Sunday, May 22, 2016

NonStop on forward path – and it’s just not stopping!

Attending gatherings of the NonStop community remain a priority for me and getting the opportunity to join BITUG in London proved enlightening. NonStop is definitely on a roll and the NonStop community is enjoying a return to growth!

It was a quick trip to London. The BITUG Big SIG was the venue and it proved to be a popular event – congratulation’s to Kevin and the rest of the BITUG team for pulling this event together within the walls of Trinity House, a building I walked past on a daily basis back in the mid-1970s when I worked in London. Being called upon to give a 30 minute presentation and to man a vendor table, carrying as I did a collapsible promotional banner wasn’t completely unexpected and is something I do like doing.

Fortunately, with London as the destination, there was more than enough upside in making the trip to compensate for the time away from my office. Even though my time in the air these days has been trimmed to the bare minimum, I have to admit, there’s no other practical option than to fly when it comes to spending time with our European brethren.

The NonStop community certainly has an extra bounce in their walk these days, maybe even a swag. Having just come off participating in a number of Regional User Group (RUG) meetings in America, it’s great to see this recent uptick of interest in all things NonStop. If you missed my post of last week, “London Calling” to which I can add, “Anchors Away!”, which I wrote just before BITUG kicked-off, you may recall that I said I expected there to be surprises and that I wasn’t ruling anything out. As it turned out, there were surprises, not the least being just how popular the event proved to be with NonStop users – several faces I recognized from past events, but the majority of the attendees were new faces to me.

My presence at BITUG came about at the request of OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. Even though I had been providing an update on the OmniPayment’s Fraud Blocker offering in America I was interested to see how big a crowd I could attract. Whether it was my personal charm or simply that the NonStop roadmap presentation given by Vanessa Kaupp, NonStop Program Manager, HPE, followed immediately after my presentation, the room was full. I have become well-versed now in what OmniPayments can offer and while there really isn’t any substitute for Yash presenting his own product, I was pleased that there weren’t any difficult questions thrown my way.

I am always asked whether payments solutions can be exported. Do products selling well in one hemisphere will prove successful somewhere else? There’s no hiding that the OmniPayments payments solution is doing very well in the western hemisphere with deployments across the Americas that includes one of the biggest deployments on the planet in support of one of the top three American banks.

If the numbers 40,000,000 transactions per day and 700,000,000 transactions per month do not impress you then perhaps you may want to also consider that this runs on NonStop and just happened to be a showcase migration from another well-known payments solution to OmniPayments. For financial institutions across EMEA considering their options, the numbers like these are sure to impress.

I posted to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, of how BITUG gathers NonStop community together in London ... and about how I lost my way the first afternoon of my stay. I was familiar with the area but so much has changed, the cityscape was unrecognizable. I ended up hailing a taxi in order to find the offices of HPE where NonStop sales head, Dave McLeod, resided. Much of what we discussed was covered in the update he provided during the BITUG lunch but even so, the impression I came away with is of Dave as excited as I can recall over just how well NonStop X sales are going. I may have lost my way, but clearly, NonStop is very much back on track.

OmniPayments has been the primary reason for my attendance but manning at the OmniPayments table gave me the opportunity to catch up with other vendors. Prominent, as they so often are, comForte continued to be the center of many conversations about security and modernization. Shortly I will be posting to comForte blog updates on modernization so check this blog site over the next couple of days to see what I have to say about modernization, particularly as it pertains to modernizing networks.

If as yet you haven’t read my most recent post to the comForte Lounge blog, you may want to take a few minutes to check out the post, HPE NonStop Continues Driving Deeper Into the Data Center . “Yes, HPE has changed its business models, its culture, its funding of R&D, and perhaps most importantly for the NonStop community, its salesforce,” I noted. “Evidence of this, in addition to what we have seen with the rapid introduction of new NonStop systems as a result of stepped-up funding for NonStop R&D, has been the addition of sales folks charged solely with targeting new business opportunities for NonStop.”

McLeod is beaming over recent successes and yes, his is not the only face to be seen as there are some faces I hadn’t seen before at HPE Sales Team and I came away thinking that over the next year, McLeod will be adding even more. NonStop is on the ascendancy and seeing this develop, as I did in EMEA, is particularly encouraging as news from some countries had indicated that an erosion of the presence of NonStop was under way.

However, proceeding down this path may prove to be premature as I sense there is more than one current NonStop user looking to change that is weighing their future plans – yes, if you haven’t already noticed, the Unix market is on an unrecoverable downward spiral. Placing all your chips on the Unix square probably wasn’t the best decision to make – somehow, and against all odds, the best odds are squarely back with NonStop.

For as long as I can recall much of the angst over staying or not staying with NoNStop has had to do with recruiting and retaining staff. Whether it was memories of the miniature bottles of Scotch whisky on their table at last years’ Boot Camp – 18yr old Glen Livet single malt, as I recall – or the sight of a much bigger bottle being given away to one luck user, I just had to stop by the TCM table. NonStop users in the western hemisphere may not be as familiar with TCM as those NonStop users in EMEA are, but TCM is providing a much needed consulting service focused on keeping as many NonStop systems operational as possible.

“Quite simply, we are the NonStop experts (and) we are at the forefront of NonStop support,” says the TCM web site and the more I talk with these folks, the more I tend to believe them. And no, not for the opportunity to sample another fine single malt! For a company that has been in business for as many years as it has been, TCM still proved to be a surprise package and if like me, you would like to know a little more about the company, check out the web page About TCM.

The presence of such a sizable organization focused solely on services in support of NonStop systems should assuage any misgivings about whether access to skilled NonStop personal was problematic and I plan to take a much closer look at the full scope of TCM’s offerings in future posts. I am not sure when my next trip to London might happen but I do know TCM folks are planning on attending this year’s Boot Camp and I am sure I will catch up with them once again.

It would be remiss of me if I forget to mention conversations I had with ETI CEO, Andy Hall. It’s no secret that ETI has wrapped up a couple of acquisitions. It’s no secret too that ETI would like to do more nor is it a secret that HPE executives would like to see a number of NonStop vendors become much larger. For Andy, seeing how positive on NonStop McLeod has become is very encouraging and as I walked away from my conversation with Andy, I just had to wonder, what’s next for ETI? 

Much of what is becoming central to the messages emanating from HPE NonStop sales has to do with hybrid computing. From the most senior HPE executives on down, the message about transforming to a hybrid infrastructure continues to resonate at every user event where HPE has a presence. In a recent HPE promotion for a joint HPE and IDG presentation, Use Cases for Hybrid IT Enablement , this message was strongly reinforced by the following observation. “The right hybrid delivery strategy is based on standards, built on a common architecture with unified management and security, and enables service portability across deployment models.

Just published in a paper aimed at CIOs, co-written with HPE, The Changing Face of Mission-Critical IT in an Always-On World, “More than six in 10 respondents to the IDG Research survey of 200 IT and business decision makers said mission critical has increased in importance as an IT investment focus over the last two years.” In case you were wondering whether HPE was behind NonStop and supporting it in the media, scroll through this paper to where customer use case scenarios are covered and the very first reference is of how Rabobank banks on HPE Integrity NonStop to ensure 24/7/365 global operations.

Perhaps HPE NonStop sales head, McLeod, has a reason to have an extra spring in his step. Perhaps too NonStop vendors are turning out in force to promote products and services in support of NonStop. And did I mention too how there were new, young faces stepping up to take ownership in the NonStop marketplace – no more gray hairs among those I talked to, from HPE’s Vanessa Kaupp to TCM’s Daniel Craig, to a number of those at comForte.

Youth is definitely on display at NonStop. And perhaps their presence in support of NonStop as much as the messages coming from HPE and the community are an even bigger cause for optimism over the future of NonStop! I may have lost my way on arrival in London but when it comes to NonStop, the path forward is very clear. And yes, from the smiles evident on faces everywhere, this path forward just doesn’t stop!  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

“London Calling” to which I can add, “Anchors Away!”

It’s London and it’s the BITUG Big SIG. The NonStop community is gathered to hear more of NonStop and it’s a lot happier community these days. Before it starts I thought it may be good to reflect on what NonStop has accomplished already in just two years since support for x86 was announced. 

Few readers of my blog posts will have missed my many references to cars and music and walking around London for nearly a week there was plenty to remind me of both. A Rolls Royce here, a McLaren over there and yes, plenty of Aston Martins everywhere! Sometimes you simply forget how successful the English have been through the years when it comes to cars. As for a small point of fact, nearly all of the F1 teams have their headquarters around London, from Red Bull to Williams to now the first North American team in ages, Haas F1, chose to complement its North Carolina operations by setting up shop nearby in Banbury, Oxfordshire.


On the other hand, when it comes to music, what needs to be added! As a child of the sixties, there was no place producing as much music as the British Isles. In fact, my first phone call back to Margo started out with, “London Calling!” Then again, it is impossible to escape the maritime heritage of the place as indeed, it was while working for the shipping line, Overseas Containers, Ltd., that the first opportunity to move far from Sydney’s shores eventuated. And look what that led to – some seven international moves later I’m now a US citizen. However, this year’s trip to London is a lot briefer and with a specific purpose in mind – participating in the BITUG Big SIG event.


Following so soon after the very successful GTUG event in Berlin, where there were more than 200 participants (of which there were 100+ users from some 50+ customers), so my expectations are running high. Right now though, looking out the window of my hotel onto Tower Bridge Road (yes the Tower Bridge itself is only a matter of a hundred yards or so up the road), it’s raining. And it’s May. I recall that apart from London Calling, there was a EuroVision song a couple of years ago, London Rain (nothing heals me like you do) and I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to reference:
Close your eyes and count to ten
May not feel this way again ...

Before waxing any further philosophical, is it just me or has everyone else in the NonStop community experiencing a heightened, indeed accelerating, pace of change surrounding all things NonStop. Perhaps it’s the accelerated rate that is catching my attention – it was only two years ago that HPE announced NonStop would support the Intel x86 architecture. Well, it’s delivered already and added a second model to the NonStop X family of systems. InfiniBand (IB)? Also delivered, and now a way to exploit IB in hybrids, Yuma. Yes, delivered, too. Virtualization, and the opportunity to run NonStop in private clouds, capitalizing on both vNonStop and vCLIMS?  You bet; it has become more than lines and boxes on a whiteboard. Delivered? Well, not yet for this last item – but are we all that sure it hasn’t found a home already in one telco or another? For sure, come the next NonStop Technical Boot Camp in San Jose, we will likely hear more and I would not be surprised to learn that there’s a customer already in production.

NonStop running on an x86 server? Something that become a discussion item at GTUG, where the answer is why not? The fact remains that NonStop is now software – the best software platform on the planet. Running on anyone’s x86 package, especially if they configure a Linux / KVM setup and run vNonStop. Piece of cake … and what about public clouds? With the work being done in support of Yuma and hybrids it’s clear to me that it’s not just IB being supported but high-speed Ethernet as well and it’s with this Ethernet support that I wouldn’t want to rule out eventual support by vNonStop of public clouds.

No, you may not feel this way again … But who is the audience for such products? In a world being overrun with Linux is there still a need for systems like NonStop? The short response is yes, and for a very good reason. Just talk to HPE executives. Talk to major users in finance, telco and even healthcare. There will always be information that needs to be locked tightly away, inaccessible to all, save a few mission critical applications. For the remainder of my lifetime there will be a need for HPE to supply complete NonStop systems and in the usual way statistics are produced, while 80% may be on the Linux server binge, there will still be that 20% needing NonStop.

That’s a very big marketplace and one the HPE executives are now behind – the investments in x86, IB, Yuma, vNonStop and so forth (and I’m sure there will be even more surprises coming in November, 2016) aren’t small and definitely not being hidden from financial and budget planners at the highest level within HPE. This is all happening and it’s not by accident. Dress it up any which way you want but there’s big money behind NonStop and its trajectory is deeper into the open space – and yes, for a reason as well. While IBM mainframes continue to track down the proprietary path, NonStop is heading in the opposite direction – open. For many within the NonStop user community this is exactly the right direction to be heading.

I am often asked about the future of NonStop, not so much among existing users but within the broader context of HPE itself. Here’s the latest news flash on this score – NonStop X, yes a world-beater; SuperDome X, not so much. The relationship between Unix and SuperDome has been very strong, joined at the hip, so as to speak, but did we all see the upshot of the recent hip replacement surgery? Well, SuperDome no longer supports Unix and even as it’s a superb scale-up package, the new world of Linux and Windows is all about scale-out. And NonStop delivers scale-out by the bucket load whereas SuperDome X can only look on. Ouch.  Far be it for more to advise HPE on its product directions but isn’t it time to start thinking that perhaps continued investment in SuperDome X is a lost cause? Give the money to NonStop and let’s run with NonStop as fast and as we can!

However, it’s not just the cadre of current NonStop users who see the need to continue with NonStop as secure, locked-down, systems at the very heart of their mission critical systems. There will be others attracted to the traditional properties of NonStop systems for the first time, given the new investments being made in runtime platforms – Java 7 and 8 as well as Node.js. Chose you poison – you can deploy on NonStop what you are developing today. First with microservices, I suspect, but in time, complete services – whole solutions that we may not have ever contemplated seeing run on NonStop. There will be surprises I am sure, but I am not ruling anything out. In an increasingly mobile world where apps and microservices reign, NonStop just may prove to be the answer to many of the yet unasked questions!

Yes, you may not feel this way again … Looking around the banks of the Thames there’s images of anchors everywhere. Real anchors of antiquity, stylized anchors as art, and then again, working anchors holding fast giant cruisers. It all begs the question – has NonStop been too tightly anchored inside of HPE? Have these anchors restricted its ability to steam away from the shore as much as they have provided safety during tempestuous times? London may be calling and in truth, we may not feel this way again about NonStop. But seriously, isn’t it time to cut the chains holding NonStop back (as we already are seeing happening within NonStop R&D)? Yes, it’s come time for Anchors Away!  
 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hybrids continue to make headlines …

Who would have guessed just how much that is happening in the auto industry applies to IT. Bottom line? Don’t underestimate what hybrids can deliver and yes, I am talking about NonStop!

First it was the news about an upcoming entry-level Tesla that had everyone jumping. The early revelation that some 200,000 plus orders that Tesla received was mindboggling, even to a car guy like me. The Tesla Model 3 has been long anticipated but never before in the auto industry has any company opened the order books to this extent while the deliverable is so far away – more than a year out. Just this week, according to Fortune Magazine, Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, confirmed that there had been no letup in interest in the Model 3 with the books now holding some 400,000 orders! Yes, staggering numbers and quite unbelievable – isn’t the economy still in dire straits?

There are numerous reports coming in from colleagues in the NonStop community who have placed orders for the Model 3. In some cases, multiple orders so each member of the family can have their own. As for me, I am still a little unsure about heading out onto the highways in an all-electric car. Perhaps for city and suburban usage they have advantages, but I need more. I need a backup – yes, I need a combustion engine. Reciprocating or rotary, gasoline or diesel, I don’t really care, but something has to be there to keep the batteries topped up when I am hundreds of miles into the deserts of Arizona and Utah.

Just a week ago, my local BMW dealer gave Margo and me the keys to a BMW i8. The engine is tiny by our standards – the same small turbo-boosted inline three cylinders as you find in current model Mini Coopers. Oh yes, and a couple of small electric motors powering the front wheels. But go? Yes it does and with acceleration having some of the same characteristics we enjoyed from the Nissan GT-Rs we used to own. Again, wow! Talk about redefining the luxury-class of hybrid cars, sales of the i8 are running away from the competition. And this is becoming the same shared experience of members within the NonStop community running their own Model 3s – the HP Integrity NonStop X NS3 X1 (NS3) to give it it’s full name. The latest NonStop system that is “Redefining entry-class continuous availability for x86”, as the team at HPE’s Mission Critical Systems likes to remind us.

And like families ordering multiple Tesla Model 3s so each family member will be happy, so too are we beginning to hear of customers’ orders being processed within HPE that are for multiple NS3s. Recently I gave a presentation on the OmniPayments, Inc. payments solution to the NonStop community attending the DUST Regional User Group (RUG) event where I was able to talk about the multiple NS3s OmniPayments had purchased. Indeed, my participation came about as a result of CEO, Yash Kapadia, opting to stay in San Mateo to watch over the delivery of his latest purchase. If I counted the numbers of fingers on the hand he showed, I would speculate that having three systems already delivered, there is another four likely to be deployed across the growing base of OmniPayments customers.

However, this isn’t all that Yash is doing. He too is a very big fan of hybrids and while I won’t give away all of the story, the next time you talk to Yash, ask him about his preferred vehicle. HPE is adamant that IT needs to transform; moving beyond the legacy systems that hold center stage inside many data centers and embracing the scale-out, scale-up commercial, off-the-shelf blade servers that power the open, industry-standard processors that are needed to handle the more data, the more apps, the more infrastructure, indeed, everything more (and the scaling issues that go along with all of this) that Martin Fink, EVP and CTO, HPE, reminds whenever he talks about runaway technology these days. HPE’s message about transformation with its emphasis on transforming to hybrid systems and hybrid infrastructures isn’t lost on anyone in the NonStop community – the story has been told and retold so often that there’s almost nothing newsworthy about the story.

Yet as with anything major the details about any transformation continue to hold our attention – connecting what we have today with what is coming still requires focus and prioritizing. The majority of the NonStop community relies on systems of the NonStop i family – blade systems featuring Itanium chipsets. With as much focus as hybrid systems and architectures are getting, doesn’t it make sense to shine the same spotlight on hybrid NonStop i and NonStop X systems? In much the same way as new-age hybrids comprised of NonStop and Linux are presented with applications on Linux and databases on NonStop X and even in reverse, with online platforms on NonStop and My SQL on Linux (as a number of NonStop customers have done through the years), isn’t the first steps towards hybrids simply getting NonStop X more fully integrated with the NonStop i systems we have?

HPE NonStop continues to sell NonStop i systems to users who have investments in NonStop i and who have plenty of spare chassis capacity to accommodate additional blades. As long as supplies of Itanium (and supporting) chips continues, many users will find going down this path a viable option and I know of users where this remains a less risky option. But even the staunchest supporter of Itanium blades knows that there will come a day where supplies will simply dry up and the sooner they gain knowledge of NonStop X capabilities, the less traumatic an eventual switch to NonStop X will be. Perhaps it’s just another connectivity option to explore and with both NonStop i and NonStop X demonstrating strong support of Ethernet LANs, this too remains a less risky option.

Adding a NonStop X node to an already present multi-node cluster isn’t all that hard to do. According to the HPE, in its brochure, Engineered for the highest availability – HPE Integrity NonStop family of systems, when it comes to Expand-over-IP networking, “All HPE Integrity NonStop systems support Expand-over-IP networking, using high-speed Gigabit Ethernet links to interconnect multiple NonStop systems over a local or wide area network.” Astute users of NonStop systems know that networking NonStop systems whether NonStop i or NonStop X can lead to some pretty big systems – as many as 3,500 processors in one system alone, as is the case for one user in the AsiaPac / Japan region – so consideration of hybrids that include NonStop X with NonStop i while not the current trending definition of hybrid, certainly qualifies when hybrid includes chipsets of differing architectures. Diesel or gasoline as part of your power train? It doesn’t matter; the net result is the continuous processing of online transactions.

Talking of connectivity, Tom Bittman, VP Distinguished Analyst, Gartner, recently gave the Striim’s audience the podcast, The Four IT Megatrends Driving Transformation. In this presentation he reiterated well-known trends under slightly different headings than we may have seen used in the past, even by HPE executives. Gartner proposes that the four IT Megatrends are “Digitalization, Hybrid, Protection, Information.” The emergence of rapid connectivity between competitors, customers, constituents and employees – yes, the creation of digital commerce; a variety and flexibility of technologies – yes, the melding of more than one platform; security, but just as importantly, recognizing the shift from merely protecting and defending to one of facilitation; and finally, Big Data in all its forms are the four IT Megatrends. Sounds a lot like the cloud, hybrid, security and big data we hear repeated as the key focus areas of HPE whenever HPE executives take the stage at any major event. And for good reason – these are what is driving our need to come to terms with transformation. Traditional, conventional or legacy – it doesn’t matter how we describe the systems we have in place – simply cannot cope with what’s coming without a lot of help. There is a point where there’s nothing left and applications left running on these systems falter and eventually stall.

These past weeks have seen a rush to embrace the Tesla Model 3. It’s the new car – the one with a different power train. For many consumers it will do just fine, but a long line of battery-powered cars formed at one charging station in Vale recently left many drivers frustrated by the experience, according to one eye-witness I talked to this week. For a car guy like me, hybrids are still the better option and while the BMW i8 may not be everyone’s first choice, it certainly is among the most attractive hybrid cars on the market. NonStop X systems will increasingly be deployed as part of a hybrid infrastructure and whether the other participant is a cloud, a server farm, a Linux processor or even an existing NonStop i system makes little difference (apart from it being an almost logical step for many NonStop users) to me – what is most important of all is that yes, NonStop X can play a role and with the NS3, the entry price has become so enticing that wouldn’t it be good to see 200,000 orders and more in the coming year!