Monday, September 10, 2012

Who’s popular? What attracts a crowd?

Following the interview with Martin Fink it was time to take a look at what themes were proving popular for the NonStop community – and it wasn’t all that surprising to see what attracts a crowd! And when it comes to surprises - who could have guessed, I'm now into my sixth year of posting to the blog, Real Time View!

Kicking off another year of blogging has me looking at the blog stats and digging back through past posts. When I first started blogging I chose a number of themes I would develop, but even with this intent changes in the industry have seen some shifts and turns along the way – five years is really a long time in our industry and for many within the NonStop community, they may already have moved onto their third job as they read this.

The photo above was taken of Margo and me over dinner in Bellagio, but this time not in Las Vegas but rather alongside Lake Como, one of the most beautiful places we have ever been to. I only wish there was an active NonStop regional user group in the area so that sometime in the near future we could return to this “pearl of the lake”. This was also the starting point of a trip that would take us deeper into Italy and then across into France, before we cut back through Switzerland and up into the Black Forest.

One side benefit from supporting user communities across the world is that they provide insights into where I would like to go some time – and this trip saw us return to Nice, the very first European user event I ever attended. And the event that sealed my fate, so to say, in terms of becoming more involved in the NonStop user community, and the fact that I am now writing posts to the NonStop community blog, Real Time View, is simply my way to continue a dialogue that has been going on for nearly two decades.

When it comes to themes and the storylines that attracted the most readers, I have been pretty open about listing the most read posts under the heading “Popular Posts”, in the sidebar to the right of these posts, and just recently I tweaked this feature to give us a snapshot of what catches our attention over a rolling 30 day period. And there has been some surprises in that some of the more popular posts date back many months, even years. But is no surprise that whenever I touch on some topics, or reference individuals at HP, the interest levels truly do climb. Of course, topping the list right now is the most recent post (and one I suspect will climb to the top of the list of all-time popular posts), of August 29, 2012, "NonStop? Radical transformation!", where I included quotes given by HP’s Senior VP and General Manager, Business Critical Systems, Martin Fink, during an interview I had with him only a week or so ago.

“Tandem identified itself as a hardware company and customers perceived its value was with hardware not available in any other way,” I reported at the time as Martin Fink explained (the major achievements of the past five years). “So, we went through a pretty radical transformation to where NonStop is a software play; it’s where the customer sees the value today. And now we have new customers on board as well as new vendors … but we do want to get to that place where we are a pure software company so ultimately, yes, (ServerNet hardware / protocols) may be replaced by InfiniBand but there’s lots of work
to do.”

Again, the second most popular post of the past 30 days is not a surprise either, as in the post of August 17, 2012, "
Sailing,tacking and avoiding conflicts!" I again touched on the transformations under way within NonStop, writing of how, for the NonStop community observing all of this, there have been fewer issues than for others within HP. NonStop has demonstrated considerable resilience and jumped from one chip architecture to another relatively painlessly, and in so doing has clearly demonstrated that increasingly, the underlying hardware architecture is indeed not as important as the internals of NonStop itself. There are those within the community who firmly believe NonStop has completed the transition to being a pure software play, and as such, will continue to have a future no matter what transpires in any courthouse. The above having been written before I had the chance to talk to Martin Fink.

However, it is the third most popular post of the past 30 days that really caught my attention as it dates back to November 6, 2007, and came after only a few months of blogging. In the post, "It's a sign!” I wrote of my observations following earlier participation at the famous and very well attended Gartner Symposium, noting of how, as  I skimmed through (Gartner’s) description of “Fabric “that I began to recognize the signs. Gartner suggests that the “fabric-based server of the future will treat memory, processors, and I/O cards as components in a pool, combining and recombining them into particular arrangements to suite the owner’s needs”. The analyst contributing these items to the list goes on to add, “blade servers are just an intermediate stage” and that “a fabric will allow several blades to be merged. Blades are not the final step” as he suggests something a lot more fluid in nature!

It is very obvious to me from the discussions I have had and from the email exchanges I have enjoyed of late, that nothing rouses the community as much as when you suggest fundamental changes are under way within NonStop. As a community, there is considerable angst that in moving forward, for goodness sake, don’t change anything! Give us the fundamentals we have always enjoyed. Don’t lessen the NonStop-ness of NonStop! And yet, we have seen the arrival of Blades and the very flexible Blade System chassis; we have seen a new CLIM technology where Linux runs the critical I/O controllers for storage and communications. We have seen some adventurous usage of commodity components, to the point where we have fewer and fewer unique elements, and should ServerNet be replaced at some point, which it looks as though is now a goal of BCS, the transformation of NonStop into a pure software play will have been accomplished.

But as a pure software play, HP will continue to provide NonStop – let me be very clear on this item. NonStop will not be something that ever evolves to where, similar to Microsoft, you simply download it to your favorite Intel-Architecture de jour, but rather, will come supported by a finite number of hardware packages – after all, it’s the Q&A and Pilot tests that are an essential component when it comes to assuring the NonStop community has the NonStop system that they require – no, that will not change! For me, the expression “a pure software play” simply is a reference to how well NonStop now runs on the hardware packages HP BCS R&D develop, even as they will always be aware of the requirements of NonStop.

As for the all-time most popular post? Well the post of August 11, 2011, “NonStop revels in Clouds!” continues to work its way routinely to the top of the list – and there are no real surprises here. Ever since the appearance of Cloud Computing the NonStop community has been very keen to explore opportunities. For many, the early experiments by some of the bigger NonStop users to separate and deploy the “look to book” architecture appear to be forerunners of much of what companies value with clouds – running low-value transactions on inexpensive resources, on an on-demand basis. 

In this post I was also a lot more specific as to where I see this headed, suggesting that even though it may not be performing 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! … For me, Persistent Cloud Services (PCS) 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. Or, as Martin Fink suggested as reported in the most recent post,
when it comes to NonStop, “being on the edge (of the cloud as) the resilient cloud presenter” could prove to be a desirable starting point.

In a few weeks’ time I, along with many others from the NonStop community, will be gathering in Dresden, Germany, for the
pan-European GTUG/CONNECT event, and again, another part of Europe that I have not previously visited. I will be chairing the Cloud SIG, so yes, come look for me as the themes addressed above seem to be converging, just as HP’s infrastructure is converging. And given the popularity of this theme, as evidenced in the polls of late as well as by the stats the blog site provides, look for even more commentary in the future. And of course, again, look for many more posts to follow …

1 comment:

James Cooper said...

Hi Richard - not sure I will be at that event in Germany but it is good if you can mix work with nice travel.