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.   

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