Wednesday, October 23, 2013

By the numbers … Looking at the new NB56000c

It’s all positive news with the availability of the NonStop BladeSystem NB56000c and when you look closer, you can see that the ongoing investment in NonStop remains strong and that the roadmaps presented by HP NonStop continue to be pursued aggressively and passionately.  

Greetings from within the world’s tallest residential tower, the Q1, on Australia’s famous Gold Coast, Queensland. While we are not residing on the highest floor, the “hotel” does include floors much higher than the surrounding buildings, so the views are spectacular to say the least. I have been a visitor to the Gold Coast since 1962 as it became a popular vacation option for my family, but nothing quite prepared me for how other-worldly the experience is proving to be. The picture above was taken on the first night of our stay by a highly skilled photographer – no trickery involved – and almost 40 floors above the street!

With business in Sydney behind us and just a couple of more “catch-ups” and site visits remaining, it’s finally proving possible to just sit back and relax. Having a client from the US join us, we are now very much in the business of tour guides but it’s turning out to be fun. Anyone from the NonStop community who has had the opportunity to tour with me over the years knows that the amount of trivia I manage to retain can prove entertaining at times.

However, it is the numbers here that have kept me busy – the hottest day in Sydney for the month of October – well, it missed by just a couple of decimal points. The fuel efficiency of a potent, small displacement V6 that seems to go days without needing a top up even as we cover 500 plus kilometers, a circumstance so alien for us who typically avoid driving such vehicles. And what happened to the bananas of Coffs Harbor – one of the major growing regions for Australian bananas and not a single tree in sight as we drove into this regional center!

The Big Banana roadside café has always been a favorite stop-over on the drive between Sydney and the Gold Coast and helped spread the name of the region along with the fame, of course, emanating from its most popular resident, Russell Crowe. Although, like the bananas, Crowe too is apparently no longer in the region with his residence listed for sale with a price tag including more zeros than most folks in this slower-paced fishing village can comprehend.

On the flight from the US to Australia I flipped the pages of magazines that had accumulated on my desk. Among the publications was the October 7, 2013, issue of Fortune magazine with the article, IBM and Watson. In particular, what caught my attention were the observations, “In the 2 ½ years since it appeared on Jeopardy, Watson has simultaneously slimmed down (in form) and bulked up (in capabilities). It once consisted of 90 servers packed on 10 racks taking up roughly the space of a large room. Today it fits into a server roughly the size of four pizza boxes and it runs 240 times as fast.” Furthermore, according to Fortune, “Experts anticipate the system will get even speedier and shrink to the size of a mobile device. Already it’s being made available as a service through the cloud.”

It is often the case where raw numbers fail to convey the full story. However, what the story these numbers do convey (at least on face value) is that it’s now becoming possible to do almost anything with what is in our hands. Data centers will continue to provide the data but when it comes to processing, it’s anyone’s guess as to how small the physical appearance of even the world’s most powerful computer will become. Of course, NonStop systems are just as much a part of this as well, and the recent announcement of the NB56000c brings with it even more surprising numbers. But how many of us have really taken a close look at the new NB56000c “Poulson” line of servers and seen how powerful NonStop systems have become? What do the numbers being bandied about really convey?

Before looking behind the numbers being provided by HP for the new NB56000c, what is being reported, according to the HP web site, is that raw performance has benefited from Intel’s new Poulson chip, which is delivering up to 50% more performance when compared to the previous NonStop system family members. Furthermore, an NB56000c can scale “up to 16,320 cores, up to 192,000 program processes per node, and an incredible 48,960,000 program processes in an Expand network”, according to the data sheet HP Integrity NonStop BladeSystem NB56000c – for businesses that never stop written by HP’s Global Product Manager responsible for HP NonStop systems, Mark Pollans.

The first thing that strikes me is the tangible evidence (this new addition to the NonStop lineup provides) that the investment by HP in NonStop continues – from the first time we heard of NonStop support for Blades, there’s been three generations of NonStop BladeSystems. The move to closely track the Intel roadmap and to embrace commodity products continues and this ongoing investment by HP in NonStop remains the big story for all stakeholders across the NonStop community. For even more information on this latest iteration of the BladeSystem watch for the November / December issue of The Connection – Virtualization a shoe-in! Big Data, Hybrid Computers and Cloud Computing become Megatrends!

There’s even more hiding behind the numbers than just the ongoing investment commitments. For those in the NonStop community experiencing growth but simply cannot alter the number of processors because of the work already done to tune the system and simply want more performance then the NB56000c should prove beneficial. As it was told to me, this applies even if it is from NB50000c or NB54000c (2-core) to NB56000c (2-core) as well as from or to 4-core configurations. Furthermore, in expanding the performance capacity it opens us up to NonStop to being a more viable migration destination from other platforms, including IBM mainframes.

However, for those who do live by the numbers, perhaps the most important number will be one of value. “The number that carries the most weight with us is the price – keeping NonStop systems affordable is important to our company. In some markets where we work, it’s the only metric that gets us in the door,” said Yash Kapadia, CEO, OmniPayments Inc. “The upper numbers for the new NB56000c are impressive, for sure, but we have seen a marked uptick of interest in OmniPayments when we were first able to talk about the new entry-level NonStop system, the NS2100. Having everything in the one box, as I noted last year, at an affordable price is the most important number of all – the additional performance is great but it’s still all about price/performance and I hope HP keeps an eye on the overall bottom line!”

comForte’s CTO, Thomas Burg, has expressed a similar sentiment in an email exchange with me just this week. Yash and OmniPayments are already aware that the price for solutions needs to also track that of the new NonStop systems, and according to Burg, “the gains in price / performance are only fully relevant if the ISVs follow suit with their pricing.” Driving home this point, Burg then reflected on how, “taking away these important cost savings from the customer by keeping prices of ISV’s products high isn’t lost on customers today who, not surprisingly, will always look at the full price of whatever solution they are considering..” However, it’s hard to dismiss the challenge faced by all vendors who know the cost of support isn’t riding a similar downward trend.

In the Fortune magazine feature, IBM and Watson, the writer then states, “If a primary challenge of the 20th century was accessing information, the challenge for the 21st century will be navigating the ensuing complexity”. The BladeSystem NB56000c is now giving the NonStop community the type of system well-suited to handling the complexity. Increasingly, the world of transaction processing and business analytics are on a collision course with the focus of vendors turning to address business analytics in real time, mapping what’s happening in real time with material accumulated elsewhere including social media as well as emails and texts that otherwise fall outside of traditional transactional models. Vast volumes of data will be cached and the power of parallelism all of us in the NonStop community are familiar with will come to the fore.

Queensland’s Q1 building was the world’s tallest residential property in 2005, but since then Dubai has added four residences that are taller, relegating the Q1 to fifth tallest. However, the views out the windows that continue to distract me even as I type this post are remarkable. With yet another almost as tall residence on Queensland’s Gold Coast the insatiable thirst for properties in this glamor strip of land will surely see even taller properties built. For the NonStop community, the promise of 4th, 5th and even 6th generation BladeSystems tracking, as they do, the Intel roadmaps will likewise cater for the insatiable demands for more computing power many within the NonStop community will witness.

The numbers are impressive and the capabilities of modern NonStop systems almost unthinkable just a decade ago and yet, our demands will not lessen in the future. Price will always be important and not just for Yash with OmniPayments but for all those dependent on a full product line from NonStop. However, knowing that the top end is being covered and that there’s little likelihood of ever exceeding the capabilities of NonStop is welcome news for all stakeholders within the NonStop community.   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NonStop: Good, but now better!

Greetings from Sydney, Australia! However, it was the trip to Canada, to participate in CTUG, that influenced this post – Tandem was good but NonStop today is so much better! Given the opportunity would we still invest in good when better is available? I don’t think so …


There have been a number of posts since I referenced boats, cars or travel – but it seems appropriate to, once again, dip into this pool to pull  out some well-meaning metaphors and this time, the connections or associations will not be hard to miss. It’s been some time, but we finally replaced the ten plus years old Cadillac Escalade. With more than 175,000 miles on the odometer there was sense of imminent doom with every outing we took, and later this year we will be driving to Orlando for a major event that Margo will be overseeing.

The Escalade was good, and served us well, but was there something better? After testing a number of SUVs, including the new Escalade, the Mercedes Benz ML550 and ever so briefly a Range Rover Sport, the driving experience was revealing. They were all good, but it was hard to say that they were better. The addition of extra gears has significantly slowed the responsiveness of the above cars under hard acceleration – they just didn’t want to go when we stepped on the gas!

To cut further speculation short then yes, we have replaced the Escalade with a Jeep and not just any Jeep, mind you, but the grand Cherokee SRT – a close relative of the SRT Viper. It goes – and surprising many in the SUV and 4X4 brigade, not only doesn’t it have a selection knob allowing you to move between snow, ice, mud and sand but rather offers drivers a choice between snow, sport, track and launch – this Jeep has
circulated the Nurburgring in a mind-bending 8 min 48 secs. Definitely, a suitable new flagship for Pyalla Technologies, LLC, and sitting alongside our SRT Viper, some similarities can be seen.

It came as no surprise then as I flipped though the editorial section of this month’s Motor Trend (MT) that I came across the words of Mercedes Benz Chairman, Dr. Dieter Zetsche that tapped into the same theme. Asked how much better a new Mercedes Benz could be compared to what’s already in the market, Dr. Zetsche responded, “Oh, because time goes by, and the better is the enemy of the good”. He then added, “The capabilities of the average customer to sense any difference between the good and the better is more and more limited. You could say all the cars are getting close.”

“Dr. Z is right,” responded the MT editor, Edward Loh. “As the auto industry continues to evolve at a relentless pace, cars are getting closer and closer in capability to one another, and it has become more difficult to differentiate between good and better.”  When it comes to the business of computing then the connection is very clear – IT executives appreciate the difference between simply good, and better.

For the NonStop community, it is getting better. When it comes to running mission critical applications with near real-time responsiveness, the NonStop system is not just better, it’s been proven time and again, the best. It’s true that with programming, you can implement just about anything but taking commodity servers and writing the code to make them as good as a NonStop system continues to be beyond the reach of even the most gifted developers and the almost daily headlines we are reading about outages due to technical glitches are on the rise.

It was a simple observation made by HP VP and GM, Integrity Servers, Randy Meyer, that we shouldn’t be thinking that innovation in the Financial Services marketplace is slowing. The solutions available today are, by no stretch of the imagination, complete – there is a lot more to come. Take for instance, Meyer said, “More Person-to-Person (P2P) transactions; small business with PayPal and Square” are generating more transactions and are involving even more people in the transaction path. It’s not just about performance, added Meyer, as, “This translates to much higher degrees of expectations when it comes to availability and to capacity”.

Four decades ago, Tandem set the benchmark for fault tolerance and with that, a new appreciation for availability and scalability. However, the modern NonStop system is far removed from the Tandem Computers of the1980s. Commodity hardware and open software – a complete “stack” that has become recognized as the “special sauce” that is uniquely NonStop. In fact, for many industry observers, NonStop has become a showcase for how a complex technology made up of proprietary hardware and software has become a near-software solution with potential for deployment on practically any new hardware that might appear.

With all these changes, today’s NonStop system is even better than it was in the past – ask those who have been involved in recent benchmarks – you want more than 1,000 TPS from just two processors? How about many times that? You want a low price-point for an entry-level system comparative to a cluster of Linux or Window servers, with an SQL database? Throughout the years the developers at NonStop have continued to evolve the product and even as good product offerings have come from other vendors, they simply have failed to prove that they are better.

Recently I posted about the
transformation of NonStop where I closed with where the surprises for many within IT will come from the transformed perception among IT leaders over just how well NonStop will play in the new world and of how that might be one transformation that will surprise few in the NonStop community! Transformation that has come about following a multitude of changes of a long period of time. Existing users of NonStop systems were able to upgrade at any time without putting their mission critical transactional systems in jeopardy. Evolutionary steps, often called appropriately enough, baby steps, remain the quintessential hallmark of all successful systems companies.

To paraphrase Dr. Zetsche, the capabilities of the average CIO to sense differences between the good and the better is more and more limited. Yes, some system configurations are getting close to NonStop in terms of either availability or scalability but throw in high performance transaction processing with the need for massive scale-up, and the work involved by prospective customers to come close to NonStop out of the box becomes a task almost all fail to realize. You can also say all the systems are getting close but that’s like dumbing down the question to where good enough will do!

In the MT editorial, Dr. Zetsche was describing the arrival of the new Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan. “This one (today) must look old compared with what we can do in seven years, but we don’t have the technology today to get to the next S-Class right away. So it’s a constant – not revolution, but evolution.” So too the work with NonStop – it’s a constant. Make it open, attract today’s solutions, support standards that let it easily integrate with other servers, and most importantly of all, make it affordable to everyone with higher expectations that their application will always be there for them.

Not quite the mantra of all associated with NonStop systems, but very close. However, when it comes to discussing the merits of NonStop today with CIOs and IT executives, few discount the value the presence of NonStop can provide. As we continue our march to even greater heterogeneity in the data center with hybrid computing becoming common place, there will be lot of good systems inside the data center but the better solution for mission critical transaction processing will continue to come from NonStop! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Take a chance on me…Yes, I like ABBA!


It was many years ago, shortly after arriving in the U.S., that I moved to Boston and began my career in IT. If it wasn’t for the generosity of those prepared to give me a chance, I probably wouldn’t have had any opportunity to get a toehold on what was then considered an industry in its infancy.
Keydata Corporation, the first commercial time-sharing computer firm, was my very first employer in the US. Most of the processing was done in batch, with reports generated nightly. The businesses sent Keydata their daily transactions logs which we processed for them. There was nothing real time about it, as I recall.

Perhaps the concept of time-sharing and cloud computing differs by just that one fine point – cloud computing assumes real time processing, otherwise, conceptually, these are the same approaches to data processing! When you look back at early service bureau companies supporting time-sharing, they were just providing a big resource (for computing) with an archaic interface. Furthermore, they typically catered for just one type of client – either scientific, commercial or government.    
The demise of Keydata’s time-share model came about when mini-computers entered the market and IT managers brought their applications in-house, wanting to have full control of the environment, including all the data. With cloud computing, IT managers can retain control over some parts of the application and data, while only farming out components to the cloud  that they feel comfortable with running outside the shop!

Technology, like fashion, seems to be cyclical – centralized, decentralized, skinny jeans, bell bottoms … etc. However, this time around, I really do not think that the cloud model will disappear; it is a logical progression, considering ever growing databases and a need for processing power, that  makes sense out of all the data we are capturing today. Cloud computing offers alternatives to when it is no longer  practical to own and manage all the resources that are necessary from time to time; especially when setting up a data center for a department store in support of Black Friday’s rush or building out the resources for stock exchanges to be ready for  a Facebook public offering. Would sure be nice, but the cost would be astronomical – in come public and private clouds, where you can burst (who came up with that allegory anyway?), in case of a dire need.
Where am I going with this? I think that the ability to take advantage of cloud computing should be an integral part of every platform, and I am glad maRunga is here to support the cloud computing model on HP NonStop! Yes, it’s new. Yes, it’s in its infancy in terms of addressing business problems, and it will be up to cloud evangelists to establish the models that will later influence everyone else.  However, the evangelists are out there, and it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has been around NonStop to see the NonStop platform becoming involved. 

The decision to develop maRunga was made because we knew these evangelists are out there and so, once again, I am looking forward to renewing the cycle of where, in my own experiences, someone comes to help me out and gives us the chance!