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! 

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