Monday, May 21, 2018

It’s a journey for NonStop across an ever-changing landscape!

A flight to Germany continues to be a rare occurrence for me and yet, GTUG held promise of more good news on NonStop so I simply had to go! 

It might appear that road trips have been a consistent theme of mine over the past couple of weeks. True, the topic of road trips always is close to my heart as I like getting out onto the highway to simply drive towards the horizon. And yet, it is also highly relevant in today’s technology environment – as much as I enjoy a changing landscape and a changing vista, every now and then the destination is important. Even if the neon sign flashing far out in the distance might only be that of a motel offering overnight accommodation, there is always the distinct possibility that something far more meaningful is being communicated.

Margo and I have just gotten back from a brief trip to Leipzig, Germany. Yes, as much as we bemoan air travel we simply had no other option than to head to the airport a couple of weekends ago and traverse a considerable part of the planet in order to make the GTUG supported
European NonStop HotSpot 2018/IT-Symposium 2018 - Conference & Exhibition! Big name but fortunately, same agenda as in past years, although this year we did enjoy the company of VP & GM Mission Critical Systems, Randy Meyer. And yes, a note of thanks to another big name, NTI, for making this trip happen for Margo and me!

It isn’t every day that I can throw into a current post references to former HPE CTO, Martin Fink, and it’s been a long time between drinks hearing references to Martin coming from senior HPE managers. But just this past week, on more than one occasion Randy did reference Martin and that was pleasing to hear. One of those references really resonated with me and I thought its inclusion was both timely and a reminder that some really smart minds are still focused on NonStop. “Listening is tactical; observing is strategic,” said Randy referring to an earlier comment made by Martin. I have heard Martin say this before and it’s still as relevant today as it was a decade or so ago.

One of the motivations for me to embark on road trips is to observe. I am fascinated by what is transpiring across the transportation industry – yes, we know the economy is picking up when all the big-rigs on the interstate look new and yes, the number of temporary tags on passenger cars are more plentiful than previously observed. Walk into any Starbucks bordering the interstate and see how long it is before they serve you coffee as the hustle to accommodate the drive through lanes snaking back out through the parking lot. Randy and Martin are right in saying observation is strategic.

When you hear members of the NonStop community refer to themselves as being customer-driven and that they are always listening to the business needs of their customers, don’t be surprised to see them changing direction often. It’s an old saying that being close to the customer means being close to closure! Seriously, listening to the immediate needs of someone sitting across the table from you more often than not triggers a kneejerk reaction about which we later confess as being inconsistent with what the industry may be telling us. Or our own people!

So, what is it that HPE has been observing of late and what is happening that is relevant for the NonStop community? In a nutshell, it’s hard to miss the signs of hesitancy on the part of entrenched NonStop users even as the companies those NonStop users work for look to tackle the twin issues of hybrids and clouds. “We are transforming to address a changing landscape,” said Randy. “The world is hybrid and when it comes to NonStop, we don’t want to be constrained by the tools (at hand) or the environment (that arises),” was the argument coming from the boss of all Mission Critical Systems.

“How does NonStop fit into this transformation,” asked Randy of the audience. Bringing it back to what is happening within his own organization, Randy then answered his own question with his team having observed that “evolving Mission Critical Systems to be cloud-ready and where NonStop is consumed as a service” has become the priority for the NonStop development team. That’s right, cloud computing moves by companies led to virtualized NonStop even as hybrid IT has generated an opportunity to provide “new ways to consume NonStop!” 

Observing the ever-changing landscape, as you typically do when you drive any distance inside America, let’s you develop a deeper appreciation for what’s about to happen in the not too distant future. You certainly know that autonomous big-rigs make sense even as you realize that with everything communicating (in an always connected world), why on earth haven’t we seen even more elements in the supply chain being automated? As part of the visit to Leipzig for GTUG many of us elected to visit the Porsche factory to watch Porsche cars and SUVs being built and it was hard to miss just how much automation exists on the factory floor. And yet, there were still a thousand or more folks engaged in putting things together.

“When everything is connected,” said Randy, we will get to a point where we get “crazy new insights into how things work!” In fact, we will find ourselves seeking answers “about things when before we didn’t know we would even be asking such questions!” When the edge meets the cloud and everything that is connected begins communicating we will be hard pressed to miss changes in behavior unlike at any time in our history. My own favorite possible new customer recognition option – our gait! Yes, simply the way we walk up to any device will be all it takes for that device to know who we are and what we are looking for.

We will still be able to buy NonStop systems the way we always have bought them – dropped off at a dock all wrapped up nicely with a bow. Fortunately for many, these new converged systems will become one of many options available to the NonStop community. More popular, perhaps, will be the option to deploy virtualized NonStop in-store / on-premise on hardware already owned, be that a server farm or a private cloud. In the coming months we all may want to pay more attention to work being done for NonStop that leverages projects like Ansible – Ansible playbooks that will be able to interact with NonStop delivered as a container that is subsequently pulled apart by Ansible and deployed atop a virtual machine – cool! And then there is the option to simply run NonStop as a Service from out of a public cloud (although, initially it might be more like from providers like Rackspace than Amazon) and that would be even cooler for many NonStop users!

When you take a good long hard look at the changing landscape for NonStop you’d be excited by the possibilities. Furthermore, if the journey that NonStop has been on for the past four decades is anything to go by, then perhaps Randy should have added, “And you haven’t seen anything yet!” I guess the biggest takeaway from GTUG may in fact prove to be that the journey is a pathway to even greater innovation and while we applaud the deep port to the Intel x86 architecture, should we rule out any other architectures being supported? I don’t think so … and you know, it is as if NonStop has now been freed from design and implementation constraints which we never thought possible just a decade ago.

What this journey of NonStop reminds many of us are the words to a popular song and in more ways than one:

But he was back in business when they set him free again
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

And I suspect few members of the NonStop community would disagree with the idea that yes, NonStop is back in business and yes, as Randy reminded us many times this past week in Leipzig, NonStop has been set free! Yes, observation is strategic and yes, here’s to hoping that the road goes on forever.

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