Saturday, February 24, 2018

New leadership; more wins and yes, all’s well for NonStop!

HPE produces financial results that encourage the financial community; other communities take note – when it comes to mission critical servers, NonStop continues to excel!


I know there are still a number of months that need to pass by before we all start making our plans to attend HPE Discover 2018. It will be held, yet again, in Las Vegas and will run from June 19 to June 20. According to the advance promotion of the event, it will showcase just how best to, “Simplify Hybrid IT, innovate at the Intelligent Edge and bring it all together with HPE Pointnext services. Explore new, powerful methods of handling your data. Learn how to take advantage of the next big idea, seize the next new business opportunity and leapfrog the competition.”

For the past couple of years I have been a guest of HPE, representing Mission Critical Systems and NonStop Systems, as an independent blogger and part of the group that HPE calls the “influencers” – and yes, a huge thank you to HPE for including me in the program! HPE has to be congratulated for reaching out to folks like me and including someone from NonStop as part of the twenty-plus such influencers they bring together for these HPE “big-tent” occasions. Collectively, we represent every facet of HPE within IT and as part of the program HPE ensures all influencers are treated to separate “coffee talks” by HPE’s senior management. Of course, there is always the photo opportunity and at last year’s HPE Discover in Las Vegas, the guest HPE executive the HPE team brought along just happened to be then newly-named HPE President, Antonio Neri.
   
In case you haven’t been following the news; HPE released its financial results for the first quarter of its financial year and, under the leadership of Antonio Neri, the company surprised the market. This was followed almost immediately by an uptick in the stock price of HPE, further improving its market capitalization. After all the spin-mergers, movement of staff and restructuring, having a technology leader in charge of HPE, once again, these results suggests that perhaps the stars are beginning to align for HPE.

Combine these results for Q1 with the recent news of the big win for
HPE’s supercomputer with US agencies and the launch of a COTS server into space, and HPE looks to be reasserting itself as an industry leader. And by this, I mean, the technology originating at HPE has always been superb, but penetrating the marketplace hasn’t always been a good reflection on the development work being done by development teams. No, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for HPE over the past two years but now, with just one quarter completed, it’s beginning to look a whole lot better.

So, what were the figures and why should the NonStop community take notice? HPE never showcases financial results for individual product lines but the good news here is that when it comes to Servers and Networking, both did a whole lot better this quarter. However, before getting into the meat of what HPE conveyed to the investor community on their
Q1 2018 Results - Earnings Call, it is important to remind ourselves that NonStop is on a journey.

One that will take it down two roads – a continuation of NonStop as usual, with system upgrades plotted on a product roadmap that shows no indication of ending any time soon, and the beginning of a virtualized NonStop (vNS) that in time will be an option within the hyper converge roadmap. Becoming another virtual workload, solutions developed for NonStop and supported by the L-Series operating system can opt to go down either path and this represents a whole raft of new opportunities for NonStop, not the least being able to address SMB with solutions running on managed and public clouds.

The first item that caught my attention on the earnings call was the top line figure. As Tim Stonesifer, HPE EVP and CFO, noted on the call, Total revenue for the quarter was $7.7 billion, up 11% year-over-year and 9% in constant currency.” A little later he then said, “By region, HPE’s performance in the Americas continue to improve, growing 3% with strength in core compute and campus switching combined with a recovery in the organic storage results. Revenue in Europe was even stronger, up 11% in constant currency, driven by an acceleration in core compute and storage with double-digit growth in Germany and Scandinavia. Asia-Pacific grew almost 20% in constant currency, delivering solid core server revenue with double-digit growth in Japan, China and Australia.”

I have highlighted the references to both core compute and core server as this is truly the center of HPE’s product portfolio as everything else are more or less satellite products circling around this core. There are customers of Aruba networking products just as there are customers of 3PAR storage where HPE has no core compute presence, but in general, core compute continues to be the engine driving HPE forward and part of the core compute is core server that includes NonStop. And for the NonStop community, any time there are “new logos” added to the NonStop user base it is cause for celebration. Last year we heard that there were more than a dozen such new logos and looking ahead to what we can expect to see this year, I am hopeful that this number climbs to twenty plus new logos.

Returning to the earnings call, Antonio Neri talked more about core compute, telling the audience of financial analysts how, “In compute, revenue grew 11% year-over-year, driven by growth in core ISS, High Performance Computer, Hyper Converge and Synergy.” Furthermore, “In datacenter networking, revenue grew 27% year-over-year, driven by strong execution within our install base. Our differentiator in Hybrid IT is our software defined services led approach, which helps customers navigate through the transformation challenges.”

At some point, with the work that has been done to support vNS, I see no reason why virtualized NonStop workloads will not be supported by Synergy. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself and I have been cautioned about appearing too optimistic, but the truth is that with Synergy, there is tremendous scale-up opportunities whereas NonStop, as we know so well, is master of the scale-out architecture. But from where I sit, any enterprise that deploys large-scale Synergy chassis / servers will have room enough to spare for virtualized NonStop workloads to leverage the many physical servers in the Synergy chassis.

And my point here is that from just a single piece of glass, managing operations may be a whole lot simpler with everything out there running on racks of servers as this or that workload! Of course, why wouldn’t you prefer to provision a vNS environment in support of your most important applications – those mission-critical, real-time, transaction processing solutions!

Perhaps most insightful of all in the earnings call were the comments made by Antonio Neri when at one point, he took time to explain to the financial analysts how, “As you know, we have defined our strategy, built our portfolio based on the market disruptions we’re all experiencing, driven by the digital transformation and the resulting explosion of applications and data. At HP, we help our customers extract critical insights from their data to accelerate business outcomes. We enable our customers to harvest, store and analyze the critical data that improves customer experiences, drive new business models and increases employee productivity.”

When it comes to helping their customers extract critical insights, in my conversations with Ric Lewis, HPE
Senior VP / GM, Software Defined & Cloud Group, during his coffee talk at HPE Discover 2018 Madrid, he reiterated that when it comes to data analytics, HPE would be turning to the partners for support. I find this response extremely encouraging as the more HPE drives its core compute / core servers programs, the better they will be to channel their energy into partnerships for other components than trying to go it alone and play catch-up. That isn’t to say that at some point HPE will not make an investment or acquisition in this space, but for the time being, I see this as being a further example that times are a changing within HPE – and for the positive!

Perhaps the most important aspect of the information coming from HPE as it wraps up its first quarter under new leadership is that HPE does have a vision and is executing to a strategy. HPE executives have said it many times and I think the message is now being understood by financial analysts and the IT industry – empower the edge, IoT and simply the transformation to hybrid IT. It may be a stretch but for those who have been around NonStop for many years, there is an appreciation that NonStop can definitely play a significant role within hybrid IT and given the right situation, even at the edge.

After all, it was Gartner that suggested the edge would eat the cloud, a reference to the eventual demise of the data center and yet another stretch, but worth considering all the same. Yes, a big edge will be as big a target for NonStop in time as the cloud, but at least, we have in NonStop and vNS options and the NonStop community relishes being given a choice!

HPE Discover 2018, Las Vegas, is now four months away and I am thinking about what we can expect to see from HPE. I have already made it known to those sorting out the program that I would like to see more references to how HPE compute is being used in the real world, going so far as to suggest setting up an aisle in the “transformation zone” showcasing real customers with real applications running on select products from the HPE product portfolio – including NonStop.

It has been good to see NonStop at the center of Blockchain / DLT demonstrations – excelling at what it does best; transactions leveraging NonStop SQL- and as pleased as I was to see its presence, I want to see even more! So, who knows – maybe we will see a greater presence of the “applied HPE” as we do the “pure (technology-centric) HPE” we see today.

By June, we should have seen results for Q2, 2018, and like many of those I have talked to over the past couple of days, I am hopeful that momentum continues for HPE. Just as importantly, I am hopeful too that momentum continues for NonStop. I am often asked whether we have seen acceptance of NonStop having turned a corner and whether the plans many current NonStop users have for migrating to other systems have lessened of late and while I don’t have access to real numbers, anecdotally I sense we have turned that corner with NonStop.

But if you really want to see the full picture then make sure you plan on attending HPE Discover 2018 and perhaps we will both get the opportunity to hear the full story for ourselves! Until then, let’s just all sit back and appreciate just how well HPE has performed out of the gate under the leadership of its new CEO, Antonio Neri!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Feeling secure? It could be the way we walk that secures future transactions …


Who knew? Computers will be watching and learning more about us in order to satisfy themselves that yes, it really is us initiating a transaction and for HPE and NonStop, this is heralding the age of analytics and AI!


Back on land, after a short voyage back and forth between Long Beach and Hawaii, despite all the steps we took to mitigate interaction with fellow passengers, I managed to catch the dreadful flu that was going around and not only did I catch it, but passed it on to Margo. If you haven’t been keeping up with my Facebook, twitter and blog posts this may be news to you, but even as I am now close to good again, Margo still has a few days to go.

Of course, we avoided the buffet lines, rarely ventured into the public eat-anytime dining rooms and essentially, ate at the specialty restaurants even as we stuck to one cafĂ© and one bar. All good, but no matter what steps we took clearly they weren’t enough! On the other hand, none of this proved to be a distraction to spending time at sea, a pastime for me that remain my favorite way to relax. As for the casino well, and the ease with which the cruise line can empty your account, I stayed well clear of that deck as distracting as it appeared to be for many of my fellow travelers!  

These days we are all being forced to take steps to protect ourselves whether it has to do with getting ill, having our financial situation compromised or perhaps much worse, our digital footprint hijacked. So many new words have entered the language of late – reverse this and reverse that and shame this and shame that – it’s almost as if not only have we let the genie out of the bottle, as we so thoroughly evangelized the internet, but given the genie the keys to practically everything we thought we had hid safely under the bed!

And don’t get me started on malware or ransomware … safe to say, despite the best intentions of government agencies and big institutions, we are pretty much on our own! While I am not advocating we all build fortress-homes, it is a safe assumption that barely a week goes by when we don’t think about the downside of always-on, always-connected!

A short time ago, seated in a piano bar in Las Vegas, rather than charging the last round of drinks to the hotel room a client elected to hand over his credit card. Returning to his room, he received a call from his bank asking whether he really did purchase two one-way tickets to the Middle East? Running a large business as he was doing, cancelling the card meant spending a week dealing with subcontractors and suppliers to unwind any dependency on the card. No harm was done, but there was no reimbursement for him and his staff to devote that week to sorting it all out. As for me, yes, I have left my card at the cash register a couple of times but to date, no harm has befallen me.

This past week, the ATM Industry Association has been holding its US Conference in Las Vegas. If you have not missed the promotional emails that came out in support of this event, you may have seen how there were a handful of NonStop vendors supporting the event even as there were many NonStop users among the crowd that showed up. ESQ and Paragon were exhibiting and OmniPayments stole the show with a coffee session Yash threw for all attendees.

There was ample opportunity for the attendees to hear about NonStop and for me, it is a bit of a shame that HPE doesn’t do a better job of supporting this event, as the NonStop users in attendance were the cream of the crop, so as to speak! I assume I would be on safe ground to suggest that there is so much more that HPE could do when it comes to marketing that benefits the NonStop, after all, marketing is all about creating an environment in which to sell not to mention, as champions of NonStop, communicating the value of NonStop. And on very friendly turf, I might add!

Even though I missed this event because of the flu, what I really wanted to hear was the keynote presentation by Theresa Payton, Former White House CIO & Cybersecurity Authority, who is now starring on CBS's New TV Show, "Hunted". Last year, the keynote speaker was Herman Edwards a former NFL coach and ESPN analyst who was returning to the ranks of coaching. More telling was his presentation “Doing the little things and executing vision.” The common thread here was that Edwards took time to explain that he is resorting to cash simply because it is a budgeting tool. When he runs out of cash for the week he is done.

But he also reminded us that like me, having cash in his wallet gave him comfort and security. No third party to get into his card accounts if he didn’t have his cards on him. While I wasn’t able to hear Payton’s keynote this year I am sure there will be members of the NonStop community only too happy to fill me in on what was said, but the credentials alone suggest it was bound to be about security!

We may be pretty much on our own when it comes to securing our own presence in the world, be that financial or social. However, when it comes to our systems and the applications they support, I have misgivings about a lot of the security steps being promoted. Sure, nothing that ends up in storage should be in the clear, but in time, I see this as being more a hardware opportunity than anything to do with software – if it is in software, well then it can be compromised at some point given access to enough compute power. And just as importantly, nothing going into the ether should be in the clear when it comes to our personnel information but that too is more a case of leaving it to the hardware. Software handling such sensitive issues is a non-starter for me, except when it comes to some of the more advanced work being done directing analytics and AI at the problem.

What it all comes down to, according to Gartner, is ensuring we truly understand who it is at the other end of the line and that means developing a “360-degree customer view!” The more you know about your customer the more you can then detect variances where you can challenge the party on the other end of the line.

As Jim Marous, Co-Publisher of The Financial Brand and Owner/Publisher of the Digital Banking Report, suggested in a post of February 6, 2018,
Data-Savvy Banking Organizations Will Destroy Everyone Else, “when an identity assertion on a web portal is suspect, corroborate the identity of the customer via mobile push to confirm that he or she is in possession of a previously enrolled device. Also, capture location and other signals, to check additional passive behavioral biometric traits (e.g., gait, gestures and handling), or to exploit native or third-party active biometric modes (e.g., fingerprint, face or voice).”

I particularly like the reference to gait as this implies we track and record the way our customers approach an ATM or POS device each and every time and implies there is a substantial amount of analytics going on behind the scenes. To this end, I am even more impressed these days with what the Striim team has been up to – if you missed it, their web site page, Enterprise Securitymakes an interesting read. “With the increase in cyberattacks, both in number of incidents and complexity, protecting intellectual property and business data against internal and external threats is a top concern. Striim delivers a fast and customized data security solution that transcends single-point solutions to analyze multiple sources and domains in real time.” And when it comes to real world deployment, Striim has turned its powerful streaming analytics engine onto handling complex scenarios just as Jim Marous suggested in his post.

While I am a little wary of the claims of some security products and of the many such offerings that find their way onto systems including NonStop, analytics is key and this is where Striim has scored a direct hit with one of the largest issues of plastic on the planet. “When its existing 50+ security solutions resulted in a flood of alerts and false positives, the leading credit card network turned to Striim to increase alert accuracy with more sophisticated rules, and improve the security team’s understanding of the alerts generated. Striim ingests and joins security devices’ log and session data files in (Apache) AVRO format, representing every security-related event from 50+ siloed security applications. With multi-log correlation and advanced pattern matching capabilities, their Striim application accurately and immediately detects data security breaches and attacks.” 

While we do need to take steps to protect ourselves and do as much as we can to protect our systems from compromise, adding layer after layer of software to help ward off unwanted guests may not be sustainable over the long haul. All the silos in the world can’t pack together tight enough to ward off serious intrusions – there will always be a gap or two! Improved hardware is definitely going to play a role and I know that HPE is across this. But when you dig a little deeper, the question of security isn’t so much a question of which software to use but rather what degree of intelligence you apply to the problem and here I see analytics and AI having an opportunity to address a rapidly expanding marketplace.

As for me, the next time I saunter over to an ATM, I have to wonder, with each step I take, is it keeping an eye out for the gestures I make and the nature of my gait? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it! Then again, there is some comfort to be gained knowing that it is just me and nobody else that has access to my information, accounts and yes, cash.  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

As new NonStop products continue to be unveiled we all need access to services providers!

As often as we hear, “open to the elements” and we cringe, for NonStop users, open is a good thing – but it’s even better with help from service providers …


Well, the weather isn’t doing us any favors even if it is nowhere as bad as what we are looking at for the US Mid-West and East Coast It’s SuperBowl Sunday and with the venue being Minneapolis it’s safe to say it’s really, really, cold. Thank goodness the venue will be inside a dome, but just making the trek from car to stadium will be a challenge for many. Forecasters are telling their audiences that frostbite will set in within 30 minutes so spectators will need to be careful. And yet, it is football after all and many a time we have seen games played in atrocious conditions inside of stadiums open to the elements.

We want to be close to the action sometimes and feel as though we are truly involved in the game, but there are limits after all. On the other hand, more clubs are spending the billion dollars it takes to build a temperature controlled dome where the luxury boxes truly shield well-heeled folks from all that could mess with making sure they can pursue fine-dining even as the contestants belt each other into submission. Oh well, it’s only a game, but somehow there is a certain logic behind naming some playing fields colosseums.

Open to the elements; atrocious conditions, bordering on hostile no matter the temperature and all the while, working hard to improve services when it comes to food and drink and even the speed with which spectators can find their seats it continues to be all about the customer experience. It’s all happening at the stadium even as it is all happening for the NonStop user, even as it is a simple reminder of all the moving parts that make up a mission-critical application. Oftentimes, it is the combination of products and services that lead to success when it comes to that all-important moment when you interact with a customer.

I was first introduced to the game during my Universities “orientation week” during the Australian Summer of ’69. It was a replay, of course, but it was SuperBowl III, made famous by the “guarantee of victory” given by the Jet’s quarterback, Joe Namath. As this replay of SuperBowl III was being played in an air-conditioned theatrette, it was only natural to head on in as the temperatures out on the campus had passed well beyond 100 degrees. Since that time, I haven’t missed all that many SuperBowls even as any room with air conditioning has continued to prove attractive to me through the years. Indeed, as it has been reported elsewhere, upon arrival for my cadetship with the steelworks, I opted for EDP / MIS as the computers mandated an air-conditioned environment and a steelworks, in Australia, in summer wasn’t for everyone.  

Open to the elements? Even as I wrote the observation above, it reminded me of just how open to the elements our networks have become. For the NonStop community, there has always been something that needed to be “plugged in”, whether it was a network being terminated at a NonStop System or the NonStop System itself plugging into other systems within the data center. It mattered little over time as network protocols morphed to where they were similar with “what’s your IP address”, the only request we would make. But how much access to do we have with experts in just how to pull this all together?

While networks have been a focus of mine for quite a long time now, our systems too have become open. There is so much talk of late about REST and JSON and even node.js and serverside Java script. Applications have become a sequence of microservices and all those we connect to want to know what are the APIs and how best to use them. I thought providing a WSDL was all that would be required to support modern application deployments but the momentum behind WSDL proved short-lived. As for SOA / Web services, they too will be carrying that dreaded legacy label very shortly. But who do we turn to for expertise in these areas and about creating new applications?

With the SuperBowl a topic of many conversations this weekend even as it is a time to celebrate with family and friends, it also represents the very pinnacle of the game of American football or gridiron or simply the NFL. Scattered around the playing field are the best athletes the sport generates, each playing a unique position such that the very idea that “playing football” oftentimes can be oxymoronic.  Some play on the offense while others play on the defense even as others play on something coaches call special teams. Every position, either side of the ball, is labelled differently and calls for specialized skills so much so that teams have positional coaches for every position played. Unfortunately, IT is seeing increased specialization even as those involved have little by way of coaching staff to turn to and for the NonStop community, this is becoming a serious concern for every NonStop stakeholder.

HPE had its services offerings. but they were spun off and the services group they kept, what HPE now calls PointNext, has much bigger issues to address – simplifying hybrid IT, empowering the edge, etc. We have read all the messaging and seen the presentations but NonStop doesn’t quite fit the mold, at least, not yet. Even as NonStop pushes ahead with programs that make it easier to participate in today’s open world, the unfortunate paradox is that it requires specialists to properly set-up NonStop in order to make this happy. And into this environment, HPE has added yet one more parameter demanding specialist skills – running NonStop applications as virtualized NonStop workloads. Ouch!

Talking with TCM Solutions, Daniel Craig, he reminded me of how, “We all know of the spin-merge actions of HPE last year but even as these included the spin-merge of their former HPE Services group, together with the creation of a more specialized, HPE-focused services group, PointNext – formerly the Enterprise Group’s Technology Services – when it comes to NonStop there are numerous gaps that are just not being addressed by HPE.” In other words, according to Craig, “These gaps will likely present issues for some NonStop users – particularly those contemplating the move to virtualized NonStop – but at TCM we see them as opportunities for the NonStop vendor community to step up and provide expertise that otherwise may not be available to every NonStop user.

Yes, opportunities, according to Craig. For those in the managed services business, it has become clear that the need for specialist players and even coaches, is becoming paramount across the NonStop community. The above quotes appeared in a post of January 28, 2018, to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse and if you missed reading the complete post when it came out, you can follow this link:
Services, not just products - NonStop continues to push deeper into the data center.

The SuperBowl is probably over – yes, we are recording it just to see the advertisements, as living in America, there is no way we will miss hearing about who won. Open to the elements – how often do we hear this expression used in situations where bad news was about to be delivered. For the NonStop community it seems as though we have been exposed to the elements for a very long time and made the necessary adjustments. And yet, even as we expect to add even more “new logos” to the NonStop community, there is much more to be done when it comes to providing access to experienced NonStop professionals.

It isn’t so much a request for a cushy air-conditioned dome with great food being provided, but rather, a growing demand for experts who can help us make the jump required to the types of mission-critical operations we fully expect to see emerge in the next year or so. Fortunately, there are managed service providers stepping up who can really help us, no matter what position we play and for that, the NonStop community is well positioned.       

“And for TCM, this is all very positive,” added Craig. “We believe we are well-placed to provide the level of managed services due to our twenty plus year track record of designing and delivering managed services.” Whether it is traditional NonStop or even the new virtualized NonStop, it is still all about implementing and running mission-critical applications, and said Craig, “We are experts in NonStop and in how to build and run a secure, safe NonStop service and we expect to see many companies looking to us to guide them through this very important transition to the new, fully virtualized, world of NonStop!”

All I can add at this time of night is that well, it's time to fly like an eagle! 

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