Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Right time, right place – NonStop lights up the horizon!

Given time to reflect on NonStop particularly as we hear more about where it is heading, should be encouraging for all in the NonStop community – vendors included!

It’s been a while since I caught something at the right time and in this case, the right time just happened as I picked up my iPhone and snapped a picture of a sunset. Margo and I have now spent well over three weeks in our company command center – out temporary office and home – and we have been on the move for a lot of that time. From that initial drive down to Dallas for N2TUG and then across to Las Vegas for HPE Discover, it’s all been covered in recent posts to various blogs. But as the picture above depicts so well, sometimes you just manage to capture something at the right time from a place that proves to be just right!

There is an upside to long drives across America’s interstates. You get plenty of time to just sit back and think! To reflect! And with the many customer events of late, where the focus has been all HPE, with for the most part a lot of NonStop thrown in for good measure. For the NonStop community, excitement levels are once again on the uptick. As is simple curiosity! By this I mean, the sheer volume of new products and features coming from HPE NonStop development is almost unprecedented. To some, the changes are coming more quickly than they can comprehend while for others, it is as if there is a whole new OS and integrated stack appearing on the horizon. For them, there is some puzzlement too as to whether it’s NonStop or something else entirely.

For the record, I believe that it is indeed NonStop and that it represents a major shift of focus. As IT looks to simplify all that is part of IT, at a time when major vendors are looking to do more of the heavy-lifting when putting functioning systems together (think converged and hyperconverged systems), NonStop already has passed this particular test and has done so for decades. Much to the surprise of my blogging friends at HPE Discover, when NonStop is delivered to a customer site, it’s ready to go. No assembly required! The emphasis that the NonStop team has placed on making sure the pieces all work together and that when it comes to software, there’s an integrated stack from the metal to the application, remains a novelty for these bloggers. And yet, that has become the goal for just about everyone else supplying systems and platforms to customers these days.

As the latest issue of NonStop Insider went to press, so as to speak, I was struck by how many of the articles looked at what was said at these recent customer events. The opinions expressed in these articles varied as widely as the locations, of course. Not everyone who submitted articles made it to every event but even as the opinions varied, the sentiment was oftentimes similar. In going from NonStop X to Virtualized NonStop, HPE is making a big bet that it will gain new opportunities even as it retains its core constituency. But here’s the big question being asked by everyone that I approached – will the work being done to continue to keep NonStop atop the technology wave take it away from its core fault tolerance capabilities? In other words, stray too far from the metal and into the world of software-only, will this lessen the level of availability we are so used to from NonStop?

Reflecting on sunsets is easy to do. Depending on where you are at the time, sunsets can be majestic in the way light reflects off the environment, be it mountains or seas. I have often witnessed such powerful displays of colors that are almost magical in the way they appear and then almost immediately are gone. Majestic! Magical! However you treat them it does give you pause to consider matters that perhaps otherwise escape us in the hustle and bustle of life and for anyone with an interest in IT, perhaps we should spend more time reflecting. Few architectures have sustained markets for as many decades as NonStop and yet, perhaps the sun is truly setting on the traditional way in which we view NonStop. No longer just a system made up of chassis, boards and peripherals but rather, an approach to solving business problems in a way that assures its users of no downtime.

When you do reflect on how we got here the role of solutions available for NonStop systems (all right, Tandem Computers, if you are going back to the beginning) plays an important role. After all, the success of NonStop is intimately tied to the applications that became available on NonStop. It may not be unreasonable therefore to think that ultimately, where HPE takes NonStop and what its capabilities turn out to be, when it comes to availability and fault tolerance, if solutions vendors believe that NonStop gives them an edge in this respect – their solutions are more available than alternate offerings – then this is really all that matters. We can argue over how these solutions vendors came to the conclusion that they did but if their solutions survive failures, with no down time, isn’t it OK to call the underlying NonStop just as fault tolerant as he original?

With this in mind I turned to my client, OmniPayments, LLC whose solution continues to focus on NonStop. Even as modern configurations include Linux and Atalla processors right alongside NonStop, OmniPayments markets its solutions as being fault tolerant, running 24 x 7, forever. It’s hard to ignore OmniPayments’ CEO, Yash Kapadia, when he points to lines in his PowerPoint presentation that state, “A single system supports 10,000 transactions per second (TPS); 99.99999% reliable, immense linear scalability, bulletproof data integrity!” Yes, seven 9s – and Yash is adamant that this is being achieved today by his customers. So yes, reflecting on what a solutions vendor provides on NonStop today only begs the question – will such solutions be making the same claims in the future as they accommodate the new NonStop coming to us from HPE NonStop development?


"OmniPayments has been out front testing with the latest offerings coming from HPE NonStop development. There have been many and it is clear to OmniPayments that the NonStop team is in transition as it throws more support behind virtualization and clouds. With OmniPayments keeping costs low, these efforts are indeed welcomed as it helps maintain a very competitive posture for OmniPayments," came the response from OmniPayments’ VP Business Development, Craig Lawrance. Like many vendors I talked to, OmniPayments clearly understands that there is a new mantra echoing across NonStop development, “yes, we can!” And it’s evident that where NonStop development is taking NonStop is into unchartered waters – a software only solution that yes, is the best software platform on the planet. It’s all about running mission critical workloads and according to NonStop development Director, Andy Bergholz, "Our goal is to make HPE Virtualized NonStop hardware agnostic, with the exception of utilizing Intel x86 microprocessors and RoCE enabled NICs.”

I caught up with Andy at HPE Discover and while the extent of our conversation was just the exchange of a few ideas, I have been reflecting on his assertion ever since. Valuable insight coming out of a customer event where it proved relatively easy to catch up with HPE senior management; HPE Discover has always produced surprises! Returning to my exchange with Craig Lawrance following HPE Discover, I raised the matter with him that with all the changes coming out of NonStop development, how was it impacting OmniPayments? Were there any reservations about pushing ahead with NonStop X, and then with Virtualized NonStop?

"For anyone in the NonStop community that has attended recent customer events it would be hard to miss the increased presence of OmniPayments at such outings. Given an opportunity to talk about our move to NonStop X, our support of OmniPayments as SaaS in public and private cloud configurations based on NonStop X, the demonstrated performance improvements audiences world-wide have witnessed, and being among the first to bring real-world testing to Virtualized NonStop, all this collectively puts OmniPayments well ahead of the curve when it comes to the payments marketplace."


Most important of all, I heard no comments whatsoever from OmniPayments management that NonStop development was in any way diluting the message of NonStop! In other words, future OmniPayments products were going to be every bit as available on new systems and platforms, no matter what form they will take, as they believed HPE is fully committed to ensuring NonStop development provides a platform capable of maintain the levels of availability OmniPayments demands, whether on physical systems or virtual and whether on-premise or in the cloud. We may continue to debate the merits of NonStop and the path it is taking but if those making a living from selling solutions differentiated by their implementation on NonStop continue to see NonStop fulfilling their mission then I think this debate will quiten-down rather quickly.

OmniPayments is not alone in this regard – there are many other vendors that I talked to that remain committed to NonStop, no matter what shape it happens to take in the future. If all that NonStop becomes, in a hybrid cloud environment, is hidden behind a check-box item asking whether the need of the solution is to run 24 x 7, then I’m quite OK with that.
In my previous post to this blog I noted that whatever runs on NonStop is just another workload and with products like SimpliVity and Synergy – not forgetting HPE’s latest move, HPE NextStack – could it mean that NonStop can participate without any further work required of NonStop!?!?

Imagine that – NonStop already has the jump start on practically every other traditional enterprise workload – mission critical requirements can be easily and readily addressed right out of the gate. This is bound to light up the sky for many who really need such capabilities. And somewhere in an office in Palo Alto I sense just the tiniest of sparkle in the corner of Andy Bergholz’s eyes – it isn’t a significant concern for NonStop development, it just works! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I feel it coming in the air tonight …

Time spent at user events these past two weeks – small and large – has made me more appreciative of just how well NonStop embraces HPE’s vision for IT

Living life out of an RV, on a somewhat permanent basis, where there’s nothing to fall back to other than a hotel room, is something each and every one of us should experience at least once in a lifetime. It’s been a couple of weeks since we turned our backs on the only home Margo and I have ever bought together and resorting to a gypsy lifestyle wasn’t something we ever thought was in the plans. And yet, even as it hasn’t gone entirely to plan, it’s given us a whole lot of time to discuss recent events.

By recent events I mean the time we have spent with the NonStop community. In just two weeks we have covered 3,000 plus miles and visited with NonStop folks in Dallas for N2TUG as well as the much bigger event staged by HPE, the annual Americas instance of 2017 HPE Discover. But what have we learnt and just as importantly, what have we observed? I title this blog post with a line from that very famous song (of the same name), sung by Phil Collins – and anyone who can remember either the Budweiser commercials introducing Monday Night Football or scenes from Miami Vice will appreciate the meaning. The lines from this song almost always were associated with the unexpected. An upset (in a game) and a showdown (in a movie) but always and not without stressing too fine a point, change!

It’s hard for me to say it any other way; change is coming and yes, I feel it in the air tonight! For me, a premonition about what is yet to pass? Too dramatic, perhaps! Even an over statement? And yet, has anyone in the NonStop community seen NonStop moving and evolving as rapidly as it has these past three years? At a time when some elements in the community would dearly like to see NonStop development slow down, giving time for NonStop users to take a good long look at where NonStop product roadmaps suggest it is headed, but for me it’s more of a case of  “bring it on!” It’s been long overdue for NonStop to once again prove itself to be a disruptive technology.

The two weeks I have spent on the road behind the wheel of a rather large RV towing a trailer with a car on top, has taught me a lot about thinking ahead. Rolling down America’s highways with 60 feet of motorized rig doesn’t give you as many options as say a less than 20 foot sports car. And no, it neither brakes nor turns like the sports car and yet the RV has height. And with height comes visibility as to what is coming – and with visibility comes opportunity to take the initiative. So it is with NonStop and recent user events, we do have visibility to what is coming and with visibility we not only have opportunity but time.

So what did I take with me following these recent events? Looking at what transpired at N2TUG the image I took with me was that when you promote a good agenda and when you pick a good venue, you can certainly pull a crowd. N2TUG demonstrated the upside from doing both. Furthermore it attracted the attention of HPE NonStop head of product management, Karen Copeland, who made the trip to Dallas to spend time with NonStop customers and to provide an updated presentation on the product roadmap for NonStop. It was really good to see Karen taking time to do this as there is no substitute for face time with the NonStop community.

Then again HPE Discover was something entirely different and perhaps, for the NonStop community, not quite as interesting. However, for me, it proved to be even more important than local customer events for a couple of reasons. And I had the good fortune to go behind the curtains for a photo op with Exec VP Antonio Neri. Yes, I felt it in the air that night!

HPE’s stated strategy is to simplify hybrid IT, power the intelligent edge and to provide services to make it all happen. But for the NonStop community there is a lot more going on here than is represented by the messages that accompany this strategy. For starters, NonStop has always been a hybrid system and converged and even hyperconverged infrastructure are nothing new to NonStop.

Can any NonStop user ever recall a NonStop solution arriving at a loading dock in pieces leaving it up to the enterprise to figure out how to put all the pieces together and then firing up the operating system and associated middleware only to find that there was no integration across any of the resulting stack …

I have always been impressed by how much upfront work is undertaken by HPE and the NonStop team to ensure what arrives at our loading dock can be quickly transported into the data center and made operational immediately. A crucial message of NonStop and fault tolerance should always be about how simple it is to deploy and that aspect of NonStop is so often overlooked. Is it important?

Well, talk to the other teams involved in building other products present today on HPE’s product portfolio  and they begin responding with hybrid IT, converged and hyperconverged infrastructure as if it is all brand new insights as to how systems should be delivered.

It is good to have goals that include words like simplify and yes, software-defined (everything) even as it is good to develop a strategy around openness, commoditization and standards. The only issue I have is to look at yourself, when pursuing such goals, as you may already have achieved all you are setting out to do without being aware of your previous accomplishments.

There is so much that NonStop can teach the rest of HPE but having written this, I am very much aware that among the ranks of the senior executives there is more knowledge about NonStop than many may assume – recent personal promotions and shifts have seen former leaders of the business as well as the products in groups putting together the pieces in support of the goals.

Leaving this year’s HPE Discover event, here is my epiphany. In having accomplished all that it has done to date in terms of simplification and integration, it now makes it so much easier for NonStop to contribute in the transformation of IT that HPE so aggressively pursues (and promotes). In other words, all the rhetoric surrounding NonStop suggesting NonStop is the best software platform on the planet better positions NonStop to not only be independent of the hardware but of the platform. What runs on NonStop is just another workload and everything presented in support of products like SimpliVity and Synergy – not forgetting HPE’s latest move, Project NewStack – means that NonStop can participate without any further work required of NonStop!

Imagine than – NonStop already has the jump on practically every other workload – mission critical requirements can be easily and readily addressed right out of the gate. You want simple well, there you have it. Of course, it will not be that easy when it comes to educating HPE marketing and slipping this little gem into the team meetings of the strategy group but here’s hoping simple blog posts like this one can turn the conversation around for more favorable consideration of NonStop. I see that it has already begun as at HPE Discover, listening to other independent bloggers, there wasn’t quite the distance between us as there was only a few years ago.

It all does come back to building a compelling message for our business leaders. There is no question that for NonStop to lift its game in public then HPE needs to “articulating a compelling value proposition and strategic vision to improve outcomes to business executives,” one NonStop vendor CEO wrote in an email to me. What this highlights is that HPE just has to do a better job of telling the story of NonStop to these business executives and it shouldn’t be that hard – yes, NonStop is already ahead of the game when it comes to the goals and strategies HPE has set for itself.

This shouldn’t be kept secret and most of all, those business executives deploying NonStop today should have the bright spotlights turned on them and their accomplishments should be brought to the attention of the IT industry at large. This is something that does need to change at HPE! After all, these NonStop users are the ones turning simple rhetoric into powerful and compelling examples of the value proposition that comes with deploying NonStop. Today! Can’t you just feel it coming in the air tonight?


Saturday, June 3, 2017

It’s time for Vegas!

A post from the road – the road, that is, to Las Vegas! HPE Discover 2017 has rolled around once again and for me it’s a mixed bag of anticipation together with whatever might happen that is unexpected …

The week began with us pulling out of the street where we had lived for nearly two decades to pursue the life of technology gypsies! Homeless; no fixed abode, with just a PO Box to keep us connected with the rest of the world. And no longer in possession of keys to the front door of the house we had made our home and where over the years we had entertained many of you.

Of course this isn’t a permanent change for Margo and me, but life on the road has always been something we have enjoyed. The timing, of course, couldn’t have been any better as we had committed to attending the HPE NonStop customer event in Dallas – N2TUG. Followed, just a week later, by arguably the more important HPE big tent marketing event, HPE Discover 2017!

If you look under Labels, to the right of these posts, you will see that I have been posting on HPE Discover from 2011 and then before that, HPTF from 2008 (even as Margo and I had attended the last ITUG Summit hosted by the then HP Technology Forum in 2007. Before that? More than a decade spent attending the ITUG Summits held prior to HPE becoming involved. While the focus on NonStop seems to have lessened with the passage of time it’s still important to hear the message of Mission Critical Systems from HPE executives in an unfiltered manner.

I am not expecting a big turnout from the NonStop community. With budgets always tight I anticipate most NonStop customers will be saving their pennies to ensure that they can make it to the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, which in many ways has been capturing the spirit of ITUG Summits past. On the other hand, I will not be surprised when I run into a familiar face in Las Vegas and I am expecting that there will be more than just a few NonStop customers making “the trip to the strip!”

Perhaps more surprising for Margo and me is that it’s June, we are heading to Las Vegas and it is the first time we are doing this in 2017. In the past, by the time HPE Discover came around, we have already been to Las Vegas on three or four occasions. But not this time – and put it down to the building of our new home. Readers will know that this year, we have stayed very close to Boulder and not made it to the NonStop Partner Symposium in Palo Alto or to the pan-European eBITUG event in London, even though we had both firmly inked-in on our calendars. When it comes to a project like building a new home there is always a healthy mix of anticipation along with responding to the unexpected.   

The unexpected does happen and plans do change and it has left me to wonder what unexpected developments may overtake HPE and perhaps even NonStop? Are we sure we truly understand all that is happening in the world of NonStop? While many of us were aware of the deep port of NonStop to the Intel x86 architecture there were fewer of us who were aware of the project to support virtual machines. And what of NonStop running on virtual machines comprised of commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware? There has been much these past couple of years that can only be described as unexpected.

When it comes to experiencing the unexpected at big tent events, like HPE Discover, it always starts at the top. The tone will be set from the moment HPE CEO, Meg Whitman, steps out from behind the curtain for her opening remarks at the first general session. In the past, these have drawn large crowds with many standing outside the auditorium watching Whitman on big screens liberally scattered around the exhibition hall. This year, it will be interesting to observe just how big a crowd is drawn to the occasion as the show will be all about the products, together with some services, that make up the product portfolio of just the HPE Enterprise Group (EG).

Long gone are the folks interested in PCs and printers. Those interested in software and services will likely be absent from the show as well. No, this is like a much larger version of ITUG projected onto a much larger stage. There will be demonstrations of working elements of what was unveiled a couple of years back – The Machine. But much of the drama surrounding this enormous undertaking by HPE has lessened as plans now call for elements of The Machine to be released gradually as part of traditional computing offerings. As for what will take center stage this year I expect whatever is presented by Whitman will continue to center on openness and standards and on projects like OpenStack as well as the tools and services in demand by those moving to hybrid IT.

Cloud computing will be the subject of much of what HPE presents, I expect. As too will converged and hyperconverged infrastructure. Synergy, and the efforts to move to software-defined everything will also be highlighted but for the NonStop community, when it comes down to what business problems are being addressed, even with the attention these high profile themes will be given, it is still a bit of a yawn. According to presentation given by the NonStop team of late, including at this week’s N2TUG customer event, isn’t today’s NonStop system already a good example of hyperconverged infrastructure? Isn’t the latest NonStop X systems already being used by one solutions vendor as the technology powering their cloud offering?

Since the very first NonStop rolled off the production line and shipped directly to a customer, the hardware and all the required software had been not only packaged but rather been installed and tested. NonStop represents the industries best example of an integrated stack, from the metal to the user APIs. Talk about converged – it has already been done for NonStop customers, and has for decades. Hyperconverged? Well of course, with the arrival of CLIMs running on Linux boxes interconnected via InfiniBand fabrics – there is a lot to be said about NonStop being the only example shipping today supporting true hyperconverged infrastructure.

What I am anticipating to hear and see more of, and what unexpected developments could prove exciting? For some time now there have been slides in the NonStop product roadmap presentations that address topics such as IoT and Blockchain. I will be anticipating hearing more about NonStop and IoT as I have come to appreciate that IoT will gradually evolve into a tiered implementation, where important events will absolutely have to make it into the data center (whatever that ends up looking like). But this really is more of the same – placing a NonStop system in the transaction path to ensure mission critical data makes it to where it’s needed. While I am not expecting to see NonStop present in any IoT demo situation I sure would like to be surprised to see NonStop doing exactly this at some point.

On the other hand, when it comes to something as intriguing as Blockchain and the support of new-age applications demanding support of a distributed ledger, as we read about in almost every paper we pick up of late, there is movement on this front with regard to NonStop and at N2TUG this week, we were tipped off to expect to see NonStop participating in a demo for exactly this – Blockchain being supported by NonStop. Could this prove to be a tipping point for Virtualized NonStop? Could this be the one key development that truly does favor support by NonStop?

Arguably, it’s a stretch to make the comparison but when ATMs’ first arrived and the need was to ensure they operated around the clock, the appearance of the earliest NonStop systems proved to be a godsend for a number of software houses looking to support these new devices. As a result an industry was created where NonStop played a premier role. With so many concerns about security and indeed accessibility associated with Blockchain, could a similar situation arise for NonStop? In time, could NonStop prove to be the go-to system for support of Blockchain by financial institutions everywhere?

I have purposefully asked a lot of questions in this post and for good reason. Each time I head to HPE Discover I have lots of questions. Even as I am anticipating much and yes, looking for the unexpected to happen, I am reminded that in times past, dating back to the earliest ITUG Summits, vendors have held back a couple of critical developments just so that they can showcase them at their big-tent marketing events. Every attendee expects a little drama. Apple were the masters of the “one more thing …” approach and while I am not anticipating anything close to a major Apple reveal, I am not ruling out that there will indeed be something special announced.

And with that, I return to the road as Las Vegas is still a couple of days drive away and with the weather looking like it will continue to be a problem, I have even more on my mind. Should you make it to HPE Discover and should you be interested in hearing more about NonStop then yes, you will likely find something that surprises you. But even with that prediction the NonStop community has a lot to be thankful about as who would have imagined (just a few years ago) how rapidly NonStop has evolved to where today, it’s a platform, a system and yes, it’s software. Onward then to HPE Discover, 2017!