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!  
 

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