Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mall insights, and NonStop 2016 in review …

With the last post of 2016 we can look back at all the news surrounding NonStop systems and simply acknowledge just how quickly the world of NonStop is changing and yes, changing for the better …

Struggling to exit the local shopping mall with packages in both hands, as Margo and I left it almost to the very last day to finish our Christmas shopping, I took the opportunity this gave me to have a good look around at both the shops and their customers. So much has changed since I went back to strolling malls worldwide a decade or so ago – yes, I had lived in Edmonton, Alberta, as plans were being drawn up to build the West Edmonton Mall, pictured above and still the largest mall in North America (sorry, Minneapolis) – but after the birth of my daughter, Lisa, I found a Saturday morning filled with exploration and yes, of course, fresh donuts, an affable escape from normal routines.

The popularity of malls has ebbed and flowed through the years. Visitors to Silicon Valley who spent time at Tandem Computers will recall both Vallco Shopping and Valley Fair Malls and their trajectories couldn’t have been more opposite if they had tried. Vallco suffered a slow death whereas the mighty Westfield came in and completely resurrected Valley Fair and I can’t recall a trip back to Silicon Valley when I haven’t stopped by the Valley Fair Mall. As with much of what drives success today, those malls doing well have morphed into much more than a string of shops as they include food courts, many of which are now upscale eateries – think steakhouses, popular seafood restaurants and sushi bars – along with theater complexes and even gymnasiums. Someone in Texas will probably email to tell me that somewhere in the Lone Star State there’s a cathedral integrated with the local mall.

Looking back at the three months since the lead to Halloween, it’s as if the country has made a beeline to the mall at some point even as our shopping disposition has changed radically over the past few years. Our last minute visit to the mall only came about when the need arose to take a good look at a potential gift to check out it’s suitability for small children. All of our other shopping this year was done online and for the past week there have been almost daily deliveries of packages. With the combination of inclement weather and crowded parking lots it’s so much easier to shop with clicks than stroll through bricks and mortar. But again, looking back even further than just a couple of months, the number of mall closings hasn’t gone unnoticed and yet, there they stand. Changed in ways unimaginable but still capable of attracting crowds. Monuments to our need to watch fashions, check sizes, touch material and smell the aromas of freshly prepped meals.

When it comes to changes unimaginable, as I look back at the year that is coming to a close, for the NonStop community, 2016 has all been about speed and responsiveness. Traditional systems were being supplanted by alternate methods for computing. The cloud has arrived even if all the cloud really means to many CIOs is that the data center exists somewhere else and its oversight is now someone else’s problem. The arrival of clouds has brought a renewed sense that costs have to be brought under control and that there is a limit to just how much business will pay for systems, software and services. The recent spin-mergers announced by HPE are just a reflection of a return to focus and that generalization and multipurpose aren’t cutting it any more. Even longstanding practices of outsourcing are coming under increased scrutiny as 2016 has represented a period of re-thinking as cloud operators put outsourcing practices under the microscope.

For me, the highlights for 2016 have been many and varied with the most obvious change being the return to favor of user events. The two big events that brought this into perspective were BITUG and Boot Camp. I attended both and it was hard to miss the enthusiasm of all who participated and if you wanted to catch the action, it was always on the exhibition floor no matter how big or small that area was. Of course, there was HPE Discover 2016 in Las Vegas and that didn’t disappoint – the general sessions were all well attended and the background music was more appropriate this year – but over the years it has become purely a HPE marketing “big tent” event and not necessarily a priority for the NonStop community.

It was at Boot Camp that the community was given a brief peek into the future – virtual NonStop (vNonStop) running on a simple commercially available off-the-shelf pair of x86 servers, with Ethernet for the interconnect fabric. If traditional systems were on the way out here, sitting on a table, was possibly one future for NonStop. Maybe not inside the data center but certainly a candidate for consideration for developers, testers and those needing to pilot new applications. Not forgetting that with IoT and the need for edge products, there may be good reasons to begin thinking that x86 servers will start showing up on the edge. As we come to realize that some sensor events are more important than others, fault tolerance will become more relevant and could lead to yet another sea-change with the mission for NonStop.

IoT included in NonStop presentations was a highlight for me as I have had a strong premonition of late that we haven’t really understood all that deploying edge products entail. If a big box retailer fully digitizes the pricing of its entire store and integrates it with their supply chain, down to individual items, than events will be coming thick and fast with many of these events important enough to warrant the presence of fault tolerance. Does an entire retail store warrant edge products as is being promoted right now – again, it’s all a matter of perspective. In a paper to be published shortly, Top 20 Predictions for 2016, by CTO and Cofounder at Striim, Steve Wilkes, that I reference in an upcoming post to the Striim blog, you will read “IoT Platforms will grow in strength and capability incorporating device registration, management and communication features as well as integration, analytics and machine learning.”

According to Steve, “Simple IoT use cases such as the real-time tracking of the movement of people or packages via geolocation and time windowing will become prevalent across healthcare, travel, manufacturing and logistics.” Steve also notes how, in order for timely responses, “Reliability and security concerns will push real-time analytics to edge locations for IoT. This will become evident through connected cars, home IoT hubs, retail store-based gateways and other localized technology. Anonymized data will be pushed to the cloud for deeper analytics.” Reliability eh? I feel the need for fault tolerance in ways I haven’t felt for many years!

NonStop SQL also is making a huge comeback and has made significant strides in its return to center stage in the database arena. There is clearly an emerging division in database offerings with so much discussion centered on data lakes, operational stores, and OLAP. Analytics is on an unstoppable march and will impact every touch point we maintain with customers. But online transaction processing, or OLTP, is still a requirement and when it comes to recording a transaction without any possible interruption in our 24 X 7 world, NonStop SQL now has no peer. Watch for some really big deployments of NonStop SQl in the coming year and watch too, just how much advantage of NonStop SQL HPE itself makes as it further evolves its own transaction processing models. 

Getting to clouds and pushing out to the edge will also see transformation within the central hub – be it a hybrid of a traditional data center with private clouds or fully public cloud based. Making it real simple to integrate NonStop with private (and shortly, I am predicting, public) clouds just makes sense for NonStop development to pursue and already we see the benefits that can come from having NonStop X systems connected to open platforms at the interconnect fabric level. We saw this being demonstrated all year and I am predicting too that in 2017 we will see some sizable solutions vendors capitalize on such features, with OmniPayments being at the fore of such a possibility. And did you see the performance demo late Monday night at Boot Camp – just how well NonStop scales out was showcased by OmniPayments pushing past 5,000 tps and certainly, another highlight for me as I look back at 2016.

Successful malls are reinventing themselves as they work hard to address the changing needs of society. In cities where environments are extreme – think not just of Edmonton but Singapore, the Middle East and yes, Florida, being able to stroll some place warm (or cool) continues to entice many of us from our homes. Shopping will not be the only option at future malls but in essence, they are taking over from the village green. Mix in the pub, a church or two, some light-hearted entertainment and a place to entertain the kids for a few hours and you have history repeating itself. And so too for NonStop. The world of IoT and Analytics is going to need databases both OLAP and OLTP as it will demand fault tolerance all the way to the edge and even as it will demand high performance at reduced cost and in 2016, we all saw for ourselves, NonStop delivered. As for 2017, I just cannot wait to see how this all is applied as the ball has now been passed to solutions providers and I am expecting to read more about the rollout of the new NonStop throughout the coming year.

Happy New Year and bring on 2017!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Extremes of weather, locations and systems and yes, NonStop too relishes extremes!

It’s in the very DNA of NonStop – you want extreme availability, scalability and yes extreme performance and now SQL? Then you got it! And NonStop could prove extremely beneficial for you …

Staring out the back window of our family room what greeted me was a chilled landscape. Overnight the temperatures had dropped some 30 to 40 degrees from the day before. The poolside chairs seemed to be looking on forlornly at a pool and spa no longer serving any purpose. For more than 15 years we have come to expect chilly weather, but this year, with the return of that dreaded Polar Vortex, the overnight lows are having us checking the plumbing each morning to ensure pipes haven’t frozen even as we have raised the thermostats setting. What is depicted above is Boulder, Colorado shivering in -2 degrees, Fahrenheit.  

Texting our good friends in southern California brought us little sympathy. Even though they had been out on the coast celebrating a boating festival, when they returned home they felt compelled to remind us why so many people prefer southern California at this time of year. Taken only a few hours later than my own photo the difference couldn’t be more extreme. Palm trees, clear skies and just out of sight, a grill and bar about to be put to good use as “grillin’ time” had arrived. If all goes to plan in a matter of weeks, Margo and I will be joining our friends, poolside, with thoughts of shivering on chilly Boulder mornings all but forgotten.

Temperature extremes, just a thousand miles apart, are something the good citizens of the U.S. grow accustomed to and there are reasons why so many of them have winter homes in the Sunbelt states. It’s also one reason put forward as to why Silicon Valley continues to be the engine of technology, disruption and innovation. It’s a lot easier to step away from your office and walk to a nearby coffee shop when you don’t have to dress like it’s an Arctic expedition. There may be the occasional moisture-laden breeze blowing in through the Santa Cruz cutting but it’s nothing compared to what much of the rest of the country has to endure and the correlation between warmth and creativity cannot be easily discounted. The once mighty technology engine along route 128 circling Boston used to be competitive to Silicon Valley but those days are long gone and I put much of the discontent that arose at companies dotting both sides of that highway, down to Boston’s miserable winters.

Many years ago I predicted Australia’s Gold Coast as having the potential to be a smaller version of Silicon Valley. My premise was based on there being a great climate, a university nearby albeit a private endeavor about which I have heard little since – Bond University. A major metropolis just up the road in Brisbane and of course, there’s the motion picture studios we heard so much about this year given the restrictions the rest of us have to observe when bringing out pet pouches into the country. According to news releases, late in November, 2016, the “The Queensland Government established Defense Industries Queensland to help create a smart, connected and efficient defense sector within the state.”

Unfortunately, even with the key ingredients of a thriving defense industry, a university and really good weather, the article I wrote for Computerworld was among only a few submissions I made that never saw the light of day. As I had written the article while living in Silicon Valley, the only response I received from this publication’s editor echoed much of the sentiment in Australia at the time, “you must be dreaming!” And yet, there is no hiding the growing expectations of many cities across the globe that they too will be the next Silicon Valley. On the other hand Silicon Valley with its universities, warm weather and proximity to multiple government agencies is really more than the sum of the parts and as such is seen today as the engine behind extreme disruptions. 

When it comes to extremes it would be hard to ignore just how extreme NonStop continues to be – after so many decades have passed, extreme availability and indeed extreme scale out, remain the cornerstones of NonStop systems today. From every corner of the globe have come attempts to build systems almost as good as NonStop, but over time, they have all faded into the background. Perhaps the biggest complement being paid to NonStop today is that modern server farms allow individual servers to fail with what constitutes a modern day load-balancing algorithm that redistributes the workload even as transactions come to a halt and data is lost.

I know as I have experienced it many times with the only explanation provided by the site that there has been an error, and, can you start over? Whether it’s an ecommerce transaction or simply posting to a blog, not a week goes by without being informed I have to go back to the start and re-enter because what I had been doing didn’t complete. And yes, the dreaded “unexpected error” message is always heartwarming as it is highly informative. Whenever I mention this to my peers unfamiliar with NonStop the only response I get is that well, get over it. Get back to work!

To say that when working with applications running on NonStop, they keep me working, may be a bit extreme but the sentiment isn’t lost on anyone familiar with NonStop. Perhaps the single most important aspect of NonStop that is so often overlooked is the extent to which NonStop development has gone to ensure backward compatibility. If you wrote if for a NonStop 1, you can still run it today. Try explaining this to your friends submitting to open source projects. And a fully operational mixed workload RDBMS and SQL where maintenance can be performed without taking down the database.


If you missed the post of October 2, 2015,
How many DBAs does it take to change a light-bulb should it not be NonStop? you may recall this quote. “We update statistics and query plans on a monthly basis, for most objects and we do it on the fly!” Rob Lesan, formerly of AOL and now part of the vendor community, confirmed all of the above before adding “maintenance? Truly, we run reorgs, statistics, splits, column adds, etc. all without taking anything down. It’s the NonStop fundamentals!” Talk about extreme SQL well, it doesn’t get more extreme than this – show this to your Oracle or SQL Server DBAs and see what conversation then develops. 

Furthermore, as HPE IT embraces NonStop SQL/MX and looks to deploy as a DBaaS, it’s not because they have to as in NonStop SQL/MX is a HPE product, but rather, the advantages that come with NonStop SQL/MX simply make alternatives a nonstarter. Like the majority of stakeholders in the NonStop community, it will be an interesting year ahead for everyone as we watch and wait for more news coming out of HPE IT on this major undertaking and I am sure those of the NonStop community making it to HPE Discover 2017 in Las Vegas will be looking forward to hearing more about this project.

If you want to think more about extremes, just think that HPE acknowledged they had 25,000 databases that they supported. If NonStop SQL/MX reduces this count by 20% or even 30% think of how many licenses to vendors apart from HPE can be retired. But again, this all comes back to the innovation that went into NonStop – looking at every aspect of the full NonStop stack, from the metal to the user interface, to ensure there is no single point of failure with no requirement to ever kill a process. And today with active-active data replication solutions readily available for NonStop two, three, five and more centers can be integrated to the point where even forklift upgrades can be seamlessly accommodated with zero downtime. Extreme? You have to believe it; nothing “steady as you go” or even “middle of the road” when it comes to NonStop.

As a society we are often wary of extremes. When it’s really cold we stay indoors. On the other hand, when it’s particularly conducive to imaginative blue-sky dreaming, oftentimes we find ourselves drawn to such environments. Silicon Valley is extreme. NonStop is extreme. That NonStop was created in Silicon Valley is understandable. Perhaps as NonStop X and vNonStop enter the mainstream a larger proportion of the user community will come to realize that systems don’t have to break and applications don’t have to go down and that service can be provided 24 X 7 without interruption. Extreme? You bet, but then again, shouldn’t technology that we value, as all about us undergoes change, be extreme? Or, am I still just dreaming?       

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Will “The Machine” be everywhere? Is there a plan for NonStop?

Progress continues to be made on The Machine with the first working prototype unveiled at HPE Discover 2016 (London). Could future NonStop hybrid systems leverage future iterations of The Machine?

This week I came across an article in, of all things, Composites Worlds. It was in response to a Google search for technology appearing in manufacturer’s prototypes that eventually is adopted within existing product lines. The article began with, “Already used in series production of structural carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) parts for BMW’s (Munich, Germany) i3 and i8 models, high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) is viewed by some as new technology. To others, it is merely modernization of early RTM processes, like that used to build Dodge Viper parts 25 years ago!”

In several auto magazines it has already been highlighted that perhaps the single most important outcome of the development of the hybrid BMW i8 was not the new power unit but the fine-tuning of the almost-continuous forming process for carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. Once the dominant material for exotic and super-expensive F1 and Indy cars, where lightweight and strenght influenced the choice of materials, mastering this manufacturing process (as evidently BMW has now done) is likely to prove a game changer for BMW.

This past week HPE Discover 2016 (for Europe) was held in London. While much of the material presented was a repeat of the HPE Discover 2016 (for Americas) held in Las Vegas the attendees in London were given a more complete update on The Machine. I happened to be in the audience in Las Vegas back in June 2014 when then HPE CTO, Martin Fink, first unveiled the HP Labs project that would lead to the manufacturing of The Machine and I was among the crowd that sensed an imminent sea change in the design of the computers that had been in use for half a century. So this update on The Machine was as interesting to me as was the article on mastering the production of carbon fiber-reinforce plastic! 


And why? Repositioning memory and moving it to the center of a computer while pushing the processing to the periphery, all while upping the amount of memory that would be in the center (no need to think of storage hierarchies), and then relying on optics / photons for super-fast access, well, it doesn’t get much better than this! As the news broke about The Machine in the summer of 2014, I published the post
This changes everything! and at that time I remarked that when Martin Fink walked us through the technology all you needed to remember was that “electrons compute, photons communicate, and ions store.”

Furthermore, I also observed how The Machine was essentially going to be four projects – the development of the special purpose processors, the photonics and the massive memory as well as a new clean-sheet operating system and stack and how, with the announcement of The Machine, it would carry the hopes of HPE for the next 25 years. At the conclusion of Martin’s reveal back in 2014, HP CEO, Meg Whitman, then told all present in the auditorium, “This changes everything!” But will it change everything, really? Or has The Machine become little more than a much-hyped “concept” and a “styling exercise” similar to what we so often see at car shows.

Through the years I have attended many car shows from London, to Sydney to LA and even Denver. And I have to admit that oftentimes, I made my way to these futuristic displays highlighting where auto manufacturers were devoting their resources. It’s also rather serendipitous that the Composites World article at the top of this post referenced the Dodge Viper and the BMW i8, as car shows influenced me to buy the Viper a few years ago just as they influenced me to buy the i8.

However, having admitted to how easily I am influenced by car companies’ concept cars, I see a lot of similarities with HPE and The Machine. HPE has continued to invest in The Machine even when much of the industry remained unconvinced that the project would lead to The Machine changing everything. And yet, here we are, two plus years later, and HPE has unveiled the first working prototype of The Machine. In reality it was a hybrid utilizing rather unique, and clearly “prototype”, packaging.

There was no evidence of memristors present in this package. The picture at the top of this post was included in the November 29, 2016, article in The Register,
RIP HPE's The Machine product, 2014-2016: We hardly knew ye. While I am not a big fan of this publication or of the flamboyant nature of its reporting, nevertheless, it is widely read and has often included coverage of NonStop systems. More importantly, the article did include a couple of useful PowerPoint slides that were part of the update provided in London.



I have since talked to a number of HPE senior managers in marketing and development and it’s very important to recall the mission of The Machine. With the headlong rush into analytics, big data and IoT the volume and velocity of data was going to stretch the boundaries of conventional processing to the limits and beyond. Already, experts were dialing back our expectations telling us we couldn’t expect to process all the data and yet, with The Machine, the simple response was, “why not?” The intersection between real time analytics and online transaction processing was nearing reality and for the NonStop community, this intersection now looks to be close at hand.

And yet, in time, even with filtering hierarchies “lightweight, as well as heavy,” the sheer velocity of data arriving at our data centers is going to push the boundaries of conventional computing not only past accepted limits (the end of Moore’s Law) but generate considerable headshaking about just what we could do next (the end of
von Neumann architecture). With the prototype of The Machine demonstrating an increase in performance that was 8,000 times that of existing computers, suddenly these headshakers had something to consider and we can only assume 8,000 times is just the beginning. And yet, will this prototype carry over into production and will transactional systems like NonStop have an opportunity to leverage the properties of The Machine?


It is this last bullet point on the HPE slide above that The Register reproduced that had me rethinking much of what I had expected from The Machine. While it proved to be the lead-in for further speculation, on the part of The Register, for me it simply reinforced a belief I have held for some time. Could a hybrid comprising NonStop with an instance of some derivative of The Machine lead to better integration between the world of transaction processing and analytics? Could a hybrid of vNonStop treat an instance of The Machine as a specialty co-processor – one with unlimited memory capable of handling the biggest in-memory database?

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t heard of any NonStop user considering such a hybrid configuration. Indeed I haven’t heard of any user experiencing any problems with the performance of NonStop X. In fact, when it comes to NonStop X I have been hearing the exact opposite – how can we capitalize on all the added performance on offer today? Furthermore, with vNonStop coming to market in the near future, NonStop will have a lot more opportunities to capitalize on all the cores on offer where there’s potential to eke out even more performance.

As we come to understand more about The Machine, we know it isn’t leveraging an x86 architecture so there’s no prospect of NonStop running on The Machine. Analytics should run really well on any derivative of The Machine even as NonStop will run well on NonStop X and with vNonStop, on any x86 server. OLAP meets OLTP – it may be an oversimplification but the world of analytics is intersecting with transaction processing. And let’s not forget that this may play well to those in the NonStop community already deploying Striim, for instance

So, what does The Machine really bring to the table for today’s NonStop user? NonStop still needs to find ways to attract more solutions to NonStop even as NonStop needs to convince a much broader community that it’s really easy to consume NonStop in terms of adding NonStop key attributes to their solutions with little to no additional effort. The work NonStop development has underway with NS SQL/MX to make it compatible with Oracle for instance, is adding considerable value to the NonStop value proposition. None of these programs draws from The Machine in any way and yet, I am still left to wonder, should we still concern ourselves with what HPE tells us about The Machine?

On the other hand, don’t be dissuaded from following progress on The Machine by what has appeared in The Register as other news correspondents have proved to be more upbeat about the future of The Machine. As a concept there is still a long way to go and for the NonStop community, it’s more a case of looking over our shoulders at what may show up in products by 3PAr, Aruba, and even high-end High Performance Computing.  

In the December 6, 2016, article in Forbes magazine,
HPE Discover London 2016: Company Did What They Needed To Do, its reporter Patrick Moorhead told his readers that as, “Whitman wrapped up Day 1’s General Session with the announcement that HPE had successfully demoed the first memory-driven computing architecture - the Machine is now officially in prototype mode. This is a really big deal as I can count hundreds of detractors who said that would never happen and that what they did was so hard to do.”

According to Moorhead, Whitman told the attendees that “HPE’s roadmap for the next several years would include the incorporation of various Machine technologies (such as silicon photonics, advanced non-volatile memory, and memory fabric) into HPE’s portfolio. She went on to say that HPE is also taking steps to, in her words, ‘future proof’ their new product lines, so that they will be able to continue incorporating the new technology as it develops.”

Furthermore, Moorhead saw “The Machine has enabled HPE to build an IP war chest which can be valuable in many ways … As I said in the introduction, HPE didn’t have to say everything, but they said what they needed to say. I’m encouraged by the focus and innovation I’ve seen demonstrated at the past several Discover events—I’ll continue to follow with interest.” And if The Machine is all about reinforcing yet another image of innovation within HPE then I can’t really argue with that.

We may not see The Machine anytime soon other than as a concept on display in exhibition halls. But there may be some potential to leverage aspects of The Machine as they become available – could we see a specialty co-processor that’s akin to a (really big) CLIM in NonStop’s future? If not CLIM, per se, a follow-on to Moonshot? I am not going to rule out such a possibility and the good news for NonStop? When it comes to game-changers within HPE then, as a community, we do need to think seriously about how far we have come with NonStop in such a very short time and as we think more deeply about NonStop then perhaps we can see that we already have our game changer. And it’s NonStop!

Monday, November 28, 2016

A last look at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2016

From the many activities listed in the NonStop Technical Boot Camp program there were presentations, panels and social events that I really liked. Each of them added a big exclamation point to the value proposition from attending this event …

Margo and I have always loved to travel even as we have always loved to entertain and there have been many miles covered in the years since leaving Tandem Computers even as there have been many good times around our BBQ and alongside our pool. In many ways, the willingness of Margo and I to entertain at our home have defined us to the community as looking back through Facebook and the social blog posts we have made, there is rarely a comment passed that hasn’t included some references to the fun times we have had.  If you were an ITUG volunteer or even an ITUG Board member not to mention a SHARE volunteer or SHARE Board member, you will remember the times you may have spent in our company.

All of this is by way of introduction to the fondness Margo and I have for all gatherings of the NonStop community – today's users of technology are often accused of adding fuel to a legacy model for networking but if that’s true, then Margo and I will willingly take some of the blame. But networking is just such a powerful communications tool that has so many side benefits that there is little chance of us ever scaling back on our willingness to continue sponsoring such gathering.

This past NonStop Technical Boot Camp was perhaps a strong reminder for us all just how much the NonStop community warms to the occasion and it’s such a great feeling to have as we left the venue knowing that in 2017 there will likely be even more attendees than this year – NonStop sales are growing at double digit pace so wouldn’t it be good to see future NonStop user events enjoying a similar level of growth.

What really captured my attention and what did Margo and I enjoy most at this year’s event? From presentations to workshops to panels to social events, there was a lot of good material from which to pull stories and there will still be many more written before the year winds down. However, what has been on my mind has been a mixture of social occasions, a panel session and yes, real user presentations.

Oftentimes, the networking opportunities that arise at events like Boot Camp are discounted and more or less relegated to the nice-to-enjoy bucket but they are valuable for determining what’s really going on across the NonStop community. I have touched on this in previous posts to this blog so won’t be revisiting the topic other than to start out with saying one of the highlights of this year’s Boot Camp was a farewell dinner comForte held for Dr. Michael Rossbach.

Michael has been a good friend of the community for many years and has been a strong advocate for user events ever since I began attending ITUG Summits and associated RUG meetings. He has stepped in numerous times to help out financially ensuring comForte always had a presence and over time, of course, this served him well as he saw comForte develop as one of the more influential partners within the NonStop vendor community.

The photo above was taken of Michael with his brother Knut on one of those occasions when we entertained clients at our home. At the time I snapped the photo I wasn’t sure what the topic was that they were discussing but it looked serious and that is one of the few times I have seen such intensity – Michael has always been a warm and friendly host whenever he has entertained guests and Margo and I wish him all the best for his retirement even as we will miss his presence at events like Boot Camp.

Networking of a different kind saw me participate on a small panel where the topic was services. Following the news from HPE that NonStop was now enjoying its second year of double-digit growth, a revelation to many of the attendees at Boot Camp, the topic of this panel session was how would companies manage to staff up to support the deployment of more NonStop systems as well as more applications on NonStop. Where was the knowledge going to come from as we entered a new era with virtual NonStop (vNonStop) capturing market share.

It is easy for HPE’s own IT to deploy vNonStop and to implement NonStop SQL on the basis of a new DBaaS offering – they had all the NonStop skills they would ever need just across the hall (or across the ocean) inside of the NonStop development team. But this is not the case for everyone else and coming at a time where there is a record number of retirements together with limited educational programs (and simply not offered in many regions) – how will access to skilled NonStop personnel grow in numbers commensurate with the double-digit growth in NonStop sales?

TCM Solutions led off the session with an aptly named presentation, Adapt or Die! A tad draconian for some tastes but it made the point that the audience agreed upon – there’s a compelling story behind the growth in companies providing managed services. TCM happens to be one such provider and they have found a willing market in Europe even as they plan on entering other regions, including North America. The questions that were directed my way during this session had mostly to do with whether or not there was a way to tap into the presence of a very knowledgeable and all together willing work force of retirees, all looking to continue to provide support. 

The shortest and simplest answer from me was to contact your nearest managed services vendor – something that the folks from TCM were only too willing to acknowledge. As enthusiastic as I am about another generation of NonStop supporters coming into the marketplace – something I acknowledged in a discussion I started in the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop simply called
NonStop "young guns" (If as yet you haven’t joined this LinkedIn group – you may want to consider doing so) I also have a great deal of respect for the knowledge and experience brought to the table by the retirees, many of whom did not really seek the opportunity to go fishing, but were persuaded with high payouts….

Managed services providers will see a major uptick in interest by NonStop users in the coming year and a half particularly as we see vNonStop making inroads into the data centers of the biggest NonStop users. However, existing solutions and middleware software vendors are already taking a serious look at either partnering with existing managed services providers or complementing their product offerings with Software-as-a-Service out of cloud computing environments they create.

One of the more compelling reasons to attend events like Boot Camp is to hear from other NonStop users who are deploying new solutions on NonStop. With double-digit growth, there has to be quite a number of them but even after hearing how well AsiaPac / Japan has done in terms of adding “new logos” it’s very important to hear from users a lot closer to home. OmniPayments supported two such presentations – Banco Agrario replaces Unix-based financial transaction switch with NonStop X solution which saw a new NonStop X system installed, and Casa Ley select new loyalty rewards program on HPE NonStop which excited me just as much.

Adding a second or third application onto an already installed NonStop systems is a healthy situation. As Craig Lawrance, VP New Business Development EMEA, OmniPayments, Inc., reminded me after the event, “End-user presentations created discussions which were hugely positive. To my way of thinking, every HPE field member should have been in that room after all, they want new Nonstop customers, right?” Following these user presentations OmniPayments hosted a late night “Nightcap” for attendees where they provided a live demo highlighting just how many transactions can flow through an OmniPayments switch.

According to OmniPayments VP Client Services, Jessica Nieves, “The NonStop System used for the demo was a NonStop X NS7 X1 featuring 6
quad-core CPUs. OmniPayments was configured to run in four of them while our simulators were configured to run on the other two. We sent over five million purchase transactions to OmniPayments and we exceeded 5,000tps. The CPUs were only running at half capacity while the average response time remained around 4ms. Shortly, there will be a video becoming available that describes this demo and I will let everyone know the moment that happens.”

Looking back at Boot Camp 2016 and at the presentations, panels and social events where I was present, they all reminded me of just how far NonStop has come in a very short span of time. The references here to comForte, TCM and OmniPayments are just a few examples from many that I could have featured when it comes to the variety of sessions that made up this event. I hope that as Boot Camp continues to grow, there will be many more I can reference in future posts.

Recalling the early days of Boot Camp going back to 2010 or was it 2009 when a NonStop-centered event was given a reboot, they were very humble beginnings indeed. And even as I wrap up this post, the final in the series on Boot Camp, I have to admit I am really looking forward to the return event which in 2017 will be held on Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco and I hope to see even more of you in attendance as that date rolls around!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

vNonStop – coming to a desktop near you!

NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2016 wrapped up a few days ago but with the start of a new week, it’s still very fresh in our minds. Did it meet all your expectations? Does the future of NonStop look bright for you? There are still many more questions but at least now we have so many more answers than ever before …

The NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2016 wrapped up last week and it left all attendees with much to think about. Not the least because attendance was, once again, up from the same event last year – more than 450 enthusiastic members from the NonStop community. And yes, there were plenty of NonStop users in the audience, which is a very healthy sign for all involved in organizing the event. My congratulations go out to every individual who in any way contributed to making sure the event went off without a hitch. More importantly, for those pondering the future of NonStop well, what can we say - the future now looks bright!

It was an easy drive for Margo and me this year – no sudden snowstorm in the Sierras and no road closures in the Rockies. We chose to take the northern route from Boulder, Colorado, that took us through Wyoming and then in to Utah and it proved easy going. It also gave us lots of time to speculate on what we might see and hear at the event as we drove westward to San Jose even as it gave us more than enough time on the return trip to Boulder to dissect what was actually said at the event. On the way over we were concerned whether it would be more of the same – generalities with soft dates but it didn’t go that way. On our way back it was more a case of now what! NonStop was staging a comeback unlike any of us had anticipated just a few short years ago.

Comeback? Seriously, NonStop re-energizing marketplaces? NonStop going virtual! NonStop inside the clouds! NonStop on the Edge! NonStop supporting Blockchain! There were moments during the event where Margo and I heard the very distinct sounds of an audience inhaling noticeably with surprise. As optimistic as I have been through the years – I’ve always been the “glass is half full” kind of guy when it comes to anything to do with NonStop – it’s clear that whatever restraints had been placed on NonStop have been well and truly cut. It’s now only up to the imagination of solutions vendors to find the boundaries of the new NonStop and even then, they will be hard to find. Just as importantly, it’s up to HPE marketing and sales to communicate a consistent message to the marketplace - #NonStopRocks!

Last year, it was all about Yuma and InfiniBand (IB) and the potential to couple NonStop with Linux in Hybrid Systems configurations, with just a side reference to the potential for NonStop to find a home as a guest of a virtual machine. Since then, Yuma has been productized as NSADI – NonStop Application Direct Interface – with middleware and solutions vendors openly discussing early adoption. One workshop, jointly conducted by comForte and DataExpress actually provided insights into what performance can be expected from using NSADI even as they openly admitted that there was even more work to be done before the real performance characteristics could be ascertained. When comparing IB to regular TCP/IP (over Ethernet and with CLIMs), the image that was presented was akin to comparing a multilane freeway with a well-paved two lane highway. Fill as many lanes as you can possibly do with IB and it looks as thought the performance scales linearly.

This year, it was all about virtualization and the likely impact of Industrial IoT (IIoT). These messages were introduced by Randy Meyer, VP & GM Mission Critical Systems at HPE, who began by quoting HPE CEO, Meg Whitman. "If you can't name the problem, you have no hope of fixing it," she said and something that was repeated in an article published late last year in Business Insider and even with its roots in organizational aspects of HPE it applies equally to product development. For the NonStop community this has particular relevance – and yes, there are always risks in taking the initiative – providing virtual NonStop (vNonStop) has its roots in real needs arising in the telco industry (who want to virtualize everything) but also in the very real needs of HPE IT.

The photo above is of two servers, each with two sockets housing Xeon x86 chips with 14 cores running OpenStack software, including the KVM hypervisor. Providing the fabric interconnect was a Converged Ethernet switch supported by RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). All off the shelf hardware and as you can tell, sitting atop a desk. The coffee cup beside the fully functioning vNonStop system gives you a good idea of just how much room these DL380 Gen 9 physical servers takes up and while a far cry from anything an enterprise might consider using in a production environment, just about every developer who saw the system wanted one to take home. Development, testing and QA as well as staging and piloting would all be good candidates for similar configurations and I fully anticipate such configurations entering the marketplace in the first half of calendar 2017.

Just as relevant and very timely was the keynote presentation given by former Tandem Computers leader, Dr. Tim Chou, who titled his presentation Precision Planet. Focused on IIoT, Tim walked the audience through the major transition from the Internet of People to the Internet of Things giving us all an appreciation that things aren’t people! Already there are more things connected than people and it’s only going to skew even more favorably for things versus people with the passage of time. “Things can be where people can’t (be)! Things have (way) more to say! Things can talk more frequently! Things can be programmed, people can’t!” And yes, Tim introduced us all to the prospect of a future with considerable “Digital Exhaust” and on the drive back to Boulder, never out of site of eighteen wheelers, this image of digital exhaust never left us.

Will there be a role for NonStop out on the edge? Will HPE provide Edgeline products capable of running NonStop? With the addition of new Edgeline products supporting Xeon and capitalizing on Moonshot packaging, we will soon adopt to IoT edge solutions that are both lightweight (buried in walls, etc.) as well as heavier weight servers spread throughout the network performing real time analytics. Of course, this plays well to the team at Striim and after meeting with Sami Akbay, EVP & Cofounder at WebAction, Inc. (the company behind Striim), “it’s really a different kind of analytics that’s taking place out at the edge – light or heavy – but one that the NonStop community should be very familiar with as it’s real time and transaction centric.” Perhaps those HPE solutions architects involved in very early stage consideration of NonStop on the Edge have something going for them after all!

Real breakthroughs with NonStop and more importantly, real breakthroughs in addressing customer problems – yes, we have plenty of business problems we could name and where NonStop could be a solution – provided plenty of material with which to work and as the week unfolded, I was able to post numerous times to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View. If you missed any of these posts, they have been summarized (with links to all of them) in a new post to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse. Check out: The week in review – a successful NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2016 or cut and past this link into your browser: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/week-review-successful-nonstop-technical-boot-camp-2016-buckle?trk=mp-author-card For each of these posts I included words from songs current and past as it’s just something I tend to do – see if you make the same connection with these popular lyrics as I did.

As Boot Camp came to the last night, there was a Reception and Casino night held on what had been the exhibition floor. Suddenly transformed into a fun venue where attendees could pursue their favorite Casino game whether Roulette, Craps, or BlackJack trying their best to bluff their fellow gamblers, it provided a much needed lighthearted forum for further networking. All the while, it was hard to ignore that vNonStop system we all had seen running in the corner of the exhibition hall. There was no faking or bluffing going on here among the HPE NonStop team – this was the real deal and a completely new approach to supporting NonStop that has all the potential in the world to take NonStop in a completely new direction.

And of course, seeing it on the floor of the Reception and Casino venue, it would have been hard for any of the attendees not to think of the lines from the Bog Seeger song of the 1980s, Still the Same:

A gambler's share
The only risk that you would take
The only loss you could forsake
The only bluff you couldn't fake

At a time when there is news of Global Temperatures Are Mostly Fake and of Record Crushing Fraud From NOAA And NASA after reports of readings from non-existent sensors, covering half the planet, were revealed and a situation that “would get them fired and probably escorted out of the building by security at many engineering companies.” And yes, at the same time, news too came of Facebook having released Inflated Ad Metrics, Fake News at about the same time that the U.S. population began to suspect data may have been faked with election polls in the lead up to the election, it’s good to see that vNonStop hasn’t been faked in any way – getting HPE to show its hand may likely get you vNonStop on x86 servers in ways we could have only dreamed about just a short time ago. And yes, it may even be coming to a desktop near you very soon!

Monday, November 7, 2016

There’s power in networking; NonStop community does it better than most!

Even as we scan the agenda and sessions-at-a-glance for next week’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp, the opportunities for networking remain high on the list of priorities for most attendees. And for a good reason – networking is the cultural heart of the NonStop community and shouldn’t be missed! 

The first Saturday of each month sees a gathering of car enthusiast at our local coffee shop. What shows up on any given Saturday can be anything from a rusty 1950s coupe to a  fully restored 1960s muscle car to a couple of full-on race cars. The Corvettes depicted above are from a nearby racing school, appropriately enough called GO4IT, and they are regular attendees at our local race track, the High Plains Raceway. Seeing the crowd that gathered around these two cars was a reminder of how it takes very little to attract car enthusiasts even as it also reminded me that networking among car enthusiasts is ultimately the major draw card as ownership of many of the cars on show changes hands with some regularity. 

While presenting at CTUG last month I opened with a couple of slides featuring blog posts and online commentaries and invariably one of the posts in the collage that was projected included a picture of a car. When I attempted to apologize for yet another car photo the audience responded with a chuckle or two before someone responded with “we like to see the cars!” As it’s been a couple of posts since I featured any car I felt it was perhaps timely to do so as the focus of almost everyone in the NonStop community this week is the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp. If the sight of many cars can be the draw card for networking among car enthusiasts then there is no bigger draw card that attracts networking among the NonStop community than Boot Camp.

From its earliest days, Tandem Computers valued networking. In fact, the original Friday afternoon beer bust on the Tandem campus in Cupertino, California, originated as a means for everyone to engage in open dialogue, no matter where they stood on the corporate ladder. Jimmy could be seen talking to a developer even as Dave Rynne or Bob Marshall could be seen talking to someone from manufacturing. Coming from Australia, the first time I made it to Friday beer bust I instantly warmed up to the practice as Australians had enjoyed informal beer busts as a means of enhancing communication for quite a long time. To see it formalized the way it was at Tandem left everyone who ever participated with a very positive impression about the level to which Tandem would go to encourage all employees to network.

Over the years, the NonStop community too has integrated beer busts into the many user events that were held around the world and at this year’s Boot Camp, it comes as no surprise that first up, Sunday night, starting at 6:00 pm, there will be the official Boot Camp Kickoff Beer Bust that to many will be a priority. I can think of no better way to start networking than over a couple of beers, especially as it follows a number of very interesting pre-conference workshops.

Want to know who’s really been testing and leveraging the NonStop Application Direct Interface (NSADI that, as of last year, what had been previously called the Yuma project) then join the workshop starting at 3:00 pm. As for a workshop on security then take your pick as there are several workshops starting much earlier on Sunday, with the first kicking off at 8:00 am.

Sunday nights’ Beer Bust takes us back to a more laid-back, casual, atmosphere where the NonStop community can freely discuss projects and implementations as well as plans for further roll-out of new solutions featuring NonStop. Contrary to many technology pundits expectations, NonStop continues to roll and for good reason. The unique benefits of today’s NonStop systems remain unmatched by any other product offering and yes, it matters – availability matters; scale matters; performance matters; efficiency matters.

Attendees at any of the lead up regional events will have heard this message numerous times and it remains key to the success of NonStop. If you aren’t all that certain, head to the Sunday night Beer Bust and just ask anyone in attendance as they will make this value proposition abundantly clear.

Scrolling down through the agenda for Boot Camp, the first nights Beer Bust isn’t the only opportunity to network. Monday night features not one but two separate opportunities to network. At 5:00 pm all attendees can join the Boot Camp Reception hosted by many companies from the NonStop vendor community. Monday night too has been the time when, traditionally, vendors take selected users to dinner but having the option to network on a grander scale is definitely going to prove attractive to the NonStop community.

After all, as it’s so often said, you cannot have too much of a good thing, right? Fortunately, whether you have joined a vendor for dinner or socialized with other attendees at the Reception, as these events wind down there’s still one more important opportunity that will start up at 8:30 pm.

Proving popular last year, even though it was held in a reception room that was a little hard to find, there will again be the Final Nightcap of the Day hosted by OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash. This time the venue will be the Gold Room located in the main building of the Fairmont Hotel, where earlier in the day several of the sessions will have been held. And as of time of posting, there is late breaking news!

OmniPayments, Inc. CEO Yash will be putting on a demo of just how fast transactions can be processed on NonStop X - yes, a 4,000 tps demo. This is something I want to see and I am sure there will be many others interested in watching a payments solution process this many transactions per second. OmniPayments are headlining this demo as “OmniPayments and NSX - Thunder and Lighting 4,000 TPS Demo!”


Yash tells me that last year, the similar event ran past midnight and so I have the sense that, with an even more convenient venue, that duration may be surpassed. There’s never any shortage of NonStop users willing to share their stories as they network with their peers to find out what other NonStop users are doing to better support the enterprises where they work.


If you would like to catch up with Margo and me we will both be in attendance at the Final Nightcap of the Day and we would be only too pleased to catch up with you – Margo has volunteered to help out Connect and so many of you will likely run into her working on the registration desk so of course say Hi! and yes, by all means, let her know of how you are looking forward to any and all opportunities to network over the course of the event. Who knows, you may catch her sipping on an adult beverage somewhere in the Fairmont. As for me, well, I may be off in a corner somewhere as I will be providing routine updates on the event to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View, as this is something I have been doing for many years now – and if as yet you haven’t joined this LinkedIn group, check it out!

There will be so much attention given to sessions by executives and to product presentations by HPE and the many vendors participating even as there will be a number of user presentations as well. This attentions shouldn’t be downplayed in any way as this is central to the success of Boot Camp – it’s the place to really come to terms with all that is transpiring in the world of NonStop. With as many as six separate breakout sessions running in parallel for most of the three days, there will be a lot of time where the NonStop community is scattered throughout the conference floor of the hotel.

The exhibition hall will be a constant draw card, of course, and from memory, coffee and drinks will be served on the exhibition floor. So yes, there will be many smaller conversations taking place but when it comes to networking with our peers, this event has left no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring there is a forum that any attendee will find attractive and highly conducive to networking.

It may be a tradition for the NonStop community. It may not be as flashy as a cars and coffee show (as far as what’s on display) and yet, it may be far more productive. As a former Tandem Computers product manager and then, much later, Chairman of the ITUG board, I have witnessed first-hand several discoveries made at NonStop events as “eureka moments” took place.

NonStop has always prided itself on having a very proactive ecosystem of vendors and that’s very beneficial for every NonStop stakeholder and perhaps Beer Busts and the like aren’t to everyone’s taste even as there may be those harboring some angst over the possible political incorrectness of it all, but if you want to be sure to catch Margo and me at some point, head to any one of these social events as for sure, you will find us there. Yes, GO4IT! and see you all at Boot Camp next week!
    

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Oh Canada! NonStop RUG, CTUG, enjoys a packed house.

Every successful system and platform attracts an ecosystem; whether it’s groups of users, vendors, service providers and even media channels all of them provide a vital “service” and NonStop is seeing it’s ecosystem continue to grow …

As readers of the NonStop community blog, Real Time View, know all too well, when opportunity to drive somewhere to meet with the NonStop community presents itself and there’s time on the calendar to make the tip possible, you can count on Margo and me to put in the hours behind the wheel to get there. And the drive to Mississauga, Ontario is always one of the longer trips on our calendar we do our very best to make sure we make it. Last year was a little bit of a let-down as for one reason or another we attended MATUG outside Washington D.C. but found we had no time to drive to Canada. Oh dear …

But logistics aside, we missed listening to Mr. T – Jimmy Treybig – and I suspect further opportunities to hear from Jimmy will lessen in time so yes, from that perspective, electing to drive can be sometimes problematic. As for this year, choosing CTUG meant we couldn’t make it to NENUG that this year represented a combination of community members from New England and New York. On the other hand, being a participant at this year’s CTUG event was reward enough to make the time behind the wheel enjoyable.

The HPE NonStop development team is moving fast. This has been the message coming from its leader, Andy Bergholz, whenever he has the opportunity to address a large gathering of NonStop users. It’s not something that Andy simply throws out there on a whim but rather, truly reflects all that is taking place in support of NonStop. To paraphrase a popular commercial, “You don’t know NonStop” if you have missed any recent NonStop events as it’s front and center in the march to hybrid infrastructure with converged systems. And it isn’t stopping with this as at CTUG we were briefed on much more that is in store for NonStop that continued to surprise even the hardiest of NonStop supporters.

The good news is that from my perspective, I am seeing the team from NonStop development working more closely with the NonStop vendor community. When one question was raised late in the day about the potential for NonStop development to develop a capability, the response was unequivocal. With three competitive products from the NonStop community already in the market, this wasn’t a priority for NonStop development – there would be no competing with NonStop vendors on this occasion.

Whenever business looks at technology particularly with new product initiatives be they a major solution from a well-established vendor or simply the latest project coming out of the open source initiatives, these businesses want to see a thriving ecosystem actively involved with the technology or product. Today, NonStop may not attract the types of major vendors that are better known within the media but that isn’t to say, the NonStop vendors active in the NonStop market are any less important.

Again, personally, I would like to see many more vendors in the NonStop marketplace but the core group of NonStop vendors that are committed to NonStop ensure that there is little that NonStop systems cannot do today – and when the discussion turns to issues of modernization, staffing and integration with what surrounds NonStop today, all the pieces that business would need are present. When another question was raised about NonStop doing more to bring down the costs of NonStop the response from NonStop development was immediate.

“Have you really looked at the costs to run NonStop compared to a Linux solution?” When you look at the tab to run a reasonably sized cluster of Linux and throw in the utilities, databases, replication, etc. licenses and then look at the associated support costs, the true value of HPE providing an integrated stack in addition to the NonStop operating system, most businesses would be shocked to see the bottom line – NonStop is more than competitive with the best of the open source offerings.

Several years ago I did a study on the true cost of ownership (TCO) of NonStop and compared it to both Windows and Linux offerings. The report I produced can still be found on the HPE web site and has been referenced in a number of NonStop presentations and it didn’t mince words. If you aren’t aware of this research note, then check out
NonStop offers the lowest TCO  in its class for complex  mission-critical applications And this was before the work that led to the release of the latest family of NonStop systems, the NonStop X. Point is, HPE has done a tremendous amount of work that has seen the TCO for NonStop drop to its lowest level all time. However, it’s not just the costs for a NonStop system itself that needs to be taken into consideration but the ecosystem of NonStop vendors.

What is often overlooked is that within this ecosystem, questions about configurations, APIs, integration at the file and message level, etc. can all be quickly and easily addressed with a single call or email. And more often than not, for free. Going one step further, raising a question on any one of multiple LinkedIn groups focused on NonStop and there will be multiple responses produced in barely a heartbeat – that’s what the NonStop community does best today. NonStop has a thriving ecosystem and it’s not just a group of product companies but increasingly today, it includes managed service providers as well.

Not sure how to manage a new NonStop X deployment – then call in any one of these managed service providers and they will be quick to set your mind at ease. Scattered globally there is bound to be a couple of them that serve your geography and increasingly, your industry. And don’t forget too, several of these managed service providers can actually do all the work necessary to order and then commission a brand new NonStop system. When I was at BITUG earlier this year and sat down with TCM CEO, Tony Craig, I was really impressed even as I was taken aback by just how comprehensive managed service offerings have become.

My earlier reference to a research note I wrote on NonStop also touches on the subject of publications and commentaries. This month, a new monthly publication has been launched and it is one that has Margo and I actively involved. Indeed, Margo is the Managing Editor of the publication, the NonStop Insider. By now, you probably have been emailed with the links but in case this is news to you, then read the
October issue and let us know what you think.

This is just the latest addition to a growing list of publications now supporting NonStop and whether your preference is for a Connect publication such as The Connection, or Tandemworld or even the Availability Digest, the good news here is that there are multiple sources you can turn to for up-to-date information on all things NonStop related. A thriving, indeed growing, media ecosystem is every bit as important as the ecosystem we have in support of products and services and I think that this is one of the big surprises that has come out of the recent RUG events we have participated in – so many members of the NonStop community are now deriving their income solely from supporting NonStop!

The upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp is now only a few weeks ago and a lot more will be written promoting this major NonStop event in those weeks. At the recent RUG events there has been much that has been hinted-at by the NonStop folks giving presentations so expectations among the NonStop community are running high. CTUG proved popular and was a packed house for the entire time I was there but hints about what was to come were being provided on a regular basis.

However, whatever is eventually disclosed at Boot Camp I suspect will still be only a small part of what NonStop development is pursuing as for sure, they are moving fast. A lot of the attention will be on the data base and the big changes happening with NS SQL/MX but like everyone else, I am going to have to wait to see what is announced on the day.

Ecosystems surrounding popular technologies, products and services are always a good sign for any business evaluating solutions. When it comes to NonStop then there is an abundance of vendors making up a very strong ecosystem. And whether it’s a product, a service, a simple question or two, the NonStop community has never been better served than it is today and this is something we all need to share with our associates and colleagues as for sure, I have to believe, for many of them, “They don’t know NonStop!”

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall is a time to take in change; RUG events likewise are time to reflect on change with NonStop

NonStop is evolving yet again as it heads down different roads. Just how disruptive a technology NonStop will become? Why don’t you participate in the next Regional User Group (RUG) meeting to find out!

In my previous post I wrote of my brief encounter with a simulated race track experience at HPE Discover 2016 and of how I didn’t much care for the simulator. This past week Margo and I drove through Colorful Colorado on our way to Scottsdale for the DUST Regional User Group (RUG) meeting and my earlier observation about not caring for simulation was justified. There’s nothing like the real thing and the display of color this year was as good as it has ever been. The photo above was taken while Margo was behind the wheel approaching the town of Durango, CO!

For this trip, we elected to skip the freeways and stick to paths less traveled. In so doing, we couldn’t help comment about the path HPE was now treading as it pushed ahead with dramatic changes for NonStop. And these changes are taking place rather rapidly – from a single NonStop system to a Hybrid NonStop with Linux (and Windows) to no system at all. NonStop running virtually on commercial off-the-shelf hardware, and while these transformations have been well broadcast before their availability there’s still considerable surprise over what we are now seeing coming from the NonStop development.

However, it just had to happen. For NonStop to continue to be a contributor to then bigger HPE, NonStop the system, the platform and the software had to change its ways. At no time did I ever consider that NonStop was a “club” where only those invited few would meet around drinks and talk of the good old days. One of the difficulties many vendor user groups have suffered from over the past decade is exactly this – as numbers of systems and number of installations declined, they closed ranks and simply enjoyed fellowship with each other. This is far from a healthy sign for such organizations and it’s so easy for the more established user groups to go down this path. For the vendors, it’s perplexing and not something that excites them any longer – why fund an organization that simply feeds itself?

I have been told more than once that user groups and the communities they serve are just one more example of legacy. We have always done this, so the commentary goes, and after four or even more decades, this is who we are. This is our culture and our comfort zone but unfortunately, it does very little to encourage newcomers to join the ranks. And this is precisely why I keep returning to the RUG events no matter where they may be held. NonStop RUGs generate such  positive energy for me that participation in them remains a priority and no, they aren’t becoming “exclusive” clubs. These days, I am pretty much restricted to those being organized in the Americas but the word I received following the recent VNUG event outside Stockholm seems to confirm that what I am witnessing here is very similar to what is happening elsewhere.

I have to thank
OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, for giving me an opportunity to present on his behalf at DUST. In so doing, I was given considerable leeway by Yash to frame OmniPayments latest services option – OmniCloudX – within the context of the changing NonStop landscape. Not too long ago I posted to the ATMmarketplace blog, Dressing up for the occasion ... where I referenced the work being done by OmniPayments to deliver a hybrid system, all LAN connected, in the one box. “Yash anchored HP standard chassis for rack-mounted processors with enough processors to support the key components of his payments solution running on HP NonStop. He then threw in a couple of Atalla security modules before topping off with ProLiant servers running Linux and Windows.”

However, that was just the start for Yash as he worked to better leverage what he saw coming in the NonStop roadmaps that were being presented at RUG events. OmniPayments may be offering its OmniPayments suit out of a cloud that’s based on NonStop X systems, but looking further afield, there is little to suggest Yash will not be adding support for NSADI / Yuma for faster access, exploiting more of the “white space” he has observed when running on NonStop. Translation? More applications coming back to run on NonStop! There are two other aspects of what Yash is pursuing that truly intrigue me – centralization and build-your-own!

Centralization; what the arrival of hybrid infrastructures with mixed NonStop and Linux (and Windows) does is foster greater centralization. Aren’t public clouds nothing more than Service Bureaus and Time Sharing Options (TSO) revisited? If you trace the roots of clouds back far enough in time, you will be surprised to see that their initial popularity was derived from the reality that business didn’t have access to qualified IT staff. With few businesses prepared to invest in training any more, isn’t it reasonable to expect centralization is a return to pooling of expertise in a very highly structured environment?


How many times have NonStop vendors reported that a customer has asked them to send on site their best developers to resolve a problem when in fact, the best course of action is to send someone who can best communicate what they observe, leaving the best developers to work with their development and test environments difficult to reproduce in the field? There is real value in having a small number of centers around the globe, each with enough skilled personnel to support the population of end users 
depending upon them?

By build-your-own then this too is nothing new but rather a return to the days of VARs. As we see more information about vNonStop being reveled and HPE puts in place the processes necessary for anyone to order vNonStop there’s the small issue of ensuring the “NonStop-ness” of vNonStop and as much as NonStop development sets forth a reference model, it opens the doors like never before for smart companies to begin on-selling their favorite white-label x86 server with OpenStack and vNonStop. Differentiation based on superior levels of availability all while supporting your favorite development environment – tell me what’s bad about that!

However,
 this goes a little beyond what has been historically associated with VARs. We have already read about OmniPayments becoming a VAR for both NonStop and Atalla in select South American markets where it fills a need in those areas no longer supported by the HPE NonStop team. The new crop of VARs that I am anticipating emerge will also provide remote management as well as a range of services from simple upgrades to the operating system and middleware to capacity planning on through to what had always been performed by on-premise systems managers.

There really isn’t any hiding from the fact that today, it’s not only that businesses aren’t investing in training but that the pool of knowledgeable talent is shrinking as the years pass by – the only place where such investments will continue is at these new age VAR “centers of excellence.” One example of this is
TCM Solutions who I have been working with this year and have come to really like its model as TCM tackles these exact same issues. TCM CEO, Tony Craig, is almost evangelical in his belief that, just as clouds are a return to centralization, so too is the emergence of managed services providers. Better to have all the expertise needed to support NonStop under one roof with the tools needed to support anyone at any time anywhere in the world?

There remain a lot of unknowns surrounding hybrid infrastructures and clouds and, when it comes to the deployment of NonStop, as either part of a hybrid system or within virtual machine, leadership will more than likely come from solutions providers. They have the most to gain from mastering either environment as remaining price competitive while offering a better solution is a major goal for them.

It would be simple for me to make the observation that this will all sort itself out over time but the simple truth is there’s no quick and easy fix. Just a lot of perseverance, as different models are tested. NonStop is evolving from what we once knew NonStop to be and is heading down different roads, meeting different needs and, in the process, there will be disruptions. Yes, this new NonStop will prove to be highly disruptive technology and it’s been a long time since words like this have been associated with NonStop.  

The DUST RUG event turned out to be well worth the time spent driving to it  - and the opportunity to spend time taking in the changing colors that the Colorado landscape never fails to provide at this time of year making up for the weekend spent in transit. Shortly, we will be returning to the road for the slightly longer transit to Ontario, Canada, for the upcoming CTUG event. We may be a little late to see the fall colors along the foreshore of Lake Ontario but CTUG will more than make up for any disappointments on that score.

NonStop, on the other hand, is definitely changing its ways and for that, and the impact it will have on the broader NonStop community, we have to thank the HPE NonStop team and I for one, am pleased to see the path it has elected to take. NonStop a part of every businesses cloud? In time it’s bound to happen – there is still no better way to offer up services from within a cloud than knowing that they will always be there, 24 X 7.