Sunday, April 8, 2018

What’s inside counts and NonStop inside is counting more …

As NonStop readies itself for deployment in clouds and where NonStop workloads will become just another virtualized workload running in the cloud, the opportunities for NonStop deployments will grow considerably …

Breaking news! Every time I pick up my smartphone these days it’s as if there is something happening in the world that I need to be notified about right now. In a sense, it’s my own virtual equivalent to “stop the presses” even as I know that most times, its relevance to anything I am doing at that moment is questionable. Not to put too fine a point on it, I really don’t need to know anything more about the Kardashians or the rallies and strikes happening in some far away land or even who is heading to the NHL playoffs this year even as I know that my local team here in Colorado may have moved up from last place this time last year to being a contender for Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

What does interest me, on the other hand, is the discussions and correspondence on the future of HPE and the likelihood of further success of NonStop. My interest in these topics has in part been driven by the work Margo and I have been putting into the digital publication, NonStop Insider. With eighteen months of issues now behind us, a routine has been established, with the support from the NonStop vendor community being outstanding. If you have as yet not subscribed to this publication then you should visit the subscription page:

This interest obviously has been fueled by the need to be current on topics of interest to the NonStop community, but just as importantly, its proved to be a fun thing to be doing because, as is often stated by proponents of Blockchain, I may not trust anyone but I will trust everyone. Said another way and more relevant to what is covered in NonStop Insider – anyone can hold onto an opinion but everyone can share common goals. Just talking with as many folks as we can within the NonStop community (and yes, that includes HPE NonStop product managers and developers) gives us a certain degree of confidence that we are staying on point. And the messages have been steadily increasing for the past month. So, what is the topic of the day and is it shared by everyone?

We have come a long way since news first broke that NonStop had been ported to the Intel x86 architecture. As a server, the NonStop X family represents a bold take on a growing requirement for NonStop – embrace industry standards and open protocols. Provide choice and provide better return on investment (ROI) even as the entry price into NonStop is greatly reduced. The move from Itanium to x86, as complex as any chip swap previously undertaken by the NonStop development team, was a repetition of previous ports and considered by many as somewhat routine. However, taking NonStop out of the hardware it has depended upon for forty plus years, cutting all direct ties to the metal and placing it into something as foreign as commodity bits and pieces buffered by an intermediary control program isn’t far removed from what we read of today concerning heart transplants.

When it comes to explaining what was done in order to come up with virtualized NonStop (vNS), making sure nothing was compromised in the process seems as complex as cutting away all the connections to the old fabric and then ensuring the reconnection to the new fabric (this time, not metal but rather a control program), works flawlessly. Of course, there is only so far this image can be taken as embarrassing as it may turn out to be, a few missteps in the technology world will never have quite the same ramifications as mistakes in the world of medicine. And yet, it’s hard not to see the similarities and share the same concerns as we would if we were watching a real heart transplant.

Similarly, it is hard to argue against the concerns some CIOs have today should the proposal be made to swap out NonStop from the heart of their ATM networks and to reinsert it into untried metalwork with an intermediary control program, or hypervisor, as it is more commonly called. Reduced to a simple risk – reward equation, why would anyone want to go down that path? What could possibly drive such consideration and motivate such an investment? Surely, when it comes to NonStop, the status quo prevails where simple upgrades from traditional system models to newer traditional models eliminates most of the risk.

There is a reason why heart transplants are performed today. The very existence of the recipient is at stake and all other options have been exhausted. Again, this image can be taken only so far as well when it comes to NonStop. Mission-critical applications running on NonStop may continue to run standalone, as modern-era transaction processing PABX-like systems, but the resource that they are accumulating – data – is a much treasured resource that enterprises everywhere want to access. And it is the growth in data that is fueling the consideration of building private clouds capable of storing and providing access to enormous amounts of data. Business logic and data is finding its way onto servers making up a private cloud and these private clouds are fully virtualized. For NonStop to play as important a role within the enterprise as it always has, it too needs to be able to run as a guest workload inside a virtualized cloud.

When it comes to the future of HPE and the likelihood of further success for NonStop, it’s not surprising to read how HPE’s vision embraces the simplification of the process of transforming to hybrid IT. Expressed as simply as it can be done, hybrid IT is a mix of both traditional systems and clouds. While it could be argues that NonStop could remain a key player in the traditional systems side of the ledger, that isn’t where the growth will come from – clouds are on the rise, traditional systems are barely holding their own. It was inevitable that NonStop would make the leap to x86 and then make a further leap into virtualization.

Nowhere is this more clearly stated than in the March – April, 2018, issue of The Connection. In the article by Prashanth Kamath U, Senior Product Manager, NonStop, HPE NonStop takes New Strides in its Journey through the Cloud he says, “We do realize and appreciate that ‘cloud’ has a much wider scope. It has different technologies, business models, deployment models and several other dimensions. We are carefully looking at these various plays in the cloud world and charting out the future course for HPE NonStop to enter your datacenters as the preferred deployment platform.”  More importantly and very much to the point, Prashanth then writes, “We are overwhelmed by the customer interest for deploying their Mission-Critical workloads on the NonStop platform in their private clouds.”

Headlines may come and go. Interest in a topic among journalists is always fleeting – of interest until the next news break occurs. But where HPE is taking NonStop is neither fleeting nor inconsequential. It’s groundbreaking for the NonStop community as it aligns NonStop with the major vision of HPE – transforming to hybrid IT. Even if transforming demanded transplanting, which moving NonStop dependencies away from the metal and onto a hypervisor clearly represents, the risks endured by HPE were well worth taking. Assuming that the customer interest is as high as Prashanth states, and I have no reason to doubt that customer interest is high, then the risks of joining the transformation to hybrid IT with NonStop are certainly worth serious consideration.

It is still early times for NonStop X and it’s still even earlier times for vNS. Choice is obviously important and there will be strong cases made to stay with traditional systems. However, if clouds have begun being deployed within your enterprise’s data center, isn’t it a good time to give due consideration to vNS? And what’s inside the cloud really does count – there is no lessening of the need to support Mission-Critical applications with NonStop! To date, all the bets taken by HPE have panned out as expected – shouldn’t our expectations be for a NonStop that conforms to the visions and strategy of our enterprise? I sense we are going to catching glimpses of more news about NonStop customers pursuing the transformation as after all, it only requires a little heart to achieve and we all know that “having a heart” has been central to everything the NonStop community has ever done!

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