motorcycle vendor, Indian, who I thought had long since left the scene following a brief resurrection a few years back.
And of course, there’s no escaping the unique looks of the very modern Victory motorcycle, with its distinctive V-shaped tail lights! Looking at these bikes that are representative of what had been developed in the past was pretty cool, but still, there wasn’t anything I was anxious to own any time soon.
Picking up a copy of Road and Track last night I turned to the editorial only to see the headline stating “The shape of things to come” where editor, Matt DeLorenzo, quoted current Renault chief designer, Laurens Van der Acker, as having said “cars should be a symbol of progress!” The background for this story had been a car show at Lake Como’s Villa d’Este featuring cars of the past and yet, “when you look at the levels of performance available relative to what cars have historically cost,” DeLorenzo wrote, “we are living in a golden age.”
In the post of November 30th, 2010, “Nothing seems to last ...” I wrote of how readers “may have missed some commentary I provided in NonStop – A Running Commentary in the October issue of the eNewsletter, Tandemworld.Net and the slight variation I made on my earlier forecasts. Gone is the pursuit of a hypervisor capable of supporting NonStop, and the availability of hybrid clusters in a box … New are the observations of a NonStop server becoming a smart controller!” Could we see NonStop as a participant in a new golden age?
The fact that I continue to speculate about the future of NonStop is a clear sign that I truly believe there is a future for NonStop. Of late, I have a strong sense that the industry is turning ever so slightly and pursuing a course where the capabilities of NonStop will come to the fore. As Road and Track editor, DeLorenzo, wrapped up his column, he suggested (and here it’s easy to substitute NonStop servers for automobiles), “the key to making automobiles once again the symbol of progress is being able to make these new-era vehicles different from what has gone on before.”
From the time I first heard of the demonstration that was given at HP Discover by members of the Americas’ NonStop Solutions Engineering Group (ANSEG), where NonStop was shown running a typical internet application (written in Java) – specifically, the Pet Store application – and where load conditions could be triggered that led to a CloudBurst: that is, selected transactions being pushed out and away from the NonStop server and onto commodity-based Clouds (both private and public, e.g. Amazon) I was shocked!
How could this be? NonStop providing oversight of transactions to the point where even when they were no longer present on the NonStop server, they were still somehow connected. As processing returned to normal levels on the NonStop, the processing of these transactions returned to the NonStop.
Pulling back the layers of software involved and talking to the Team, I was to learn that this new capability had a lot to do with what was now available with Pathway, or TS/MP V 2.4, to be more precise. As someone who has enjoyed a lengthy association with NonStop for many years, I have known of process pairs, persistent processes, and Pathway but I am the first to admit that I didn’t put it all together with quite the effect that some very clever folks within ANSEG did. As Justin Simonds, a member of this group, was to tell me later, “GuardianAngel was really just a combination of capabilities that leveraged an API that we developed, some standard open-source techniques, and, of course, Pathway.”
The new TS/MP V2.4 (Pathway) provides a Domain capability for load-balancing and distribution of workload in support of Pathway server processes across processors and server instances. With this added capability, Pathway can distribute instances of an application within a single processor or CPU, across multiple CPU’s, and in particular, to any CPU within any node within a cluster. But the way it went about supporting this opened the door for yet one more capability, and with the introduction of the API that was developed in support of the demo, instances of the application could be invoked on platforms other than NonStop.
The GuardianAngel API was crucial to the CloudBurst demonstration. A small, lightweight Pathway “Gateway server” where “half” the GuardianAngel API resides, pushed the selected transactions out onto two Linux systems. As part of the demonstration, even the resources available in this ‘private cloud’ (Linux) were exceeded, so Pathway, via its GuardianAngel Gateway server, called up resources on a public cloud (Cloudburst).
For the demonstration the public Cloud instances were pre-loaded to avoid public server start-up time (2-8 minutes) however I’m told they could have been started via Amazon or Rackspace API based on a NonStop threshold having been exceeded. As a final demonstration one of the Linux system ‘fails’ and its load is handled by NonStop till it recovers – so Pathway instances using the same code base are running on Linux, in a public cloud and on NonStop all at the same time under the control of Pathway – talk about hybrid!
For those attendees viewing the Pet Store application seamlessly shifting from the cloud to NonStop and back to the cloud, according to Tom Miller and another member of ANSEG “it was jaw-dropping for those watching and who were unaware of the capabilities of NonStop!” The promise this brings to the Enterprise is mind boggling, in my opinion. For some time I have been fumbling around looking for the right way to express some very basic concepts and the more I watched the demo, the more I saw how more advanced this reality had become.
Here is another key observation: all who saw the demonstration on the HP stand, on the floor of the very busy and noisy exhibition hall, stayed glued to the screens for more than half an hour and each came up with new implementation concepts pertinent to their own business. Looking ahead, the team within HP NonStop is seizing upon the early enthusiasm and holding workshops and developing deployment scenarios.
“We have had amazing interest in the capabilities of NonStop when it comes to integration with cloud services and also, for point cross-platform business applications,” explained Keith Moore, another member of ANSEG. “Since the 2011 HP Discover event, we do 2 – 4 live real time demonstrations to customers per week many of which lead to continuing discussions about how NonStop can help deliver ‘the fundamentals’ to off-platform current and future applications. ANSEG believes that the basic ideas and implementation that we have demonstrated can help in other areas across the greater HP product suite as well as with other common business deployments.”
For me, this is starting to look like hybrid computing done right – some configurations of NonStop with Linux, for instance, could certainly prove appealing even among the more hardened mainframe community! As more use cases are uncovered, perhaps nothing stands out more prominently for me as having a database on NonStop, as scalable as it is available with NS SQL/MX, and low-value transactions being dispatched into the cloud, all managed by Pathway.
This project didn’t just suddenly appear overnight; it has its roots deep into earlier projects within NonStop development. With many code names and with several early appearances, it really did take on a life following the release of the latest version of Pathway. But for me, it truly does tie-in with the thoughts I have been having for some time about NonStop becoming a smart controller. Perhaps not the most glamorous of tasks, but as enterprises hasten to deploy clouds, deploying NonStop as a controller overseeing it all, has a lot of appeal for me. Its Safety, and Assurance, with a capital S and a capital A!
There’s no escaping that this is a part of the NonStop history, too. After all, NonStop really did achieve its initial break-through when it was a smart front-end to mainframe computers, servicing large networks of ATMs and POS terminals. For me, GuardianAngel is a return to what NonStop has always proved effective at doing; shielding imperfection behind a level of availability simply not matched in any other manner. For business, this is something that’s exciting and is now out there, demonstrable; this genie will be impossible to put back in the bottle and with the strategy of HP so tied to clouds, will prove difficult to ignore.
Then again, it’s not quite like a return to the past – the commodity-based NonStop server we see today is far-removed from what we worked with two or three decades ago. Modern NonStop Server blades are proving that costs can be taken out of the NonStop Server platform and business is already capitalizing on this most recent development within NonStop.
The opinions expressed by Road and Track’s editor DeLorenzo remain as valid when applied to NonStop as they are to automobiles, and to paraphrase: “when you look at the levels of performance available relative to what (computers) have historically cost, we are living in a golden age.” For the NonStop server, GuardianAngel will become highly visible and our appreciation of clouds may never be the same!