Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Clouds don’t bother me, anyway …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

Calling the Severance Police!

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

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

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

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

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

Severance? Yes! NonStop separates from hardware ...

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

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

Severance? No! Community stays with NonStop ...

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

On the road, again – NonStop delivers yet again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

HPE NonStop team hits the high points at NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) 2019

You can tell a lot about an organization from their body language and when it comes to the NonStop team, they have to be pleased by all that transpired this week …

Perhaps the best album that Bob Dylan ever created was Highway 61 Revisited. Many years ago Margo and I attended an event in New Orleans, the ATMIA annual conference for the financial community. As you can imagine it was focused on ATMs and it was the subject of the post, Covering all points on the compass, NonStop is hard to miss! ,but it had been our plan to drive up to Memphis via Highway 61 and that didn’t happen as the weather wasn’t the best and we were running up against the clock.

The highway, or as it may be better known as route, 61 follows the Mississippi River north out of New Orleans and is often referred to as the Blues Highway and had been on my bucket list for decades. What made Bob Dylan’s album so memorable were tracks that included Like a Rolling Stone, Ballad of a Thin Man, Desolation Row and yes, It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry!

“Now, the wintertime is comin', the windows are filled with frost
I went to tell everybody but I could not get across …”

Yes, wintertime is comin’ and yes, out Colorado way, the windows are filled with frost. More importantly though, I so do want to tell everybody about NonStop and about what was covered at TBC 2019 even as I am sure there will be those who don’t get the message of NonStop in quite the same way that I do. And that’s OK. Point is, to reference another Bob Dylan classic, the times are a changin’ and there is nothing like a major NonStop event to see all the evidence laid out … NonStop though is not doing one thing that perhaps these opening sentences (above) may suggest. NonStop ain’t singin’ the blues!

Driving back from NonStop TBC 2019 in late fall, the landscape we see as we cross Nevada and Utah gave us numerous reflections. And this was more than appropriate as Margo and I spent a lot of time reflecting on all that we saw. The first thing that struck us was the partner pavilion where NonStop vendors were only too willing to talk about their wares. We counted three or four vendors making their first appearance at the event even as we saw a developing trend among almost all of the vendors to build ecosystems among like-minded colleagues;  a sign of things to come and yes, all good!

It takes a lot to laugh; it takes a train to cry. For many it reflects a world-weary resignation or so Wiki suggests, I checked. And there is no denying that there are those in the NonStop community that have become a little weary of the criticism leveled at them whenever they talk about NonStop. But these days, nothing could be further from the truth. The move to the new NonStop X systems has accelerated and not just on a one-for-one basis, as many attendees told me of bigger systems being installed to handle bigger traffic volumes – stated as simply as I can, enterprises are doing more transaction processing than ever before and it’s showing!

However, it’s the back story that I have been following and is the one we need to be aware of – HPE will still sell you a NonStop i (Itanium) system but not for long and no, don’t try twisting the arm of your friendly salesman. Point is, the move to commodity hardware in support of NonStop is proving to be a great move on the part of HPE. The reason? There are no shortages of options when it comes to running x86 servers as almost all hypervisors run on x86 and so it opens the door to running NonStop along traditional lines in converged systems provided by HPE.

Alternatively, you can run NonStop in private clouds or even public clouds as virtualized NonStop can be deployed on popular virtual machine offerings, including VMware. However, just as we heard a lot about the uptick in popularity of NonStop X, virtualized NonStop (vNS) isn’t setting the world on fire. Well, not yet that is – and it’s not the time to resign ourselves to a solution looking for a problem. Where vNS will be marketed, in the shared opinion of Margo and me, is to enterprises already having in place mature virtualized frameworks.

Having said this, it may take some time for the NonStop community to become even aware of wins; vNS combined with DBaaS featuring NonStop SQL/MX represents a new way to market NonStop and in short, it will likely– in fact, this may prove to be the entry point for NonStop gaining a foothold with some of HPE’s biggest channel partners.

Yes, it’s more a time to laugh even if it takes a lot out of usto do so; it’s been a long time comin; but it’s here – NonStop gives us all options and that means we can bring the world of fault tolerance to applications we have been wrestling to make highly available, but only with a lot of effort – yes, it takes something really big like a hand-assembled cluster of clusters system. Yes, it takes something like this to cry!
As the TBC 2019 event proceeded, I posted to LinkedIn numerous updates, one for each day:

If you have as yet not read any of these updates you may want to take a look. Additionally, I posted to this blog, prior to the start of the event, Three things we may want to hear more about at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) event! When it comes to the three things mentioned then there is a couple of updates I can now share with you all. If you don’t recall the three areas of interest then theywere vNS, XaaS (Everything-as-a-Service) and NonStop on the Edge.

Turns out that vNS, as noted above, was mentioned a number of times and was the subject of a couple of presentations (including one on VMware). But it was the keynote presentation by Jeff Kyle, VP & GM Mission Critical Systems unit, that perhaps gave us the best reason for vNS when he said the support for virtual machines is all about, “to be better connected and (more) easily managed!” Furthermore, it’s all about providing, “the best hybrid experience for our customers.” What I took away from this was that for NonStop to be more integral to the workloads being supported by IT, NonStop needs to be less isolated and participating more … running on x86 servers, within a server farm, would be a clear demonstration of NonStop’s ability to now play better with others!

As for XaaS then work has to be done. Even as HPE has committed itself to providing everything as a service by 2022, the NonStop team has begun telling us all that it will clearly be a gradual process that will in all likelihood involve a couple of NonStop partners working with HPE to build out the necessary infrastructure. As noted in my second update on LinkedIn, as best as I can tell from the discussions that have taken place, there will be no impact on the choice of tools and utilities NonStop users can elect to run. Your favorite vendor’s product will remain accessible should you elect to leverage Operational Expense over Capital Expense financing.

However, when it comes to the topic of NonStop on the Edge very little additional information was forthcoming. Perhaps this isn’t surprising as there is a lot to be covered before any such moves by NonStop to the Edge take place but as we become more familiar with HPE’s “Cloudless” mission we may find more attention directed towards NonStop. VMware at the edge and perhaps other options all suggest that as more and more enterprises come to realize that Operational Technology will meet Information Technology at the Edge, transaction processing will eventually move to where transactions originate. And remember too that HPE is committed to supporting every product available for the data center on the intelligent edge.

The more we reflected on the landscape unfolding before us on our drive home, the more we concluded that NonStop not only has been successfully transformed but that it is on the verge of becoming an option for all enterprises, no matter the industry or vertical. Use-case scenarios are all that are missing in our opinion and in the coming months; it’s almost as if we don’t really want to hear anything more from a NonStop product perspective but we do want to hear about how NonStop is being deployed in this new world of hybrid IT addressing core and cloud to the edge. And yet, the NonStop team should be congratulated for putting on a great event even as worked overtime to ensure we all got the message that “the best hybrid experience for our customers” means NonStop.

And what do you know? Looks like after reflecting on all of this, it doesn’t take a lot to laugh and those smiles we are wearing are for a good reason. Weary of the world of IT? Not likely and yes, #NonStopRules … OK!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Three things we may want to hear more about at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) event!

There are always expectations when the annual TBC event comes along but for me, there are three items I will be looking to see being addressed ...

In the quiet moments during the drive from Windsor, Colorado, to Burlingame, California, there were plenty of opportunities to think on what lays ahead. Not in terms of road conditions, as almost all evidence of the snowstorms that had hit us hard during the week had evaporated (except for a few spots in Wyoming), but rather, with regards to expectations as the biggest event of the year for the NonStop community draws near. Margo and I have missed very few major events over the course of three decades – whether ITUG Summits (yes, Margo and I both served as ITUG Summit Chairs during our respective times on the ITUG Board), joint ITUG and DECUS events, or TBCs as these NonStop focused events  are now called. 

As expected, the thoughts we had centered mostly on change. Maybe it did have to do with the two storms that battered Colorado’s front ranges. Maybe though it had to do with what transpired around us – we have a new home finally working even as we have changed every car in the garage and parted ways with our company command center. Just this week I changed my laptop (after almost a decade with the old one) finally succumbing to the demands of business by switching from a flashy Sony to a much lighter HP Pavilion Business Flagship Laptop PC. Whereas in the last post I wrote of how that post would be the last written on the Sony I can now say that this post was written on my HP Pavilion and it seems to be an improvement over the old Sony, but it is still early days and our IT department (yes, Margo) still has a few items to tidy up before it is fully sorted. 

Before diving into the three things I expect many of us want to hear from HPE at TBC, I want to express my gratitude to all those on the HPE NonStop team for all the effort that they have put into ensuring this event is a success. Like many of you I await the final attendance numbers, but they look solid and yes, let me extend a warm welcome to all those who are making the trip across the Atlantic and yes, the Pacific, too – great to see! I am also aware that there will be a number of HPE’s Technologists, Solutions Architects, Analysts and the like taking time out to meet with us all. Again, a big thanks to everyone in HPE helping out at this event. 

It should come as no surprise that at the top of my simple list of three items that I want to hear a lot more about is virtualized NonStop (vNS). Like many of you, I was quite surprised when it was first announced that NonStop would not only be running on traditional machines but on virtual machines as well. Then two years ago, at the same venue we will be returning to, we saw demonstrations of the NS2 atop a table. Yes, desktop NonStop! Well, not exactly, but the impression NS2 created was one where almost everyone who saw the demo came away super excited. Imagine that, I can have my own development / test / pilot NonStop system right there on my own desk!

No question; this was a serious turn of events for the NonStop product line – we had heard former NonStop managers talk about the commoditization of NonStop hardware and even talk about NonStop being a software play but seriously, running NonStop on any vendors hardware with Ethernet as the fabric? Who could possibly have imagined such a possibility just a half a decade or so ago? But there it was; running nicely on a couple of ProLiant servers, right before our very eyes. Well done, NonStop development. But here’s the question that many of us still have with regards to vNS – which market was to be addressed with vNS and what was the go-to-market plans?

It’s all well and good coming up with a great product, but seriously, was it driven by HPE’s own IT organization? Was it driven by the need to be able to run NonStop from within vendor private networks that are being deployed by some of the payments solutions vendors? Was it just a baby-step that was taken for NonStop to be involved in the HPE Synergy program? Did the size of the VMware marketplace look too good to ignore? Or, was it simply a combination of all of this and much more? From the discussions I have had with the community over the past two years it would seem that vNS has a role to play, but at the same time, almost everyone considering running vNS on other vendors x86 servers is approaching the opportunity with a lot of caution – how exactly are all the many moving parts to be supported?

I have to believe HPE has a plan and that it is executing to that plan, but all the same, I am hoping that we will hear a lot more about vNS. It was not a trivial undertaking so I have to believe too that there is a demand for vNS and that’s what I really want to hear a lot more about – it’s just so cool to know NonStop can run almost anywhere on almost anything x86, so HPE, fill us in on what comes next! And with whom and for what markets! Additionally, will we see the rise of the independent NonStop “broker” building a successful business simply by “selling” NonStop as software? 

Moving on from the topic of vNS it’s only a small shift in emphasis when we begin to think about HPE’s ambitious program to provide “Everything-as-a-Service” by June 2022. I only mention the June timeframe as HPE CEO Antonio Neri told attendees of HPE Discover 2019 that XaaS (as it’s being referred to) will be complete by the time he delivers his keynote address at HPE Discover 2022. Just three years to accomplish a monumental shift in product delivery is quite the commitment by HPE, but what will that do for NonStop? NonStop-as-a-Service (NSaaS) is already appearing on slides and in commentaries and posts, but is it for real? Perhaps there will be some form of dispensation provided to the NonStop team to fully deliver NSaaS, but I doubt it – the more I see NonStop moving closer to the center of HPE’s strategy the more I believe NonStop will comply with Neri’s promise. 

The big question then becomes one of execution. We already have seen presentations on the progress HPE’s IT has made in turning its own deployment of NonStop into a DataBase-as-a-Service (DBaaS) model based on the latest iterations of NonStop SQL that supports the new Data Base Services (DBS) and where multi-tenancy is already in place. However, when it comes to NSaaS then it surely is appealing to markets apart from mission-critical applications – running true 24 x 7 doesn’t suggest any cursory service provisions as the application needs to be available all the time. What then? Perhaps the question lies in supporting vendors and their development programs or perhaps it’s a question of being a contingency option. Then again it could be something altogether unexpected and perhaps we will hear about it for the first time next week at the TBC. There are always surprises and this is one surprise I would look forward to experience! 

Finally and reverting back to Neri’s keynote presentation at HPE Discover 2019, where he promoted the idea that every product available for the data center would become available for the intelligent edge. Whether this includes HPE Synergy, HPE Edgeline, Moonshot or something else it’s clear to many of my clients that in time, mission critical transaction processing will move to the edge if only for reasons of preprocessing with reduced network latency, but all the same, it takes the NonStop community back into essentially the distributed computing model and just how many remote instances of NonStop could we possibly manage? 

Again, talking to my clients it’s clear that for now, they are all adopting a wait-and-see position as the merits of pushing NonStop to the Edge are still being debated. Then again, it is also an opportunity to reconsider the prospect of embedded technology. It wasn’t all that long ago when the community present for the ATUG event in Atlanta heard Jeff Kyle, HPE VP & GM, Mission Critical Systems, talk of how, “We, at NonStop, create data!” or every bit as interestingly of how, “Technology will be embedded, everywhere!” Could a vNS be part of this program? On this topic I am very interested to hear if there is any further coverage (or indeed explanation) forthcoming at TBC, but we will all just have to yes, wait and see! 

Past TBC events have all had their surprise moments, form the time Randy Meyer first talked about the Intel x86 architecture to when Martin Fink talked about vNS to when Andy Bergholz talked about DBaaS not to forget the news of RoCE fabric support. It’s all part of why we show up each year and it’s also further evidence that HPE’s interest in NonStop is strategic. Isn’t it ‘xcitin, as Jimmy T was fond of saying, to be still talking about NonStop? Perhaps that is the question that no longer needs to be answered – NonStop has been transformed and in so doing, the community is transforming even as the industry is beginning to take a fresh look at NonStop. Can’t wait to finish the drive and to all those in transit, safe travels! See you in Burlingame!   

Monday, October 28, 2019

NonStop Technical Boot Camp – prosperous times ahead?

Road trips persist in 2019 but the next one, taking us to Boot Camp we expect will be the highlight of the year!

Having just returned from one road trip we are now prepping for another. A change in the weather; a change of clothes and yes, a change of vehicles! This is probably my second to last post on the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) as the event draws near. I am bound to have more thoughts about this event while driving the three days from Colorado to California. We drove to Washington in our AWD Jaguar F Type and as small as the car is, we managed to fit in all the clothes we needed for the ten days road trip. Perhaps the strongest indication of a bright future for NonStop manifesting itself came when we passed the sign suggesting we needed to make a turn in order to visit prosperity!

This post is also the last post I write from my trusty laptop that I have had since 2011. Amazing it’s lasted this long, but on this latest trip, the key board of my Sony Vaio packed it in and while the keyboard can be replaced it’s time for a new laptop anyway. Did I mention this Sony is heavy; coming soon is my new “2018 Newest HP Pavilion Business Flagship Laptop PC 15.6" HD Touchscreen Display 8th Gen Intel i5-8250U Quad-Core Processor 12GB DDR4 RAM 1TB HDD Backlit-Keyboard Bluetooth B&O Audio Windows 10-Gold” Now, that’s a branding situation that simply rolls off the tongue, but yes, after so many years working with the HPE community I am finally getting a HP Pavilion laptop.

There are probably many better options but, for me, weighing just 2.65 pounds (1.2 kilos) it’s a winner and since I already have a HP printer and a big desktop monitor, I am all set. However, during this process I was visiting many web sites for information and it struck me just how static many web sites have become. By this, I mean how little they change over time and yes, how little attention they are getting on a daily basis. 

The question I have been asking myself of late is whether or not web sites have outlived their purpose and whether they have become more of an artifact of a lost era. Have apps that direct us to communities and conversations replaced the need for web sites?

Having just written this let me reiterate that I am a writer, commentator, speaker, blogger where social media channels represent my line of sight to the NonStop community. As an IT analyst who continues to track HPE, Mission Critical Systems and NonStop web sites remain an important “encyclopedia” for me as they provide access to almost unlimited reference material. The sites that draw me back to them are those that continue to evolve and yet, I do not rely on them to develop a sense of community.  

Then there is the topic of white papers, customer case studies and yes, technical (and even marketing) briefs where objectivity is of paramount importance. As a writer working in an era where extracting anything specific from a client or customer is increasingly difficult due to many companies’ policies (together with recent company-directed legislation) restricting anything published that could be regarded as being a recommendation or endorsement, it’s difficult. Anyone attempting to publish an update on a product or service oftentimes has to resort to using generic descriptions. 

I am at the point where I simply don’t want to read anything more from that “large national bank” or even that “industrial behemoth”, particularly when the community at large can figure out who these anonymous entities are pretty quickly. It’s quirky, I know, but there are only so many auto manufacturers headquartered in Bavaria, or Stuttgart.

There is another factor at work when writing such white papers and that is the dreaded revue cycle. For the papers I have produced for vendors, some have been in review for as many as six months, by which time the “wow, or news,” factor has worn off. A number of papers I have written have not even made it out of the review cycle at all – one large UK payment processor was acquired twice during the process so the quotes attributed to execs made no sense! 

But the point is, we turned to web sites to find such information and traditionally depended upon them for references and indeed, in some situations, meaningful reviews. But no longer – any information available on a web site is dated at best, and yes, potentially misleading at worst.

On the other hand, when we talk of blogs we change gears and talk about opinions. Rather than being objective they are peppered with subjective information – it’s all about storytelling, isn’t it? All too often in our industry it’s important to know well your blogger before taking to heart the information provided.  When it comes to the NonStop community we are very fortunate to have as many social media channels as exist today. Even once traditional printed media has gone on line and it only takes keying in a couple of appropriate terms and search engines will return pages of posts and commentaries on the topic.

NonStop is being transformed even as the community is on the precipice of even greater transformation – by 2022 HPE will deliver every product it sells today on the basis of a service. It has introduced the term XaaS to cover this topic – everything as a service. Having noted this and the timetable against which HPE is executing, nevertheless having the option to run NonStop-as-a-Service may be a nice option to have but in the world of mission critical transaction processing, the bulk of NonStop deployments will remain traditional. That is, on NonStop X and at this upcoming TBC, NonStop X will continue to attract the brightest spotlight.

If as yet you aren’t aware of my own presentation at TBC let me just inform you that at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, November 5, in Regency Ballroom B I will be a guest speaker of NTI where I will be discussing NTI strategy; From Replication to distribution, integration and transformation; NTI is putting data first! Hear me talk about DRNet® support for replication, distribution, integration and transformation of data to meet whatever requirements that enterprises demand today of data generated on NonStop! “NTI has also announced DRNet® VISION – support for better NonStop integration with AI, BI, data lakes and warehouses - add to this, NTI is pleased to announce DRNet® supports JSON formats.” Again I very much thank the team at NTI for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to seeing you there immediately following lunch.

However, it would also be remiss of me not to mention two other events taking place during TBC. The first intrigues me a little as it’s the first time I recall ever seeing a Hackathon being advertised by the NonStop community. Jointly promoted by Connect and the NonStop Under 40 (NSU40) planning team it will be the first ever NonStop Hackathon and the challenge for participants will be to “build a web server that answers HTTP requests with a web page or REST API response.”

As for the goal, one key aim of the NSU40s organizers “is to encourage and celebrate a wider participation in NonStop from an emerging generation of IT professionals.” As for the event, it is directed at bringing together Women in Technology at a “Mixer- Sponsored by XYPRO.” This will be a networking event taking place at 5:00 pm Tuesday in Sandpebble C; Sandpebble D – and I know already that this will prove to be well attended. Will I be able to put my head through the door? We will just have to wait and see …

Where will social media be helpful at TBC? During the event and very likely in the weeks that follow, there will be many posts and commentaries provided by individuals and all of them will be worth checking out. That, of course, is the beauty of opinions – we all have them. However, when it comes to opinions, remember the subjective nature of them and make sure you know in advance the storyline being pursued. There will be numerous competing points of view and, by itself, competition is good. But here’s the thing we need to take stock of – as a product family, NonStop is a key member of the Mission Critical Portfolio and as such, it’s a product line that has prospered and now encourages numerous members of the NonStop community to write about it – isn’t that a good thing?

Web sites, white papers, social media channels – the pendulum continues to move through its arc and with each passing, popularity waxes and wanes. TBC will be a huge source for new material that will be readily snatched up by all those who continue to be storytellers looking for new, fresh material. To think, NonStop may soon be celebrating fifty years – yes, it’s a ways off but check the NonStop product roadmaps while you are at TBC and do the math – and even as attention is being directed towards the younger generation of which there will be many present at this year’s TBC, there will be many of us who will be present for that fiftieth birthday bash. 

How many architectures, technologies indeed product lines have flourished for this long? How many computer systems have enjoyed the prosperity of NonStop? Well, that’s another story for another time but for now, there are still presentations to be drafted, bags to be packed, weather forecasts checked and many miles to cover. See you all in Burlingame, California next week!   

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Stories from the road; what transaction processing really means today!

We are in the middle of yet another road trip, driving across the United States. This time, it’s a trip that will take us to the east coast to visit with former colleagues and good friends and as it’s been “in the works” for some time, actually pulling out from our driveway allowed us to let go and to breath. Our carriage of choice for this trip is our Jaguar F Type – a first expansive road trip for the small sports car but it’s the all-wheel-drive version shod in all-season tires (with the Mud and Snow rating) so we are hopeful that the snow that fell on us just a few days ago proves to be an isolated instance.

“There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart,” said Toad to Mole and Rat in the book, Wind in the Willows. “The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!” Fair enough; we may not be in Toad’s prized cart but the sentiment expressed is understandable. Revisiting this quote, it was the “horizon that’s always changing” that caught my attention as when it comes to HPE and NonStop, it’s as if the horizon is simply mist that appears every now and then before vanishing mysteriously into thin air!

This begs the question, naturally enough, as to whether there is a visible horizon for NonStop. So much change has taken place – the management, the teams, the products, the partnerships and much more. Could we say, paraphrasing Toad, “There's real life for you, embodied in that NonStop system!” As the premier offering for mission critical transaction processing, it may not be real life, per se, but doesn’t it strike you that without NonStop, real life may not have progressed to where it is today? It’s no secret that the world’s financial institutions all have connections to at least one mission critical application somewhere in the world where a NonStop system is actively involved.

Recently, I had an OpEd column returned to me for reworking because it contained too many references to NonStop systems and their support of payments solutions. The publication was aimed at banks and fintechs and yet the editorial team was totally blindsided by my observations concerning the pervasiveness of NonStop within the financial services industry. With hindsight, I don’t think that these journalists fully understood the payments switching aspect of payments nor were they aware of just how many ATMs are connected to NonStop systems.

You rent a car from Hertz and it’s my understanding that a NonStop system is involved. You stop by a MacDonalds and yes, again, unless I am corrected at some point, there is a NonStop system that’s also involved. I rent a Mercedes Benz or a Porsche in the full knowledge that a NonStop system helped with the assembling of the vehicle. I use my Visa debit card and yet again, a NonStop system plays a big part in making sure he transaction completes to my satisfaction. When you are driving towards that horizon that’s always changing, there is plenty of time to reflect on just how engaged NonStop systems are in nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

Several years ago I wrote an opinion paper for HPE that highlighted the many use-cases for NonStop systems that weren’t deployed by financial institutions or telcos. The paper,
HP NonStop systems as you haven’t seen them before is still available on HPE’s web site and you can easily download the PDF. Yes, it’s now five years old and I haven’t had an opportunity to revisit the specifics but I know many of the users continue to run NonStop today. 

If you have trouble with the hyperlink above you can cut and paste this link into your browser - https://techlibrary.hpe.com/docs/enterprise/servers/nonstop/Beyond-Finance-and-Telco.pdf 

Whenever we talk about NonStop on trips like this, it’s not uncommon to hear responses such as “Does business still run on NonStop?” Or, even more to the point, “Hasn’t NonStop been replaced – doesn’t everyone run Linux?” As for my personal favorite, it continues to be “NonStop, eh? Do they even make them anymore?” I have to admit that of late HPE is doing a much better job of including NonStop references in presentations by executives and whenever presentations featuring Mission Critical Systems are given there is NonStop clearly visible in the PowerPoint slides.

But can HPE be doing even more? While this is not so much a message for the majority of the NonStop community there is still a strong case to be made that HPE needs to reinforce the message of NonStop even more succinctly when presenting NonStop to enterprise executives and senior managers – a lot more visible pride in what NonStop provides would be more than welcome today! Having said this, I was encouraged to see HPE Mission Critical Systems VP & GM, Jeff Kyle, not flinch when asked questions about HPE support of financial institutions at the recent SIBOS 2019 London where HPE had a much bigger presence than what I saw at SIBOS 2018 Sydney. As the photo atop this paragraph accurately reflects, Jeff referenced NonStop when asked and yes, NonStop SQL was visible on the display behind him as was a simple schematic of what we all know as NonStop X today.

HPE’s enthusiasm for NonStop was a topic I touched on in my latest article just published in the October issue of NonStop Insider, Opinion – Is the NonStop community growing?  In that article you will read that:

It’s a known fact that HPE doesn’t break down the numbers by product line, but even so, it’s not too difficult to extrapolate and come up with numbers. As for supporting evidence all you have to look at is the uptick in numbers of NonStop customers attending regional and major user group meetings 

Enterprises are being given options unlike anything previously coming from HPE. You want out of IT and want to run everything virtualized, cloud-like, but secured, supported and operated by HPE? You got it [with vNonStop and Greenlake]! You want your new NonStop X delivered dockside of your data center? You got that as well [with traditional NonStop]!

And then there is the new mantra concerning embedded technology – in an always connected, always communicating world, technology will be embedded in new products, many of which are still on the drawing boards.

Again, should you have trouble with the hyperlink above and would like to read the article in full, you can cut and paste this link into your browser -

Transaction Processing today has exploded and the transaction volumes being bandied about are mind blowing. And yet, as you travel the “open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common” and much more, you quickly come to appreciate that everyone is initiating a transaction almost everywhere you turn. Having said this, we have also seen those signs that inform customers that they are only accepting cash as their systems and networks are down. Cards, not being accepted at the gas pump, is the worst as it forces you inside to join a line only to be told that yes, the pumps are being upgraded but no, they don’t know when the upgrade will be completed.

It is as if we all know NonStop is the answer but have we become reticent of late to be seen promoting NonStop to our executives and management? We shouldn’t be defensive any longer and that is the overriding sentiment we have been experiencing while on the road – the silence in meeting rooms is totally unnecessary. NonStop really does have the answers to every question that arises over transaction processing. Yes, you can cluster and yes, you distribute but at what cost? Layering more and more software in order to perform even the most simplest of transaction processing doesn’t make the system more reliable. Quite the contrary – it only adds to complexity and complexity is the enemy of reliability.

HPE IT knows this. HPE executives know this too and for the majority of the NonStop vendor community NonStop remains their primary supported platform. Isn’t it about time we tell the story of NonStop, “seven nines,” and yes, of how NonStop continues to provide so many options for enterprises looking at how best to keep up with processing transactions today? Tell stories from the road? No kidding – and this is what it really is all about. We see it in our daily lives so yes, leave it to Toad to sum it up best. “Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!”

Clouds don’t bother me, anyway …

Whenever a technology, product or solution appears to be the only answer then it’s time to look beyond it … At this time of year we...