Friday, January 17, 2014

NonStop adding further chapters to its rich history in a hybrid world!

Genetics play a big role in how we all develop and it’s not too hard to speculate that “good genes” also helps products prosper. When it comes to NonStop systems, they have participated in hybrid computing throughout their history so embracing hybrids today will not be a daunting challenge for NonStop …

Ever since they first showed up on Los Angeles freeways, hybrid cars have aroused a strange mixture of curiosity as well as optimism. Rushing headlong down the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, or car-pool lanes as they are sometimes called, they generated considerable envy among the less fortunate still ensconced in vehicles with more conventional powertrains.

Yet for many, these cars’ boxy, often-ugly appearance was a turn-off for many likely purchasers, including the likes of yours truly. Margo grew up in Poland where there were few options apart from the Trabant, so there was little opportunity to look forward to anything other than little boxes, leaving her with little appetite today for what she sees cruising down the express lanes.

As for me, there will never be a trade-off between aesthetics and practicality – if it does not look good, I simply will not consider buying it. Anyone considering the purchase of a Porsche Panamera, for instance, has to wonder whether he or she really wants to park such a car in the garage! Fortunately, there is the potential for some stunning hybrids appearing in the marketplace – it is very hard to object to the styling cues of the new BMW i8, or indeed, the Porsche 918, let alone the Ferrari LaFerrari. However, while these exotic hybrids trigger considerable debate, they are only options for a very select few; the rest of us left to contemplate the awful-looking boxes that remain within our reach.

While attending an event at a well-known car racing circuit last year, I came across a bumper sticker that simply proclaimed, “Yes I am a hybrid – I burn gas and rubber!” Rather cheeky, I thought, but then again, events for alternate-fuel based racecars are beginning to appear at this and other tracks around the country, and in 2014 we see the launch of Formula-e, the “new global electric racing series”. While not strictly speaking a hybrid, Formula-e is certainly drawing our attention to the potential benefits from powertrains apart from gas (petrol) / diesel burning combustion engine.

For the past couple of days I have been putting together a new PowerPoint presentation for use at one of my client’s half-yearly sales and marketing update. While there is much that I could include I elected to touch on Cloud computing, but drill deeper into Hybrid computers. After all, the birthplace of NonStop was in hybrid configurations that quite often saw NonStop systems front-ending IBM mainframes in support of vast networks of ATMs, POSs and even telephones. In cooperation these mainframe – NonStop hybrids serviced transaction systems reliably and paved the way for a gradual transformation of batch and on-line applications to real-time mission critical solutions.   

While researching the presentation, I came across an interview of HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman, and a number of her Executive Vice Presidents that was published under the headline of CRN Exclusive: Whitman, HP Top Execs On Beating Dell, Security Breaches And Partner Profitability. Within the slides that made up the story, were some timely comments that then found their way into my presentation. “Cloud is, obviously, one of the key initiatives of this company,” HP CEO Meg Whitman. “It is, I think, a game-changer in how compute is delivered, how it is paid for, how it is sold. And HP has to be a leader in this area.”

Deeper into the story came the equally important observation by the new head of the Enterprise Group, Executive VP and General Manager, Bill Veghte. “The core of our strategy in converged cloud is about making sure that we are building and delivering a cloud that enterprises can rely on,” said Veghte. “Our belief is that it is going to be a hybrid world.” And I could not agree more. Almost by definition, the introduction of anything viewed as game-changing will come about with the new coupled with the old in much the same way as we see electric motors coupled to combustion engines.

Among those with views on hybrid computers, and actively working in the more traditional area of better mainframe – NonStop hybrids, is Infrasoft managing Director, Peter Shell. “Shortly after we developed uLinga we understood that there would be two components. The first was directed at SNAX and ICE users looking for a more modern, better supported, solution and uLinga for DLSw and uLinga for EE are examples. The second takes uLinga into a new area of application integration.”

Shell then suggested, “With so much being discussed about hybrid computing today, we shouldn’t overlook the traditional NonStop – IBM mainframe ‘hybrids’ that have existed for many decades. Integrating, and indeed simplifying, communications between respective transactional environments has many upsides and with uLinga for CICS and uLinga for IMS, application integration can be taken to a whole new level.” Perhaps a twist on burning gas and rubber, hybrid computing embracing resources upstream and downstream – a qualification that might lose some impact in our peer-to-peer oriented world – shouldn’t be ignored.

“In addressing hybrid IBM / NonStop configurations, there are only three courses you can pursue,” Shell observed. “You can write your own NonStop application, possibly as a raw sockets application, and implement your own application to application protocol. It is possible but difficult to maintain in the long term. You could even opt to use another transport mechanism, such as MQ, but this is bringing in additional complexity and cost with no guarantees NonStop implementations will stay current.”

However, it is in the third option where a more modern approach can be taken, asserts Shell who then notes that, “With uLinga, applications utilize current IBM protocols and services via an implementation on NonStop that assures seamless and optimum application to application communication specifically, from NonStop subsystems such as Pathway (TS/MP) into IBM CICS and / or IMS.”

Simplifying the creation of a mainframe – NonStop hybrid, Shell said, is helped considerably as, “Today, we support NonStop specific interfaces such as the Guardian IPC and SNAX/HLS and SNAX/APC APIs, as well as vanilla TCP/IP interfaces intended for those who prefer to write sockets applications. Looking further afield, there will be support for MQ interfaces shortly for those users who would prefer to interface to uLingu for CICS or uLinga for IMS via MQ verbs, without any need to run WebSphere MQ on the NonStop Server or on the IBM mainframe.”

HP firmly believes it will be a hybrid world and while the context for such statements is assumed to be Cloud computing, it might be a little short sighted to ignore the history of NonStop and the reputation it has earned from decades of experience with hybrid configurations lying deep within our data centers. HP also recognizes that even as enterprises turn to Clouds to bolster available resources, the entrenched mainframe – NonStop hybrid may in fact turn out to be an ideal path to Clouds. What better use of an intelligent front-end, already in place, than to leverage it for more robust mainframe to Cloud access?

“IBM mainframes remain entrenched in many enterprises just as NonStop continues to prove hard to displace. Hybrid computing inside the data center will continue for many years to come – the investments made in the applications total well into the billions of dollars,” concluded Shell. “Simplifying the interconnections – between NonStop and the mainframe as well between NonStop and the Cloud - is a bonus that few CIOs would walk away from if they knew the option existed. Infrasoft with its partner comForte have already experienced early success with uLinga and will continue to market this message as aggressively as we can in the coming year.”

No ugly boxes here as there is a sense of beauty in the symmetry of such connectivity options – looking at the PowerPoint slides I was developing only added to my belief that there would be potential in deploying NonStop servers in this way. Hybrid cars may take many more years before they become an attractive option for more than just societies fringe elements - yes, the Tesla S is a step in the right direction obviously – but it will eventuate. NonStop fortunately doesn’t have to wait; participating in hybrid configurations is in its genes.

On the other hand, to astute CIOs well versed in the capabilities and attributes of NonStop, perhaps the decision to leverage NonStop in new and exciting ways will not be as far-fetched an idea as some may hypothesize. For the near future, it will be a hybrid world and one where HP will be making a considerable investment. Isn’t it good to know that, showing good genes, NonStop has such a rich history in a hybrid world, with even more history yet to write!     

1 comment:

Justin said...

Richard I agree with your hybrid analysis. As you know Nonstop has integrated with all typrs of systems besides mainframes, but we are particularly good at that. This also fits another direction I'm seeing called composite applications or services. This is an application/service designed for multi-platform (hybrid) support which matches the sub-requirements to platform features. It's similar to the old multi-tier model but think of it as horizontally extended at the application tier, which may span platforms. Hybrid is the once and future technology.