Friday, January 29, 2016

Turning up the heat!



Piecing together comments made at number of recent conferences confirms just how big a role NonStop will play in HPE’s plans. Centered on transformation to a hybrid infrastructure HPE inclusion of NonStop bodes well for all who continue to invest in NonStop systems. 

It’s been a vicious winter so far for many of us living in the U.S. Watching the evening news has become an exasperating exercise – home shows highlighting the value of island life in the tropics continue to tempt many into chucking it all in to go native. Yes, it’s very cold and the eastern states are still shoveling out from one of the bitterest blizzard conditions many can recall. Here in Boulder, it’s been chilly for an extended period, with heavy snowfalls across the continental divide whereas in the west, the effects of El NiƱo storms are finally making their presence felt, particularly on the Golden State. To say there’s little heat coming out of California is only telling part of the story!

When Margo and I built our house, we asked for a bar to be included. This didn’t initially surprise our architect but when we told him just how big a bar we wanted, together with an adjacent wine cellar, the eventual scale of this feature took him back a tad – seriously? You want a bar how big? Being a mixed Polish / Australian family didn’t help comfort our architect, but he did get the picture. Eventually! Yes, that’s a photo of the bar taken this week and when the weather is this cold and we want to turn up the heat then, come five o’clock (somewhere), it’s where we both head for the evening. It’s at times like this, when the warmth coming from its fireplace is truly appreciated, that we are drawn to this bar, down under! 

Basements are a novelty to anyone raised in Australia – there was never a need for a mechanical room to house the heating system and strange as it may seem, few houses were built with central air conditioning even as temperatures always passed 100 degrees F in summer.  The landmass of Australia always did a great job in providing more than enough heat to handle so having the option to retreat to a cozy area, as we do, is a completely unexpected benefit from settling in a predominantly winter climate. However, it’s not only the time of year that is influencing the temperature but for the NonStop community, HPE has certainly turned up the heat beneath NonStop and there’s rarely a post written this year for the NonStop community that doesn’t highlight new possibilities for NonStop as HPE continues making sizable investment “big bets on NonStop.”

As I looked at HPE NonStop product roadmaps and begun to speculate on potential outcomes for the NonStop community, I am even more upbeat  about the future for NonStop than I have been in a long time. And that’s quite an admission coming from someone who has always been bullish about the prospects for NonStop. What is in stall for NonStop is unquestionably benefitting from the focus of HPE R&D plans for Mission Critical Systems. And isn’t the support of mission critical applications pretty much what every major IT system pursues today?

In prepping for this post I have talked with vendors, consultants and users and the picture that is forming and that has me anticipating a bright future for NonStop centers on NonStop participating in three different areas. It’s as if NonStop not only has come to a fork in the road, but more than one road is ahead of it and it’s headed down three of them, at a minimum. In short, I am speculating that we will not only continue to see NonStop the System, but NonStop the Software and NonStop the Service as well. Did anyone miss the posts that followed the presentation by Martin Fink, EVP & CTO, HPE at November, 2015, NonStop Technical Boot Camp? If you did you would have missed reading of how Fink now talks of NonStop as being the best software platform on the planet – for more of this, check the post of December 15, 2015,
Picking the line …

The completion of what reputedly was a $250 Million investment by HPE when it migrated NonStop systems from Itanium and ServerNet to the Intel x86 architecture and InfiniBand is sizable by any measure you care to use. However, making the NonStop X family of systems every bit as contemporary as its competitors is turning out to be only half the story. In what I suspect will be a further $200 Million investment, the new stated goal for NonStop is to make it independent of infrastructure and in HPE speak, infrastructure is the processors, the interconnect and networking, and storage we all associate with any system today. Freed from the shackles of a specific hardware configuration, contemporary NonStop will be able to grab all the resources it needs for the duration of any task that comes its way.

Cool! As my good friend and business colleague Sami Akbay, Cofounder at WebAction, Inc., likes to remind me, returning the cool factor to NonStop is essential to its longevity and if you want to attract the latest talent to work on NonStop, you have to sell its cool status. Without belaboring the point, bringing fault tolerance to solutions, whether running on metal or virtually, without changes to the application or the middleware stack is no mean feat and Andy Bergholz and his team of NonStop engineers truly do need to be congratulated.

Of course, this will all come down to an enterprises appetite for risk, but Bergholz assures me that as soon as the companion handbook, describing optimal configurations for NonStop needing to run in a virtualized world, is completed we will see the release of NonStop the Software. Again, purely speculative on my part, but I am predicting that this will likely happen mid 2017 with select users up and running before the next NonStop Technical Boot Camp in November, 2016. This option is being developed as there are industry verticals committed to running only in a virtual world and for these customers alone, the investment warrants the effort Bergholz and his team are making.

When it comes to working with, “fluid pools of disaggregated compute, storage and fast flexible fabric that can be quickly composed, decomposed and then re-composed according to the needs of an application or workload,” as Fink explained at HPE Discover 2015, London, equipping NonStop to participate alongside other software platforms will be much appreciated by the NonStop community and highly valued by users and vendors alike. You want cool? How much cooler can NonStop be than this!

“Running NonStop in a virtual (environment, based) on Linux? As an important proof point, we can absolutely get there!” This came from Fink in a presentation to the NonStop community at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, November, 2015. However, there was more, as Fink went on to say, “Wouldn’t it be cool to bring the NonStop value proposition to Linux and bring to market (more) powerful hybrids – a powerful combination.” This was just a sneak preview that NonStop wasn’t just going to be able to run in a virtualized world, but would be making a contribution to HPE’s future offerings. NonStop components underpinning elements of ContainerOS? Why not – and again, this is just speculation by me at this point.

However, what is highly likely is the ability to access NonStop SQL (NS SQL) as a Service and with that, the potential to access NonStop itself as a Service – you want a particular application to run AL4, then just check the box and NonStop components will be invoked. I covered this in a webinar sponsored by IR this week – and you can replay this webinar by following this link -
http://www.ir.com/prognosis-infrastructure/webinars/nonstop-x-the-new-goal-independence-from-systems-infrastructure  What many folks forget is just how well NS SQL scales, how inexpensive it is, and most important of all, how NS SQL supports mixed workloads, 24 X 7. Timeframe for NS SQL as a Service is a little further out, where I am not expecting to see product becoming generally available much before 2020.

The pieces are all there. Future generations of IT professionals will have option – carving out a NonStop, the system, configuring NonStop, the software, and tapping NonStop, the service. NonStop development is really going to be turning up the heat and there will be much we associate with NonStop today appearing in many places – imagination is all that is required. Hard to imagine and no, there will be no loss of the NonStop fundamentals as NonStop, the system, will continue to fly the flag for NonStop as we know it today and be an option for at least another decade. However, what turning up the heat is doing is giving all in the NonStop community the confidence to keep investing in NonStop and for me, that’s perhaps the warmest message of all coming out of California.      

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cooking up a storm …

When it comes to cooking it’s important to have the right ingredients and for the NonStop community, HPE has all the right ingredients are at hand. And not just for one tasty treat but for many – NonStop is factoring into many more plans of HPE …
I continue to be approached about my ongoing interest in NonStop systems, with my contemporaries asking me to give it a break! Surely, the industry has moved on and what once made NonStop so unique has little going for it today – industry standard solutions are so reliable, why would you pay any premium for fault tolerance, and isn’t fault tolerance essentially a waste of hardware? Redundant processors, duplicated controllers, limited application software offerings – isn’t the time of fault tolerant over? In today’s highly mobile world, where everything is low cost, why preserve with NonStop? And truly, are these ingredients still important for today’s fast-moving enterprise?

At this time of year, with much cooler temperatures and snow on the ground, North Americans forsake the grill and head indoors. From Thanksgiving onward there’s barely a week going by without some special meal or another being prepared as it’s a time to welcome family and friends – even small gatherings to watch the “big game” on television need catering and there are many reasons why the festive season becomes a marathon. Did I mention I like my food with a little extra spice?

Walking into the kitchen this weekend on more than one occasion I found the island littered with spices and vegetables in preparation for another meal. While Margo and I are neither vegetarians or have any diet restrictions our overriding compulsion is to enjoy meals that feature fresh fruit, vegetables and yes, meat, fowl and fish. Those of you who follow our Facebook pages know all too well of how much we enjoy food and indeed cooking and for us it really is all about the ingredients. We entertain a lot and almost exclusively our guests gather in the kitchen to watch, where the obvious question always arises, “What’s cooking?”

To even the most casual observer with an interest in technology, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is cooking up a storm, so as to speak. From its vision to its strategy to the goals for itself it has published, there’s a growing awareness that this isn’t the same old HP we thought we knew so well for so long. And change it has to do, as today, enterprises wanting to move quickly to capitalize on new ideas and new business opportunities have to be more responsive than ever before. No longer do we see these enterprises discussing their three or even five year plans or even talking about new initiatives that will begin to develop traction in a year or so. It’s all about what is being done today and which deployments are taking priority and even that vendor or partner is being leveraged.

For the NonStop community, in less than eighteen months we have seen the NonStop X family introduced, a sibling to the original systems unveiled (and shipping) and a new API developed in order to better integrate NonStop with key systems,  including enterprise Windows and Linux. The NonStop X NS7 X1 supports 2, 4 and 6 cores whereas the NonStop X NS3 X1 supports 1 and 2 cores – more variation than we have seen available from HPE for a long time and there’s still a viable NonStop i family on offer as well. The ingredients are all there for fast moving enterprises to capitalize on the “highest level of availability and reliability in high-stakes environments demanding continuous business and 100% fault tolerance.”

When it comes to low cost, that doesn’t mean our kitchen practices change – while we have eaten a hamburger and ordered pizza when away from our home, fast food and instant meals are rarely seen in our kitchen. That’s not to say meals cannot be quickly “assembled” and there’s been many a time when both of us have gone at it, prepping a meal when timeliness has been an issue. For us, speed doesn’t mean loss of quality or indeed, value. And yet, how many enterprises do we know that have simply abandoned normal business practices and simply blindly followed fashion – and the “Gucci Marketers” that champion process comprised of little else than “wood and straw.”

My biggest concern over wanting speed is to confuse speed with being fast. Expedient, versus efficient and optimal! The microwave oven in our kitchen is rarely used as the finished product is always less than desirable. I know there are many families when there are few alternatives and where the task of managing a large family intercede and for that reason, there will be a need to gravitate to the expedient but when it comes to enterprise IT, the same arguments cannot be made.

There’s a tempest to come and it has many names – M2M, V2V, IoT, etc. - where everything and anything will be communicating and where the world of sensors will dwarf the population of the planet. Already we are seeing commercials on television promoting GE as being an “information / computer centric company” that also makes trains, planes and even hospitals. “Do you know what GE is,” being the tag line of these commercials.

It’s been a long time coming from me but it’s time we all take a second look at HPE and ask a similar question, “Do we know what HPE is?” Unfortunately for a number of NonStop users, the wheels were put in motion a couple of years ago such that their enterprises are electing to move solutions to platforms apart from NonStop. Not as many as some in the industry predicted but nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore.

This was back when Itanium was under attack and when it wasn’t being made all that clear by former HP executives what the future of NonStop was going to look like. But now we know – HPE’s mission critical server portfolio, while it still includes Itanium, is all based on x86 and supports Superdome X running Linux, mostly, plus some enterprise Windows, and NonStop X.

And as we heard at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, NonStop is the best software platform on the planet! Yes, ingredients for tomorrow’s systems are on display and it doesn’t take a whole lot of second thoughts to realize that mission critical processing on NonStop is even more viable than at any time in the past. Just as important as NonStop, the product or even NonStop, the technology, is HPE’s confidence in NonStop to be a critical component of its high-end product portfolio.

Equally as importantly, NonStop as software that is independent of hardware and infrastructure, ensures it will be playing an important role in what’s to come – Converged Infrastructure? HPE Synergy? NonStop as a Service? You want leading edge then yes, you have it – NonStop is right there in the mix of some of the most advanced technologies HPE is working on, and for good reason. It’s a key ingredient that cannot be left out as it brings with it the fault tolerance; the always-on world of the planet requires it to deliver on user expectations.

Every three years around this time I post of my three wishes for NonStop. The next such post isn’t due until July, 2017 – if you missed the last one, check out the February 14, 2014 post to this NonStop community blog, Yet three more wishes! However, three years is a lot of time and so a few years ago I began blogging about what my wishes may end up being eighteen months before the date. Again, if you missed reading my previous teaser for the post above, check out the July 19, 2013, post, Are our wishes still important? There’s still six months to go (and another HP Discover event, June 7 - 9, 2016) but already it’s becoming clear to me what I expect of NonStop in the future.

We will know a lot more about NonStop running on virtual machines as well as real machines, and we will likely know a lot more about the compelling story line behind NonStop as a Service together with NonStop SQL as a Service. But perhaps most important of all, we should be seeing the transformation to hybrid computers HPE is promoting, to all and sundry, beginning to take shape and where NonStop will be a vital cog in their deliverables having the fault tolerance HPE is now promoting more aggressively than at any time in the past.

NonStop has never had wasteful, redundant processors, unnecessary duplicated controllers, or even limited application software offerings. There may have been times in the past where our confidence in having a specific solution running on NonStop may have been low but today, look at what can be done with Java and indeed, now with JavaScript – there’s very few solutions available today that cannot be ported to NonStop in whole or in part (with hybrids) so there’s no limit to where NonStop will play a role. Of that I am extremely confident.

What’s cooking at HPE? In truth, with the ingredients on hand, HPE has all it needs close at hand. When it comes to what it tastes like and how it presents, not to mention how much is ready to be consumed, then HPE has the ability to turn out NonStop systems almost at will – the x86 storyline has much to contribute on this last point. The confidence of the industry in HPE, as is my own confidence in HPE, may not be something that is equally shared by all but one very important consideration is very much on display. From Meg Whitman and Martin Fink on down, HPE is changing up the recipe and it’s for a treat that many of us thought would never come. Yet it has – NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the service. Of course, I will want mine with just a little extra spice!  


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Out of the ruins – transformation. For NonStop it’s all about speed and scale!

Familiar territory for the NonStop community – with NonStop X we have speed as well as scale – and with transformation under way together with the emphasis on hybrids, there’s much to cheer for when it comes to HPE NonStop systems!

Last year, around this time, Margo and I spent several weeks on the road, attending numerous industry events held across the western states of the U.S. On one such trip we found ourselves driving through southern Arizona where we came across the ruins of Casa Grande. We stopped to visit the ancient ruins and despite what we were told, I am not all that sure anyone knows precisely what was going on millennia ago, nor whatever  happened next. I touched on this briefly in the post to this blog of February 6, 2015, Of hubs and spokes; of niches, clouds and beyond the horizon; it all looks good for NonStop X!, where I referenced another post, this time to our social blog of February 3, 2015, In truth, we are but travelers … This latter post was where the photo (above) first appeared.

If there’s one theme underscoring every message emanating from HPE of late it’s been transformation. Whether it has been the recent NonStop Technical Boot Camp keynote presentations or even the more recent 2015 HPE Discover event in London, transformation is never far from the limelight. And for good reason, we are witnessing a major sea change under way at HPE as it vigorously inserts itself into a rapidly changing world where the makeup of tomorrow’s data center is undergoing radical surgery, according to every authority prepared to go on record. Transformation is what is happening within enterprises, everywhere, and the changes accompanying transformation are hard to miss!

Many years ago as I wrote a column for The Connection, I talked of changes taking place in the NonStop Enterprise Division (NED). I was kicking around the thought of leading with lines from the Donovan song (of the 70s), Changes, which included such lines as:
     Everyone is right
     Everything is wrong
     Don't let the changes get you down, man

However, then marketing head, Chris Rooke, proposed that I lead with something a little more upbeat and proposed I reference the Bob Dylan anthem, The Times They Are A-Changin', with lyrics that were much better known and put a more positive spin on change:
     Please get out of the new one
     If you can't lend your hand
     For the times they are a-changin'.

No matter your preference, the point remains the same. Transformation is underway and whether you see this as being something positive or cause for concern has, in fact, more to do with your background and perhaps the length of time you have spent in IT than the proposed transformation itself. Old ideas will be relegated to the dustbin.

In short order, even as new technologies are embraced, and the sacrifices being made are in the name of improving speed and productivity – there’s no better way to express the need to transform then wanting to stay in business. We all want a disaggregated world that is virtualized, and software-driven, “coming together on the day” to meet the challenges being faced! Change is happening right in front of us and if we aren’t seeing these changes taking place first hand, then we aren’t a part of it and that’s never a good thing for any of us.

With snow laying all around the house and temperatures in the single digits Fahrenheit it’s a time to watch movies. While channel surfing the other night I caught just a couple of minutes of a Julia Roberts movie – always a good way to take the chill off the evening. “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation,” observes Julia Roberts character in the movie of 2010, Eat Pray Love. And it really caught my attention.

Those living eons ago in what are now the ruins in Arizona may have hidden their intentions just as Roberts too expressed regrets about the past in her film. However, for the NonStop community, there’s no hiding that we do know what’s going on and we do know the intentions of HPE for the future of NonStop. We may not support the notion of former ruinous times but we do know we have somehow made it onto the road of transformation. But really, “ruin is a gift?”

Only the other day I was reading how transformation, to be effective, is a gradual process often building on what was once a thriving technology ecosystem. It has been my experience that change that is recognizable as transformational, particularly as it applies to technology, evolves and morphs even as successful transformations collect adherents along the way. Such changes, in order to develop the “stickiness” that leads to their eventual success, needs to be delivered in small incremental, yet digestible, bite-size chunks.

Too much change brought on by any transformation may overwhelm those involved. Mistakes will happen and opportunities will be missed leading to chaos and potentially distrust (of technology, products, as well as vendors) and there’s been ample evidence of this through the decades. Perhaps, in truth, that will prove to be the ruin of some of us! Maybe too a case of “Everyone is right; Everything is wrong.”

I have enjoyed my outings in our track-prepared car on famous American road courses and I hope I have the opportunity to return to such activities this year. One thing that always comes to mind is the approach every driver takes to improving their lap times, no matter what circuit they tackle. After a couple of observation laps, as the right driving line around the circuit is determined, improvements are only achieved through gradual changes to driver inputs. If you were taking a corner at 50mph, you would increase your speed by just 2mph the next time around, adjusting braking and turn-in points appropriately in response to what your car communicates to you – after ten laps you are comfortably taking the same corner at 65 mph, or even higher, and doing so smoothly. However, if you rush the process, jumping from 50mph to 65 mph in just one lap, the potential for disaster is assured.

For the NonStop community, HPE is now telling much the same story and for good reason – the potential for disaster is almost as assured for those who fail to plan for transformation. Clouds, public and private, open software, industry standard components and interconnects – it’s a new track few of us have had time to experience, let alone become comfortable with the approach needed (to really get the most from our time on track) to become proficient at supporting any of the former building blocks of transformation.

The most important element of transformation, according to HPE, is hybrids and, in particular, hybrids that include traditional data processing systems along with private clouds. HPE has made it clear that going alone with public clouds is no longer part of its own strategy (even as it’s willing to partner with those having a presence in public clouds) and it’s making big bets that for many of the enterprises it serves, the incremental changes required to include private clouds represent the gradual change these enterprises more readily accept.

Two words have recently entered the vocabulary of transformation that the NonStop community may find intriguing, if not a tad familiar. Speed and Scale – who could have guessed? HPE CEO, Meg Whitman, recently tweeted “Speed is really what it’s all about.”  Yes, a sense of urgency is now permeating the commentaries coming from HPE, and again, for good reason. HPE has to communicate what’s special about HPE, and do it quickly. Just as enterprises everywhere cannot afford to delay transforming – business ruins on the horizon become visible quickly – neither do they want to stray too far from following a more measured approach. No one wants to crash, of course, but we all want to be more responsive.

Just as important as speed is the issue of scale – as you start with transformation to a hybrid (including cloud) you quickly run into the problem of scale, according to Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. I have written on this topic in the January / February, 2016, issue of The Connection, published in my column Back for more … “As your business continues to demand faster insights from more data,” Martin suggests, then clearly “there will be more data and with more data there are more apps and this ends up meaning there is more infrastructure to where eventually you need more people.” Ideal? Well, not exactly!

As Martin states in the video capturing his general session keynote presentation at the recent event in London, HPE believes the path to a transformed hybrid infrastructure is composability but not just at a systems level or even infrastructure, but in support of applications as well. In fact it is the goal to have composable apps that drive composability deep down into the stack and in order to better equip developers and administrators to do this, containers enters the discussion. Yes, the goal of transformation is to accelerate productivity – a necessary yet significant change if the NonStop community is to meet the business demands for faster insights from more data. And yes, avoiding the potential of ruins, with speed utilizing systems without limits.

Speed and scale – perhaps, yet another lead into the topic of NonStop as a Service? Hybrids, where NonStop has a presence? Virtualization, from the metal up and yet, without a virtual machine! Containers we associate with virtual machines that no longer require them and indeed, are the new operating system? Changes aplenty of course but from a vendor we can trust – and this is every bit as important a transition for HPE as anything else on the roadmaps because the last couple of years have left many within the NonStop community a little short on trust.

I will have more to say on trust in a later post even as I am not advocating a ruined landscape to anyone in the NonStop community as a pre-req to this instance of transformation. Yet, speed and scale are going to usher in changes that will not be leaving NonStop out of the discussion and will go a long way to ensure NonStop systems don’t end up populating the landscape as nothing more than ruined relics. So no, don’t let the changes get you down. Embrace change, take the necessary baby steps and even if “ruin is the path to transformation”  let’s be happy that with NonStop, the ruins we encounter will more than likely be the systems of others who failed to step up and accept the challenges that comes with transforming IT.