Thursday, September 29, 2011

My passage to India!

When the invitation arrived from HP India to speak at their InNUG user event there was absolutely no way I was going to turn it down. And after spending time with the NonStop community in India I was so pleased that I had elected to go!

There has been one country I have somehow missed visiting during all the decades I have been in IT. I landed there once on a flight from Paris to Bangkok, but never left the plane. And yet, whenever conversations turn to IT, the work being done in this country rarely escapes a mention. Of course, I am talking about India. And the picture above is of me poolside, very early in the morning, in the town of Kovalam, pretty much at the bottom of the Indian peninsula. About 8 degrees north of the equator, I later learnt.

I had been fortunate enough to have received an invite from HP to speak at the Indian NonStop user group event – InNUG. Coming right after the successful event for the Australian NonStop user group, OzTUG, as well as following the good news I had received about the most recent gathering of the Vikings at VNUG, I just had to accept. Following a whirlwind couple of days as I secured my visa, I found myself airborne and on my way to the subcontinent of India.

As an Australian with some familiarity with the geography of the region, I had assumed that I would be flying across the Pacific and changing planes in Singapore, and I was looking forward to the journey. The chili crabs served at restaurants along the south east shoreline of Singapore are a treat never to be missed. There’s never been a post to this blog about Singapore without some references made to this delicacy, as spicy food from the Far East has always been something I have enjoyed immensely.

But no, not this time. So much for my knowledge of geography and of the relative distances between the continents! India was a lot closer to the east coast of the US than it was to countries on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. So this would be an opportunity to broaden my knowledge and see things from a different vantage point – I would be travelling east to visit a land I always had pegged as being to the west of the California!

Departing out of Denver, through to Frankfurt and then on to Mumbai for a 1:30 am arrival. An overnight stay at the spectacular Leela-Kempinsky Mumbai (the 6 Degree bar off the lobby cannot be ignored) and then it would be a couple more hours in the air before I would be checking into the Leela-Kempisky Kovalam. And in the early hours of daylight, I recorded my first impressions of a place I had only ever heard others talking about :

I am sitting in my hotel room in Mumbai where ceiling-to-floor glass windows are providing me with a panoramic view of the many mid-rise apartment and office blocks crowding the hotel. In the distance I can see a number of hills pushing up into the low-hanging monsoonal clouds that continue to bring more rain. The humidity remains high and my glasses immediately fog each time I step outside. And everywhere, that distinct pungent odor that you only ever experience in the tropics – that strange mix of aromas that comes from the rich variety of exotic plants combined with the smell of decay that is ever-present.

Directly beneath my window there is a highway overpass under construction. Or perhaps a railway overpass. Or both; it’s hard to tell from the concrete support pillars already in place what it is that’s being built. However, what’s easy to see is that labor continues to be inexpensive in this city as close on a hundred construction workers are laying reinforcing bars (rebar) over a section several hundred yards long. Another concrete pour must be planned sometime soon, and as I look across the tops of the buildings and take in the scene it is reminiscent of what Singapore looked like thirty years ago.

HP India didn’t hold back when it came to organizing this year’s user group event – the location was terrific and the number of participants was as impressive as the locale. By the time I post this I will have already provided commentary to posts I have made to the web publication,, as well as to the blog, comForte Lounge, both of these are worth checking. However, the theme that stayed with me throughout the event was of removing limits and of broadening horizons.

In other words as I listened to the keynote speakers whom HP and the user group had lined-up, and as I heard first hand of the variety of solutions being run in support of the business, the more I came to appreciate how short-sighted I had become when I think of where NonStop Servers can be best deployed. There are so many discussions of late about the appropriateness of NonStop in this market segment or perhaps that market segment, when in reality, whenever there’s something a business values, whether it’s a type of transaction or simply data, then where the price is reasonable, there is a very legitimate role for NonStop Servers to play.

With so much talk about Cloud Computing and of enterprises embracing clouds, particularly private clouds, I have become concerned that our definition of Cloud Computing has become too narrow and needs to be broadened. The Information Technology Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defined Cloud Computing in a paper published late 2009. It listed the essential characteristics as “on-demand self-service,” “broad network access,” “resource pooling,” “rapid elasticity” and “measured service.” And it described deployment models as “private cloud,” “community cloud,” “public cloud” and “hybrid cloud”.

In the preface NIST began with defining Cloud Computing as a “model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g. networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provide interaction.” Which all leads to suggest, among the NonStop community familiar with the loosely-coupled, shared nothing “Pathway” environment to go, yawn! So what? Nowhere in the definition was there a mention of x86 servers, virtualization, or Linux / Windows.

Picking from the NIST definitions broad network access, resource pooling and rapid elasticity together with deployment as private and / or hybrid clouds shouldn’t limit our imagination but rather broaden our appreciation for just how well NonStop Servers can support this growing business need. All the time, the pricing is coming down while the fragility of current implementations continues to be documented and their users left disillusioned. Perhaps the new message for NonStop should center on the “frustration free” NonStop Server based Cloud Computing!

And while on the topic of messaging, why are we limiting the message of Mission Critical to specific platforms and relegating NonStop to some other, albeit more-mission critical where zero downtime is mandatory (than just the basic-mission critical) marketplace? I am sure we are only seeing the early stage of Mission Critical messages from HP. When I revisited the slides Martin Fink, Senior VP and GM, HP Business Critical Systems, used at HP Discover two slides in particular stood out. Right there in the slide “Best fit solutions for critical workloads” was the Integrity NonStop systems shown as the participant in Mission Critical computing when “zero application downtime with extreme scalability” – yes, it wouldn’t be making such an appearance if the other servers in the chart could provide either!

Further into the slide deck, in the slide “Delivered versatility with common modular design” all of the BCS product line is included as participants within Mission Critical computing and where HP NonStop BladeSystem is qualified as being the “ultimate in availability and scale” – again, it wouldn’t be appearing on this slide if this requirement had already been satisfied by other servers. Sharing the slide with the NonStop Server are the HP BladeSystem (ProLiant and Integrity Blades) and the HP Integrity SuperDome 2, so this at least gives us a clue as to how valuable a participant NonStop is when it comes to the highly visible message from HP on the portfolio of products it has in support of Mission Critical computing!

There is no reason at all to limit or constrain our perspective on products and technologies when it comes to the NonStop Server – it’s an ideal place to start when it comes to clouds and it really is the premier offering in support of mission critical computing. There has been much said of late as to why HP isn’t talking about NonStop or why NonStop isn’t a participant in Cloud Computing. Yes, I think there is agreement all round that HP can improve its marketing message but it’s not like the NonStop Server is being overlooked! For me, it all comes down to education and it comes down to you and me – we simply aren’t broadening our imagination or communicating as passionately as we once did. It’s almost as if the can-do attitudes we once cherished have simply been relegated to the past, overtaken by an almost bunker mindset.

My very own passage to India, and indeed my participation in this year’s InNUG, will certainly be among the highlights of the year and I will remember the experience for quite some time. Travel this time did broaden my mind and the opportunity to meet with so many end users, perhaps more than I have seen at any other recent NonStop user event, was a real surprise. At a time when technology is shifting underneath us and attributes that were once sacrosanct seeming less important, let’s ensure we broaden our vision and open it up as wide as we can because even with what we are now witnessing all around us, NonStop remains as relevant today as when it first appeared, 35 plus years ago!


Keith Moore said...

Hi, Richard. Nice post!
We are looking at more "friendly" cloud business services using HP CloudSystem and NonStop as a cloud-enablement technology. We have demonstrated private, public, and composite cloud implementations where NonStop is "the adult in the cloud" for business services. What you say here, I believe, is exactly where HP NonStop wants to be. Nice to hear from you again, Richard.

Justin said...

I have not been to India either and your description is a wonderful advertisement. I also agree that based on the NIST definition one could argue that NonStop fulfills the requirements in and of itself. I had started an article along those lines, based in part on several IBM articles I'd seen describing mainframe as 'cloud'. I believe NonStop can claim the high ground on elasticity in that debate. It's very good to hear that the Inida meeting was so exciting and eye-opening. The US will just have to 'step it up' a notch!

Anonymous said...

One Trivia: You were staying just 3 Km away from NED Mumbai development center.