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.   

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