Sunday, March 18, 2018

Yes, I read it in a blog!

With HPE CEO Antonio Neri posting and tweeting – HPE strategy is becoming clearer and it is all good news for the NonStop community!
Most of my background in IT is well known to the NonStop community but this isn’t the time to dig into the archives and reflect on past accomplishments. However, and just an observation in passing, for someone who was often told that he would find it hard to stick to doing just one thing well, maybe there is a story here after all. The NonStop community is witnessing change, but change a little different from what the rest of IT is observing. Yes, we are embracing hybrid IT in one form or another and yes, we are coming to terms with virtualization, provisioning and software-defined-everything. And yet, for the NonStop community, change is happening in unforeseen ways as it wrestles with where NonStop is headed amid concerns about “what is NonStop!” 

Expressed differently, are we happy to be given more options as to how we deploy NonStop or are unhappy about NonStop apparently responding to questions we never asked? My background in IT has exposed me to many turns of the technology wheel and from where I sit it’s as if we have circled back to topics I thought we had addressed long ago. Decades ago, what fueled the argument centralized versus distributed was the uptake of online systems and the transaction volumes they generated, but today, it’s not so much about transactions per se as it is about the data. If we continue with the systems and deployment topologies we have relied upon for two plus decades then we will be inundated with so much data that we won’t be able to handle it.

While a lot of attention is being given to the edge, when it comes to NonStop any consideration of running NonStop at the edge is probably an exercise in futility. At least for the next decade! For starters, there is greater potential for high performance computing running analytics and AI to make it out to the edge  than NonStop, but that isn’t to say some solutions provider may build a product that exploits NonStop out on the edge at some point. On the other hand and a little more realistically, with discussions about hybrid IT and converged / hyper-converged becoming more pronounced, NonStop has a very realistic shot at providing value in the data center. Centralized may not be the same as it was in former times, with multiple data center sites all seamlessly integrated constituting an enterprises modern data center, but the expectations will remain – business critical logic and data need to be accessible 24 x 7 x forever.

But what is the strategy of HPE? What are HPE’s plans for NonStop and do they dovetail nicely with HPE’s overall strategy? Before delving into HPE’s strategy, it is good to start with how new HPE CEO, Antonio Neri, views the world and what HPE considers is the next big thing, the next big challenge we all face, and where HPE sees itself playing an important role. In the March issue of NonStop Insider, in a new column we headlined
HPE: News from the very top … reference was made to a post by Neri, The Next Big Thing is … The Intelligent Edge published in the LinkedIn blog, Pulse:

We live in a hybrid world – the IT estate has to span from the edge to the core to the cloud because the power is in the data and you have to connect and secure all of it.
The challenge in this future is that the volume of data being created will soon outstrip our ability to capture, analyze and act on it. This intelligent environment will require a platform that is open, simple, automated and secure. This is exactly why we’re advancing our vision of Memory-Driven Computing.

What can you expect to see next? Remember the first time you heard about the possibility of an autonomous vehicle? Or how revolutionary AI and blockchain could be? Now think about what could happen when IT leaders apply real-time intelligence to retailing, sports arenas, medical facilities, college campuses, transportation systems and smart cities. No doubt, we’ll achieve higher productivity, mesmerizing customer experiences and change the way we live. In every industry, every city, everywhere.

There will be an intelligent environment. AI and yes, Blockchain will be important and yes, HPE will apply real-time intelligence to retailing, sports arenas, medical facilities, college campuses, transportation systems and smart cities. Memory-Driven Computing? Yes, we are seeing it being introduced into the marketplace already as the SuperDome Flex – it’s definitely a memory-driven computer and it is definitely foreshadowing the potential that is an extension of the first prototypes coming from The Machine. But wait, there’s more – Memory Driven Computing is at the very heart of the converged and hyper-converged models HPE foresees the market requiring to process the workloads that will arise from all the data being ingested.

Beyond simply viewing the world this way, in a subsequent post to the HPE web site, Neri gave more information about HPE’s strategy and of the markets HPE will be focused on as it addresses meeting the described needs of an intelligent environment. In a recent tweet by Neri that takes us to a blog post by him,
Market Share and the Tale of Two Strategies, he fills in some of the blanks that have existed within HPE strategy as articulated in the past:

Within the compute market there are a number of different segments and they are not all created equally. We think about them as volume markets and value-and-growth segments. At HPE, we are aggressively segmenting the market to ensure we are making the right investments in the value-and-growth areas where we can bring differentiated value like hyper-converged, high-performance compute and Synergy, while also profitably supporting our customers in more commoditized parts of volume segments like rack and tower. But, as I have said many times before, we are not going to chase market share just for share’s sake. We are going to drive profitable share.

HPE announced last fall that we will no longer pursue the low (or zero) margin, custom-built, commodity server business with a very narrow set of Tier 1 service providers – Apple, Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure in the U.S. and TenCent, Alibaba and Baidu in China. While this segment of the market is large and growing, there is simply no profit to be had by HPE or our competitors because there is very little value we can bring. We still do substantial business with these companies, but we are focused on delivering solutions that provide differentiated value for them like our value-and-growth compute, storage and networking offerings.

This is the strongest language to date concerning what HPE is not going to do. There should be no ambiguity here when it comes to understanding HPE’s strategy – if it is a high value, high growth opportunity then HPE will address it. Otherwise, look for other vendors who may be interested only in market share – a game HPE no longer wants to play, and for good reason. It is in this high value, high growth market where change will be needed as it is inclusive of the Global 1000 enterprises HPE is already working with seeking to “apply real-time intelligence to retailing, sports arenas, medical facilities, college campuses, transportation systems and smart cities.” And I got the scoop on all of this from reading a blog – did you read them, too?

I have covered some of this material in a couple of my latest private emails to my clients but let me spell out what this all means for NonStop as best as I can. There it is for all of the NonStop community to see: hyper-converged, high-performance compute and Synergy. The investment HPE has made in virtualized NonStop means that in response to where it provides high value and high growth, virtualized NonStop has the potential to become just another, albeit very important, virtualized workload in a hyper-converged system. They are all x86 and they support converged Ethernet so the basics are all in place. In talks I have had with various engineers on the NonStop team, it appears that it is only a matter of time before enterprises make a request to run their mission critical transaction processing virtualized NonStop workloads on the latest hyper-converged systems.

As the new CEO of HPE Neri covers a lot of ground in these two recent posts and while specific systems and platforms aren’t named (apart from Synergy), the door is left wide open for NonStop. Nothing I have read from HPE this year leads me to believe that anything included as part of HPE’s strategy precludes the participation of NonStop. Ultimately, it comes back to the imagination of the enterprises involved and the creativity of the solutions vendors working with them, but it is so tantalizingly close to think that the most important of all of mission critical applications, no matter where they run – on scale-up or scale-out systems – can opt to turn to NonStop and in so doing, bring to HPE the commensurate amounts of high value and high growth it is so focused on providing. There will always be a need for the levels of availability NonStop alone can deliver – so make you plans early and by all means, get to L-Series as fast as you can. There are opportunities all around us and we simply cannot afford to let them pass us by; it was Neri who said it best “we are not going to chase market share just for share’s sake. We are going to drive profitable (market) share.” And what better way to succeed other than with Nonstop!

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