Monday, July 30, 2018

Returning to NonStop – how many enterprises now reconsidering NonStop?

Race cars, wide open lapping days, the noise the smell and the color; what does it all have to do with NonStop? How about the ride and how NonStop has pushed hard to win the mission critical computing stakes!  

After several years of being absent from track time on road courses, I took the plunge this past weekend and drove the company command center together with our red Corvette Z06 to High Plains Raceway. Located well to the east of Denver, outside the small township of Byers, this circuit is picturesque even as it takes full advantage of the rolling grasslands that create interesting changes in elevation. From top to bottom there is almost 100 feet of elevation shift and there are a number of corners that are on top of the undulating countryside where drivers’ approach them blind to what may lie beyond.

I signed up for the Friday “open lapping” afternoon – four sessions, each of 30 minutes – as well as for the Saturday club day hosted by the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). This later outing gave me four sessions each of 20 minutes, but more importantly, let me circulate with advanced drivers who really put the pressure on me – strictly speaking, this isn’t racing but a High Performance Driver Event (HPDE) that includes pre-grid briefings along with session downloads.  There are always a lot of nervous drivers before the flag falls on the first event of the day.

There is a story here within the story that I will cover in an upcoming post to our social blog, Buckle-Up-Travel, and it has to do with tornados – an unexpected occurrence in the midst of a wild thunderstorm that really shook us up! However, for the NonStop community, this outing had me musing on the many similarities that exist today between where NonStop is headed and the Corvette I was driving. Now, before I get too many comments from you, I am not a racer but more a car enthusiast who enjoys going fast, safely and where everyone is headed in the same direction. And yet, having said that, like anyone who dons a crash helmet and straps themselves tightly into a capable race car, the adrenalin quickly kicks in and for just a moment, you think you really are a race car driver!

When it comes to similarities with NonStop and the NonStop development programs there is always the pursuit of goals that are just over the horizon. Out of sight for the majority of NonStop users and for good reason – ever noticed every NonStop presentation is introduced with HPE standard language telling us that everything that is being covered in the presentation or in the pdf that is subsequently distributed is subject to change! According to HPE, “
Among other things, changes in product strategy resulting from technological, internal corporate, market and other changes.”

For the NonStop community this is completely understandable, of course. I doubt anyone really predicted with any high degree of certainty that NonStop would not only pass it’s fortieth birthday but that this was a milestone that would quickly recede with the passage of time and celebrating NonStop’s fiftieth birthday is now a certainty! Who knew? But that is a story about the usefulness of rearview mirrors more so than looking over the horizon. And yet, as a community, the ecosystem that is NonStop simply loves to speculate.

Talk about bumps in the road and yes, multiple potholes! The NonStop community has been subject to some atrocious incidents. Remember when Compaq, having bought Tandem Computers, decided to brand practically everything as NonStop! They owned the badge so why not stick it on everything? After all, everyone wanted PCs that didn’t stop, right? I am not sure where I was at the time but I distinctly recall hearing of this initiative on a news update on the business television channel, CNBC. I did further googling on this topic but with no luck – can anyone fill me in what happened all those years ago and seriously, am I imagining hearing this update by Compaq?

That was perhaps the low point for NonStop and it proved to be a time when many CIOs drew up plans to leave NonStop. Major solutions vendors like ACI began looking at alternative platforms as well and many of the NonStop tools and utilities vendors began looking at Unix and even Windows, among them IR. And yet, NonStop didn’t fade from the scene and even as the numbers of users and numbers of systems deployed shrank, there were many NonStop users who simply understood the value proposition and after evaluation of alternate offerings, stayed with NonStop.

These users couldn’t see over the horizon and weathered the many bumps and potholes that NonStop hit, but behind the scenes, HPE having merged / acquired Compaq, set about stabilizing the NonStop business with the aim of returning it to profitability. This was crucial. There would be no further investment made in the platform before it showed that it had deserved investment consideration. What followed of course was the quarter billion dollar investment in NonStop in pursuit of a deep port to the Intel x86 architecture. Despite the strength of the IBM marketing machine that continued to push Power chips as the RISC solution of the future, NonStop forego its history with MIPS and indeed with Intel and Itanium to ride the x86 roadmap.

With that single change of direction, a well-executed turn demanding heavy breaking, a big tug of the steering wheel and yes, the absolute need to begin accelerating rapidly once the apex – yes, the decision to go with the project – was passed. This simply wasn’t the time or place to spend a decade on research. Results were needed almost immediately and while Cognac was a secret I knew of Cognac for a very long time, but as a blogger I kept quiet for the very obvious reason that nobody at HPE wanted to do an Osborne! When the secret came out at Boot Camp at the end of 2013, it was one of the most exciting times for NonStop as it represented a signal to the industry that NonStop was back!

This past week I spent a couple of days at a vendor’s all-hands beginning of the year kick-off event. This vendor has had historically strong ties to the NonStop community even as it was among the very first NonStop vendors to test the open platform waters. What struck me most of all was this vendor’s use of the word “purpose”. When you sit inside a car about to enter a hot track and face a starters green flag indicating it is go time, you really do understand your purpose – go fast and stay safe. After all, there aren’t any trophies involved and we all want to return to the track in a couple of weeks’ time with the same car. NonStop has a sole purpose and that is to be the very best fault tolerant computer on the planet.

Oftentimes, this message seems to be missing from presentations but it is the very essence of why anyone would buy into NonStop. It is also very important that the HPE product management team is cognizant of the fact that there will be times where they too have to change direction as what was hidden becomes known. Who would have thought that the first implementation of blockchain by HPE would be on NonStop or that the blockchain implementation would become known as the Mission Critical Distributed Ledger and capitalize on key capabilities of NonStop SQL? You need the premier mission critical system from HPE then it is NonStop and when this news broke, there were many surprised parties across the IT landscape.

Going on track in a car that is prepared to be track-ready and dealing with all the orchestrated mayhem that unfolds isn’t any different to what CIOs face when evaluating solutions and platforms. Situational awareness is what each car driver is taught to pay attention to from their very first outing on track. And it is situational awareness that is perhaps the most important characteristic of good CIOs – they are never rewarded for knee-jerk reactions. Indeed, reacting and over-reacting are the hallmarks of immature, novice CIOs, unfamiliar with what may lie just over the horizon. Fortunately for NonStop, many of these CIOs were fully aware of the situation pertaining to NonStop many years ago and for their insightfulness, they have been well rewarded.

NonStop celebrating its fiftieth birthday isn’t all that far off – just think, we celebrated NonStop’s fortieth birthday only a short time ago and 2024 is just over the horizon. Fault tolerance, mission critical and indeed, business critical together with business continuity are all as relevant today as they were back in 1974. Today everything is connected and in the world we live in, everything computes. Isn’t it a good thing to know that this can continue unabated with NonStop and isn’t it a very good thing that HPE has come to understand the value proposition of NonStop? And as a community we may never strap on a helmet or pulldown a safety harness but we can all enjoy the ride. With NonStop!  


capnpamma said...

Isn't block chain a two-edged sword for HPE NonStop? With distributed ledgers you gain a degree of fault-tolerance as well as data integrity from machines that don't provide either. It certainly isn't at an HPE standard, but, like many business decisions, "good enough" is often all you really need.

Alvin Toffler explained in Future Shock, Accelerative Thrust is upon us. Products are almost obsolete before they reach market. So, as mentioned, the CIO is faced with the situation of "good enough" for now vs. a long-term investment that may be obsolete next year. How does one tell in this day and age which is the better business decision?

Richard Buckle said...

DLT's are about trust and when it comes to NonStop, then yes there is a place for DLT. They do not replace databases and for many users, NS SQL will be more than sufficient. What they do achieve is a great place to hold notary etc. in permissible, private, blockchain implementations. At least that's the way I view it ... distributing the ledger though isn't fault tolerance for all; you lose your copy and you are out of the network.

But again, I am more interested in the applied side of this technology and am watching how it's used and already I am working with one vendor, OmniPayments, who is looking to deploy in support of KYC / ALM where I do see merit in the combination of DLT on NonStop.

As for the decision, what about NonStop for now? I am seeing much faster deployment opportunities as you can pretty much port applications - particularly if they were built around Oracle, for instance - just as quickly as those you my view as good enough for now.

Alan Smith said...

"like many business decisions, "good enough" is often all you really need."

Until it all goes wrong.
We need to emphasis that we are more than that!!

Richard said...

And yes, there was a story here after all. Check out the latest post to our social blog, Buckle-Up:

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