Saturday, September 22, 2018

Heading “Down Under” one more time; SIBOS Sydney 2018 beckons to FIs worldwide!

Sydney Harbor provides a wonderful backdrop to any gathering held around its shores and in a couple of weeks’ time, SIBOS Sydney 2018 will kick-off. Will you be there? 

There is no escaping the inherent beauty that is Sydney or hiding the fact that the best way to approach Sydney’s Circular Quay is on a traditional Manly Ferry. As you make that final turn into the ferry terminal, the city opens up to provide a panoramic view that sweeps from the Opera House to the International Terminal and then, should you pivot to your right as it’s just behind you, Sydney’s famous Harbor Bridge. Or, the coat hanger, as it was referred to for much of the bridge’s life.

This photo was taken the last time I was on Sydney Harbor back in 2013 and I have to believe much has changed. Looks like there was a Princess cruise ship tied up at the terminal and much of Sydney’s popularity as a tour destination has a lot to do with the first impression made on all visitors arriving by sea. And yes, you can book a sailing excursion on a racing yacht, although I am not sure the one pictured here ever raced in any challenge for that “Auld Mug” prized in sailing above all else – the America’s Cup.

However, my return to Sydney in just a few weeks’ time is a mix of business with a little down time thrown in as and when time allows, a BizCation of sorts, if you like! Fortunately, through the generosity of family and friends, Margo and I will have a place to stay and yes, an office out of which we will be working. As we arrive in Sydney, our focus on business kicks in almost immediately as Sydney will play host to SIBOS Sydney, 2018. While I missed out on the opportunity to participate in SIBOS Toronto, 2017 – a short trip up north for us – reading that this year’s SIBOS event would be in Sydney set the wheels in motion and now I am really looking forward to this major event for the financial community.

If you aren’t familiar with SIBOS, then you need to know that is THE global financial services networking event organized each year by SWIFT. According to the brief I was provided, “The preeminent annual conference and exhibition connects more than 8,000 executives, decision makers and thought-leaders from financial institutions, market infrastructures, multinational corporations and technology partners. Sibos facilitates debate, networking and business collaboration that collectively shapes the future of payments, securities, cash management and trade.” This brief was given to me as I will be a part of a small team of journalists and bloggers covering the event and for that, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity afforded me by the great folks at BankingTech.

If you aren’t all that familiar with SIBOS, “it started out as a banking operations seminar in 1978, has grown into the premier business forum for the global financial community to debate and collaborate in the areas of payments, securities, cash management and trade.” If you have any association with Tandem computers or as they are now known, HPE NonStop Systems, then you know that the biggest part of the business is in support of Financial Institution (FIs) and that globally, $3.6+trillion credit and debit card volume each year - see below:

While this post isn’t a promotion of NonStop or of its leadership position in payments processing, for the NonStop community it’s often overlooked just how big a role NonStop plays in support of FIs globally and while there are numerous alternatives to NonStop available to FIs, it’s that history of processing transactions, 24 x 7 x forever, that continues to resonate with CIOs everywhere. It was just a few short weeks ago that the NonStop user group, OzTUG, wrapped up their annual meeting staged in both Sydney and Melbourne and perhaps the main drawcard proved to be security and blockchain.

Yes, the R3 Corda has been ported to NonStop and the NonStop underpinnings of HPE’s new Mission Critical Distributed Ledger Technology (MCDLT) as blockchain on HPE NonStop is being called, already has its first deployments in the field and early stage pilot in Australia. However, the first candidate for full rollout will likely be on the other side of the Pacific in South America where one payments solution vendor, OmniPayments, has completed a successful Proof of Concept (PoC). To hear of this from solutions vendors responding to market needs with their implementation of technologies like blockchain is very encouraging for all NonStop stakeholders.

When you look at the program for SIBOS Sydney, the sheer diversity of presentations is hard to ignore. You need to know more about open banking, AI, Cyberattacks / Cybersecurity, Blockchain and yes, even Quantum Computing, then this is going to be the place you want to find way to get there. Time is winding down but the opportunities to participate are still open for all and I am going to be looking at the future of payments processing and the inroads mobile devices are making into traditional banking. We read so much about transformation of late, whether it is transforming to Hybrid IT or simply transforming to a digital core, it’s hard to escape the message of transformation and for good reason. Put it down to the power now being wielded by the end users – whether teenagers on smartphones or even businesses run from tablets – the tail has certainly warmed to the task of shaking the dog!  
Perusing the SIBOS web site – and it provides a comprehensive look at all the topics to be covered, I was struck by the obvious, “the world’s businesses and consumers are migrating to a digital economy, banks and financial service providers are making their own transformational journeys, reappraising and reengineering their business models, service offerings and relationships with third parties.” For the NonStop community, this is already being witnessed as this process can be traced back to when NonStop elected to support the Intel x86 architecture and in so doing, responded to those FIs looking for HPE to support commodity hardware with open software and standard APIs. With NonStop X, this has pretty much been achieved and puts NonStop users at the forefront of migrations to the digital economy. Or, as HPE often reminds its users, the pursuit of the idea economy!

However, SIBOS then adds to the above, suggesting that when it comes to transformation, “This can be seen in the rapid adoption of common utilities to meet compliance needs and develop standards-based platforms – including SWIFT’s KYC Registry and global payments innovation service.” And here we go again – KYC and yes, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) – candidates for blockchain and indeed the work being done with NonStop X on the other side of the Pacific is exactly for this reason. Know Your Customer (KYC) will likely lead to even greater adoption of MCDLT, according to HPE and those NonStop vendors with pilots already planned or under way.

For those who may not be familiar with SWIFT it’s worth pointing out that it has become a “global member-owned cooperative and the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services” or, as they are keen to let us know, “provide our community with a platform for messaging, standards for communicating and we offer products and services to facilitate access and integration; identification, analysis and financial crime compliance.” As a community NonStop stakeholders are cognizant of the marketing opportunities that this represents and even when I was a product manager at Tandem Computers, the message types, formats and protocols were a major requirement that the company and its partners stepped up to support.

The resultant population of NonStop systems driving payments switches is a direct result of the early embrace of SWIFT by NonStop and its support for the exchange of standardized financial messages. It is uniquely positioned as not just the “postmaster general” for all financial transactions but as the equivalent of the airport traffic controller advising who goes where and who has authority to land or takeoff. For all product managers in the NonStop ecosystem, this will be the place to take it all in and I am now aware that there will be members of the NonStop community present apart from myself. 

Part of the reason I am returning to Sydney is to join in the celebrations – my daughter has a birthday, there is my old high school reunion and yes, like the world over, I want to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks display that Sydney put on each year. Waking up in North America, New Years’ Eve we always welcomed TV coverage from Sydney and it’s a celebration I have put off for far too long. It was never like this when I lived there! SIBOS too will be a celebration as well, as Sydney will turn on a show even without the fireworks. Although, returning to the agenda, some topics may generate fireworks among the participants – it always happens, but that is really the value that big-tent events like SIBOS provide everybody doing everything that has anything to do with payments will be there and yes, I am looking forward to meeting all of you! Safe travels and yes, even now, I hear the siren call from Sydney Harbor beckoning my return!   

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Summer heat along with summer views …

One of the big advantages that come with driving an RV is the view out front it provides – wouldn’t it be great if we had a similar view of what lay ahead for IT? 

Summer is over, or so we are being led to believe. With the Labor Day weekend now behind us and our children and grandchildren off to school, those lazy, hazy days of summer are being replaced with milder temperatures. Or, are they? Camped here as we are in Arizona, a little to the east of Scottsdale, we have had to deal with daytime temperatures hovering around 105 Fahrenheit. Our Company Command Center’s AC units were no match for such conditions, barely dropping the interior temperature to the low 90s. Back in the township of Windsor, construction teams continue to work long into the afternoon even as there is little respite from the heat and convertibles continue to be seen on our highways.

Through the years we have changed our vehicles regularly. We have always maintained two separate vehicles for business use and we have had two more, sometimes three, for personal use and fun. We continue to have a car we like to spend our weekends laying down laps on race tracks, and we have to have a 4 X 4 SUV for winter use whenever those first snowflakes descend on our lawns and yet migrating from one vehicle to the next has slowed down a little of late, tempered by a general lack of enthusiasm about where the auto industry is headed. While we own a hybrid and have enjoyed the benefits that come from passing gas stations without any need to drive in to fill up, the possibility of a future with autonomous vehicles, all shaped like shapeless pods, isn’t something we are excited about.

When it comes to why we are camped out in an Arizona desert, it’s because we were overnighting before heading to DUST – the local Arizona (Desert USers of Tandem) Regional User Group (RUG) – for a morning listening to a couple of vendor presentations. OmniPayments, ETI-Net and IR all participated and when you think about it, they represent a very good cross section of the NonStop vendor community.

From a private company to a public company, from a solutions vendor to an infrastructure and tools vendor and from software to hardware both real and virtual, the diversity that comes from just these three key members of the NonStop community highlights just how well served the NonStop user community is these days. Yes, HPE may be turning up the heat on its competitors in the all-important mission critical systems marketplace by taking NonStop to x86 and then following that by taking it virtual with support for VMware, but in so doing, HPE is opening up even more opportunities for the NonStop vendor community and right now, for the smart technology shopper, it’s all there for the taking!

When you get behind the wheel of our company command center you sit up high, behind a massive front window. From this position there is very little that escapes your attention as you see everything that’s happening around you. And this is good position to be in as changes of speed or direction take preparation as responses to inputs to the RV unfold at a much slower pace than that of a car. Working closely with NonStop oftentimes I wish there was a way to step back, elevate our view and become better prepared for what is to come.

By this, I mean, it’s all well and good to be familiar with product roadmaps – and yes, the NonStop team have been doing a good job of late to keep us all advised about what is coming down the road – but what I think many within the NonStop community would like to see is NonStop better represented in the world of HPE.

What does HPE mean by Hybrid IT? What is Synergy? What will OneSphere do for us and how will we, the NonStop community, benefit from virtualization, blockchain and clouds?  And is there anything coming from Micro Focus that we should be paying attention to – security, perhaps? I have to admit that I am still not all that sure about why HPE spun off services and helped create a new services company (DXC Technologies) only to then create Pointnext to fill the void that has been created by the spin-merge?

It’s through rose-tinted glasses of course that I look back at a simpler time when there was just hardware, software and some hand-holding consulting services, where the boundaries defining each of the three groups was easily recognized. However, in all seriousness, it is clear HPE is reshaping itself, evolving its messaging even as it gracefully sidesteps business opportunities that aren’t clearly aimed at helping HPE bring added-value to its product portfolio.

But then perhaps it’s all a reflection of just how complicated IT has become of late and of how technology companies are no longer inseparable from other business endeavors. When you read about powerhouse companies like J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) worried about the intentions of Amazon and Google “Intruding on their turf in areas from deposits to payments,” as was reported this week in an article on Chase CEO Jamie Dimon published on, it’s no wonder that the line separating technology from all else has become blurred. Every business is a technology business whether you are in container shipping, auto manufacturing, power generation or simply picking up the trash. Almost everywhere there is a business undertaking, you will come across a technology company taking a second look at it to see where they could become a serious rival to the establishment. 

Listening to Yash, OmniPayments CEO, giving an update during DUST on recent customer wins and new feature introductions, reminded me that even in the staid business of payments, change is taking place are a pretty rapid clip compared to the almost glacial like movements by Financial Institutions (FIs) in former times. And yes, IT is complicated even as IT can be confusing for many of us.

What became very clear from Yash’s presentation this week was that mobile devices were drowning out almost every other conversation at FIs as every FI looked to add features to make it even more attractive to do business using just a mobile device. “And we have done all the prereq development to ensure mobile phones are supported today by all users of OmniPayments,” said Yash.

The only other conversations making any noise within FIs, according to Yash, were blockchain and clouds and “that’s where we are now focusing more of our time!” Coming off a successful PoC of OmniPayments own blockchain implementation in support of an FI needing to implement Know Your Customer (KYC), OmniPaymnts is now confident that it will shortly have its first blockchain customer up and running in a production environment.

Perhaps it was the topic of clouds where Yash really came alive and where his recent meetings with customers and industry analysts highlighted a number of issues that most advocates rarely mention. If you are looking to embrace clouds and are expecting a reliable platform for your applications then think again. The cloud neither provides the reliability of an on-premise deployment nor does it come with guarantees about uptime. When it comes to meeting strict SLAs which so often are in force today between IT and business units then yes, forget about it! Not going to happen. Finally, looking to save money then you might be surprised to hear that clouds don’t save money – they are more expensive.

So why clouds? Well with cloud computing you can tap into a wealth of applications being developed worldwide, but for enterprise users, these offer little appeal as these applications only succeed as they appeal to mass markets that are mostly focused on individual consumers. No, for most enterprises, the transition from traditional computing to cloud computing involves renaming some of what already exists, calling it a private cloud. Wow!

Yes, that’s it … and here’s the deal for the NonStop community. Think of front-ending cloud(s) with NonStop or, as Yash fervently explained, when you build out a cloud offering for a specific marketplace, like payments, then think of having a server farm running virtualized with Linux OS images and then underpin with NonStop to ensure the level of reliability CIOs think that they should be getting with cloud offerings.

Turns out OmniPayments foray into cloud computing with OmniCloudX isn’t just one thing – not one service or one product – but a collection of technologies and products. Lots of Linux servers running virtual with NonStop holding it all together and being the home for the critical aspects of payments processing that just  have to be completed no matter what – when you audit transaction logs, you want to know every transaction was executed and completed in a manner that left no doubt as to where the money went. It’s just that simple.

“For years now we have been demonstrating no loss of transactions the traditional way, pulling CPUs and disk drives, to showcase how NonStop just keeps on running,” explained Yash to those gathered for DUST. “Now, we can do a similar exercise where resources are scattered across a cloud front-end; you want the ease with which you can provision resources for new applications or increased transaction volumes which our cloud provides and yet, you want to be sure the conventional side of payments continues without loss. We can now demonstrate this in a very real way and it’s getting the attention of those in the industry – even those jaded analysts promoting cloud for everything are aware of what really needs to be done in support of the biggest FIs on the planet.”

It was hot when we were in Mesa and even hotter by the time we made it to Scottsdale for DUST. But this isn’t the only heat that was observable during the event. We may not get the opportunity to see for miles or have a panoramic view of all of IT set before us, as is the case sitting high behind the wheel of an RV. Mobile Devices, blockchain, and clouds are the hot topics being addressed by NonStop users and while not everyone is on board today with the value NonStop can bring to conversations on any of them, it’s going to get even hotter for HPE as the message gets out among FIs. You want to save money? You want something a lot cheaper than Linux? But you want x86 and you want virtual machine support? Then think NonStop – it’s all there for the taking! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

NonStop community in its journey to virtualization values service providers!

From products, hardware and software, for the NonStop community conversations turn to solutions and staffing as services!

Looking out over this vista in Utah’s Capital Reef National Park I immediately thought of the saying “between a rock and a hard place.” Can’t imagine why this came to me, but then again, the barren landscape stretching to the horizon was certainly not a pleasant place in which to become lost – the river beds are mostly dry, with the vegetation providing little by way of shelter. No, best to take it all in from alongside the roadways that run across the ridges! If you have ever traversed Utah state highway 24 to the junction with Utah state highway 12 and then continued on to pick up US highway 89, you would see some amazing sights. And yet, as this picture captures so well, the desolation that you would face, should you leave the well-travelled highways that traverse the park, would definitely place you between a rock and a very hard place!

These past few days Margo and I have had the good fortune of enjoying the company of some very knowledgeable NonStop folks. You probably all know them very well as they have been part of the NonStop community for decades, with some of them responsible for bringing into the NonStop marketplace some very useful middleware and tools. Part of the NonStop landscape today, but back in the early days of Tandem Computers, it was just as barren a landscape as depicted here. Practically every tool needed by a NonStop systems manager had to be developed from scratch – a situation no user today embracing NonStop has to face. Almost every requirement systems managers or operations personnel have today can be satisfied with at least two, often times three or four, quality products. Needless to say, the NonStop community has continued to support new vendors arriving on the scene with a regulatory that defies the odds.

During an informal meeting with Striim cofounder, Sami Akbay, just a short time ago, talk quickly turned to commoditization and openness. “When you look at what we are working with today,” said Sami, “it’s no longer about the hardware. It’s now not even about the software, even though NonStop product managers are strongly evangelizing the benefits that come from NonStop now being strictly a software play, but rather, services. By this I mean, all the action is taking place ensuring functionality is on offer as a service whether it be Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (Paas) the expectation among enterprise users is that they can turn to providers of services for nearly every component up and down the stack that they used to have to develop from scratch!”

Is this putting traditional vendors between a rock and a hard place? “Certainly some of the biggest traditional providers of software think so,” said Sami. “Just look at how they have to cannibalize their own customer base just to stay in the game and that’s a tough act to follow if you have committed your business to growth!” Anyone following the financial reports coming from major vendors including the likes of IBM and Oracle, know what is a stake for them and the difficulty they are facing now that their competitors are Amazon, Microsoft and even Google. But this is just one part of the story about services. For most readers, when the topic of services comes up, thoughts turn to those vendors providing consulting, management and operational services.

What galvanizes NonStop users today is the many choices that they face – and the fear that some of these users are expressing to us over who is going to help them plot a course is palpable. Could HPE have come up with too many options? Has the path that HPE has elected to follow with NonStop opened the door to less than optimal choices being made by the user community? And perhaps more importantly, with the aggressive rollout program HPE is pursuing with NonStop – NonStop X and now virtualized NonStop (vNS) – how deep is the services bench capable of helping out NonStop customers moving to completely new systems, traditional and virtualized? One way to assess this is to look at what one managed services provider is already tooling up to support and to this end, I engaged in an email exchange this week with Daniel Craig, Operations Director for TCM.

“For the moment and based on what we have been responding to on an almost daily basis,” Craig began, “Most of our customers are looking to go with NonStop X systems and are sticking pretty closely to configurations that HPE is proposing. When you look at the nature of the solutions these NonStop customers have deployed, it is completely understandable that they are risk averse. There really isn’t an upside for them to be too adventurous at this stage.” This is not all that surprising, as the change to x86 wasn’t anticipated by many NonStop users. Although there had been rumors for quite some time, HPE kept a tight lid on the project to port NonStop to x86.

The subsequent development effort to support virtual machines with vNS, on the other hand, proved to be a much bigger surprise for the NonStop community – how was this going to work and how was HPE going to ensure no lessening in availability? Was it even going to run NonStop the way NonStop users were used to seeing NonStop running on traditional systems? The conservative nature of the NonStop community is now only just beginning to think about the value proposition of NonStop running on off the shelf commodity hardware and once again, access to managed services providers becomes an important consideration for those planning on adopting vNS.

“For now, we aren’t being overwhelmed with requests for vNS implementations - though it is becoming an increasing part of the dialogue we are having with the NonStop community,” said Craig. “Most of our NonStop users, with well-established solutions in place, are more than happy to upgrade to NonStop X systems – taking delivery of systems they are familiar with seems to be dominating the conversations we have been having with them. As for vNS, they recognize that they will need a lot of help as virtualization is new for all of them. They also recognize that there isn’t a wealth of services talent to be had at this time and so they have turned to us. We are already experiencing more questions than we have previously experienced with the introduction of new NonStop product families.”

On the other hand, according to Craig, maybe it isn’t the existing NonStop users that will drive major deployments of vNS. “When it comes to rolling out vNS, it very well my turn out to be the role of solutions vendors, introducing new solutions into the marketplace that drive adoption of vNS,” said Craig. “Obviously, a little more risky for NonStop vendors, but also more likely to gain traction with a very risk-averse audience. We believe that if we can build not just a system, but a solution around this that can be delivered as a simple call on/off service, that we remove the risk of the unknown.” Now that NonStop development has introduced a reference platform with NS2, some of the unknowns have been addressed but even so, questions about the degree of NonStop-ness continue to come up.

“Yes, we are always being asked about this. I think we are still some way away from there being the necessary amount of NonStop expertise out there in the market for NonStop users to tap into and therefore coming to a service provider and product expert like TCM is key,” added Craig. “Even if this is just to get over the initial ‘lack of experience’ hump and to be present should things go wrong, vNS is still a vital piece of the NonStop puzzle.” This isn’t unexpected and for the next couple of years it will be normal for enterprises to question every step along the path to running virtualized NonStop workloads in environments apart from traditional NonStop systems including NonStop X. “One thing has become clear to TCM is that this is very much an area where we plan on investing and while this is very much in its infancy, as far as products and services are concerned, our plan is to build something that can be adapted to provide an array of services to NonStop users and then see which options have the greatest uptake, and go from there!”

Hand-holding is one way to traverse a barren landscape. Having an experienced guide by your side goes a long way to minimize risks that may arise. There is no question about it, turning to a virtualized NonStop running somewhere in a server farm or even a private cloud isn’t without its downside in terms of making sure it is still every bit as NonStop as running on a  traditional NonStop system would represent. And yet, there are commitments being made among the managed services providers to be able to be that experienced guide and, with their help, maybe there is no need to worry about ever being caught between a rock and a hard place. Even so, it definitely isn’t going to hurt to know that managed services providers are aware of the situations we face and are taking the first steps to better serve the NonStop community and maybe, just maybe, the transition to a landscape that is virtual will proceed virtually as effortlessly as any NonStop migration the NonStop community has faced before!      

Monday, August 20, 2018

Anniversary – how quickly they come around!

As we celebrate ten years blogging about NonStop there is no letup in the stories we can tell as investments in NonStop continue to reveal a NonStop in tune with the times …

Who would have predicted it? Who could have guessed that after leaving corporate life Margo and I could enjoy such a fun time working with the NonStop community! I for one never imagined it, but as I return to my office following a week on the road, literally, meeting with clients, I looked at my calendar and the date jumped off the page. It’s August 20 and I am about to start my twelfth year of posting to this blog. Yes, with this post, I celebrate more than a decade of blog posts – an anniversary worthy of further commentary.

At the heart of this celebration for Margo and me is that yes, we have something to celebrate. A completely revamped and transformed NonStop product line. There have been numerous occasions where I speculated about where I would like to see NonStop go, but that was purely speculative on my part with no input from HPE or the NonStop product managers. If you want to see how this speculation developed through the years, all you need do is click on the label,
Wishes. If you would like to know more about what I covered in the first of these posts that became known simply as the Three Wishes, then you might find it interesting to read the post of February 12, 2009:

And so my first wish is to see HP BCS deliver on the slideware Martin Fink first unveiled as the “Shared Infrastructure Blades” package. This is where any mix of NonStop, HP-UX, Linux, and Windows Server OS’s will be supported.

My second wish is to see a hypervisor introduced where NonStop can be configured as a “guest OS” in much the same way z/VM is used on the IBM mainframe. The trick here is to see this introduced without marginalizing the traditional association between NonStop and the hardware with respect to being fault tolerant.

But it is my last wish where I really want to go out on a limb. If you assume Martin is successful and a shared infrastructure blades package becomes available with a native, or bare-metal, hypervisor (NonStop as a guest with no loss of its NonStop attributes), then wouldn’t it be advantageous to users if interrogation of the incoming transactions would direct mission critical transactions to NonStop, important informational but not quite mission-critical to a Unix or Linux, and voluminous inquiries to Windows?

Yes, indulge me here a little as this post generated a PowerPoint slide deck that I used at several NonStop Regional User Group (RUG) events in 2008 on through 2009, with the presentation I gave at SATUG being the most memorable as it led to an invite to HPE’s EMEA BCS Sales event in Prague where I gave an updated version over dinner, without the slides, to the EMEA NonStop sales team. Hard to imagine that yes, this was all the way back in 2008 after posting to this blog site for six months. However, this isn’t the real story, or perhaps even the biggest story. What has actually happened with NonStop is far more than just a couple of catchy sound bites and a few flashy PowerPoint slides. No, the real story here is the commitment HPE has made to NonStop. And it’s a story I tell in writing as well as in webinars!

In dollar terms – and many figures have been thrown around by lots of different folks – when it comes to just how big a financial investment HPE has made in NonStop, by my reckoning, when you add up the initial investment to do the deep port to the Intel x86 architectures, rollout multiple product options in the then new NonStop X family of systems, not to mention the work done with NonStop SQL both in terms of Oracle compatibility and benefitting us all as a potential DBaaS offering, and then yes, the multi-phased program to support virtualization including the reference model, the NS2, then you come up just a tad shy of half a billion dollars spread over almost a decade. Yes, we all knew NonStop was worth it, but clearly, level-minded heads high up in the ranks of HPE executive team also thought it was worth it!

NonStop has been completely transformed and yes, it’s data center ready even as it’s cloud ready. What is your appetite for trying something new? There is still a huge untold story about the potential value that will come from running NonStop in public clouds – and yes, AWS comes to mind as I just know you will be able to run NSaaS / DBaaS out of AWS very soon. Who will be the first NonStop user to pull this off and enjoy a savings killing as a result? I am not predicting this will come from the Financial Services installed base but when it comes to other sectors, Retail and Manufacturing, there’s plenty of upside potential. While not quite on the same level as AWS, OmniPayments is working aggressively to support its OmniPayments products as SaaS / IaaS, but that’s short term as it builds out its own cloud offering optimized for the retail and yes, banking industries. If you need or want to know more of course you can reach out to Yash directly. So yes, following many paths, NonStop is headed to the clouds and that’s an exciting prospect – if you want AL4 for you application then just click on the AL4 as a Service!

I am often asked about the stories I write and of the challenges that this must entail. But the truth is that oftentimes, I have to pull back to focus on just one story. It’s all happening for NonStop and if you aren’t sure where there is a lot happening, talk with any member of the NonStop vendor community that recently toured Taiwan and Korea with HPE as these countries held their own RUG events. It’s all new and shiny for these communities and the move to embrace standards, utilize commodity components and make the resultant product line open to almost every imaginable development environment speaks volumes about just how well the huge investment made in NonStop by HPE is playing out. Perhaps we in the Americas and in Europe will eventually catch on – NonStop as an architecture, a technology, a product and a solution continues to reinvent itself in ways to provide contributions to the business wherever it is deployed!
When I wrote that very first introductory post back on August 20, 2007, I first provided a short update on my own experiences with Tandem and then later, NonStop. But as I closed on that update, I ended with the following observations and questions that now, a decade later, are every bit as relevant as they were all those years ago:
The important thing for me is looking ahead - what's going to happen now that Tandem has found a great home within HP.

So, to get started, what did we all think about the recent HPTF&E - how many events do you go to each year? Are they meeting your needs - all of them? Some of them? I am particularly interested in the overall positioning of the NonStop server suite - and whether you value HP's commitment to this product line.

So there you have it. The community not only values the commitment to NonStop made by HP / HPE but we have seen ITUG Summits and then at the HPTF&E events that followed, together with the HPE Discover, Technology Bootcamps and Partner Symposiums that have evolved in recent times and the focus on NonStop developed through the years. Who could forget seeing the prototype NS2 sitting desktop and running virtualized NonStop just a few years ago? I know from time to time I do seek your indulgence as I push the storyline aggressively on occasion, but it’s all for a good cause, right? Will I be writing another anniversary post in 2028 – who can say, but the odds are that NonStop will be still a force to reckon with, running as it most likely will, from the edge to the core and from the sensor collectors to the clouds!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Social media – what does it mean for NonStop?

It’s all about your customer experience; NonStop community needs to step up and join the conversation!

It was only a matter of time before I started writing for an automobile magazine. This shouldn’t come as too big a surprise to the NonStop community as for many years stories about cars have been liberally interwoven into story lines featuring NonStop systems. I am now writing a column for the National Auto Sports Association (NASA) magazine, Speed News. I have a really good professional editor in Brett Becker who is really helping me out when it comes to shortening my stream of consciousness and turning it into something you would want to read.

If you belong to NASA you may want to check it out as I am now covering the High Performance Driver Events (HPDE) sessions NASA runs for those who simply want to take their own cars out onto tracks across America to have fun in a safe environment. Usually, you will find all the cars headed in the same direction which isn’t necessarily the case on America’s interstate highways.
There is a correlation between NonStop folks and those who take their cars onto road courses. I am not talking about that mutant sport drag racing nor am I talking about the theater that is NASCAR, but rather, those who race around tracks designed for today’s high-end sports cars. 

For Margo and me it all started following a conversation with former head of Mission Critical Systems R&D, Hal Massey. Hal was an accomplished semi-pro and he was a whole lot of fun to be around when track weekends arrived. So too was former lead NonStop development manager, Mike Plum – if you want to buy a real race car, Mike is now selling his Plum Crazy Camaro Mustang Challenge (CMC) race car! And then there is Simon Whitworth whom I caught up with during my time at GoldenGate who tracked a Mazda Miata. No summary would be complete without a reference to my former boss, Chris Rooke, who for years thought nothing about thrashing his lovely Porsche on California’s many tracks.

Writing a column for a motoring magazine has brought me back into conversations about the value proposition of social media. What do the many social media channels do to better communicate a message, a company and a brand? What kind of community do they foster and what level of interaction occurs among readers who turn to social media for product information and user insights? There is a lot being said these days in support of mainframes and yes, mainframe-class systems and no, apparently, you cannot run mainframe class anything on x86. This has led me to push back hard on one financial services investors blog and yes, the response has been something I expected to see happen.

If you want to know more about those exchanges I have summarized them in the upcoming Social Media Round-Up column to the August edition of NonStop Insider. Watch for it and check it out – should be published in a matter of days. But it has also led me to publish a separate post to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, and you may want to take a look at that as well:

Point is, when it comes to social media channels and the messages that bloggers and commentators provide, they absolutely demand our input and it’s not unexpected to see push back as sometimes, enthusiasm and an almost religious zeal, come across. However, all too often it’s clear that some of the religious zeal does become a bit much and is more akin to the preaching originating in a cult. And that never ends well, from all that I have read.

Two years ago, TCM Solutions CEO, Tony Craig, suggested I write the column, Social Media Round-Up, for one very good reason. Very few members of the NonStop community have the time to chase down everything that is being said on social media. Nor does the NonStop community have time to get engaged in some of the more volatile exchanges. As for me, well, by now it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as yes, this is my job! Being tasked to write the column has only further fueled my interest in watching as many social media channels as I can and to step in whenever I see misleading information being conveyed.

However, I am not alone in this matter and increasingly I am seeing other members of the NonStop community stepping in – seriously, would any of us doubt someone like Randall Becker not taking bloggers that make erroneous statements to task. Or what about the updates that come from Bill Highleyman every time there is a failure somewhere in the world – was a NonStop involved? While we would love to see a more active role being played by the NonStop product managers there are legal constraints involved and I am sympathetic to what they have to read on occasion. After all, decades ago I was a Tandem product manager and I know first-hand how hard that is to take. But then, we had Bill Heil as our manager and he didn’t stand for any misinformation being published in any media channel.

For NonStop social media is very much a two edged sword. Become too agitated and your message gets discounted. Oh, it’s only Richard yet again – he wears Tandem underwear! Or socks! Whatever! Try to be persuasive relying on facts alone and readers become bored and turn to something else to read. And try to mediate a middle ground and well, you quickly entice those who want to better educate you and sway your opinions to positions they prefer. It’s all a delicate ballet in many respects and yet, novice or professional, the NonStop community does need to do a much better job of engaging the IT community at large.

One of the byproducts of social media is that it truly has relegated the analysis by well-known research firms to a secondary role. Yes, they continue to charge a premium and if you absolutely need the inside skinny as to where a market is headed, they provide value. But try to influence them or inch your way onto charts well, it may not be worth the premium commanded by these firms. Likewise, former hard-copy publications like ComputerWorld or even Datamation (remember them?) have gone digital, of course, but who has the time to page through these publications. And other than picking up a copy left in the back pocket of an airline seat, who even sees CIO magazine these days? Give me the essence in a brief tweet! Perhaps not; there is still a need for in-depth analysis along with user perspective on selection and then deployment of middleware and solutions.

Web sites are suffering a similar fate. Great places to store your marketing collateral and to provide updates about the management team – but when it comes to engaging with the community, these sites provide little comfort. And whoever came up with chatbots – Hi! How can I help you? What are you looking for? Well, get out of my face! A bit tough, I know, but the novelty has worn off and I know the tire sizes of my cars and I know the manufacturers I trust. Can I just order a new set and pay for them? Now!

Every vendor I interact with is anxious to develop ecosystem around their products. They want to see an “enthusiastic community” develop to support their business pursuits. And it is the instant gratification that comes with interacting with social media that offer perhaps the best prospect of developing such a community. This week I wrote an email to my clients where I referenced an article published in Forbes magazine a while back that captures the real value of social media by my way of thinking. 

According to a Forbes contributor, Daniel Newman, Social Media Is No Longer A Marketing Channel, It's A Customer Experience Channel:
“The business world is finally beginning to realize what the ‘social’ in social media means—and can do—for every organization. In my Forbes 2016 marketing predictions piece, I talk about how brands will increasingly recognize that social media is no longer an isolated marketing channel used primarily to sell their product or service. What once served primarily as a platform to increase sales is now a meeting space, and has become part of the brand experience itself. If you've noticed a drop in participation or followers, now is the time to reflect on how you are using social media platforms …”

Writing for a car magazine and one focused on motor racing is part of developing the customer experience. Racers just love to see their name in print just as they like even more to read about their winning a race somewhere. More than one vendor in the NonStop vendor community also races cars and for Margo and me it’s become a fun way to determine the qualifications of an engineer. Do they fly a plane? Do they play a musical instrument? Do they race a car? More often than not it’s two out of three but you get the idea, right? As for the picture above, this was taken of me on track just outside Denver when a tornado touched down just a couple of hundred yards away – kicked off quite a storm. Isn’t it about time we kicked off a storm of our own?

The NonStop community possesses a very powerful voice and it’s one that is supported up and down the line by HPE development dollars. So, next time you see something that isn’t portraying NonStop accurately then step right in. But if this isn’t something you feel comfortable doing than by all means, let people like Randall, Bill, and yes, Margo and me know about it. You can be assured we won’t let any falsehoods thrown NonStop’s way survive unchallenged in the media!  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Returning to NonStop – how many enterprises now reconsidering NonStop?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

We don’t belong in a museum; new applications for NonStop systems!

Museums have their place, of course, and given the right circumstances can be entertaining. Fortunately for the NonStop community, HPE continues to ensure the future for NonStop remains bright!

There aren’t all that many things that surprise me these days, but the other week I was totally blown away by what I had missed out on all those years I had lived in Niwot, Colorado. Only a few streets away from our former home is the Shelby Car Museum housing priceless gems which we visited for the very first time only now! A current edition Ford GT was behind ropes having sold for $2.5Million and one of the older race cars had a valuation in excess of $40Million. The cars themselves are arranged according to historical events and there is certainly a lot of memorability surrounding all of them. I could have spent a lot more time looking at these cars as the chronicled the history of car racing from long-forgotten tracks all the way up to Sebring, Daytona and naturally enough, Le Mans.

Margo and I have been very fortunate to have seen a number of good cars parked in our garages over the years. When we had residences in both Colorado and Southern California we ended up with two cars at each residence with a fifth as the go-to all-weather option when it came to driving between the two. You might say, we had backups of our backups, but there was frequently a need for Margo and me to head in different directions and also, there was our blossoming career as gentleman racers, although we acknowledge we are using the word racers very loosely as we never competed in door-to-door competition but rather participated in untimed sessions with fellow like-minded enthusiasts. Like almost everyone we knew at the time, we enjoyed reading the book, Racing in the Rain and now that a movie is being made, we will be highly motivated to check it out once it hits the theaters.

A discussion I had with a NonStop vendor this week made me think back to the unexpected pleasure that came with finding the Shelby Museum. It also made me think back of our own vehicles and the transition that has taken place inside our garage. Yes, today we are spending more time in just one car than we ever expected doing and that is our BMW hybrid. It was yet another vendor’s executive who returned from a GTUG event held in Munich a few years ago enthused by all that he had heard about hybrid IT from HPE to where he went out and bought his own hybrid car from BMW. So much for life imitating art, one could speculate.

When it comes to NonStop there was a time when many members of the NonStop community wondered out loud whether or not their sightings of NonStop systems would only ever happen inside museums. Fortunately, life did intervene and as it so happened, it wasn’t a case so much of life imitating art as it was practicality derived from openness. And industry standards! There will come a time when every member of the NonStop community will look back at 2013 and say, I was there when NonStop broke through the last proprietary barrier as it embraced the Intel x86 architecture. In my post to this blog of November 4, 2013, of The real deal - NonStop supports x86! I included the quote by Randy Meyer, then HP VP and GM of Integrity Servers, talking about NonStop as being “a timeless architecture!” How true – five years later and NonStop X systems are gaining much wider attention across the industry. 

Anyone else noticed, too, the return of the message affirming NonStop as being fault tolerant? It only struck me during the conversation this week with the vendor already referenced earlier in this post that at HPE events around the world, signage above the NonStop X systems being demonstrated includes a reference to Fault Tolerant Compute. Check out the signage above, “Redefining Always-On Compute and Storage for Hybrid IT!” Must we say anything more?

The return to the message of Fault Tolerance, undeniably the centerpiece of all previous successful NonStop marketing campaigns decades ago, should really get us excited. And emotional! Certainly, for Product Manager Ozen Ercevik pictured above, it was evident in how enthusiastically he was greeting all those who passed by at HPE Discover. Coming at around the same time many of us reconnected with Jimmy Treybig in Dallas, after so many years, suggests the stars are realigning. And HPE is back orbiting IT with powerful NonStop systems at a time when increasingly, the complexity of imitating NonStop is resulting in more outages than ever before.

It has been more of a curiosity footnote to read how IDC ranks HPE NonStop Systems as being Availability Level 4 (AL4). A curiosity simply because few IT professionals I encounter know what this means and oh, by the way, aren’t IBM mainframes still AL4? I know I am going to light the fires under some detractors but really, IBM mainframes were never designed to be fault tolerant and at best, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Sorting out how to endear IBM mainframe’s Parallel Sysplex with true fault tolerance (and you will need a massive budget and be able to tap the few people still alive who have the expertise to create such configurations) is probably not worth the effort. But again, I digress. You want fault tolerance at the application level then read the sign. With NonStop HPE has a line of Fault Tolerant systems today and it all works out of the box! And we all do value not having to react to late night phone calls as our systems crash, don’t we? Or, much worse, waking up to see TV newscasts telling the world that our application is no longer operational!

But what is really different this time around and what is delaying NonStop systems being on display at our local technology museum?  This is where it gets really interesting. You are good at coding with Java, well then go right ahead and deploy your program on NonStop. No extra work involved and the NonStop middleware will take over and ensure your program is always available. Prefer Python or Perl? No worries; continue coding as NonStop supports this as well. Want to continue to access Oracle but don’t want to pay the bills? Well, your Oracle calls are now supported by NonStop SQL/ MX – just ask HPE IT which is doing exactly this. As with our cars sitting in garages in different cities, NonStop continues to be ahead of the curve when you need to geographically separate business critical processes; massively parallel processing properties make this a breeze and there are well-established products that drop right in that support such business needs. 

It gets even better as HPE has announced support for VMware for its virtualized NonStop product offering – think virtualized NonStop workloads running in your data centers newly developed private cloud! NonStop ready for a museum? I think not!  This is about as powerful a message about NonStop as you can read today and the good news is that by all accounts, HPE marketing is aware of the differentiation that comes with NonStop being fault tolerant and the even more compelling business case NonStop makes for running your most critical business critical applications of all!  You know; the ones that support interaction with your customers and business partners. It’s easy to argue that today, in the everything-connected, always-on, world we live in everything has become a critical process for business and is a candidate for NonStop.

Interesting side note based on recent presentations at user symposiums and HPE events, management isn’t just talking about NonStop in finance and telco but is illustrating NonStop deployments across seven different verticals – who knew? A bakery running NonStop – you’re kidding, but indeed, in Japan for instance, this is exactly what one bakery is doing today. It was an opinion paper I wrote many years ago that was published on the HPE web site and remains accessible today – just click on this link to see the complete paper
HPE NonStop Systems as you haven’t seen them before  - I wrote of some of the more surprising use cases for NonStop but after attending several events, the number of verticals and the instances within the verticals has grown significantly. Shortly, we will see early deployments of blockchain featuring NonStop and NonStop SQL and I have to believe we may see even more verticals develop where NonStop finds a home.

Hybrid IT and the engagement NonStop has with the Hybrid IT mission is truly a godsend for NonStop and the new systems announced five years ago have really helped NonStop come closer to the vision HPE has for IT. In so doing, getting close has meant there will be many more years to go before anyone considers putting NonStop on display in anything other than a data center (traditional NonStop with NonStop X) or cloud (virtualized NonStop with vNonStop and VMware). Yes, as the songwriter said, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!”

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It was worth it! NonStop covers the bases with NonStop vendors …

It hasn’t been all that long since HPE began a program for NonStop vendors but it’s working; with its third symposium, HPE delivered the goods!

Heading out the door for a long drive to California always sees Margo and me leaving with mixed emotions. Yes, we enjoy our time together out on America’s highways even as we find the freedom that comes with being liberated from airport security lines along with the hours wasted hanging around airline gates a welcome break from previous routines. On the other hand, no matter how you look at it, a trip is a disruption to our daily routines and for a writer, it means toying with story lines while hunched over a laptop on a hotel room table. However, when the drive to California includes a day or more with the NonStop team in Palo Alto then we typically focus solely on the positives – our expectations for hearing nothing but good news about NonStop.

Two years ago, HPE held their first NonStop Partner Technology Symposium. The symposium that just wrapped up was the third time such a gathering of NonStop vendors occurred and with each event, the numbers of attendees grows. It is not surprising really as vendors always want to hear the inside scoop from the NonStop team ahead of any announcements made in front of their customers; it’s only natural for them to have had time to consider their options. Two years ago, following early shipments of NonStop X systems, some vendors elected not to do further development in support of NonStop preferring to simply support their customers who stayed with Itanium-based NonStop i systems. Believing that there would be further erosion of the NonStop marketplace, their short sightedness has proved costly.

NonStop usage hasn’t stalled and in fact, with the recent addition of the NS2 to the previously announced NS3 and NS7 systems, NonStop customers have a lot of options available to them as to how best to deploy their NonStop applications and this has turned the NonStop ship around. In the past I have written about “new logos” being added to the NonStop community and what this means for everyone, but it’s clear to Margo and me now that the more you look at NonStop usage the more surprised you will be to see how widespread the presence of the NonStop systems is across many more marketplaces than finance and telco.

For our time in Silicon Valley, we took advantage of the generosity of Margo’s niece who has a place on Half Moon Bay in a development that is part of the nearby Ritz Carlton hotel. Each night we went to the hotel to eat, to watch the sun go down and to listen to the sole Scottish bagpipe player piping in the evening. Normally surrounded in fog, the weather proved to be perfect and it only added to overall upbeat mood we were in as we talked with HPE and with the vendors who made it to the event. No fog here either – the plans for NonStop were clear. While each vendor signed a CDA that HPE reinforced with vigor at the start of the symposium, meaning that the specifics of what was covered cannot be talked about for a year, there are some general observations that I can make. Not the least being how thankful the NonStop vendor community is that HPE puts on such an event at all. A stark contrast to former times and yet one more reason why NonStop development’s approach to supporting partners differs so much from other HPE product lines and the relationship they have with their partners. 

A lot of ground was covered and when you think of hardware and how there continues to be support for traditional NonStop systems as well as virtualized NonStop and then you consider the growing diversity of the software, including the big bets made in support of SQL/MX and the push to have NonStop be the premier platform supporting Blockchain, there were many bases to cover. And yes, covering all the bases was what transpired – so much so that I have a half full notebook of material I can now only allude to but it will help me in all my dealings with those of my clients who were also present at the symposium. Perhaps most important of all, we met the new management line up who will be leading NonStop for the next couple of years – the new VP and GM of Mission Critical Systems, Jeff Kyle, and the new head of NonStop development in Palo Alto, Teresa Sorg.

Unfortunately, Margo and I will not be able to make the NonStop technical Boot Camp later this year where announcements of a more public nature will be made but let’s just say right now – every member of the NonStop community should be making plans to head to Burlingame for this big event in November. You will hear so much more about NonStop – its usage and its capabilities – than probably you have heard at previous Boot Camps. So much so that you should be already encouraging your management to join you at this event! This will most definitely prove to be material to any plans you have for NonStop deployment in the future. For some time now I have been quoting Randy Meyer, newly elevated to the position of VP and GM Compute Solutions, HPE (the value business of HPE versus its volume business), that “time and data are the new currency.” But what does this mean?

Listening to the presentations as the day’s program unfolded, it became clear to Margo and me that this was a good way to think about how HPE is positioning NonStop. When you view time and data as axis then you can see how the new Superdome Flex can be plotted somewhere way out there on the data axis. Yes, it’s all about scale up! On the other hand, the NonStop X can be plotted on the time axis such that where response times are more critical to the mission of the business, then that’s where NonStop X lives. And it’s all about scale out! In other words, until we see data living on new age systems that match the “timely performance” of OLTP systems like NonStop, we will see HPE building two distinct product lines. Yes, NonStop is the “money product” when it comes to OLTP. In an age where it’s all about the Edge and the Cloud, NonStop increasingly will see its role shift closer to the edge as that’s where data first hits the enterprise and that’s where customers require attention immediately!

There are probably more elegant if not more scientific ways to describe these two paths – in former times we talked about OLTP versus OLAP and operational data stores versus data warehouses but today, with the Edge and the Cloud, its more about amorphous data lakes versus highly structured data bases. And for Margo and me, we understand HPE get this and is addressing the business needs aggressively. General purpose computer systems may still have a role to play but increasingly, it’s about specialization and when it comes to processing transactions, reliably and in volume, NonStop has no peer – IDC recently reasserting how NonStop remains the only out-of-the-box AL4 “fault tolerant” system in the marketplace capable of meeting the demands of today’s enterprises.

One final observation from the symposium: For critics of the former HP who complained bitterly about how slow HP was to respond to partners and indeed the industry, the new HPE has a completely flattened organization. Randy is now only one manager removed from HPE CEO, Antonio Neri. The owner of Compute Solutions that includes NonStop means he has a dozen possible more direct reports and as challenging as this may look on paper it reflects the real world. A NonStop developer is only a few steps away from the CEO and increasingly, when Neri wants to know something, his coffee-table talks (so I have to imagine) include those closest to the technology – a circumstance rarely seen in former times at HP. As further evidence of this flattening of the organization and a desire to know more of NonStop and the role it plays in business, Bill Dunmire, Group Manager, Mission Critical Solutions Marketing, HPE, who is a new contact for all of us. Welcome Bill to the world of NonStop and to the ecosystem of NonStop centric vendors all pulling hard for an even more successful NonStop in the future. 

I haven’t touched on anything that was covered in the symposium but I will highlight how the requirements NonStop development is prioritizing happen to be coming from HPE IT – yes, a real “user” in every sense of the word and a user we have been following for many years now. They continue to invest in NonStop even as they continue to push the boundaries of compatibility with their former platforms. Active development projects, a flatter organization and a role for NonStop from the Edge to the Cloud – what more could we expect from HPE? All in, it was well worth the drive from Windsor to Palo Alto and well worth the time spent listening to those parties directly involved in bringing new products and solutions to market. Well done, Karen, the product management team and yes, HPE. It may have been just a day but for the remainder of the year, with as many bases covered as there now are, as a community, NonStop vendors and users alike will have lots to talk about! Now for the drive home with more posts to follow …

Sunday, June 24, 2018

HPE Discover delivers; it’s now all about execution!

This year’s HPE Discover included something missing from previous years events – execution. We know the vision and we know the strategy so HPE covered all that they were delivering and there were a number of surprises install for attendees …

It was a dawn departure from Windsor, Colorado, and as we loaded our bags into our car it was very much a case of opting for the backup. As any Tandem supporter knows all too well, things can go wrong and executing a takeover while you can is an optimal path to ensuring continuing operation. Our go-to hybrid car was scratched during the most recent trip to Dallas for the N2TUG Regional User Group (RUG) meeting and even though the damage was minor, not having a functioning gas refill receptacle meant the backup saw duty. Not everyone may be so fortunate as to have a backup car but this is the USA and it’s off to Las Vegas, so it should be expected!

This year’s HPE Discover saw Margo and me as guests of HPE, with me being part of the independent blogging / influencer community. A small cadre of folks who even now have formed working relationships so much so that after several years while we don’t fully anticipate what each of us may say next, it’s getting awfully close. HPE does a great job of gathering bloggers from specific areas of technology including storage, wireless and solutions like manufacturing with me doing double duty representing mission critical systems and finance / retail. It’s always a full program that oftentimes extends well into the night but the group certainly had the team of Becca and Laura to thank for ensuring the plan was followed and the group was able to hear directly from HPE’s senior managers and thought leaders.

Being welcomed with the biggest selection of candy with a couple of drinks thrown in for good measure I have ever been given was hilarious but I was thankful and it certainly looked good sitting in the room.  Just one more instance of HPE going the extra yard for us to ensure we would be caffeinated and on sugar highs late into the night, happily tweeting about all that we saw. And yes, we saw a lot and that was probably the biggest take away for me from this year’s event. In the past we had been subject to messaging with focus on visions and strategies and our expectations over what will transpire in the future grabbing much of the limelight.

Not this year, however. It was all about execution. With so much talk about simplifying the transformation to hybrid IT in the past, it was good to hear of solutions being demoed that all made a real contribution to the simplification program. There were references to some familiar products along with more than a few I didn’t recognize: Synergy, OneView, SimpliVity, OneSphere, Infosight, Greenlake, and much more (about which we will be hearing even more in the coming year) dominated the proceedings as did the tangible presence of The Machine in a very meaningful way!

When it was first unveiled as a project being undertaken within HPE Labs, The Machine seemed fanciful at best and borderline outrageous and indeed confusing at worse, even as the industry were quick to pick up on possible absurdities it represented. But no more! Memory Drive Computing as supported by the new memory-centric paradigm for system construction is becoming mandatory in today’s data driven world. The market has definitely come to HPE and what they HPE has done with Superdome Flex and its support for massive amounts of addressable memory (and with no need to shuffle data in and out of hierarchies) is impressive to say the least. Processors are now simply elements you plug directly into memory and HPE now has an array of elements in the pipeline – possible even something labelled QANTUM that has raised more than a few eyebrows!

As for the picture above, would you love to have been able to overhear that conversation as HPE Senior Fellow Ray Beausoliel, leading the team researching “beyond transistors” and yes, even “beyond qubits” who has been working with Quantum Computing, is talking things over with Kirk Bresnicker, another HPE Fellow who is the VP and HPE Labs Chief Architect. I never did get to understand the sizable display of Lego bricks but it had something to do with demonstrating optics I came to understand although there were many independent bloggers simply counting up how many individual Lego products had gone into building the display.

The presentation by Beausoliel was among the most intriguing of all sessions as it took the form of an interview with fellow independent blogger (specializing in virtualization), Alistair Cooke, being the moderator. The presentation, Do we have to wait for  Quantum Computers was held just for the press, bloggers and analysts and covered a lot of territory before concluding that as Quantum Computing influenced new ways to process information it wouldn’t be used on current applications but rather, it “would teach us something we didn’t already know,” said Beausoleil.

In other words, apart from “quantum computers being really good at modelling other quantum systems,” and if we want to know more about what’s next after silicon should we want to extend Moore’s Law, then “quantum is good for figuring out what’s next; consider a petabyte being stored on 10 qubits!” When it comes to the current state of quantum, it is now known that roughly speaking you need to build 1,000 qubits in order to have just one reliable qubit so we are far from seeing any potential light at the end of this tunnel. And yet – the discussions continue and seeing Bresnicker and Beausoleil deep in thought I find intriguing. 

However, this was definitely HPE CEO Antoni Neri’s conference. When he walked onto the stage for his keynote address the first thing he did was to turn to the front row where his family was seated to introduce them to the packed house of attendees present. A human touch that has been missing in the past and a reminder to all present that HPE now has a different style of CEO than has been in evidence in previous years. And yes, a very much appreciated welcome change according to everyone I talked to following the conclusion of the keynote. As for what Neri emphasized throughout his presentation, it came down to just four key points – the new frontier of the intelligent edge; clouds – your data will live everywhere and so will your clouds; data will force greater consideration of memory driven computing and finally, delivering economic value from your data.

Notice all the references to data? And the focus on data has led HPE to focus more intently on software – “we are building a software defined platform and today, HPE has the most complete software-defined product portfolio.” There is still the challenge with manageability but already HPE is making the right moves both organically and with acquisitions. The references to OneSphere, Insight and even Greenlake are all part of addressing how best to make it easier and more manageable when transforming to hybrid IT. However, having said that hybrid IT is just a step towards a world made up of edge – cloud – core, a reference to how the pieces are beginning to fit together. As for the edge, Neri was quick to explain that the edge is “anywhere technology is put into action!”

We have heard on numerous occasions how time and data are the new currency so when it comes to NonStop, where does it fit into execution under way at HPE? The Machine and its influence on Superdome Flex may be one path for HPE but it’s the data driving that solution. When it comes to time – and by time the inference here is real-time – then Superdome Flex isn’t a candidate. No, we still will see investments continue in “racks of racks and racks of blades,” as Randy Meyer, HPE VP & GM, Mission Critical Systems, made it very clear to one of the audiences. Think of the potential role of Synergy, for instance, as it’s only a matter of time before a customer asks HPE for Synergy support of NonStop and that’s a distinct possibility given all that I saw at HPE Discover.

And what about the latest initiative supported by NonStop – blockchain? There were demos too of blockchain on NonStop as part of NonStop support of financial institutions. Clearly there will be blockchain on other platforms and already HPE was displaying manufacturing processes using a different blockchain to the R3 Corda (and a blockchain optimized for supply chain) implemented on EdgeLine products, but the role of NonStop in racks of racks and racks of blades with the potential support from Synergy and all supporting meaningful applications like Know Your Customer (KYC) certainly provides argument enough that HPE is behind NonStop and in a very big way!   

The nights proved to be long but then again, no attendee anticipates that HPE Discover will be a sprint and all are well prepared for the marathon that follows. With only one exception, I spent the whole time on the exhibition floor and was very appreciative of the many theatrette set up for targeted presentations as it kept the distance between a good presentation and the blogging lounge to a time manageable exercise. More importantly, HPE Discover continues with being the premier communications vehicle for the whole of HPE where in a few short days you can hear and see the progress being made to better support enterprises everywhere. The NonStop Technical Boot Camp will continue to be the place to hear and see the latest news on NonStop, but for the big picture, there will always be HPE Discover and when this event rolls around again in 2019, it will be the place to be and I will be there!