Sunday, July 9, 2017

Growth is not optional; it is a must!

NonStop keeps on going no matter what system failures may arise – but is this enough? What follows here is purely speculative on my part but is worth raising with the NonStop community. And yes, any and every comment more than welcome …

Travelling around Colorado these past few weeks it’s so clear just how much growth has occurred. Lakes and reservoirs are full to overflowing – more than one state park we have visited had pathways closed due to local flooding – grasslands are standing tall and trees and bushes are a brilliant green everywhere you turn. Spring rains have continued into the summer with afternoons subject to intense thunderstorms, most days. I can recall that in the past such storms were forming at this time of the year but rarely did the rain reach the ground, but this year there have been more late afternoon storms than I can recall.

Living in a motor coach makes us a little susceptible to inclement weather but so far, we haven’t suffered anything more than a fright from an unexpected thunderclap. The rainfall that continues well into summer isn’t something we aren’t pleased to see of course but the growth these rains have helped produce has turned the Colorado front ranges greener than I have seen for a very long time. It may all be problematic later in summer if it all dries out as we have seen more than our fair share of wildfires with summer’s end but until then, this extended period of growth does a lot of good to the state. Any reader who has also seen photos posted to my Facebook and Twitter accounts may have already seen what I am talking about but just as a reminded, I have included one of the photos above.

For the past week I have been working with vendors on the next issue of NonStop Insider that should appear later this week. What really has struck me is the number of references to growth. Where will it come from? Does the business value proposition of NonStop remain as strong as it once was or will NonStop struggle to sustain double-digit growth year over year? The theme of this issue of NonStop Insider was transformation – you will see numerous references to transformation in the articles that were submitted – but does transformation lead to more sales? It’s questions like these that have come up more than just a couple of times this week and it made me rethink some of the answers I had previously provided to my clients after I had been asked this question.

The business value proposition is as real today as it ever has been – it’s all about availability after all. Out-of-the-box, supported by middleware and utilities that are all part of an integrated stack, from the metal to the user interface! From the perspective of any user developing an application, there is always concern about what will happen if something breaks and knowing that your application will continue to function even as all around it may fail is not something that can be lightly discounted. It’s really a very valuable attribute with an almost “holy grail” consideration about it – just talk to those now building their very first application and watch their reaction when you say you work with a platform that survives failure and just keeps on running. Like the famous “Energizer Bunny!”

However, for most of us, we had this all before. We know the value of NonStop but it’s a strange development environment with legacy tools and some very strange ways of doing things – what’s this about checkpointing? What’s this about redundant storage? Isn’t it all very expensive and don’t you have processors that simply don’t do anything until they are needed? Recently, I have heard just about everything being addressed except for the most important aspect of all – out-of-the-box, it just works! No, you don’t write NonStop programs, you simply let NonStop run the programs you write. You have a rich choice of languages and development environments – NonStop supports it all but with the addition of fault tolerance. It not only just works, but it keeps on working. The Energizer Bunny will eventually stop – its battery will run down. It may last a lot longer than other batteries, but as a power source, it will eventually fail. Not so with NonStop!

So, yes we have the susceptibility to failure covered. But growth? To paraphrase the Apollo space mission, for NonStop growth is not an option. In some respect we have to be very thankful that HPE has given NonStop every chance to build a larger population of users. There has never been serious consideration to discontinuing the NonStop program despite what rumors you may have heard – there are just too many blue-chip customers for HPE to turn them out onto the streets. As witnessed last year at HPE Discover, from the CEO on down, there is a strong appreciation for the value proposition NonStop brings for even the most fastidious of users. However, today’s HPE looks nothing like the company that existed just a few short years ago. Now HPE is looking to all of its products to start producing the type of growth any new company demands.

But here’s the rub; there is opportunity for growth with NonStop for sure but not likely in its present form. Surprised? Well you shouldn’t be. It’s been coming for a very long time – NonStop is going to wash over every product and every HPE system will contain some elements of NonStop as HPE looks to differentiate itself based on availability. A stretch? Dreaming? Perhaps this is taking it a little too far – but then again, is it? Imagine for a moment that any distribution of software HPE builds has a little of NonStop flowing through it, and applications running on HPE as a result just keep on running, would that of itself be the source of future growth for NonStop?

Stepping back for a moment, you will find nothing of this in any NonStop roadmap presentation. For now, the NonStop development team has so much on its plate and as fast as it is moving, there is still so much more to do. However, the judicial placement of a couple of knowledgeable developers within other projects and this could all change in a heartbeat. Yes, NonStop still contains a certain amount of special sauce but it is NonStop’s special sauce and it is NonStop development that has the recipe. Let a couple of chefs loose in other kitchens and stand back – NonStop is no longer just a product but a philosophy and that’s not diluting the business value proposition, to contrary, it certainly would create growth.

You just have to look at NonStop in an entirely different light. It’s not best practices, although best practices have always been a factor in having NonStop applications be as available as they are. Furthermore, it’s not rocket science as much as there are those who think you need a team of specialists to keep NonStop running non-stop. This fear of a graying population of lab-coat wearing engineers is just way over blown. Our graying population is retiring but guess what, there is a developing talent pool of much younger folks that I am not prepared to discount or suggest that they won’t cut it!

Earlier I used the phrase “NonStop is going to wash over every product” and it wasn’t by accident as this phrase too came up in discussions this week. Think of the incoming tide pushing further up the beach and spilling onto rock formations until the tide eventually covers everything. This is exactly one vision I have of NonStop and while I may be the only one predicting such a possibility, HPE has everything to gain in letting the NonStop tide roll in – indeed, let’s go one big step further. Let’s make NonStop open source! Let’s integrate NonStop with OpenStack. Let’s shake it all up – and lets just see who follows NonStop. I know that this highly problematic as well, but why not?

Enterprises will still want a managed software distribution as they continue to abhor the current model of fixes and patches arriving by the hour. Stability and predictability – a new release every summer is something they can handle, but not every hour. So, NonStop becomes a special distribution of OpenStack built to meet these requirements of enterprise IT execs. Think SUSIE, RedHat even Debian – supported distributions are important and have found markets. Put this down as another potential benefit that NonStop brings to the party – availability, scalability and yes, predictability!

In today’s transforming world of IT, there is no such thing as staying within the lines and keeping inside the box. It’s cliché but it’s also very true – to succeed think differently. While much of what I have written above will probably not come to pass even as it’s a stretch to ever think HPE would make NonStop open source, in order to grow and become the best software platform on the planet – HPE has to think of doing the unexpected! The dramatic! And I think it can do just that and it may be coming very soon. Move over Energizer Bunny, not only will NonStop keep on going on but will do so long after your bunny’s battery has died!        

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