Monday, June 13, 2016

What we discovered in Vegas!

HPE Discover 2016 was the “big-tent, marketing event” we have come to expect. Hearing HPE CEO Meg Whitman introduce Home Depot onto the stage as a NonStop user was great! With uptick in interest in all things NonStop (including HPE IT) we're going to need a lot more help from services providers …

A year may not be a long time between HPE Discover events and then again, when you also factor in Boot Camp having been only half a year ago, it continues to intrigue me how HPE has picked up the pace so dramatically. Often relegated to being old-school or even a leftover from a previous era, it’s all too easy to denigrate a company that’s been in business for three quarters of a century, but this is far from being an accurate depiction of HPE today. 

The breakup of the former HP into the two companies, HPQ and HPE, was executed extremely well such that today HPE is single-mindedly focused on the needs of enterprises everywhere. Furthermore, the decision by HPE to spin off its services group – a legacy of the times when buying EDS seemed such a good idea – with the plan to combine it with CSC to form a new entity focused solely on services, further frees HPE’s hands to pursue leadership in the enterprise systems business.

As HPE CEO Meg Whitman reported at the time of the announcement, "As two stand-alone companies with global scale, strong balance sheets and focused innovation pipelines, both HPE and the new company that combines CSC and HPE's Enterprise Services segment will be well positioned as leaders in their respective markets. For HPE, our balance sheet, capital allocation strategy, and cost structure will now be fully optimized for a faster growing, higher margin and more robust free cash flow business. And, the new company will be in a stronger position to win than either organization could have been on its own."

While HPE’s competitors thought this all very strange even as they were doubling down on software and services investments, this announcement doesn’t discount the need for services – just different type of services. From what I heard at HPE Discover 2016 was that the HPE Enterprise Services group wasn’t producing the goods consistently enough, and not to make too fine a point of it, the tens of thousands of individuals still resident within HPE Enterprise Services had made it the last resting place of former EDS consultants that couldn’t find a home elsewhere. There remains within HPE an active services group – still thousands of individuals spread around the globe – that is more closely aligned with the product directions now being pursued.

HPE is going to need not just the help of the thousands of folks that are part of the HPE Enterprise Group but of a much bigger ecosystem closely aligned with individual products and indeed, technologies. By this I mean key technologies like OpenStack and yes, security, monitoring and perhaps most importantly of all, virtualization. The rapid march to virtualization is unquestionably the biggest takeaway from HPE Discover 2016. The good news for the NonStop community is that NonStop is becoming a key contributor in this march – with HPE IT swinging its enormous weight behind virtual NonStop (vNonStop). 

The merits of the SQL/MX database haven’t been ignored by HPE IT even as it let slip the prospect of increased usage of its own products. Introducing SQL/MX into the mission critical transaction processing aspects of HPE IT, even as the migration of NonStop to the Intel x86 architecture has brought renewed credibility to NonStop, pretty much was a no-brainer both in terms of better functionality and the severance of ties to former proprietary products. Changing business circumstances often produce unintended consequences and the elevation of the profile of NonStop has come about in part because of a major rethink of the products HPE had been using internally in support of its business.

Migrating to vNonStop from real NonStop only required some minor retooling of the JDBC paths and users didn’t notice any difference and this all falls in line with what we had been told at the recent Partner Technical Symposium – “it just works!”  However, this time by an IT team familiar with the technology and with help only a phone call away. For the broader base of NonStop users, access to services is going to be more critical than ever and this is where I am seeing members of the NonStop vendor community doubling down to meet the needs.

NonStop vendors today represent an ecosystem of product, consulting, service and even media providers all prepared to invest in NonStop and after many years of the status quo where familiar names continued to ply their trade, I haven’t seen this powerful a stakeholder in NonStop looking healthier. The NonStop community often has many options to consider and this further encourages more participants and with the economies of the world encouraging even more freelancing, NonStop is likely to see its needs well met.

It was at last year’s Boot Camp where I first ran across TCM, a company out of Scotland – an incident I covered in my post of May 22, 2016, NonStop on forward path – and it’s just not stopping! Catching up with TCM again at BITUG gave me an opportunity to talk in more depth with Daniel Craig and Collin Yates. If you aren’t familiar with this company, as was the case for me up until recently, check out the TCM web site.

What impressed me most about TCM is that, in a world where services were being scrutinized to the extent that they are, and where recent decisions including that of HPE to split from its own HPE Enterprise Services group is the most recent example, the need for more tightly-focused, albeit specialist, services companies is on the rise. There’s never been an overabundance of skilled systems managers nor SQL/MX experts and this aspect of the NonStop marketplace shows every sign of increasing in importance.

What HPE Discover 2016 highlighted for me is that it’s not just products gaining the attention but the services needed to support those products. The appeal of NonStop X is going to see new first-time customers attracted to NonStop systems and while there will always be those influenced by individuals having gained knowledge of NonStop while working somewhere else, there will still be many others with absolutely no experience. It’s now becoming common knowledge among those who are close to NonStop sales that NonStop has turned a corner with an expected growth rate in the single digits but even if this sounds low, it’s still many more new NonStop users emerging than previously experienced.

Talking to the folks at TCM, what stands out for me is that they have a global reach offering remote operations support – yes, they can take full responsibility for a complete soup to nuts operation. TCM can order your system, set it up and deploy, and then remotely manage. They already have several decades of experience doing this and whether you are looking for a protracted arrangement or in need of short term assistance that is more project oriented (e.g. installing a new NonStop X system), the global reach of TCM allows them to work right alongside you, no matter the requirements you may have.

Migrating to vNonStop? Considering introducing vNonStop just for development, test and even PoCs? The intersection of operating system, hypervisors, and mapping guest systems for optimal spread across real processors – is a whole new ballgame for many NonStop stakeholders. Whether it’s to add a NonStop DBaaS via NonStop SQL/MX with nothing more than JDBC calls to NonStop or a comprehensive hybrid solutions spilt across many virtual machines, it will prove challenging to even the most experienced of NonStop sites. What I am expecting to see is a considerable uptick of interest in the likes of NonStop service providers such as TCM, so yes, watch for even more balance between solutions and middleware vendors and those providing services in posts to this blog in the lead up to Boot Camp later this year.

The emergence of service providers is extremely important to everyone in the NonStop community going forward – factor in an aging / retiring workforce with NonStop skills, a dearth of in-depth training coming from HPE, and deployments of NonStop systems into sites with little enterprise IT experience and you are looking at a recipe for potentially less than stellar deployments. And I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t all arrived at the doorstep of an important new category of NonStop stakeholders – these experienced service providers.

The need for an ecosystem of service providers in support of open, security, application monitoring in support of NonStop was perhaps the biggest takeaway for me from this HPE Discover event. It will be very interesting to watch just how this evolved over time as increasingly, NonStop isn’t what it once was – that data PBX in the corner with a chatty console. No, NonStop is not only becoming open and standard but pervasive and will likely show up in unexpected places providing extraordinary capabilities and looking after it all will be skilled operators populating support facilities practically anywhere on the planet!     

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