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?


2 comments:

Dean E Malone said...

Well said Richard. I never really thought of it before but the new NonStop X truly is a hyper-converged platform: 2-16 Xeon processors, several Linux CLIM servers to manage comms and disk, a pair of Windows consoles integrated with all the components on a maintenance LAN for administration, iLO firmware to facilitate lights-out management and monitoring of all the components, an InfiniBand switch to intigrate the CLIMs with the processors, and even auxiliary InfiniBand ports to attach additional servers.

This is again an opportunity to all take our hats off to Mark Pollans and his team for doing such an excellent hardware integration job, and no doubt kudos to Andy Bergholz and Karen Copeland too for the software side of things. And yes, it would serve HPE well to make hyper-converged platform a major bragging point.

Richard said...

My own take on this is that yes, there are folks within HPE who are aware of the work that has gone on (for decades) in support of NonStop to where today it is definitely converged infrastructure and, for some, arguably a hyperconverged system.

It's fun to see that the goal for the rest of HPE is to begin shipping systems / platforms that match what NonStop has delivered for years!