Saturday, September 17, 2011

Information-centric world!

Do we ever fully comprehend all the capabilities of the NonStop system? The question has been floating in my mind, particularly in light of the discussions taking place in LinkedIn and Yahoo groups of late. But before continuing with this thought, last weekend proved to be eventful and by now, some of what transpired is already appearing in cyberspace.

The picture to the right was taken last Sunday outside a Golden, Colorado, coffee shop. Margo and I had awoken to a typical picturesque Colorado mountain morning, as you sometime do late summer, with temperatures dropping, and it was time to jump on the motorcycles again. We had spent Saturday touring the continental divide in our ragtop roadster, stopping for lunch in Aspen, all the while checking to see if the aspen trees had begun to change color, so taking motorcycles for a ride seemed the natural thing to do.

However, only minutes after leaving the house, Margo pulled alongside of me at a stop sign to ask where she could find the turning signal switch. And I should have been more concerned, as it was a little odd that she didn’t remember. After all, there are only a small number of controls on a modern cruiser – particularly the more popular “metric” cruisers from the better known Japanese manufacturers.

The trip to the coffee shop was to be slightly more than 30 miles, or about 50 kms – and the route we chose was one we had often taken in past years. Margo was a little rusty, so we took it rather casually, and for most of the ride I simply pegged the throttle a little under the speed limit and took time to enjoy the scenery. I was trying to relax as on the Friday of that weekend I had taken the Corvette to the local road circuit to unwind over a few quick sessions, but early into the day I lost the Corvette in a very big way and ended up far from the track, buried in dirt! The result of poor decision-making, no question, as I had changed-up a gear while my wheels were not exactly straight in a vehicle developing upward of 700hp.

Yes, this past weekend had been fraught with decisions that were not the wisest, considering the eqipment chosen at the time. There had been times past when we knew intimately all the controls, what they managed, and the results we could expect when interacting with them at the right time and in the right manner. However, distractions and just the everyday activities that so occupy much of our time pushed our knowledge of critical properties far into the background, and a very strong argument could be made for us to never pursue the activities we chose that day as poorly informed as it turned out we were!

Very early in the discussion “Does TMF usage places a burden on system resources ??” within the LinkedIn Group “HP NonStop Tandem Professionals” it was Keith Dick, in response to a very good question posed by a developer, Jayendra Upadhye, who said “TMF provides full ACID transactions (atomicity, consistency, isolation, durability). If an organization's applications update a database but don't need such a guarantee of reliable updates, I wonder why that organization bought a NonStop system in the first place.”

The discussion has since raged across a number of deployments from stock exchanges to banking applications, from human to machine, as well as machine to machine, interactions as well as about the pros and cons of related NonStop middleware. However the bottom line is that arguably, if you really need the NonStop and part of the reasoning behind deploying applications on NonStop is the integrity of data, particularly across an environment that is fault tolerant the way NonStop is implemented, the usage of critical supporting NonStop subsystems and components is very important. And you need to stay on top of the capabilities they support, revisiting them on a regular basis.

Designers, even those revisiting older applications that are in maintenance or sustaining mode, need to realize some of the design objectives embraced by the original design team to ensure that they are taking full advantage of NonStop middleware that may have come to market well after the initial application was completed.

You need to remain familiar with the controls no matter what, as running applications and not being cognizant of what a modern NonStop supports can put your business unnecessarily in peril. What is needed to control a 700lb bike is essential to know, after all! Yes, understanding all that is a part of a modern motorcycle cruiser is important and there is a down side when we simply forget. Fortunately, Margo will recover and none of the injuries was life threatening and there will be no scars.

It was only a week or so that an article I read in the newspaper, USA Today, included remarks made by former Microsoft executive, and now CEO of VMWare, Paul Maritz, of how he envisioned “consumers getting mountains of information from whatever device or cloud-based application (that) is best for them.” For some time now, vendors have been promoting the value that comes with better integrating the data we collect and through various machinations, turning it into useful information.

“We inexorably are shifting from a device-centric world to an information-centric world,” USA Today further quoted Maritz. For example, USA Today reported, “we still have mainframe (computers); they just have a new role. The same will happen with PCs. They may end up being used for PowerPoint presentations!”

The more attuned we are to the capabilities and functionality of the systems we rely on today, it now appears, the better positioned we will be to use them again in exciting ways in circumstances that may at first appear alien. Understanding the controls and the results of the responses we provide certainly carries over from what I witnessed last weekend and are as applicable to how we view the servers we deploy today – even the NonStop server which many of us place on a similar pedestal just as mainframes are elevated by those who use them.

It truly is becoming an information-centric world. For those who may have missed the remarks made earlier this year by HP CEO, Leo Apotheker, it is worth repeating. “Information technology is the fabric of the global community,” Apotheker explained in the HP press release of March 14th 2011. “Data is the world’s most valuable raw material and information is the most valuable commodity – created, consumed and delivered in always-on connectivity.”

Yes, this includes NonStop! And yes, NonStop has a tremendous future ahead of it as an active participant in information technology serving up the world’s most valuable commodity. Almost four decades on, NonStop server remains relevant and a serious contender for a strong and visible presence in cloud computing!

Yet I still wonder, for those businesses that depend on NonStop and are aware of the dramatic changes occurring in the marketplace, and have been become sensitive to the transformation under way as we move inexorably towards an information-centric world, how familiar are they with the technology and how appreciative are they that today, they already possess technology that lends itself to the journey? And will the knowledge of NonStop pave the way for even greater participation as the world does become information centric?

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