Thursday, January 16, 2020

Seriously: Are you keeping up with NonStop?

Yet one more trip to San Francisco and this time, it was all about taking in the history of the place even as we came to better appreciate the contribution NonStop still makes to Silicon Valley!

These past few weeks have seen Margo and me back on the road again. If you read the last post to this blog, you will have read about our most recent trip to the west coast that gave us an opportunity to view the history of Silicon Valley. From the original garage where Hewlett and Packard began HP to where the Google lads rented a garage to plot their entry into the search business to the Facebook, Google and Apple campuses and not forgetting breakfast at Buck’s Restaurant at Woodside or a drive around the parking lot of Kleiner Perkins we managed to absorb a lot of what it takes to keep Silicon Valley as prosperous as it is today. Other locations attempt to compete telling investors that they are the next up-and-coming Silicon Valley, but none have succeeded to date.

However, the trip to the California gave us a lot more than sightseeing opportunities as it was time to sit down and reflect on the current state of affairs with one of Australia’s best performing executives, Dieter Monch. We have friends in Sydney, Australia, who have played golf with Dieter and only this week, playing in Palm Springs, he landed a hole-in-one. After a successful management career it wasn’t surprising to see Dieter becoming an investor so you can imagine where most conversations headed. But then, this was a brief encounter, but it led to me making a number of observations after we parted ways (and before I heard of him hit that hole-in-one). Chief of which was just how frequently we turn to the internet for all sorts of information.

It would be all too easy for me to say that without the arrival of the internet and the rise in social media it’s hard to imagine a thriving magazine and newspaper business in the future. Yes, we spent some time touring Hearst Castle as we listened to just how powerful publisher Hearst became (he spent an unimaginable $9 million on his hilltop estate, or ranch, back in the ‘20s), but today, it’s no longer the likes of the Turners and the Murdochs that have taken on the mantel of media mogul but rather the folks at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and the likes. 

While Murdoch sold off a good chunk of his business to focus on media I am more than sure we will see his interest in traditional publications wane considerably even as he takes another shot at becoming a major player with digital publications. On the other hand, things didn’t altogether go swimmingly after the company bought MySpace which, at the time, was the largest social networking site in the world.

Time hasn’t always been good to even the most popular vendors in Silicon Valley. The photo at the top of the page featuring SUN Corporation isn’t easy to find and we came across it quite by accident. In case you aren’t aware of the story, Facebook now occupies what was once the SUN campus and while their name and signature icon adorns the sign facing the traffic, walk behind that sign and scramble into the bushes and there you will see the only reminder of a once major player in Silicon Valley. On the other hand, it wasn’t easy for Margo and me to embrace the new Apple headquarters – spaceship Apple – as its construction pretty much took out all the buildings (and signage) that once were home to the sprawling campus of Tandem Computers. So much for the 201 Comm building or the 247 DSM building, both of which featured strongly in both of Margo and my careers! 

When it comes to checking out facts and looking up sites, there really isn’t any substitute for the search engines we turn to when so challenged. It’s easy to overlook how drastically Silicon Valley “do-overs” have altered the landscape. The new headquarters of HPE down at the southern tip of The Bay are nice enough, but they are now just one of many high-rise glass structures you will see at the bottom end of Silicon Valley. 

As much as we like to talk about virtualization these days, when it comes to NonStop there really isn’t a physical campus any longer but rather a NonStop team networked around the planet. Of itself, that isn’t necessarily all that bad – I read that there are now NonStop developers near my office, here, outside Ft Collins, Colorado – but it proves that one of the benefits provided by the internet is that connectivity is no longer an issue and everyone can be anywhere when it comes to contributing to a development project.

While reading through Facebook and checking out different groups, I always find time to check out what is being posted to the Facebook group, Tandem Computers. A lot of memorabilia surfaces and there have been times when I have been envious about one collectable or another from the ‘80s and ‘90s that for one reason or another I failed to retain. What did catch my eye was a post by Lou Custodio, a former employee of Tandem Computers back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that included maps of the Tandem campus - and a big thanks to Lou for providing this graphic! While it didn’t bring tears to my eyes, as it were, it did remind me of just how large a presence Tandem had in Silicon Valley and of how much distance I covered walking between buildings 2 and 247.

A lot has changed since those times and it’s hard to ignore how strongly emotions run whenever the past is brought up; let’s not forget that Tandem Computers was a great place to work or that its technology changed the world. However, despite how often we talk about Tandem Computers, it’s important to recognize the new NonStop even as I ask the question, have you been keeping up with today’s NonStop? We should never ignore history but it’s equally as important to be well-informed about the new chapters that are being added to this company’s history. 

Being on social media as frequently as I am, it’s still surprising to read from those active in the industry who ask about Tandem and whether Tandem is still around? When it comes to keeping up with NonStop, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that in pursuit of transformation, enterprises everywhere still value availability, security and scalability.

I have written a lot of late about Hybrid IT, Cloud Computing and Virtualization to where I am being careful not to fall victim of my own words. By this I mean out of necessity I have to put to one side my rose-colored glasses to be sure I am giving NonStop a fair shake. NonStop has come such a long way in a relatively short timeframe and yet, it’s only now that we are seeing enterprises deploying the new NonStop – a creative mix of traditional converged systems based on x86 servers and virtualized systems (including virtualized converged systems) capable of being deployed in private clouds.

What is really changing is that the shift to virtualized NonStop encourages enterprises to better leverage the skills of their IT organization through the use of the very same automation, orchestration and management tools that they rely upon when interacting with other servers. Suddenly, oversight on a single pane of glass becomes very real and with that, the cost of NonStop comes down significantly. Again, have you been keeping up with NonStop and have you relayed all you know back to the rest of the enterprise? For sure, NonStop has deep roots within Silicon Valley and supporting signage to that effect may be long gone but NonStop’s contribution to the enterprise hasn’t lessened in any way. It’s still providing the premier platform for enterprises’ mission-critical applications.

Thinking back to Dieter Monch and his hole-in-one this past week reminds Margo and me of the many times we sat in meetings in Cupertino as the Tandem Computers management team described the next big thing that they would deliver. Having sat through Cyclone, Himalaya and the S-Series there were always surprises lurking around every corner, none more so than when we all heard Microsoft Bill Gates had visited with management and was making an investment in fault tolerance. 

Wow! Fast forward to today and it’s encouraging to know that across Silicon Valley there are many vendors – think of Microsoft, VMware and the likes – where NonStop knowledge resides. And that’s perhaps the biggest take away from our recent trip to Silicon Valley as insiders everywhere know of the contribution NonStop continues to make for enterprises everywhere. If you have been keeping up with NonStop then perhaps this is the equivalent of the hole-in-one after all. As a community we certainly have a lot to look back on but more importantly, there is so much more still to come from NonStop. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

When things go right!

A trip to the west coast that crosses both the Rockies and the Sierras is always fraught with potential disaster but this time, a little snow didn’t deter us and things just went right for us …

This time last year I wrote the post, What does Sydney bring to the table … as Margo and I were wrapping up a three month stay in that most magical of cities. We had made it “down under” for the traditional New Year’s fireworks celebration on Sydney Harbor, my daughter’s birthday, and the SIBOS Sydney 2018 financial institution conference. I had also managed to arrive in time for my High School fiftieth reunion even as we found time to visit the farm of my sister-in-law. In other words, this time last year a period of full immersion in all things Australia was coming to an end. But this year, it’s time to head to America’s West Coast.

It’s early in the year but it’s an ideal time to spend a few days in Silicon Valley before heading south to tinsel town and to that other big tech center that has basically arisen overnight, driven by the gaming industry. The worlds of film, television, amusement parks and yes, gaming platforms are morphing in ways that challenge reality. Just watching the advertisements for some of the latest games during the run-up to Christmas was enough to leave me catching my breath – did I just see that? Just as interestingly – have we entered a new realm of mission critical applications where the follow-on effects from any outage is a substantial loss of audience to where business can fold with just one outage?

Perhaps, a little extreme and yet, when things go right for all involved, the excitement and thrills being created can be seen whether those interacting with a screen or whirling around on a stage. Getting to where amusement can be sustained is every bit as important as delivering a handful of banknotes at an ATM. Perhaps too it has a lot to do with the time of year, with snow on the ground and shorter daylight hours, but heading to sunny California always proves hard to resist at this time of year and yes, we succumbed to a number of invitations to visit that came our way and despite the weather, we drove our beloved Li’L Pumpkin, (our orange Range Rover Evoque ragtop) the 1,300 miles to the coast.

Refueling the Evoque in windy Wyoming, where the temperature hovered around ten degrees Fahrenheit, was not pleasant. Then again, when is Wyoming anything other than windy? As for that first driving stint we had to negotiate slick roads and blowing snow with the occasional light snow falling. On the other hand, what else could we have expected to encounter and besides, we were truly looking forward to being back in the Bay area just as we were looking forward to seeing former business colleagues! Yes, California, here we come! In a last demonstration of nature’s wrath, we had to weather snow falling in the Sierras that gave us a slick ride down the mountains!

One request we received that we dutifully delivered upon was a tour of Silicon Valley – our guests was a former Managing Director of a major European tech company in South Africa and later, in Australia / New Zealand. Not sure whether or not it was a case of following the Rugby, but his time leading the Australasian operation turned into a lifetime commitment to the country and he and his wife have remained in Sydney to this day, but the lure of Silicon Valley loomed large as it has been twenty plus years since he last visited San Francisco and even then, there wasn’t time to drive down 101 or even I 280. This all changed this time around, as we put plans in place to visit a number of the campuses of companies that essentially anchor the valley these days.

Despite the tricky drive into California, we took time to do a number of things we hadn’t previously done. This included visiting the HPE garage - the birthplace of Silicon Valley. It also included a side visit to the offices of Kleiner Perkins on Sand Hill road as well as a visit to the garage that was “borrowed” by the founders of Google as they kicked off their search engine project. And, of course, we took in the sight of “Spaceship Apple” even as we lamented the loss of much of the former campus of Tandem Computers. Biggest surprise? Go behind the Facebook sign on their campus and it still reads SUN …    

What really stood out for Margo and me is the complete fluidity of the place. Not just with the names on the buildings or even the focus of the companies themselves, but rather, the mass movement to both ends of the valley – San Francisco and San Jose. It’s as if the valley was looking more and more like the bone your dog might chew on. Yes, there are some major campuses in the middle – Apple comes to mind – but with the towering skyscraper in San Francisco that is home to Salesforce to the sprawl of new buildings spreading north and west of downtown San Jose, the once mighty clock tower of Stanford University seems to be little more than a central pivot point anchoring these two ends.

HP Inc. can still be seen but, unless you know the actual address, you really don’t stumble onto HPE by accident and perhaps this is a story in its own right. HPE is redefining itself in a very big way and it’s taking a while for the industry press to catch up. Taking note of the fact that HPE is exiting the low margin, high volume white box business even as it continues to gravitate towards much higher margin software and services businesses, you could be forgiven thoughts you may have that HPE was perhaps less interested in selling boxes any more. Up to a point this has a ring of truth about it but on closer inspection, it’s just that HPE views the Core more cloud-like even as it promotes the importance of the edge.

“HPE today remains a hardware company, as evidenced by the profile of its revenues, but the future looks software and services shaped,” noted The Register in a December 23, 2019 article HPE goes on the warpath, attacks AWS over vendor lock-in. “HPE seems to have a much clearer strategy since its split with HP Inc., and the sale of the Enterprise Services and Software sides of the house,” noted the reporter who then added, “But this isn't necessarily feeding through into the financial results yet.” 

On the other hand, it’s becoming clear even to jaded publications like The Register that even as there has been a “fall in sales of servers to tier one cloud builders” when it comes to the big picture, “Operating margins were, however, up in the hundreds of basis points, and were up to 13.2 per cent in Hybrid IT, a historic high.” Strategy is clear; the exit from tier one cloud builders is almost complete; company trajectory to “everything-as-a-service” is continuing – and now financial analysts are beginning to take note and to reassess their recommendations for HPE.

On December 12, 2019 Deutsche Bank resumed coverage of HPE “with a Buy rating and $19 target, a 20% upside.” Furthermore, analyst Jeriel Ong thinks “the core revenue declines are ‘likely overstated’ and sees a multiyear growth market for the core Total Addressable Market (TAM).” In combination, the press acknowledges that HPE has a strategy that it is pursuing that is making more sense by the quarter and now financial analysts are not only resuming coverage but see positive outcomes ahead. All of which is to say that yes, keeping the NonStop products as part of the mission critical product portfolio and embracing mission critical systems as a key contributor to Hybrid IT is certainly good news for the NonStop community! And yes, for the NonStop community, things can go right for the product line after all.

Finding HPE’s head office in Silicon Valley may not be as easy as it once was; a vast sprawling campus on the south side of Page Mill Road. But in a world that is increasingly virtual and where the cost of CPU’s is heading to zero, and where “Services companies give away the hardware because of the non-existent cost of CPU” should we be surprised to find HPE looking more and more like an Adobe or a SAP or even Microsoft? A company where HPE’s product portfolio is being offered on a consumption basis – essentially pay-per-use? A company, as Jeff Kyle, VP & GM HPE Mission Critical Systems, pointed out during his presentation at the November NonStop Technical Boot Camp, overseeing the transformation given how “Hybrid IT is the new normal – and it’s complex; (it’s a challenge) to deliver new products and services faster (while) keeping the business running?”

It is in such an environment that we find HPE becoming the systems integrator, on our behalf, that we have demanded over the decades. Providing solutions on commodity hardware utilizing industry-standard interfaces supported by open software – isn’t that what we wanted? What we are seeing today is the emergence of a new HPE with a product portfolio better aligned with business needs and that includes NonStop – as software, and virtualized. And with a new head office, in Silicon Valley where it truly belongs! The drive to the coast may not have been easy and the time we spent cruising Silicon Valley may have taken more time than we planned but even as we may miss the old Tandem Computers campus (and the swimming pool), as a community we all have to thank HPE for the investment it has made in NonStop and in making NonStop a part of a strategy that is now delivering for HPE!      

Thursday, December 26, 2019

For the NonStop community it’s time to reflect.

With the year rapidly winding down there is much for the NonStop community to consider going into 2020 …

The traditional Christmas dinner is over and for some it’s been a time to revel in even more traditional Boxing Day fare. For Margo and me it’s been a time where our thoughts have drifted back to where this time last year we were busy celebrating the season in Sydney. When it comes to traditions then yes, it was a feast that included grilled sausages (on the nearby BBQ) together with Pavlova for dessert. Sorry, my Kiwi friends, Pavlova is an Aussie creation / tradition. On the other hand, so too is watching a cricket test match beamed live from Melbourne, even as locally all eyes are on Sydney Harbor for the start of the annual blue water sailing classic, The Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Here in Colorado it’s been more a case of celebrating Christmas Eve with the family where Polish traditions have dominated the conversations. And the food! There will be deviled eggs along with special Polish cakes and much more. Our grandkids are now 6 and 4 and continue to develop right in front of our eyes – after a troubling time for the twin boys following birth routines have been established and they seem to be making good progress. There is nothing quite like ripping the paper off presents to set a positive upbeat tone for any gathering. And did I mention, laughter?

For the HPE NonStop global community the holiday season as such takes many forms. It would be hard for me to catalogue them all so suffice to say, in whichever language or custom it takes, Margo and I wish you all the happiest of times as we head towards a New Year.  When it comes to 2020 there are plenty of commentaries being shared highlighting that in years like 2020 we do think about how far we have come. Automotive executive Bob Lutz just wrote of how:

“There's something about a year with a zero at the end that gets our attention. It seems more important. It makes us recall the last "zero" year, causing us to pause and reflect—not only on our own lives (slipping by ever faster), but also on society, politics, the world.”

Lutz also wrote that:

“It's been quite a decade, marked by arguably more change than in the previous five decades put together. I'd like to highlight some of the more notable ones, whether they're caused by creative engineers, manipulative marketers, government regulations, fickle buyer preferences, or, in some cases, a complex blend of several initiating factors.”

Indeed! A year ending with a zero sure does get our attention even as the changes we all witnessed were caused by creative engineers, manipulative marketers, etc. or simply by a complex blend of several initiating factors! I am pretty sure that this rings true for many of us. Not everything that came to fruition was by design nor did everything that was designed resonate with everyone. Where’s my flying car? Where’s my robot housekeeper? Ooops, that’s right – we are almost there on both counts, I have been informed. The sad thing about making longer term predictions is that they have a habit of coming about in ways not imagined. Who would have imagined that I could order paper towels and have them delivered the same day?

A year ending in zero reminds me too that it was back in 1970 that I turned up at Wollongong’s steelworks (John Lysaghts and not nearby BHP), to start a two year cadetship in computing. Yes, back then Australia’s universities did not consider computing an academic pursuit so to be part of this new industry you had to become an apprentice. I had sat for the apprenticeship qualifying tests back in the summer of ’69 – that’s the Australian summer of ’69 but that’s a whole different story – even though my interest in computing dated back to ’65. That was when my father, Roy Buckle, was responsible for bringing to Australia’s shores a computerized Mergenthaler “line-o-film” typesetting system and the first such system to be setup in Australia. The data entry keyboard for such systems is depicted above where the photo could just as easily have been taken at my dad’s place of work.
As I look back at that apprenticeship, we were taught IBM 360 Assembler in excruciating detail – our online system in support of the different steelwork machinery (from cold reduction lines to pickle and plating lines) only accommodated programs that could fit into 4K of memory. Yes, 4K. And I am sure that this will bring back memories about the early days of computing for many members of the NonStop community looking at the improvements in productivity over the past decades! At the time, I was given the task of writing the disk access code – as yet we didn’t have enough memory to support logical I/O; it was all at the physical / channel level where sorts could be executed directly within the disk channel processor.

For some reason, I recall the concept of channel command block / channel command words (CCBs /CCWs) and in particular, the Transfer-In-Channel (TIC) command. And I am not sure why that is! Even so, here we are writing about DevOps and the breakthroughs we are seeing with Open APIs and technologies like REST and JSON. Wow! So likewise, this has taken five decades to reach this point, but productivity today is incomparable to anything we witnessed in the very early days of IT. And yet, here we are. Whereas I was learning 360 Assembler way back then today it’s more the case of assembling a process / program from libraries of code that are then used to flesh out a basic code stub pulled from somewhere else. And I thought it really cool to have an approved global macro accepted by IT and to have it saved to disk for other programmers to access.

Fickle buyer preferences? Have to believe that without the push to accelerate the way we develop code we wouldn’t have key social media channels that dominate today’s conversations. Just think what Google has brought to the table or before Google, think of what Netscape achieved? In many ways I am glad to report that I never made it to where programming was all about the manipulation of objects, and more, or where a terminal was anything other than a simple keyboard. On the other hand, it would be unreasonable to expect an industry so forward thinking as IT would have ever stood still over any prolonged period. Yes, those fickle buyers of computers always wanted something better, faster and naturally enough, cheaper.

For the NonStop community there has been so much talk this past decade about the need to train more programmers on NonStop. Just as importantly, there has been equally as much talk among CIOs about the difficulties in finding qualified NonStop staff. Unfortunately, both discussions missed the point – with the steps that the NonStop team has taken this past decade, you shouldn’t be too concerned about either, but more so, leverage today’s modern development environments and platforms to build applications for NonStop. Again, deployment shouldn’t be confused with development and with the options available today for development teams to choose from, there shouldn’t be any need to look outside the skillsets already on-hand inside any IT organization. The above slide was used recently by HPE’s own Franz Koenig and it has already began turning heads and in so doing, has begun framing the discussion for the coming decade – why not NonStop?

I may not be able to describe in any depth the majority of tools and utilities listed on the above slide. But I do know where to go to obtain more information should I need to do so – talking to the NonStop vendor community and almost all of them are leveraging one or more of the products included on the PowerPoint slide. What stands out most of all is that we are no longer thinking in terms of bringing programmers to NonStop but rather, quite the opposite. We can now talk openly of bringing NonStop to any programmer and thereby leveraging the current skills of all programmers. Key point? Program today’s business logic and have the deployment option inherit NonStop attributes transparently!

This decade beginning with a zero will prove to be a fascinating decade. Starting with 2020 we will see even more discussion about clouds and service models with many new ways to consume technology. However, by the end of this decade, when it comes time to write about expectations of those entering 2030, will the cloud be even part of the discussion? Will traditional computing models even be relevant? Will we even have to pay for a chip or worry about memory – 4K bytes, or even 4Y bytes (Yottabyte) it won’t matter; the cost will essentially be the same.  What then? Will we be throwing out ideas to an assistant buried deep within our car whatever that might be and see programs come to fruition automatically?

We may yet be still waiting on our flying cars but suggesting ideas and having them transformed into programs well, probably not too far away. Let one more zero show up on the calendar – I am ready for it, are you? And with that, Margo and I wish you all the very best for the coming year and yes, the coming decade!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Top of the mountain? Wide valleys look even better …

The niche NonStop occupies is about to widen to include all mission critical scenarios – and it’s all because critical CIO concerns have been addressed …

Living alongside Colorado’s Rocky Mountains certainly has its moments. There are times when it’s all about rapidly changing weather conditions even as there are times when the view to the west can be awe-inspiring. Driving across the top of the Rockies is always a wonderful distraction from the daily routine and to cross the continental divide well, spectacular is the most descriptive word that comes to mind. Having driven the Peak-to-Peak Highway many times and traversed the length of Trail Ridge Road almost as often, Margo and I never shy away from the prospect of driving it one more time.

Estes Park anchors both drives – one heading south along Colorado Highway 72 while the other heads west, up and across Rocky Mountain National Park along US Highway 34 – but choosing either way highlights how clinging to a ribbon of road may have many advantages when it comes to the views provided, but leaves few opportunities to accommodate much greater traffic flows. There is much to be said about the benefits of the wide open spaces. When it comes to the landscapes that are present between mountain ranges it is apparent to us that perhaps what’s in these broad valleys offer a more diverse vista – with its wide open prairies to the east of the Rockies or the high plains to the west, driving along a sinuous ribbon of road might just be the exception to the rule!

In conversations with clients this week, the common thread turned out to be the need to know more about NonStop penetrating markets beyond financial services. Almost from the very beginning of NonStop’s presence in IT, NonStop has been all about front-ending networks of ATMs and POS devices with some presence in branch banking and more recently in support of mobile devices used in payments. It has been a lengthy journey, skimming the tops of peaks as it were than it has been a case of enjoying popularity across a broad and clearly diverse landscape. Occupying niches to the point of dominance has its upside but only insofar as it can be turned into a reference base for finding even more niches where NonStop’s value proposition can be leveraged.

At face value, supporting mission critical applications suggests something more than a very focused outlook that is so specialized that few in IT are even aware of its presence – no, step outside of the financial services marketplace and you will only get puzzled looks should you suggest your CIO consider NonStop as a solution. Of course, every member of the NonStop vendor community would like to see NonStop’s presence become more widespread as this is in their interests to see increased diversity. However, it’s not too hard to imagine that there are many more markets for NonStop than simply financial services even as there are sizable niches that once identified could provide many opportunities for NonStop. Is it our lack of imagination holding us back? Is it messaging that’s missing the mark? Or, is it something more basic to which we need to pay more attention and if that is the case, can such a basic need be one that can be overcome?

For as many years as I have been associated with NonStop here have been many discussions about the need to port this or that application to NonStop. If only we could provide a modern healthcare solution or even an airline reservation application or perhaps take a couple of baby steps that see us building on partial success in manufacturing and transportation. Why isn’t NonStop a major force in the world of container shipping where having documentation available, 24 x 7 is a must! With all of these observations the talks turn on how best to pull together a new application and present a working model in an abbreviated timeframe. Isn’t it possible to do something along these lines without pursuing a training program of staff needed for such a project?

NonStop has come a long way over the past decade – NonStop SQL now is as compatible with major SQL offerings like Oracle than at any other time in its history. When it comes to Java so much work has been done to simplify ports to NonStop and now, with the commitment coming from NonStop product management to support Kernel Level Threading (KLT) in a way that’s compatible with the NonStop architecture, 2020 clearly has the potential to be a breakthrough year for any IT organization looking to port a Java / Oracle solution to NonStop. But having said that is it enough? And more importantly, is this taking NonStop down from the mountain tops and into the broader valleys where opportunities abound for a platform that is fault tolerant and scalable?

When it comes to the conversations I have had over the past week, what has stood out is that there is a growing awareness that the new NonStop may indeed be compatible with all other systems you can name that can be found in any data center. Compatible, that is in terms of ease of development using standard development platforms. There is now a consistent message of development versus deployment resonating within IT – a message taken up by NonStop product management. And for good reason – the NonStop no longer needs anything special in order to develop a new solution. In fact, perhaps thoughts of porting an application may prove to be old hat and a reflection of what was done in the past. Let’s look at rapid development of new applications on NonStop that can be as easily done as for any other platform. Bigger yet, it can be done leveraging the skill-sets on hand as possessed by the latest college graduate!

Tall order? Not possible? There are many questions that arise from observations like those described above but does that necessarily mean that it’s wrong to think this way? When Franz Koenig, head of NonStop Advanced Technology Center (ATC), gave the presentation “NonStop – The Art of the Possible” at this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) he included a reference to what the NonStop team is hearing from CIOs. Among those listed there were two standouts that caught my attention. “Leverage common technologies and standards” together with a call for “High productivity of staff. No steep learning curve.”

Considered as challenges to the NonStop team, it led to a short list of answers (to the CIO challenge) that highlighted just how far NonStop has come in addressing the needs of application developers. Again, two answers provided stood out. “Build new services like on other platforms” and “Deploying on NonStop gives your services automatic scalability and fault tolerance!” While Franz had more to say on this topic the point he drove home in no uncertain terms was that any barriers to developing new solutions on NonStop are being dismantled to the point where, as I wrote in a client newsletter recently, almost anyone can program today’s NonStop. DevOps ready? Wonderful! Applied to more than financial institutions and retailers? Terrific!

Knowing more about applications available on NonStop as its appeal widens to include niches beyond what are considered traditional NonStop niches may prove to be the wrong question to be asking. Rather, greater penetration into all mission critical environments may be realized more quickly than we thought if it becomes common knowledge that everyone can program for NonStop! The evangelism coming from the NonStop team is  admirable and a pursuit that has been percolating for some time is now coming to the surface. Those executives present at TBC 2019 have gone away with many questions on their minds – why didn’t we know more about NonStop’s answers to our challenges? I suspect that in 2020, there will likely be even more attention given to just how easy it has become to develop applications on NonStop.

Margo and I will continue to drive the peaks of the Rockies as we explore new ways to cross the continental divide. The views to the valleys below will continue to be spectacular and yet, what opens up in the wide valleys below will be every bit as spectacular as what is found high up on the narrow ridges. Anyone who has ascended Utah’s Highway 12 Scenic Byway and driven along the narrow confines of its Devils Backbone will appreciate that while the road itself is a marvel what opens up to the east is the amazing Capital Reef National Park. A reminder to all drivers that there is a lot more to take in than a narrow strip of bitumen, given so much beauty on display beneath the pavement! And for NonStop, being part of that much wider niche – all mission critical environments – is now within reach! Taking in this much wider vista will likely be the highlight of 2020; yes NonStop can do it all!   

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Clouds don’t bother me, anyway …

Whenever a technology, product or solution appears to be the only answer then it’s time to look beyond it …

At this time of year we can expect to be the victims of weather systems that Mother Nature cares to throw at us. Living alongside the Rocky Mountains simply means it can be cold and windy and the skies can be dark and cloudy. On the flip side, I don’t have to venture too far from my desk and given how I have just finished a major upgrade to my systems – a new HPE Pavilion laptop connected to multiple monitors, one of which is vertical and is the one I am using right now – it’s all still at the fun stage. Of course, the fun factor will diminish in time as patterns set in and I realize that it is still all work. 

This week it’s been all about publishing. The December 2019 issue of NonStop Insider has been the priority and given how close we are to the holiday season Margo an I have been pleased with the responses we have had to date from the NonStop vendor community; should be another good issue as it not only covers what transpired at the recent NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) 2019 but expectations for 2020 as well. It’s been quite a while since I last was able to say that these expectations all center on a year devoted to upgrades as the NonStop X finds its way into every enterprise data center.

At this time of year too we rarely see the night sky as the snow keeps falling. It is a stark reminder that winter is fast approaching and even as there was a time when we looked forward to the first snows of winter, we are now very much over it. When will the clouds clear and when will we be bathed in sunlight again? In the mid-1970s I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, and it was around this time of year when the sun didn’t make an appearance much before 11:00am (to vanish some four or five hours later) and I am reminded of those times when I see darkness descend well before dinner time. However, there is more to this than just clouds, darkness and cold; whereas neighbors are busily placing skis on roof racks while others are decorating Christmas trees and installing lights outside of their homes, there are those dreaming of warmer days spent closer to the equator. Then again, no matter our preferences we cannot escape looking up at the sky only to see more clouds.

It wouldn’t be a blog post of any significance these days if it didn’t include references to clouds. It’s been hard to ignore the ongoing battle between tech giants Amazon and Microsoft over providing cloud services to the federal government expected to generate US$10 billion in revenues over a ten year period but then again, there never has been a big contract that didn’t create animosity amongst the bidders. Indeed, HPE’s acquisition of Cray had some connection to the big High Performance Computing deal with the government that HPE lost, according to some reports I have read. But that really isn’t the big story here; what’s been captivating has been emerging commentary on the post-cloud era. What are we doing to prepare for a time when clouds become well, last year’s news?

There is a tendency in our industry to fall head-over-heels in love with the latest technology offerings only to find a few years later that their significance was fleeting at best; distracting and costly at worst. For many this isn’t the case with cloud computing but then again, are we so sure of this? Are we still prepared to make the big investments in something that really doesn’t change the parameters all that much – the cheese still has to be pushed closer to the goal line, but does a cloud contribute to any forward movement to this end?

No, clouds don’t bother me. They are just the latest trend to capture our imagination and to introduce us to language that is well, kind of new. I have often written about the progress of technology being much like the tide - waves advancing and then retreating in a continuous march up the beach. Where clouds do unsettle me more than a little is when I read accounts of many clouds being relied upon to the extent where the complexity that arises masks any advancement in meeting critical business objectives. Cloud computing of itself is just another model that taken to the extreme can become so complex that whatever savings might have been anticipated have been squandered trying to oversee it all!

From the very first presentation on clouds that I saw, the word that stuck with me was “elasticity of provisioning.” This is an attribute I can warm to, winter weather notwithstanding. In any given data center there is more compute power on the floor than is typically required to meet the expectations of business, but are present in order to meet the needs of “Black Friday!” Wonderful; but there have been other options for many years – outsource to service providers to meet peak demands. Yes, traditional service bureaus have proved adept at meeting peak requirements for many businesses.

And yet, elasticity of provisioning is far more universal than we may think – everywhere we have compute power there are advantages of being able to assign resources on the fly. To this end, cloud computing shouldn’t be considered an end game but rather an attribute of all systems. What we see today being promoted by cloud services’ providers should be “standard equipment” of any new operating system! Whether native or via virtualization or the presence of containers, the disconnect between what’s real and what’s needed should be transparent. And the flexibility inherent with this model doesn’t mandate a separation of hardware from software – no; it’s likely to all move into the hardware freeing up resources to run the applications business deems necessary to staying in business.

In the post cloud era – or, dare I say (repeating what HPE’s CEO Antonio Neri spoke of this year), the cloudless era – this elasticity of provisioning we associate with clouds will become so ubiquitous that to purchase any new platform or system that doesn’t inherently support such a property would be very shortsighted. In the post cloud era we are heading towards, the trend will be to on-prem the big stuff and perhaps engage with others for the secondary stuff. But what about the OpEx versus CapEx arguments – surely, this is an unstoppable force with respect to how business sees future investments in technology? 

Unfortunately, governments worldwide aren’t stupid. Well not entirely. When every enterprise has moved to the “everything-as-a-service” model and shifted to reliance on external cloud service providers such a universal shift will go unnoticed? Governments have a history of changing models so would we be prepared to go along with all of this if there was no difference to accounting between OpEx and Cap Ex. How brilliant will we all look if with the stroke of a pen, it was all changed so governments could still count on revenues as they have done for eons? Just saying! No, business should never build a case around a current anomaly as these can disappear overnight.

Should clouds be ubiquitous and there’s no tax benefit from OpEx over CapEx, whereto then? No, clouds don’t bother me as already we are counting down the days to when the hype simply fades away and we are onto the next big thing! And what would that be exactly – well, for starters, the service model that is evolving in front of our eyes where everything we ever want is only hours away from being on our doorstep, is going to continue accelerating to give us new industry models. We talk about the edge but what happens when the Edge isn’t an access point but is us! We are the edge … ten billion people or thereabouts all hitting the enter key at once.

No, clouds don’t bother me even as the incoming tide matters little. History has taught us that when something has overwhelming support, the next thing is about to appear. In all that you are doing with respect to technology are you preparing for a world beyond clouds? Shouldn’t you be concerned or at the very least, be more than a little bit curious? For me it’s simply more stories to write and more interesting discussions to be held. More important perhaps and indeed more relevant to what will likely transpire in 2020 – don’t think for one moment that this is the last big thing we have to sign for and deploy. There is so much more to come – are you looking forward to that day?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Calling the Severance Police!

Taken by surprise to see our neighboring city called Severance, Colorado – it brought to mind separations we know all too well … and all good, mind you!

When you move to a new town it’s not unreasonable to expect that you will take a drive to see other townships nearby. For Margo and me it took a little longer for this to happen, but eventually we did take the drive that led us onto some previously unexplored roads. Imagine then when just a few miles north of Windsor, Colorado, we happened upon the township of Severance. It turns out the townships of Windsor and Severance are more or less joined at the hip, sharing responsibilities for the Windsor – Severance fire brigade. However, Severance still maintains a separate city police department.

Needless to say, I just had to back up to take a picture of the local Severance Police patrol SUV even as many storylines began forming in my mind. As time passed I more or less forgot about this photo until another storyline I was developing brought me back to this scene. Before getting any further into this post, it will not be an account of all the times Margo and I have found ourselves looking at our employment options albeit there have been occasions where we sure wish we had the Severance Police on speed dial. On the other hand, severance or better still, separation, has been a common theme among members of the NonStop community for some time.

Severance has been a small farming town, but the townships tagline leaves nothing to the imagination but then again, perhaps there are more meanings to severance than separation. Two things come to mind though when I look back at the discussions over separation with the most dominant topic being the separation of NonStop from hardware dependencies. For those who may have missed the importance of the date, Tandem Computers came into being around this time, forty five years ago and when cofounder Jimmy Treybig cashed that first check from then Kleiner Perkins the Tandem team included Jimmy, Michael Green (Software) and Jim Katzman (Hardware).

Between them they focused on an idea Jimmy came up with while working at HP and that was for a fault-tolerant computer “a niche in which it essentially had no rivals until the early 1980s.” A lot has been written on the rapid rise of Tandem in the late ‘70s through mid ‘80s – it was the fastest public company to generate $1 billion in revenue (a feat that was surpassed a matter of a few years later by SUN, but now is routinely eclipsed) – but even with competition, no vendor invested in the combination of metal and software stack integrated to the extent Tandem did to ensure continuous operation, no matter what.

Severance? Yes! NonStop separates from hardware ...

Jimmy was a great showman and that helped the company. It was reputed that during one demonstration of the effectiveness of a Tandem computer, there was a handgun discharge into a disk drive and yes, the Tandem kept on running. I am still to verify the many accounts that I have read about this – did a platter from that disk get framed at one time and hung in an office somewhere on the Tandem Computers Cupertino campus? Now that we are well into the twenty-first century, while the focus on software remains central to NonStop, the hardware, well not so much. It all started with the deep port to the Intel x86 Architecture that gave us the L-Series operating system. The availability of the L-Series operating system eventually separated NonStop from any requirements of the specific hardware,, except for the x86 chipset and Ethernet.

Deciding to focus on fault tolerant computers has now set up HPE Mission Critical Systems organization to proffer from virtualization whereby today’s NonStop is little more than a collection of virtual machines. While we watch early testing of virtualized NonStop (vNS) on different hypervisors – a Debian Linux with the open source Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor in the case of NS2 virtualized converged systems, to the more commercially accepted VMware / vSphere – separation from the hardware is allowing NonStop to take its first baby steps into the brave new world of clouds. Why is this important? Strategically, HPE has pointed to a future where clouds will be everywhere – public, private, managed and much more and it’s significant that NonStop systems have the opportunity to play an important role in the enterprise as this cloudless strategy unfolds.

Severance? No! Community stays with NonStop ...

There is another aspect of severance that was in evidence at the recent NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) 2019 and that is, the NonStop community itself. Even as members of the NonStop community have come to accept the transition from Tandem to NonStop – and yes, there are members of the community where this connection isn’t as well-known as it possibly should be – there is still a strong historical link between ITUG and CONNECT. The name change wasn’t all that striking – just as IBM has SHARE we now have CONNECT, effectively conveying similar messages – and came at a time when HP at the time lobbied for a single user community spanning multiple systems and platforms. 

The value of it was recognizable by all parties and yet, as TBC 2019 demonstrated so effectively, the icons of ITUGs past are alive and well – the networking opportunities, parties and yes, beer-busts all echo ITUG Summits passed. Forty five years later and it’s not only surprising that HPE values NonStop as highly as it does given its deep roots in Silicon Valley but equally as surprising that in turn Silicon Valley ended the run of that other Tech Valley spanning both sides of Massachusetts famous Route 128! Who knew …

The late acceptance of NonStop within HPE and the willingness to invest in NonStop also highlights another separation – those within HP that were present when Jimmy set about creating Tandem Computers are no longer a factor inside HPE. Separation is opening a new chapter and the book has mostly empty pages. Writing a new history for NonStop separated from the hardware is only just beginning and it’s another example of NonStop enjoying exciting days ahead. The executives and senior managers now responsible for the future of NonStop “all get it!” and the NonStop community understands the significance of this even as we heard from one sales region after another that sales of NonStop – the most important metric of all – are well ahead of plan. Not just for the year ended but for the coming year as well.

And so, we have separation of NonStop software from NonStop hardware even as we have a growing recognition that we are not separated from our history. There’s no need to call in the Severance Police should you be concerned about embracing our history, celebrating forty-five years of Tandem and NonStop, or telling stories out of school that someone, somewhere, shot up a disk drive. Tandem may indeed be NonStop but ITUG is definitely living strong within CONNECT!

There are times when separation represents steps well taken but then again, when it comes to history and where we have been, it’s so encouraging to see so many members of the NonStop community where the user community keeps on coming back in ways so reminiscent of days when the fault tolerant niche was proving to be a bet on technology that simply keeps on giving back and the truly nice thing about all of this – we were all there and the memories linger. As for that next beer-bust I am looking for more education from you all as there are still many storylines that need telling! 

Monday, November 18, 2019

On the road, again – NonStop delivers yet again!

Hybrid IT, Clouds and transition from CapEx to OpEx – what’s it all mean for the new NonStop?

There is always a degree of uncertainty whenever we head out onto America’s highways at this time of year. Will we be troubled by bad weather and road closures? Will road maintenance disrupt our plans in any way? Could there be mechanical failures of one kind or another? Driving to California means we had to traverse both the Rockies and the Sierras and with the uncertainty of fall conditions, this means we had to take the all-wheel-drive SUV.

In the past, even in such a vehicle we have been tested by heavy snowfalls west of Truckee. There was a time when even our Jeep SRT8 struggled to stay the course when the snow on the highway turned to ice. But not this time! Apart from dealing with blowing snow in Wyoming – when doesn’t it blow in Wyoming? – our crossing of Interstate 80 was uneventful and “pumpkin” (our nickname for our Range Rover) never put a foot wrong.

Oftentimes, following trips away from the office, there can be heard a collective groan from Margo and me as we look at what needs to be done. Yes, it is common knowledge that we prefer to drive to NonStop events whenever they take place in North America and yes, it’s common knowledge too that a two day meeting can mean a full week away from our desks.

On the other hand, listening to complaints about cancelled flights, runway disruptions (and repair) and inclement weather causing delays and missed flights well, do you blame us? And when is standing in line for security checks anything but a waste of time these days – do they really make us feel any more secure? Where’s the romance of travel and the excitement of what lies ahead? Where’s the sense of adventure?

On the other hand, having returned from California, it has been a fun week. For many writing 20+ stories over a five days span might be daunting, but for Margo and me it wasn’t simply challenging and also an opportunity to take a serious look at just what is happening with NonStop. Yes, we made it! This is just our way to say that even though we were working to a shortened timetable we were able to pull together a new issue of NonStop Insider even as we continued to meet standing commitments to our clients.

And here’s the thing – turned out that there is so much going on today with NonStop that looking at NonStop from 20+ different perspectives wasn’t that difficult to do. Yes, NonStop excites on multiple fronts and on multiple levels – when was the last time you heard that coming from anyone of late regarding any other system or platform?

What is igniting the interest of HPE and the NonStop team? What is driving the conversation with NonStop users? What is fueling the enthusiasm of the NonStop vendor community? Simply stated, the world is coming to NonStop and by this I mean that in an always connected world where everything computes the penalty for downtime is increasing. Not just monetarily, but reputation-wise as well.

This week, after many months of travel, Margo and I were visiting a clinic run by UC Health here, in Colorado. Part way through the routine questioning, the “system” went down.  Blank screen! No access to patient history. The questioning continued by hand during which time we asked, “How often does this happen?” Turns out, with routine monotony – systems introduced a few years backs as the new modern face of healthcare aren’t as reliable as originally hyped.

So what is really happening with NonStop and what is its standing with IT leaders? What does your average CIO think of NonStop? The big disappointment here is that asking questions about any NonStop usage doesn’t make it onto any industry questionnaire that I have seen of late. Agencies like Gartner don’t even have a single analyst assigned to following NonStop. In my time, at the former Tandem Computers, there was more than one occasion when I was involved in briefing a team from Gartner and I have forgotten the number of times I travelled to Stamford, Connecticut, to give an update on NonStop.

In part it is not just that NonStop and HPE have changed but the likes of vendors including Gartner have changed as well – they are so spread out across the globe it would be hard to know whom to visit. At their giant big-tent events, like the recently held 2019 Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo™ in Orlando, Florida, the humongous crowds made networking opportunities almost impossible.

When it comes to what CIOs think of NonStop it’s also a case of them having other priorities right now – hybrid IT, clouds and yes, reducing capital expenditures all top the list of most CIOs. It’s not that I am ignoring security, mind you, but that’s a subject that infiltrates all other discussions, including those already listed. Clouds on the other hand seem to be dominating conversations with many CIOs already claiming the high-ground with promises to their enterprises that moving to clouds, embracing hybrid IT models and yes, embracing operational expenses (OpEx)  as an alternative to capital expenditures (CapEx), will save the day. Given this, where does NonStop enter the conversation? How does NonStop fit into such a model?

When the media continues to foster an image of NonStop as part of traditional IT and that OLTP is all very well and good but in today’s way of thinking, it’s all about APIs, Apps and Services – click on an App, exploit the API behind it and interact with the Service being supported. Really? I have to admit that I do like the Starbucks App and being able to pay for my purchase from my mobile phone, but my usage of such a capability is sparingly to say the very least.

For heads-down, 24 X 7 usage, I cannot imagine anything worse than starting from scratch for every interaction I am involved in to complete any task assigned to me during the course of a day. Think manufacturing production lines. Think transportation loading and unloading. Think buying and selling of stocks. Point is, OLTP as we know it is far from dead and buried and yes, moving from traditional system to virtualized one (even with all the brouhaha supporting containers) remains a vital cog within the spinning wheels of IT. 

One of the key messages presented at NonStop Technical Boot Camp was not to mix development with deployment. It is a popular misconception that programming NonStop is a specialized field populated with white-coated lab technicians with years of expertise. Not so – pick your favorite development platform and environment and what you develop can be easily deployed on NonStop. Inherit all the attributes of NonStop, in particular availability but increasingly even more importantly scale-out capabilities, with no additional effort.

Had to try adding compute power to a cluster lately? Found the additional costs let alone additional programming steps rather tedious? Not so with NonStop – just let the NonStop integrated stack take care of that! And wait on there – you say there is an API coming that will completely mask important “layers” in the NonStop stack? I won’t even be aware of TS/MP (Pathway) doing the heavy lifting?

What am I getting at? It’s true that our foundations for information processing are being rocked and we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. However, this story would be very different if NonStop hadn’t changed and if those who are addressing the future of NonStop were insular to what was happening all around them. NonStop has changed. NonStop and NonStop SQL are a completely different beast and fully capable of supporting DBaaS.

NonStop and the emergence of an API is huge and shouldn’t be ignored but should be fully leveraged for future products. And yes, NonStop now virtualized to benefit everyone tasked with supporting OLTP – there’s nothing, absolutely nothing better! Programming it all in your favorite language on your platform?


Even as we integrate robots and the like where AI and ML are playing an important role, NonStop delivers again. This was brought into focus recently as conversations took place about 3-D printers and their likely presence as edge products. Personalized 3-D printers deployed in homes around the world will lead to us having anything we need at any time. Wouldn’t you want to see such edge devices connected to NonStop?

Turns out there are many out there thinking along the same lines – it is one thing for the screen to go blank when doing patient interviews but what might happen if you were 3-D printing a patient’s limb or even vital organ? Yes, CIO’s may be hyping new models for IT, but then again, there continues to be traditional business cases needing to be addressed. Don’t take the system off-line for any reason at all!

Industry analysts may not be giving NonStop its full dye even as CIOs are entranced by anything that is modern that helps them sort out issues of OpEx versus CapEx. NonStop is emerging as a platform worthy of serious consideration when you want to address it all - hybrid IT, clouds and the transitions from CapEx to OpEx.

Be challenged; show posts and commentaries like this to you peers and management. Take a stand and begin lobbying knowing that with NonStop the NonStop community has your back. After all, NonStop doesn’t Stop, won’t Stop and that is to everyone’s benefit. Next time you visit your doctor, take a look at whether their screen goes blank and yes, be forward, tell them; there is a better way and safe to say, we know NonStop!

Seriously: Are you keeping up with NonStop?

Yet one more trip to San Francisco and this time, it was all about taking in the history of the place even as we came to better appreciate...