Monday, April 29, 2013

(Keep on) walking the line!

In my lifetime I have walked away from very little so talk of auto manufacturers walking away from what made them famous is a message to all within the NonStop community – who has fallen out of love with NonStop?


According to a road test featuring the 2013 BMW 135is in the May 2013 issue of Road and Track, “The 1-Series is the last car that BMW engineered before the Germans, as a car-making culture, fell out of love with driving.” Of course, this really grabbed my attention so I kept on reading.

Was Road and Track simply taking liberties with the truth? Had they crossed the line and what about the mighty BMW M3, the envy of every car enthusiasts? It was late last year and I just couldn’t resist taking this picture. It happened outside our local Starbucks and yes, the police officer was sharing a joke with someone who had apparently stepped over the line. It was Halloween, of course, and the other party was a fellow police officer. However, for just a moment, it sure did grab my attention!

“The 3-series, which used to make so much more sense that the 1, is now a perfectly nice car that barely registers on the fun-to-drive scale,” Road and Track explained, before adding, “Like most German cars, it focuses too much on electronics and the eventuality of a driverless future. It errs toward isolation where BMWs have traditionally favored refinement and engagement.”

And then came the bombshell quote, “Most disturbing of all, Munich seems to have walked away from the very thing responsible for its success: the compact sports car. The 135is and the cars that came before it explain why BMW means more, to more enthusiasts, than any other brand.”

Two things strike me at this point. If you are still reading this post then you must be as much a car nut as I am, and if you want to read more about cars you should check out my social blog,
Buckle-Up-Travel. However, the more important observation is that, if you come this far into the story, what’s the connection to NonStop?

I am not an expert on tautology, even though over the years I have collected many apparent expressions that, for me, represent tautology, but a “driverless BMW” makes about as much sense as “giant shrimp” or even “user friendly”. I don’t want to appear disrespectful to all those readers that have bought a Toyota Camry over the years, but reducing the mighty BMW to be on par with the less-than-fun-to-drive Toyota makes little business sense to me.

About as much sense, when it comes to that, as a “general-purpose NonStop” system! Over the course of the past several years, I have written of how NonStop truly is HP’s halo product when it comes to the absolutely best server for processing mission-critical applications in real-time. The world’s soon-to-be 3 million ATMs handling more than 62 billion ATM cash withdrawals annually are a testament to just how well NonStop performs this task, as today, there’s hardly an AM cash transaction that doesn’t touch a NonStop system along the way.

I have also written of how NonStop is a niche product and that by definition, niches have little to do with the size of market opportunities (consider Apple, for instance) but rather allude to implementations a little outside the expected, or norm. A product that is much respected for its superior capabilities as anything else – and yes, I am ignoring the penchant of some marketing types to bracket niche with fashion or sports.

If you missed reading it, I commented in more detail about niches in the post of February 25, 2013,
It’s yet another sign! in which I quoted WebAction’s Sami Akbay and OmniPayments Yash Kapadia who provided a couple of insightful observations. “Niche means distinct, specific, and distinguishable,” suggested Akbay, adding “niche doesn't have to mean small or dying.” This observation then drew the comment from Yash, “when it comes to the bigger picture of computers worldwide – then yes, NonStop is a niche … when it comes to a sub-market as big as payments, NonStop is the predominant player and this is a message not lost on solutions vendors.”

However, it’s the very presence NonStop has in key markets that makes NonStop special. It’s a potent system, slotted into a highly visible niche, and I am certain that HP has no illusions about the profile of NonStop customers dependent upon the system, Unlike BMW, I cannot see HP walking away from NonStop or relegating it to being just one of many servers in the HP product portfolio.

Of late, I have been somewhat preoccupied with documenting just how heterogeneous today’s data centers have become. Many could almost be categorized as technology museums – yes, I have been inside a number of US federal government facilities that clearly are border line museums and it’s not until you realize that they support pretty significant and highly important national infrastructure operations that you inhale rather noticeably.

With heterogeneous data centers, where an element of specialization can be readily recognized – there’s the IBM mainframe, the Teradata data warehouse, the private Linux Cloud, housing web and application servers, and the NonStop server supporting the network 24 X 7 – it’s less likely that NonStop will look out of place. Skills honed working on other platforms can now be easily leveraged in support of NonStop; after all, it’s done a wonderful job embracing standards and becoming as open a platform as it has of late.

There will likely never be the ubiquitous server that meets everyone’s needs in my business lifetime. Yes, folks at Google and Amazon have demonstrated how far you can go with “warehouses”, full of simple motherboards, even to the point of challenging the likes of IBM, Oracle, Teradata and Greenplum, but Google and Amazon are the exceptions. For Global 1000 companies, differentiation of products and services doesn’t come from building their own computer systems.

I am certain that none of you has fallen out of love with NonStop, nor have you lessened your appreciation for just how well NonStop processes transactions. Furthermore, as you interact with fellow IT professionals, it is difficult not to be overcome with feelings about just how fortunate all of us are just to be associated with NonStop. Yes, “
I keep my eyes wide open all the time,” as Johnny Cash once sang, even as “I walk the line”. We love our NonStop computers for a reason.

Clustering? Yes, we have that! SQL database? Got it covered! Java? Yes, we write in Java along with C and C++ and even COBOL. Applications? Plentiful, with more coming to market! Big Data? Yes, we integrate with well-known Big Data frameworks, with even more options becoming available! Clouds? We see potential new products about to appear! Competitively priced? Yes, and with even more power on tap, accessible, at price points that continue to come down even as greater commoditization is being embraced.

At a time when BMW’s cars are erring towards “isolation where BMWs have traditionally favored refinement and engagement” I am ever mindful of the number of comments being made requesting the fault tolerant NonStop become more general purpose, more universal in their appeal to companies as well as ISVs.

However, I am also acutely aware of being extremely careful about what we are asking for. Just as motoring enthusiasts have no need for a driverless BMW, there are just as many within IT who would abhor seeing HP provide the faulty NonStop. No, let’s not canvass in any way HP walking away from the very attributes we value so highly – availability, scalability and data integrity. After all, as a community, we haven’t fallen out of love with NonStop!


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