Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hey! You! Get off of my cloud.

There will be many articles and posts over the coming weeks on clouds, and on the impact on NonStop users, but hey, heads-up, the news here is all goodness! NonStop has every right to be considered as appropriate technology for deployment within the cloud …

So much attention of late is being given to “what’s trending?” Someone (self) important snaps a selfie with their smartphone, and immediately checks to see how it’s trending on Facebook, Twitter, and so forth. There’s an immediate response and a spike (in popularity) that may develop, but rarely is such actions rewarded over the long term. However, in many respects, the NonStop community is much the same – ever anxious about what’s trending!

Bucking a trend can be seen as being self-destructive, innovative, perhaps contrarian and going against the grain. In former times we simply dismissed this as idiotic or even eccentric, putting it down to bohemian lifestyles. It is therefore encouraging to read as much as I have been doing of late about what HP sees as its major focus areas. And nothing stands out more than the initiatives it has launched in support of cloud computing.

This week Boulder has been blessed with a little more blue sky than it has seen over the past couple of weeks. Temperatures are actually climbing towards 70F (20C), the trees in our yard are budding and it’s looking like spring is with us, once again. In a feature I just completed for the May / Jun, 2014, issue of The Connection magazine I opened with the lines that, with the coming of spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of baseball, or so fabled poet, Alfred Tennyson, might have written if he had lived in America.  Perhaps it might have been more appropriate to add that with the sunshine of spring, the clouds have become less threatening.

The lyrics above that I chose for this post’s title are from the song of the same name by the Rolling Stones. The song dates back almost half a century but their relevance, and indeed topicality, are hard to ignore. Paging through a HP presentation on cloud computing, provided by Justin Simonds, Master Technologist and a well-known NonStop solutions architect, it too included the same reference and it brought me back to the cyclical nature of our industry. Clouds are trending along all too familiar lines and none us should find this surprising.

The more things change, the more they stay the same!  Or so the proverb goes - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. When I started in IT – about the same time as the Rolling Stones recorded their song – my company augmented IBM mainframes with mini computers, the Interdata Model 7/32. These systems are primarily remembered for being the first 32-bit minicomputers. But they are also remembered as being the first to use microcode to define an architecture that was heavily influenced by the IBM 360 instruction set. For us, assembler programmers, learning this new system was a piece of cake and the productivity the company was able to leverage was considerable.

Gaining acceptance among the hard-nosed IBM mainframe systems programmers was key and, with their acceptance, the first inroads by distributed systems were realized. Interdata are long gone as they failed to keep up. It took the compatibility to the mainframe to kick-start their early success, but in the years that followed a myriad of operating systems (OSs) appeared, each with programming languages that were different and instruction sets that had to be relearnt. Distributed computing was awash with options.

Fast forward to client server  (CS) computing where the initial servers were essentially extensions of the client, sharing the same OS, programming languages / models, but quickly, as the trend to CS accelerated (in the years preceding the advent of the internet), almost any combination of HW and SW could be deployed as a server; IBM even reclassified it’s mighty mainframe as a server – “
in 2000, IBM renamed the existing System/390 to IBM eServer zSeries

Now, the internet is supposed to be changing everything and in a way, it is. Financially, it’s hard to ignore the almost daily news accompanying the latest IPO or purchase with astronomical sums changing hands to what appears for many of us, old hands, trivial solutions. And yet, here again, the value is being driven by what’s trending upwards and that’s hard to argue against in a market-driven economy. Once comprehendible server farms are being displaced by cloud computing, where capacity on demand has fueled the equally comprehendible, elasticity of provisioning.

So here’s the $64 question – why do we think that, in time, clouds will not become all-inclusive with almost any combination of HW and SW being utilized? Why have we surrounded cloud computing with a language and indeed, almost “mythology” designed to put the fear of the almighty into CIOs less equipped to understand what’s really going on here - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

There’s absolutely no reason why any solutions vendor would not be contemplating providing his application – in part or in whole – as a service from a cloud of any kind. “The gradual progression from server to server farm to cloud seems quite natural for us,” said OmniPayments Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. “When it comes to identifying where OmniPayments processes are running inside the cloud of NonStop we have set up, customers really can’t tell. It’s just somewhere in our data center and for us, ‘provisioning’ additional resources is relatively easy and more a function of the multi-tier architecture we have embraced. Can clouds only run on Linux or Windows? I don’t think so and we are getting no push back in the markets we serve.”

Referencing yet another song from decades ago, in the post of April 1, 2014, to realtime.ir.com, NonStop and Clouds! Is it a case of over, under, sideways, down? I made a mention of questions asked of me at the recent NonStop user gathering in Florida – the March, 2014, SunTUG event. I was asked, “Where do you see NonStop playing a role in clouds – inside the cloud, as a gateway straddling the cloud and traditional IT (data centers) putting the cloud(s) behind a NonStop presence, or as a hub, directing traffic to cloud resources as appropriate and according to cloud SLAs? And where would you see Prognosis providing value?”

You will need to read the whole post for the full story, but in short, I reiterated how I suspected that the introduction of cloud computing would be gradual in most cases, and where NonStop was concerned it would likely start with private clouds with NonStop providing a number of gateway services; in effect, treating the cloud as just another resource. However, it was much deeper into the post where I expressed my true feelings on this topic.

As for IR’s take on clouds, as expressed in that post, it was best left to General Manager Products and Alliances at IR, John Dunne, when he said, “Prognosis is well positioned to provide oversight of all that transpires as transactions are executed, no matter where that may be. Our view is that clouds are just another computing resource and as such, Prognosis has been engineered to accommodate any event stream being logged no matter the source – including clouds.”

Of course, no post on clouds and what’s trending can overlook the work being done at Infrasoft, even as they completed the implementation of maRunga, based on prototypes developed by NonStop solutions architects. Central to the goal Infrasoft set for maRunga has been its universal support of Windows, Linux as well as NonStop as platforms likely to be populating clouds – particularly those of the data center. “Would we like to discuss our intentions further with folks like Yash and John,” noted Infrasoft Managing Director, Peter Shell. “You bet, and why wouldn’t we? I’m certain there are users out there already thinking along these lines.” And Shell is not likely to be alone with thoughts like this.  

The industry is littered with the shells of companies that reached too far and delivered solutions companies didn’t need, I wrote, just as there are as many forgotten companies that failed simply because they couldn’t keep up. The timing of products in support of clouds however will be critical to the rate of acceptance cloud computing achieves, no more so than when NonStop is involved; ease of integration (with clouds) will be particularly important for NonStop users. As I wrote this, I could have added too that in time, there will be no limit to the types of HW and OS combinations inside the cloud and in effect, NonStop had every right, indeed every opportunity, to populate any cloud configuration imaginable.

Those early to the cloud market are dictating the terms, but not for long. Just as we saw every vendor changing the badges on the systems to reflect their usage as servers, so too will we see cloud badges appearing on everything imaginable – just as today we see the lower case i- in popular use. No, CIOs need to be aware that cloud computing is not an exclusive club closed to all who do not possess the secret handshake. It’s open to every manufacturer determined to develop the right messages and work on an appropriate spin – but it’s out there and it’s early days.

It will take a lot more posts before the general IT population begins to get the message just as it will take moves by middleware and solutions vendors to promote their offerings as cloud centric. It will take even more evangelism by all within the NonStop community, and I suspect it will be the actions taken by just a few visionaries among the user community before HP NonStop is truly on board. It may even find a spark within just one vertical – and for my money, I’m not ruling out manufacturing and heavy industry as likely candidates – but again, when it comes to my vision of clouds, everyone can get on my cloud!

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