Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Proof of the pudding? Without transactions our society wouldn’t work!

The themes of meetings and events, as well as the commentaries and posts that followed, share a common theme – transactions and yes, our willingness to believe in transactions only when we have seen the contributions they make for us; HP NonStop systems are changing perceptions and remains at the forefront of processing the transactions that keep society functioning …

All around us here, in Boulder, Colorado, the harvesting of the wheat crop has begun and there’s no missing the sightings of the harvesters going about their business – the numerous clouds of dust produced by the headers is unmistakable. While the wheat flows into waiting trucks the chaff flies freely in the air and it may be very modern looking, but it’s still rooted in traditions that are millennia old. The harvests now under way are of the winter varieties and if the weather holds, there will be an additional plantings shortly, although not being a farmer I’m not sure how all of that happens but I am only too happy to eat the finished products as they hit the supermarket shelves. 

In today’s world it’s not always easy to track trends as they happen. Avoiding the IT “noise” can be difficult at times and sorting the wheat from the chaff a daunting task. However, never before have we had as many sources of information as exists today and turning to our favorite channel can prove beneficial. We may not always be able to make it to the local user group gathering to hear the latest from HP but as is often the case, what has been presented is quickly posted to a forum or blog and for many in the NonStop community, this is the only way to stay current with all that’s coming from HP.

After participating in a couple of conferences – big tent marketing affairs attracting thousands to the regional user group meetings attracting a hundred or so – I have just come away from attending a vendor sales kick-off event. This is something I like to attend as checking the pulse of the user community provides just one side of the story whereas the vendor community often tells a completely different story and in so doing, helps fill in the blanks. It may please many in the NonStop community to know that indeed, it’s not just HP that’s investing in NonStop but there are considerable investments being made in NonStop by numerous vendors and for them, the need to turn ideas into products is even more a necessity as there’s little wiggle-room these days to recover from product wrong-turns or misjudged timeframes.

What I have been observing has already made it into a number of posts and commentaries. One of the more frequently used expressions this past month has been, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Originating in an exchange with DataExpress President, Michelle Marost, the phrase first turned up in an article by DataExpress in the July 2015 issue of Tandemworld under the heading, To gain a big audience, NonStop goes small! The context was the belief, common now to many vendors, that in coming up with an entry-level NonStop X system (for American users, likely to be priced below US$100K) more customers will chose NonStop and already, the order books are starting to fill up, but we still have to wait and see how this develops for HP and what new marketplaces may develop.

However, this phrase also appeared in the most recent post to the DataExpress News Blog, the post of July 22, 2015, Testimonials by our NonStop customers prove most credible! “‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’ is particularly pertinent this month,” the post states, “for DataExpress this is the ultimate test of just how well our product delivers on customers and prospects expectations. This is very important for a company of our size as all we have is our reputation.” So, not just the future of HP NonStop depends upon the sales an entry-level NonStop X attracts, but also for DataExpress;  once purchased and brought online, the customers’ testimonials become just so important for all involved.

The phrase also show up in the previous post to this blog, that of July 18, 2015, Vibrant Composition and the context here has to do with the acceptance not just of NonStop X or a particular vendor’s product but the potential to have NonStop as one part of a hybrid systems. The expectation that NonStop will be paired with a Windows or Linux blade(s) as part of a cluster with InfiniBand providing the interconnect fabric. There will be some markets reluctance to embrace either a Windows or Linux blade inside the system chassis – and yes, finance and banking comes to mind – yet there will be other markets sure to embrace the concept. Telcos, where not every call is a 911 distress call and manufacturing, where not everything involves a robot operating 24 X 7. The popular “look to book” model fits nicely into this hybrid model being unveiled by HP for NonStop.

Proof of the pudding is in the eating and sorting the wheat from the chaff, both have to do with determining value. Whether this is by taste or by letting the wind blow away what is worthless, the result is obtaining that which is prized, whether it is a quality or even ability. For the NonStop community, dependence on NonStop systems to run mission critical solutions has always been highly valued but for the majority of the IT industry, the lessening of expectations has become acceptable. And yet, the climate of tolerance seems to be shifting – as Bob Kossler, Director, Technology, Strategy and Planning for Mission Critical Servers (MCS) at HP, observed, “There was a time when picking up a telephone handset gave us a dial-tone immediately, today we have embraced the smartphone even though we know network access may vary depending on our location; they are a mediocre device at best compared to telephones of the past and yet, we accept the loss of reliability.”

Take stock exchanges for instance where there had been very strict SLAs in place, but today if trades – mostly automated program trading, where orders are placed but are cancelled before execution – cannot be pursued on one exchange because of an outage, are executed on another exchange. No real penalty is incurred due to such an outage and yet, where the SLAs remain, those exchanges continue to depend upon NonStop. Reliability still has its upside even where conditions appear to be favoring speed over such reliability. The point here is not so much whether or not NonStop makes a bold return to stock exchanges globally (which I have reservations about) but rather, in those situations where the dial-tone reliability needed for processing todays transactions without disruption is still prized and considered by all involved as being valuable.

Today’s reality is that NonStop remains the premier system for processing transactions where the highest levels of availability remain an important business differentiator. IDC continues to rank NonStop as Availability Level 4 (AL4), a category reserved for those systems where the “switch to alternate resources is not perceptible to end users”.  In this case, the proof of the pudding is very much on display across the world’s largest financial institutions, retailers, Telcos and manufacturers, including automobile manufacturers.  This too was the theme of a recent presentation given by IR CEO, Darc Rasmussen, where he reiterated how transactions are at the very core of every business pursuit.

“The voice of the customer is the most important influence (and what we provide) only matters if it makes a difference for our customers! Without customers, you have no business,” said Rasmussen. “Business is engaged in transactions and without transactions our society wouldn’t work!” And while the event where Rasmussen was presenting was a closed affair, the success of this past year for IR is confirmation that Prognosis is making a difference for their customers. How big a contribution? How about record sales in NonStop market? Check. Record sales across the board? Check. Record revenues, stock price and market capitalization? Check. Retaining a sizable presence in the NonStop marketplace continues to pay dividends, even for a vendor who has served the NonStop community for as many years as IR did.

For more on what was said at this IR event check out the post of July 29, 2015, to the IR Payments and Infrastructure blog, More NonStop transactions? More for Prognosis to monitor! It’s not always easy to predict future trends or to second guess where markets may be headed, but when it comes to transactions there can only be more of them involving even more sources and for that, NonStop remains the premier offering. Despite the inroads made by commodity cluster servers and the many redundancies that are built into the clusters, throwing more hardware at the problem of availability only makes the solution more fragile – more parts doesn’t equal greater robustness. AL4, according to IDC, only comes when the ability to switch to alternate resources is not perceptible to end users, and this is an integral part of the design of the server.

Proof of the pudding is in the eating may be a well-known saying but it cuts to what is important for everyone in the NonStop community. Out of the box and fresh off the truck, a NonStop system provides a level of availability unmatched by any other vendor. We are now seeing, with the narrowing of price differentials a NonStop system, complete with a fully working software stack, from the OS to the database, being less expensive than commodity servers clustered and loaded with a selection of similar software products.  It may take a little longer before CIOs get their heads around this basic fact, but when they do the transactions that keep society working, 24 X 7 X 365, will end up running in part or in whole on the NonStop systems of today. And you will most likely first hear of this on a forum or blog …  

No comments: