Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The long road home …

A brief exchange with another executive led me to reflect on just how far we have come with respect to embracing the newfound modular world of development where developing applications has become more akin to playing with building blocks …

After three weeks on the road, covering almost a fifth of the continental United States, we finally pointed the company command center towards Boulder. With 4,000 new miles on the RVs odometer plus another 1,000 on the Corvette we used to get around while camped, it was just another typical day in the office for Margo and me. Uneventful is the best way to describe it and next month marks one full year of abstinence from flying. That’s right, no plane rides in a year and you can read more of that last trip in the posting to the Buckle-Up-Travel bog, Round and around in the Georgia rain! But flying there was, all the same, as states now bump up the speed limit to 80 mph and there are no restrictions for drivers of rigs like ours – all 60+ feet.

To sum up impressions derived from peering through the front windscreen, it’s been a very green period – so much rain in Colorado and even in Nevada, not to mention Texas, that in parts it looks more like Europe than your typical western U.S. landscape. Of course, California remains the odd state out and there’s no escaping the bareness on display alongside most of its thoroughfares. With each mile covered, what was just over the horizon continued to motivate us to push on. But again, when it comes to impressions, it wasn’t so much what was outside the window that left an indelible mark on us but rather what transpired inside the command center, and more importantly, of course, inside the venues we attended.

Yet again, we made it to Las Vegas. This year we have found ourselves in this city every month but one and the changes taking place there are tangible, so much so that we fully expect to read shortly of an enterprise buying the whole strip and setting a dome on top of the lot. Fully environmentally controlled, with a perfect AC setting – a kind of adult Disneyland – where conventions run 24 X 7. Given that it plays host to so many IT related events, perhaps the likes of Oracle or Microsoft or even Facebook take up the challenge to fully enclose the Las Vegas strip!

I only mention this in passing as we suffered through daytime temperatures that pushed well past 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Throw in a couple of evening thunderstorms that pushed humidity close to 100 percent and you can get the idea. But again, if so many IT events are coming to Las Vegas with the temperature as hot as it is, are we surprised to read that when it comes to developing business solutions, the heat has definitely been turned up. By that I mean the presentation by HP EVP and CTO Martin Fink at HP Discover this past June on “composability” is just a starting point – every aspect of what has been traditional IT is being subject to composability at an escalating rate.

For some time now Margo and I have been heavily involved in a dialogue with the Sydney team at Infrasoft as they worked to bring Node.js to NonStop. This was a very deep port in support of Server Side JavaScript and was done not so much with a firm business plan in place but rather an appreciation that composability brings with it a certain reliance on non-traditional programming models. Many in the industry thought of JavaScript as something you used to program apps on phones, but no more – it’s unique property is that as a language it’s the same whether you use it on the client or the server. A first for IT as best as I can tell!

But wait; one more thing! With JavaScript we are beginning to see acceleration in the trend across all of IT to bring in components to plug into frameworks in order to provide real business solutions. Indeed, JavaScript is a response to a common need across business to simplify and to aggressively dismantle much of the proprietary, and often expensive, infrastructures we have spent so much time tinkering with for the past couple of decades – “reinvention it is, returning to its roots by trimming nearly every dimension and ‘adding’ Lotus-grade lightness”. Sound familiar? What’s good for cars (and in this case, the magazine was reporting on the new Mazda MX5) seems is also good for IT!

Barely home a few hours and a client passed on to me a link to an interesting report in Forbes magazine, Ladies And Gentlemen, Corporate IT Spending Has Left The Boardroom. In my response to my client, I quoted from this article more than once, noting that there’s the reference to “cloud services and composable technologies becoming more common in the enterprise”. Furthermore, states the reporter, “According to cloud communications platform company Twilio, ‘The line between buying and building is blurring as developers combine and customize off-the-shelf technologies today.’” Yes, Twilio is in the framework, libraries, APIs and so forth business so some balance is needed. But after talking to the team at Infrasoft, not that much balance it would seem as this trend is just a further example of IT’s penchant for the mini-application and a total dislike among CIOs for the big project.

Too chaotic? Too disruptive? Assembling new solutions out of the pile of routines and libraries readily available? Sounds like my early days in IT when my company built a boat-load of macros we all used to help speed the development process, but I digress. Composability is just so much cooler but as the article in Forbes concluded, “The best advice here is approach this subject with informed but cautiously suspicious minds.” However, what this road trip also exposed me to was the carry-over of composability into the physical world of servers, networks and storage – think HP’s initiative for the Converged Data Center Infrastructure (CDCI).

Responding to the demands of business to more loosely associate all three technologies – servers, networks and storage – and providing tools to easily “provision” to meet the resource needs of the day, HP will rollout capabilities to “borrow” from one platform to meet the needs of another almost instantaneously (again, think and indeed revisit, One View). Yes, we aren’t in Kansas anymore and for a good reason. The old days of soup to nuts in-house development are over; it’s all about distributions, open source and leveraging the work of millions of fellow IT professionals. 

It’s all about industry standards and languages like JavaScript and frameworks like SKEL JS, SPINE and RIOT (no recommendations or endorsements here; I just liked these cool sounding names), and the first users of much of this technology are the NonStop vendors – and that’s another major step towards keeping the costs of NonStop software low which should appeal to everyone in the NonStop community. For me, NonStop is heading in the right direction and its presence in the HP product portfolio is assured for the rest of this decade.

The quote about the Mazda MX5 came from the August 2015 issue of the car magazine, Motor Trend. In its back page editorial by fellow Aussie, Angus MacKenzie, he takes a similar look at what’s happening in auto manufacturing as I am for IT. “The Ford River Rouge Complex was the most vertically integrated factory the world has ever seen—raw materials from Ford-owned mines and plantations went in one end, and complete cars rolled out the other,” observes MacKenzie. “The Rouge had furnaces to make steel and glass, its own tire-making plant, stamping plant, engine-casting plant, transmission plant, radiator plant, and even a facility that turned soybeans into plastic car parts. In the 1930s more than 100,000 people worked at the Rouge, and a new Ford rolled off the line every 49 seconds.”

But no more – it’s all about sub-assemblies and flexible production lines where the concept of composability is being elevated to even higher levels. Leave it to the Japanese manufacturers, writes MacKenzie as, “Toyota claims it will be able to build different vehicle types in different colors, one by one, on the same assembly line.” And today’s IT isn’t far behind – think too of the upcoming hybrids featuring NonStop, with potentially new build-out options to enhance provisioning possibilities as yes, “cloud services and composable technologies becoming more common in the enterprise.”

We may never see the appearance of a dome over Las Vegas even as we wish for more temperate weather. There is a limit to composability after all, and the weather remains off-limits for now. When it comes to IT and the way business responds to the challenges of the day, only those with the basic building blocks in place will be able to compete in the future and with what I see coming from HP, but still just over the horizon, out of sight, assures me that HP and NonStop will continue providing the types of systems today’s increasingly modern IT demands. It may have indeed been a journey down a very long road but what’s coming into view certainly makes up for the distances we all have covered! 


Chris D said...

Hi there,

How far away is the Node.js port to NonStop? It's very exciting! Is there a roadmap for it's release? Where can I look to get updates?

thanks and regards,

Richard Buckle said...

The (very deep) port is done - and discussions with partners has started ... best place to start is with InfraSoft M.D. Peter Shell:


As for the roadmap, following the completion of the port then the priorities will be set based on what users need next.