Thursday, October 6, 2016

More milestones – this time, it’s the 400th post! And did I mention that it’s all about NonStop!

For all the time I have been blogging, it never occurred to me that there would be 400 posts written over such a short period of time. And yet, the basic premise for NonStop in the marketplace hasn’t changed – we just don’t want outages of any kind. But wait ... there's a lot more to this story!

Celebrations always include moments of reflection. When a milestone is reached and where there is energy to keep going, these milestones can sometime be nothing more than bumps in the road. It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote a post about this blog entering its tenth year but with this post, we will be celebrating 400 posts. I was thinking early on that perhaps interest in posts to Real Time View will wane considerably with time but, in all reality, thoughts like this couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a growing audience for all things NonStop!

On the one hand, barely a month goes by without HPE being in the news. Likewise, the pace of development for NonStop has ratcheted up significantly over the past two years, so much so, should HPE deliver everything depicted in the current NonStop product roadmaps, NonStop will be available in different guises targeting many different marketplaces. Whether purchased as a complete system delivered directly to the data center or downloaded as software, NonStop continues to provide value and in a world deep in transition, bridging traditional IT with clouds private and yes, public – availability remains an issue that needs to be addressed. And NonStop continues to deliver.

As I look back and reflect on much that I have written to this point, I have never wavered in my confidence that HPE, in the NonStop product line, has a prized server capable of doing practically anything when it comes to transaction processing. NonStop inherently scales out even as its fault tolerance is once again becoming a talking point – how do large applications interacting with the general public, stay up and running 24 X 7? I have looked over countless publications and news releases by HPE for the past decade and it’s interesting to observe just how prominent the attribute “fault tolerant” has become – after a very long time of using almost every other term, it seems back in vogue within HPE.

Fault tolerant? It’s a story that once focused solely on the hardware. More recently, the key differentiator was the “integrated stack” that included the operating system, the database, the transaction monitor and all the logging that goes with it to ensure not only 24 X 7 operation for a single system but almost instant recovery and take-over by an “active” secondary (or even tertiary) off-site system. Yet the hardware, together with the integrated stack, isn’t the full story. NonStop is both a product, a technology and an architecture and it’s now heading down a path to give HPE customers and prospects a wide pallet of options from which to choose – all influenced of course by IT facing the difficult transition to clouds where availability and scalability and indeed security are of the essence.

It would be very easy to me to continue to look back at this time and recount the many highlights NonStop has enjoyed over more than forty years. However, it is the future that interests me most and while I was not privy to every “whiteboard discussion” held within NonStop development and product management over the years I have been pretty good at reading the tea leaves and making educated guesses. Had you been in the audience of SATUG back in 2008 you would have heard my presentation on just how important developing virtual NonStop was to the future of NonStop. And yes, if you had been in the audience of DUST this week, you would have heard even more!

NonStop as a product, a technology and an architecture – it is pretty obvious where NonStop is now headed. From a product perspective, HPE has made it clear that NonStop will continue to be available as a complete system, whether it’s one of the NonStop i family members (HPE is committed to taking Itanium chips from Intel through to 2025), one of the NonStop X family members or the hybrid product based on NonStop X with an InfiniBand fabric integrating Linux and even Windows. A product line in it’s own right and one I expect to see provided as a complete system at some point, like other products in the Converged Systems (CS) product family should market demand develop where such an investment makes sense – think Financial Institutions where payments solutions have argued for some time for a “programmable CLIM” supporting something apart from a Debian distribution of Linux.

Race to your digital enterprise! The photo at the top of the page was taken during HPE Discover 2016 and featured groups of “drivers” with VR goggles competing with each other in digital race cars. Of course something like this would attract my attention but being averse to using simulators (they don’t give you any indication of how much grip you have), I preferred to watch other. It is a race to a digital enterprise but not one that can be accomplished on one fell swoop - a ruthless and fierce undertaking not for the faint of heart! CIOs understand the risks of the pressures to succeed even as they are acutely aware of the downside risk. When it comes to global enterprises it only makes sense to enter such a race with incremental change – the heart of transitioning to hybrid infrastructures.

NonStop is proving to be more than just a product but a technology and the externalization of its interconnect fabric with an API that supports a direct to memory transfer between disparate stacks (i.e. NonStop with Linux) opens the door for applications running on one stack to be integrated with applications on another. For the NonStop community I suspect it will not be very long before the technology behind NonStop is used to provide an overarching mantle on everything connected to NonStop – the inherent property of NonStop take-over will be extended to application processes running on Linux or even Windows. Transaction Monitors on NonStop, in other words, will essentially wrap these application processes within monitoring capabilities – persistence, and hence even greater levels of availability, will extend beyond NonStop.

Technology is often described as being a “collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation.” In this sense, NonStop is a key ingredient in not just processes used in the production of goods or services but rather, is that additional “special sauce” that makes these goods and services available 24 X 7 whether the supporting methods are on NonStop or simply adjacent to NonStop. In essence with the hybrid, converged systems, I envision appearing in enterprise data centers, the shadow of NonStop will be indeed long and cover as much of the servers present in the data center that the CIO deems part of their enterprises mission critical operations.

NonStop, too, is proving to be much more than just a product and a technology as increasingly it is an architecture that is attracting more attention of late. As NonStop evolves to become a software platform, running in a virtual world, HPE development will be providing models, templates and yes, a “reference architecture.” One of the key messages coming from NonStop development is that with the release of vNonStop –a software only offering – this reference architecture will ensure configurations of vNonStop are truly fault tolerant.

With a reference architecture there will be a separation between HPE the architect, and HPE the general contractor. Maybe you will rely on HPE for everything – the hardware, the virtual machine including the hypervisor and vNonStop, but perhaps not. As software houses and managed services providers gaining confidence, a new ecosystem of general contractors will likely appear some of which utilize all the HPE offerings, whereas others will mix and match hardware, virtual machines and vNonStop. Maybe you will rely on general contractors apart from the HPE NonStop team?

In the time it has taken me to write 400 posts, NonStop has come a very long way. As a community, all associated with NonStop have held our collective breaths on occasion as we watched the changes unfolding at HPE but as we gave a collective sigh of relief when we heard of the sizeable investment HPE has been making in NonStop, we have witnessed firsthand the emergence of a very powerful and comprehensive response to the growing market need for fault tolerance along with scalability and of course security. This is a segment that NonStop alone can address and is doing so in a compelling manner. So yes, I look forward to all that is ahead and here’s to the next 400 posts!

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