Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall is a time to take in change; RUG events likewise are time to reflect on change with NonStop

NonStop is evolving yet again as it heads down different roads. Just how disruptive a technology NonStop will become? Why don’t you participate in the next Regional User Group (RUG) meeting to find out!

In my previous post I wrote of my brief encounter with a simulated race track experience at HPE Discover 2016 and of how I didn’t much care for the simulator. This past week Margo and I drove through Colorful Colorado on our way to Scottsdale for the DUST Regional User Group (RUG) meeting and my earlier observation about not caring for simulation was justified. There’s nothing like the real thing and the display of color this year was as good as it has ever been. The photo above was taken while Margo was behind the wheel approaching the town of Durango, CO!

For this trip, we elected to skip the freeways and stick to paths less traveled. In so doing, we couldn’t help comment about the path HPE was now treading as it pushed ahead with dramatic changes for NonStop. And these changes are taking place rather rapidly – from a single NonStop system to a Hybrid NonStop with Linux (and Windows) to no system at all. NonStop running virtually on commercial off-the-shelf hardware, and while these transformations have been well broadcast before their availability there’s still considerable surprise over what we are now seeing coming from the NonStop development.

However, it just had to happen. For NonStop to continue to be a contributor to then bigger HPE, NonStop the system, the platform and the software had to change its ways. At no time did I ever consider that NonStop was a “club” where only those invited few would meet around drinks and talk of the good old days. One of the difficulties many vendor user groups have suffered from over the past decade is exactly this – as numbers of systems and number of installations declined, they closed ranks and simply enjoyed fellowship with each other. This is far from a healthy sign for such organizations and it’s so easy for the more established user groups to go down this path. For the vendors, it’s perplexing and not something that excites them any longer – why fund an organization that simply feeds itself?

I have been told more than once that user groups and the communities they serve are just one more example of legacy. We have always done this, so the commentary goes, and after four or even more decades, this is who we are. This is our culture and our comfort zone but unfortunately, it does very little to encourage newcomers to join the ranks. And this is precisely why I keep returning to the RUG events no matter where they may be held. NonStop RUGs generate such  positive energy for me that participation in them remains a priority and no, they aren’t becoming “exclusive” clubs. These days, I am pretty much restricted to those being organized in the Americas but the word I received following the recent VNUG event outside Stockholm seems to confirm that what I am witnessing here is very similar to what is happening elsewhere.

I have to thank
OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia, for giving me an opportunity to present on his behalf at DUST. In so doing, I was given considerable leeway by Yash to frame OmniPayments latest services option – OmniCloudX – within the context of the changing NonStop landscape. Not too long ago I posted to the ATMmarketplace blog, Dressing up for the occasion ... where I referenced the work being done by OmniPayments to deliver a hybrid system, all LAN connected, in the one box. “Yash anchored HP standard chassis for rack-mounted processors with enough processors to support the key components of his payments solution running on HP NonStop. He then threw in a couple of Atalla security modules before topping off with ProLiant servers running Linux and Windows.”

However, that was just the start for Yash as he worked to better leverage what he saw coming in the NonStop roadmaps that were being presented at RUG events. OmniPayments may be offering its OmniPayments suit out of a cloud that’s based on NonStop X systems, but looking further afield, there is little to suggest Yash will not be adding support for NSADI / Yuma for faster access, exploiting more of the “white space” he has observed when running on NonStop. Translation? More applications coming back to run on NonStop! There are two other aspects of what Yash is pursuing that truly intrigue me – centralization and build-your-own!

Centralization; what the arrival of hybrid infrastructures with mixed NonStop and Linux (and Windows) does is foster greater centralization. Aren’t public clouds nothing more than Service Bureaus and Time Sharing Options (TSO) revisited? If you trace the roots of clouds back far enough in time, you will be surprised to see that their initial popularity was derived from the reality that business didn’t have access to qualified IT staff. With few businesses prepared to invest in training any more, isn’t it reasonable to expect centralization is a return to pooling of expertise in a very highly structured environment?


How many times have NonStop vendors reported that a customer has asked them to send on site their best developers to resolve a problem when in fact, the best course of action is to send someone who can best communicate what they observe, leaving the best developers to work with their development and test environments difficult to reproduce in the field? There is real value in having a small number of centers around the globe, each with enough skilled personnel to support the population of end users 
depending upon them?

By build-your-own then this too is nothing new but rather a return to the days of VARs. As we see more information about vNonStop being reveled and HPE puts in place the processes necessary for anyone to order vNonStop there’s the small issue of ensuring the “NonStop-ness” of vNonStop and as much as NonStop development sets forth a reference model, it opens the doors like never before for smart companies to begin on-selling their favorite white-label x86 server with OpenStack and vNonStop. Differentiation based on superior levels of availability all while supporting your favorite development environment – tell me what’s bad about that!

However,
 this goes a little beyond what has been historically associated with VARs. We have already read about OmniPayments becoming a VAR for both NonStop and Atalla in select South American markets where it fills a need in those areas no longer supported by the HPE NonStop team. The new crop of VARs that I am anticipating emerge will also provide remote management as well as a range of services from simple upgrades to the operating system and middleware to capacity planning on through to what had always been performed by on-premise systems managers.

There really isn’t any hiding from the fact that today, it’s not only that businesses aren’t investing in training but that the pool of knowledgeable talent is shrinking as the years pass by – the only place where such investments will continue is at these new age VAR “centers of excellence.” One example of this is
TCM Solutions who I have been working with this year and have come to really like its model as TCM tackles these exact same issues. TCM CEO, Tony Craig, is almost evangelical in his belief that, just as clouds are a return to centralization, so too is the emergence of managed services providers. Better to have all the expertise needed to support NonStop under one roof with the tools needed to support anyone at any time anywhere in the world?

There remain a lot of unknowns surrounding hybrid infrastructures and clouds and, when it comes to the deployment of NonStop, as either part of a hybrid system or within virtual machine, leadership will more than likely come from solutions providers. They have the most to gain from mastering either environment as remaining price competitive while offering a better solution is a major goal for them.

It would be simple for me to make the observation that this will all sort itself out over time but the simple truth is there’s no quick and easy fix. Just a lot of perseverance, as different models are tested. NonStop is evolving from what we once knew NonStop to be and is heading down different roads, meeting different needs and, in the process, there will be disruptions. Yes, this new NonStop will prove to be highly disruptive technology and it’s been a long time since words like this have been associated with NonStop.  

The DUST RUG event turned out to be well worth the time spent driving to it  - and the opportunity to spend time taking in the changing colors that the Colorado landscape never fails to provide at this time of year making up for the weekend spent in transit. Shortly, we will be returning to the road for the slightly longer transit to Ontario, Canada, for the upcoming CTUG event. We may be a little late to see the fall colors along the foreshore of Lake Ontario but CTUG will more than make up for any disappointments on that score.

NonStop, on the other hand, is definitely changing its ways and for that, and the impact it will have on the broader NonStop community, we have to thank the HPE NonStop team and I for one, am pleased to see the path it has elected to take. NonStop a part of every businesses cloud? In time it’s bound to happen – there is still no better way to offer up services from within a cloud than knowing that they will always be there, 24 X 7.

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