Monday, January 23, 2017

Transformation – let’s look at how far NonStop has come!

A message about how necessity drives innovation isn’t anything new for the NonStop community and yet, it’s pleasing to hear all the same!

During a recent extended power outage I was left to figure out how best to entertain myself. Margo’s family commitments left me alone in the house and I was happily working away on storylines I had been considering for a while – some of which have now appeared in the latest issue of NonStop Insider as well as in posts made to LinkedIn – when unexpected darkness descended. When Margo and I built the house we had looked into integrating a sizeable UPS / Generator but nothing materialized. We do have a huge generator of course with our mobile company command center (our RV), but while we often recharge the batteries from the house, we hadn’t considered adding the necessary connections for the RV’s generator to power some of the house’s necessities.

It was a very cold day in Boulder, Colorado. Improvising out of necessity I was able to find a way to create a little heat in the family room by igniting several of the cooktop range’s burners using matches. And then there were a number of candles I found that I quickly deployed. But as I settled into waiting for the power to be restored, there was more than ample time to hold a candle while mixing a martini and as readers to this blog will recognize, the early evening martini in our household is not just a tradition but oftentimes a necessity following days when all that is on my computer is a blank screen.

It is the message of necessity that has been in my thoughts a lot of late. It is often out of necessity that so many of our actions arise, whether it’s a trip to the store for a forgotten item, mowing the lawns and cleaning the yard or simply to put on any extra layer of clothing as we step outside of our homes to brave the elements. And as I looked through the presentations I gave during the past twelve months I was struck by how well the HPE NonStop team have progressed numerous initiatives that indeed many view as necessary for NonStop to continue to have a presence in the data center. Mission Critical systems are an important part of the HPE products portfolio but have come under increased pressure to embrace a world in transition. Traditional IT is succumbing to cloud computing both private and public and to sustain a presence in this new world NonStop had to fundamentally change not just the hardware it depended upon, but the complete, highly integrated, software stack.

During 2016 NonStop Boot Camp event attendees would have heard how Randy Meyer, Vice President and General Manager, Mission Critical Systems at HPE, said that for his group, “Our strategy is to build specialized solutions for target customer segments.” Today, the coverage of customer needs extends to support for mission critical applications to high performance computing to small business and branch operations. The Mission Critical Systems group needs to support extreme scale where customization is required, carrier grade computing where standardization is paramount, and hybrid, versatile along with security, for enterprise’s core applications.

NonStop systems have never been general purpose systems and so continued support for the very specialized roles NonStop plays is completely understandable. However, the target customer segments where the focus of NonStop has been directed, want a lot more from NonStop as they embrace the key messages coming from HPE – transformation to hybrid infrastructures. As Randy’s new boss heading the Data Center Infrastructure Group (DCIS), Alain Anderoli, was quoted as having said (and as published in promotional material for the recent HPE Discover event in London), “A Hybrid IT requires deep competence and fluency in all areas of the industry – servers, storage, networking, IoT, data center infrastructure, and everything else. So, DCIG represents a pooling of talent that’s as broad as it is specialized.” NonStop remains specialized but this also means it needs to be competent in more than being just extremely highly available.

Whenever today HPE creates a presentation on NonStop the slides highlight the key attributes of Continuous Availability, Massive Scalability and Business Continuity. These are further defined as having automatic failover protection, an ability to scale to thousands of cores in a single system image that in the real world, can support applications delivering 15,000+ tps and then, when networked with other NonStop systems extend traditional continuous availability across multiple sites via support for active / active, active / passive and now, “sizzling hot takeover!” While this is a continuation of the NonStop story and highly respected by those users who have come to appreciate what NonStop provides them, NonStop development is obviously fine-tuning a number of its products to better accommodate the transformation to the new, hybrid world of IT, users are demanding.

Perhaps no bigger change has taken place than what is occurring with NS SQL/MX. Take a look at any recent NonStop PowerPoint presentation and you will see multiple slides devoted to NS SQL/MX. Two items on the NS SQL/MX product roadmap stand out that are important items for anyone looking to NS SQL/MX being a key part of the transformation to hybrid infrastructure. These two items are Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) together with opening up access to NS SQL/MX for ANSI applications and in particular, those ANSI applications that today have been written to access databases such as Oracle.

No longer locked into expensive proprietary solutions, the NonStop development group is opening the door to access NS SQL/MX without massive amounts of application recoding and when it comes to running NS SQL/MX from within a private cloud, this should be beneficial to many more users that need not just access to SQL but to an SQL that is fault tolerant, supports a mixed workload that doesn’t necessitate any downtime whatsoever, maintenance tasks included, and can be served up from within a cloud as a service. Was this done out of necessity? Was the goal of the NonStop development team to make sure any transformation to a hybrid infrastructure didn’t leave behind NS SQL/MX?

Certainly these factors played a role but there was one more driver motivating NonStop development – HPE’s own IT group had been looking for ways to save money by rationalizing the number of databases they had deployed (more than 25,000 databases across all of HPE), and NS SQL/MX became an option. However, their requirement of NS SQL/MX not only drove the need for ANSI compatibility but also for multi-tenancy. How important is multi-tenancy for HPE IT (that will be reflected in support within NS SQL/MX for all NonStop customers) – it cuts down on hardware requirement even as it reduces license fees.

According to one source I referenced, TechTarget, “In cloud computing, the meaning of multi-tenancy architecture has broadened because of new service models that take advantage of virtualization and remote access. A software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, for example, can run one instance of its application on one instance of a database and provide web access to multiple customers. In such a scenario, each tenant's data is isolated and remains invisible to other tenants.” When it comes to HPE IT, the practicality of NS SQ/MX multi-tenancy becomes obvious – embracing an implementation that has NS SQL/MX available on the basis of SaaS, where many HPE IT users will need “provisioning” to happen on demand, much of the complexity of doing so in terms of operational intervention, is significantly reduced.

Where HPE IT is headed is beyond the traditional converged infrastructure, which for the most part addresses a convergence at the hardware level, and onto hyperconverged computing. This is being propelled with HPE IT standardizing on x86 servers to populate their data center and with commodity hardware in a hyperconverged environment - the hardware takes a back seat to the software. And here’s the real story – the necessity, if you like, for HPE IT to consider NonStop – according to an explanation on the Hyperconverged.org  web site, “The software layer is built with the understanding that hardware can — and ultimately will — fail. The software-based architecture is designed to anticipate and handle any hardware failure that takes place.”

It is this bidirectional, indeed almost symbiotic, necessity that has arisen from both the NonStop development team and HPE IT that is propelling NonStop into a more mainstream role for those users looking to embrace not just hybrids but converged and hyperconverged architectures. Fault tolerance has always been a given when NonStop ran on proprietary hardware but now NonStop supports fault tolerance in the world of clouds where the necessity to understand “that hardware can — and ultimately will — fail” is well recognized. That NonStop development has also invested in NS SQL/MX to make it more attractive as SaaS is highly commendable and worthy of attention being paid by all of us.  And that’s something competitors will not be able to hold a candle to NonStop systems as they are being delivered today! 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

An end to a boisterous year … ready for the fun times ahead?

In private exchanges to clients and in updates on other social media channels, I have talked about winter weather but strong winds always come before warmer temperatures arrive; 2017 is going to be no exception. NonStop will be hot!

It has been quite the end to a boisterous year. The winds blew strongly through the Front Ranges of the Rockies and within a day the snow that had been falling for the past day or so, leaving behind a substantial layer of the fluffy white stuff, had all but been blown clear into Nebraska. When you lie awake of a nighttime listening to winds pushing past 75 mph, with gusts topping 100 mph, it can be pretty scary at times as window panes begin to shift in their frames but then as morning breaks, and skies return to the blue that makes Colorful Colorado famous, there’s always a sense of well, we made it! 


Category 1 hurricanes are said to have sustained winds between 74 and 95 mph whereas Category 2 hurricanes have sustained winds between 96 mph and 110 mph and as the chart above depicts, on Christmas day we were hovering somewhere between a category 1 and 2 hurricane – something most of Colorado’s citizens tend to overlook. Yes, the intense low pressure system brought a hurricane down on us Christmas and then again, just two weeks later. Faced with such a rowdy weather pattern, noisy and unruly, there was little to tempt us to journey far from home.

It has been quite the end too to a rather tumultuous year for the NonStop community. I spent more time on the road than I care to do of late. As I pulled out all the business expenses and added up the cost there was only one month where Margo and I didn’t travel to a user or industry event. There were a couple of times where we made it to more than one event in the month and as much as we have a distinct distaste for it, I had to fly on two separate occasions, although given the need to travel to London to join the NonStop community at BITUG, there was little choice. 

The uptick in travel to Regional User Group events (and no, I cannot get my head around Tandem and NonStop being organized around Chapters as I still prefer to call our regional communities RUGs) is symptomatic of a more general trend that emerged in 2016 that brought out more of the NonStop community to hear the message of NonStop than ever before. And that is a very good thing to see firsthand. However, before getting into more detail as to why I believe is the greater interest in NonStop – a revival of sorts, right – it’s been good to see the growth in readership of publications I support. The digital media reach, following posts and commentaries I provide, is highly encouraging and is further reflection of just how important a role NonStop plays within IT. 

If you have been following the monthly page views for posts to the NonStop community blog, Real Time View (this digital media channel), you will have noticed a steady climb in page views over the past four months. Following average monthly page views for the summer somewhere near 2,500 it now site north of 10,000, with a peak of 11,000+ attained just before everyone left for vacation. Numbers like this had only been reached once before, back in late 2015, but it is interesting and indeed somewhat revealing to know that when I first wrote about NonStop X the numbers soared and now, that I am writing about vNonStop, the numbers are soaring once again. 

If you deliver news about NonStop that has wider appeal the numbers certainly are a reflection of a continued interest in the future of NonStop and that’s always encouraging for a writer / commentator such as myself. But page views of this NonStop community blog are only one side of the story. Readership in more traditional media vehicles, such as The Connection, appear to have picked up. Email responses to my column, Back for more …, have been positive as well and there’s always a comment or two posted to LinkedIn discussions whenever I touch on material included in the column. 

However, it has been the decision Margo and I made to participate in the launch of a new digital publication focused solely on NonStop – the new NonStop Insider eMagazine – that has us highly motivated to continue writing feature stories on NonStop. This time, it’s been about the independent NonStop vendor community that has been the focus of many of the stories published to date and this continues with the fourth issue including even more articles than in previous issues.

There are now more than 1,000 interested parties who have become subscribers to NonStop Insider and for a new publication, with only a handful of issues published, this is a really good accomplishment following such a short incubation period.
And you can read the latest issue, at:


However, this hasn’t been achieved solely based on our own singlemindedness to succeed with something new for the NonStop community. Margo and I happily tip our hats to the good folks at TCM Solutions up in Scotland. If it wasn’t for Tony and Daniel Craig, together with the support from Collin Yates, this eMagazine wouldn’t have gotten off the ground. It takes a lot of resources to build the web site, add each issue and them market to the community. But the most important aspect for me is that the NonStop community benefits from having multiple perspectives created for all things NonStop related. There cannot be too many publications focused on NonStop and at a time when traditional sources of information continue to fall behind the times (when it comes to news about NonStop) we see NonStop Insider filling a very important niche. So yes, subscribe and always remember that publication of articles is free. Whether you are a NonStop user or a NonStop vendor, send all material to submissions@nonstopinsider.com

LinkedIn groups continue to prosper and there’s never a shortage of opinions when topics close to the heart of the NonStop community are broached. I’m always looking for unique ways to stimulate discussions and more than once I have been chastised for starting somewhat leading conversations. There are many LinkedIn followers of mine who are aware of my tactics but don’t for one moment think I am going to go easy in this respect for 2017. After all, it’s one of the best vehicles I know of to check whether the NonStop community still has a post and even now, several years after it was created, I really do enjoy kicking off something fresh to the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop 

None of what I am covering above could have taken place if there just wasn’t any news coming from HPE about NonStop. It is something that gets a tad overused in some circles but it’s hard to argue that NonStop is re-entering a new golden age for fault tolerant solutions. The sheer complexity of today’s IT as hybrids of just about everything are emerging and influencing the types of systems being deployed – hybrid is just another way to throw a blanket over transitions that leave traditional systems on the floor of the data center as new converged systems and cloud computing take hold.  The option to go with the new NonStop X family of x86 servers or to look further afield at running vNonStop are all exciting options NonStop development is rolling out in 2017.

There is likely still a lot of new material yet to be announced. I am often asked about the ongoing value proposition of NonStop. Having written a TCO paper on NonStop several years ago that threw considerable favorable light on NonStop in this regard, looking at what HPE is now doing for NonStop only makes TCO table look even more favorable for NonStop. It’s hard to argue with the savings that come from running NonStop on an x86 architecture. On the other hand, perhaps the biggest contribution of all to driving even more costs out of NonStop is yet to make an impression with CIOs. 

Look for big things to come in 2017 with regards to NonStop SQL/MX given the work development has undertaken to provide Oracle compatibility. I suspect this will catch many by surprise and perhaps no bigger user story on the success of NonStop SQL/MX replacing Oracle will be the story coming from HPE’s own IT where such migrations to NonStop SQL/MX have already begun.

There is a lull in the winds sweeping up the nearby Colorado Rockies. The front ranges have been stripped of snow that fell overnight. However, there is probably a lot more wind headed our way before there is any sign of spring making a return, and when it comes to NonStop I am expecting to see even more changes coming with many eyes focused on vNonStop whereby Nonstop runs in a virtual environment. It’s in Beta and it’s already being tested by at least one big solutions vendor. 

So, let’s not be too quiet about this. Let’s make as much noise as we possibly can. Let’s be boisterous in our enthusiasm as this is all exciting news for the NonStop community. Many years ago, following the launch of the Cyclone system, Jimmy Treybig suggested that in time, NonStop would be one of three – IBM, DEC and Tandem. Wouldn’t it be great if this now comes to be – Linux, Windows and NonStop. It’s all possible so stay tuned; the fun has only just begun!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lights are shining and NonStop takes center stage!

With the first post of 2017, we can now look forward to what will likely transpire for the NonStop community – new products and features, all aimed to growing the market for NonStop, will further highlight just how much is changing for the better …

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice is now behind us and the days are getting longer. Even if it’s just with the addition of a few seconds of daylight this will gradually extend to where we are having extra minutes of sunshine with each new day. With sunshine comes warmth and perhaps that’s the most important ingredient of all. Unless you live in the Florida Keys and don’t care all that much! Or you reside in the southern hemisphere were at this time of year it’s all about cricket and sailing and eating fresh lobster while imbibing on chilled chardonnay. Do I miss those lazy summer days of my youth when I lived in Sydney? Oh yes …

Walking out from my home early one morning, just before Christmas, to see if I had missed the arrival of packages the night before, I took the photo above. While the photo centered on the footpath light immediately in front of me, if you look closely you will see three other lights, further along the path and around the driveway, barely visible. But they were there, and as I ventured down the path, they shined even brighter. I didn’t stay out too long, mind you, as the temperature was well below freezing and the snow that had fallen overnight made any forward progress difficult. Did I just say how I still missed my summer days in Sydney?

But lights are shining and it isn’t limited to the illumination of our footpaths and driveways at this time of year. With the holiday season well and truly over as we return to the routines of our business lives, 2016 now appears to have been a time when lights began to shine more brightly for the NonStop community. Once again, what may have looked like a dimly lit path forward has had the spotlights turned on and the illumination from these bright lights cannot be ignored – NonStop has returned to center stage! The NonStop community has proved adept at navigating the NonStop roadmaps through the years knowing when to invest and when to embrace a new architecture or technology even as they have elected to embrace alternatives, but at no time did they ever elect to tune-out the messages coming from HPE nor did they elect not to prepare plans for what HPE NonStop was about to deliver.

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail," attributed to Benjamin Franklin but more often these days expressed as "Failing to plan is planning to fail" is still pertinent to the place and time where we, the NonStop community, have come to – 2017. While others have paraphrased this quote, including Winston Churchill who was reputed to have remarked, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail" the point remains and as I have corresponded with a number of parties that continue to be active in the NonStop vendor community, it’s clear to me that having taken a deep breath following the 2016 NonStop Technical Boot Camp, it’s become very much a case of “back to the whiteboards” as plans and schedules are reworked based on the substance of product messages and demonstrations provided in the last quarter of 2016.

In my last post for 2016, Mall insights, and NonStop 2016 in review … I made reference to a couple of vendors to better support a number of my observations about last year. It wasn’t by any means a comprehensive list but more a case of a selection of highlights. However, if you missed reading that post (and I hope that after reading this new year’s post you will take a fresh look at it), you will have seen that I included references to OmniPayments and Striim as well as to the changing landscape for those providing outsourcing. The practice of outsourcing is coming under increased scrutiny; the year 2016 has represented a period of re-thinking as cloud operators put outsourcing practice under the microscope. The culprit here is cloud computing, particularly the industry that has arisen with the advent of public clouds. 

Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are leading the way in a transformation that few could have imagined just a short time ago but here’s the wrinkle for the NonStop community – outsourcing may have run its course but to meet the needs of an expanding NonStop installed base, managed services is on the rise. Just as we have craft beer establishments now growing in popularity at a time when the large breweries have become giant operations, so too is the craft specialist IT “boutique” gaining in popularity right alongside the biggest cloud provider. Simply put, not every business and not every system and solution benefits from a general offering and what we consider as an ideal application for NonStop will continue to see the popularity of NonStop grow right alongside cloud deployments – plan on it!

I can more clearly see the path forward for NonStop now that HPE has the lights shining brightly on NonStop. Better illumination generates more interest and this is followed by more sales which in turn bring more lights to focus on NonStop. Analytics, Database and yes, the ability to run both real and virtual NonStop have all come about in a relative brief period of time – it was only two years ago that news broke about the port of NonStop to the x86 architecture and since then, there has been no letup in the rate of change coming from NonStop development. And it’s no time to simply sit back and continue with business as normal. The very concept of laissez-faire and the status quo should be alien to all of us as the year 2017 starts.

These may have been popular economic sentiments centuries ago but “leaving it to itself” and even that “leaving in the state it was before” (and yes, I am reminded too of just how many of us fondly remember earlier times with Tandem), isn’t an option. HPE is giving us opportunities to really differentiate the way we support the companies we work with (and for) – more reliability with greater performance for the mission critical transactions that keep these companies stay in business. Simplistic? It’s often repeated at user events focused on NonStop, but essentially it’s a truism. Solutions designed not to fail will not fail in delivering solutions – sound familiar? But we have moved beyond simply working with failures as they take place to where we need to think more seriously about our ability to predict failure and to be more prescriptive with our responses to failure.

It was early in 2016 when I wrote a post to the IR web publication, Big Data changes trajectory of application monitoring - Monitoring NonStop boosted by analytics in which I noted how Prognosis is already demonstrating that it is pushing beyond just the visualization of alarms and alerts, together with highlighting potential root causes of problems, to where it is prescriptive in nature; providing operations with a heads-up as to what is about to happen so that businesses can be better prepared to take action. In a similar vein, it was this time last year when I published another post to the Striim blog, I May Be Behind the Wheel, but Very Soon, It’s Likely Striim That Will Keep Me Out of Harm’s Way! Where I suggested how nowhere do we see there being any lessening in the demand for better, timelier, information on changing behavior and so, being able to correlate real world activities with predictive models and apply course corrections all in real time, for the NonStop community it is becoming a necessity and not just a nice to have. Almost every piece of IT infrastructure we can depict will come with some form of stream analytics built in. So yes, I don’t see a single solution not needing integration with analytics and already, following NonStop roadmap updates work is underway to ensure we leave the status quo well and truly behind us!

In the coming weeks I will throw more light onto what’s happening with database and with managed services providers as these are very important developments to which we all should be paying attention. As Tony Craig, CEO at TCM Solutions, keeps reminding me, further sales success for NonStop systems will result in there being the need to deliver tailored, 24 x 7, NonStop solutions around the globe, quickly, efficiently and cost effectively, at a time where trying to find the resource to provide these solutions is, at times (and in places), impossible! But crucially, we are committed to doing all this whilst safeguarding the future of NonStop support by creating an environment that fosters innovation, sharing ideas and learning through each other.  As a specialist IT boutique, gaining in popularity right alongside much bigger, but more generalized, providers, TCM differentiates by its expertise in NonStop, and it has much to gain in 2017 and perhaps, in the case of TCM, my previous references to the craft beer industry should have also included references to the craft Scotch whisky industry.

No, we cannot ignore the lights shining brightly on NonStop nor can we just keep on doing what we have always been doing. With the clients that I have today I am being continually reminded that there is so much to be gained from increasing the marketing in support of NonStop which breaks down into simply funding the creation of more information on the value proposition of NonStop that is directed at the broader IT marketplace. This is something I am focused on for 2017 and after almost a decade of making sure that the lights brought to bear on NonStop are not lost in this broader IT marketplace. And talking of beer and whisky, here’s to a prosperous 2017 for all involved with NonStop and let those spotlights shine brightly!