Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another anniversary … and NonStop still holds center stage!

Anniversaries are always important and there’s always consequences should we fail to remember them. When it comes to blogging there’s no similar downside but all the same, from a bloggers perspective, there’s a genuine mix of surprise along with the thought of only having just begun – so yes, thanks for all you support over these past eight years!

Last year I was a couple of days late in posting the anniversary post and opened with an apology that kicked off with me reminding myself not to forget writing the post; after all, remembering anniversaries remains an important consideration in all we do. But I do forget key dates and for many years now, following an incident I will not get into in any detail, the number of our car that we have driven on road courses for many years is 161 – yes, a reminder of the 16th of January, my wedding anniversary. With the completion of this post, I will commence my 9th year of blogging having first posted on August 20, 2007. As for the cars now in the garage, Pyalla 1 and Pyalla 2, think of them as being Primary and Back-Up!

Numbers of posts don’t really tell the complete story nor does it reflect the many changes I have seen across the community. In the fall of 2007, shortly after I started blogging, the NonStop community was gathered in Brighton, just to the south of London, for the European ITUG event. It was memorable simply because participants came up to me and said that they had started reading my posts and this was all the motivation I needed at the time. Now, supporting numerous industry and vendor blogs, I have really warmed to the task of writing incessantly about all things NonStop and in so doing have watched many others do likewise. At a time when so many in the NonStop community express concern that NonStop is overlooked by the mainstream press, the cumulative work of the NonStop folks delivering content to social media channels fills a very important niche.

Soon I will be pulling out of the driveway yet again for a week’s sojourn on the west coast, visiting both southern and northern California. Brief meetings of investors will occupy our time in SoCal whereas vendor meetings will hold center stage in NoCal. The weekend will be an entirely different matter as we spend time at Sonoma for the final track event of the Indy Racing League (IRL) where our good friends’, Brian and Jan Kenny, together with their son-in-law, Bryan Herta (who owns an IRL team Bryan Herta Autosport ), who will be contesting this final event of the year. Talk about anniversaries. Yes, it was the Bryan Herta Autosport team that won the 100th Anniversary running of the Indy 500 race in 2011 and where the winnings and publicity spurred him on to build a team to run fulltime – the weekend at Indy for that Indy 500 event he won just happened to be a one-off for the team. Success can lead to some surprising outcomes so our trek to Sonoma is bound to be a weekend full of surprises.

My attention this month has been on the topic of modern. The upcoming Sep / Oct, 2015, issue of the community magazine, The Connection, has modernization as its theme, but rather than writing another article on the act of modernization my thoughts this time have been on what exactly is modern? Does something today considered to be modern have clearly identifiable attributes? A modern house, a modern car, a modern television – what does it mean to be modern? Is something considered by one community as being cool be immediately agreed-upon by society as being modern? Do we all share a single appreciation for what’s modern and does this understanding cross over to computer systems?

On the LinkedIn group, Mainframe Experts Network, an interesting discussion developed when a member posted the headlines, 71% of all Fortune 500 companies have their core business on the mainframe. Forget for the moment that this is posted to an IBM mainframe centric group and read on. “The mainframe is a hugely viable business asset. The alternative is not necessarily better, or cheaper. Mainframe's have a marketing problem, not a quality, function or reliability problem. Why? because perception is, it is more expensive and every IT hardware, software and services company or alternative, is aggressively creating FUD because they all have something to gain if they can persuade prospects to move off what had been labelled as ‘legacy’”.

Forget too for the moment that the IBM crowd is complaining about others using FUD on them – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. FUD has been the stock-in-trade response of IBM for decades to any counter-proposal to using the mainframe. But the observation that perception that (the mainframe) is more expensive and that businesses can gain from moving to another platform resonates with everyone belonging to the NonStop community. Then again, this could be expected as after the IBM mainframe, the NonStop is now the second oldest architecture managing to out-survive highly popular systems from the likes of Prime, Wang, Data General, Four Phase and the like. And as a community we fully understand that the alternative to NonStop doesn’t always end up being better or even cheaper.

However, here’s the kicker. Whereas IBM moved on from proprietary chips and fabrics / backplanes to its own proprietary Risc chips, NonStop elected to head in a different direction as it kept evolving to where today, no piece of its hardware is proprietary. While both systems today support languages, tools and frameworks that make programming applications no more difficult to do than on any other platform, be it Wintel or something else, NonStop continues to deliver an integrated stack in support of openness – something IBM hasn’t quiet managed to do after all these years. I know I will get push-back on this observation but with IBM there’s options and with options comes complexity and complex systems are inherently less robust and tend to fail more often.

As for NonStop, how many of us have forgotten just how much Pathway does for us – in terms of being a framework in support of our applications as well as a working model on how to build other middleware and frameworks with the same characteristics? While it’s still the realm of development shops to do the heavy lifting needed to support fault tolerance, the ability to develop persistent applications on top of these fault tolerant core management and monitoring components has become easy to do. But this is exactly what a modern system needs to possess today – an integrated stack from metal to data that lets developers focus on logic.

Where the commentary on this LinkedIn group heads is familiar territory. Training of the younger generation of IT professionals. “It is always a challenge to convince the younger management group to believe in IBM, and especially so when they ask the question, ‘who can we hire once you retire,’” was one observation that generated further comments. And for many in the NonStop community, this is also true. That is one reason I continue to blog as I do – I may not have the answers but I sure do know who to contact and where to direct questions. NonStop systems are modern systems by any standard of measure and HP has invested considerable funds into NonStop, making sure it is industry standard and open – equipping the next generation of IT professionals to be capable of fully exploiting its capabilities. It all comes down to setting expectations. NonStop is not a general purpose computer, but rather, it’s a transaction processing system capable of processing transactions in real time.

However, modern systems aren’t all we need to communicate as the NonStop community is aware that today we live with modern perceptions along with modern expectations. By this I mean that the model of “good enough” being fine, and yes, “No Service” being a temporary nuisance, shouldn’t apply to the systems at the heart of our business solutions. Having interviewed as many IT professionals as I have over the past eight years it still comes as a surprise to realize that what the NonStop community values so highly is of only passing interest – oh really? The system never fails? NonStop systems must be expensive and complex and very hard to program! All of which is to say, my uneducated IT professionals would likely pushback on having to work on such a system even if it is as modern as we know it is.

NonStop is not a general purpose computer and as such it will never capture the share of Global 1000 corporations many other systems claim in their marketing promotions. But again, that’s not the point – we are talking transaction processing. So the numbers HP is now throwing up on the big screen during presentations about the ongoing success of NonStop in markets like finance, Telco, retail, manufacturing and transportation are impressive. In particular the potential for growth in the mobile phone network markets, looks impressive and is one market segment I suspect few have been aware of the presence of NonStop before seeing HP’s presentations. The signs are all there – just talk to any member of the NonStop vendor community about sales figures this year – in all likelihood, the business of NonStop turned a corner earlier this year. Chalk that up to yet one more modern perception that is in dead wrong – NonStop is shifting into a growth phase and that may be the most surprising observation of mine over the course of eight years of blogging.

Numbers of posts don’t tell the story, but all the same, they do highlight the many channels through which the message of NonStop travels. From association blogs (e.g. ATMmarketplace and more recently, BAI), to vendor blogs (IR, comForte, DataExpress, WebAction, etc.) to NonStop community blogs like this one, Real Time View, there have been more than 1000 posts with readership anywhere from 350,000 to 500,000 plus over the past eight years. I often blog about the difference individuals can make and while I remain bullish on this front, I also think persistence counts for something. As does growth - have you noticed, too, just how many orders have been placed for the NonStop X? If you missed it, look for another post on this topic shortly. And so, for the immediate future I will persist – expect many more posts to follow, naturally! Thank you all for your support these past eight years as you too have all played a big part in making a difference, too.

1 comment:

harry van der horst said...

hallo Richard,
Thanks for flying the flag all this time.
I think that the old non-stop operating system still has a lot of life left in it.
It is the only proven 99,9 available solution. the only drawback is that thirdparty development of application management is minimal.
It would be of advantage to the community if there were connections between open source testtooling and service management and the nonstop world. If only by streaming data from nonstop to the opensource applications.