Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Our colorful lives!

Being on the road as much as we have of late has given us time to talk to members of the NonStop community and it’s been a very interesting indeed colorful ride so far …

There is nothing like seeing the first signs of home appearing on the horizon. With all that has transpired these past couple of months, crossing the state line and seeing the tourist-promotion billboard declaring entry into Colorful Colorado was welcomed, indeed. I am going to leave it to postings to other sites to cover all that has transpired while on the road these past two months but suffice to say that it was most interesting, with challenges coming at us every day. Sounds an awful lot like a typical day inside any enterprise data center as no matter the plans, there is always something unexpected taking place.

It has been on these travels that I have come to truly appreciate the need to have multiples of just about everything. Suddenly primary and secondary are no longer abstract terms as even the best prepared plans go right out the window when unexpected situations develop. For me the big item I have been covering is the real world experiences of those enterprises embracing hybrid IT; in particular, those enterprises that include NonStop in their plans.

So, let me cut to the chase – I have as yet to come across any enterprise that have gone down this path or talked to data center managers tackling the finer details of having mixes of traditional and cloud environments supporting anything apart from pilots and prototypes. So, has something gone awfully wrong and are the reports coming from industry analysts overstating reality?

To be fair, I wasn’t expecting to come across a sizable number of NonStop users kicking off such projects and yet, I have become somewhat curious about what is happening out there in today’s data centers where NonStop has an established presence. Members of the NonStop community that I have met through the years have proved to be colorful individuals, not slow to form opinions and yet, it would seem many of them are looking at their peers within the community running applications on NonStop to see who blinks first. Or not at all!

The promise of NonStop participating in hybrid IT on the other hand has huge potential upside; not just for those enterprises already convinced of the merits of NonStop but to the industry as a whole. Who wouldn’t want better availability, scalability and yes, security? My point here is that all too often the messages we develop in support of a product or service have expiration dates but when it comes to the key attributes of NonStop there are no expiration dates. Have you ever seen a use-by date on a NonStop system?

It isn’t just the colorful characters we come across within the NonStop community that help set directions but general mood of the community as a whole. It’s as if collectively we have all been holding our breath that there was going to be a breakout season for NonStop happening soon. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to be colorful to make a contribution. What I am really trying to convey is that after all these years there are still many individuals who champion NonStop on every occasion.

For them there is absolutely no reason on earth why any mission critical application shouldn’t turn to NonStop as the go to first choice system for deployment.  However, what is taking place is a leadership transformation across the vendor community as many of the baby boomers begin to ease up to take a back seat to new leaders. Whether CEOs or Managing Directors, have you noted just how many new folks have come to help companies we know so well over the last year or so?

If industry and financial analysts can be accused of overstating reality and   the progress being made toward embracing the hybrid IT by major enterprises is more snail like than rabbit like, should we start to think that perhaps we have, yet again, come up with a fantastic technology and a terrific answer when it comes to cost containment at a time when the problem isn’t all that bad? Are we at a moment in time when it all sounds good but no, it’s not for us just yet?

In other words, has the “Gucci smart brigade Data Center” not struck as loud a chord with data center managers as the “Bonds t-shirt Data Center?” (For non-Australian, you can substitute any local brand and of course, Fruit of the Loom easily applies!)  Point is, does a glamour solution hold up when all we need is some pretty bread and butter solutions to work better? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could easily connect our silo-ed applications in a way that gave us a hub and spoke model where the hub never failed?

Oftentimes I fret over just how caught up we can become in what’s new rather than what works. With exceptions, rather than what is universal. NonStop at its heart is fundamentally anything but exceptional when it comes to what NonStop runs on – it was always conceived as a solution to a problem of quality and the unexpected. Back in the 1970s no hardware vendor would consider talking about their infallibility but rather talked up the RAS support they had, the wonderful service staff they had on hand and even about backup sites you could turn to if you data center went south! 

And NonStop took all this into consideration and continued to work, 24 x 7, no matter what fell apart. In other words, it was designed to keep working when all else failed. And there is a reason why NonStop talked up take-over versus fail-over. NonStop wasn’t going to wait for a disaster but rather, stepped in to head off disaster once it detected normalcy was being compromised.

There has been a lot of news of late about the success or otherwise of cloud vendors. IBM is talking up its revenues from cloud computing offerings even as Microsoft has detailed how with Azure it is now making more money from clouds than Amazon, even as industry and financial analysts endorse Amazon as the leader.  It's hard not to apply the label “colorful” to someone like Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, who for a brief couple of hours had more money than Microsoft’s Bill Gates just a few days ago, but for the enterprise, all the color drains from their visage once we get past thoughts of clouds for anything other than select IaaS opportunities.

Perhaps the biggest potential game changer is the availability of Azure for the enterprise to power its own on-premise cloud. This is where I see IBM having difficulty competing over the long haul as enterprises equate cloud with x86 and there really isn’t any enthusiasm in support of Power. Given this, and that Azure will support Hyper V, that is a little more Gucci than it is Bonds.

According to what Microsoft is telling enterprises today, “The Hyper-V server role in Windows Server lets you create a virtualized server computing environment where you can create and manage virtual machines. You can run multiple operating systems on one physical computer and isolate the operating systems from each other. With this technology, you can improve the efficiency of your computing resources and free up your hardware resources.” Key here, for the NonStop community, is running multiple operating systems on one physical computer and isolating (the impact, good or bad) the operating systems from each other. With this, the prospect of firing up a virtualized NonStop platform becomes rather obvious – and can be given serious consideration whether it is Azure on-premise or Azure driving a cloud somewhere.

Here is where it is all headed. Those colorful individuals championing NonStop within their enterprise are going to arrive at the data center one day to find their beloved hardware is out on the loading dock. In its place, aisle after aisle of servers racked to the ceiling with nothing left to do other than to fire up virtualized NonStop as just another Azure-supported operating system; the difference being that, unlike its peers running alongside of NonStop, it can keep running the mission critical applications the enterprise depends upon when they all falter for one reason or another, possibly just an automatic upgrade pushed to them by none other than Microsoft. Yes, it will be NonStop that will make Microsoft look good running some very important applications.

Calamities are always present and disaster is just a few keystrokes away. In our world of highly networked systems, it’s good to know we will be able to turn to one operating system that knows when to take over and not just wait for failure. It’s very much unique to NonStop and it’s hard not to be impressed with this model developed at a time when all hardware was flaky and unreliable. Kind of sounds very much like today, doesn’t it? And here’s the good news, virtualized NonStop on Azure and Hyper V is on the roadmap and likely being tested in the labs of NonStop development even as I type these last few words. Colorful? Well, I can’t think of anything more colorful than seeing a lot of red faces among enterprise executives when they see what today’s NonStop can achieve supporting their business. 

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