Monday, December 28, 2015

NonStop – why some may be fearful, quite wrongly, about the future (of NonStop)?


“You are what you read,” so read a headline of a column in Fortune magazine – but to many in the NonStop community, what we read about NonStop may not be all that appealing to us. But should we be fearful? 

At this time of year you more or less have to prepare yourself for gifts family will give you even if past experiences suggest not to be too surprised by what finds its way under the tree. However, this year, one of the more imaginative gifts I received was an apron to wear while I grill. Or pull corks from a bottle. The message was hard to miss, “Bites, Bytes & Blogs. I deliver.” Yes, I’m very much into bites, bytes and blogs.

Two years ago Margo and I made the trip to Denver and we repeated the journey once again. Even stayed overnight in the same quirky hotel and took time to walk the city streets to check out the changes – none bigger than the completion of the fully refurbished Denver Union Station. While more complete observations on the transformation of not just the railway station but the dwellings surrounding it will appear in an upcoming post to our social blog, Buckle-Up-Travel, it may end up proving to be a destination in its own right – has a great bar and an even better common area. 

Blogging for different clients and armed with different agendas has kept me fully occupied for yet another year. In my August 20, 2015, anniversary post to this blog, Another anniversary … and NonStop still holds center stage! I noted that over the years my business and social posts have attracted quite an audience. From association blogs (e.g. ATMmarketplace and more recently, BAI, IBS Intelligence), 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.

Today I consider myself a professional blogger, even as I view the work I do as no different to what more illustrious (and higher profile) industry analysts do, and increasingly, providing commentary and opinions both written and verbally, as in webinars, has begun to take more of my time. As a former Tandem Computers and ACI Worldwide product manager, this has to be expected of course. With the year coming to a conclusion, my first order of business is to thank each and everyone one of you who has read a blog posting by me.

While scanning my home page on LinkedIn a few days ago, I came across another blogger who’s one witty observation made a big impression on me. If you read LinkedIn on a regular basis I am sure you saw it too. It simply said, “A blog post is like a miniskirt; it has to be short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the subject.” While I blog I am also at heart a storyteller and coming up with new ideas is what keeps me awake at night – there’s not a day that passes where I am not on the hook to come up with two unique storylines for the clients I serve.

However, the observation has a point and so, depending on the communities I post to, the length of the post will vary, but at all times, there will be short hook that gets your attention and then what follows is the message I want to convey. In the end, of course, it’s all a moot point if you don’t read the post and furthermore, it’s even less interesting if I cannot get you to think about the message I provide or have you come up with ideas of your own. For the NonStop community, so much is going to change in the coming 24 to 30 months and while I am excited there may be many within the NonStop community who face this new future with dread.

In the December 15, 2015, issue of Fortune Magazine there appeared a column, “
The Big Think – You are what you read.”  The column opens with, “Innovation. Ideation. Out-of-the-box problem-solving. Creative decision-making. So much of what we value in the brave new economy depends on people having fertile, expansive, and dynamically open minds,” But then, the writer hits us with, “So it may come as a surprise to many that the default state for our minds seems to be, well, ‘closed.’ Or at least inhospitable to ideas that differ from the ones already set in our consciousness.”

Ignoring for the moment that the electronic version now available online differs from the written text in the magazine and now reads, “The Big Think - This Is Why You Can't Always Trust Data” but it is the same story and I will return to this thought a little later in this post, but for me, the thought that you are what you read along with the observation that the default state of our minds seems to be closed is something I have come to understand after all these years of blogging.

We may be technologists and we may all be involved in IT but that’s not any guarantee that we welcome change. On the contrary, it’s why I now believe so many within the Nonstop community are fearful of the changes coming to NonStop. Furthermore, why aren’t we exploring the many ideas we have for NonStop preferring, I am seeing all too often, to just keep on doing what we have been doing?

“This is an unfortunate state of affairs for a matter as important as,” in this case, let me just plug in NonStop for arguments sake. Quoting once more from the column, “But it also offers some insights that may be valuable for all of us—lessons about how we draw conclusions from data, and how leaders should act on data.” The reason I am focusing on this particular aspect of the column is that the writer outlines three important considerations applicable to all of us in the NonStop community.

“First, the process of generating ideas gives the illusion of novelty of thought. But very few ideas are new.” This is then followed with, “Second, decision-makers must frequently choose a course of action in the face of imperfect data. It is why we pay leaders—to make tough calls when circumstances are murky and the path is anything but clear.” And then, “Third, data analysis, be it in universities or in industry, is conducted by someone with a set of incentives.” Finally, summing it all up, the column ends with, “The challenge for all of us is to stay informed, but not fully formed in our views.” 

At this time of year I want to encourage the NonStop community to keep reading, to be ever wary of who is writing the post or article, and to not have a closed mind but also and yes, most important of all, accept the challenge of staying informed without already having “formed our views.” The revision to the subtitle of the Fortune column – in print as “You Are What You Read” whereas in electronic form, “This Is Why You Can't Always Trust Data” - are connected. Raw data from analysts and industry observers (and I include myself as a potential source), is everywhere. In today’s always-on world you can find data to support every possible position you would like to explore. But it isn't always correct or not without bias. 

Being smart calls for not just reading the data / information and weighing it against what you know within the context or framework of what’s happening, but rather being open to the thought that what you did know may no longer be in touch with any new reality. And for NonStop, it’s now a world that is opening up to us in ways we simply had not anticipated just a year ago. NonStop as software? NonStop independent of infrastructure? NonStop realizing value from virtualization without any dependence on a hypervisor? And perhaps, a lot more!  

The question we all have to face up to is whether we are on board with, “Innovation. Ideation. Out-of-the-box problem-solving. Creative decision-making.” Or, are we simply fearful of all that may transpire? If we up for thinking a lot more about NonStop then assuredly, we are just leaving the blocks as we entertain an exciting year to come! And yes, on this, watch for even more blog posts to come. I deliver? Well, let’s just see how that all works itself out in 2016.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Time for gifts and time to sing the praises of NonStop!

It’s so easy to become too pragmatic and to ignore the progress that comes with the passing of a year – but this year, the journey for NonStop has taken us all down a new path. NonStop as a software offering and solutions vendors are welcoming the transformation! 

This time last year I wrote of how I was kicking back and taking it a little easier and I wish I could write something similar now. There are but a few days to go and I am engaged in lively exchanges with a number of my clients as each of them looks to the New Year with a degree of renewed energy that I did not see being so high in quite a few years. But it’s hard to miss the holiday season with chorales singing outside crowded shopping malls and there’s still my own list of gifts that needs to be checked off even as the snow continues to fall along the Colorado front ranges. Even so, there’s still evenings when I can cook outside and I never miss an opportunity to fire up the grill!

One of the true benefits of being independent and yet enjoying strong ties with a goodly number of vendors focuses on NonStop systems is that you get as many opinions as there are vendors and this really helps when it comes time to summarize all that has transpired in a year. I always find time to email a question or two to my clients, particular in the lead up to important user and vendor events, and many times their responses help frame questions I ask of Hewlett Packard Enterprise executives and managers and I am still processing the results of what followed.

I have been spending a lot of time of late, too, picking over past blog posts as well as wandering onto web sites featuring technology and architectures I am interested in – there’s nothing like a couple of Google searches to put you right in the middle of some very interesting musings. I still think Gartner is old school these days, preserving their observations to only paying subscribers, but even here, many of Gartner’s key findings end up being referenced in publications like ComputerWorld as well as the likes of Fortune and Forbes magazines. 

However, there are a lot of columns out there in the ether well worth chasing down and even my posts are being more widely read. Recently, I was asked to grant permission for another payments focused publication to republish my posts to the forum ATMmarketplace on NonStop and payments solutions. Seeing my posts being reposted in the IBS Intelligence Blog is always a good sign, not so much because it’s my commentary that’s proving of interest as much as it is that posts featuring NonStop are fashionable once again.

In the lead up to the 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp I once again asked my clients a simple question. If you owned the NonStop HW / SW roadmaps, what would be your top three priorities? And let’s think big rather than just an outstanding RFE we need; “let’s go big, or go home,” as the song suggests. Among the responses there were the obvious, “Price / affordability needs to be high on HPE’s radar. We’ve lost a couple of customers simply because they’ve re-platformed.” 

And then there has also been a lot of attention paid to the database offering on NonStop including stark reminders that more work is needed. When you read about the need on NonStop for, “Redis, an in-memory DB, (together with) MongoDB, a document-oriented NoSQL DB.” The work associated with database received a boost when Redis running on NonStop was part of a demo by HPE solutions architects at Boot Camp (which in turn was referenced in the post of November 23, 2015, What did I learn from 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp? As for price / affordability then this has taken me down an old familiar path this week.

In the post this time last year, For NonStop users, this is our season! I celebrated the first shipments of NonStop X systems. At the time, I referenced an exchange I had with OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. Yash is always very forthright about where he sees NonStop heading even as he remains very bullish over his own potential to exploit NonStop in the markets he serves so it came as no surprise to hear of his initial purchase. “I have purchased a NonStop X to see how we can leverage the latest technology for our OmniPayments and Big Data solutions,” said Yash in that post in 2014. 

“Since the announcement by HP that NonStop would support the x86 architecture, their announcement of the NonStop X family is cause for celebration. And for two reasons – the positive reinforcement it gives to the NonStop platform remaining strategic to HP as well as the continuing push for greater use of lower-cost commodity technology. As we see it, there’s now nothing unique about the hardware, it’s all a software play for HP and we can work with that!”

We now refer to commodity hardware as industry standard even as we have come to accept NonStop as being all about software, with Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, telling us all at Boot Camp how NonStop now is “the best software platform on the planet.” But no other vendor I know is more excited by the improving price / affordability than OmniPayments so I went back to Yash for additional observations.  When I asked him whether, on the first anniversary of his comments above, did he remain as bullish in 2015 as he was in 2014, the response was more than I expected. 

“Yes, one year later and we are even more impressed with the NonStop X family that we were this time last year,” responded Yash. “Back at the end of 2014 we had purchased a NonStop X7 but since then, the equally impressive entry level NonStop X3 system has arrived with a price point that makes it highly competitive in the markets we serve. As a result we have already air lifted two NonStop X3 systems, fully populated with OmniPayments payments solution software, into South America – and they are now installed and will be operational shortly. And we now have two more NonStop X3 systems about to arrive in our California offices where they will be set up for new customers also in South America.”

When I then asked Yash whether the NonStop vendor community was equally as bullish and whether he needed any of their product offerings as I checked to see what the impact on OmniPayments pricing of solutions would have, the response was even more illuminating. “No, we don’t rely on other vendors for expensive middleware. That’s what allows us to competitively price our products and in the markets we serve this is helping us drive new business to NonStop. When it comes to OmniPayments there is no Pathway licenses, no replication software, no external monitoring software and we have negotiated a discounted NS SQL/MX license that we bundle with OmniPayments, passing the savings directly to our customers.”

Furthermore, said Yash, “As our architecture is based on a thin client model when it comes to connected terminals and devices so again, our customers need not budget for many items that other solutions mandate. For right now, we are finding new opportunities among midsize to small retailers who for decades have been overlooked by NonStop sales but for $5,000 per month, we are delivering a Rolls Royce solution for a competitive price.” Not content to leave the issue of other vendor participation at this point, I asked Yash if he saw value from advising his customers about what other vendors did provide and then exposing his customers to the thriving ecosystem of NonStop vendors active in the NonStop marketspace.

“Absolutely! Customers can augment our payments solution with other vendors’ middleware products and many of our customers have done that. We receive calls about options in a number of areas but the point is that with NonStop X3 in particular, the pricing is so competitive that traditional middleware vendors need to consider their own value proposition. 

It’s not for us to tell them how to run their business as that’s not our call but for NonStop X to continue to grow its presence in key markets, we all have to stop thinking in terms of selling million dollar systems to where we can now support hundred thousand dollar systems. Add into the mix that we are now selling OmniPayments as a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering from out of our own cloud configuration made up of NonStop x systems, and we begin to entertain even more aggressive pricing as we support pay-as-you-go models.”

When it comes to price / affordability, the ecosystem of vendors we have that are focused on the NonStop system know requests of HPE run both ways – it’s a question they ask themselves as often as they ask HPE. The simple fix each vendor tells me is for HPE to put more focus on NonStop and to sell more systems but today, this is a solution sell and the real answer lies in attracting more solutions to NonStop. 

This is an age-old, easily recognizable, “quick fix” and as a community we all have been promoting for a very long time. But not so fast! It takes considerable effort to turn those boats around but having said that, with the price / affordability we are now all witnessing, perhaps the first couple of boats to leave the flotilla and head NonStop’s way may happen.

In the post of November 29, 2015, To profit from business the business must profit! I blogged about Martin’s keynote presentation and wrote of his seven rules of strategy. Rule four of strategy, according to Martin, was “Know your Value Proposition.” As Martin retold the story, “I was blessed when I came to NonStop; everyone in NonStop knew the value proposition by heart – Data Integrity, Scalability, Fault Tolerance.” 

As a community perhaps the time has come for us all to consider adding a twist to this that is all of our own doing. Perhaps, today, it may be time to respond with yes, it’s scalable, available and by the way, affordable. With the holiday season in full swing this may be the very gift that all in IT need and we shouldn’t be bashful in heralding this latest addition to the value proposition of NonStop! 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Picking the line …

Following the interviews and discussions that took place during the 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp it was time to follow-up with those working more closely on the products featured in keynote presentations. And the storyline that develops here takes it cue from those discussions …

With the arrival of winter entering our garage is tinged with a degree of sadness with wires snaking around cars as they stand connected to battery charges. Not for the icy roads of Colorado are these rear-wheel drive sports cars and while we continue to transition to more suitable vehicles for our location, I cannot help but anticipate sunny days ahead even as I save away a few pennies for new tires on our track-focused sports car.

In any highly competitive car race, where there’s barely any separation between competing drivers, there’s little chance any driver will be able to hold the perfect line around the course. There’s simply too many competing for too few feet of track and every turn a circuit throws up at the competitors sees drivers prepared to try different lines to gain an advantage. As I was once advised, “observe and learn the racers line around the track as when it comes to the event, you will likely never be in a position to follow it.”

Point being, in a close field, every driver has to have something in reserve to counter what those around him do and while everyone is close to the edge (of disaster) the good drivers, and those who are perennial winners, just know when to feed in the corrections needed to avoid disaster while gaining that elusive winner’s edge. In IT, we call this transformation in the sense that we have to walk the line between what it is we need to support – those production applications that cannot afford to be disrupted – and where we need to be. Furthermore, for each step we take that moves us closer to the transformation goal we pursue, we need to ensure what we already have in place inches forward right along with the steps we take.

This past week has been tumultuous to say the least. Put it down to the proximity to the holiday season, or simply the end of a quarter or even end of year, but the type of inquiries being made and the number of questions being asked has been as high as I can recall in all my time as a blogger. Whether it is a private email or a more public exchange on one of the more popular online forums, there’s no questioning the NonStop community’s enthusiasm to participate in the debate over the future of NonStop and the direction it is clearly taking. Following a number of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) big tent events worldwide, including the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, the HPE spotlight has intensified its beam directed at NonStop.

At Boot Camp we heard from Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Randy Meyer, VP and GM, Mission Critical Systems at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Andy Bergholz, Director of Engineering, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where the outcome was certainly one that encouraged all who participated in the event. Not for a very long time had there been such a resounding message of support of NonStop given to the NonStop community and the fallout from the keynote presentations continues to reverberate through the NonStop community even now. For many of us it was a wake-up call to truly reconsider the future of NonStop systems as HPE has clearly made a sizable investment in its future even as it turns up the heat on the value proposition of NonStop systems – there’s little confusion or ambiguity about the intentions of HPE concerning NonStop. “NonStop X? It’s the best software platform on the planet!”

When Martin Fink took to the stage at Boot Camp, he walked the audience through the moves that were required to execute on a strategy and then projected a vision for NonStop unlike any we had heard previously. It was more than just the separation of NonStop from a dependency on hardware. It was more too than just the potential for NonStop to have an impact on developments taking place in areas such as clouds, virtualization and even the open source community. As Fink noted, “Adoption of open source is not a technology choice but a business choice,” and a reflection on changing attitudes within IT.

“Take NonStop to open source? Take a NonStop feature to open source,” Fink suggested at one point, even as he posed the question of whether HPE could, “Enhance existing projects with NonStop?” In other words, HPE could pick from many lines to take when it comes to NonStop, but even so, with other powerful interests all around HPE seeking the same track space as HPE, it was going to take a lot of concentration on the part of HPE engineering to steer NonStop clear of the competition.

However, when Fink touched on virtualization he touched a nerve with everyone in the audience. “Running on a virtual (environment) on a Linux,” Fink asked before adding, for those interested in the topic, “As an important proof point, we can absolutely get there.” Furthermore, looking at it a little differently, “Wouldn’t it be cool to bring the NonStop value proposition to Linux and bring to market (more) powerful hybrids – a powerful combination.” If there were to be a future for NonStop in clouds, for instance, then there has to be a future for NonStop atop a virtualized world.

Fink closed his keynote suggesting too that the NonStop community needed to consider the possibilities of a future where NonStop could be supplied as a service as well as NS SQL. Tantalizing, for sure, given the task of engineering NonStop to run on a variety of virtual machines atop of popular hypervisors – something that Fink alluded to as already happening deep within the NonStop engineering labs (as evidence of an important proof point being reached) – and yet surprising news all the same.

In the weeks that have followed Boot Camp I have been able to catch up with Andy Bergholz and if not immediately apparent to those attending Boot Camp, the source of much of Fink’s renewed enthusiasm for NonStop came about following discussions with Bergholz in the days leading up to Boot Camp. There have been numerous projects announced by HP in the years prior to the formation of HPE. Project Odyssey, Converged Infrastructure, and more recently, Composability and even the most recent announcement pertaining to Synergy and Docker. But the work on NonStop to firstly remove dependence on the hardware even as NonStop embraced the Intel x86 architecture has its roots in work done long before these projects received the attention in the press that they did.

“NonStop is not just about being independent of the hardware,” said Bergholz. “The goal for NonStop is to make it independent of the infrastructure; as we see it NonStop is above the infrastructure and our goal truly is to include within NonStop an infrastructure independence such that you can layer NonStop atop your choice of infrastructure.” As for markets, Bergholz acknowledged that “the ultimate goal of NonStop in a converged infrastructure market (so that) you can continue to buy NonStop systems and I want to be able to sell as wide as possible in terms of verticals. But there is another customer base that want to run clouds and NonStop needs to be able to run seamlessly across their chosen (cloud) infrastructure.”

And yes, they have NonStop running on top of at least one hypervisor without the need to add anything to the hypervisor and that, Bergholz added, “We have no plans to require changes to the virtual machine a customer selects even as we want to be able to run atop as many different virtual machines as may be out there.” Part of the work being done by NonStop development is to come up with a reference architecture whereby obvious configuration requirements will be provided – don’t configure two NonStop processors on the same CPU, for instance. “Our goal is for customers to fully understand the (likely fallout) from the configuration decisions they take.”

For some time now, the industry has accepted the definition by IDC, “the premier global provider of market research” of Availability Level 4 (AL4) and a reference to a level of availability only NonStop along with select implementation of IBM’s mainframe Parallel Sysplex can provide. Imagine a future virtualized environment, cloud or otherwise, where checking the box for AL4 brings with it the provisioning of a NonStop as a Service capability. Likewise, check the box for mixed workload SQL whereby tables can be simultaneously access online by transactions even as statistics are performed and the maintenance of tables is pursued, and NS SQL as a Service will also be provisioned.

For anyone who has been on a circuit competing with likeminded car enthusiasts, finding and maintaining the racers line is never an easy task. The challenge in doing so often calls for minute adjustments that take the car away from a preferred line but in so doing, the skilled driver can gain the upper hand. The course that has been followed of late by NonStop development hasn’t always been clear to the NonStop community but having been given the scoop on strategy, vision and now goals for NonStop, the picture is becoming a lot clearer. Avoiding potentially disastrous race-ending “incidents” is a priority for all racers and this is clearly something HPE engineering has been every bit as sensitive to as the most seasoned racer. And having said this, NonStop has picked the right line and it’s only clear track ahead!
 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

It’s time to give thanks …

As we focus on transformation of our data centers and consider hybrid computers along with clouds, once we are passed implementation then are we needed any longer? Will the prospect of driverless cars lead to unattended data centers and is this necessarily a bad thing?  


The turkey has been demolished along with all the trimmings and now it’s time to set about erecting the Christmas tree – or whatever it is that anchors your celebration at this time of year. Thanksgiving, Christmas and then the celebration of the New Year are always “cause for celebration” in our household. Over the past couple of years we have elected to escape the Colorado winter landscape in preference of something a little warmer but, with a growing tribe of grandchildren, all thoughts of escaping have been tabled for this year.

However, as I take the time to shake a martini, there’s still much that occupies my mind following the 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp even as I post to other blog sites and give webinars. My email inbox has been populated with some very interesting questions as the discussions I have started on LinkedIn have drawn more than one comment. The NonStop community can best be described as being anything but shy and I believe that remains one of the strengths of the community just as it’s a constant source of inspiration for new posts to this blog.

What stands out for me following Boot Camp is not just the growing complexity of our data centers as their transformation continues or even added intricacies that hybrid computing brings with it, but rather, the future of the data center operations teams. As I was often reminded, whenever it was my turn for a stint at the console more often than not it was with the explicit instruction, “don’t touch anything!” As a computer cadet in the early 1970s I had to rotate between writing code, shuffling tapes and card decks to storage outside the data center and yes, “watching the console” in case there were issues with the paper passing through what was still nothing more than an electric typewriter.

Being thankful for the turkey we roast is one thing and being thankful that our career choices took us into IT and with that, introduced us all to the NonStop system, is something we can be just as thankful about, but is it all about to change? Given just how much attention in the financial press pays to the intersection of business and technology and the transformation this is driving can we assume business people will become technologists with scant regard for the skills we possess? It was Meg Whitman, CEO at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who told the attendees at this year’s HP Discover in Las Vegas, “Every business is a technology business today.”

Whitman also referenced a report that had said, “IT strategy and business strategy are no longer separate, they have become inseparable.” To add even more weight to this observation, in the December 1, 2015, issue of Fortune Magazine, editor Alan Murray wrote of how, “John Deere, the 178-year-old tractor company, to stream real-time data on soil and crop conditions back to Monsanto headquarters.” He then added, “If John Deere is a tech company, who isn’t?” Both the remarks by Whitman and Murray made it into my most recent webinar and for a good reason; I see no lessening in the pace of transformation that is driving all companies into technology even as I see pure technologists becoming a dying breed.

AT 2015 HP Discover that was held in London last week, in an interview with the hosts of theCUBE (from the SiliconANGLE Media team) Antonio Neri, EVP and GM at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, gave us a little more information on the transformation HPE is help fueling. “The objective for HPE is to solve the issues that the enterprise is facing today, such as bridging the old to the new,” said Neri. “Deploying an infrastructure that is cloud ready, making the life of developers much easier and ultimately making a radical step forward in the way infrastructure should be provisioned deployed and managed.” True, this was an introduction to more information on what HPE now calls composability; “We think at the end of the day the enterprise has to become composable,” but it also places additional emphasis on technology that’s needed as we transform to become technology companies.  

My clients span a number of technologies and products but already I am beginning to see something similar to what is being talked about; every business is a technology business. With the work I do with Striim and the analytics the company performs on data streams in real time along with the work I do with IR and application monitoring, not forgetting the conversations I am having with comForte as they too look at adding to the depth of (security) defenses on offer, it’s all about dovetailing selections of data into processes looking for anomalies and patterns. It may be an oversimplification on my part, but we now have the power to see the needle even in a stack of needles – something I illustrated in a Boot Camp presentation on IoT when I referenced what Hertz was now doing when checking-in returning cars.

According to Hertz, “The Internet and new social media technologies have made consumers more connected, empowered and demanding. The average online user is three times more likely to trust peer opinions over retailer advertising.”  This drove Hertz to begin proactively scouring social media feeds whey they found out those patrons being transported back to an airport terminal had all the time in the world to blog about their experience. “Using a series of linguistic rules, the system categorizes comments received via email and online with descriptive terms, such as Vehicle Cleanliness, Staff Courtesy and Mechanical Issues,” Hertz reported. Adding how, “Automated tagging increased report consistency … and roughly doubled what the managers had achieved manually,” Hertz became more responsive to changing patron experiences as they happened, leading to greatly improved car return experiences.

Apply this to the oversight of myriad collections of applications supporting any business – with the technology now available is it reasonable to expect us, mere mortals, being capable of intervening in a timely manner and being consistent in all the responses we provide? I don’t think so. If there’s one thing I am sure about is that if a task needs human intervention then its ability to scale is questionable. After years of reacting to alarms and alerts, even with bigger dashboards giving us more of a clue as to the overall situation, surely it’s time to take us out of the loop?

The growing complexity of what is being introduced into the data center is only part of the problem as I see it. There’s something more fundamental at work here that compels me to give thanks over the imminent demise of the data center operator. At the same time my issue of Fortune magazine arrived so too did my issue of Motor Trend. In the January, 2016, issue of the Motor Trend editor Edward Loh wrote about autonomous cars and his recent experience at Google. When asked about a number of recent accidents involving Google’s self-driving car, “What has surprised me is the frequency, actually, of the number of times we’ve been rear ended … Humans are just not paying attention,” came the response from none other than Google founder, Sergey Brin.

“That’s not the end of the world,” added Brin, “but that speaks to the challenge, with all the phones and other distractions of our modern age, to drive. In those situations, the car is probably much better equipped to drive than the distracted human.” Exactly my perspective, too, on today’s contemporary computer systems including the latest NonStop X systems. Who can challenge that the latest NonStop X system is likely to be better equipped to handle any anomaly – particularly something involving multiple systems in a hybrid configuration – than a NonStop X system itself? Furthermore, and again at a more basic level, who can argue that even the most gifted systems manager or operator will not be distracted at the most inopportune time?

Is there a place for big data analytics, and in particular data stream analytics, in the real time world of transaction processing? Absolutely! And it’s only just the beginning of the era of pointing our own technology at ourselves – having the smarts to detect patterns as they emerge will be critical to the running of any data center including those where NonStop is present. Science fiction devotees have long known that space craft can only traverse space once the programming for the flight has been initiated – no pilot steers the ship once it’s jumped into hyperspace.  And as imaginative as this may sound there’s a recognizable element of truth about these actions.

Yes, NonStop systems are heading to where the trust we have in them will be commensurate with just how much we let NonStop systems manage themselves. It is great that, in these early stages of the transformation (of our IT), NonStop has the help from many of its partners. However, taking the operator out of the loop, in time, will be a given for many IT groups even as the focus of oversight moves to where it’s most needed – the managers of the business. If every business is a technology business as we now are coming to appreciate then every business manager is an operations manager. So yes, perhaps we still have much about which we can be truly thankful!