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!   

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