Sunday, July 13, 2014

HP NonStop systems’ deployments you might have missed!

“Downtime of any kind results in a loss of confidence and competitive advantages in the marketplace,” observes IDC Group Vice President and General Manager, Enterprise Platforms, Matthew Eastwood. And yet, as a community, do we truly know where NonStop systems run today? 

As a writer it’s not every day that I get to write about my favorite topic, but a few months ago, I was given such an opportunity to once again write about NonStop. Of course, check it out now – it will be easy to spot: HP NonStop systems as you haven’t seen them before and even if you lose this link, just go to hp.com/go/nonstop For me it’s always been a lot of fun working with the folks at HP on topics like this.

In discussions with HP late last year, following 2013 HP Discover, I began focusing on material that was pulled together as part of a presentation given by Wendy Bartlett, NonStop solutions: beyond financial services and telco. Yes, if you follow the link, you can still access the material Wendy used in her presentation. I was among the more fortunate attendees that were given a sneak preview of what Wendy was to present during an early morning breakfast briefing for attendees from Asia Pac / Japan.
           
I covered this in the post of June 29, 2013, It’s running on NonStop – I didn’t know that! where I remarked on how, not so long ago, I had proposed a story line that hit many of the same non-financial and non-telco verticals that went something like this: imagine a businessman in Germany, I suggested, who drops off his car at the manufacturing plant for special service (yes, you can still do that with some auto manufacturers in Europe), buys a rail ticket to Frankfurt where he catches a flight to New York, where he is to follow up on a recent shipment that he had made.

Perhaps this was the catalyst for the conversations that followed, but working with the NonStop community as well as starting several LinkedIn discussions on this topic, it quickly became apparent that most of us are truly unaware of the diversity of use-case scenarios that exist off the well-worn paths that wind through financial and telco uses. We underestimate the level of enthusiasm for NonStop among the non-conventional users, even as we are often ignorant about just how long these NonStop systems have been in place.

I am particularly attracted to industries apart from financial and telco, as my IT career began in heavy industry and transportation. My early days, as a cadet / trainee, were spent at a steelworks in Wollongong, New South Wales, building the software required of a new steel mill under construction in Victoria. I then spent time working in shipping – container ships had just started coming to Australia –where I accepted my first overseas assignment at the company’s head office in London. A few years later I found myself working in Canada for a large regional distributor of Caterpillar.

Perhaps there’s no better background – steelworks, shipping and then manufacturing – when writing about NonStop’s presence in industries apart from finance and telco. As I worked with present day users of NonStop, the years spent under blast furnaces, on docks alongside ships, and inside the cabins of giant earth-moving tractors, memories come flooding back from these times. Yes, there are real reasons why NonStop remains relevant today within these market segments – more often than not, these markets process continuously and outages are every bit as damaging as they are to financial institutions and telcos.

To kick off my assignment for HP not only did I have access to Wendy’s presentation from the 2013 HP Discover, but the brochure developed after the event (and available too on the HP web site) proved extremely helpful. If you aren’t aware of this paper then it’s well worth downloading from the HP web site - check out, For industries that never stop. This is a good brochure and complements the opinion paper I just completed that has just become available from HP – HP NonStop systems as you haven’t seen them before . However, much of the credit for finding the examples of use-case scenarios that I covered needs to go to the community – including HP field personnel.

While not wanting to sound like the winner of a NASCAR event, I do want to thank the solutions architects in both EMEA and the Americas for pointing me in the right direction. I also want to thank the many NonStop vendors that lent a helping hand along the way. This includes comForte, Integrated Research (IR) and a number of payments processing solutions vendors. Even though there weren’t being covered this time, you will find an interesting observation made by one such vendor towards the end of the paper. “NonStop finding traction among users in other markets is a big plus for NonStop,” came the observation, “and that makes our job selling solutions on NonStop a whole lot easier.”

However, it was a report from IDC that really helped anchor the paper. Written by IDC Group Vice President and General Manager, Enterprise Platforms, Matthew Eastwood, and published in November, 2013, it too can be downloaded from the HP web site - just follow this link; Mission-Critical Business Applications: The Need for Always-On Servers. IDC’s Eastwood stated that, “always-on requirements significantly affect business organizations and the IT departments that support those businesses. When downtime is not an option, organizations are increasingly turning to fault-tolerant systems to keep their business up and running.” Seeing the reference to fault-tolerant systems also brought with it another flood of memories.

“As users spend more time online, IT services must be available around the clock. Windows for planned downtime become increasingly difficult to manage, and users are unwilling to accept unplanned downtime,” IDC’s Eastwood observed. “Downtime of any kind results in a loss of confidence and competitive advantages in the marketplace.” Too often we forget about the real reason we continue to depend on NonStop, and perhaps it is not having to face the consequences of outages that numbs our minds to the impressive track record NonStop has developed. There are many systems that with redundant hardware and clever load balancing algorithms mask simple failures but they never quite reach the levels of uptime of a typical NonStop system.

There have been many exchanges in chat rooms and blogs about the quality of today’s components – something that applies to all systems exploiting commodity components. However, NonStop arose at a time when component failures were routine and NonStop simply keeps on going – very much like the Energizer bunny. This is not to sanction poor quality components, but rather highlight how better of NonStop systems are in a era where system packaging is going through dramatic change as vendors look to lower power consumption, run cooler, and take up less space. All for less money, mind you.

So, what can we point to when it comes to businesses depending on NonStop that aren’t either a financial institution or a telco? Without disclosing too much about what is in my latest opinion paper, there are examples of where NonStop has been deployed in support of mission-critical applications in raw materials processing, manufacturing and distribution, transportation and entertainment. While many may be familiar with the presence of UPS on slides used during one of HP CEO, Meg Whitman’s, keynote presentations, how many attendees knew that every time a driver pulled their handheld terminal out to check on their next delivery address, the request was being handled by an application on a NonStop system.

Assumptions are often made and frequently can lead to wrong conclusions – many folks I talked to about the UPS example above thought it was a ProLiant solution. While there are ProLiant’s present at UPS, it’s still NonStop that keeps the trucks moving and I am almost certain that HP folks working on the slides for HP Discover had the same impression. How many folks within the NonStop community really grasp just how big a presence NonStop has in the reservation systems supporting European passenger trains – would you be surprised to find more than half the trains running in Europe have had seats reserved through a NonStop system?

To some within the NonStop community I may have already played my hand and this latest opinion paper simply reinforces what’s already been covered in chat rooms and blogs. For others however, it may be quite a revelation about just how widespread the use of NonStop has become. Irrespective of how well informed you may be, the story of where NonStop systems reside continues to be a compelling story, more so today as we wait for NonStop to support the Intel x86 architecture.

Getting the opportunity to put this all in writing for HP was a task I welcomed so yes, go ahead and check it out; there may be even more surprises than I have led you to believe. Yes, you can download the paper “HP NonStop systems as you haven’t seen them before” from hp.com/go/nonstop - it is a featured resource - and of course – I welcome any comments you care to provide as this is not a topic we need to keep to ourselves. For each and every stakeholder in the NonStop community, the better prepared we are to promote NonStop within our companies, the more likely we will see greater traction develop and with that, I am more than willing to write some more!      

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