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! 

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