Thursday, January 3, 2013

NonStop, on the line that connects the dots!

With as much discussion and promotion by HP of the importance of Social Media, Mobile, Big Data and Clouds following references made during HP CEO Whitman keynote of HP Discover 2012 potential roles for NonStop should not be overlooked.

This week I am far removed from the cold weather that is holding my home town of Boulder, Colorado, captive. The snow began falling Christmas eve and when we awoke Christmas day we enjoyed a beautiful sunny white Christmas, complete with snow-capped mountains framing as much of the western horizon that we could see. A number of the Rockies famous 14ers – those peaks topping 14,000 feet – could be readily identified but as beautiful a picture it presented, there was no escaping just how cold it was, so it was best to stay indoors.

But as I write this post I am again in sunshine and it’s much warmer given that I am now in Palm Desert, California. The picture above? We did manage to play tourists for a day and took the Palm Springs aerial tram to the top of a nearby peak where we were able to “enjoy snowy California”! Margo and I have only visited Palm Desert once before and that was when we were both working for Tandem Computers. Following the ITUG conference in Orlando, Florida, we had flown directly to Palm Desert for the annual Tandem sales kick-off event.

It was 1993 and with engineering support, pulled from the Cupertino campus, Margo, as the development manager, was unveiling the production version of “chameleon – twin tails”. I was along for the ride as the product manager. Chameleon was a joint investment by Tandem and its subsidiary, Ungermann-Bass, in a solution that exploited capabilities of TCP/IP and Ethernet whereby Tandem computers were able to support a fault tolerant connection to any PC equipped with the UB network interface card.

Back in our Boulder office Margo still has a two-handled coffee mug with one of the “pink LAN cables” cut in half by none other than Jimmy himself when he stopped by to hear our spiel. The demo had been simple; a wiggly worm application made up of dots moving across a 6530 terminal screen and when the LAN connection was cut there was a momentary pause and then the worm moved to the next dot – the line connecting all the dots showed no breaks at all. No, this product didn’t support Token Ring connections and no, there was not going to be any support for SNA but all the same, coming as it did in the early 1990s, at a time when no other vendor could support such uninterruptable communications, it captured the attention of several major Tandem users.

Connecting the dots has always been a passion of mine as it is for anyone who watches technology. The fast pace of innovation ensures the line keeps pushing ahead, connecting more dots, in a rapid fashion. There’s never a time where decades or centuries (of observation) are involved before a distinct trend can be perceived. Compared to other industries, technology lines keep pushing ahead on an almost daily basis. Readers of my blog posts here and elsewhere will have picked up on this theme already as I have made reference to several major “dots” HP has emphasized ever since HP Discover 2012, where message of “Make it Matter” was formally unveiled. And my interest in looking more closely at the dots followed HP CEO Whitman’s keynote presentation.

In my latest opinion paper on Big Data, that will be available for downloading from the Attunity web site, HP NonStop Transactional Data: Critical for Meaningful Big Data, I set the stage early by quoting Whitman directly. “Clouds, Social, Mobile and Big Data are all contributing to further shifts in the tectonic plates underpinning IT,” was how HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman, referred to important trends that HP was tracking. Rather emphatically, I then wrote that HP recognizes the connection between mobile devices and Big Data, before adding that today, there’s simply no stepping back from the mobile world we all live in. Against this backdrop, it’s easy to see that connecting the dots between mobile devices and Big Data, I concluded, draws a line right through NonStop.

On the surface tracking these major shifts, or influences, effecting HP and identifying Clouds, Social, Mobile and Big Data leaves little room for NonStop. In the many discussions I have had with the NonStop community it is as if NonStop is being deliberately sidelined – surely, these latest shifts all involve other platforms in the Business Critical Systems portfolio. In my post to the web publication, It’s just more challenges … that will appear shortly, I hit back at any suggestion that NonStop would be absent from the mix of systems HP would be promoting in support of these shifts.

If I were to forecast the likely mix of technologies within the data center by 2020, I wrote, modern iterations of NonStop systems would be present. Driving this transition, I then went on to suggest would  be a mix of Big Data and real time Analytics, the leveraging of an amorphous private Cloud within the data center that has paths to more popular public / managed Clouds. And, of course, a need for enterprises to beef-up the way they monitor and manage transactions, given that we will all be mobile, working from anywhere. Just another way to explain the connections between social media, mobility, Big Data and Clouds!

I find it comes all too easily for many within the bigger HP community to fall back on bad habits and suggest that this calls for entirely new systems. However, within the product portfolio there continues to be NonStop and its massively parallel processing engine remains the envy of many. Recall my post of September 21, 2012, following my interview with Martin Fink, now CTO of all of HP, where I quoted him as having said “we have been running MPP engines that are some of the biggest the world has ever seen. There’s no better engine than NonStop!” And this wasn’t said just for my benefit, but rather as an acknowledgment of just how much relevant intellectual property (IP) existed within NonStop systems that HP would just love to unlock and feature in future product offerings.

Taking the argument one step further and looking at what the NonStop community is currently engaged in it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see vendors adding support for mobile devices that monitor and manage NonStop systems, such as IR is doing with Prognosis and comForte is doing with application access, and if you have never been to the OpSol Solutions web site and checked out what they did in Japan for KDDI in support of a variety of mobile phone services, check out the slide presentation -

“In mobile telephone, telecommunication industry, cannot tolerate system down for even one second. NonStop server is the only one capable of delivering 99.9999 availability,” the closing slides report. “KDDI provide high-speed and high-volume of movie mail distribution services which require flexible design of mail box size, because traffic volume will increase and mail size may differ depending of movie length. NonStop Server is the only platform (that) can support these new services and provide (the) flexibility.”

Mobile phones are just another client device and one NonStop has been engineered to support. The growth in popularity of mobile devices and the interest of business to know more about what’s going on is what’s driving Big Data and with Big Data comes another reason for enterprises to consider deploying Clouds, whether private, in-house, resources or in combination with public resources. In a recent post to the blog comForte Lounge, uLinga; turning up the heat! I wrote that even as
HP’s strategy is being heavily skewed towards support of Social, Mobile, Big Data and Clouds, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that there’s a new product suite being pulled from whiteboards, restaurant napkins and PowerPoint slides even now by the development team at Infrasoft.

Based on the same framework that underpins uLinga, this new product, maRunga, will focus on supporting much greater Cloud engagement for NonStop.
“Building maRunga will not automatically promote NonStop systems to playing a prominent role within enterprise clouds and may only attract a select few,” blogged Margo Holen recently. “But after reading the reports being generated following the outages we have all seen recently, there certainly cannot be any harm in equipping NonStop to play a role in Clouds, so stay tuned and watch for more details in the coming year.”

I have always loved connecting the dots. That’s what keeps me interested in IT and helps me track where major vendors like HP are headed. Sometimes the horizon isn’t quite as distinct as it was the other day in Boulder, with the highest peaks clearly visible, yet even as the wiggly worm paused briefly following its link to the Tandem being cut, it’s easy to see the unbroken path being pursued. While many may view the focus by HP on Social, Mobile, Big Data and Clouds as unlikely to nourish further investments in NonStop I totally disagree as already investments in innovative solutions have started. This early in 2013 there’s the whole year yet to unfold but from where I stand, I again remain as optimistic as I have ever been that the line connecting all these dots does run through NonStop.

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