Monday, December 16, 2013

NonStop offers balance, and why not?

Even as there are those within the NonStop community who continue to “hold the breath” when it comes to predicting the future for NonStop, there are many more who argue why not NonStop for decades to come?  

In a clever turn of phrase, our local Niwot village coffee shop calls itself the Winot! And with the sudden drop in temperatures – almost 40 degrees Fahrenheit overnight – we see the seasons changing once again, and we continually ask ourselves shouldn’t we be in Florida? California? Perhaps Australia? Then again, part of the balanced life we enjoy from simply being in Colorado is watching the seasons’ change, so this holiday season, Margo and I are electing to stay put in Boulder, reminding each other, why not?

Taking advantage of our village name with an anagram the way our coffee shop has done, was just one way to draw attention to the shop and many of us can be excused for doing something similar, at one time or another. However, watching the snow come down, as I did earlier today, was only a small distraction as I pulled together the theme of this post – balance, and the need to look very closely at when we consider deploying HP NonStop systems and when we consider other resources.

There has been a lengthy discussion on the LinkedIn group, Tandem User Group. It started after a group’s member asked the question, “Why Tandem technology has (been) used in all banking areas, why not Mainframe? Is there possibility for migrating Tandem to any other new Technologies?” Among the commentaries posted was one by comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, who responded, “the ‘Tandem’ systems have changed tremendously in the last 15+ years: while they still provide mainframe type stability, they also have non-mainframe type price points, non-mainframe type modern-ness. They will run on x86 (architecture) in the next few years.”

One of the struggles that has continued across IT for as long as I have been a part of the industry, has to do with heterogeneity; with tapping the right platforms, the right resources, all to create the optimal mix of technology that balances the needs of all the constituents, or stakeholders, that make up today’s modern companies. As someone who has a lengthy history with IBM mainframes, before championing the benefits of NonStop, it wasn’t always an easy task for me to articulate why there was a role for NonStop when even the most casual supporter of the mainframe resisted change whenever the topic of switching was raised.

It was almost six years ago, on March 26, 2008, that I posted the blog A question of balance! This post included quotes from many within the NonStop community – users and vendors alike. Again, it was the quote by comForte’s Burg that rings just as true today as it did all those years ago. After observing that not every application needs NonStop, and sometimes we may pursue projects better suited to other platforms, Burg said, “You can do ‘anything’ on ‘any’ platform – the trick question is ‘which platform do I choose given my requirements (cost, availability, security, performance …)?’”

Using an even stronger turn of phrase, Infrasoft’s founder, Dave Finnie then observed, in that same post of 2008, “Enterprise systems need a bit of a rethink. Does it always need shared nothing versus shared everything? Independent processors, versus (symmetric multiprocessing) SMP? What about a mix?” Eight years later, we now know that NonStop plays just as an important role in support of mission critical applications as it ever has. Perhaps more so with the planned availability of NonStop solutions on the x86 architecture.

As I posted just a week ago, it was HP CEO, Meg Whitman, who said, “Today, enterprises operate in a world where the demand for continuous application availability is growing exponentially. The need to choose the right computer for the right workload at the right economics has never been so important … we are on the path to redefine mission critical computing.” It was Whitman who then added “Our NonStop customers truly make it matter” recognizing that while NonStop may not rule the entire data center, it will play an important role for years to come.

Vendors are among the first who recognize this important shift within the HP product portfolio and are, once again, turning to developing new products and services. “Having successfully introduced our first product uLinga, we have only just released our second product, maRunga. It is our goal to not only provide continued support for infrastructure on NonStop systems but to assist in making it easy for NonStop to tap new resources (in the case of maRunga, this being Cloud computing resources), as and when it’s deemed appropriate,” Infrasoft Managing Director, Peter Shell, told me recently.

According to the marketing literature already published by comForte, uLinga (as a replacement for both HP’s SNAX as well as ACI’s ICE product), should find additional growth with NonStop solutions on the x86 architecture. comForte’s development partner, Infrasoft, is committed to supporting NonStop on x86 even as ACI’s priorities, on the other hand (and my own speculation, of course), lie elsewhere. “Granted, the potential market for comForte with uLinga on NonStop x86 may never be as big as what exists today for NonStop systems on HP Integrity NonStop systems (Itanium)”, according to Inrasoft’s Shell, “yet prospects and customers alike will appreciate that, in selecting uLinga, they will have the latest, most modern implementation protocol and services stack focused on networking”.

As for maRunga, it’s early days but already there are opportunities developing in support of transactions following data into the Clouds, but more of that in a future post. Together, uLinga and maRunga are contributing to integration of NonStop into the data center, whether it is to the IBM mainframe applications often found behind the NonStop or to the Clouds in front or beside NonStop. Such integration only helps deliver on the balance desired by the stakeholders within a company. However, it’s not only providing a balance via products that is on the agendas of vendors, as services too plays an important role.

“For companies like OmniPayments to succeed over the long term, we are looking to balance the creation of products with the development of services,” said OmniPayments CEO, Yash Kapadia, this past week. “This is needed for two reasons; for some clients we can augment their staff with skilled and knowledgeable experts who can help them bring new business products to market faster but it’s also a growing need of some clients to have better fallback capabilities and nothing can match the expertise in OmniPayments as OmniPayments can!”

When it comes to finding a balance in mixing technologies, Yash then noted how “We are fully supportive of Cloud computing and see it’s exploitation as a resource-on-demand. We will see the Cloud increasingly become a repository for data as our clients turn to Clouds for disaster recovery (DR), and we anticipate the next phase to be Cloud bursting in support of low value transactions – if the data is already in the Cloud, supporting transactions that simply look-up data, will be an easy next-step to accomplish.”

Finding a balance whether it’s lifestyles or technologies will always present a challenge. With a known tradition for simply doing just enough to serve a market, watching vendors continuing to invest in NonStop, adding new products and services, is a clear indication that they are taking up this challenge even as they know more business is headed their way. With the support by NonStop of x86, the market will exhibit even stronger signs of growth that in turn will pull in more vendors – that’s just the nature of this business.

Perhaps it should be left to simply repeat the words I used in closing the post of 2008, where I referenced the last track on a Moody Blues album; the song Balance. “Just open your eyes, and realize, the way it's always been. Just open your mind and you will find the way it's always been.” NonStop remains an amazing technology that has thrived for decades. It now has a future and we understand where it’s heading. We have learnt how to leverage NonStop in support of our most important, mission critical, applications.

With the continuation of the NonStop platform embracing, as it is now doing, the Intel x86 architecture, will likely see the balance scales lifting in favor of NonStop. In so doing NonStop, too, will bring balance to our data centers that companies need, and where they are looking to add even more NonStop systems I can only say, why not? More importantly, as comForte marketing head Thomas Gloerfeld pointed out, another anagram for Niwot is “to win” and I concur with that thought even as I know I have the support of all NonStop community stakeholders! 

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