Friday, February 6, 2015

Of hubs and spokes; of niches, clouds and beyond the horizon; it all looks good for NonStop X!

The topic of NonStop being deployed as a hub has been a consideration for decades with several initiatives kicked off during that time. But with the arrival of NonStop, will an intelligent price-competitive hub featuring NonStop X make a difference and prove valuable to users?

In the post of February 3, 2015, to Buckle-Up-Travel (my social blog), In truth, we are but travelers …, I comment on how I have become a traveler in the sense that what’s immediately beyond the horizon is important to me. Not the destination, nor the road itself, but rather the act of moving, of travelling, as I said, that really motivates me and keeps me well-grounded in what’s happening in the world outside my office. I don’t always make the right decisions about the form of transportation I use, but so long as it gets me pointed in the general direction I want to go, it’s all good! This reminds me of the quote from 1951 Alice in Wonderland animated movie when Alice said: “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it!”

However, this post isn’t so much about travelling as it is about the shared expectations that I have with many of you about the future of NonStop now that NonStop X is about to ship. While I am sketchy with details about who will be the first to use NonStop, even as I am completely in the dark about where the first NonStop X systems will appear, I have a sense that there will be numerous surprises in store for all of us as HP lifts the veil on Project Cognac. From the time I was first briefed I have had a hard time keeping the lid on what I saw as a potential game changer, but now, the conversation has truly started and bit by bit, the expectations for NonStop X are beginning to see daylight.

A short time ago I started a discussion on the LinkedIn group, Tandem User Group, where I asked for members (willing to do so) to “provide a comment as to what you see as priority for HP as it starts selling NonStop X in 2015”. Among the responses was one from HP Master Technologist, Justin Simonds. In the past Simonds has been upbeat about all things NonStop so seeing him respond to the question didn’t come as a surprise. For Simonds, it was a case of reminding members that, “As I've said to anyone who will listen, (the Internet of Things) IoT is going to be huge and (capturing) a very small percentage of that would be a boon to NonStop.”

However, Simonds then moves onto a more interesting observation as part of his response. “NonStop in the SaaS area is where I see NonStop in (the) cloud,” Simonds proposes.  “Opsol is doing a lot of work in that area and I believe there should be more. In terms of verticals I would like to see NonStop in Healthcare (back in Healthcare), back with a strong 911 offering and energy. I'd like to see NonStop get involved with Supply Chain again.” Before he completes his response, Simonds shifts into overdrive, noting how within HP NonStop development, “We had some excellent ideas back in the ZLE days and with some of the new datastreaming partners such as WebAction and Network Kinetix we could again offer up unique and compelling advantages. I could go on but you get the point. NonStop X should mark an uptick in NonStop awareness and deployment into new areas.”

Confirming Simonds observation, in my post of February 3, 2015, In Novel Ways … WebAction for NonStop X Will Change the Way Business Operates! I reference WebAction’s Jonathan Geraci even as he agreed with Simonds, making the observation that, “With the arrival of HP NonStop X, companies will have the opportunity to use NonStop in novel ways.” Furthermore, I wrote, “NonStop systems have always been about ease of use and ease of management, but in supporting x86 the value proposition of NonStop takes a big turn in the right direction – lower overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).” The promise of even greater commoditization along with competitive pricing, can only help aid an uptick in NonStop awareness and with the turmoil IBM is going through right now re layoffs, even the staunchest of NonStop foes may concede NonStop X changes the game.

For many members within the NonStop community there are few fond memories of ZLE and yet, at the time, it was a bold move and one where perhaps HP NonStop development faulted as it crossed the starting line. Nevertheless, ZLE built on a lot of early work – remember some slideware in the 1990s in support of intelligent networks, etc. – and in its day ZLE had the potential for being a game-changer for IT. However, should we take a second look at ZLE and is there an opportunity to revisit its role as we near general availability of NonStop X systems?

Former ITUG Chair, Janice Reeder-Highleyman, wrote in the Nov – Dec, 2014, issue of The Connection about ZLE. In her feature, OmniPayment’s Yash Kapadia Was Happily Retired Until His Wife Demanded He Return to Work, Reeder-Highleyman includes the following comment, “Yet another Tandem / Opsol collaboration was the execution of ZLE for Tandem.” Naturally, this caught my attention as did the observations that followed. “Yash believed that there was more potential for ZLE than Tandem realized, so Opsol negotiated the acquisition of Tandem ZLE’s intellectual property rights. Soon after, ZLE was reborn as Opsol’s OmniHub, a NonStop data integration solution for companies requiring IT infrastructure integration in order to capture a single view of their customers’ transactional activities.”

For me, this was an open invitation to check directly with OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, to find out more about the influence of ZLE on his products and Yash didn’t disappoint. “Whenever a customer purchases OmniPayments there’s a strong case to be made for the purchase of OmniHub. Our clients see the potential value from OmniHub being the seamless integration of application code with as many banking or retail channels as they need supported – whether online banking, mobile banking or ATMs and POSs, OmniHub ensures any transaction can be accessed by customers no matter the channel selected.” Yes, sounds a lot like what I had previously read about ZLE.

In the real world, OmniHub has found customers and today, according to Yash, “We have deployed OmniHub in combination with OmniPayments at several Financial Institutions (FIs) including Banco Popular Puerto Rico (BPPR), as well as for the Mexican retailer, Casa Ley, and companies operating financial switches including one of the most recent wins for OmniPayements on NonStop systems, Carvajal.” For each of these customers, OmniHub has enabled customers to leverage functionality across different delivery channels greatly simplifying the customers’ support.

“When it comes to business services, what is provided today with OmniHub is that OmniPayments users can access numerous Business Logic Modules (BLMs). These include processes in support of OmniSCV (single customer view, OmniOffers (personalization) and OmniSI Server (stand-in processing) but what’s also worth keeping in mind is that adding new channels and new services is not complex.” Yash then added. “This can be accomplished with configuration changes and by accommodating additional data sets that reflect data from existing legacy services that need to be centralized on OmniHub. Such data sets can be easily created using the browser-based console.”

Supporting what Simonds had written to the LinkedIn group discussion, Yash then told me that as he “looked further ahead, with OmniHub supporting real-time access to all information and all relations of the customer with the bank, there is business intelligence available on consolidated and real-time data gathered by OmniHub and with Big Data / Analytics initiatives under way at many FIs, it’s a logical place for OmniPayments to provide the necessary interfaces and services in support of Big Data.” All up, a nice segue observation, as Simonds clearly observed, into the work being done by companies such as WebAction.

As for the mechanics about how OmniHub works, especially in light of what was leveraged from the earlier work done in support of ZLE, “OmniHub supports a variety of interfaces that enable easy integration of numerous channels, including TCP/IP, CORBA, SOAP/XML, HTTP, MQ, Tuxedo, Pathway and SNA. Addition of new channels and new services is not complex,” said Yash. “Should HP NonStop add support for external connections via InfiniBand (IB) following the introduction of NonStop X, then such support could be easily added via OmniHub.” Indeed, the more I consider the role of a modern day ZLE-like hub, the more the work being done in support of hybrids featuring NonStop X and Linux X, the more I am inclined to think the former sins of ZLE may have finally been excised.

When I posed the prospect of hybrid configurations based on NonStop X finding newfound popularity within modern data centers, Yash was very forthcoming with his observations on hybrids. “Even as there’s considerable talk across the NonStop community about hybrid X systems, comprised of NonStop X and Linux X (all on x86 blades, housed in the same chassis / cabinet), such hybrids will help reduce the cost of the hardware needed to support FIs,” said Yash. OmniPayments embraced hybrid architecture and according to Yash, “We see opportunities to leverage such systems should they come from HP. We have been deploying a hybrid architecture for some time that includes both NonStop and Linux and with HP contemplating further hybrid development, this would be very easy for us to support. OmniHub would most likely play a key role as it is a function of OmniHub to support channels no matter the protocol or services provided.”

And OmniPayments isn’t alone when it comes to hubs and hybrids. In the post of January 9, 2013 to the IR blog, Datacenters with hybrid systems; challenges persist for all who monitor… IR VP of Products, John Dunne, reassured me that, “If our customers determine that there’s value in having the oversight of the heterogeneous mix of systems, so typical of a modern data center, then IR will continue to ensure Prognosis features communicate with each other!” Likewise, in my opinion paper featuring DataExpres, DataExpress moves the data in a secure and managed manner that can now be downloaded from the DataExpress website, I quote DataExpress President, Michelle Marost, after she said, “With as much talk as these days of the benefits from building hybrid computers around NonStop, having the extra flexibility of selecting where DataExpress runs only adds to the benefits that come with DataExpress.”

Throughout the decades I have been involved in IT I have witnessed the pendulum swinging between distributed and centralized computing. Often this was driven by vendors promoting their proprietary systems as satellites – a useful way to introduce new technology into a customer’s data center with the intent of displacing the incumbent technology provider. Hub and spokes, hierarchies, networks, on- and off-premise, time sharing, service bureaus and even clouds, anyone with any sense of history of IT has seen it all. With hybrid computers I sense just the latest iteration of a balanced approach to IT that combines many of the above elements in a more manageable fashion – just look at the latest capabilities of IR-Prognosis with their easy-to-configure, side-by-side, dashboards, all under a single pane of glass. 

Simonds included in his observation how the, “tight integration with Linux for composite type applications, where portions of a service run on Linux and portions run on Nonstop and with NonStop overseeing the service,” may prove to be an option much closer to reality than many within the NonStop community might appreciate. I was passing through Las Vegas a short time ago and couldn’t help but notice how the town continues to be optimistic and with a great room that gave me this view to the horizon, such optimism proved contagious. And yet, the ever present blue skies seemed to go on well beyond the horizon suggesting that there was still a lot more to come,. Yes, it’s all looking very good indeed for NonStop X where deployment options will only be limited by our imagination and just how creative we dare to be!  

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