Sunday, February 26, 2017

For HPE NonStop users, ATMIA US Conference and a walk down memory lane …

A week in Orlando discussing ATMs may not be appealing for everyone but for NonStop users, the history of NonStop is very much tied to the history of the ATM!

It is not all that often that I meet truly famous people face to face, but at this year’s ATMIA US Conference the keynote speaker was NFL legend, Herman Edwards. A former defensive player who played for a number of NFL teams, most notably the Philadelphia Eagles before turning his hand to coaching the New York Jets. Today, you can see Edwards as an analyst on ESPN. “Doing the little things and executing vision,” was the title of his presentation at the ATMIA conference this year. To a packed hall, he walked attendees through a lively presentation liberally sprinkled with NFL anecdotes.

However, for me his focus on cash was of particular interest especially given the focus of the event. “I’m a cash guy. My wife gives me an allowance; I take the check to the bank and get the cash. If I run out of cash then I’m done!”  Nothing could be simpler and it was a theme repeated in other presentations at the conference this year. Why does cash survive and why does it remain popular? For many it’s a budgetary mechanism – only spend what you have. Increasingly, for others it’s a security issue – while someone could steal my wallet or money clip, the loss is manageable, which is not the case today with cybercrime. Again, simplistic but the data coming from industry analysts suggests there are but two of the four primary reasons cash continues to be popular.

In a different presentation to the one given by Edwards, about how cash makes us feel, cash in the pocket offers four primary experiences: comfort, security, freedom and duty. This last one was unexpected but turned out to be very true – when it comes to our duty, we typically repay our family and friends in cash. And yes, cash still dominated when it comes to gifts. You would expect such statistics to be forthcoming at a conference focused on ATMs but what you might not have expected was being informed that the venerable ATM was now fifty years old. In a pictorial display, under the heading of a walk down memory lane, pretty much every new development for the ATM was included and I was surprised to see just how back into the past my own memory stretched.  Seeing a promotional poster for the “new film”, The Graduate, brought a smile to my face – remember the Alpha Romeo Spider 1600 Duetto that Dustin Hoffman’s character drove?

For the NonStop community there is a very strong connection to this particular walk down memory lane. As the ATM moved out of the branch bank to become truly an automatic dispenser of cash, there were network implications that at the time severely limited just how many ATMs could be deployed and where. Communications was in its infancy and both the speed (slow) and the cost (high) put the brakes on just how rapidly ATMs spread across the landscape. Furthermore, once ATMs did begin to appear, there was an expectation that they would work all the time – surely, their whole reason d'ĂȘtre was to provide access to cash at times when normal branch operations were closed. However, since almost every financial institution ran their banking applications on IBM mainframes and these were primarily batch processors requiring downtime, the appearance of the first Tandem computer heralded a break with traditional computing models.

Many times we discuss technology solutions looking for a problem to solve but in the case of the appearance of Tandem, it’s as if a lightbulb went off somewhere – the perfect solution in support of a much larger rollout of ATMs. It’s no coincidence then to learn that the first Tandem computer ever sold was to Citi and while I am not exactly sure of the use-case scenario involved, it wasn’t long before Tandem computers and ATMs enjoyed a thriving symbiotic relationship. So much so that I have often been left to wonder whatever would have happened with Tandem computers if such an opportunity failed to materialize. But this walk down memory lane is all well and good even as it’s common knowledge within the NonStop community – but perhaps there is something else that is contributing to this story; the growth of payments solutions from many vendors, all electing to deploy on what today is new NonStop systems.

Without viable and well-supported payments solutions, Financial Institutions (FIs) would have been hard pressed to build out their ATM networks. As someone who has worked for both Tandem Computers and ACI Worldwide in a previous life I saw firsthand how the relationship between Tandem and the ACI product, BASE24, enabled so many FIs both small and large leverage the potential of the hardware and software to deliver round-the-clock, 24 X 7, services. In a world that clearly feels good about cash, the fault tolerance provided by the then-Tandem computers simply added to that feeling of comfort.  However, a lot has happened to NonStop over the years and the door has been thrown wide open to many more solutions in support of ATMs.

For some time now I have been very bullish on the prospects for OmniPayments, Inc. as it continues to meet with success with banks, retailers and switches. OmniPayments is joining the growing list of NonStop vendors who are taking their message of NonStop to conferences apart from the traditional NonStop venues where RUGs have dominated. And for me, this is good news for all NonStop stakeholders – it’s clear that HPE has limited resources these days to support NonStop marketing and as much as I would like to see this situation rectified I am not expecting anything to dramatically change in the near term. Simply put, there are no marketing efforts being expended in support of NonStop that I can see so it really is falling on the rest of us to champion the NonStop message. OmniPayments talking up the NonStop message to the ATMIA US conference was really good to see.

In the post, ATMIA US Conference – plenty of familiar faces! to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, following the ATMIA US Conference I wrote of how, when I picked up my badge (after arriving at the conference venue) I was handed my bag of goodies and there in the bag was a color flyer from OmniPayments. Making the rounds on the exhibition floor was Jessica Nieves, VP Client Services, OmniPayments Inc., who is now heading marketing for the company, stopping by exhibitors we all know well. Many within the NonStop community who attend RUG meetings will know about Jessica as she is doing a great job presenting OmniPayments. When I asked Jessica if we could expect to see OmniPayments supporting even more events she told me, most definitely.

“For many years now we have supported the NonStop community’s RUG events worldwide and there would be few members within the NonStop community that didn’t know about OMniPayments,” said Jessica. “However, we are winning even more business away from legacy vendors of payments solutions and with our move to provide OmniPayments on the basis of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) from out of our own cloud, we need to broadcast this message to a much larger audience. And yes, our OmniCloudX offering utilizes NonStop X systems, which is surprising many we talk to and it’s just the beginning. Our product roadmap for OmniPayments includes future support of Virtualized NonStop which will significantly enhance our ability of fast provisioning of OmniPayments payments solutions for those FIs who may want to modernize their infrastructure and solutions.”

There was a time not that long ago when news about NonStop was easy to find. There were regular news releases and there was a team committed to conveying the message of NonStop in every marketplace. As the ITUG Chairman I was invited to participate with NonStop marketing in events from Copenhagen to Beijing to Johannesburg. The memories of these times are still very fresh in my mind and there was excitement in the air – NonStop was embracing industry-standard Intel technology. Yes, it was Itanium but it was a huge move in the right direction that even today is still a big part of the NonStop presence at many enterprises. But as exciting as Itanium was at the time and the memories of working closely with HPE that still linger, the story of NonStop X and Virtualized NonStop are way, way, more important so as I watched Jessica moving across the exhibition floor with her compelling story of NonStop in payments, I was left wondering about how much more could be achieved if only HPE would put its full weight behind this lynchpin of its Mission Critical Systems business.

Memories of NonStop past just like memories of ATMs past and of how the histories of ATMs and NonStop are so strongly intertwined, ringed true with some of the words spoken by Herman Edwards. “There are two types of people – interested and committed. Everyone is interested – but are you committed?” Edwards addressed these comments to new recruits to his NFL team, of course, but the meaning shouldn’t be lost on the NonStop community. Perhaps, just as relevant to the NonStop community, was Edwards follow-on observation, “A goal without a plan is a wish!” OmniPayments clearly have a plan when it comes to the message of NonStop and with it, an achievable goal. Perhaps my wish then is that there were more kindred spirits willing to be both committed to NonStop and having plans to more aggressively promote NonStop. And finally, ask yourself and let me know, of course, will this be your goal in 2017? 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Three new wishes for NonStop that address the next three years!

Since 2008, every third year I have posted "my three wishes for NonStop." It’s now 2017 – what can we expect to read in this latest post and why is it important for the NonStop community? 

When an opportunity presented itself to add yet another vanity plate, it seemed like a good time to add PYALLA3 to the list and to mount it on the Mini. Although, being 3, there was some thought given to mounting it on the BMW, given its engine had only three cylinders, but after further consideration Margo and I decided that this may be a little too cryptic. On the other hand, Mini notwithstanding, three has become a significant number when it comes to the posts to this NonStop community blog – every three years I have written about the three wishes I have for NonStop and here we are, three more years have passed by since my last update.

To read all of the predictions I have made in the past, check out the label to the right of this post, Wishes, for more of what I had to say through the years as there are patterns that developed over time. Most important, the push for standardization, open software and yes virtualization. It all started back in February 2008, and even then I was lobbying for virtualization and for NonStop to be able to run as well on virtual machines as it did on physical systems. If you have as yet not read the article just published in the Jan – Feb, 2017, issue of the Connection (and you are a Connect community member) you may want to check it out as it covers much of this earlier material: Virtual World beckons - vNonStop is the only ticket we need!

For the better part of a year I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to a number of Regional User Group (RUG) events to give my speculative take on where NonStop is headed. For some time there has been uncertainty about the future of NonStop. There were other CIOs who considered NonStop to be little more than special-purpose computers while still others began to view NonStop as a legacy platform. However, the good news for the NonStop community is that NonStop development didn’t buy into any of those arguments and in no time at all, so it seemed, have turned NonStop on its head.

Today we see the NonStop X family of physical systems shipping to customers with vNonStop undergoing early testing offering support of NonStop on virtual machines. And all thanks to the work done by NonStop development in support of the Intel x86 architecture together with support of industry standard InfiniBand. We now see a revitalized NonStop as modern as any system and it has transformed the way these CIOs look at NonStop – there’s been so much chaos as airlines have been grounded because of computer glitches even as stock exchanges have experienced their own outages as well (see A short history of stock market glitches published last year by CNBC) that a truly fault tolerant offering is once again under consideration by enterprises that simply have little patience for outages of any kind.

Furthermore, we now see HPE IT deploying NonStop X and working towards deploying vNonStop with NS SQL/MX accessible via DataBase-as-a-Service (DBaaS). And this is great news for the NonStop community and we all are watching at every RUG event where HPE updates the NonStop roadmap for more news on how this project is progressing. So what next then for NonStop – if many of the above wishes are working
their way into what NonStop development is pursuing these days is there more dramatic news awaiting the NonStop community? Will NonStop make a return to the airline marketplace or to stock exchanges? Perhaps healthcare? And will NonStop find even greater success in its traditional markets of finance and telecommunications?

While there may be few within HPE willing to speak up about the return of NonStop to all of these markets, I am willing to bet that at some point NonStop may indeed play a part in the future of all solutions qualified as mission critical. But then what can we reasonably believe lies ahead for NonStop over the course of the next three years? It was a little over a year ago that I posted a preview of what might underpin my next three wishes. In the July 19, 2016
Yes, once again, I ask – are our wishes truly important? I broached the topic of my next three wishes for NonStop however I only posted about what I was wishing for in very general terms:

Transparency? I do have to say I admire the steps that HPE NonStop Product Management have taken of late to be more transparent with the vendor community and I want to see this develop further … how about letting us all know just how many NonStop customers exist today and just how many NonStop systems are deployed.

Cooperation? Surely it is getting much better! There is so much to do and HPE R&D cannot do it all … develop a program that is more comprehensive and don’t push back each time with observations that well, yes we have something already in the works. Don’t do that – it just doesn’t win you any friends and quite frankly you don’t have the breadth any longer to be competitive on every front.

Engagement? For the most part, the NonStop vendor community doesn’t want to be lumped into a generic all-encompassing partner program. I know; I have been there! More than once! The needs of the NonStop vendor community vary significantly from those of your typical Unix or Linux or even Windows development shop. So, where do we go from here? Have we seen enough about NonStop that we know the path it is taking? Is the NonStop product roadmap telling the full story?

Well what can I say – I want and indeed expect a lot more! And now it is time for a little “tough love” as there is a lot more to NonStop than just the path being taken by NonStop development. All of the stakeholders within the NonStop community have parts to play and as there are three main stakeholders – NonStop users, NonStop vendors and yes, HPE NonStop – all need to participate to ensure the future I see for NonStop coming to fruition over the next three years.

My first wish then is for the NonStop user to buy more NonStop systems – migrate to NonStop X and begin evaluating the potential to capitalize on vNonStop. However, in buying more NonStop systems, it will become very important to keep demanding more from HPE – as we all know it is the voice of the NonStop user community that still motivates NonStop development to pursue new initiatives. You want to run a vNonStop on an edge product and have real time analytics support – then make your demands known. Never for one moment assume that NonStop will not so something and turn to an alternative before giving NonStop development a chance to respond. It’s a new day for NonStop development but they need to hear your voice. So yes, it all begins with the NonStop user community buying more NonStop systems.

My second wish is for NonStop vendors to lift their game. Many of them look like the abandoned puppies we all see on late night television that are looking for new homes – beaten so many times that they can barely lift their heads. Yes, it’s been a tough decade for NonStop vendors but all vendors need to heed NonStop development’s aggressive plans as spelt out in their roadmap for NonStop. Vendors have taken a beating but that is no excuse not to have clearly articulated roadmaps for all their products!

My third wish focuses on NonStop development. Educate! Train! Mentor! Promote! There is a lot that NonStop users and vendors can do but ultimately all stakeholder will benefit from a more vocal NonStop development! We all appreciate the issues – understaffed, underfunded, underappreciated. But get after industry analysts and get after the press – there is a terrific story developing around NonStop and all of IT needs to know that they don’t have to put up with failure. Affordable, industry-standard, fault tolerant computers have returned – and yes, with a vengeance.

Tough love? Only so far as to say we have so much to do as a community if we really want to see NonStop shine. And after all these years I cannot hold back my enthusiasm for NonStop as markets are frustrated by outages with poor reliability and concerns about integrity are fueling many discussions among CIOs – do they really understand the story of NonStop today? And yes, the messages of transparency, cooperation and engagement remain as pertinent today as they were a year and a half ago; in 2020, when I write my next three wishes for NonStop, all I want to see topping the list of priorities is how big a hotel we will need to hold the NonStop Technical Boot Camp of that year.

Finally, let’s just take one last look at the barriers still standing in the way of success for NonStop. Oftentimes conversations turn to who is teaching the next generation of NonStop system managers and programmers. Well, guess what; that’s not where NonStop is headed! It’s a message that is often lost among the NonStop stakeholders. Where NonStop is heading is becoming a lot clearer; you won’t need to know anything at all about NonStop. Your favorite tools, frameworks, languages and utilities will all simply run on NonStop – for the most part you won’t even know NonStop exists. All you will know is that, when you ask IT to provision resources and you checked the box “24 x 7,” your application will simply run fault tolerant.

Cool? Yes – and it’s bringing NonStop to the world and not the other way around. It will not be dependent on dragging the world to NonStop! Here’s to the prosperity that will come for all NonStop stakeholders over the course of the next three years and I look forward to seeing as many of you as I can as I return to the RUG circuit with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. We may all have been badly beaten up over the past decade but there’s still a lot of fight left in this puppy!


Sunday, February 5, 2017

NonStop doesn’t age; NonStop simply keeps on processing …

Travels to Southern California with plenty of time to talk about NonStop made us more aware of just how big a marketing task HPE faces with NonStop and how, just perhaps, we all need to contribute to make the presence of NonStop more widely known!

The years have been kind to Margo and me and as much as we remind ourselves that yes, we are aging there’s that other side that says, “Na; you’re still young!” Leaving the cold and snow well and truly behind us we drove from Boulder, Colorado, to sunny Malibu, California. And yes, we had lunches at Dukes and Ocean Prime, drinks at Nobu, coffees at Starbucks and dinners at Brophy Brothers in Ventura and Mastro’s new digs surfside at Malibu. Business had taken us to Century City the first day in California but under these bright blue skies, Margo celebrated her birthday with good friends, the Kennys, whom we first met in Simi Valley many years ago.

Thoughts of aging are never far from our minds of late and it is no surprise to read that during the roadtrip between Boulder and Malibu the conversation returned time and time again to NonStop. Recalling the early days in NonStop’s history when we both worked for Tandem Computers it’s hard not to see the past through rose-tinted glasses and to recall the many friendships we formed most of which we continue to cherish even now. And yet, coming to NonStop now for the first time is so much easier to do than at any other time in the past. For many new users, looking at a console (oftentimes running application monitoring and management software from third parties) it’s hard to see anything that lets you know that behind the facades of the rows of servers happily blinking away, there lays a fully operational NonStop system. Or two!

With shipments of NonStop X beginning to gain momentum after being on the market for more than a year now, talk among the NonStop community is turning to what happens next. Where is this NonStop journey going to take us. With each passing year it’s another candle on the cake as another trip around the sun is completed and NonStop simply isn’t aging. The market for true fault tolerant systems continues to hold firm. Good enough still isn’t good enough when it comes to running mission critical workloads and the more we read about outages of systems vital to countries infrastructure, as we all have seen concerning the operational systems of many of the airlines, the more we come to appreciate the NonStop systems we have. No, the market for fault tolerant systems isn’t lessening any time soon.

NonStop development has not only signaled a future for NonStop by calling it the best software platform on the planet even as HPE considers NonStop a core software asset, there is still a lot of work to be done to convince enterprises to take NonStop seriously. And that’s a shame even as it’s a wakeup call to everyone at HPE that a lot more has to be done to get the message out into the marketplace. It’s simply not good enough to leave the entire task of promoting NonStop to just a handful of NonStop product managers and a few key development managers. As much as we all like listening to these folks, the bigger HPE has to step up its investment. Several years ago I was part of the blogging community that HPE supported at HPE Discover events, but for the last couple of years I was politely told that focus on mission critical systems and in particular on NonStop was too narrow a market for HPE to continue supporting me as part of the blogging community. As of 2016 HPE Discover – here in Las Vegas and again, in London – there is no support of NonStop marketing by HPE and this simply isn’t good enough. Furthermore, it’s somewhat insulting to the larger Global 1000 companies heavily invested in NonStop systems to see such little caring by HPE at their big tent shows.

Fortunately, at the 2016 HPE Discover event in Las Vegas, Home Depot came under the spotlight during HPE CEO Meg Whitman’s keynote presentation where she did make reference to Home Depot being a NonStop (and Aruba) customer. In fact, in a conference where the exhibition hall wasn’t divided into areas by system and where finding any presence of NonStop was a challenge, Whitman’s reference to NonStop was among the only server references made during any of the keynote presentations. The other members of the blogging community, those who knew me from past events? Well they came up to me for more information about NonStop and wanted to know where they could go on the exhibition floor to talk to members of the HPE NonStop team. Yes, HPE has got to do a lot better at marketing NonStop even at events where every single item is metered carefully and with precision.

The message of NonStop isn’t old! In talking to members of the NonStop vendor community that have branched out into supporting product offerings on platforms apart from NonStop – Linux and Windows, mostly these days – the flakiness of many of the commodity x86 servers they encounter is startling, to say the least. Often times running on x86 servers that are a ten years old isn’t a ticket to reliable computing and the added support costs these NonStop vendors incur working with clients whose servers are so poorly maintained leaves them scratching their heads in amazement. If you missed reading the latest post WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE DATAEXPRESS PROVIDED AS AN INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE (IAAS)? to the DataExpress NEWS / BLOG, you may want to check it out as it includes some interesting commentary.

“DataExpress has a lot of experience with the poor reliability exhibited by off-the-shelf hardware.  The impact this has on DataExpress customers, running DataExpress Open Platform (DXOP) with hardware that has not been scaled to meet the ongoing growth of the file transfer demands, very quickly becomes all too obvious,” writes Billy Whittington, DataExpress CEO. “One customer drew our attention to such performance degradation and reported DXOP as failing numerous times. But as soon as they upgraded their ten year old hardware, DXOP performed like the super star we know it is!” And DataExpress isn’t alone in witnessing such a situation – I am hearing this from other clients as well. NonStop isn’t old even if it has been with us a very long time and it’s fault tolerant, supporting solutions that in some instances have a heritage dating back to the earliest Tandem Computers ever shipped.

When it comes to marketing commodity servers, HPE is passionate about its storage offerings, its communications (including Edge products) offerings and its high performance computing offerings but then you look at the financial results of these groups. While HPE doesn’t break its numbers down by product they still produce figures showing the performance of servers, storage, networking alongside of technical services. We are awaiting the results of HPE’s first quarter, 2017, that should be produced during the early days of next month but based on the full year’s results for 2016, servers remained flat overall for the twelve months and yet, NonStop experienced a second year of double digit growth. There’s little additional explanation required about which product line is producing bottom line results that are helping sustain all the server lines but wouldn’t it be nice to read more about just how pleased HPE is with the results coming from sales of NonStop systems?

NonStop not only simply keeps on processing – but it is keeping on producing. Positive financial results, that is! I continue to post articles and commentaries on a number of industry blogs but just one recent incident highlighted the challenges facing all vendors working with NonStop systems. My pro-NonStop feature article Time has proved good for HPE and NonStop; banks everywhere can run networks, 24×7!  recently published in BankingTech, took two months of lobbying and negotiation before it was published on December 8, 2016. “I know you are a big advocate of HPE NonStop, but isn’t this somewhat a promotion of the tech/service? It almost has a commercial aspect to it,” responded the publication’s editor to which I responded, “HPE has not received very much attention of late among FIs so I thought I could engage and indeed prompt FIs into a more lively discussion.” It was a little while later that I received the response, “Ah, ok. Let me review it again and I’ll let you know!”

The final response from Banking Tech?  “Taking into consideration your comments, we’ve come to a decision that the article is fine for publication – no changes required. To be honest, none of us have in-house expertise of HPE NonStop … So we’ll rely on your expert view on this!” Yes, NonStop keeps on processing as it keeps on producing results but it’s going to take a lot more work from all of us to keep promoting the message. HPE can’t be left to carry this burden alone – it will require active participation from all of us. Is it worth it? Can NonStop win the battles? I absolutely believe it can and it will be an interesting future post with the passage of one more year. Don’t put those candles away just yet and let’s all make a lot of noise as we make yet one more trip around the sun!