Saturday, August 31, 2013

The new transformed NonStop; brash, and in your face!

The title may be unexpected and indeed, a little off-putting but perceptions about NonStop are transforming. And IT professionals are learning not to ignore NonStop – after all it’s still all about transactions!

Even as I was thinking about the subject for this blog post, Margo was busy posting to our social blog, Tails of Dragons, Plates of Gumbo and Streets of Bourbon. Among the pictures she included was one I took of her on the corner of Orleans and Bourbon Streets, New Orleans. This was just a few short weeks ago and without giving away the storyline in Margo’s post; we were completing a circuitous road trip to Atlanta and back to Boulder.

However, the evening that I took this picture was also memorable for another reason – for the first time in a very long time, I was surprised by the antics of a street performer. I sensed something was about to happen, but what happened right in front of me was remarkable all the same. Perhaps it was the stare the street actor gave me or simply the fact that he really was, as we say, in my face, challenging me to “test his otherworldly powers”.

Either way, he had my undivided attention and I followed him as he continued down the street, startling other tourists. The last thing you ever really expect is to see is something apparently driving itself, as was the case here, take on a form so completely different and yet, watching the process it all seems to transpire smoothly and effortlessly. Check out this short video clip:



In an upcoming post to realtime.ir I write about transformations. Without giving away the storyline of that post either, I do connect the dots between what I saw on the streets of New Orleans with what I have watched happening to NonStop over the past couple of years. The popular movie, Transformers, depicts automobiles of all shapes and sizes changing rapidly into all-conquering robots, I wrote in that post. Moreover, I then added that this is not an image we associate with NonStop and yet, as fanciful as it may seem what is being transformed is the confidence companies have with NonStop.

To many, the NonStop systems have come a long way from their earliest iterations in terms of processing capabilities and indeed, value. A modern NonStop BladeSystem is unimaginably powerful when considered alongside a NonStop II, for instance. However, it’s still a NonStop system supporting services and utilities in much the same was as it always has – perhaps it’s the changed console that is an early clue that something is different but even here, it’s a subtle change and one reflecting transformations of another kind.

For the NonStop community, it has always been about the processing of mission-critical transactions by solutions optimized for specific industry verticals. The color of the boxes that house a NonStop system may have changed through the years, but a NonStop is still a NonStop. It’s never been considered a general purpose system, nor will it ever be viewed that way – NonStop is a transaction processing system.

In his back page editorial for the car magazine Motor Trend, Editor-at Large, Angus MacKenzie, interviews McLaren boss, Antony Sheriff. When asked if McLaren would broaden its line of models to attract more customers, Sheriff responded, “My short- and medium-term vision is that we make sports cars with the engine where it should be: behind the driver. And there’ll be two seats. We are a sports car company.”

The roadmap for NonStop depicts newer chipsets being embraced even as it continues to pursue commoditization. In so doing, this continues to bring the real costs down,of course, the price/performance ratio continues to improve, favoring customers facing rapidly expanding end-user populations most likely as a result of greater usage of mobile devices. However, not only is this proving helpful to customers – who doesn’t like paying less for more – but it’s beginning to transform conventional wisdom in ways not anticipated by HP as a whole.

So many stories abound of Clouds crashing, so much so their observable instability is highlighting the uncertainty of enterprises ever moving real transaction processing to the Cloud. Custom-built private Clouds or Cloud computing services brought in-house and deployed within data centers may be where enterprises begin, but even that’s not a sure thing at this stage. CIOs have always been nervous about just how much energy they put into risky propositions and with Cloud computing, their old instincts are kicking in. However, NonStop keeps processing mission-critical transactions in real time for less and less money. That’s the transformation that I am seeing; bringing confidence in NonStop to enterprises of all sizes.

The question being raised most often is whether Clouds will impact future NonStop sales. In other words, will Cloud computing capture markets currently served by solutions optimized for NonStop systems. Having been involved in numerous conversations of late on this very topic, the answers will vary not only by the business problem being addressed but by the manner in which solutions today have already been deployed.

Very few enterprises rely on a single monolithic solution as once was popular using IBM mainframes. Neither is the inner sanctum of today’s modern data centers a homogeneous affair – servers from multiple vendors configured in support of a variety of solutions underpin most data centers. For solutions running on a NonStop system, where portions of their workload have already been offloaded to inexpensive servers, there is every likelihood Cloud computing will be embraced even as the NonStop system is retained.

I have previously posted about OmniPayments and wrote of how, for some time now, they have been using a hybrid architecture with portions of their NonStop payments processing solution running on Linux. Looking back at the post of April 17, 2013,
It’s time … and the idea is not as wild and crazy as we might imagine! OmniPayments CEO, Yash Kapadia, had said to me “don’t rule out OmniPayments combining features that might be on NonStop in part or in whole with OmniPayments features that may be in the Cloud”. Talking again this week with Yash, he was even more specific “offering an alternative solution using Cloud computing instead of on Linux and yet, overseeing it all from an OmniPayments presence on NonStop, is consistent with how we will be working with customers to keep our solutions attractively priced”.

This is where the early transformations involving NonStop systems and Cloud computing will likely take place. Not through a disruptive, highly risky, rip-and replace process but rather, by subtle tweaking of solutions already deployed that are hybrid in nature exploiting the heterogeneous nature of data centers already in existence. Yes, CIOs and data center managers alike have seen their experiences with NonStop usage transformed. It’s just not a huge leap of faith to anticipate some POCs and Pilots of configurations exploiting NonStop to happen in the near term – confidence in the new, modern NonStop system to mask the fragility of Clouds may be all that it takes to see a trend develop.

Four decades of industry transformation hasn’t derailed NonStop – from centralized computing where NonStop battled entrenched mainframes, to distributed computing where NonStop battled minicomputers to Client –Server computing and it’s capitalization of the Internet where NonStop battled PCs and their offspring, the server, NonStop continues to remain relevant. Who’s to say the fallout from Cloud computing will generate different results to what we have already witnessed.

Just as I was surprised by the transformation of a street performer, so too will many in IT be every bit as surprised as NonStop systems continue to anchor mission-critical transaction processing even with Clouds. It’s what NonStop systems have always done and it’s what the product roadmaps reinforce today – don’t expect to see any second-row of seats, or the IT equivalent (yes, batch) appear any time soon. Just a brash, in your face, NonStop that’s at home with Clouds every bit as much as it was in former times with minicomputers, PCs and the Internet – yes, we can do that.

Where the surprises will come from is the transformed perception among IT leaders over just how well NonStop will play in the new world and that is one transformation that will surprise few in the NonStop community!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Big, is getting a whole lot bigger; Yottabytes isn’t a Star Wars character!

We all understand Big Data but what about Big Transactions as in lots and lots of transactions – so many that today’s showcase Big Data Centers will only get bigger and bigger … and when discussions turn to transactions, it’s hard to overlook Nonstop!

Big things have always fascinated me. My very first job was at the Steelworks, south of Sydney, where air conditioning of the computer facility was its only redeeming feature. Otherwise, the heat and noise, and often the sheer terror it espoused, gave it a sense of being otherworldly when first encountered. Nothing about a steelworks is minute or delicate and finesse has no place in the presence of such massive structures visible everywhere you turn.

For more on my days at the steelworks, check back to the post of March 26, 2008, A question of balance! I came across this reference when I was scrolling through earlier posts looking for a particular post, written while attending an earlier user event in Las Vegas, before HP Discover came about. It wasn’t so much the post per se as the reference it contained to yet earlier observations I had made about NonStop and the IT industry.


Turns out that the post I was looking for came out only a few months after my post about the steelworks. In the post of June, 16, 2008, The path well-trodden – to Mandalay Bay! I referenced the launch of the Cyclone system. It had been announced around the same time as the latest IBM mainframe, the ES/3090, and as everyone connected with the Cupertino campus will recall, at the same time as the Loma Prieta earthquake. On first viewing Cyclone, it had me writing about the return of big systems and of how the technology pendulum had swung back to a centralized model for IT, featuring a return to very big data centers.

Today, we are seeing yet another return to big as the size of data centers explodes and the numbers being thrown around to describe them exceed all comprehension. In the August 2013 edition of
Musings on NonStop just published in the Tandemworld e/Newsletter (you will need to scroll down a fair bit to find it), I turned to an automobile magazine, Motor Trend, for interesting data points on one of the U.S. governments biggest data centers – the newly commissioned NSA facility here in the west.

“The government’s $2-billion, million-plus-square-foot Bluffdale, Utah, data storage and analysis facility opening this month (and depicted above) is equipped to handle yottabytes of data.” OK, so we have yottabytes and as the columnist then points out, “Yotta signifies 10 to the power of 24 – that’s the largest numerical prefix coined to date, and it equals a million exabytes.”

As an impressionable youngster working in the steelworks, writing programs to retrieve data from IBM 2311 disk drives with a capacity of 7 Megabytes of data was tantamount to magic all those years ago but if I tried hard, I could visualize just how big that was. Yottabytes, on the other hand, cease to hold any real meaning for me, as I cannot imagine how big that would be. However, all of us collectively are producing so much data that it’s really not surprising that data centers with such capacity are being built.

Moreover, it’s all because of our love of mobile devices and the ease with which we can access anything or anyone at any time when we have one of these devices in our hands. Yes, the growth in mobile phones, and with it the desire of companies, governments and just about everyone else with an interest in what we are doing to collect information about us all. Doing so, of course, is what’s driving the return to gigantic data centers we are reading so much more about of late and yes, this growth is not exclusive of NonStop participation.

Mobile devices (including smartphones and tablets) create transactions and with each new transaction there’s a likelihood that during the process of passing information to a friend, or business, it will pass through a NonStop system. Mobile devices are simply jumping on the back of much of the infrastructure that’s in place to handle financial transactions, travel reservations and hotel bookings, as well as to view business activities. Mobile devices are even finding their way into schools, car showrooms and yes, the data center itself!

I have just completed an opinion paper for Integrated Research (IR) that is titled “Smarter devices, smarter applications; smarter monitoring. Always aware of business availability!”, which should  become available for downloading shortly after I complete this post. In that paper you will read that, on a recent trip to the shops, I heard a page over the loudspeakers, “Mobility to the front!” The lines at the cash registers had grown long and the request was for an available store assistant on the floor, equipped with an iPod Touch (with a shop-specific back cover) and the store’s check-out application, to help out and indeed, my purchase was completed with a simple scan of my credit card and, via a simple Bluetooth connection, the printing of my receipt.

The store was Nordstrom’s and it was the feature of a New York Times article only a short time later. Yes, Mobile to the Front is certainly a catch-phrase resonating not only with CIOs but with the leaders of technology companies including HP. “Mobility, Security, Big Data and Clouds” continue to be the main focus of HP management these days and it’s hard to miss messages in support of these topics present on communications HP make to the industry and user communities alike.

Yes, mobility is a big thing and its impact on NonStop is unmistakable. As I wrote in that opinion paper for IR, mobility is proving to be so much more than just another channel accessing applications already deployed. Separated from everything that used to hold us to our desks, allowing us to live in a world where we are always connected, moving seamlessly between social and business interactions, it’s a whole new way for business to view us, their employees, business partners and customers. Those on the move, mobile device in hand, will also include IT departments and in particular, those overseeing their operations and this is a development not lost on IR as they prepare to enhance the mobile operator experience via Prognosis 10.

Even so, the move away from relying solely on a bricks-and-mortar presence, I then wrote in that opinion paper, is just the first step; an overture signifying what is to come. And what is coming are more transactions; Yottabytes may indeed prove to be “small potatoes” as the whole world - indeed every known device on the planet - start communicating. To plagiarize a popular saying, “who you goin’ to turn to (and trust) to process your important transactions?”

It’s easy to see just how big a steelworks is just as it’s easy to see how many mobile devices are in use. These are big infrastructure plays and rely on sizeable investments to deploy productively. Today, emerging markets demonstrate their technical prowess by building steelworks even as developed countries, increasingly dependent on services, are demonstrating their prowess with landscapes dotted with wireless network towers everywhere you turn.

Million-plus-square-foot data centers may impress a lot of us even as they are raising the eyebrows of communities and legislatures alike, but there’s more to come. This is just the start and even as Neo, of Matrix fame, awakens to look out on a landscape of “storage” capsules stacked in towers as high as he can see and duplicated without apparent end, so too will our desire to capture transactions lead to big data centers every bit as impressive as seen on any movie screen.

Big Data is becoming better known to most of us in terms of the benefits it is providing business,  but in the coming months Big (numbers of) Transactions could be every bit as important and this will be news to many companies; really big news, in fact! On this point, no one I have talked to of late has disagreed with me over the potential for even greater NonStop involvement. “NonStop; ‘got transactions?’” may soon become a popular tee shirt and much, much, more!




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A big “thumbs-up” for NonStop!


Popular news publications talk of doom and gloom for technology behemoths but for those who choose NonStop, the journey continues – and it’s all good news!

Back behind my desk, following the road-trip through the south-eastern states of the U.S. even as I work, the memories keep coming back. Apart from the destinations – Atlanta and New Orleans being the cities we spent the most time visiting – it was once again, about the journey. Over the years, we have managed to fill up the garages, so whenever we plan a road-trip one of the last questions addressed is always over which car we will choose to drive.

As you can tell from the picture above, the Nissan GT-R proved to be the winner this time. The photo, courtesy of 129Slayer.com, captures us cornering rather aggressively along Tennessee highway 129, otherwise known as the tail of the dragon due to many corners that have been carved out of a very short mountain crossing. With me giving the thumbs-up then yes, it was Margo behind the wheel and if you want to read more of this trip, then watch for a post to the blog, Buckle-Up-Travel later this month.

One of the more fascinating attributes of the Nissan GT-R is the instrumentation it provides. Each morning, after driving for half an hour, I was able to call up screens integrated as part of the infotainment center that showed me the tire pressures (a standard screen), the temperatures for coolant, engine oil and transmission fluids as well as pressure readings for the engine and transmission (a custom screen I cut-and-pasted from options provided), and then returning to the main instrumentation panel directly in front of the driver, fuel range and the (average) fuel consumption.

So much functionality available today, when all that was present just a decade or so ago was the speedometer / odometer and perhaps a water temperature gauge. When you look at the journeys we embark on these days without even a second thought – yes, we drove 3750+ miles – having access to more than just entertainment and navigation “applications” is extremely helpful. However, it wasn’t just about having access to the information I wanted so much as it was about the choice – I could select options that were valuable to me. Margo, of course had her own screens that only added to the number of choices on hand.

In the post of August 10, 2013, to the comForte Lounge blog, Computertopologies change – and comForte keeps investing I referenced an article in USA Today, Dellis repeating the wayward history of Wang. Reporter, Mark Veverka, writes of how “Dell was to client-server computing as Wang was to mini-computing. Yet all good things must come to an end, and for technology behemoths, the end seems to come sooner rather than later.” This end is being driven, according to Veverka, by Cloud computing and the emergence of providers better positioned to support new ways of interacting with servers. The point I go on to make is that the NonStop community is well aware that NonStop servers have proved adaptable for four decades and aren’t disappearing off technology’s radar screen any time soon. Roadmaps are in place showing a future for NonStop well past 2020. The choice of NonStop continues to be a viable option whenever transaction processing is involved.

To have vendors (and in that post, I referred to comForte 21, but others are certainly making investments too), prepared to invest in key technologies underlying the migration from client-server to cloud computing – even where they represent early baby-step approaches – is encouraging. For everyone in the NonStop community this is a positive reflection on just how viable NonStop systems remain through such transitions. NonStop did make the transition to client-server; WAN controllers went outboard even as LAN controllers became integrated with the NonStop system.

However, there was a lot more involved apart from changing the way controllers were connected, as NonStop development took the step to back away from major investments in WAN protocols and services to focus almost exclusively on TCP/IP. As the Internet drove change even more rapidly and the Web services model became better understood, the arrival of SOA / Web services attracted even greater investments, as once again, vendors stepped up to provide offerings even as they faced stiff competition from NonStop development itself. Options again, are always good and having choice only comes when vendors are confident about the longevity of the platform.

There has been a lot of commentary posted of late to discussions in various social media channels, not the least being to a number of groups on LinkedIn. If you haven’t been to the group Real Time View or to others, such as Mission Critical Systems Forum and A Host System Advocates group (facilitated by participants favoring  Oracle and IBM), then perhaps you should, as the exchanges have now attracted more than a handful of NonStop advocates and the responses have been all the more encouraging to read. Even within these groups NonStop finds acceptance and the messages by NonStop advocates conveyed are openly discussed with few dissenters. Clearly, and yet again, even among groups not aligned with NonStop there is awareness, indeed acceptance, that corporations do make choices and when they do, there’s more than likely a NonStop system involved.

What stands out for me is that, like my most recent road-trip with Margo, it is the importance of the journey itself that radiates most – simply being on the journey implies you have made a start.  At HP Discover HP executive, Dave Donatelli, repeatedly told attendees of how Cloud computing was a journey where many different onramps could be taken. So too is Big Data a journey, as its adherents champion the importance of Big Data for business. It may not have a set of wheel, but NonStop is on a journey too and that’s become more apparent to me as I sift through the many discussions underway in cyberspace.

Our visit to New Orleans was definitely among the highlights of the trip. However, returning to the French Quarter and walking along Bourbon Street after an absence of nearly thirty years spoke volumes of just how this district has changed. It was hard to find the traditional Jazz and Big Band sounds I remembered, as most venues played a mix of country and rock music. There were a few venues playing traditional Mississippi blues music, but they were the exception. Then again, Bourbon Street is a business and it has clearly evolved to satisfy the tastes of those who now walk the street supporting the many establishments focused on the tourist trade.

Unlike Wang and now, it seems, Dell, NonStop and particularly under HP’s stewardship, has evolved too – all part of the journey for NonStop we have been a part of for four decades. It may be a technology behemoth atop the real-time mission critical transaction processing landscape, but for the NonStop community there’s no end in sight and for that I have to admit it’s a journey I am really enjoying. And yes, well deserving of a big thumbs-up from all of us!