Monday, May 26, 2014

Time to go … don’t count the hours, it’s NonStop!

“How I wish that there were more than the twenty-four hours in the day
'Cause even if there were forty more I wouldn't sleep a minute away … Viva Las Vegas!”

So go the lines in a verse from Viva Las Vegas and it pretty much sums up the frenetic pace of networking that takes place each year during the three-day mega-event, HP Discover. It was only a few days ago that the registration was finalized and I can assure everyone that I will be there – and yes, bright and early each morning. I will be providing commentary on a routine basis to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View, as I have done on all previous occasions, so look for the new posts each day.

The all too familiar signs of too little sleep and too many cocktail receptions are hard to miss, but each year there’s a couple of places where the NonStop community heads – the inside The Venetian hotel always the most popular. Not forgetting the Morels Steakhouse & Bistro or TAOs, both proving to be popular. Walk through the Grand Lux Café and you will see groups huddled together in animated conversation at almost any hour of the day. As for me it’s still a good reason to walk a block south to City Center, Las Vegas, and to dine on what I believe are the finest steaks anywhere – Mastro’s Ocean Club. Forget the name, it’s the steaks (and the martinis) that stand out!

Recent promotional material from HP indicates we will be seeing a lot more of HP CEO, Meg Whitman, as she will be anchoring multiple keynote presentations. On Tuesday Whitman, together with HP executives, John Hinshaw, George Kadifa, Mike Nefkens, and Bill Veghte will talk about Defining the New Style of IT. HP encourages us to come and listen to “how we are providing solutions for this new foundation”.  There’s a lot being openly discussed of late as to whether IT as we know it has run its course – indeed has the very concept of IT become legacy - and is no longer providing companies with true value, so hearing what HP executives have to say on a new style of IT should prove quite entertaining.

The very next day Whitman will be joined by a familiar person, HP’s CTO and EVP Martin Fink, and they will talk about their vision of the future for the New Style of IT. As someone who’s always up for looking at something new, I am pretty much in the same boat as everyone else and have to wonder what’s this all about! With Martin Fink involved it has to be about Clouds and after what I view as a rocky start, with perhaps marketing well out in front of technology and real deliverables, perhaps we will see more concrete infrastructure and tools unveiled.

For folks like myself, who like to look well into the future, there will be a second part of Whitman’s Wednesday keynote we will all get to hear from New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman, as he sits down with Whitman and Intel and Microsoft CEOs, Brian Krzanich and Satya Nadella, for a candid discussion about technology today, tomorrow, and beyond. Again, for the NonStop community participation may be viewed as a luxury and of lesser interest than knowing what is in the next NonStop Kernel (NSK) release – but for all involved in technology, there really is no substitution for hearing first hand what HP has to say.

HP NonStop sales will be present with the America’s head of NonStop sales hosting a reception. Again, this is not a venue strongly favoring the NonStop community, but for those who find a way to attend, their interests will not be ignored and there will still be content that will prove engaging. I will be taking a small stock of my Fools for NonStop T-shirts with me, so if you do have plans, let me know as I will make sure you don’t leave without this memento.

For the NonStop community it’s worth pointing out too that there are new HP products coming to market that perhaps are worth more than a cursory look. For some time now I have been referencing Project Moonshot and the impact it will make on the industry.. A vendor I work closely with, InkaBinka, now has firsthand experience with Moonshot and I paid them a visit just a few days ago. Located within the perimeter of Camarillo Airport, InkaBinka has refurbished one of the support buildings and turned it into a really nice facility – Hanger 18.

Initially, InkaBinka leveraged Micrsoft’s Azure cloud services but then switched to HP’s cloud before installing Moonshot cartridges. Running a mix of Linux distributions and Windows, they have built a hybrid application that now runs InkaBinka. Anyone who visits InkaBinka.com and clicks on the button, What is InkaBinka?  will be taken to a page where more information about InkaBinka is provided. In addition to a video explaining InkaBinka you will see that InkaBinka is built on Hewlett Packard's new Moonshot servers – scroll down and check it out!

ThisMoonshot implementation gives InkaBinka scalability and the power to serve the users with one of the greenest footprint possible. Front-ended by some clever lightweight load balancing software running with a master and a slave instance (and with take over capabilities configured), and with a back end database that actually looks like it’s a RAID configuration, with consequently very high levels of availability, how InkaBinka exploits Moonshot looks like … a very primitive NonStop system.

“Having experience with cloud offerings from multiple vendors,” said InkaBinka Founder and CEO, Kevin McGushion, “we know all too well the importance of availability and indeed of the need to architect into our solution extraordinary scale-out properties. As a start-up that has begun attracting users, keeping a tight lid on costs is critical, but with what we have seen with Moonshot, it’s all rather exciting. HP has been a terrific partner so far and yes, we are off to HP Discover where you will see our presence on stage along with HP executives talking about our experience with Moonshot.” As HP tells the story, mark your calendars for Tuesday June 10th, 11:30-12:30 when Paul Santeler (VP and General Manager for HP Moonshot Servers Group) will talk to a number of customers who are already are experiencing the benefits of the HP Moonshot system.

What’s bringing me back to Moonshot time and time again shouldn’t surprise even the hardiest of NonStop supporters. Right now, HP has plans for NonStop to support the Intel x86 architecture and a number of vendors have successfully demonstrated their products are running on NonStop across the x86 architecture. As part of these plans, we are seeing the commoditization of the blade itself come full circle as the blades will be the same whether it’s NonStop, Linux or Windows that is deployed. Yes, NonStop will be a software offering just as I have been predicting for a number of years.

More importantly, however, the pricing of NonStop will be something we all will be watching. Price NonStop too low and there’s not enough revenue to fund ongoing R&D, but price NonStop too high relative to, say, a supported Linux distribution (and add-ons), and even the hardiest of the hardcore NonStop supporter will begin to wonder whether the time has come to build their own NonStop. There’s still an understanding that NonStop will carry a premium for fault tolerance, but it has to be seen as a fair premium and not a penalty tax.

Looking at what InkaBinka architects built on something as inexpensive as Moonshot is impressive, but not everyone has access to such expertise. Getting something on par with what can be built on top of Moonshot for a small premium and yet, have it delivered and working right out of the box, will be more appealing to commercial users, of course. However, there is a breaking point and even the most respected NonStop solutions vendors have turned to hybrid configurations, running everything from consoles and administration tools outboard of NonStop, might find implementing their solution fully on platforms apart from NonStop attractive.

Of course, none of this is lost on HP, I suspect, and in the end I have to believe HP will consider the input from all of the NonStop community and will put just the right amount of distance between NonStop prices and those of other operating systems, without deterring too many vendors from sticking with NonStop. Although it’s still early in the lifecycle of NonStop support of x86 and there will likely be little by way of promotion, all the same there should be enough signs coming from the event to let us all know where NonStop is heading, and that will not be something I will miss.

It will be a very busy time for those attending. The NonStop community may not be present in numbers but for those who do make it to Las Vegas, the show put on by HP will be one to remember. As someone who does think traditional IT has run its course, and it’s contributions to business questionable, it will be very interesting to ‘discover’ exactly what HP means by the new style IT. Will it include NonStop, or at the very least, leave the door open to NonStop properties? That will be interesting but no matter, it’s almost a certainty that bright lights and all, there will be few opportunities to “sleep a minute away”. Viva Las Vegas!  

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