Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Looks can be deceiving! HPE NonStop; when being the best still matters!

For the NonStop community, we know what looks good may not only be deceptive but borderline dangerous; mission critical applications are best served by HPE NonStop systems!

There was a time not too long ago, when my appearance took on a distinctly “Steven Spielberg look”. Right down to the glasses I wore and to the cut of my hair and beard. With hindsight, the similarities became clearer whenever Spielberg was giving an interview – we shared numerous mannerisms. Without making too fine a point of this, there are photos taken of me during the 2004 Cannes Film Festival that Margo and I swear were on-sold to newspapers. Picture this, walking with Margo towards the red carpet when out of nowhere two young scantily clad ladies on rollerblades swung up to me, grabbed an arm each, turned me to the side when cameras began to flash.

Holidaying in Maui, one family followed me practically everywhere I went, taking happy snaps at every opportunity. Goodness knows what now hangs on the walls of their residence. One proprietor in the Gilroy Outlets kept calling out his staff each time Margo and I entered the store so much so that Margo would call me Steven each time. And then there is a restaurant in St Paul, Minnesota, that will happily tell you of the time they entertained Mr. Spielberg together with his entourage. Perhaps the most telling conversation on this topic that I ever had was when my own mother called to ask about my appearance on the cover of Time Magazine!

Fortunately, with time and yes, age, differences have emerged and there is less speculation as to who I happen to be. Although as much as I try to explain to folks that it would be most unusual to find Mr. Spielberg shopping in an outlet center or hanging out at a bar in a tourist hotel, it seemed I was providing a less than compelling argument. And then there was the time when seated in my usual 1B seat on a United 737 that a passenger coming through the cabin door remarked to his partner – look, there’s Robin Williams! Ouch … again, would Mr. Spielberg, let alone Mr. Williams, have been seen travelling on a commercial aircraft?

No, looks can be deceiving and it’s not all that hard to imagine coming across something that turns out not to be the item (or person) we thought it was. When it comes to technology, looks are not only deceiving but can be borderline dangerous. For the NonStop community, such deceptions can be readily observed, but unfortunately, more often than not, as a community we aren’t in a position to push back on what looks as though it might be a similar technology to NonStop.

Take clusters, for instance. How often do we read that such and such server can be purchased and configured as a cluster with the inference that in so doing, a level of continuous availability will be provided? How often are we called upon to respond to management inquiries as to why such and such processor cannot do what NonStop does? Much of my time of late has been spent in addressing what at first glance looks to be a NonStop system in another guise but even the best clusters, a NonStop doesn’t make!

Even more disturbing perhaps is the commentary that often follows: Isn’t good enough still good enough? Everyone else is using this such and such server and it seems to be doing the job; why shouldn’t we follow suite? We may think that NonStop is being out-marketed (and in many cases, this is exactly what is occurring) but do you ever call marketing when something horrible happens? When you go down and leave a community hanging, there better be a little more behind the curtain than just the marketing team.

I was reminded of this as I caught up with my reading over this holiday period. A time, mind you, that has been extended somewhat because of the global pandemic’s impact on opportunities to travel. Trips to the local store are about all I have managed to do of late and given how I have become the cook of late while Margo recovers from her broken leg, these trips to the store have been for the basics and for little more. However, two stories caught my attention and even if the connection between the two is tenuous at best, nevertheless it got me thinking about NonStop.

The first story referred to the hiring of a new coach for the New York Jets football team where the topic of culture came up. “Culture is one of those words that is overly used in the sports world, and yet not clearly defined. Why? Well, it's more of a feeling and less of a tangible quality.” It took the arrival of a recruit from another winning team for the Jets organization to explain how they were deceiving themselves if they thought they could win given the current culture. 

According to Jets general manager, Joe Douglas, when talking about the attributes of a head coach, "We’re looking for a person with great character and integrity. A person that’s going to have outstanding vision of what they want the identity of this team to be moving forward, and then what’s the detailed plan on how they want to achieve this identity, someone that’s a great communicator, a great manager.”

You have to love it, don’t you: Someone with not just a vision but a plan on how to achieve it; a great communicator! The other story struck closer to home and involved a medium that is very familiar for everyone working with NonStop. I am talking about cash and the processing of cash. In a short update published in CNBC.com attention is given to how “the coronavirus pandemic has caused a surge in demand for contactless payments accelerating the shift from cash to digital options.” Nothing too surprising here even if it is a reference to what is happening in the US. However, that isn’t the end of the story. “Despite the rise in demand for contactless payments, many states and cities in the U.S. have passed laws banning cashless stores,” noted the CNBC reporter.

With all the attention being given to our transformation to a cashless society, could looks be deceiving? Apparently so and here is where NonStop enters the storyline. Culture? Yes, we have seen the vision HPE has articulated and is now aggressively pursuing: Becoming world’s leading edge to cloud platform as a service company. Cash? Yes, supporting financial services industry remains front and center the premier market vertical for NonStop. But more importantly as a community, what looks good doesn’t cut it with us – clever tricks and sleight of hand illusions don’t deceive us when it comes to how we deploy our IT resources.   

As a culture, the NonStop community knows that fault tolerance cannot be achieved through simple redundancies and network switches. We all agree with this and we are fervent evangelists when it comes to the merits of NonStop. In this case, looks do not deceive; mission critical applications, including all those facilitating the distribution and collection of cash, cannot afford to drop a transaction. The danger arising with missing accurately posting updates about any customers financial position is clear. Drop my cash and I drop your services! However, the culture of NonStop goes much deeper. 

There is no mistaking the mission of NonStop just as there is no mistaking the steps the NonStop community takes to ensure mission critical applications simply don’t fail. With all the work that has been done in support of NonStop, HPE has now delivered on its strategy to provide the NonStop community with options – run NonStop any way you want that best meets your business needs. Traditionally on converged systems; virtually on any compatible hardware; “as-a-Service” out of GreenLake! No, the look of NonStop deceives no one; its fault tolerance continues to be delivered in ways that meet the needs of mission critical applications.

With time, I am no longer mistaken for someone else. Even during the height of this mistaken identity there were some close to me who just didn’t see it. Not possible, seemed to be the popular refrain. And yet, when my own mother expressed doubts about who really was on the cover of Time magazine, I had to stop and think about the possible deceptions that might have arisen. Fortunately, with NonStop, there is no mistaking its identity or the functions it serves. And for that, there is the assurance that comes with knowing you have the real deal. NonStop doesn’t stop nor does it hide behind a mirage. There will always be ways to mimic some aspects of NonStop but when it comes to NonStop, nothing is almost as good as NonStop. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

For NonStop, what will drive success in 2021?

No question; we know what we are driving this year! When it comes to NonStop, some questions remain but the answers will not be hard to find!

This time last year I posted a blog about our trip back to Silicon Valley where I played tour guide to my good friends, Dieter and Chris Monch. Dieter and I had worked together back in Sydney, Australia, where Dieter had been Managing Director of Nixdorf Computers. Way back in the early 1980s, Nixdorf Germany bought the company I worked for, The Computer Software Company, renaming it Nixdorf Computer Software Company and leveraged the product, EDOS (and EDOS/VS) together with the skilled team of systems programmers to launch the Nixdorf line of IBM Plug Compatible Mainframes (PCMs).

That’s right – PCMs from a manufacturer of key-to-disk systems, ATMs and an integrated hardware / software small business software package. Again, hard to imagine the thought process behind entering the PCM business with the slowest (but least expensive) alternative to IBM’s then 4331 / 4341 product line. But then again, Olivetti and Phillips were both on a similar trajectory so Nixdorf didn’t want to be left out. Working with Dieter on this new endeavor, in 1984 we managed to sell one more 8890 (as the Nixdorf PCM product family was called) than Nixdorf US was able to sell in all of North America. While there were celebrations back in Sydney I was left dumbfounded and concerned – what was the future of Nixdorf ‘s PCMs if Nixdorf US couldn’t sell many times more of them than we were able to do in such a small marketplace?

The tour of Silicon Valley and then down the coast to LA and across to Palm Dessert / Palm Springs was done in sunshine which isn’t unusual for California, but even as I write this, the seventh snowfall of the season has begun here in Colorado. Our orange Range Rover Evoque ragtop has become our go-to vehicle, but unlike the week spent in California the top remains firmly in place. I have posted a memory about this trip to Facebook but what really sticks out in my mind is that reliving past glory days with my former boss was a reminder that just when you think our IT industry has set a course for us all to follow, something comes out of nowhere and we all have to rethink our business models. It may all be sunshine and smiles in one place but somewhere ahead of us, clouds are forming and they don’t look all that friendly.

For the NonStop community, there have been numerous solutions targeting the needs of enterprises running mission-critical applications. These could be in finance, transport or manufacturing. I still smile whenever I think of the story I wrote a number of years ago following an exchange with HPE about a bakery in Japan that deployed NonStop. Included in my white paper – HP NonStop systems as you haven’t seen them before that is still available on the HPE Tech Library  -  the bakery had to ensure bread (and I imagine, croissants) made it to shops up and down Japan, right on time. No point in delivering these goods late at night as the needs of morning people just had to be met. Mission critical? Absolutely! As for the white paper, if you haven’t read it as yet you might be surprised to find how relevant the storyline remains today.

However, it’s worth noting that NonStop is a lot more than its hardware and it’s a lot more than the operating system. NonStop is an integrated hardware / operating system / utilities, tools and languages that collectively make up the powerful ecosystem that ensures that there is no single point of failure. This ecosystem also delivers availability, scalability and security unmatched by any other vendor with out-of-the box solutions. This last point being absolutely the most important aspect of NonStop – you don’t have to do a thing! Yes, you can create an environment that is similar to NonStop using enablers like IBM’s mainframe Parallel Sysplex and you can even pull together something that gets close to NonStop with Oracle clustering but the resultant solution is only as good as the first release and can only be supported with the retention of the original developers.

Too strong an observation? Once you get past your first release of your custom continuous availability solution then the issue of it being the sum of many parts, each in different stages of their life cycles and tracking to different update release distributions, then you the user become a product company necessitating the addition of staff that you find in the bigger development houses – and paying them competitive salaries. Not a long term winning solution by any measure you care to establish. However, it’s very real and even in times where the mantra where good enough is well, simply good enough, enterprises deserve much more from their vendors.

This is not the end of the story. What might be driving success for NonStop in 2021? There is no question that there are challenges lying ahead for the NonStop team and these challenges are happening on two fronts. The first front just happens to be internal; NonStop needs to further improve its visibility within HPE. There are positive signs coming from the new leadership of NonStop’s organization who was positive about NonStop in recent remarks to the NonStop community. This is in evidence too as there are equally as positive signs “coming from the internal HPE sales side, which is actually a good thing” I heard recently. And this is a good thing as we all know that sales in the broader marketplace can only come as the sales force grow more confident in the value proposition of NonStop. And we all know that “the opportunities for NonStop lie outside the existing customer base as that market is a lot bigger than the existing NonStop customer base.”

The second challenge NonStop faces is adding new solutions. Shame on companies like SAP that simply don’t get it – in today’s huge and fast growing eCommerce market, for a company as large as SAP to not understand the value proposition of NonStop while continuing to accommodate failures is yes, a real shame. SAP isn’t the only company that I have seen acting arrogantly in this regard. Even as SAP has experienced many head-shaking moments – think MillerCoors and Revlon / Elizabeth Arden – where a fault-tolerant platform certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss – having had close exposure to Epic at our local hospital I have to believe Healthcare solutions need to target NonStop as well. And then there is transportation – what other system can run container terminals 24 x 7 better than NonStop?

Again, many of these vendors do need to be ashamed of themselves for not adding the option to run on NonStop a part of their product portfolio.  But there are answers and they can be found in the ecosystem that makes up NonStop. Collectively, they have made migration to NonStop a straight-forward proposition. There are NonStop team members ready and willing to help out – the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) being the primary go-to folks with help only a call away – as there are numerous consulting vendors specializing in NonStop. As we were pulling together the January issue of NonStop Insider we referenced once again the post to HPE by Karen Copeland, Modernizing the development world of NonStop applications where you will read of the many tools, utilities and libraries that are now available to any developer looking to support NonStop.

As the 1980s moved along, the world of IBM PCM became fraught with lawsuits as first it was Hitachi than IBM they went after and then Fujitsu. Ultimately, in winning some cases, IBM lost the battle and even as Fujitsu won arbitration deciding that “Fujitsu has the right to sell close imitations of key IBM software products, the die was already cast. Unix was about to descend and alter the landscape irreversibly. Today, there is little thought given to compatibility with one vendor or another as it’s all about open source and just as quickly as Unix flourished, Linux cast a long shadow over the industry whereby Unix has “left the building.”

There is one more answer that can be addressed and it's something that is really worth consideration. Driving our Range Rover convertible along the Pacific Coast Highway, we were reminded of how this car replaced a much smaller Mini Cooper S roadster. The enjoyment this Mini gave us led to us naming our Range Rover, “Mini on Steroids.” Each time you turn on the ignition, the Mini on Steroids message scrolls across the infotainment center. We cannot take for granted the ease though with which we moved from the Mini to the Range Rover nor the fact that given how both were ragtop convertibles, we picked up all the advantages of the Range Rover without giving up the flexibility this provided. 

For many in the industry, the mere fact that NonStop has outlived so many platforms and remains unique in the way it addresses fault tolerance combined with the reality that applications developed for Linux can be readily (and somewhat painlessly) migrated to NonStop, can we take NonStop for granted any longer? Given the commitment to industry standards and open source that has been made by the NonStop team, would it be too much of a stretch then to consider NonStop, “Linux on Steroids?”

Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 – The last post!

Whether you are familiar with a bugle playing Taps or The Last Post, either way, finally, the sun is setting on 2020! Bring on 2021 …

When we first talked about taking a break during the 2020 Christmas to New Year holiday season, we had no intention of including breaks of any other kind. But then, Margo and I were unaware that lady luck would intervene and not in a positive manner. Whereas we had been checking out locations from Key West to Palm Desert (where we have previously spent the holidays), we are now reconciled to the simple fact that we will be spending time on the couch.

For those who follow Margo and me on social media channels you will have read of how Margo broke her leg in a bad fall while heading downstairs to our bar. I would like to say that a drink had been involved, but no, both of us had refrained as we were entertaining neighbors that night and it was Margo who was leading them downstairs where she had laid out a buffet that had taken all afternoon to prepare. We have still to determine exactly what led to what, but we all heard Margo’s leg snap the moment she landed on the lower level floor.

Margo has spent a lot of time as a volunteer for ITUG and perhaps, not as well known, as the Chief Meetings Officer of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) that was dedicated to  spinal and brain injuries (and their subsequent rehabilitation) so she knew all too well that a lot of time would be spent on the living room couch. We both made adjustments but it did put a different spin on recovery, 24 x 7, as there were no shortcuts to be found and there would be no tolerance for interruptions to the healing process!

Perhaps a sad way to segue to NonStop and what transpired in 2020. However, many members of the NonStop community witnessed first-hand circumstances much worse that a broken leg. As we kept an eye on various social media channels, it became obvious that the NonStop community wasn’t immune to what was taking place closer to home. The impact of the global pandemic was felt everywhere you turned and to read of HPE CEO Antonio Neri testing positive for COVID-19 just as this year’s HPE Discover 2020 event was about to kick-off reminded us that everyone was at risk, no matter their situation.

Each month I provide a short update for our clients. And yes, we are so appreciative of the group of NonStop vendors who have supported us through the decade plus Pyalla Technologies has been in business. It is appropriate at this time of year to express such thanks even as we look ahead to 2021 knowing that many of our clients are as uncertain as to what the future may hold as Margo and I happen to be. In this latest client update I wrote of patience and of how it’s in short supply for many of us – who remembers the famous tee shirt created at Tandem Computers by VP, Steve Schmidt? It had a lot to do with our growing lack of patience so long ago about which I will say no more!

Patience has never been my long suit. In fact, I have the level of impatience I have exhibited at times that has contributed to my less than stellar performance in some arenas. A sense of urgency has its place, but it’s so easy to step beyond that and to appear more than impatient. When it comes to 2020, with the end of the year fast approaching like many of you, I am only too happy to see the back of 2020 and to welcome the arrival of 2021. After all, as a community, we have so much to look forward to when it comes to NonStop.

Before the US military turned to playing Taps, the Last Post could be heard at day’s end and whenever the fallen were remembered. Today, among countries of the British Commonwealth it is still played as they celebrate Remembrance Day – a time to remember those who didn’t return from past wars. It is also played on ANZAC day in Australia and New Zealand and memories of it still linger with me to this day as my family returned to Sydney’s cenotaph (pictured above) to hear the Last Post being played.

When viewed in the context of 2020, it seems more than appropriate to finish the year of blogging with a similar title as yes, for 2020, this is the last post! We will remember you as 2020 ushered in not just the new normal but its duration suggests changes will be long-lasting and influence business in ways we could not have anticipated this time last year. Who could have imagined that ZOOM would dominate the conversation or that usage of tools like Dropbox and DocuSign would become commonplace? For many the even bigger topic of the day had to do with data and how it’s volume, together with its velocity, have changed the way we look at the core and the edge.

It was during 2020 that HPE informed us that data, data analytics along with Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be leaving the realm of research to go mainstream. That gaining actionable insights from massive amounts of data would be paramount for enterprises to not just be competitive but to be able to stay in business. In times when the business compass was spinning wildly and where finding true north was next to impossible, falling back on the data at hand was the only instrument available to us that would help us find a way through this global pandemic.

When it comes to NonStop systems we have to come to appreciate that they are now a hybrid-in-a-box. For NonStop converged systems delivered today, the redundant fabrics interconnect processors supporting the NonStop OS along with Linux and Windows boxes – Linux for storage and networking, Windows for consoles – something we often overlook when discussing NonStop. For NonStop virtualized, looking at the many cores making up a virtual NonStop, a similar mix of OSs is evident.

What this means is that the NonStop team knows hybrid and in so embracing, leaves the door open to other processors being added at some point and already, in previous posts to this blog, we have referenced the potential upside from adding HPC Apollo processors into the mix to better support the crucial analytics that enterprises need today. With HPC jumping the gun, so as to speak, and joining the GreenLake initiative (where NonStop already participates after a fashion), these things are all possible.

As 2020 comes to end and we look to 2021 for better news to come, NonStop isn’t without its challenges. The biggest challenge of all remains and it is a challenge we cannot ignore: The continuing relevance of NonStop is at the very heart of conversations across the NonStop community. Not that this community discounts the value proposition of NonStop but rather, communicating this value proposition to the rest of the enterprise.

Can NonStop exist within a cloud environment and bring with it the cloud experience with which enterprises are familiar? Can NonStop underpin a cloud and provide the same level of elasticity of provisioning enterprises value most with cloud usage? Can NonStop effectively tap clouds public as well as private as a resource no different from any other resource it taps today? Perhaps as just another external storage option that has no single point of failure? The answer to all of these questions that have challenged us of late is yes, NonStop can do this. 2021 could very well be a break-out year for NonStop in so far as we see NonStop present in ways we didn’t expect to see just a few years ago.

As NonStop became a software solution, it can be massaged in ways that will surprise us in 2021. What will drive the conversation will not be the challenges to NonStop per se but rather, the challenges enterprises face. Outages continue to be the nemesis of enterprises dealing directly with communities as each and every outage attracts unwanted attention across social media channels. There is nowhere to hide in 2021 when your system goes down. Communicating this value proposition in a meaningful manner will need the full support of HPE and perhaps with a new organization and new leadership, NonStop will attract the attention within HPE that it deserves.

This is definitely the last post to this NonStop community blog for 2020. However, this is not the last post for NonStop. When you consider just how many options now exist for NonStop deployments and how far the NonStop SQL database has come (describing just one NonStop subsystem), I am now wondering when we will hear the last post sounding for mainframes? For Unix? When you think about it, the transient nature of OSs is such that in time something better comes along. Aren’t you glad to read that with NonStop there’s no muted sound of the last post to be heard but rather, nothing better has come along!

And with that, our best wishes to you all for the coming year and may it herald greater opportunities to come for everyone in the NonStop community.       

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

For the NonStop community, so ends a year none of us anticipated.

Movement of people; movement of commerce; movement of data – there’s no stopping NonStop! Roadblocks? Get over it!

When will this end? When will normalcy return? When will 2021 arrive? And so the questioning continues. For a year that started without any clues as to what would follow, we have been left to wonder about our own situation with family, friends and neighbors. As news headlines continue to broadcast ominous warnings about what is still to come, we might be thinking that the time has come to lease that old missile silo, after all. Even with vaccines making their first appearance, it is going to take time and for most of us, this new life centered on being hunkered down in our own homes will continue.

Living in Colorado where a massive uptick in construction is under way with new homes, new schools and yes, new roads being built. As we look around our own neighborhood, development has continued unabated such that even freshly built homes re-entering the marketplace have sold in a matter of weeks. Society is coming to terms that perhaps concentrated living in high-rise condo complexes or taking up residence in a busy city isn’t the smartest decision to take right now.

Looking at the data, so many people have moved out of New York City, to reference just one place, that the state’s presence in Congress faces a reduction. Florida may end up with a greater representation in parliament than New York, for the first time ever. Whatever our business needs or where our travels may take us, roadblocks have appeared unlike at any time in the past. Their erection has only added to the growing concern that these upheavals across society are here to stay.

Transactions. The data is telling us that there has been a massive uptick in transaction volumes and the data being created is nothing like we have ever seen in the past. Sitting idly by the television screen it seems so easy to click a few icons to buy that “much-needed” item. Even for car-centric folks like ourselves, the opportunity to buy a car and have it delivered to our door all without any interaction with the dealership seems to be a sea-change that will have all dealerships rethinking their operating models. Do we really need tens of acres of cars of every description and color in order to clinch a deal? Shouldn’t we be looking at car purchases as just another transaction capable of being initiated from our smartphones or tablets?

Data. Rather serendipitously, during messaging with a good friend who are looking to buy either a BMW, a Jaguar or a Cadillac, I received an email offering me $10,000 off the price of the very same Jaguar our friends were considering purchasing. Serendipitous or simply a coincidence well, I don’t think so. Ever wonder where these enormous company market valuations are coming from? It’s the data that they are accumulating that is making the big difference in market cap valuations.

When conversations turn to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (ML/AI), those conversations quickly transition to a discussion about better capture and integration of the data arriving each and every day. And growing in a manner those traditional batch-style approaches to moving, integrating and absorbing data just won’t cut it any longer: Ask the Striim team, for instance, or the management at NTI!

Movement of people; movement of commerce; movement of data – it’s all happening at once driven by an unmistakable desire to escape. Escaping a city, escaping into consumerism and yes, escaping into our daily tech lives is happening so fast and yet it’s hard to imagine anything changing in 2021. Even as roadblocks continue to be erected wherever we turn, there is a likelihood that this will only cause a slight disruption to the road we are following as we all know, we will find another way! We always do! Florida or a new car may not be on everyone’s mind these days, but underlying our conversation is the recognition that where we are headed is far removed from the normalcy of the past.

If you missed the previous articles posted to this blog in December, you will have missed how much I struggle to equate vendor’s strategies with anything other than a desire by them to sell us something that they have determined is of importance to the growth of their business. On the other hand I do not struggle to understand the value whenever enterprises talk of their strategy for IT – the road to digital transformation consists of products that they view as aligning with their strategy. Together, what these three posts of December 2020 reinforce is the realization that NonStop is commencing a new cycle in its support of IT.

Nothing is binary – whether you see the world as cloud to edge, you will see data moving to the edge even as you will likely see transactions moving back to the core, cloud or otherwise. The strength of NonStop has always been in its capacity to insert itself into the world of transactions and data where its primary attributes are most valued – availability and scalability. Traditional NonStop, virtual NonStop, NonStop as a Service – we have at our fingertips the means to place NonStop practically anywhere! Is it possible that NonStop is not constrained by any roadblocks its users might encounter?

Out at the edge, you never want a transaction initiated by a consumer to simply vanish leaving the consumer with no idea as to what just transpired. Likewise, with the data that is being accumulated you don’t want to run out of processing power. Either way, failure to be there for the consumer 24 x 7 or being unable to scale out to handle the ability to process and then store more data, will just create a further and realistically, an unnecessary roadblock.

What we are beginning to understand is that when it comes to the movement of people; movement of commerce; movement of data is that there is no sign of this letting up any time soon! As we continue to see roadblocks erected the more we will continue to transact all that we do from where we feel the safest. Our home or nearby cafĂ© (if that remains an option)! Everyone predicted that we would become communities that relied on mobile devices even as we predicted that our social interactions would be immediate and constant. What we didn’t predict was how we would have few other options other than to extend our ability to transact while mobile to what we do in business. Yes, we found ways around this potential roadblock!

Putting such technology into the hands of everyman and the consequences shouldn’t surprise us. Transactions and data! Escalating in volume and velocity on a logarithmic basis that shows no sign of letting up any time soon! The beauty of roadblocks real or just perceived is that in the majority of instances they are a sign that we have gone down a path for as far as we can go. Look around; backtrack perhaps; reassess where you truly want to go. It’s something every enterprise is doing today and as we head into 2021, the only thing we can be certain of is that we will likely run into even more roadblocks.

When it comes to NonStop and it’s capturing of transactions and the creation of data, view NonStop systems more or less as a modern-era stile that allows us to simply step up and over any roadblock. For the NonStop users, their path will never be blocked nor will the role of NonStop differ much from what it has always been. A surety that a transaction will complete and that the resultant data that will be created and never be lost.

Isn’t that the essential property of any system contributing to the growth of business? Isn’t that what everyone in 2021 will be seeking? As we see 2020 draw to an end the NonStop community should be in a mood to celebrate as it continues to enjoy unprecedented opportunities to climb over and indeed smash through what would stall the progress of those not deploying NonStop?

And with that, Margo and I wish you all the very best for the coming holidays even as our fondest wishes are that you enjoy the happiest of New Year celebrations. See you in 2021!  

Monday, December 14, 2020

When buying computers, like buying cars, it’s the DNA!

How much does a computer have in common with a car? Not much, until you want to purchase: For NonStop customers getting from A to B is not a good enough reason to buy!       


Ever wondered what finally tips the scales when it comes to buying a new computer? Thought about what transpires behind the scenes when key pieces of software are acquired? Was it the price a choice of features or comprehensive packaging providing an all-in-one solution? There are many factors contributing to an outcome and of late, within the NonStop community, there couldn’t be more options to choose from what is being sold today. 

While Margo and I aren’t involved in the major decisions influencing the technical direction at any major enterprise, it’s something we run into on a regular basis. Whether it’s buying the latest Apple iPhone or iPad or a really big smart TV, sometimes it comes down to the intangibles. Can I buy it online and can it be delivered soon? Do we like the folks we are interacting with? Do we like the color being offered? Having said that, one consideration we view important is product or service performance, as no consumer ever boasted about how slow his device happened to be or how little capabilities it provided. And of course, no one boasts proudly that they waited in line for three hours for a basic service to be provided. 

Just recently and in truth, rather serendipitously, we proceeded down a path that ultimately led to us putting down a deposit on a new car. Yes, the owner of the dealership just happened to be our next door neighbor who built a relationship with us based on trust. We needed a pickup to move some furniture and he left the keys to one of his pickups “under the mat.” While putting up Christmas lights he asked me if I would like to drop by to view a model I was interested in that he knew was proving difficult to find. A week or so later he gave us the keys to drive the model of interest when no other dealer was even talking about letting anyone to seat in a car, much less providing a test drive option!

When it comes to NonStop systems we have all been made aware of the imminent shipment of models of the fourth generation of NonStop X. Have you been given a set of keys yet? Taken it for a spin? If you happen to have missed the announcement then you can replay the presentation by visiting the Connect web site and going to the On Demand library where you will be able to listen to Mark Pollans as he walks us all through NonStop Next Generation Systems. Very soon HPE will begin shipping the NonStop NS8 X4 (and it’s entry level sibling, the NonStop NS4 X4) and while promised performance levels will be similar to the previous generation, the Intel x86 chipsets themselves will be coming with Intel vulnerability mitigations in place for NonStop systems.

After so many decades of investment in NonStop it is encouraging to see these investments continue as today, more than ever, transaction volumes are increasing rapidly even as the data being created on NonStop reaches new heights. But NonStop continues to do something very special even as it is the premier transaction and database processor meeting the requirements of the most demanding of mission critical applications of enterprises everywhere. What is that something special? Well it didn’t just happen overnight but has come about through experience, rigorous testing and a disciplined approach to development. 

The sense of serendipity that arose as we progressed towards the purchase of a new car was also in evidence when I turned to magazines looking for product reviews. Don’t we all, these days? In this case it was the advertisement for Honda that caught my eye. In the first paragraph or so a couple of expressions jumped right off the page to where I was substituting HPE and NonStop in numerous places.

Try this: 

The average computer has 30,000 parts. Each one is linked to every other one through a complex web of mechanical and electrical connections – the fabric. If you are someone who gives little thought to what these parts actually do then you are probably content with a computer that gets you from desktop to server with no cause for excitement.

Follow? See where this is going? If you are familiar with the many generations of NonStop you will already know that NonStop is not for everyone. We do care that the sum of the parts together with the fabric that ties it together will perform as required around the clock.

There is nothing wrong with this way of thinking, but it should be known that HPE NonStop was not founded on any such philosophy of computing utilitarianism. While HPE never neglect the A- to B-ers and their quest for reliability and efficiency, we always make sure to add a little extra zest to our NonStop computers so that in the event of complexity and change, the systems does not fail to deliver the requisite number of smiles.

Yes, if you missed the short video by HPE Steve Kubick on the Special Sauce that is only present within NonStop then you may want to revisit that video now on YouTube. When it comes to the quest for reliability and efficiency together with the pursuit of something that goes well beyond utilitarianism, then you can look no further than at NonStop.

This is the result of a long history of NonStop that dates back before fault tolerant computers ever rolled off the assembly line … knowing all this makes it easy to see that availability, scalability, security, data integrity (and more) is part of our DNA.

It may be too simplistic to view computers the same way we view cars but then again, it all depends upon your perspective. In these times, as we see so many strategies unfolding as to the ways we can consume compute, the lines between cars and computers have become somewhat blurred. Cars have become computers even as computers are as mobile as cars. In case you haven’t given it much thought availability, scalability and more are truly integral parts of NonStop’s DNA.

We are hearing HPE routinely talk about its plans to become the leading edge to cloud, everything-as-a-service, platform provider. We are hearing too about HPE being partner driven and for the NonStop community all of this is resonating in ways that are being reflected in an uptick in sales of NonStop. When it comes to strategy, our NonStop DNA is on show and is ensuring interest in NonStop remains high. The markets NonStop serves continues to be diverse even as the move to virtual, the move to database, the move to hybrid is generating the kind of interest in NonStop many of us recall from decades past. 

According to Michael Porter, an American academic known for his theories on economics, business strategy, social causes, and is referenced widely as was the case when an article in Harvard Business Review appeared in 2015. “At a fundamental level, all strategies boil down to two very broad options: Do what everyone else is doing (but spend less money doing it),” said Porter, “or do something no one else can do.”  Then again, this same HBR article adds the possibility of a third option that might resonate well with the NonStop community. “It’s tempting to think the third camp — reacting opportunistically to emerging possibilities — represents the field’s most recent thinking,” said the author of the HBR article.

When we talk about NonStop’s DNA it’s hard to ignore that NonStop was an extraordinary innovator as it tackled a marketplace that didn’t exist. Fault Tolerant computers were an opportunistic reaction to the emerging possibility that devices with which consumers would interact needed to be online, 24 x 7. This at a time, for instance, when few anticipated the future global ubiquitous presence of the humble ATM. Not only was this an opportunistic reaction to a business that was emerging but in pursuing fault tolerance, NonStop was doing something no one else could do. Four decades on and NonStop still processes mission critical transactions. NonStop still supports an always-on database. And now, NonStop runs virtual and can live inside a cloud!

The average NonStop computer has probably more than 30,000 parts connected by a fabric that together ensures continuous availability, 24 x 7. In so doing NonStop has added a little zest, a kind of special sauce, that few other vendors have been able to replicate to the same degree and the DNA of NonStop is evident with every NonStop system, traditional or virtual, that has ever been deployed – isn’t this the material of legendary application of strategic thinking where the results speak for themselves?

Next time you see a post or a tweet promoting NonStop as being able to do a lot more than simply connecting A to B remember that NonStop is the mission critical system that is best positioned to capitalize on today’s massive growth in transaction volume. Honda proved it many times over and continues to dominate auto sports worldwide. HPE, with NonStop, likewise has proved it too - reacting opportunistically to emerging possibilities while doing something no one else can do – dominating the world of mission critical computing!      

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Strategic? It’s time to let it go …

Ever since it was first rumored by IT professionals that the label strategic came with Velcro backing for ease of re-use (on a whim by sales and marketing), seeing “strategic” appended to products raises the hackles of even the most ardent supporters about any merits such product might have!

As news broke this week of HPE setting up shop in a suburb of Houston, Texas news media jumped on the story very quickly. Was this just another case of a Silicon Valley company leaving California for a more tech-friendly state? Was it a case of simply giving its employees better housing options with the benefits of a less onerous tax structure? Timed to coincide with the announcement of Q4 2020 financial results with references to sales of HPE products looking more like pre-pandemic results, perhaps the company felt encouraged to throw in a reference to changes of address for its Head Quarters.   

In this announcement was a phrase that caught my attention. HPE said that it is making the decision to move its headquarters to Houston, Texas, and that “The Bay Area will continue to be a strategic hub for HPE innovation.” If you didn’t catch it, the phrase in question just happened to be “a strategic hub for HPE innovation.” Not so much the innovation aspect, as I am as convinced as are many of you that HPE has indeed entered an era of accelerated innovation as it drives forward to become a leading edge to cloud, platform as a service company. 

Rather, it’s the presence of that catch-all word, “strategic.” But first, let me be very clear. I have followed the many programs of HPE for nearly two decades – from the time HPE and Compaq “merged” – and have nothing but admiration for their management team. In particular, I think HPE CEO Antonio Neri has been like a breath of fresh air for the company.

When I talk about strategic, I am writing about the word itself and in no way am I making any negative assertions about this move of the HQ to Houston. Moreover, I can see significant benefits with the move to Houston even as of late, Margo and I have been considering making a similar move ourselves and for similar reasons. As for usage of the word strategic it’s been my experience that there should be a band of Velcro applied to the word strategic as it is applied and reapplied, at some point, to every product an IT vendor has to offer.

The association with Velcro first arose in presentations and commentaries provided by IBM. Not that it was the IBM presenters that made this connection but rather, attendees of the presentation. Ever heard of IBM’s SAA – it’s Systems Application Architecture that was strategic for IBM when it came to tying together it’s various product lines from micros, minis and mainframes based on a common user interface, common communication services (yes, you guessed it, SNA) and a common software development environment. Strategic, perhaps; palatable to the greater IBM community, unfortunately no!

It was all too much too late and came at a time when IBM was failing to adjust to the new world of TCP/IP, open systems and a decline of interest in mainframes. This wasn’t the only time IBM threw the strategic label around. Who remembers programming in PL/1 or learning all about HIPO (Hierarchical Input, Processing and Output)  that was introduced as a systems analysis design aid? Complete with plastic templates, you were meant to be able to walk through any business requirement and come up with all you need to then turn to PL/1 program. In actuality, all HIPO delivered was a lot of pretty diagrams than many systems analysts framed in their offices.

Of course there would be no discussion on strategic products without some reference to DB2 positioning in the face of a rampant Oracle. However, for the NonStop community, we can look no further than when the battle lines were drawn separating the messages and indeed strategic value of SNAX versus ICE. Again, look no further than today when SNAX was not ported to the Intel x86 architecture (as strategic as it once had been) but rather, gave way to uLinga, a product that was developed by ex-members of that original ICE team. 

There are many similar stories that abound and HPE is not alone. The populist belief among former IBMers is that the label “strategic” was meant to signify that a product, service, technology or architecture wasn’t meeting pre-promoted sales figures. Strategic, in a sense became akin to being the flavor of the month.

The interior of Australia is mostly desert: The picture above is of a scene close to the Murray-Darling Basin which is the source of Australia’s largest river system. The presence of such large sand dunes gives you the true impression of just why water is such a scarce commodity to the west of Australia’s eastern coastline, but the story went that if seeking an oasis don’t be fooled by what you may consider a strategic sand hill observed during a previous outing. Any faith that may be attributed to the value of any strategic landmark is doomed to failure as yes, a sandy hill is but a fleeting presence on that vast vista of that terrible continent.

When it comes to the IT landscape then yes, blindly following a familiar terrain couldn’t be less rewarding if we had simply bought a less-featured product and be done with it! Buying time to see over the horizon even as we deliver something that is of interim value has been the plight of technologists for decades. When the recent NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) was under way, I lost count of the number of times I heard vendors making reference to how strategic their product was for HPE and the broader NonStop community. 

Nothing could be further from the truth, even as shards of Velcro could be seen sticking out from the sides. As one HPE NonStop technologist wrote to me only this past week, when it comes to anything being promoted as strategic even as they believed is still carried some weight, “but as you know when a term becomes over-used and I fear strategic is failing into that category, it loses strength.”

Over exposure of a term or phrase is always a sign that there is a story behind the message and it’s not altogether pretty. Either there is an overpriced feature, a technology patronage that has moved on to something else (but as yet, hasn’t been made public) or much worse, a recognizable copycat approach taken that just doesn’t pass the sniff-test. But should IT vendors ever make statements about the strategic nature of a product? Is it really the correct action to be taken by any vendor; surely, it’s up to others to accept the strategic nature of a product. Just as important messaging, in and of itself, only lasts so long. When it comes to decisions that are made it is up to the actual NonStop customer to see such products delivering solutions that are providing them with the value that is strategic to the enterprise.

In an exchange on the topic of strategic product sets with Tim Dunne, NTI’s Global Director of Worldwide Sales, he made a remark that I suspect resonates with us all. “NTI will always respect the right of Customers to choose technology to meet their strategic direction and we will never portray a ‘sales strategy’ as better than a ‘customer-developed’ strategy,” said Dunne, “When it comes to what’s strategic and what’s not, NTI products adapt to what NonStop customers view as strategic for their enterprises, not the other way around.” 

Certainly, in the days when IBM was central to much that I pursued, it was ultimately the customers who set the direction. The abject failure of IBM’s SAA being among the best examples of enterprises rejecting the strategic label coming as it did at a time when enterprises were welcoming the product offerings of IBM’s competitors as the cost of ownership became the most important consideration of all.

As the sand hills adjacent to Australia’s biggest river basin keep moving, so too does IT; it just keeps evolving and it is the wary IT professional that depends too much on a product that they know is simply little more than a passing offering from one marketer or the other who wants you to believe their product is more than just a flavor of the month! Strategic for whom, exactly? On reflection then, and following the virtual TBC, perhaps “strategic” is losing its strength after all. To paraphrase popular advertising soundbites, it’s time for us as a community to buy just what we need and not have the need to just buy the message.  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Dashboards; one way to view future of NonStop

The HPE NonStop team launches Showcase; GreenLake participation under way! Could you see it all displayed on a dashboard near you?

There is very little similarity between the interfaces to motor vehicle produced in the 1950s and what is now part of the interface we see in vehicles manufactured today. Similarly, looking at photos of aircraft cockpits of the 1950s and then at what we find today in the cockpits of modern planes highlights how far we have come in terms of dashboards. My first flights aboard early jetliners had flight decks so complex with its many dials and switches that it was occupied by more than one pilot, a flight engineer and in some instances, a navigator.

Now that we have glass dashboards in our cars, most of which have become touch sensitive, where any number of instruments can be displayed as motorists we are entering a period of information overload. How many displays make sense and do we really know what they are telling us? More often than not, dials are set up so the needle points to the top of the dial, the twelve o’clock position, if all is good. But they are digital and in some vehicles we have options as to how that alignment takes place with driver-selected warning indicators becoming an option.

The picture atop this page was taken of our Jaguar F Type where the simplicity is welcome. Even the analogue presentation is all digital! For the NonStop community, dashboards will shortly be playing a very important role in how we configure NonStop, what applications we would like to execute and what resources would be required in support of the application. This is in addition to any dashboards we deploy to monitor and manage the NonStop system and the applications that happen to be deployed.

HPE has made it clear that in time, everything will be available as a service. Not in total, but optionally. Reading between the lines we will still be able to order our NonStop system in the traditional manner for many years to come. We will still be able to stand alongside the dock when our new NonStop X system is unloaded. However, that will not be the sole manner by which we take delivery of our NonStop system. This is where the fun really begins and where the ultimate end game for NonStop begins to take shape.

Let’s not mince words here. As HPE talks about everything as a service, or XaaS, it is worth contemplating that in time, NonStop will fully participate. In the September – October 2020 issue of The Connection, there was reference to a new program under development that involves the NonStop vendor community. The goal is very simple. Simplify the process of purchasing a NonStop system through reduction in the number of Purchase Orders (P.O.) a purchaser had to sign. Think of it as a new model for purchasing NonStop, including all of the software.  

Doesn’t sound overly dramatic even as it is opens the NonStop price book to all NonStop vendors to participate. As Karen Copeland, Manager, NonStop Product Management Team, wrote in that issue, shortly there will be “A new business program called NonStop Showcase will make it easier for customers to purchase more of what they need on the P.O. they have open with HPE and to use the HPE Global NonStop Support Center for support on these products.  This is an evolution, where partners can apply to HPE to resell their products and leverage HPE’s worldwide sales force to market them to target customers.”

At this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) held as a virtual event, Karen Copeland gave a presentation on the Showcase program. In her presentation she talked about the benefits for NonStop customers in quite colorful terms. “Easier engagement” with HPE and the NonStop vendor community she said. There will be “fewer throats to choke,” was how she described one advantage. “Over time (it will) allow customers to purchase nearly all NonStop products from HPE: One P.O. with HPE to simplify the order processing (with less companies to engage with, negotiate with and qualify as vendors.”

Altogether, it is a really brilliant plan on the part of NonStop product management. As for the Showcase benefits for NonStop partners there are many – global visibility of their product, a common approach to support via the Global NonStop Support Center (GNSC) and in time, alignment with the HPE purchase models so NonStop customers aren’t thrown for a loop each time they plan on upgrades or adding additional systems. For the smaller vendor who doesn’t have a global reach today, this has the potential to really put them on the map!

There will be ways to check out new products, including those with features or functions they need but weren’t aware they were available from a NonStop vendor. There will also be ways to check out products from one NonStop vendor or the other that may not have been referenced in the past by the HPE sales and support teams. For the first time, with the NonStop Showcase business program, NonStop customers will be able to see it all – from the NonStop vendors participating in the program. There will be a catalogue published for all to see – reminiscent of the former Alliance Partner catalogues published in the days of Tandem Computers.  

In time, NonStop customers will have an online interface to show them around the NonStop vendor community in ways never before supported by the HPE NonStop team. While it sounds like a big step up for the NonStop vendor community in terms of visibility, it is also a boon to the NonStop user community. They will be able to locate the exact widget they need and know beforehand how much it will cost.

While there is no direct connection at this time to the GreenLake program, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any NonStop user that NonStop too will be participating in the GreenLake model for purchasing HPE resources, be that hardware or software. As Karen highlighted in her column in The Connection, “The GreenLake program is all about making it easier for customers to purchase what they need in the way of hardware, software, support and services and pay for it in an easy monthly payment. NonStop is also embracing this program and working to integrate into the GreenLake offerings from HPE so we can offer our customers new ways of purchasing NonStop and can review their usage through the GreenLake Central website.  We are not there yet, but we are steadily working towards that.”

Clearly, what to purchase will only work well for the NonStop customer when they can view all the product and service offerings available to them via Showcase. This brings us back to dashboard and one potential role of dashboards when it comes to NonStop. Not only will the dashboards associated with GreenLake central tell us a lot about our usage over time – I sense a lot of dials and indicator lights appearing very quickly just as I see a number of customer-optional “reset buttons” tailored to meet their unique needs – but ways to try out something new.

And this is where the story line takes a distinct leap of faith. Could there be a future where NonStop users can truly try-before-they-buy simply by clicking on a GreenLake dashboard icon? Is the Apple Apps model coming to HPE and will it include NonStop? Is Showcase a first step towards opening the doors to a much bigger market for NonStop than we had previously imagined? While NonStop benefits from a great NonStop sales force, there simply aren’t the numbers to grow the NonStop base exponentially but if all it took was clicking an icon then perhaps we need to think of the potential for NonStop deployment in a different manner.

There are a lot of hurdles to overcome before this could be a reality. Many NonStop vendor solutions and utilities simply aren’t set up for invocation on a click-to-play basis. Sorting out all the pre-reqs will be quite a task for some NonStop vendors even as thinking of GNSC handling a growing population of novice, first time NonStop users, has me sucking on air. However, one unmistakable strength of NonStop is the thriving ecosystem of partners complementing NonStop development in ways that make other vendors envious.  

However, if you look to the rest of the 2020s decade, it may very well transpire that NonStop becomes a feature any enterprise can invoke with the selection of an icon on a screen. Ultimately, how are we preparing ourselves for a future where the dashboard lets us try out NonStop simply on the basis of asking the users whether or not they would like to see how their application might look running NonStop?

My clients frequently ask me how I imagine the NonStop community growing over the coming decade. In part, this question points to a need to have a lot more sales feet on the ground. But what if that isn’t the right question to be asking. What if our dashboards have NonStop as an option – a gauge sitting alongside your SLA needs that when cranked way over to the max (for availability) means you are now running NonStop! This is more than one way to run NonStop and think of this as the only way to run future variants of NonStop. What do you think and how will you respond will, to some extent, drive how quickly this might happen! Pretty cool, eh?

Looks can be deceiving! HPE NonStop; when being the best still matters!

For the NonStop community, we know what looks good may not only be deceptive but borderline dangerous; mission critical applications are bes...