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 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!

1 comment:

Gerhard Schwartz said...

NonStop transformations ? Yes there have been a few, like other long-living platforms had theirs too.

But in my view, even more remarkable is the role as a transformer which NonStop can take. For instance, Nonstop can transform plain vanilla cloud computing (good for social media and the like) into robust hybrid cloud computing living up to tough business-critical requirements.

Cloud computing will not go away anytime soon, there are distinct cost and flexibility advantages making it a reasonably good fit for lesser demanding applications. On the other hand, plain vanilla cloud computing built on highly complex HW/SW infrastructures will not become very robust anytime soon either.

That's not a problem for a good number of plain vanilla applications - but it is a real showstopper for business- or mission-critical applications that must not fail.

For instance, some marketeers try to promote cloud computing also for manufacturers and their highly critical machine-to-machine applications like in production control. They typically just get forgiving smiles from the automation experts responsible for such industrial processes. These people are fully aware that due to latency and availability reasons you just can't control robots and other machinery out of the cloud - at least, if you want somewhat decent productivity.

But besides those highly critical production control processes, manufacturers do also have less critical applications that could well live in the cloud. Some might even go for ERP in the cloud.

The solution - a hybrid cloud, with the standard clerical stuff running somewhere in some traditional cloud, and the business-critical processes running from a small private cloud within the factory. That private cloud is special, having NonStop inside ...

Not only will this small private cloud serve those critical production processes in a timely (low-latency) and failsafe manner, but it will also protect the precious intellectual property of the company. The fine details of the production processes and the recipes used must be known to the automation gear controlling those processes, but are none of the business of those nasty hackers spying in the public cloud. So these critical pieces of information don't go there, rather are kept safe in a very secure server sitting on the company's own ground. In Germany, we do have a related joint research project called "Virtual Fort Knox", together with Fraunhofer IPA, a well-known German research institution.

That way, Nonstop can transform cloud computing so that it becomes useful for businesses having to run highly critical processes. Isn't that a neat value proposition ?