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!




1 comment:

JDeveaux said...

Wow, talk about Big! I can imagine having to make sure that the logistics of a 2 million square foot data center, are up and operational at all times. That's a whole lot of Halon should anything happen.

More importantly, it proves out that companies (and governments) are willing to invest when in order to ensure that all data is captured. Some companies invest more than others, and some invest to stay ahead of the curve, but, having the data available is a key driver.