Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Misconceptions – all computers will never be the same!

There are numerous misconceptions about many things we routinely come into contact with but as NonStop becomes capable of running on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and yes, even from within a cloud, I turned to one solutions vendor to gauge just how big an impact this may have on future NonStop sales …

It’s a common misconception that America’s interstate freeways provide a speedy and stress-free way to drive across the country, but they are neither free nor fast, or even stress free. Denoted speed limits change frequently, portions of the freeway have become toll-roads and many miles of freeway are under repair and have been turned into unforgiving cone-surrounded autocross courses. And then there are the freeway interchanges to contend with – oftentimes beautiful, yet terrifying to the uninitiated. The photo above was taken by the award-winning commercial and fine art photographer, Peter Andrew, who has turned many of these high interchanges into works of art.  No, it’s simply a shortsighted mistake to think sticking to America’s interstate freeways will be the best route to take.

It’s also a common misconception that we are headed down a road where all computer systems will be the same, that, in their eventual ubiquitousness, we will find a kind of Valhalla. In other words, price parity will be reached and vendor differentiation will be marginalized, perhaps differing only in the chosen color schemes of the metalwork, but Valhalla may not be all that we envision, or even welcoming site, with its doors wide open. We may be heading to a box sameness, but there will always be at least two competing architectures, for as far out into the future that I can see, competing x86 and Power architectures, for instance – such that the doors to Valhalla will remain firmly shut. No, it’s just as shortsighted a mistake to think that all computers will be the same. 

This topic came up in numerous discussions of late. Fueled by observations made at recent user and industry events, passing kiosks that populate exhibit halls, you get a superficial sense that it’s all the same and resorting to photo reproductions plastered onto the same cut-out frames as if they were advertising on a NASCAR race car, doesn’t help one bit. When did we move away from exhibiting real computers? I must have missed the memo, but quite frankly, it’s not helping. However, there’s more going on inside today’s computers than we may realize – you can’t really identify a computer by what covers it – this is not about technology that is only skin deep. What lies inside makes all the difference in the world!

There has never been any misconception among the NonStop community about what lies within the cabinets. NonStop systems are just different and will always be different, or, is this not really true anymore? Will a NonStop systems manager be able to tell the difference when all the basic components are commercial, off-the-shelf, hardware? Fortunately, HPE is investing in NonStop at a rapid rate such that today’s image of a NonStop system is shifting in some very important ways, all of which are being discussed with a level of fervor among the NonStop vendor community and these vendors are more excited than I can recall in a long time.

Recently I wrote in my client weekly update of NonStop the system, NonStop the software and NonStop the service, each of which provided the highest level of availability even as it is capable of scaling up as well as out in a manner that meets the needs of any user. If you want to be able to put your arms around a NonStop system that is delivered in a crate to your loading dock then yes, you can get it from HPE. If you want to download NonStop from a web site to run on your Dell x86 servers interconnected by multiple Mellanox InfiniBand switches, well yes, you can get that software too from HPE (or shortly will be able to, in my opinion). If you want to provision on your private cloud that consists of generic x86 servers then that too shouldn’t be a problem and will likely be the way many applications get to access the best database on the planet, NS SQL/MX. And for those prepared to wait just a little longer, if you really need to run in a public cloud I fully expect that too will be possible.

You only want to deploy open source? Indeed, stay tuned as again, it is my opinion that NonStop (in part of in whole) is headed for open source so yes, you may need additional services from knowledgeable folks but go right ahead. Watch for a NonStop distribution being floated by the NonStop community in a year or two! Although following the retirement of HPE CTO, Martin Fink, the potential for the NonStop operating system heading to open source may have lessened. What is not a misconception by anyone tracking technology trends is the price of hardware is dropping (some would say, sinking) with the acceptance of commercial, off the shelf hardware. Middleware, tools and infrastructure are following this downward trend as well. But solutions? Well, this is where the value is provided and while there may be some steading in the price of solutions, the impact is less noticeable.

In the post of June 3, 2016, Burgers for cash ... or burgers and cash? published on the ATMmarketplace site, I turned to OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, for his views on payments solutions and possible integration with robotics but I also asked him for comments on Hybrids and vNonStop. In that post I quoted Yash after he had told me of how, "For more than a year, we have been building our own systems around NonStop and ProLiant Unix processors with Atalla boxes included (as well, for security). After we build and test them, we ship the complete package to our customers and for the most part, all they see is OmniPayments via a browser to the extent the underlying technology is invisible.”

According to Yash, "HPE is demonstrating NonStop and Linux hybrids with InfiniBand and NSADI (formerly, Yuma) connecting the two and we are watching this development with keen interest. If HPE provides packaging that reduces the work we currently need to do then that will keep our costs down and that will be a big plus for our customers. Furthermore,  if we can now build our systems from any x86 servers on offer, applying our own skillsets to properly install and deploy it all, and run NonStop virtually, then I can see this allowing us to deliver a true payments solution to even the smallest of FI.”

Of all the payments solutions on offer today that run on NonStop, OmniPayments has been developed as a pure NonStop play capitalizing on all the features NonStop has to offer. Whereas all but one other payments solutions has been ported to NonStop, OmniPayments leverages NonStop to be as big or as small as the customer situation dictates but there’s even more on the horizon. As Yash so often highlights at customer events, OmniPayments is already embracing cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS), and has multiple in-house sites up and running.

"For some time now we have been successful with our OmniCloudX offering whereby we provision OmniPayments as a Service for our customers. Now that HPE has demonstrated virtual NonStop systems running on commodity, off-the-shelf x86 servers this opens the door to a vastly different environment for NonStop and one where we will need to devote time to fully understand all the ramifications. The priority for OmniPayments will be not to detract from the levels of availability NonStop provides even as we need to consider what additional tools might be required as now there will be additional systems software to support. However, this said, we view the emergence of vNonStop as a positive outcome and one that will help OmniPayments keep the costs low for our customers," concluded Yash. 

As for the potential move of NonStop into the open source arena, Yash is just as bullish about the prospects for OmniPayments with any such distribution that may eventuate from HPE. “In my opinion - open sourcing of Nonstop will lead to more vNonStop sales,” Yash told me. “That is good for us because our software will run on more machines, giving us even more customers. What’s wrong with that?” Some of what I have covered in this post will come to fruition and some may not. For those who have been attending recent user and industry events and entered into discussions with their peers, there seems to be very few limitations as to where NonStop will head and this possibly is the most exciting news about NonStop of all!

Of course this is just the perspective of one solutions vendor but in the coming months I will be working with other vendors in order to gain further insight. Clouds and offering NonStop from within clouds is an entirely new game for OmniPayments so it will be very interesting to watch. However, preliminary feedback is that indeed, there is a growing list of new sales for NonStop X systems as a result.

Misconceptions abound in all walks of life. They are not limited to taking the freeway or buying a computer system. Sticking too long with a misconception can prove dangerous as well – I cannot count how many systems have passed from the technology landscape where the fields are littered with the relics of once prosperous architectures. No, Valhalla as enticing as it may sound is nowhere to be found but the good news is that very soon, you will be able to order up a NonStop variation exactly the way you need it and it may be all the good news anyone in the NonStop community really cares about. And make no mistake, that’s not a misconception at all no matter what your initial reaction on hearing the news from HPE may have been!

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