Monday, April 25, 2016

Snakes and ladders – the games continue!

Looking back at what was presented at recent Regional User Group (RUG) meetings here in America it was clear that the commitment to keeping NonStop systems attractive to the next generation of developers is materializing. And it all has to do with HPE’s commitment to open systems and industry standards …

While dancing across the grass this past week with our just-turning-three granddaughter Ella, I was reminded of the fears of youngsters. It was a simple case of not wanting to attract insects and bugs for me, but for her, it was all about the possibility of running across snakes. In a suburban Boulder garden? Not likely, although there was an occasion where good friends from one of my clients joined us for an outside barbecue only to see one of Colorado’s rat snakes slither along the stonework of our home. So perhaps it wasn’t such an unusual concern of Ella’s, after all.

Reading the latest update from the Node.js community I couldn’t help but remember this incident even as my immediate reaction to the article also brought back childhood memories of playing the game Snakes and Ladders where, on the roll of the dice, you could either ascend to higher squares after landing on a ladder or worse, descend to lower squares should you land on a snake.

The April 12, 2016, article New Node.js Foundation Survey Reports New “Full Stack” In Demand Among Enterprise Developers referenced Python, after all, but there was more to this article than a reference to a snake as it was the ladders I visualized that held a lot more importance for members of the NonStop community actively engaged in developing new products, services and features.

“With over 3.5 million users and an annual growth rate of 100 percent, Node.js is emerging as a universal platform used for web applications, IoT, and enterprise,” was the article’s opening sentence. Yes, the “and enterprise” reference might surprise many who continue to think Node.js may just be for simple tasks associated perhaps with mobile phones, the “chat” option, and the like. Having just briefly mentioning Node.js in my previous post, The more things change, the more they stay the same … it is safe to assume I was primed to be receptive to what I was reading. 

Fortunately, the article then adds that, “The Node.js User Survey report features insights on emerging trends happening in this massive community that serves as a leading indicator on trends like microservices architectures, real-time web applications, Internet of Things (IoT). The report paints a detailed picture of the technologies that are being used, in particular, with Node.js in production and language preferences (current and future) for front end, back end and IoT developers.”

But here’s where the reference to snakes and ladders came to the fore and while some readers may think more in terms of swings and roundabouts, either image is hard to ignore. When it comes to the “Other languages, beyond JavaScript, that were popular for all three developer types included PHP, Python and Java,” there are winners and losers. JavaScript is clearly winning, “However, when looking to the future, back end, front end and IoT developers planned to decrease their use of Java, .Net and PHP (PHP averages a 15% decrease) and increase the use of Python and C++.” 

There are those images of snakes once again – not so much rat snakes, of course, but pythons. On a more serious note, the erosion of support for Java continues and you have to begin wondering whether Oracle 0versight of Java has turned away many potential advocates or could it simply be a case of moving forward once something better has come along. For the NonStop community, having the option today to develop applications on the new NonStop X family in languages including JavaScript , Python and C++ is a real boost for NonStop finding greater acceptance among the more forward thinking of our development community.

In the post of March 13, 2016, Pulling at the RUG; NonStop resilience firmly on display around the globe! I promoted upcoming RUG events in Chicago, Illinois, and Columbus, Ohio, where HPE’s Keith Moore was scheduled to give updates on IoT and Node.js, including a demo of Node.js running on NonStop X systems in the Advanced Technical Center (ATC). In that post I wrote of how, according to Keith, “Almost all of the demo is using InfraSoft’s new bomBora product and I make a point of saying this.” Keith then shared how, “There are two new tools / features I will highlight: firstly, Node.js (bomBora), which I call out, and then secondly, Redis which is the pub/sub database.”

I have since followed up with Keith to get feedback following these presentations and demos in order to get a better feel for how the message of Node.js was being received. “There is more and more curiosity about JavaScript and the possible future uses of Node.js on NonStop,” Keith told me. “To-date, no customer is jumping on the product but literally every day I hear someone ask me (specifically) about JavaScript on NonStop.”

To which Keith then added, “I think that 2017 is the year where it becomes more of a requirement. This is because we are just now hearing movement toward JSON and RESTful services on NonStop. Those discussions eventually lead to websockets and web apps, which eventually lead to JavaScript.” While the deep port of Node.js to NonStop is available, support is strictly for NonStop X systems as it leverages the underlying Intel x86 architecture. However, this represents a really big opportunity, according to my contacts inside HPE.

With as much usage of NonStop i systems as there are today together with the promotion by HPE of hybrid infrastructures, the more forward thinking members of the NonStop user community might be well served looking at Node.js for deployment on NonStop X systems as they deploy them right alongside existing NonStop i systems.

Hybrids of NonStop X and NonStop i Systems are to be expected in the near term and adding something as modern as Node.js with the boost in productivity it provides, will be something the team at HPE NonStop will be promoting in the lead up to summer. While 2017 may indeed be an accurate forecast for when Node.js on NonStop really takes off in the eyes of the NonStop user community, what is taking place this year are several initiatives within the NonStop vendor community and already a number of them have reached out to me for further information as to where I am anticipating a number of intensive PoCs to begin this summer.

Obviously the developers at InfraSoft are well aware of these vendors’ requirements and continue to complement the services already supported as part of bomBora with a couple more key services. Support for Pathway and IPC will be joined by support for other important NonStop subsystems and I hope to be able to write about it shortly.

Snakes and ladders; swings and roundabouts, even what goes up must come down. Everyone is familiar with such expressions and it takes very little to conjure up appropriate images. Determining what is most appropriate for your business continues to come with many tradeoffs. However, at a time when there is mounting concern over just how much experience is leaching from the NonStop community as staff reductions, layoffs and even retirements are having a dramatic impact on just how many knowledgeable NonStop people remain in the industry but I am holding out hope for the future. It’s not all gloom and doom when it comes to the next generation appreciating NonStop.

Those students graduating from college and entering IT are firmly grounded in platforms and languages such as JavaScript, Python and C++ and with Node.js on NonStop, these options lessen any apprehension they may have about investing time in NonStop.  An influx of younger generation of developers working with the technologies and platforms familiar to them, on hardware on which they have been educated, represents a huge step up for all involved in NonStop.

This is a message we all need to actively communicate to everyone we come in contact within the businesses where we work. There will always be missteps even as we dodge the snakes and look for the ladders, however, isn’t it good to know NonStop possesses the critical ladders that can keep us ascending to new heights and for that, the thanks has to be liberally given to all members of the NonStop community – HPE, the vendors and indeed the users willing to roll the dice just one more time. 


Thursday, April 14, 2016

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

For a decade and a half, Martin Fink, EVP & CTO, HPE has been a recognized pioneer in bringing the world of open source into the commercial world. For the NonStop community this is well understood even as open source plays an important role in the growing popularity of NonStop systems today.

Fair enough, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. There’s no sense of accusing me of waxing eloquent, but this week I was compelled to dig deep for just the right exclamation. By the way, this reminds me of my father who, when I was a child, called his cars “eloquent” and every Saturday afternoon he would pull them from the garage just so that he could wax eloquent!

Nothing original in this, as I am sure families everywhere in the English speaking world can retell something similar, but what strikes me is not so much the reference to cars, but the reference to waxing and waning as in phases of the moon. The reason waves lap the beach, moving up the sand just a few inches at a time before the once prominent sandy beach is completely covered by water is all connected to the moon.

The same can be said about the seasons – but instead of the moon, it’s all about the sun and the change of seasons. Of course, spring is rather easy to recognize even as it varies region by region, country by country and even hemisphere by hemisphere. The picture I have included at the top of the post is a clear reminder that change is under way - everyone looks forward to springs first blossoms. Year in and year out, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Out of habit I troll through Twitter looking for eye catching statements and this past week, I was intrigued to see HPE tweet the above chart. It was part of a tweet of April 8, 2016, by HPE Servers:
Why #OpenCompute relies on symbiosis between your hardware and software http://hpe.to/6018B54Xk  #HPECompute

Now, in part it promotes the Open Compute Project, but follow the link, hpe.to/6018B54Xk and things get very interesting. Under the heading, Infrastructure software: The key to realizing Open Compute benefits guest author, Leo Leung, VP of Corporate Marketing at Scality, states: “The ultimate goal of any organization that embraces scalable computing must be optimization at every layer, with the ability to enhance each layer without creating imbalance elsewhere. For example, increasing efficiency in Open Compute storage hardware requires increased responsibility for availability and durability in the software layer. Only with this symbiosis between hardware and software can administrators and users reap the many rewards of scalable computing: incredible efficiency at scale, always-on stability, and budget and resource alleviation.”

The use of italics and bold font are my own but the point remains the same – there’s not only a symbiotic relationship between hardware and software but increasingly, there’s a symbiotic relationship between scalability and availability. When you see your very first presentation by HPE Servers on the NonStop X family of systems, this symbiosis will strike you immediately, and for good reason. Solve the availability and you will solve scalability. Address scalability and you will find yourself enhancing availability. Then again, looking back at the schematic, what really stands out is that in satisfying the need to scale, you don’t stray too far from the message of open. 

When I interviewed Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, HPE, following his keynote presentation at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (and addressed in subsequent emails), there’s no missing just how committed HPE is to all things open. Just like the waves inching up the beach, the message of open is permeating everything HPE is doing today. Any discussions about open platforms, systems and software always brings the conversation around to standards and to the need for all vendors to remain cognizant of business fundamentals – yes, companies big and small can make a lot of money from participation in the open movement. The infrastructure software above simply illustrates what HPE views as leadership projects and how it is plugging them together to underpin future generations of software that everyone else in the HPE ecosystem will be relying upon.

None of this should be news to the NonStop community. When Martin became the head of the NonStop Enterprise Development organization in the early 2000s he had just published the book The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. Scattered throughout numerous chapter summaries are some very strong indications of just where Martin’s priorities lay and remember, this book was published in 2002. “There are too many companies, too many groups, and too many individuals for it to go away anytime soon. The momentum is there to guarantee a bright future for a wide assortment of open source applications, and more of these will take a share from their commercial counterparts.”

Much later in the book, Martin reiterates how, “You must still understand your addressable market and customer needs. All of the other elements of building a profitable business are still required. Open source is simply another element that can open opportunities to either build a new business or enhance an existing business.” Martin also highlights, under the heading, Know your Value, that “Open Source has the effect of accelerating the commodity effect of the value you are trying to deliver. Your goal is to continually deliver more and higher value to your customers. This implies that components you deliver lower in the stack are not components for which your customers are willing to pay as much as they were willing to in the past.”

This takes me back to my early experiences at IBM, but in reverse. When it came to pricing systems as intelligence began being distributed, as a rule of thumb you could expect something on your desk to cost $10K, something in your office to cost $100K and something in the data center to cost $1M. And yes, the operating systems and key subsystems were free.  Now we see that the most powerful computer components in our server are being priced for pennies, the OS and key subsystems being priced in the thousands and the solutions – which lie at the top of the stack – is where the value truly lies and these being prices accordingly.

For the NonStop community, we have been on the frontlines witnessing all of this activity firsthand. We have seen the processors embrace open with the migration to the Intel x86 architecture, InfiniBand, SQL, Java and so forth with yet still more to come. Hybrid infrastructure takes openness even further as it is “another element that can open opportunities to either build a new business or enhance an existing business.” Is NonStop waxing even as industry pundits misread the signs, suggesting instead it was waning? Apparently so, even as HPE continues with significant investments in NonStop!

My clients continue to ask me about the future of NonStop and just as importantly, the future of their own businesses tied as they are, just as symbiotically to NonStop as hardware is to software and availability to scalability. Some of my clients are now beginning to consider returning their open platform implementations of products and features back to NonStop – the availability of Java 8 on NonStop is certainly good news for many of them. Other clients are taking a serious look at Node.js (via InfraSoft bomBora) with its support of JavaScript on NonStop even as they eye with more than a little envy just how much functionality is coming to market as a result of the JavaScript open source project.  

Seasons change. Phases of the moon trigger events among them, the incoming tide. However, there’s a sameness, or consistency, being demonstrated even as you look around; the heat of summer is followed by the chill of winter only for summer to return. The mere fact that there are seasons, each different from what came before, is only marks on a timeline that extends into infinity. What’s constant is that we have a breathable atmosphere about which we have been cognizant almost from the time we were born.

For HPE, there are recognizable strategies even as we see trends developing that for a company with such a diverse product portfolio may suggest a waxing and even waning in popularity for some products. Central to all that HPE does today is the pursuit of all that is open and it comes as no surprise. This has been a pursuit of HPE that has roots going back more than a decade and NonStop has been an insider right from the outset. No matter at which level in the stack we  view, whether top or bottom, there’s an open influence but it all comes back to value and where business perceives value and for the NonStop community, it has always been about the solutions. 

Market segments supported by NonStop have waxed and waned over the years but forty plus years on, they may just be marks on the timeline of NonStop that perhaps doesn’t quite extend into infinity but certainly extend a whole lot further than I can see. As Martin observed, and we at NonStop can see too, “The momentum is there to guarantee a bright future!” Yes, he was talking about open source, but we at NonStop see it, too!



Sunday, April 3, 2016

Consolidate and diversify – reshaping the vendor vista!

Randy Meyer, the former senior manager overseeing all of NonStop, who is now Mission Critical Systems VP and GM, has been lobbying all and sundry within the NonStop vendor community to become bigger and M&A actions offer one way to achieve this. The news coming from ETI-NET has been hard to miss of late and now, there’s even more changes taking place …

Visitors to the Las Vegas strip, whether it is to attend the HPE Discover conference or a similar event will be hard pressed to miss the condominium complex known as Veer Towers. Leaning away from each other, in a manner that suggests they will fall down, Veer represents an engineering wonder but its quirkiness also adds to the overall carnival-like atmosphere of Las Vegas where anything is possible. Its symbolism isn’t lost on me – a kind of engineered contrarianism, where, should you go left, I will most likely go right! Veering from center is something I frequently do, although less kindly souls might remind me that all too often I stray far from the beaten path.

At the recent ATMIA US Conference in New Orleans I had the opportunity to catch up with ETI-NET CEO, Andy Hall. Working for the start-up Netlink, Inc. in 1986, I was deep into a discussion with Tandem Computers about a likely investment in Netlink and… who should show up at our Raleigh offices but Andy Hall! When I returned to Sydney in 1987 and joined Tandem Computers, Australia, out of nowhere, Andy calls me to tell me he is in Melbourne, at the offices of the Tandem distributer MIS, trying to sell used cars! If there is anyone in the industry that shares my preferences of straying far from the path then it has to be Andy, but unlike me, where my moves were anything other than chess-like, Andy always had a purpose. 


I kept the above photo, taken as the deal between Tandem and Netlink was completed, as it was only recently that I realized flanking the other distinguished gentlemen was Andy and me. Andy, alongside Jerry Held, his boss at the time, and me, alongside Tandem CEO Jimmy Treybig. Like others in the NonStop community, I continue to run across Andy at one user event or another and whether it was a simple wave from afar, or a nod as we passed each other on escalators, we kept in touch. Sitting in the lobby of the New Orleans hotel, draining a glass or two of wine, with many of the ATMIA event participants around us, it was an occasion to catch up, but even then I was unaware of what was to follow.

On becoming a part of HPE’s Mission Critical Systems group a portfolio that included Unix, Linux and Windows together with NonStop, it is Randy Meyer, the former senior manager overseeing all of NonStop, who is now the group’s VP and GM. With a heritage in NonStop Randy made it clear to all and sundry that for NonStop to grow and sustain a real presence in the Mission Critical Systems portfolio the NonStop vendor community needed to consider consolidating around a fewer number of much larger NonStop banner wavers. Perhaps more importantly, these same NonStop banner wavers needed to consider diversification – it would be good to see solutions and middleware capable of spanning systems from NonStop to Linux.

Following recent announcements we can include ETI-NET in this list of up and coming banner wavers. In November, 2015, we all saw the news of ETI-NET purchasing Insider Technologies where, according to a news release of November 4, as published on ETI-NET’s web site, “Joint engineering between the companies is already underway to adapt Insider’s SENTRA and REFLEX technologies with ETI-NET’s open systems archive architecture and to enable high-velocity monitoring of payment transaction execution, fraud identification, social media sentiment and compliance research, as well as maintaining oversight of high-value message traffic delivery.”

I have to admit I had lost track of Insider Technologies and wasn’t up to speed on its products.  It wasn’t so much a case of Insider Technologies being left unnoticed, flying under the radar, as it was a case of me being focused on other vendors. The last time I sat down with Insider Technologies’ management was in the early 2000s when I was still working for ACI. However, irrespective of its place within the NonStop vendor community, simply finding a home in a bigger and better financed organization, such as ETI-NET, isn’t a situation to be ignored. ETI-NET has its work cut out for it but digesting Insider Technologies will be a lot easier for Andy to accomplish than selling a garage full of used cars.

This isn’t the end of news coming from ETI-NET as they have just wrapped up another purchase and indeed, this is going to see them get a lot bigger. On March 22, 2016, came the news that “ETI-NET, the worldwide leading provider of backup systems for industries that never stop, completed today the acquisition of Virtual Tape Systems (VTS) and SPHiNX.” Furthermore and reflecting the scope of the deal, ETI-NET reported that, “The acquisition includes VTS and SPHiNX software, intellectual property, research and development, customer contracts and support agreements.”

Crossroads product portfolio included software apart from VTS and SPHiNX, most notably, the Strongbox product business and this will find a home in a new subsidiary, Strongbox Data Solutions, Inc. (SDSI), set up for the purpose of focusing on storage solutions for unstructured data. SDSI will become a peer of ETI-NET with Andy continuing as CEO of ETI-NET as well as being on the board of SDSI. In a bold move to further diversify, while VTS is well known to HPE and to the NonStop community, SPHiNX adds support for platforms apart from NonStop.

While I will hold back from providing more information on SDSI for a later post, the important news for the NonStop community is that this deal really strengthens ETI-NET’s position in the back-up, data protection, and disaster recovery marketplaces. While it will signal to the NonStop community that ETI-NET now has more than one solution for back-up, in talking to Andy as well as other executives close to the deal, it’s very clear to me that ETI-NET will continue working with VTS customers, providing them with the level of support as well as with the new features and releases that they expect given the nature of the contracts in place.

“There will be no changes in this respect from the customer perspective when it comes to VTS,” Andy reiterated. “We aren’t going to veer from our plan to grow and having said that, there’s not going to be any first or second tier users; they will all be ETI-NET customers. We have simply consolidated our position in the marketplace even as customers will have a choice based on the options we now bring to the table. We know that tape is not dead. We know that even with cloud computing files ultimately have to go somewhere – whether it’s an issue of regulation or simply having at hand files for research purposes, we have cost effective solutions for whatever today’s applications call for from today’s data center managers. It’s also a really good group of people we will now have that too bring added diversity to the skill sets we are assembling and this should be good news not only to customers but to HPE as well.”

Consolidation within the NonStop vendor community is of value for a very simple reason – both NonStop customers and HPE are looking for a select number of much larger vendors in the NonStop marketplace, where the risk of failure, or indeed, simple atrophy as founders retire, is greatly lessened. While NonStop will unlikely ever attract the likes of Microsoft, Google, Oracle or even SAP-HANA, there’s real value for all stakeholders within the NonStop community in the presence of bigger vendors and ETI-NET is clearly demonstrating a desire to be among the biggest. And the M&A activity is far from over, even as Andy works on the finer details of integrating a diverse group of companies into a single consolidated entity.

Pursuing consolidation, while at the same time adding product diversification, will always be challenging for anyone in the NonStop vendor community. However, looking at the imminent impact HPE’s transformation to hybrid infrastructures will likely have on all products in the HPE Mission Critical Systems portfolio, files will have to have backups and data will need to be archived. The NonStop banner wavers will not be ignored and NonStop customers will be better served by vendors with much deeper pockets and those with broad product portfolios. From what I have read these past few weeks and from the discussions I have had, ETI-NET may have just pulled off one of the deals of the year and for that, the folks like HPE’s Randy Meyer must derive satisfaction – the NonStop vendor community is strengthening even as it is getting bigger!