Thursday, August 13, 2015

Modernization versus Modern – is there a difference?

Working on an upcoming feature for the Sep / Oct, 2015, issue of the NonStop community magazine, The Connection gave me the opportunity to differentiate between modernization and modern even as it gave me an opportunity to look at the subject a little differently in this post …

As much as I continue to enjoy living in America now that I have U.S. citizenship, after twenty plus years of residency, it’s hard for me to ignore what’s happening in my country of birth. I still tape the Rugby League matches that make it up here – well, DVR rather than tape, I should say – and of course, who can ignore last weekend’s monumental Rugby performance as the Wallabies beat the All Blacks from New Zealand for the first time in goodness knows when. However, the games keep evolving and the rules change constantly, so much so that the modern game of Rugby – League and Union – has elements I simply don’t recognize from the time I committed so many days to playing both codes.

In previous posts I have written about the changes to the America’s Cup yachting event and as a former competitive sailor, who actually made it to Newport, Rhode Island, to watch the 1977 series where Captain Outrageous, Ted Turner, skippered Courageous to a dominant win over the Aussies aboard Australia (4 to 0) I barely recognize these strange multihull yacht mutations that compete today. Then again, coming too from IT, where change is ever present, I should be the last one to complain over the demise of older – dare I say, more beautiful - classic yachts of the past. Sailing, rugby, even the stately game of cricket (and no, I won’t mention The Ashes) have all seen changes to bring them into the 21st century.

Stopping by Starbucks in the Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA, we ran across wireless charging for the first time, pictured above, and it became a talking point. See the Starbucks News on this topic posted in November 2014. Oh yes, this is something that’s very modern! But modernization and modern are really two different attributes, particularly when it comes to IT.

Unfortunately, whenever we bring up a topic of modernization there’s an assumption that we are talking about legacy systems – we wouldn’t be covering modernization if the subject wasn’t old. And truth be told, I may be getting on in years, but my interests remain very much focused on what’s current and what’s topical with few occasions that call for me to wax lyrical on systems of the past. When I think of the cost of systems of decades ago and the capabilities they offered I am still shocked that as an industry, we were able to serve business as effectively, and indeed as efficiently, as we did.

Networking, industry standards and open systems along with Moore’s Law running rampant has seen the world change and for more than four decades NonStop has moved right along with it. The latest NonStop family to be introduced to businesses everywhere, the NonStop X, is arguably as modern as any other system on offer today, particularly when it comes to requiring a cluster for scale-out even as the internal processing power can be easily scaled up via software. As we have all come to appreciate, the move to support the Intel X86 architecture, together with industry-standard InfiniBand (IB), it opens the door to many new possibilities, given so many businesses along with government agencies have been predisposed to Intel for quite some time.

However, none of this comes as news to the NonStop community – we have seen how NonStop has demonstrated flexibility through the years embracing numerous changes of chip sets, interconnect fabrics, storage and network connectivity. Not always a sure fire winner (remember the big push behind Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) for all communications connections?) but always moving forward and remaining relevant, such that today NonStop is a modern system. It may not be recognizable to those familiar with NonStop systems of the past. Compared to a large VLX or Cyclone system you may be forgiven for simply walking past a modern NonStop system having ignored its presence as you think it’s just another network cabinet.

In the upcoming September – October, 2015, issue of The Connection magazine the theme of the issue is Modernization. I am fully anticipating the usual suspects to provide articles and commentaries with numerous references to the use of Java and to SQL and of the benefits that come with leveraging Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) along with Web services. There will be coverage too of different options for supporting smartphones and tablets even as new protocols and services are supported. With NonStop anchoring solutions in industries that move slowly and are cautious about embracing anything modern at all, having access to so many different programming models is a major benefit for business held captive to such solution longevity.

However, in the article I have submitted, I have elected to focus on Modern – a celebration if you like of what we now have available to us with the arrival of the most modern of NonStop systems of all time, the NonStop X. Perhaps the observation I liked most came from Infrasoft Pty. Limited Managing Director, Peter Shell. When it comes to being modern, said Shell, “The technology you chose has to support where you want to go even if you don’t know precisely where that will be at the time you acquire the systems, middleware and solutions. That means a level of flexibility and indeed compatibility with languages, tools and frameworks common across the broadest pool of developers that will be likely candidates to develop these new solutions.”

I also like the observation by IR COO, Alex Baburin, who said that when stating a system is modern, “It is really the perspective of the customer and their judgment is usually based on their needs. If our product were to meet the operational and interoperability needs of these CIOs corporate architecture, then our system would typically be deemed ‘modern’”. In essence, a modern system today has to meet our needs today and yet be flexible enough to be easily reconfigured to meet the demands of the future even as we appreciate that being modern is very much in the eye of the beholder, so as to speak.

There’s still one very important attribute of a modern system and that’s its price and the most important aspect of price is that initial price tag when the system, with the software stack needed to run a solution, passes through the door and enters the data center. “Perhaps overlooked in any discussion about today’s modern systems is the price. Many companies have become a little jaded over discussions about the TCO as increasingly, every vendor puts their own spin as to what to include in the calculations,” responded OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. “For me, then yes, it’s all about the TCA as this is the bottom line amount and truly influences the decision to purchase. Before turning to the calculator to see if the TCO is beneficial for any Financial Institution (FI), CIOs first must justify that initial purchase.”

The upcoming article in the September – October, 2015, issue of The Connection magazine includes numerous other observations and I will leave it to you to check them out when the magazine is delivered. The difference between modernization and modern is very real – we all know full well that we can run an older, legacy, solution on a very modern system but the reverse isn’t quite that simple. Running a modern solution on a legacy system is fraught with potential incompatibilities where vendors prove quick to distance themselves from what is being deployed. While I am not a fan of rolling updates and changes we have come to expect from many of the programs that make up the open source movement, on the other hand, doing absolutely nothing for a decade isn’t any better. In time, working with a modern system fails both the price test as well as the ability to access a large pool of qualified personnel.

Coming this far and not seeing a car metaphor may be a shock for some members of the NonStop community but any discussion about modern systems, the emergence of hybrids utilizing clouds public and private, has to mirror what’s happening in the auto industry but that’s a subject for another post. However, the recent exposure of modern cars to computer hackers is proving to be a wake-up call and it’s a circumstance that led me to write a separate post on the subject for the comForte Lounge blog – watch for the publication of the post, The system is safe – where did you hear that? On the Internet!

The modern car, just like the modern computer, is comprised of industry standard sub-assemblies and components and the ability to choose transmissions from ZF, brakes from Brembo, tires from Goodyear resembles the options we all recognize as paramount for any computer to be considered modern and even as I have referenced a number of them in this post, it’s still worth considering how far we have come in the past four decades and not to shy away from those detractors who may not be as well-informed as us; relax, breathe easy, NonStop is modern and I didn’t need to check the internet to draw that conclusion!  

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