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Monday, September 26, 2022

Call them Chapters, RUGs or simply TUGs - they always pull a crowd

Margo and I have tried to attend as many gatherings of the NonStop community as possible. This has meant a lot of driving was involved even as we did resort to flying sometimes. How else can you get to London other than perhaps by boat? You might even say that it is the whole package we find so attractive; the travel, the dining, the conversations the events themselves. There have been times where we have considered scaling back our participation, but then again, as we unpack from one trip or the other we immediately start debating the pros and cons of solutions presented at such events.

This month it was Canadians’ turn to hold a regional event. CTUG, or to call it by its full name, the Canadian Tandem User Group, is an ever present reminder of times past and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for them to do. The NonStop community enjoys a history few other mainstream vendors can possible duplicate. Maybe, SHARE, the IBM mainframe groups enjoy a similar heritage and as I have a first-hand experience as a board member serving SHARE o, I can attest that the enthusiasm of both groups is very similar.

However, what truly differentiates the NonStop community from any other group I have been a part of is the willingness to embrace each other and to provide encouragement wherever it is needed. NonStop users are a tightly knit group, but they aren’t alone in this regard as so too is the NonStop vendor community. Together they ensure that the NonStop product portfolio continues to expand and clearly, embracing modernization contributed strongly to NonStop remaining as relevant today as it has ever been. 

Perhaps the biggest question is whether the future of NonStop lies with NonStop becoming a database machine. Forget previous references to database appliances but rather consider how appropriate for the times NonStop SQL/MX has become. One of the biggest pros for cloud computing is the elasticity of provisioning but with NonStop SQL there is almost no limit to how wide it can scale out. The initial design of NonStop SQL was influenced by it never needing to be taken offline for any reason and the byproduct was the capability of NonStop SQL to scale out.

The HPE NonStop team led the CTUG’s sessions with both Justin Simonds (HPE Master Technologist) and Keith Moore (HPE Distinguished Technologist) providing further insights into roadmaps as well as potential areas for investment. Keith provided a grand tour of all that was happening with NonStop SQL as well as an update on virtualization. Justin on the other hand took us deep into the unsavory world of human trafficking and how yet again, to sort out the villains, it was a case of following the money. Not account by account so much as looking into relationships. No doubt that this caught the attention of some in the audience, especially those vendors looking to expand the profile and indeed stickiness of their current NonStop product offerings.

“Today, more than 65% of payment card transactions worldwide run
on HPE mission-critical technology,” said Justin. “Do 65% of human trafficking transactions run through NonStop?” More than just the rallying call for the NonStop community to consider greater engagement with those looking to tackle the problem but rather, an eye-opening reminder that perhaps the NonStop community needs to do a lot more than just to consider the problem. Moving from an account model to a relationship model means bringing in a level of AI and in so doing, truly addresses the problem a lot better when there are multiple financial institutions involved which is where previous work on Swarm model management may play a role.

What truly struck me as Keith and Justin provided updates is the extent to which NonStop SQL has achieved compatibility with other third party SQL offerings. There is very little today that separates NonStop SQL from Oracle, for instance. When you hear numbers like 99% compatible then you do need to take notice. Throw into this mix how far NonStop has come with its Java offerings and it is looking a lot more attractive for solutions vendors to embrace NonStop. Just being able to say that yes, their solution runs on open platforms including NonStop goes a long way to reinforcing how modern NonStop has become.

It is only at gatherings like this one in Canada that you get the inside skinny as to just how innovative NonStop has become. Whether you are looking to develop on NonStop, deploy on NonStop, embrace a hybrid NonStop and Linux solution or blend with cloud offerings, it’s all now possible for any NonStop users. And this has been the true essence of community gatherings. Chapters, RUGs, TUGs and yes, even NUGs is that whatever we call them, there remains global enthusiasm to participate. You can even say that for some members of the NonStop community there is an attraction afforded the HPE Discover events that makes it equally as attractive. 

What was a little different about this CTUG event was that it unfolded as a hybrid event. The offices of HPE in Mississauga, Ontario, played host to CTUG but it presented the community with a challenge. Major sessions spanned a primary room with the adjacent two satellite rooms linked via video. As one participant commented, it’s like having the option to participate in-person along with the ability to participate via TEAMs or ZOOM. A clear case of win-win for all no matter where their preferences might lie. With a few exceptions it all worked well even though for a brief period when I was presenting in one room and TANDsoft in another, our slide decks showed up on the others screen.

It is situations like that where humor was present that tells its own story. The CTUG audience, as we have seen with the events held by other NonStop groups are just glad to be back in person. The sterile nature of virtual experiences is clearly in the past and for many quickly forgotten. What did we learn from NonStop that we could have otherwise learnt from a virtual experience? It was clear to all – the secondary exchanges that took place that gave rise to some serious conversations that proved illuminating to those present would simply have been missed in the virtual world.

On a lesser note however even as it too told a story. Many of the attendees did stay around for the CTUG closing session where gifts were handed out. Receiving an iPad, which was the case for the NonStop user chosen at random, from NTI’s Tim Dunne was certainly worth the wait. As for the cheese and wine tasting that followed, well clearly, there were many conversations still under way as the CTUG attendees ascended a staircase to a well laid out reception. As I recently posted, adult beverages certainly give any conversation additional momentum as “no great story ever started with someone eating a salad! 

Chapters, RUGs or simply TUGs will forever remain a force within the NonStop community. Providing a litmus test as to the state of NonStop even as these gathering ensure everyone becomes fully aware of the huge investment HPE continues to make in NonStop. The driving may be an extreme example of the lengths some NonStop enthusiasts might go so as not to miss out, but even so, for Margo and me it means a lot more. The drive back home is not just a pleasant distraction but a time for analysis. And at no time have we ever been disappointed by what we have heard. I am sure there will be a lot more surprises in stall given the upcoming event calendar as the 

NonStop team continues to pursue new market opportunities at every corner. Now, it’s onward to NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2022 – will we see you there?       


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

We’ve got a lot to talk about …

As we get deeper into the last month of the quarter, which for some may also be the last month of their financial year, it is inevitable that we look back at what happened in 2022. It’s a time when measures are taken to finish the year on a high note even as there will be those reviewing their product mix against changing market conditions. There is never a good time to change course and yet, staying the distance can be every bit as detrimental. But perhaps as we look back at the year, there will be conversations started that will need to be revisited as scattered among the many stories we hear are surprisingly numerous gems to be uncovered.

For Margo and me these last couple of months means we will be toiling for long hours at the tasks at hand. Not so much on keyboards as on steering wheels. With the return to in-person events we have a desire to attend as many as we can even if we do succumb to the long-haul flight every now and then. But as story tellers, there is a constant need for stimuli as it is an almost impossible task to dream up meaningful story lines when restricted to the four walls of your office.

For those who have dropped by our offices in Windsor Colorado – a small township adjacent to Ft Collins and just one highway exit before you come across the HPE campus on E. Harmony Rd. – there would be no mistaking the portion of our bar as depicted above. But the symbolism never escapes me as it’s not just the derogatory remarks about the contribution a salad has made to a great story but rather, the image of time within a plane and the reminder that yes, time flies!

There will be some within the NonStop community who may recall that this month represents the passing of an even greater milestone for Pyalla Technologies, LLC. This month ends fifteen years of posting to this NonStop community blog! Come October and Margo and I begin our sixteenth year of commentaries, opinions and yes, storytelling. To think, all those years ago, I was still gainfully employed at GoldenGate Software where my colleagues, amused as they were as I began to post, considered it a temporary pursuit at best. There were even those who thought I was a little crazy to commit to a blog featuring little else apart from NonStop.

However, clearly with what we have come through in the past couple of years we have a lot to talk about. For those who recall the lyrics of one of Jimmy Buffett’s songs, particularly those penned back in the days of the Global Financial Crises, then these lines should make you smile:

Well the family devalues
And little children plan their net worth
And the truth wherever it's hiding,
Can be found on Google Earth.

I can't take another doomsday minute
We got a lot to drink, a lot to think,
A lot to drink about.

Yes, we have a lot to talk about too, but in the coming months as we all head back to in-person events, dare I add that as Jimmy notes only too well, we got a lot to drink about. But which way do we go? Where do we steer pertinent conversations?

Fortunately, those responsible for organizing the upcoming in-person events are taking to heart one of the signature components that have contributed to the success of Tandem Computers that being, the regular celebratory beer busts. While the keynote and vendor sessions provide value over the course of the event, the real heavy lifting that occurs between NonStop community members more often than not takes place while standing up with an adult beverage in hand.

From the many conversations I have had this past year, three items jump right off the page – the price book, virtualization and yes, GreenLake. From the early days of Tandem Computers, the presence of an energized independent vendor community proved to be key to the success of NonStop. Looking not so far back, NonStop systems were tangible boxes that reinforced the notion that investments had been made in state of the art computers. But now, NonStop is software and with virtualization, can be deployed almost anywhere the Intel x86 architecture has a presence (along with fabrics that NonStop supports) and then everything as a service with GreenLake looming large for all NonStop users.

So, the price book: The project going by the name of Showcase. How did that all happen and what are the implications for the NonStop community? Despite the early attempts to provide a win-win for all involved, there are numerous unintended consequences we can sit down and discuss. From the outset, there were thoughts given to duplicating what existed in from Tandem days with the alliance program – a catalogue of every product offering supporting Tandem.

However to revisit the alliance program and to take it many steps further by including every product and service on the NonStop price book was unrealistic as it was unfair. Unrealistic when it came to expecting the limited resources that exist today across NonStop product management to then evaluate every product to ensure that all these products did what they were supposed to do and that the vendors were viable over the long term was not possible. Unfair when it came to discounting all the efforts put into lobbying and nurturing relationships, by numerous vendors, with the NonStop team spanning decades.

This will likely be a topic to be discussed over more than one adult beverage and I encourage the community to become involved. As for unintended consequences, as much as I am a proponent of unity and of presenting a unified face to the world at large, Showcase has the potential to be divisive in ways not fully anticipated. Given how today the NonStop sales team is being remunerated only for products and services sold from the NonStop price book, don’t expect any enthusiasm on the part of HPE NonStop Sales when it comes to presenting non price book solutions. Yes, much ground to cover on this topic.

However, when it comes to topics up for discussion we cannot ignore the giant steps that the NonStop team is taking with NonStop. Virtualization took many of us by surprise when it was first announced that NonStop as software was becoming a reality and furthermore, the umbilical cord tying it to HPE hardware was being severed. Run on your favorite x86 with access to fabrics and there you have it, NonStop running seamlessly anywhere you care to locate it.  

What shouldn’t surprise anyone is that this move to NonStop as software is nowhere near complete. Being able to run NonStop in your on-prem private cloud is now the realm of possibility. And why consider doing that? Perhaps giving NonStop SQL/MX the opportunity to enjoy its own cloud experience is one possibility, but so too is giving developers their own NonStop environment. And the data never leaves the premises. So, what’s to discuss? Inevitably such conversations turn to public clouds and while there is nothing appearing on the whiteboard or on bar coasters as yet, this is definitely worth a discussion and it’s one I would like to be a part of come NonStop TBC 22. Bottom line? The support by NonStop of virtualization is goodness for the community.  

Finally, GreenLake! Like many of you I am hoping to hear a lot more about the realities of GreenLake when it comes to NonStop. The GreenLake Server, Console and API are all significant areas where NonStop is likely looking to support as indeed early steps have been taken. But the bigger question is twofold. Has the NonStop vendor community stepped up to support; are they embracing the GreenLake API for instance. In addition, are NonStop customers looking to GreenLake and the cloud experience when it comes to running mission critical applications 24 x 7; are there real benefits to be gained?

Again, just one more discussion I am sure will take place as we return to in-person events. There is much that is positive happening with NonStop and for that I for one am extremely thankful. And I don’t see any value in bringing negativity to such discussions, apart from the occasional “if only” or “I wish for this” as that’s all goodness. A healthy NonStop community prepared to discuss the finer points of the technology, the products and yes the business is a positive outcome for all involved with NonStop. The mere fact that HPE through Connect are giving us such an opportunity has to be recognized for what it is – trust. That is, trust that the NonStop community still views a future for NonStop that continues to meet the unique business requirements of those enterprises needing true fault tolerant operations around the clock.

To finish up I will leave it to the lyrics of yet one more Jimmy Buffet’s song. Not to be taken too seriously, naturally, but something we can all respond to even when we think we know the path we need to tread in the coming year:

Now I'm having a big problem
With my present day career
My ship she has a rudder
But I don't know where to steer

Life is complicated with its
Ifs and ands and buts
It's alright to be crazy,
Just don't let it drive you nuts


 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Rules? Consider them more or less guidelines.

The many times that Margo and I have driven across the Great Divide there have been occasions when the rules of the road needed to be stretched. On a number of occasions it was late winter - early spring and Mother Nature hadn’t relinquished her hold on the environment. Yes, when the snow falls you cannot argue with it; water may always win but snow comes a close second. Say what you may but oftentimes the prudent move to make is to turn around.

In the April 24, 2022 post No risk! No win! With many other chances taken! to our social blog, Buckle-Up, we recalled how you can never count on favors from Mother Nature. As it so happened she began showing her indifference to our plans the moment dawn broke over our Cedar City Utah hotel with just the mountain crossing to cover before reaching home in Colorado. No sooner had we begun the climb to Vail Pass then all lanes of traffic came to a halt. 

Between the concrete separation-barriers there were small openings so first responders could break into the oncoming lanes but state troopers were making U-turns problematic. However, once these troopers left and before another moment passed we whipped around through the barriers and headed back to Vail.

More than a decade earlier we had executed exactly the same escape, that time it was in the Sierras as we passed Truckee, California. In the April 8, 2011 post, Follow or spin! By the time we had reached the summit, we were in the middle of a full-scale blizzard that had caught the weather forecasters, as well as the California Highway Patrol, by surprise. Even with its very capable AWD system, the Skyline was still shod with summer tires and the conditions created some very tense moments.

The lanes were blocked as tractor-trailer rigs had spun passing each other leaving us no other option than to capitalize on the break in barriers (created as it turned out so that California Highway Patrol vehicles could turn into their station), and execute another U-turn.

With as much discussion as is taking place within IT about changes in direction, pivoting and yes, transforming and transitioning, even as there are no rules per se it would seem that IT professionals are caught in a dilemma. Where to turn? Who to turn to? And yes, will it even work for us?

On the other hand it was Henry Ford who was reputed to have said, “If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.” Or as Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. But if there aren’t any rules governing changes and pivots, are there at least some guidelines?

For the HPE NonStop community there is no getting away from the almost constant bombardment of recommendations to move on from NonStop. The prospect of heading down a path of modernization and application transformation with NonStop is perceived as a daunting task.

An almost no-win situation for IT! Let it go, or so the pundits suggest. NonStop has seen its day and looking ahead, the potential value of NonStop is narrowing by the day. The core attributes of NonStop are no longer as important as they once were for IT and for the enterprise as other manufacturers of computer systems and the creators of software achieved a high level of availability.

As the old shell game trick has taught us the pea is never where you think it should be as the sleight-of-hand trickster has moved the pea as he shuffles the shells. For NonStop it isn’t so much a case that we have lost sight of what the value proposition is today as it is a case of taking our eye off the product roadmaps and the engineering deliverables that result. 

For many IT professionals in a leadership capacity, there never was the equivalent of that pea within a NonStop system. Almost five decades on, these IT professionals continue to claim that they just don’t get it; NonStop is just another system after all.

Talk to almost any marketer who has more than passing knowledge of NonStop and you will hear of suggestions for NonStop to reinvent itself: To make that U-turn and to become a specialty processor. An appliance, perhaps, focused solely on the potential of its market-leading SQL implementation. To these advocates, such a U-turn could be done without any negativity with regards to dilution of function and lessening of relevance.

However, such discussions miss the point entirely. NonStop has put aside the box some time ago; that integrated software stack has been released into the open world and can run almost anywhere. There are still documented requirements to make this happen should IT wish to run on another vendors servers or even within a private cloud, but for many knowledgeable NonStop watchers, this is likely to be just the opening shots with much more yet to be announced.

So no, NonStop doesn’t need to do a U-turn as the challenge driving such a change in direction has already been accomplished with little fanfare and with very few industry analysts even being aware of the pivot to a software solution. Consider it rather as a change in direction and possibly as a course correction. To be clear, I am not advocating a return to when NonStop was an intimidating package of components targeting data centers; the era of the VLX and Cyclone systems.

For quite some time you will continue to be able to purchase the entire hardware and software offering outright but, increasingly, it is all about the software and where you can deploy your NonStop solutions. GreenLake happens to be only part of the story as the need for NonStop to support mission critical applications will see responses take many forms.

Payments-as-a-Service featuring NonStop. Manufacturing-as-a-Service on NonStop. These are just the opening shots as NonStop reveals its true capabilities. For all practical purposes, it will the unlimited scalability of NonStop that is likely to be as welcomed by IT as has been the world-class availability everyone takes for granted. 

If you listen to the whispers taking place behind closed doors, it will only take the arrival of three maybe four additional application as-a-Service offerings to see the spotlight once again being directed towards NonStop.

For Margo and me the execution of those unseen U-turns were necessary actions to be taken to better ensure our safety. But here’s the thing; if you missed it, NonStop has already made its move and it’s beginning to flourish as a result. Small gains are being reported. A couple of new logos have begun to appear.

The NonStop sales teams are becoming more aware of their winning hand and are beginning to be energized in ways we haven’t seen for quite some time. Organizationally, HPE seems to be bringing fresh eyes to the operation and that in itself is good news.

NonStop isn’t going along with a continuation of what it has always done. It has changed. And if you missed the signs then take this as a prompt to go take another look at NonStop and to re-engage with the NonStop sales team.

When it comes to guidelines, while we were dealing with the abnormal of the global pandemic, NonStop didn’t stand still and while no laws were infringed upon, while many of us weren’t looking, NonStop didn’t just evolve as much as it shed its skin. With that, IT professionals have been put on notice; yes, you can have it all and yes, today’s NonStop will show up everywhere you turn without so much as a pivot or a reinvention. It’s happened!  

Have you ever wondered why NonStop has enjoyed the longevity it has surpassing the presence of all but one computer architecture and that here it is, 2022, and we continue to write about NonStop? Could it be that with almost five decades of experience, NonStop got it all right after all and is becoming the solution for the ages?  And with that, Margo and I will be heading back out onto the highways again this fall to join you to hear the news directly from HPE itself.   


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Three more wishes – coming soon! What can we expect for NonStop?


With summer in full swing and with temperatures climbing higher than we have seen in quite some time, it’s hard to imagine that seasons will be again in transition in oh, say three months’ time. Living alongside the Rocky Mountains we have come to expect anything and, each day we step outside, we can be at a loss as to what the will weather do; clear skies aren’t all that helpful.

It’s not all that often that I start with a weather commentary but this year, it’s getting harder to ignore. Floods in Australia and fires in Portugal! Tornados in the US and more fires even as there are swarms of jellyfish in the eastern Mediterranean! Predicting the weather so it seems remains as much a hit and miss exercise as it has always been; here in Colorado the story goes that “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change.”  

At the end of August I will wrap up fifteen years of posting to this blog, Real Time View. Shortly I will begin my sixteenth year and you will find me still writing posts about NonStop. As I look back upon this journey, one thing strikes me more than anything else. We continue to have a thriving NonStop community even as there are so many more media channels within which you will find a constant stream of updates and predictions on all things NonStop! On the other hand, it has never been about waiting five minutes to see if the NonStop journey will change.

The NonStop community, unlike the weather, is rather predictable. Change often seems to move at glacial speeds and yet, when you look back to August 2007 and to that first post to this blog, so much has changed with NonStop. We have seen it all; racks, blades, pizza boxes, dumb chassis, smart chassis, disks that were once solid state are now flash drives and yes, NonStop entered the world of virtual machines. In little over a decade! Amazing when you look at all the options we have today.

Early next year I will once again pen my three wished for NonStop. I have done this every three years following the first post back in February, 2008. It has always proved to be a fun project for Margo and me as we consider what might happen in the following three years. More often than not we like to stretch the goals we have for NonStop, but with the passage of time, many of what we wished for have indeed come to fruition. Put it down to the glacial speed perhaps and the fully visible path already trod, but no matter, the mere fact that we can openly discuss what might be ahead is testament enough to the future of NonStop remaining rosy.

While this isn’t about the three wishes that we will address next year it is a sneak preview into what we have listed as possibilities. If you want to revisit either the three wishes posts or simply look at the previews, just tab over to Labels and scroll down to the entries for Wishes and Wishes – Preview. But here’s a headline for you – the list of candidate possibilities for what will be included in our predictions as three wishes has never been longer and that too is an encouraging sign.

What has made the list to date (and I am sure between now and February 2023 new entries will appear) and what will we be prioritizing? For now we have five entries but with NonStop TBC 2022 upcoming as well as with what we are still digesting following HPE Discover, expect to see two and maybe three more entries added to the list. But what did we cover in the three wishes posted February 13, 2020? Would you now be surprised that we covered topics that included new systems options for NonStop (not just ProLiant but Synergy and Apollo), NonStop’s presence in GreenLake and yes, the gradual disappearance of NonStop within virtual machines.

What we did miss is the option for NonStop to run on EdgeLine systems (EL4000 and EL8000) which has us excited as well as appearance of NonStop applications on the basis of “as-a-Service.” Also missing from our observations was the organizational shifts that occurred, with NonStop an integral part of High Performance Computing and Artificial Intelligence. Headed by Justin Hotard and together with a new Senior VP and Chief Product Officer for the group, Trish Damkroger, where oversight of NonStop will reside, it leaves open the bigger question of what comes next for NonStop.

There is no better way to introduce the candidates that made the list than to say that organizational shifts present opportunities as much as they simply suggest change. As Tom Petty used to sing, “the sky was the limit” even as he added, “Into the great wide open; Under them skies of blue” the future for NonStop may be so bright, as another popular singer suggested, “I gotta wear shades.” With changes too in the sales organizations, “things are going great and they’re only getting better,” seems more than an appropriate line to add. With Neil Davis in EMEA, new arrival Karen Ramirez in North America and Suresh Menon in APAC, I have a sense that there will be additional logos added to the portfolio by the time we post next February.

Making the list? How about Partnerships. Neil has done a great job in bringing Manufacturing-as-a-Service through abat+ and Payments-as-a-Service through Lusis to market. The next year or so will be telling with respect to the traction developed by the presence of these applications. Seriously, though we need a lot more and in this regard, I am wishing for HPE to provide additional seed money to select vendors to bring them into partnership with the NonStop team. There has been considerable talk of late about doing something like this, but seriously, it is time for action and I am hoping we hear more on this topic at the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2022.

The NonStop community itself is a candidate as we wish for a continuation of the unity that Connect provides through its publications, events and forums. Sharing knowledge is incredibly important and remains the sole voice for every member of the NonStop vendor community. Margo and I have been involved with user groups for decades and view them as a vital instrument in fostering shared experiences across all regions and within all market verticals.

GreenLake will remain a candidate even as I am looking for feedback from the community as to the level of interest in moving from CapEx to OpEx. Only paying for what you need is a message appearing everywhere you turn these days, but for those running mission critical applications requiring permanent availability there remains some doubt as to the advantages of re-implementing on this basis. Perhaps there are some financial services organizations enamored with running applications on private clouds where security might be better but even so, the move to GreenLake by existing NonStop users will probably take many years.

The path to being able to run anywhere and everywhere on virtual machines more or less at the touch of an icon is still a very long way off. However, the potential to add yet more layers of abstraction such that it matters little as to the fabric on hand with NonStop being able to leverage whatever technology is being provided quite transparently. This has been a goal of mine for some time as we moved from ServerNet to InfiniBand then Converged Ethernet/RoCE so why not support it all? There are still obstacles in the way of those wishing to be able to run NonStop in public clouds but adding this transparency couldn’t hurt. And there is still the issue with how fine grained you want your fault zones to be, but like fabrics, there are choices that can be made in this regard.

Finally, the name NonStop. Surprise you to read that I think it has served its purpose and we need to move on. While I am not suggesting a return or reintroduction of Tandem or of the image of the Tandem bicycle, but rather, NonStop is really an attribute and simply adding HPE doesn’t help a whole lot. Introduce the former Tandem chevron, but this time, in green? Call it the Green Machine (ohm, perhaps not)? HULK: NonStop – after all, he has never stopped and he is green for good measure! Whatever the branding folks consider new and fresh doesn’t bother me but isn’t it time to give NonStop a new coat of paint, re-launch, and set it on a new course?

These are all preliminary candidates to make my short list for the upcoming post on my three wishes. I am sure there will be work still left to do before finalizing that list and should you like to influence the direction in which I am headed just let me know. Until then, there is lot to think about and in simply thinking about NonStop means we all see a bright future for the product. So yes, can you spare a set of shades as it could become a lot brighter than any of us could imagine! 


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

NonStop: the solution is what we call it!

Driving along a desolate stretch of Interstate 70 taking us eastbound out of Utah, there is an exit that has intrigued us ever since 2006 when we began commuting between Colorado and California. On this recent occasion we were returning from the HPE Discover 2022 event in Las Vegas. At first sight and ignoring the reference to Emery, seeing the exit to Mussentuchit always gets us talking. Perhaps it is the exit to a cattle ranch seeking a unique identity. But just pronouncing it brought a smile to our faces – “Mustn’t Touch It” seemed pretty obvious.

Margo and I smile as it seems to be an oblique reference to the history of NonStop and before that, Tandem Computers. For as long as both of us could remember, the mantra among many in the NonStop community on deploying a solution on NonStop was the warning to all others in IT that given the nature of the mission critical applications, no IT professional was to touch it. Interfere with its operations at your own risk. Connect it directly to the Internet and your sanity would come under scrutiny. NonStop is a fault tolerant system and as such any perceived risk to its 24 x 7 x forever operation was not worth any proposed reward.

This is the second part of a two part series of posts on solutions. In the previous post, NonStop: the solution is at hand! I wrote of how good it is to know of the numerous vendors that continue to embrace NonStop in support of their applications. The resulting solutions, I said at that time, are being recognized for the value they provide. In some cases they are making inroads into new markets for NonStop and that’s always good news for the NonStop community.

Well then,  is the presence of these solutions more a reminder of the past than pointing to a renewed future for NonStop? Before digging deeper into the topic of solutions, there will be NonStop community members who will sigh and note that discussing the merits of solutions versus applications versus middleware and infrastructure has been going on for a very long time. So, what has changed of late?

For starters, tNonStop’s era of “Mustn’t Touch It” is waning rapidly. In part this is because the data created on NonStop is sought after by processes outside of NonStop. But it is also that data required of NonStop similarly lies elsewhere in the network and considering the growing acceptance of an edge to cloud, hybrid IT model, it’s unlikely we will ever see a return of NonStop applications being silo-ed. It is as if today, everyone has a real requirement to touch NonStop.

Gathering of code and data into a package delivered as a Commercial, Off-the-Shelf (COTS) offering is just as rapidly waning as well. What was once considered a solution more often than not reflects on a past steeped in legacy thinking. And yet, that is how NonStop has navigated its way to the success it continues to enjoy. Solutions that were mentioned in the previous post – Lusis, abat+ and even ACI’s Base24 – maybe pillars of success for NonStop but the concept of enterprises requiring more COTS is witnessing the parallel thinking around the gathering of middleware, infrastructure, tools and visualization as an alternative.

When I first began pulling this post together my thinking was that the concept of solutions we all know so well will likely see an increase in offerings as more vendors are describing middleware, infrastructure and even tools as solutions. After all, if you address a business requirement and solve the problems you are facing, surely any enterprise IT organization will describe such offerings as a solutions, right? Maybe not; NonStop vendors have as many points of view as there are vendors when it comes to labelling their products.

Perhaps there is no bigger influence on the direction NonStop vendors are taking than talk of tapping unlimited resources afforded them via cloud services providers. “We have tested BackBox in the cloud; nothing changed in BackBox in order to support clouds,” said ETI-NET COO, Sylvain Tétreault. Taking its first baby steps towards capitalizing on cloud services to better optimize overall user costs ETI-Net is “exploiting the capabilities of AWS S3 gateway. While no NonStop users have requested it so far, ETI-NET is looking into whether there will be user demand for BackBox to support the S3 driver directly within BackBox.” AWS may describe S3 as its storage solution offering, “we don’t perceive our expanded BackBox offering as a solution according to the traditional definition,” added Tétreault.

And yet, in email exchanges with @CTOAdvisor and HPE Influencer, Keith Townsend, when it comes to something like AWS S3 given how, “S3 can now be used as a database, I don't know if you'd ever call S3 middleware up until we get to see S3 functions as a service where we could trigger code from S3 events.” According to Keith then given this, “AWS S3 essentially became a messaging bus and now has moved to an application in itself.” But a solution? Again, touching the line but perhaps not crossing it as yet!

More recently in conversations with Tim Dunne, NTI’s Global Director Worldwide Sales, “it really does come down to how the NonStop customer perceives the product offering. Where it addresses business needs then, for this customer, they may indeed consider the offering as a solution.” As NTI embraces continuous adaptation, could the changing IT landscape suggest that the meaning of solutions is likewise changing? 

“Consider the combination today of DRNet®/Unified for Business Integration with Kafka support, the visualization provided by a tool like Grafana and Hybrid IT now looks like it covers a heterogeneous deployment of middleware, tools and visualization. However, is this enough for the product offering to be considered a solution?” 

This begs the question as to whether describing any collection of functionality as a solution makes sense any longer? Indeed, it might be the NonStop user who positions such functionality as a solution but like stating a strategic direction, this is solely the domain of the user and not something that vendors necessarily need to brand as such. Hybrid IT really does have implications for everything we do and applied to the modern mix of hardware, virtual machines and containers, the operating system and more, does any one application address all the needs of an enterprise?  

“I see the application sphere as being best described as having standard and differentiated IT solutions,” wrote HPE Distinguished Technologist, Keith Moore, in an email exchange. In this instance standard does apply to what we are familiar with in addressing market verticals like finance and manufacturing whereas differentiated applies to that which we see coming out of the Agile deployment field. In other words, differentiated is the offering that “usually provides a piece of a complete business IT functionality.” 

As for the question as to whether today’s middleware, infrastructure, tools and visualization have crossed the threshold to become solutions in their own right, “The original question was squarely aligned to what I am calling a “standard” (undifferentiated) IT which some (many) IT deployments are still locked into,” said Moore. “I wanted to explicitly point out that it is a matter of business perspective whether you can (will) embrace an alternative to COTS/SaaS, or (continue with) legacy.” 

Clearly the arrival of cloud services in combination with Agile and the myriad variety of open source offerings and blurring the lines completely. What is a solution, then? This was referred to by HPE Master Technologist Justin Simonds as the ability today to “assemble the components you need to offer a business function/service.  After a fashion if you want to go back to former times, it is not too different from the old Pathway/serverclass model back when customers developed and differentiated on what the NonStop team provided.”

Modern NonStop vendors are embracing open, Agile even as they are beginning to embrace clouds. This is a move away from standard to differentiated where the NonStop user will be making decisions as to the best fit for their enterprise. Then again, much like some still talk about the times when there were forces pulling these same enterprises towards distributed and away from centralization there will always be the potential to once again embrace standard purely for the simplicity and uncomplicated way it addresses today’s business requirements.

Answers: Continue with legacy and products aimed at a market vertical? Steer away from COTS / SaaS? Enterprises no longer look to just automate payrolls or connect ATMs. The business drivers for IT are much more complicated and interconnected than that, with regulatory and statutory edicts to consider as well. Perhaps a closing comment from Moore says it best. “If I was a newly hired CIO/CTO of a company, I would always first discover which of these two directions the company is established with and would assume my decisions would be influenced by that status quo. Not surprisingly, legacy and the mix of different user needs dictate that most enterprise IT have a mix of both.”  

You may never pull off the highway to visit Mussentuchit, but on the other hand when it comes to NonStop, Mustn’t Touch It no longer applies. To the contrary, NonStop systems have participated in the pursuit of greater integration with the rest of the enterprise. No longer silo-ed running a self-supporting solution but part of the whole of IT. In the end, the concept of solution may need to be revised yet again as it suggests legacy and a model for deployment waning in popularity.

It may not happen all at once but for the NonStop community the continuous adaptation we often talk about continues for NonStop and for that the ease with which it has embraced modernity, the HPE NonStop team deserves our sincerest thanks.   


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

NonStop: the solution is at hand!

Pouring a good measure of any adult drink over ice cubes is a common enough practice. Mixologists will tell you that for some drinks it’s better to pour from a chilled bottle to lessen the impact of a warm fluid on the ice. Then again, for most of us who from time to time imbibe on such concoctions, such a dilution process is welcome. In our household, an evening cocktail has become part of our routine. Disclaimer: it is neither an encouragement to do the same nor a suggestion that it is required.

Eventually, the understanding of the humble martini comes down to simple chemistry where the eventual solution proves to be to our liking. And with that, comes the chemist’s clarity that “you prepare a solution by dissolving a known mass of solute (often a solid) into a specific amount of a solvent. 

For the NonStop community, its successful history is liberally littered with solutions of every kind. These are solutions of a different nature, obviously, and yet, to succeed they have always been a mixture; a combination of software driving hardware. Even as HPE has made enormous strides towards having NonStop become a software only offering, eventually you become aware of the symbiotic nature of hardware, the software stack and the application working together to satisfy enterprises’ most difficult but important mission critical business challenges. 

In this first part of the two part series of posts, we will be looking at the past history of NonStop and solutions that have contributed to its longevity. When it comes to what’s happening today it is therefore good to know of the numerous vendors that continue to embrace NonStop in support of their applications. The resulting solutions are being recognized for the value they provide even as in some cases they are making inroads into new markets for NonStop. More important still is how these applications are embracing modernity, even as they pave the way for future application offerings, is how they fit into the new world of HPE GreenLake.

In case you missed reading recent headlines, the respective GreenLake and NonStop teams are in open dialogue and the divide that may have been present in the past is clearly behind them. The goal of GreenLake was to offer an alternate to traditional solutions offerings where large upfront capital expenditures were required to where you only pay for what is being used in the moment. It certainly provided challenges for the NonStop team but these are being overcome and as a result, there are now two key solutions that can be acquired the traditional way or as part of GreenLake.

One of these solutions builds on the tradition of NonStop insofar as it’s addressing today’s needs of financial institutions. Lusis Payments is now offering Payments as a Service and in so doing, opens the door to even the most humble of financial institutions having an opportunity to leverage applications that otherwise were the domain of the biggest banks. All without a heavy investment in technology that might be foreign to them and where access to skillsets formerly associated with NonStop are significantly lessened.

The other solution has just recently stepped into the spotlight as it evolves to better support its major customer. In this instance, abat+ has made significant progress towards providing manufacturing applications on the basis of Manufacturing as a Service. It is hard to ignore the investment that Mercedes Benz has made in NonStop!

In a post to the HPE community blog, The frictionless future of payments, Jennifer Smith, HPE Global Lead, FSI Marketing and Vikas Kapoor, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, HPC, AI & Labs, there is no hiding how enthusiastic these bloggers are about solutions incorporating NonStop:

“HPE GreenLake for payments delivers high performance and security on a modern cloud payments platform that’s always-on and built to evolve.

“It combines the cloud-centric, open SOA-based payments knowledge of Lusis TANGO, a modern, flexible and future-ready payments platform, with the proven, fault-tolerant, distributed transaction processing of HPE Nonstop. HPE GreenLake adds cloud experience and flexibility.

“In short, it’s a unique, fully managed, pay-per-use solution. All the benefits of a cloud-based system with none of the drawbacks.”

As for the reaction coming from Lusis executives, it was Philippe Preval, President and CEO of Lusis, who made the observation: 

"Our initial collaboration with HPE was an important factor in bringing the value and flexibility of Lusis Tango to a much broader international marketplace.

“As we continue to expand our presence in Financial Institutions worldwide, our partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the HPE GreenLake for Payments service is becoming ever more strategic for us as our joint clients start to adopt the ‘as a service’ model for critical applications." 

Earlier this year and in a separate post to the HPE community blog, Experience data-driven smart manufacturing with abat+ and HPE NonStop, Prashanth Kamath, HPE Product Manager, HPE NonStop, expressed similar sentiment about abat+ and the doors that this company will be opening as a result of the work that has been done in supporting Mercedes Benz:

“Founded in 2010, abat+ acquired the services and operations from Mercedes-Benz AG and abat+ has continued to support this manufacturer with solutions based on NonStop.

“Today, around the globe, wherever there is a Mercedes Benz manufacturing plant there is at least a pair of NonStop systems to be found. Its presence is in 14 countries supported by a team of 200+ personnel that have accumulated the equivalent of 1,200 years of experience in manufacturing.

“Key to their success has been the speed with which they have embraced modern methods even as their experience and knowledge ensure their continued presence in a manufacturer such as Mercedes Benz.”

The reaction coming from abat+ executives is no less restrained than that coming from Lusis. According to abat+’s CEO and Founder, Peter Grendel when it comes to their solution, it is:

“A story of the back-end being NonStop. (abat+ Plus) systematically combines the areas of planning, manufacturing and production.

“We have been working in a modern DevOps setup since many years. Short software development cycles paired with intensive involvement of a wide range of stakeholders shape the success of our team-centric software development strategy.”

However, it isn’t just a case of using modern tools and utilities. For abat+ Business Unit Manager, Thomas Oberst, it is about what the application can do:

“Machine data for predictive maintenance; we can predict when machine maintenance has to be performed based on historical data. We can predict errors on components or car bodies based on historical data as well; defect locations and types can be predicted and thus avoided base on the type of car body.”

Lusis and abat+ were active participants at HPE Discover 2022 and for both vendors, having them present solutions that had become available on the basis of as-a-Service was the realization of what many within the NonStop community wanted to see; new and exciting ways to leverage NonStop solutions without the added “tax” of having to find the skills and yes, the dollars.

Looking further ahead and having had discussions with the NonStop leadership team, it is clear that with access to the GreenLake server, the availability of APIs and finding acceptance rapidly, the support from GreenLake Management Services, the obstacles to running any solution that features NonStop are diminishing. Will we see a breakthrough for NonStop in healthcare? Or will NonStop be more involved in transportation and distribution? With the supply chain mess brought on by the global pandemic it isn’t too big a stretch to imagine those charged with overseeing supply chain modernization might find solutions on NonStop very attractive.

The history of NonStop has always been about the presence of solutions; that special mix of hardware, software stacks and applications that we have come to expect with NonStop solutions. The modernization of NonStop is complete with as many varieties of tools and utilities available on NonStop today as there are advocates of their value. The support for solutions as a service is in its infancy but this will mature rapidly and will create a more palatable landscape for future sales of NonStop.

Look for the second part in this series of posts where we consider the impact on NonStop as key middleware offerings become solutions in their own right. Additionally, we will consider too how NonStop will extend the cloud experience to more than just what is on offer today. But for that, I will leave you to think of the bigger question. The new normal is all about 24 x 7 global presence where all solutions have become mission critical so where will fault tolerance not be valued and why should we ever consider putting boundaries around what NonStop can achieve?   


Thursday, June 30, 2022

The show goes on; a recap of HPE Discover 2022

To say we fully enjoyed our time at this year’s HPE Discover would be to miss the point. This was the largest in-person gathering in which we have participated in the past two plus years and it proved to be well worth the wait. Many thanks to the Connect Team for making this experience real and a big thank you, too, to the team at NTI for giving Margo and me every opportunity to simply take it all in. This event was the hard launch of the latest Connect Tech Forum, Business Integration and Analysis and that for us was the highlight, but I am getting ahead of myself.

What follows here is a number of brief notes I posted in the lead up to the show and then as the days progressed and they do tell the story. Some of it offers up intrigue even as other comments praise the efforts of HPE. One thing is for certain and that is the presence NonStop has within HPE. With the swing to GreenLake as an option, I am expecting to hear more from the NonStop team about GreenLake in the coming months. So, without any further commentary, here are the summaries as they appeared on LinkedIn with only some minor editing to keep the overall length manageable.    

HPE Discover: Day Zero, Minus! 

It’s Friday and with the weekend almost on us. Given that it will be the first in-person event I am more than a bit curious as to how many members of the greater HPE community will be present for this most important to HPE big-tent marketing event.

But what to expect from HPE Discover 2022 and what might we hear from Neri? I am expecting HPE’s CEO to take a victory lap as 2022 closes his three year plan to position HPE as a global leading edge to cloud platform as a service company. This has been a message heard loud and clear these past three years but like everyone else who will be attending, how successful has this HPE transformation proved to be? How much focus will be given to GreenLake and yes, what attention will be given to what we have been calling the MCS/HPC organization. Hopefully I will also get an updated take on the organization within which NonStop lives and breathes given how there are new faces in leadership roles.

For the NonStop community there will be a little more visibility than in past years. Thanks to Connect there will be a number of vendor presentations given from their theatrette on the floor of the exhibition hall. There will also be demos of some vendor products given by members of HPE’s NonStop team about which I will be providing more information at the time. As for myself, I will be providing an update on the Tech Forum, Business Integration and Analysis that is being sponsored by NTI so anticipate a couple of PowerPoint slides on the new product packaging associated with DRNet®/Unified.

But for now, with it being Friday, it’s all about preparation and packing. So stay tuned for all that transpires at this year’s HPE Discover.

HPE Discover day one (and it’s just the beginning)

Today it’s all about registering for the event and getting our badges. As noted in the previous post, we are driving to Las Vegas. The trip from just outside of HPE’s premises in Ft Collins hasn’t been without incidents. Turning off a major interstate to take a more scenic backroad we were forced to turn back as flash flooding warnings were in place. Three days ago injured drivers had to be rescued by helicopter.

Could this have been a sign of things to come? Is HPE leaving the backroads to head back to the mainstream highways of tech? Sitting in a Starbucks about three hours outside of Las Vegas we have now been advised to be prepared for major highway construction. Again, another possible sign of what’s to follow this week at HPE Discover? Has construction begun on the next three year initiative yet to be divulged?

It all adds up to HPE Discover being a much anticipated event and I am expecting considerable changes to follow. HPE continues on its journey to a digital transformation, the support of hybrid IT and bringing the cloud experience to us all. But what’s next? What can we expect to hear? And the really big question: Where to HPE in this competitive landscape? What are the plans to ensure continued leadership in today’s world of IT?

Day one (official) – the HPE keynote

OK, so where do we start. This was the time for maximum excitement for the HPE community but somehow it was open to interruptions. Some good; some “interesting” and some raising even more questions! But then again, that’s why we show up, after all. The surprises are what we are hoping to hear. While the number of NonStop users were definitely on the low side that wasn’t surprising as the NonStop community is known to keep it’s powder dry preferring to wait for the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp.

When it came time for HPE CEO Antonio Neri to walk on stage it wasn’t to the support of a big drum roll but rather the scratchy sound of a snare drum. By this it was more a walk back of things that have happened rather than specifics about what is to happen. Yes, it was a victory walk given that under Neri, the three year plan unveiled back in 2019 has been realized. To become a global player in the world of edge to cloud, everything as a service platform provider arguably has been achieved. And no amount of center stage time was spared extoling the virtues of such an accomplishment. 

While Monday may have been the official first day for many attendees this was the main event of the event. Day one – perhaps; reality, it was all about where HPE is headed and that’s when things began to unravel. Truly, the success of the mission unveiled three years ago and yes, we have GreenLake as the centerpiece of all that is HPE today, but when it comes to the future of HPE then we were all left wanting more.

The big news is that yes, GreenLake was going to support private cloud. “Connectivity is an absolute necessity and data is the new currency,” said Neri but this isn’t news for the NonStop community. Furthermore, but then, when it comes to why GreenLake (as a response or indeed the question), Neri said that the better question would be “How do I create a consistent cloud model across all my systems?” Point taken; for the future however HPE needs to articulate a plan that is more than just GreenLake support of private clouds.

And yes, with this the only news coming from the keynote, perhaps it isn’t a time for dramatic proclamations. Declaring anything more daring just doesn’t seem to be the right thing to say. However what comes through loud and clear is that there is much ahead for NonStop to become an active participant in all that HPE is pursuing and alone, it’s just as clear that the NonStop team is going to have to fall back to further reliance on the NonStop vendor community and perhaps that is the best news of all. GreenLake may hold considerable promise for NonStop but perhaps the question left hanging is whether it is the opposite that is true. Perhaps it is more a case that HPE needs NonStop rather than the vice versa …

And so, more will be unveiled tomorrow but for now, it’s a case of fingers firmly crossed that we will hear more about the inclusion of NonStop in the next three year plans whatever they turn out to be!

Day two featuring education from walking around!

This was a big exhausting day! But first, when it comes to attendee numbers it looked to us like the crowd was about 5,000 strong but then came a more official count of around 8,000. Typical of big tent HPE events, there were mini events running in parallel and from time to time the exhibition floor swelled with the arrival of one constituency or another. Whether it was the folks participating in the executive summit or simply those from far away, it all contributed to the sensation that everyone was welcoming the return to in person events.

Having said this, the actual exhibition floor was a reminder of more work needing to be done; the distance between booths and stalls was vast. In the past it had proved difficult to move between the exhibits there were no such problems this year and the many mini theaters operating around the perimeter of the hall seemed sparsely attended.

Highlights? We caught up with Kirk Bresniker, Hewlett Packard Labs Chief Architect / HPE Fellow/VP at HPE who is always willing to share his thoughts on where HPE is headed and what priorities he is setting for his group. I would like to share more on what we talked about but you will need to reach out to Kirk to get the full skinny. And then there was that brief moment when Margo and I caught up with colleague and longtime friend, Sandeep Kapoor, who today is Vice President and General Manager, Compute and Core Modernization, APAC at HPE – there hasn’t been a trip to Singapore when we haven’t had time to chat. And of course, our NonStop leader, Jeff Kyle, was accessible to everyone looking for something fresh about NonStop.

As for presentations then the Connect Forum was a reminder of just how the community likes to hear something new and innovative and the execs from abat+ didn’t disappoint. Want to know what a minute of downtime would cost Mercedes Benz manufacturing? Producing a car every minute, including the premier S Class, then a minute lost equates to almost US$100K – let downtime extend to 15 mins or so and yes, you can do the math. Impressive! Mercedes Benz running abat+ on NonStop hasn’t experienced an outage in 20 years. Nadda! And did we already mention the collection of live dogs enjoying their time with the Connect staff?

There is more I can cover; a panel session on Lusis payments via Green Lake, a really impressive demo of the Striim product by Paul Denzinger or running into our former Tandem colleague, Jonathan Sechrist, but you will now have to wait till I post to our business blog before the end of the month. But until then there is still one more day to go!

Winding down – the last day …

Going into this event, as I noted at the beginning of this post, I had concerns about whether the road ahead would be rocky and whether HPE, out of necessity, would pivot yet again to avoid technology closures. Would it be a trip to the backroads or would the picture painted by HPE be as illuminating as it would be demonstrating continued leadership? Turns out it had something for everyone. If you like GreenLake there was plenty to digest. If you like modernization tools, utilities and more then you were catered to in the extreme. Solutions? Plenty of use cases on display.

As for catching up with Denzinger then that was an opportunity too good to miss and yes, walking back through the venue I had one more chance to say Hi! to Sechrist, and the lads from abat+ When will HPE next throw its big tent marketing event? On that final walk out of the venue, dates were being promoted so mark your calendars for June 20 – 22, 2023 and hopefully, we will see you coming back for more from HPE, the NonStop team and Connect.


Call them Chapters, RUGs or simply TUGs - they always pull a crowd

Margo and I have tried to attend as many gatherings of the NonStop community as possible. This has meant a lot of driving was involved even ...