Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The new abnormal – if the shoe fits, right?

Call it the new normal, the not normal or even the new abnormal, our world as we knew it when we celebrated the new year is long gone; on the other hand, for IT and NonStop things are becoming clearer, with a meaning …

One of the more enjoyable aspects of spending my days writing is that it is a legitimate excuse to leave the family and go hole up in my office. In so doing, I can switch off and put the rigors of daily life behind me. I can escape into a world of my own making, right? Well, not exactly! More like only after I have helped clean up after breakfast, assisted in making our bed and even taking out the trash.

Yet, it goes without saying, the escape is real even as the opportunity to lose myself in my work overrides all else. For the record – my wife’s view on all this is totally different to mine – Margo claims I use my writing as an excuse to retreat to my office leaving the breakfast mess for her to clean up. Statistically she is probably right, but those 4 times this year when I cleaned up after breakfast just stuck with me!

It was while I was looking at stories for ideas about possible themes for new stories that I came across an article that stated unequivocally that we were in transition to the new abnormal. This was the title of a vinyl LP released by the American group, The Strokes. Unfamiliar as I am with the group this led me to look at the lyrics of the songs hoping that indeed there was a title track of the same name. But no, while their lyrics wondered all over the place, this short but sweet title was the only reference to the new abnormal.

It was only a short time ago that I posted to Margo and my social blog, Buckle-Up, a post with the heading, The new normal; are you ready? But the thought that perhaps it isn’t the new normal that we are anticipating but rather, the new abnormal! Of course while carrying out my chores before heading to the office I also had to dress for the office – something I am sure you are pleased to read – and while pulling on my Clarke loafers, I realized that no matter how disciplined we happen to be and despite the routines we follow by rote, there is nothing normal whatsoever about where our journey is taking us. The global pandemic, apparently in retreat according to pundits and politicians, will not see a return to anything remotely associated with normalcy but rather to the beginning of a new era.

This isn’t something to be said in jest or taken lightly. No, if you haven’t read about this as yet then take it from me that you are reading about it here first; the past is in the past and to some extent, it was best left to Nelson Mandela when he said, “Forget the past.” On the other hand, it was a more forceful statement by former Chicago Bears football coach, Mike Ditka (and probably spoken following an embarrassing loss on the field) to say it in a style only his fans could appreciate, “I don’t believe in living in the past. Living in the past is for cowards. If you live in the past, you die in the past.”
Then there are these lyrics by the Moody Blues many of us will recall:

Do you understand
That all over this land
There's a feeling
In minds far and near
Things are becoming clear
With a meaning
For the NonStop community after so many decades of relevance and for so long the premier fault tolerant offering at the very heart of some of the biggest names on the Fortune 500, things are becoming clear; with a meaning. Have you found time to read the post of May 14, 2020 How easy it is to NonStop! ? In the closing comments of this post you will read of how business continuity in these times is of paramount importance. Having proven business continuity plans in reach at all times is a necessity. Deploying NonStop simplifies it further.

The connection? The significance? It’s all about continuity in times where it’s not just about business or indeed product but about all that we view as being important to us. Clearly, in talking to many within the NonStop community we had few plans in place to better support live continuity but then again, we didn’t have a feeling that we would be facing a global pandemic. Then again, Margo and I happily stepped about the Emerald Princess for a cruise deep into the south Pacific in February with only a passing concern about this new flu strain that seemed to be affecting some folks.

NonStop has carved its niche in the marketplace by accommodating what’s thrown at us. Availability isn’t just an attribute it’s an attitude. NonStop doesn’t stop is not a catch phrase; it’s what NonStop does. And yes, there is a marketplace for permanent availability – something the NonStop community was reluctant to embrace for so long and yet, there are other vendors now stepping up to say exactly this when all along, permanent availability has been the hallmark of NonStop for decades.

Anchoring a business continuity plan on NonStop systems separated and isolated to better ensure permanent availability goes beyond simply accommodating planned and unplanned downtime to include disasters natural or otherwise, is a necessity of business today. For the price tag, nothing comes as close to the savings that can be achieved in running mission critical applications on NonStop. 

Perhaps this hasn’t yet occurred to IT management.
In minds far and near it is recognized that the complexity of IT today has only led to fragile infrastructure and greater risk being born by IT Managers. If you are into Big Data, Analytics and access to clever routines and code stubs then by all means, lean-in on cloud opportunities. However, as has happened many times in the past, when there is strong advocacy for one solution or technology to become the be-all and end-all then be very wary about the level of your commitment to such a solution or technology.   

Let’s be very clear, cloud computing has its place but when it comes to supporting mission critical applications, no level of permanency can be assured. Every cloud computing service provider ensures they have language in their SLAs that protect them on every occasion (there’s a glitch). Like many in the industry, when I am being told that everything will go to the cloud my antenna goes up – I have heard this too often in the past to simply assume that such a proclamation is absolute. The silver lining that comes with clouds is that it has triggered conversations about whether we have the optimal solution deployed in support of our business.

NonStop has a true sleeper in its arsenal and it’s not virtualization or the NonStop X NS2, but rather the NonStop X NS3. Viewed by some as suitable for development and test or perhaps participation in a distributed environment and a system best suited to emerging markets the NS3 has the same Xeon x86 based ProLiant servers underpinning the system as are found in the more powerful NonStop X NS7 systems. Lacking the expansiveness of the NS7 and limited to just four CPUs with only an option for one or two cores, nevertheless licensed with the NonStop OS stack and NonStop SQL/MX, it represents a potent offering that shades many similar Linux systems particularly when Linux is equipped with legacy database offerings like Oracle.

It may be overlooked when developing migration plans, but other than those NonStop users with multiple sixteen CPU systems where the NS7 is the logical next step, many businesses will find that their IT expenses are significantly reduced in going to the NS3. Even more importantly, when you run the numbers the NS3 truly does destroy the myth that any Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) system is more expensive when compared to SMP-based systems. It’s simply not true. The new abnormal may in fact be referencing the true cost of availability with NS3 – arguments that cannot and should not be ignored.

The new normal or the not normal or even the new abnormal will take some getting used to, but change is happening and there’s little evidence that there will be any returning to a working and social lifestyle previously enjoyed. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t happen to think so. Any change that has us rethinking processes is a good thing. The manner in which we have been brought to this point is tragic and cannot be understated with the loss of life staggering. However, in the coming weeks as restrictions begin to lift, let’s not forget that what was once normal is in the past. After all, Things are becoming clear; with a meaning … and the new abnormal will soon by our own normal.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

How easy it is to NonStop!

From video clips to social media posts to publication editorials, NonStop is gaining traction whenever availability is no longer an option. But the question remains, can you afford not to NonStop?                                                                     

We are now deep into spring and for us, living in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is in sight. For us Americans, Memorial Day isn’t all that far away and with this remembrance of times past, we begin a period of backyard BBQs and days at the beach. Yes, it’s nice to step outside to enjoy a timely glass of wine. Well, sort of; no one is prepared just yet to get too far ahead of themselves as we continue to be influenced by what is driving all of our plans – the global pandemic we know as COVID-19.

This past week has been a time where Margo and I have been focused on publishing the May issue of NonStop Insider. Have you read it yet? Have you checked out Margo’s editorial? Just as importantly, have you become a NonStop Insider subscriber? What we have come to enjoy reading are numerous opinion columns that are submitted as they provide different perspectives on NonStop the product and NonStop the community. It has been our goal to limit the editing to a bare minimum so that readers can enjoy the story lines “as they are written!”

It shouldn’t be a surprise for any reader of this latest issue of NonStop Insider to know that the focus of many of the articles is on business continuity and in particular, on the need for business continuity plans. NonStop systems offer levels of availability unmatched by any other vendor, but even so, this doesn’t negate the need to be prepared for outages manmade or natural. In these most trying of times, nothing can be taken for granted, but fortunately the NonStop community is well-served with many good products addressing business continuity available from NonStop vendors.

It is all too easy to imagine our current predicament lasting longer than authorities predict. Any forecast being given by any institution can be taken with a grain of salt as the unknowns do outnumber what we understand today. Given how so many of us are working from home (and doing a really good job as best as I can tell), we are all watching to see how our employers react when time is finally called off on self-isolation and we can begin to assemble, in numbers, in offices and cubes left idle for so long.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to read of how even now there are major enterprises that are still taking outages at this critical time. To be honest, aren’t you surprised that there isn’t more attention being directed at those businesses that have failed us – how long did it take you to get through to your bank, your travel agent, your government agency? And when we did get through, all we were told was that “our systems are slow” or indeed, nonfunctioning? In many ways, it is a source of frustration to the NonStop community that enterprises have an option not to suffer outages and yet for one reason or another fail to consider the opportunity to run 24 x 7 with an off-the-shelf product.

In a May 8 video
HPE Cancels Coveted Customer Award, HPE NonStop Sales Specialist, Steve Kubick, suggests that perhaps it’s down to our own enterprise’s architects not realizing how easy and how inexpensive it is to deploy NonStop. Existing NonStop customers do not tolerate outages and yet, it still hasn’t dawned on these enterprise architects that they too need not suffer from downtime planned, or unplanned. Kubick makes it very clear when he advocates for NonStop advising these same enterprise architects of “how easy it is for you to NonStop!”

The antithesis is often overlooked by these same enterprise architects: How difficult and in fact expensive it is not to NonStop. Rather than going into the benefits of NonStop it’s better to paint a picture of availability using very broad strokes. And in doing so, let’s line up NonStop against Linux where Intel x86 architecture is exploited. When it comes to hardware today’s NonStop is built atop HPE ProLiant servers linked via a Mellanox (soon to be Nvidia) InifiniBand (IB) switch. But there’s no big price difference here as you can build a similar configuration using anyone’s x86 servers linked via a similar fabric based on IB.

Then again, continuing with the broad strokes, NonStop can run virtualized so any enterprise already deploying x86 servers where VMware is deployed, the fabric required for virtualized NonStop is simply Converged Ethernet where the interface is via RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). Again, no substantial price differences here and we have an option to run mission critical applications within our server farm that leverages the benefits of a fault tolerant virtualized NonStop (alright, I can live with some enterprise architects naming this their private cloud as yes, painting with broad strokes continues).

As for software here the Linux advocates begin to lose ground. On paper, there is so much open source on offer that surely, we can build out our platform free but here the first missteps can be identified. The enterprise wants full vendor support for any open source brought into the data center preferring to go with RedHat, for instance. Ouch, now you have the “configuration twostep” to master (and maintain). As you build out your stack with messaging and transaction support then add a database and move on to sort out replication and monitoring these separate products bring with them considerable feature overlap that requires a level of expertise (indeed experience) to sort out. Which product is responsible for logging, for instance; and the logging of what exactly?

By comparison, out of the box NonStop comes with a completely integrated stack with no feature overlap as NonStop developers talk to each other. Surprise? What this leads to is that the costs to get to a usable level of availability without considerable fragility through complexity is now in the same ballpark that you will experience with NonStop. So, where is that cost for NonStop enterprise architects seem so ready to promote? A decade or more ago, there was a price premium to be paid for fault tolerance, but no more.

One last item to consider as these broad strokes continue to be made on an almost complete canvas: the costs associated with staff, be they developers, systems managers or operations personnel. In case you missed the memo, most popular DevOps tools, utilities and libraries are supported with NonStop. Did you check out the earlier post to the HPE Community blog Modernizing the development world of NonStop applications where the topic of DevOps is covered? NonStop SQL is now so compatible with Oracle you don’t have to worry your DBAs about something unfamiliar. As for operations everything is done online – a NonStop system never has to stop; no need to plan for downtime whatsoever.

Where the scales swing back to favor NonStop however is the drop in staff required to manage NonStop versus Linux. DBAs can be reduced to a part time responsibility and operations? Well, so much is automated today that this too becomes almost a casual assignment. Too broad a stroke? Not really as all you need to do is check in with any large enterprise running NonStop and no matter the industry, there are plenty to choose from who have elected to run NonStop.

Business continuity in these times is of paramount importance. Having proven business continuity plans in reach at all times is a necessity. Deploying NonStop simplifies it further. These days, perhaps it’s even harder than ever before to ignore HPE NonStop as you will find today that it has become so much easier to NonStop. So, all that remains is to ask you; what stops you?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Scaling out: NonStop, the “secret ingredient” within HPE product portfolio

An uptick in blog posts and even video clips helps ensure the story of NonStop continues to resonate with IT professionals even in times severely impacted by global events.

There has been a constant reminder in our neighborhood that we each are looking at the world differently. The global pandemic has forced us all into thinking about how big our social network should be – do we have enough friends? Do we need to reach out to even more colleagues and acquaintances? Is there a minimum set that ensures our happiness? A maximum? Can our emotions scale accordingly, such that our friendship is all embracing without breaking down into an inner circle and a perimeter?

This weekend we saw an impromptu performance taking place on a neighbor’s driveway that attracted a number of passersby. A simple guitar was all that was involved and yet those listening to his performance considered it good enough to stop whatever else they were doing. Our next door neighbors arranged a number of deck chairs on their backyard lawn, the better to maintain social distancing, for an opportunity to roast s’mores.

With very few breaks we have watched golfers walk by, isolated as they are in individual golf carts, all the while practicing social distancing as they take turns to sink those final putts.  Colorado weather changes in the blink of an eye; it was only a week or so ago that the course was covered in snow.

The world, however, isn’t the same as it was as we still have cars sitting in the garage on battery tenders as we wonder when next we can plan on driving to a NonStop Regional User Group (RUG) event. The latest update on planned events for 2020 that we received from Kathy Wood was depressing as we scrolled down through the list of cancelled and postponed meetings.

What hasn’t changed in these times, however, is the need for our infrastructure to remain reliable. It would seem that with each government initiative that is announced, the supporting infrastructure runs into problems. In Australia and the US, program beneficial to the community seem to have run fowl to the collective inabilities of applications to scale up to handle the rush of responses each program created. Higher education bodies have struggled to support student populations working from home.

All the while financial institutions we have put our faith in have likewise struggled to provide the reliability we expect at a time when accessing the dwindling amount of cash we might have becomes a priority. In her May 1 post to the HPE Community blog, Unplanned downtime and outages can happen. But not with HPE NonStop Karen Copeland, Manager, Worldwide HPE NonStop Product Management, references recent outages at well-known fintech, Robinhood.

Popular investing app Robinhood went down in early March,” said Copeland. “According to CNBC, the commission-free trading platform experienced a massive outage on March 2 that resulted in clients unable to access the market during a huge rally. The service faced downtime again on March 9 before managing to restore its systems. CNBC noted the firm blamed the outage on an ‘unprecedented load’ on its infrastructure caused by volatile market conditions, record trading volume, and a piling in of new users.”

Copeland also referenced another source, Cointelegraph, and quoted Pankaj Balaji, Delta Exchange CEO, who said, “The technology needs to be built in a fashion that it is able to distribute the load and handle such spikes. These frequent outages expose the fact that there are issues with Robinhood's technology and its ability to handle volume spikes in such high volatility environment.” For the NonStop community, the collective sucking noise as we gasp at such statements should be heard worldwide. Surely not – unable, you say, “to distribute the load and handle such spikes?”

If you have trouble accessing this post via the hyperlink above you can cut and paste this url into your browser –

Availability has always been the strong point favoring selection and ultimate deployment of NonStop systems. As a very modern interpretation of a fault tolerant architecture that has proved reliable for decades, it still surprises many that so little is discussed about the suitability of NonStop to support applications in a way that no single point of failure will bring them to a halt.

While other vendors promote the level of redundancy built into their systems, and of how such redundancy extends to duplicate power sources being supported, fault tolerance is so much more. What HPE has with NonStop is an integrated system from the metal to the operating system to the middleware stack – it’s all integrated in a manner that application failings don’t bring the system down.

How often do we have to remind ourselves that it is take-over and not so much fail-over? NonStop simply steps in and intervenes whenever situations arise that NonStop deems likely to end in a failure of one type or another. However, availability is only one part of the story. As a massively parallel processor with a shared-nothing architecture with NonStop, scalability no longer is an issue.   

In an upcoming article to be published in the May, 2020, issue of NonStop Insider, HPE NonStop Sales Specialist, Steve Kubick, promotes his most recent video posted to LinkedIn on Integrity and Inheritance. “When it comes to availability we measure it as being five nines (of availability) – three seconds of downtime a year. When it comes to maintenance or planned downtime, NonStop does that on the fly – all those things you need to do to maintain a system (can be) done online,” says Kubick. 

Just as importantly, Kubick continues with the observation that, “Without an outage: NonStop delivers AL4 uptime. And it does this while still providing a level of scalability that delivers 98% of each added processor resource (up to 4080 processors) – all in a single system image. So imagine what you could do with NonStop.” When others are struggling to scale-out to handle the unexpected volumes that come with business spikes, as we are seeing happen more often of late, NonStop takes such spikes in its stride.

For those relatively new to NonStop, you may have not realized that in the stock market crash of 1987, Black Monday, when the market dropped 20% in a single day, processing of orders were being performed on a NonStop system. Through planning, the exchange had additional processors on hand and then-Tandem engineers were able to add these processors online and without any necessity for an outage of any kind. The exchange didn’t stop trading that day because of a lack of scale but rather, its famous stock ticker couldn’t keep up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Isolation and an opportunity to hit the pause button …

The biggest question we all have is whether business returns to normal. The global pandemic has seen change and with change a rethink in the way we work. So, what's next?

The view through the window can be distracting …

Are you happy to be working from home? Are you enjoying social distancing and the opportunity to work flexible hours? Realizing that it’s not all that bad to be in an environment where you can simply get up, wander between rooms and look out the window at neighbors all while casually attired? It’s a new world and even as we read more stories about whether or not we will see a return to practices of the past we wonder whether this will be the new norm for most of us.

The global pandemic isn’t something abstract. It’s not a story line to be read in a far-off newspaper. It’s not even a movie or television program. It’s real and because of the imminent danger to all of us, fortress home has become not just our hiding place but our new center of the universe. Boxes arrive at our doorstep almost daily even as our expertise in navigating e-commerce sites has improved. We change our passwords regularly even as we make sure our presence on social media isn’t ignored.

As for our IT industry, where we work has always been the subject of discussion among company founders, investors and HR managers. After all, take out the expense of an office and you have a lot more available cash for investing in what you really want to pursue – new products. And yet, what about our culture? What about our sense of belonging? What too of our desire to network even as we look for a possible change of career? Are we truly happy to be working from home?

I am writing this post not to be viewed as being knowledgeable in all things related to working from home. I am writing this post to encourage all those who are looking at what might come next. Not everyone has a passion for coding just as not everyone has a passion for writing. For almost all of our professional lives, there never has been an opportunity to hit the pause button and yet, here we are, looking into the screen and wondering is there something new to be explored?

As summer comes to an end it will see me completing 13 years of posting to this blog. At the request of the then ITUG board, I transitioned from writing a column for a traditional magazine to where I would be posting to a blog of the same name – Real Time View. You may have noted that the URL is itug-connection and this is a further reminder that it all started with ITUG and its then Connection magazine. However, that was a simple toe-in-the-water test that set the stage for what followed.

In an update for a client and as an exercise for my own education, I tallied up some 2,000 posts, articles and features. Most of them for digital publications but occasionally for traditional publications as well. These have appeared under my own name even as there have been numerous occasions where I have ghost written for others. There have been pictures, graphs and charts included in the posts as have PowerPoint slides all done to help develop the story line of the day.

I started this endeavor with the support of my colleagues at GoldenGate who were initially more than amused to see me putting it all out there for everyone to read. Amusing that is in the sense that well, having to come up with a story line every couple of days meant I had to draw on recent experiences and that led to some offbeat topics. But eventually, it came together and now, with three or four posts a month, there is an audience ready and willing to read each post.

GoldenGate may have been at the start of this endeavor but shortly after starting to blog GoldenGate was bought by Oracle that saw me at home, in an alcove, staring at my home office computer. It was a simple laptop with a keyboard and a screen. Even so, I felt obliged to keep on posting and as I did so, my changed circumstances let me explore new career opportunities I had never previously contemplated pursuing. Call it a transition to being an independent blogger who was joining the “gig economy.”

It was early fall, 2009, and a plan formed that I fine-tuned for the remainder of 2009. It involved finding sponsors to pay for my attendance at RUG events and to get support for speaking engagements. This came about and it led to my participation at the Darmstadt, Germany, GTUG event. Participation saw my plans put into action and, to this day, I consider that event as the start to my new rather different career. As I look back at what transpired it was still touch and go as to whether I could deliver value.

At the time I was working out of my wife, Margo, and my part-time Simi Valley, CA, condo but a short time later, we moved back to our permanent home in Niwot, CO. The office was more substantial, with a lot more space to wander around plus the view out the windows was so much better. Inspiration for more stories? I like to think so, but I also have to admit they were often times as much a distraction as they were inspirational. But then again, we call it a home office for a reason and it was nice to be home.

The most important aspect of working out of a home office is developing a routine. There are obvious distractions, naturally enough, and no matter where we reside, there will always be the unexpected. Yet it is important to set aside time to work whether it’s developing a new application, fleshing out important infrastructure or simply writing a post to a blog site you support. Routines may not define us but they sure do help us follow the plan. Routines help clear the mind for what task is at hand.

Having written 2,000 plus stories has meant that on average, two stories a day needed work. The NonStop community has never been averse to work and a quick look around the NonStop vendor community that even now focuses on NonStop and you can tell that a lot of heavy lifting has been done to bring products to market. You can also tell that this involves a global presence and contributions come from offices everywhere on the planet. Vendors tap skill sets wherever they can be found.

The global pandemic will be winding down sometime soon. Social distancing may be less important in the months ahead. The impetus to leave our homes and head to the office will be strong. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that many of you didn’t return to a traditional way of working. No more cubes and shared spaces and no more water-cooler conversations. Do we even still do that? I can’t tell as I don’t have a water cooler.  

The Sydney Morning Herald carried a story, A city of homebodies? How coronavirus will change Sydney and it has implications for us all. According to Kerry London, Dean of the School of Built Environment at Western Sydney University:

 “People have got back time in their lives through ‘commuting upstairs to their home office …  It has shown us a whole new way of working that allows us a greater measure of control if we are smart about it.”

David Sanderson, the Judith Neilson chair in Architecture at the University of NSW, went further:

 “I don’t think people will forget how awful commuting is … It would be astonishing if it doesn’t have some impact on middle-class people who can afford to work from home.”

Whether we stop commuting or not, what will remain as important as ever is to find our niche. Find what you like to do and before you hit the play button, we do need to be sure of where our passions lie. While I have pursued a career in social media for over a decade, NonStop has been doing well for more than four decades and that isn’t anything to be scoffed at. No vendor does fault tolerance better than HPE with NonStop. So, as you hit that play button, is what you will face yet again what you truly want to do?    

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Hope lost! But perhaps, not so fast … Echoes of Milton?

It begs the question, what next? In a world focused on ensuring isolation, going online seems right. Will NonStop meet the needs of those who just don’t want to stop? 

I have only just written a post for another blog site about hope. In that post of April 14, 2020 to ATMmarketplace, As our need for cash declines, will ATMs follow suit? I mused on how given all that is taking place –

“(T)hese nationwide shutdowns we read so much about aren’t helping with fostering hope. No, the hope of good things to come seems to have been thrown onto the back-burner and left to simmer out of sight.”

As much as I would like to say that I enjoyed waxing lyrical, in truth I was attempting to light a fire under hope, as like many of us on this planet, we were hunkered down, practicing social distancing and taking every step possible to ward off this global pandemic. It was while writing this that I caught references to pandemonium at which point, I recalled that it was Milton that penned in his classic poem, Paradise Lost that Pandemonium was the capital of Hell. Ouch … 

Reading poetry is not for everyone, nor is delving into the backgrounds of poets and of the times in which they lived. Even so, when it comes to looking into Milton’s verse, perhaps it’s worth noting that it was William Blake, the most brilliant interpreter of Milton, (who) later wrote of how “the Eye of Imagination” saw beyond the narrow confines of “Single vision”, creating works that outlasted “mortal vegetated Eyes”. Perhaps even more relevant to the events of today is the reference by the poet Wordsworth who “began his famous sonnet London, 1802 with a plea: ‘Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour: England hath need of thee.’”

Delving even deeper into the background for this post it can be traced back to the many stories being written about the fate of the cruise lines. It would be completely understandable if the next cruise ship launched in the coming months was christened “Hope for Better Times.” Or maybe even, “Hope y’all come Back, y’hear!” To suggest the population at large has lost hope in ever happily cruising again is perhaps one of the more obvious fallouts following the arrival of this global pandemic.

It’s a safe bet to say that none of us truly imagined that something like this coronavirus would wreak such devastation on countries. COVID-19, if you prefer, is a bellwether ringing in change no matter how blasé any of us might be about eventual outcomes. But then again, hope has been in short supply for some time now. When it comes to the IT industry in general and to HPE, its Mission Critical Systems group with NonStop specifically, how many of us trust he likes of Gartner any longer? Or any tech industry analyst for that matter? Along similar lines, what of Silicon Valley?

Whenever discussions about hope arise then it may have been slow developing, but the events of 2020 have helped little with promoting the idea of infallibility of tech. Yes, even as we take a good hard look around us, doesn’t it strike you that well, things fail? For the NonStop community it is still shocking to read that failure is tolerated and outages garner less attention than they once did. Is mediocracy the new norm? Or as Milton wrote, “What though the field be lost? All is not Lost.” Yes: Hope springs eternal!

Across the NonStop community we have a strong appreciation for how best to deliver solutions to best serve Mission Critical deployments. Business may have stalled but it hasn’t lessened its need to meet customer expectations. These expectations have evolved of late as more of us turn to our laptops, smartphones and even smart TVs to conduct business. Perhaps more so as we go about living with a dependency on our every need being satisfied with the ring of our doorbell announcing the arrival of just one more item needed to sustain us.

When it comes to necessary infrastructure then the markets are being primed to better appreciate fault tolerance. We know robots never get sick. Nothing ails them and they don't stop as perhaps we do but ultimately it is the consumer, that all important end-user, and less so machines that drives tech. In turn, tech will continue to drive Silicon Valley even as our hope is not so much anchored in pivoting and disruption as much as it is anchored in an expectation that our new lives will be as they were in the past, albeit very different. Social distancing: There is hope that the current dictates are eased but will we ever be happy to return to shaking hands? Giving each other a hug? Crowding into a conference room?

There will be much that is going to gravitate to electronic exchanges, be that ZOOM, Skype or any mix of social media channels you care to name that what will emerge is a new found appreciation of the value of virtualized everything. Underpinning it all will be systems and infrastructure we expect to have working no matter what. If hope truly springs eternal then isn’t the shape of things to come all about continuous availability? To this end, surely, with a system that won’t stop, truly primed for brighter days with NonStop?

Isn’t it time then to take hope off the backburner and reposition it front and center of our plans? “Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour: England hath need of thee.” So easily could this read NonStop, we have need of thee!” It could happen; the scene is set – do you have the energy and inclination to make NonStop a reality in support of your business infrastructure and solutions in 2020? The promise is clearly there and easily realizable. Once again it’s NonStop that, as a community, we all know, won’t stop!   

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Everybody’s on the phone? Disruption, followed by innovation?

Remember the lines, “Alone again, naturally!” Or maybe the lines from other songs that in these times reinforce the massive societal changes under way – will these changes be with us for good?

There is something very comforting about kicking off a post to this blog with lines from a Jimmy Buffett song. Resonating with the times, Jimmy penned the lines -

Everybody's on the phone
So connected and all alone
From the pizza boy to the socialite
We all salute the satellites

On the other hand, as Margo and I continue to practice social distancing and yes, washing our hands at every opportunity, it is still very unnerving to watch how society has changed. Yet again! We have spent a month holed up in our Windsor home, so grateful that we bit the bullet and finished our lower floor complete with a media room and a wet bar. After a brief scare when we were diagnosed with Influenza B there was a follow-up this past week with x-rays and blood tests and it’s all good. Sigh of relief coming from the Buckles household.

One upside from being housebound is that it has given me plenty of time to catch up on magazines, blogs and emails. I know, I should be doing it on a regular basis. NonStop Regional User Group (RUG) and major Big Tent Geo events all cancelled – there are some postponements, but even so, it’s still not certain if they will proceed. They cancelled Wimbledon? They postponed the Indy 500! And golf’s Masters is likewise postponed. But catching up on my reading is a pleasant enough task that I am finding excuses to skip household chores while I check out an “interesting story.”

As I skimmed magazines I came across the following in one magazine I turn to for relevant quotes. Imagine my surprise then to come across this –

“In the realm of detestable corporate lingo, the term ‘disrupter’ barely rates.

“It might be routinely and annoyingly misused to dress up a mundane change or as cover for a disastrously bad business decision but compared with linguistic crimes such as ‘peel the onion,’ ‘let’s unpack this,’ and ‘drill down,’ the word ‘disrupter’ is a paragon of clean, simple language. It has a meaning that’s not easily captured by other metaphoric mumbo-jumbo.

“In general discourse, ‘disrupter’ refers to a product, person, or process that upsets the status quo.”

Understandably, these were the opening lines in a comprehensive review of all that is new in the world of automobiles and appeared in the April 2020 issue of Car and Driver. If you missed its relevance then think again. We are in the midst of a global pandemic where everyone I know is affected and when working from home means an office may be anything from the kitchen table to a sawhorse in the garage. We may not consider this an era of disruption and yet, at every turn we see disruptions.

As for technology, the markets NonStop serves have become even more critical – getting cash to a society struggling to keep its heads above water has become a priority. Mission critical is every bit as relevant today as it has ever been and products built on a fault tolerant architecture make a significant contribution to maintaining a semblance of normalcy during these times. Business Continuity Plans (BCP) are being put to use as supporting an upsurge in staff access is just as important as ensuring applications remain available.

As for Jimmy Buffett’s observation that we are “So connected and all alone” even as we have become so dependent on the internet, it’s hard to miss his often “We all salute the satellites!” Where would we be in these dire times if we lost our connections? Of course, some connectivity options look more elegantly implemented than others! Against a cultural backdrop so dependent on our interactions, I cannot recall how many invites I have received this past week to Skype, GoTo (a) Meeting or Zoom. My smartphone has never been busier and I have to admit, I am not a phone guy in normal circumstances. But there you have it, we truly salute the satellites.

For the NonStop vendor community the changes are obvious. So many development and support staff have become remote workers and yet new products and features continue to be produced. Did you read the announcement coming from TANDsoft and NTI? There’s now a new product, FS Compare, hitting the market and to read more on this, check out the NTI article in the upcoming April 2020 issue of NonStop Insider. No, innovation knows no limitations or restrictions but is constantly fueled by creative folks.

I was reminded of this just recently of how, during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), beginning in 2007 and extending into 2009, we have seen the arrival of such powerhouse companies as Dropbox (2007), Groupon and Cloudera (2008) and even Uber, Slack and Square (2009). I would alsolike to point out that DocuSign, started in Silicon Valley in 2003, was named a disruptor 3 times by the time it went public but truly came into it’s own during the GFC!  

 I don’t think any of us would be surprised to read in the coming months of even greater innovation taking place, particularly in healthcare and the bio sciences. The stock market may be a roller coaster for now, but I suspect it will turn around pretty quickly with the arrival of new companies breaking out and creating new markets and industry verticals.

One industry that certainly could get a boost is robotics. After all, robots never get sick and already there are pictures on the internet of robot greeters directing folks to appropriate counters, etc. for support. How far to take this is a question for economists and technologists to sort out in the coming months, but I cannot help but wonder; could a robot really clean our house? And not just our floors as can be done today! Our workplaces and indeed our very lives are being disrupted on an unimaginable scale, but already I am seeing trends develop that may be with us for a very long time.

The biggest hit once life returns to normal? Real estate and in particular, commercial real estate! Why do we need those multistory temples supporting little more than corporate branding? Do we all need to be taking up office and cube space at a prohibitive cost to all stakeholders? There is considerable speculation that, looking ahead to what might be here to stay, society will have so adjusted to social distancing that there is little point in bringing everyone back to the office.

ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott had a lot to say on this topic just last week. “Australia,” he said “won’t look the same because it will impact a whole generation of our customers, the way they think about technology, the way they think about borrowing, the way they think about employment, the way they think about frankly the capitalist system and democracy." Looking back at previous pandemics including the 2008 GFC, Elliott noted that, “For Australia in particular and New Zealand, all of those other crises were something we almost watched on television, and we experienced in some ways. With this one it’s fundamentally changing our way of life. That is, I think, psychologically massive compared to all the other ones.”

For the NonStop community for the most part this represents only a small shift in current thinking as remote workers have been part and parcel of our daily lives for quite some time. Put it down too to the emergence of the “gig economy” where in tech there are so many individual contributors that without them, costs would soar astronomically. But therein again, lies further potential for NonStop. Wouldn’t you want your support infrastructure – your desktop, your comms, you data and yes, your security lead you back to a fault tolerant system? NonStop is certainly one desirable outcome in this respect.

Alone, but connected! Remote, but an integral part of the team! We all salute the satellite and in so doing, have become fully aware that the longer society operates in this current manner the lesser the likelihood we will see a swing back to practices of the past. Tech may be the bellwether for disruption and the driver of further innovation but within tech, there are the seeds of even greater change. Suddenly, “Home Alone” may not have negative connotations. Nor will it be a reference to a neglected child! Ultimately, we all may welcome the change and embrace the disruption for what it truly means: Freedom to innovate!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

NonStop – it’s all about trust and track record!

What comes to mind when you think about home court advantage? NonStop has the experience and yes, the top score when it comes to running mission critical applications! 

It has been almost two years since Margo and I last ventured onto a race track. Over the course of a decade we turned up at events in various cars but when asked, we both enthusiastically supported our beloved Viper SRT/10 as the true car of choice for track weekends. With regard to our favorite tracks, in time High Plains Raceway (HPR) became our favorite simply because it was our home track. Previously it had been a track out on the edge of California’s Mojave Desert, Willow Springs International Raceway (WSIR), which was our favorite and, for a time, it was our home track.

If you have seen the movie Ford v Ferrari (or Le Mans ’66 as it has been called in some markets) you will be somewhat familiar with WSIR as in that film they made extensive use of the property, but drove around the track counterclockwise – something we never had the opportunity to do. As we head into Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere there will be a lot of discussion about new cars finally hitting the marketplace, but here’s the thing; whether your intentions are to drive a backroad, commute, or take to the track today’s cars have become so good that you can do it all with few changes needed to your motor vehicle.

Put it down to standards if you like – almost everyone has a ZF or Tremec Gearbox and everyone has a cable they can plug into any cars industry-standard ODBII interface to see what’s going on and, if you have the skill and software, gives you the opportunity to re-program your car. Simple: It’s all standards based. Even so, you have some choices – Wilwood or Brembo brakes; Toyo or Hoosier tires; Pfadt or Bilstein suspensions. And it’s become very similar in our IT industry today – numerous architectures, infrastructure, utilities and tools and even message formats. All universal and all designed to ensure business keeps its eyes on what lies ahead.

Whether you call it a home track or a home field, there are advantages of competing on familiar turf. Or pavement! How often do we hear the cry go up, “Not in my house!” and this is where the conversation about the importance of standards intersects with the need for creating business value. If the cry of “Not in my house” aptly applies to sports contests how can we ignore a cry of “NonStop, won’t stop!” In other words, when it comes to projecting the true value that NonStop brings to business then it’s hard to ignore the decades of trust NonStop has created among businesses in general. No NonStop user can ignore how NonStop meets all the criteria businesses impose when it comes to availability.

In presentations given by the HPE NonStop team members it’s hard not to be impressed when they quote the likes of VocaLink (now a Mastercard Company) –

“It comes down to trust and track record. When you are running systems this large you have to find a way to be able to sleep at night and the only way you can sleep at night is to have exactly the right tools for the job. And for these really high performance, large scale, cant’ ever fail applications, NonStop is the right tool for the job!”        

However, possessing the best system for the business implies more than technology. You can have the most impressive hardware architecture and software implementation but if in its uniqueness it calls upon levels of skill not readily at hand, then CIOs and IT departments will likely shy away from the solution on offer. Fault tolerant computers arrived when hardware reliability was problematic and carved out marketplaces where business needed support for mission critical applications. Today, businesses have as pressing a need for reliability not because of unreliable hardware but because the sheer complexity of modern deployments has become fragile at best.

We may think modern cars have become complex, but in reality they are the sum of components and sub-assemblies tried and tested over decades. So much of what goes into modern cars is the same where the only differentiation is style, comfort and yes, perhaps color. Engineers and service mechanics can download manufacturers tools to a laptop and become familiar with your car in no time at all – even the codes generated by the engine control unit (ECU) have been standardized across different models. Modern cars are little more than computers – the engine is programmable, as is the transmission as are today’s electronic differentials. One report on the new Corvette talked of there being two million lines of new code just to manage the e-diff!

It’s easy to gain consensus from NonStop professionals over issues like trust and track record, but what is very new is that with the commoditization and standardization of NonStop as it transitioned to x86, is that it has opened the doors to modern development environments. The same teams employed to write and operate modern applications via programming languages, test tools and the like can direct those very same capabilities at NonStop. There are almost no remaining barriers to developing applications on NonStop using exactly the same stuff as have been used developing applications for other systems.
In her post to the HPE Community blog,
Modernizing the development world of NonStop applications, Karen Copeland, Manager, Worldwide HPE NonStop Product Management, made a point of highlighting just how far NonStop has come with respect to ease of programming - 

What may also surprise CIOs is how DevOps tools like Git and Jenkins can be used to develop applications even as NonStop developers directly interface with products like Ansible.

To which we can now provide an update to what has already been published by adding –

What may surprise IT management even more is that there are now groups within the NonStop engineering team working on NonStop middleware that are actively using GitHUB, Jenkins, Ansible and other open source tools for DevOps to deliver many new offerings for the NonStop platform.

If you have trouble with the above hyperlink, you can always cut and past the following link into your browser -

It makes a very big difference when it comes time to consider NonStop for your next project – there will be applications that continue to be mission critical and CIOs and IT departments do want to sleep at night. NonStop has always delivered the highest level of availability even as IDC continues to endow on NonStop the much coveted Availability Level 4 (AL4) -   where “AL4 servers will failover in a way that the user won't notice.”

The days of heading out to the garage to build your own race car are long gone. The need for heavy investments in cutting edge technologies does not exist for weekend excursions on a racetrack. We may have our home tracks and we may have preferences for simple things like oils, brakes and tires, but ultimately, there are lots of options when it comes to turning to off-the-shelf components and perishables. As for that Viper featured atop this post it will always hold a special place in our hearts even as it no longer resides in our garage.

When it comes to systems, HPE NonStop has pursued a radical program for NonStop embracing industry standards, including support for open source software. It demonstrates considerable flexibility in support of traditional converged systems even as it supports virtual machines. And now, the need for costly support and operations staff has been negated as well. When it comes to any home track advantages, there is no denying that for CIOs, it’s time to deploy NonStop, “in my house!”

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