Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mall insights, and NonStop 2016 in review …

With the last post of 2016 we can look back at all the news surrounding NonStop systems and simply acknowledge just how quickly the world of NonStop is changing and yes, changing for the better …

Struggling to exit the local shopping mall with packages in both hands, as Margo and I left it almost to the very last day to finish our Christmas shopping, I took the opportunity this gave me to have a good look around at both the shops and their customers. So much has changed since I went back to strolling malls worldwide a decade or so ago – yes, I had lived in Edmonton, Alberta, as plans were being drawn up to build the West Edmonton Mall, pictured above and still the largest mall in North America (sorry, Minneapolis) – but after the birth of my daughter, Lisa, I found a Saturday morning filled with exploration and yes, of course, fresh donuts, an affable escape from normal routines.

The popularity of malls has ebbed and flowed through the years. Visitors to Silicon Valley who spent time at Tandem Computers will recall both Vallco Shopping and Valley Fair Malls and their trajectories couldn’t have been more opposite if they had tried. Vallco suffered a slow death whereas the mighty Westfield came in and completely resurrected Valley Fair and I can’t recall a trip back to Silicon Valley when I haven’t stopped by the Valley Fair Mall. As with much of what drives success today, those malls doing well have morphed into much more than a string of shops as they include food courts, many of which are now upscale eateries – think steakhouses, popular seafood restaurants and sushi bars – along with theater complexes and even gymnasiums. Someone in Texas will probably email to tell me that somewhere in the Lone Star State there’s a cathedral integrated with the local mall.

Looking back at the three months since the lead to Halloween, it’s as if the country has made a beeline to the mall at some point even as our shopping disposition has changed radically over the past few years. Our last minute visit to the mall only came about when the need arose to take a good look at a potential gift to check out it’s suitability for small children. All of our other shopping this year was done online and for the past week there have been almost daily deliveries of packages. With the combination of inclement weather and crowded parking lots it’s so much easier to shop with clicks than stroll through bricks and mortar. But again, looking back even further than just a couple of months, the number of mall closings hasn’t gone unnoticed and yet, there they stand. Changed in ways unimaginable but still capable of attracting crowds. Monuments to our need to watch fashions, check sizes, touch material and smell the aromas of freshly prepped meals.

When it comes to changes unimaginable, as I look back at the year that is coming to a close, for the NonStop community, 2016 has all been about speed and responsiveness. Traditional systems were being supplanted by alternate methods for computing. The cloud has arrived even if all the cloud really means to many CIOs is that the data center exists somewhere else and its oversight is now someone else’s problem. The arrival of clouds has brought a renewed sense that costs have to be brought under control and that there is a limit to just how much business will pay for systems, software and services. The recent spin-mergers announced by HPE are just a reflection of a return to focus and that generalization and multipurpose aren’t cutting it any more. Even longstanding practices of outsourcing are coming under increased scrutiny as 2016 has represented a period of re-thinking as cloud operators put outsourcing practices under the microscope.

For me, the highlights for 2016 have been many and varied with the most obvious change being the return to favor of user events. The two big events that brought this into perspective were BITUG and Boot Camp. I attended both and it was hard to miss the enthusiasm of all who participated and if you wanted to catch the action, it was always on the exhibition floor no matter how big or small that area was. Of course, there was HPE Discover 2016 in Las Vegas and that didn’t disappoint – the general sessions were all well attended and the background music was more appropriate this year – but over the years it has become purely a HPE marketing “big tent” event and not necessarily a priority for the NonStop community.

It was at Boot Camp that the community was given a brief peek into the future – virtual NonStop (vNonStop) running on a simple commercially available off-the-shelf pair of x86 servers, with Ethernet for the interconnect fabric. If traditional systems were on the way out here, sitting on a table, was possibly one future for NonStop. Maybe not inside the data center but certainly a candidate for consideration for developers, testers and those needing to pilot new applications. Not forgetting that with IoT and the need for edge products, there may be good reasons to begin thinking that x86 servers will start showing up on the edge. As we come to realize that some sensor events are more important than others, fault tolerance will become more relevant and could lead to yet another sea-change with the mission for NonStop.

IoT included in NonStop presentations was a highlight for me as I have had a strong premonition of late that we haven’t really understood all that deploying edge products entail. If a big box retailer fully digitizes the pricing of its entire store and integrates it with their supply chain, down to individual items, than events will be coming thick and fast with many of these events important enough to warrant the presence of fault tolerance. Does an entire retail store warrant edge products as is being promoted right now – again, it’s all a matter of perspective. In a paper to be published shortly, Top 20 Predictions for 2016, by CTO and Cofounder at Striim, Steve Wilkes, that I reference in an upcoming post to the Striim blog, you will read “IoT Platforms will grow in strength and capability incorporating device registration, management and communication features as well as integration, analytics and machine learning.”

According to Steve, “Simple IoT use cases such as the real-time tracking of the movement of people or packages via geolocation and time windowing will become prevalent across healthcare, travel, manufacturing and logistics.” Steve also notes how, in order for timely responses, “Reliability and security concerns will push real-time analytics to edge locations for IoT. This will become evident through connected cars, home IoT hubs, retail store-based gateways and other localized technology. Anonymized data will be pushed to the cloud for deeper analytics.” Reliability eh? I feel the need for fault tolerance in ways I haven’t felt for many years!

NonStop SQL also is making a huge comeback and has made significant strides in its return to center stage in the database arena. There is clearly an emerging division in database offerings with so much discussion centered on data lakes, operational stores, and OLAP. Analytics is on an unstoppable march and will impact every touch point we maintain with customers. But online transaction processing, or OLTP, is still a requirement and when it comes to recording a transaction without any possible interruption in our 24 X 7 world, NonStop SQL now has no peer. Watch for some really big deployments of NonStop SQl in the coming year and watch too, just how much advantage of NonStop SQL HPE itself makes as it further evolves its own transaction processing models. 

Getting to clouds and pushing out to the edge will also see transformation within the central hub – be it a hybrid of a traditional data center with private clouds or fully public cloud based. Making it real simple to integrate NonStop with private (and shortly, I am predicting, public) clouds just makes sense for NonStop development to pursue and already we see the benefits that can come from having NonStop X systems connected to open platforms at the interconnect fabric level. We saw this being demonstrated all year and I am predicting too that in 2017 we will see some sizable solutions vendors capitalize on such features, with OmniPayments being at the fore of such a possibility. And did you see the performance demo late Monday night at Boot Camp – just how well NonStop scales out was showcased by OmniPayments pushing past 5,000 tps and certainly, another highlight for me as I look back at 2016.

Successful malls are reinventing themselves as they work hard to address the changing needs of society. In cities where environments are extreme – think not just of Edmonton but Singapore, the Middle East and yes, Florida, being able to stroll some place warm (or cool) continues to entice many of us from our homes. Shopping will not be the only option at future malls but in essence, they are taking over from the village green. Mix in the pub, a church or two, some light-hearted entertainment and a place to entertain the kids for a few hours and you have history repeating itself. And so too for NonStop. The world of IoT and Analytics is going to need databases both OLAP and OLTP as it will demand fault tolerance all the way to the edge and even as it will demand high performance at reduced cost and in 2016, we all saw for ourselves, NonStop delivered. As for 2017, I just cannot wait to see how this all is applied as the ball has now been passed to solutions providers and I am expecting to read more about the rollout of the new NonStop throughout the coming year.

Happy New Year and bring on 2017!

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