Thursday, May 31, 2012

Java rocks!

With all the talk about modernization and of NonStop truly being a modern system, it is worth noting just how easy it has become to run modern Java applications on NonStop today!

The past ten days have seen me working out of a hotel room in Nashville, Tennessee, as Margo oversaw events for the association she now works for…. and I took advantage of the free room and the barbeque. But no sooner had we landed back home in Boulder than we packed the RV and headed to southern California for the long weekend, setting up camp just outside Rosamond and reveling in the lack of humidity at Willows Springs race track. Finally, we pulled up stakes and headed to Las Vegas where we are now baking in the desert heat, wishing we had a little more humidity, as we wait for HP Discover 2012 to begin! And the picture above is of me setting up camp and unloading the track car that for the next ten days will once again become our daily drive.

What to expect? What will be demonstrated? Who will be there? Where will we meet? Thank goodness for smartphones and tablets and their ability to keep us all connected, all of the time. When events get as large as HP Discover, traditional approaches (sitting in a hotel lobby bar, slowly sipping a latte at the coffee shop, pacing the floor alongside registration) simply don’t cut it – and I don’t want to miss a thing! Already I am reviewing the emails I have and fine-tuning my calendar as I shuffle through the commitments that have already been made. But what will really stand out for me? And what of modernization and the NonStop server’s support of new solutions?

When I last attended HP’s big show I raised this subject with Randy Meyer, who heads HP NED product management, and asked him specifically about what modernization meant for NonStop. In the post of June 11, 2010, that followed, “
Modernize? Evangelize!”, I wrote of how Meyer had told me of the work NonStop development had been doing to “make it easy to build new applications and functions using modern toolsets – Java, Eclipse, Hibernate, etc,” a reference to the availability of industry-standard software-stacks, such as SASH, that meet the runtime requirements of applications developed with these tools.

All the while, transparently leveraging the very same NonStop fundamentals of availability, scalability and data integrity that have underpinned so many mission-critical applications for nearly four decades. Or, as NED product manager, Keith Evans, told me back then “applications using modern paradigms inherit the same NonStop fundamentals as classic applications”, as well as “modern application containers (NonStop SOAP server and NSJSP) use the same scalable and available server process infrastructure as Pathway applications”.


It’s been two years since that post so I thought I may want to start out this year by checking with the vendor community to see how well the NonStop group had performed and to focus this time solely on Java – after all, the ability to externalize current business logic via SOA and Web services seemed to be well understood by all within the NonStop community.

“Java itself performs well, but if you look at performance there are still several things to look for,” Jürgen Depping, of CommitWork GmbH and a frequent commentator in many of the discussions I participate in. Depping then added, “How does the database perform? How do you communicate? How do you design your system?” For me, this was an encouraging starting point – in the past so much had been discussed about the need for more complete support of Java services, but now there appeared less concerns about functionality, as though having all the services needed (to port Java applications) was a given.

The richness of the functionality found today in NonStop Java was also confirmed in emails I received from Franz König of HP’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC). “There are several other examples of Java products (on NonStop, today); in most cases I wouldn’t even call them ports, because the Java for the most part does not need any porting. It is rather the database migration that accounts for any additional effort.” And this too was confirmed by others I talked to – Java applications simply run today on NonStop, as is. Period. No worries.

There’s attention that needs to be paid when SQL is involved, but that’s about it, and as you discuss this with the NonStop SQL development team it’s not lost on them either, and they too have been busy on this front.
“We understand the migration process and we have established world class partnerships to bring tools that automate the entire lifecycle of a database migration:  DDL, database objects, SQL statements, PL/SQL code, and most importantly data itself.”

This was how NED SQL product manager, Ajaya Gummadi, explained it to me recently before adding “we are continuously investing to support the non-ANSI standard Oracle syntax in the NonStop SQL engine with the objective of reducing the costs and risks of such migrations and we have the best resources in NED ATC and Solutions Development and Integration (SDI) services to execute these migration projects.”  Indeed, Gummadi informed me, “we have a great talk on this topic (Session TB3012) at Discover being presented by Ursula Hilson (ATC).”

So the emails continued. Porting new applications to NonStop – solutions such as the most recently ported fraud detection application from Retail Decisions (ReD) - and invariably exposing the NonStop server and the NonStop fundamentals to a whole new cadre of vendors, was what had fueled the need for Java support and vendors are finding it relatively easy to get their solutions installed and up and running on NonStop.

“Java performance is nearly on-par with performance on the HP-UX Java; in fact, it is the same JVM,” according to HP’s Keith Moore before he changed gears on me to talk about Garbage Collection, something I only vaguely understand. “Garbage Collection is one of the most researched areas in virtual machine. With the next JVM for NonStop, we will greatly improve our performance by “parallelizing” garbage collection. The new version will exploit a new design that will allow for some Garbage Collection activities to occur in parallel with user code execution.”

“Our current method has not been observed to cause more than a split second hiccup while garbage collection occurs.  However, our next JVM release will also include the option of a 64-bit JVM and the garbage collection times could get longer with that option.  So, this caused us to develop the parallel garbage collection capability,” was the follow-up response from NED Product Management leader, Tim Keefauver. “It will be available both for the upcoming 32-bit and 64-bit JVM versions.  The parallel option allows the JVM to continue with its regular work while also performing garbage collection.”

When I raised this topic with those closely working with NonStop and Clouds, and who I am hoping will reveal even more about Persistent Cloud Services this year, they too are making sure Java support is available. “As far as languages, we’ve tested native languages COBOL, C and C++ essentially any language which can call a “C” function - and we recently developed a JAVA API, was a response I was given by the team. “As for platforms we have tested WINDOWS x86, LINUX x86, x86-64 and IA64, and NonStop – what we now provide should run on any POSIX compliant platform.”

Java is not the only language that signifies a platform is modern. There are still solutions and middleware vendors investing in other object languages including C++ and these applications are every bit as modern as those written in Java. But what the Java story tells me is that applications developed for other platforms can now be brought onto NonStop with little additional effort – so much so that those directly involved no longer view the move to NonStop as a port.

I may not have to hang out in the foyer or linger by registrations as I am sure I will be able to find the time to catch up with many of you – yes, I will have the “Fools for NonStop” T Shirts with me as mentioned in the last post. And yes, careful examination of our track car, pictured above, will see how it too is adorned with a “Fools for NonStop” decal! Many years ago a strong advocate of Java running on NonStop, Sam Ayres, simply told me that with the arrival of NonStop on Blades, “Java rocks!” an endorsement I was only too happy to reference in my post of February1, 2010, “
From beneath the swirling mists …”.

To many, this was simply Sam being Sam encouraging us all to give due consideration to running Java on the NonStop platform. However, nearly two years on, it’s a reality and from where I sit, a resounding endorsement that the rhetoric we have heard about the modernization of NonStop has materialized. Any thoughts of Sam being foolish put to rest a long time ago.

And with that, the NonStop community has to be pleased – a perfect implementation? Perhaps not, just yet, and still a work-in-progress. But sufficient for many to no longer even consider supporting NonStop “a port”, and for all of us who lived with much earlier implementations, that’s about all we wanted to ever hear!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fools for NonStop!

From the moment I kicked-off the LinkedIn group of the same name, it was a given that there would be a T Shirt developed. It’s a part of our heritage as well as our tradition dating back to Tandem Computers.  Look for me at HP Discover and get yours!
I was only a few week ago that I flew into San Francisco, and from my window I could see the marinas that dot the water’s edge around the airport. For a number of years, soon after I had arrived in Cupertino, I had the pleasure of being part of his crew on Ray Walker’s catamaran “Two-Up”, as I recall it was called.  Ray was a product manager working in Bill Heil’s organization and had spent some time in Australia, and so we had an early connection – for much of the 1970s I regularly raced the summer program on Sydney Harbor.

I was really excited   when Ray called one day and asked if I wanted to sail on Steve Schmidt’s yacht – a magnificent Santa Cruz 70, much bigger than anything else I had sailed. Designed for the TransPac race, a mix of serious racing as well as attracting those keen on sailing the Pacific, where yachts pulled out of Long Beach “turned left” and then ran a reach all the way to Hawaii – “reaching” for most yachts being the fastest way they can travel.  To capitalize on this event, the Santa Cruz 70 (SC70) was long and very narrow offering very little wetted surface and hence little resistance – these yachts were designed to simply “fly” across the ocean to Hawaii.

Unfortunately, for many sailors, taking this yacht anywhere else to race, or using it for any other purpose, was considered somewhat reckless. There is a level of instability that comes with such a narrow beam for a yacht of this length – as the name SC70 implies, it was seventy feet (21.34 meters) long. To my surprise, any changes in wind direction or strength could have disastrous results as I quickly found out – easing a headsail brace past the mast so as not to catch on anything, the wind strengthened before I could let go and I was catapulted into the Bay. It was very cold that overcast day in September,
1994 and I felt very foolish as they pulled me back on board, wringing wet and suffering the early onset of hypothermia.

But foolishness comes in many guises. Followers of the morning television show from CNBC know all too well the central characters from the investment advisors, Motley Fool, (with the web site, fools.com), who provide contrarian opinions about the financial performance of many companies. The tag line on their web site simply states “to educate, amuse and enrich” but more often than not, their advice proves more accurate than that provided by other, much larger investment firms. Not easily fooled, they have developed a knack for being able to discern a company’s real position when it comes to meeting investors’ expectations.

It
was a little more than six months ago when, in the post of September 7, 2011, “Foolish aspirations!” I wrote of how the LinkedIn group “Fools for NonStop” had just been created. It came about, as I noted at the time, following the observation from a participant in an online forum where I contribute who responded to one of more upbeat predictions for NonStop with a dismissive  “there is one fool exists in LinkedIn whose name is Richard Buckle!” As I wrote in that post, clearly my passion gives me away!

In that post of September 7, 2011, I also wrote of how there’s almost a sense of inevitability that the subject of foolishness should be raised among those who are fervent supporters of all things NonStop. Certainly, if my passion for all things NonStop suggests that I am a fool, then yes, I will wear that insignia with pride – and continue to welcome the more than 100 members who have now joined with me as Fools for NonStop. So, too, it should come as no surprise that I will be able to wear that insignia not only with pride, but on a T Shirt – yes, the T Shirts have arrived!

My other memory of Steve Schmidt, apart from his magnificent yacht, was of the time he took the helm of Tandem Computers R&D organization. As I mentioned in a private client newsletter recently, when he brought the organization together for the first time around a special beer-bust, T Shirts were distributed. In yellow, they featured a buzzard with a wry smile and with the directive “Patience, my ass, I want to kill something” – a T Shirt that is now firmly cemented in the folklore of Tandem. But we have moved on, and now we are a community anchored by NonStop and the time is right to bring back the T’s!

When I first floated the idea, in the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop, the reaction was immediate – yes, put me down for one! Fortunately, a group of vendors stepped in as sponsors of the T Shirt and with their support and following a number of design reviews they finally arrived on my doorstep this weekend.  The picture at the top of the page is of me wearing the first one pulled from the box. Again, thanks need to go to comForte, Integrated Research, Merlon, OmniPayments and Randall Consulting – a really good cross section of vendors within the NonStop community.

These T’s will become available at the upcoming HP Discover event in Las Vegas with a number on offer at the comForte booth in the exhibition hall, others given away to attendees at the NonStop Community Reception at HP Discover 2012 on Wednesday, June 6 – and yes, as participants head to the many social events planned for the Conference, they will find wearing the T Shirt the appropriate apparel for the
occasion. These T Shirts will also be available at similar events planned for Europe later in the year.

It should be obvious to all that there’s an element of humor in all of this; a tongue-firmly-planted-in-ones-cheek expression of just how passionate the NonStop community continues to be. And for good reason – there’s little alternative to what NonStop provides as it’s uncrated, powered on, and the first TACL prompt appears. Well, at least, with the latest BladeSystems I am assuming that this is still de rigueur for new NonStop installs. The NonStop community is passionate, but not out of naiveté, but rather based on experience and knowledge, and it’s not going unrecognized.

The HP business leaders associated with NonStop – from Pauline to Martin to Winston have all recognized this about the community. And it came as no surprise that in his first editorial in The Connection it didn’t escape the attention of incoming leader, Ric Lewis, who observed “what I am quickly learning – is how passionate and dedicated the employees, customers and partners are.” Yes, we are all foolishly enamored with NonStop, but this should never be confused with being fools.

It takes considerable awareness of all that is happening within the industry to be able to recognize the special place NonStop occupies in all that we do for the businesses we support, and as fools, it is our responsibility “
to educate, amuse and enrich”. I did survive my fall into the Bay off of Steve Schmidt’s yacht, as foolish as I had been at the time; now all I need to be concerned about is surviving HP Discover 2012 – I hope to see many of you there and look for me later in the week, sporting a very blue T Shirt, Fools for NonStop!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Predictions you may regret!

There have been occasions when my predictions have turned out to be way off the mark. And when it comes to technology I am not alone when it comes to straying afield. However, when it comes to clouds computing I have little doubt that there is a future for NonStop!
Predictions have a way of coming back to haunt you. Aggressive forecasts about what is going to happen next should be best left to professionals – the local television weather spokesperson. It was many years ago that we all laughed at the title of the James Bond movie “Never say Never Again” where after more than a decade’s absence (from playing the role) Sean Connery did indeed return to make one last appearance in the iconic role that has indeed defined his career; foolishly having said he would never play that role again.

The photo at the top of the page was taken by good friend Brian when we stopped by to watch an AMLS event in the streets of Long Beach – the subject of the April 26, 2010, post "What's in your container?" It depicts Margo and I standing near an Aston Martin prototype wearing the number 007, a connection hardly anyone would miss. After all, for many, Aston Martin, Sean Connery, and James Bond would be forever intertwined. Brian, his wife Jan, along with Margo and myself were attending the event to cheer on the Corvette team but we couldn’t resist the photo opportunity. As for diehard Corvette families such as ours, never a thought was spent on wondering about Aston Martins.

“The cars we drive are track cars – hard, yet fine-tuned; we’ll never have a luxury car,” so said Brian. And yet it was only the weekend before last, in between preparing the BBQ and bringing the food outdoors, when Brian found time to join me for a quick visit to the local Aston Martin dealership and where, accompanied by his wife Jan, ended up coming away with an Aston Martin Vantage V8.

If I had suggested to Brian that he was going to buy a car before dinner and yes, a supercar at that, I suspect he would have questioned what it was that I had been drinking. Not the usual take-away from a Buckle’s soirée. And what was that? Never say never, again?

Only a short time ago it had been in email exchange that I had with Bruce Williamson, a former colleague of mine that had influence two recent posts I had made to the blog, comForte Lounge. Readers may recall the exchanges I had over his prediction that when it came to end-user interaction with applications, according to Bruce, “the NEW iPad … IS the next corporate terminal!” After reading my posts Bruce then sent me an email that included an all-too famous quote from Robert Metcalfe, the founder of 3Com that I found very timely.

While working at Xerox PARC, it was Metcalfe together with David Boggs who invented Ethernet; an accomplishment I will always associate with him. However, it was the same Metcalfe who in 1995 wrote of how "almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet’s continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”

Another case in point? And perhaps generating even more notoriety was a prediction made by Ed Yourdon as Y2K bore down on us. Yourdon is known as one of the lead developers of the “structured techniques” for programmers in the 1970s. As a budding PL/1 programmer I read the books and remember participating in rewriting several PL/1 programs without using any GOTO statements.

However, as in the case of Metcalfe, many only remember Yourdon for his much-publicized prediction of March 1998 (as Y2K was approaching and many thought the worst would happen), "New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and a dozen other cities are going to resemble Beirut in January 2000. That's why I moved out of NYC to rural New Mexico a couple months ago ... The government of the U.S. as we currently know it will fail on 1/1/2000. Period."

Failing to correctly predict my visitors would go out and buy an Aston Martin may never be something I will be remembered for and yet, for Brian, it will be something he will likely never forget. However, it does go to show how careful you have to be when going public with forward-looking statements or suggesting a situation may never happen.

Given the growth in participation across the NonStop community within LinkedIn groups and the readiness members demonstrate in posting comments, it is within LinkedIn groups where I take the time to promote posts. It was only a matter of days ago when I promoted the most recent post that I had made to the web publication, ATMmarketplace. In support of the post of April 24, 2012, "What I do with my money..." where I had suggested that the popularity of ATMs may have something to do with them not wanting to start a conversation, it wasn’t long before the importance of the presence of NonStop was highlighted.

If that global system didn't already exist for decades and rather was introduced only now, everybody would be full of delight about the amazing progress of modern IT and would probably call it ‘the money cloud’”, was the response from HP’s Gerhard Schwartz. “However, it would also be interesting to see how reliably that ‘money cloud’ would work if it was not dominated by proven NonStop technology ‘failsafe and virus-free’?”

Stressing the point, Schwartz posted a second comment sometime later, admonishing us all to consider that “global payments system which allows us to withdraw cash and to use our credit and debit cards anytime and almost anywhere on this planet have indeed the characteristics of a cloud: somewhere there must be some underlying infrastructure, but the vast majority of users don't know and have no reason to care.” For Schwartz, it’s “just strange that many people would strongly deny that NonStop has anything to do with cloud computing!”

It would be hard to miss just how many references to NonStop and to cloud computing I have made over the past couple of months. It would also be very hard to miss my enthusiasm about the value NonStop brings to any company contemplating deploying clouds – whether private or public. It may prove true that NonStop’s only role is to play on the edge (of the cloud) or indeed, simply come to rely on the cloud as another type of resource that it can capitalize on. No matter.

I suspect now that few within the NonStop community would want to suggest that NonStop servers will never participate in cloud computing. The more the conversations about cloud computing that include references to NonStop the better, as it’s only a matter of time before Google begins to return responses to searches about clouds that include references to NonStop. With this post, the odds continue to get stronger in respect to this happening.

The fact remains, however, and as Schwartz observes as well, NonStop has been providing capabilities akin to what populists are now calling cloud computing for many years. And what is worth acknowledging, and I have no illusions about this – the ATM networks spanning the globe, all networked, and where financial transactions flow without any end-user awareness of where the resources exist - is as much a cloud implementation as anything Amazon.com, or even SalesForce.com may allude to.

HP Discover is now only a few weeks away and I for one will not be at all surprised at what is featured. No, I will not be surprised one bit to see NonStop and clouds stealing the limelight. Foolish as it may sound – but I will not say that it will never happen. Never again.