Friday, June 13, 2014

This changes everything!

Will the sun finally set on NonStop? Is the journey about to end? Or, will NonStop morph into something new and yet, still recognizable? It may take five or more years but there are signs that HP is taking bold steps to change everything!

The official program for 2014 HP Discover has ended and in a few hours’ time I will be heading back to Boulder. But for now, I am still in Las Vegas, sweltering under the heat of an early arrival of summer, and catching up on posts and other correspondence all the while letting my thoughts run free as I shuffle through all I heard at this year’s big tent event.

The doors to the conference have closed, and another event is probably in the early throws of being set up. 2014 HP Discover is now just another footnote in the 75 years of HP’s history with expectations for the next 25 years running high. When I posted to this blog around this same time last year, I titled the post, At long last, disruptive innovation from HP! Of course, this was a reference to HP taking the wraps off Project Moonshot. But little did I know of what HP may do to top that announcement, and yet they managed to do so.

However, before going into the specifics of what was covered during the final general session keynote hosted by HP CEO, Meg Whitman, let me just jump right into the event itself. As you can expect from such a large event attracting about 10,000 participants, there’s a wide variety of topics covered by HP – and yes, this is a HP event where every presentation has been vetted by HP, so it’s rare to see anything unexpected and yet, the unexpected still happens.

There were a handful of presentations the NonStop community could enjoy – presentations by Randy Meyer and then a little later in the week, by Mark Pollans, gave the NonStop folks present at the event some resemblance to user events of the past, but overall, if you wanted to hear about NonStop it was pretty slim pickings. However, NonStop just isn’t the focus of this event nor is it an event focused on users – it will be the bootcamp in November where this will all happen. On the other hand, it’s still incredibly important for all with investments in NonStop to see just what’s capturing HP’s attention as it is an important consideration for anyone prepared to keep investing in NonStop.

In England, the houses of parliament have been designed not to seat every Member of Parliament. And that’s for a reason – when there’s an important legislative debate taking place, members are literally hanging from the rafters and this is the mood  parliament wants to convey. When the issues being debated are so important it pulls every sitting member out of the nearby pubs just for the occasion. Something similar happens at events as well, and this year the big surprise was the keynote by the new Senior VP & GM, Servers and Networking business units within the Enterprise Group – Antonio Neri.

For his presentation (and reflecting the scope of his portfolio that includes NonStop, of course), he had invited a number of guest presenters that he essentially interviewed and among them was Steve Wozniak, former Dancing with the Stars contestant, but now Chief Scientist, Fusion-io. Yes, the same Steve that co-founded Apple. It appeared everyone wanted in on this presentation so as the hour approached, and with a meeting room seating fewer than 400, the line that developed snaked all the way down the primary corridor, into an adjacent corridor and back to the top of nearby elevators.

While little, apart from a reference in passing, was given to NonStop in between each interview by Neri were videos that were just collages picked from videos made about users and vendors of servers and networks.  And there were some better-known names referenced – Visa, UPS, etc. that were familiar to all at NonStop. With Steve on stage, and pretty much taking over the show, this was pure entertainment of the highest order.

 It seems everyone attending the event wanted to hear Steve and it reminds me of the grand old days when Jimmy Treybig held court. It’s a shame in some respects, but with the passage of time, I have to wonder how many more occasions there will be to listen to Silicon Valley legends and I was sure glad I made the cut and was able to hear Steve. And who knows, with Fusion-io partnering with HP, the management team at HP may see a new face!

NonStop wasn’t the star attraction of HP Discover nor were enterprise servers. When you look at the big themes then it was hard to miss mobility, security, clouds and big data. Clouds has undergone a makeover, resurfacing under the branding of Helion – yes, it was Helion this and Helion that. Big Data centered on Vertica, naturally, although no one I talked to at Vertica could explain to me how their vision of big data was going to engage with real time transactions and any reference to wanting to integrate big data into the transaction world and so enrich customer engagements simply generated a blank stare!

As for mobile and security they were well represented but what did catch my eye was the appearance of Converged Systems packages. Yes, cabinets labelled CS100, CS300, CS900, etc. were on display and represented a mix of general purpose Converged Systems as well as a couple of very specific packages. And packages these were – each illustrating what can be done when being creative with systems compliant with the previously announced Converged Infrastructure project.

What the folks here were doing was filling cabinets with processors, storage and networking kit sourced from different development groups and delivering hybrids all nicely tested, configured and with a common operational interface. To demonstrate the versatility of this group, the CS100 included Moonshot cartridges along with more conventional 3Par storage, together with HP networking products – all in a very clean package. On the other hand, the CS900 was optimized for SAP / Hana with another model optimized for Vertica. How soon would it be before a CS configuration would support a mix of say NonStop, Atalla, Linux and Windows? Who knows, but with the coming support of NonStop on the x86 architecture, some at the CS pavilion thought it would be highly likely (once I explained what a NonStop system was, of course).

As for personalities then there were still many familiar faces – there were the lads from comForte standing by a kiosk, with Dr. Michael Rossbach nearby. At another kiosk were our good friends at OmniPayments with Yash ever present.  WebAction sent Dale and JK, and Brian Miller of Lusis also were in attendance. Kramer from IR and I briefly exchanged opinions, and yes, I was able to catch up with Keith Evans, formerly of NonStop and now with Gravic as well as with his better half, Sharon Fisher. So yes, there was a sprinkling of familiar faces and we all thanked Tom Moylan profusely for hosting a Tuesday night soirĂ©e for all parties associated with NonStop.

In the weeks to come we are going to hear a lot more of the major announcement by HP concerning The Machine and I will cover in more detail in a later post. Suffice to say, when Martin Fink walked us through the technology it was a case of back to physics and back to chemistry. All you need to know is that “electrons compute, photons communicate, and ions store,” Martin told us. At the conclusion of his reveal, HP CEO, Meg Whitman, than wrapped it up with the observation, “This changes everything!”

The Machine will likely get a name at some point but there are at least four projects – the development of the special purpose processors, the photonics and the massive memory as well as a new clean-sheet operating system and stack. No small feat to even contemplate doing but the board of HP has approved 75% of all R&D dollars be earmarked to this project, so The Machine carries with it all the hopes of HP for the next 25 years. If Martin manages to pull it off, then indeed it will change everything.

Last year I came away impressed with Moonshot – so much so I managed to sway the principles at one of my clients, InkaBinka, to switch from the cloud to using an in-house Moonshot system and in doing so, they were one of the featured companies in Neri’s videos. This year, it’s The Machine. Neither of these projects seem to have any connection to NonStop, but can we be sure? I think there’s likely considerable trickle-down transfer but that I will leave to another post as well. More importantly what will become of NonStop with such a massive development project opting to go down the open source path?

For now, I need to pack and prepare for the return trip to Boulder. I want to take the two days I will be driving to let my thoughts continue to do their shuffle thing. Even as momentum builds in support of The Machine, NonStop has much to look forward to – first with x86 and then with hybrids clouds and much more. Even with a successful program behind The Machine followed by an aggressive roll out, NonStop will continue to provide value wherever mission critical transaction processing is needed. And for a very long time …

HP Discover events never cease to surprise me and I can only imagine what will be pulled from the hat next year, but in the meantime, the storylines that come from this week’s events are enough to keep me busy for another year. To all travelling home I wish safe travels and to those undecided about bootcamp, well, make plans and I will see you all in November.

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