Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Feeling good out on the edge, are we?

 HPE is committed to becoming a significant player in edge to core; will we see NonStop contributing to both edge and core?

It was just about two years ago that Margo and I spent a week in Munich. It was kind of a rushed trip but we wanted to catch up with former business colleagues from the time when we both worked for the former Nixdorf Computers. That was the time when Nixdorf made a full range of products from key-to-disk data entry systems to retail and banking terminals, including ATMs, a PABX system and yes, even a plug-compatible mainframe. This I covered in the post of March 31, 2019 Living on the edge, a post that was widely read at the time.

Not sure if it was the reference to Munich, to wintery conditions, to Nixdorf and IBM or whether it was the reference to edge computing but it included an important reference to quotes of the day by HPE CEO, Antonio Neri that continue to resonate with Margo and me to this day. “Edge computing means that ‘millions of clouds will all be connected,’ said Neri. ‘Every edge to every cloud. That's the future and why I'm excited about the future of the company.’” Can’t make it much clearer than that or hide the fact that indeed Neri was excited. Without making too fine a point about this, Neri continues to be just as excited today about the edge to cloud message as he was back in 2019.

In the few discussions that I have had with NonStop vendors of late it has become quite clear that talk of moving processes and data to the cloud is just that; talk and little else. Not entirely unexpected, as cloud service providers really struggle to price effectively solutions that need to run 24 x 7 and that need to have the database online the whole time. Simply equating running on external clouds as being little more than running a solution on someone else’s hardware doesn’t help strengthen an argument in favor of clouds and yet, it continues to resonate well within many enterprises.

I cannot hide my observation that even with private clouds that are beginning to take shape within the data centers of some enterprises, running mission critical solutions that today run on NonStop within a private cloud isn’t a priority. And why should it be? For these enterprises, they have the skills needed to run NonStop – can they be assured that the same level of expertise will be directed at the cloud private, or public?

No, the more relevant question is not should I cloud or should I stay but rather, what can the cloud teach me? If you follow Neri’s headlines of date it’s not so much about the cloud but the cloud experience. Enterprises would welcome as much flexibility and dare I say simplicity that they associate with running from out of a cloud being applied to all their traditional systems, including NonStop.

This will remain under debate for some time even as I am conscious of the fact that few migrations to even the most robust of private clouds will happen for NonStop in 2021 or even 2022. More focus will be given to whether the time is right to upgrade to the new NonStop NS8 X4 (or NonStop NS4 X4) than what might be given to moving to a virtualized cloud environment. For good reason, the average enterprise invested in NonStop is risk averse – take down the most critical of mission critical applications and face the consequences? Not likely and who can say; will there be any cost benefits even if it all goes well?

What may not be debated for too much longer is whether NonStop should move to the edge. There is a certain elegance about placing processing power as close to user interactions as possible. Lots of processing power to where there is a concentration of user interactions – robots, warehouses, ticket offices and the like. The elegance comes when you consider that the database is a candidate for the core, cloud or traditional, and the processing a candidate for the edge.

Today NonStop is blessed with multiple solutions that deliver distribution through replication solutions so maintaining currency edge to core is not that big a deal anymore, bandwidth permitting. 5G deployed, already? Vendors like Striim and even NTI come to mind as they rely on Change Data Capture (CDC) methodologies which lend themselves to better integrate data with external databases and processes. It’s very easy to see why they welcome the opportunity to distribute data where the topology revolves around this every edge to every cloud that Neri referenced.

What may tilt the argument more strongly in favor of NonStop at the edge will be AI – giving the local processors insight into user interactions in terms of changes in behavior would benefit from NonStop systems ability to keep processing 24 x 7 even as system managers would maintain an ability to update local databases with no downtime. Today’s NonStop systems can even grow to accommodate greater traffic volumes without downtime and when it comes to pushing security as far away from the core as possible, wouldn’t you really have more trust in a NonStop out on the edge more than anything else?

Alternatively, some enterprises might consider operating a lot of deployed NonStop systems as being beyond their skill sets. After all, there would be a lot of consoles to oversee and perhaps it might not be practical to staff every console required of NonStop out there, on the edge. However, is this really the case these days? Have we not progressed our monitoring and management capabilities to centralize such tasks? Talking to service providers such as TCM Solutions, it would appear that this is already being undertaken to some extent as such service providers can already oversee multiple NonStop systems that are geographically dispersed.

Let’s get serious now just for a moment. NonStop never has had a small configuration that was in any way meaningful. There was the original “lower cost” NonStop CLX that met with some success but not over the long term. Ever since development demoed the NS2 “desktop” NonStop systems a few years back – a system that was virtualized and ran VMware (or was it the Openstack virtual machine, KVM?) but again, I haven’t read about too many wins of late for this desktop system. If we consider the edge almost by definition will be a couple of ProLiant servers supporting virtual machines then maybe, just maybe, we have a place to start.

HPE launches Edgeline EL8000 Converged Edge System

What about the Edgeline servers from HPE – the 4000 and the 8000 models? Haven’t there been demos of them running NonStop on virtual machines? Yes, I have seen examples myself where NonStop was present but within HPE little traction has developed. Not that I have come across. I don’t want to position these Edgeline offerings as some kind of panacea but rather to suggest that in a virtual world, where an appropriate virtual machines can be found, therein lies opportunity for NonStop.

So, can we feel good about a future that has NonStop running on the edge or is this still a case of it looking good on the whiteboard and in PowerPoint but seriously, problematic at best? In a world where HPE CEO Neri has also committed HPE to offering every product in its portfolio on the basis of as-a-service, could this prove to be a way out for NonStop on the edge?

Following its launch,
possible sighting of a rare NonStop NS2?

Lots of questions to be sure but addressing the potential for NonStop at the edge isn’t something we leave to HPE and the NonStop team. We really cannot expect them to push deeper into the solution space.  If as a community we want to feel good out on the edge then it really is up to us to identify opportunities and then build-out solutions that address the requirements we come across. Any interaction between an end user where value is returned to that user, such as is the case with looking up a QR code to see a menu, warrants a NonStop solution. Point is, do we really want to flood our networks, 5G or otherwise, with what we have all heard described as digital exhaust?

Debates will continue over whether it is feasible or indeed practical to move NonStop out of the core and to the edge. It’s too hard to manage and yes, it’s difficult to physically size appropriately. However, processing will continue to move out of the data center to become positioned at the edge. Is it our intent to let such a generational pivot be ignored and to see NonStop miss out on one very large opportunity? There will always be a need for operational availability NonStop alone provides and for that, we should be attuned to just how good it might be to process out on the edge.   

Thursday, April 1, 2021

My paper chase; all for a view of the big picture!

Roadmaps always receive a lot of attention whenever products are being discussed particularly among NonStop community members. However, when was the last time we took stock of the bigger picture for HPE NonStop systems?

What began with a simple question ended up involving much more than I had anticipated! Conversations, checking under couch cushions, web searches and even visits to the local gas station. For a very long time now I have been using a yellow Hi-Liter pen to record the many North American highways Margo and I have traversed, but as we make plans for further travels this year and begin to think about packing our bags once again, I couldn’t find the marked map! Somehow our filing and retrieval system let us down – no way would we have thrown away that piece of memorabilia?

After the conversations had run their course I thought it best if I just get another map and start over, but where to get a map? What I needed was a simple fold-out map of the US and Canada that included all the major highways that crisscross this part of the continent. Turns out it is not that simple; as much as I wanted to see the big picture, supplies were hard to find. Paper maps are disappearing rapidly from store displays. Not even the local gas stations carry paper maps any more. Thank goodness for online shopping and after a couple of searches, Amazon found me the Rand McNally fold out map I so desperately needed.

I have covered the topic of product roadmaps more than once and I have no real intention of revisiting this topic yet again. I think we can all understand that product roadmaps are a desirable must-have when making strategic decisions. No point in going down a path if it’s poorly designed or worse, seeing no one else taking the same path. However, what I miss most is the fold-out paper map itself; being able to see everything laid out without any need to turn the page over or much worse, look for a different page altogether.

There have been numerous instances of late where I have been challenged over my enthusiasm for NonStop systems. Why should we consider NonStop as part of our long term plan? What role could a NonStop play that couldn’t be otherwise fulfilled by other products? How does NonStop truly differentiate itself in a world preoccupied with clouds? Fair enough; when it comes to the bigger picture however, NonStop continues to hold a couple of trump cards that continue to prove hard to beat. It may be hard to find a map of the US, but none is needed when it comes to seeing all the roads down which NonStop is travelling.  

While waiting for a service on my car to complete I came across a copy of that day’s New York Times. Picking it up it just felt good to be able to glance at headlines before settling on a story to read. As a third generation newspaper man I had almost forgotten how comforting it is to get newsprint on my hands. What I enjoyed most was that with a quick scan across the pages I knew in an instant what was taking place around the world. I could tell whether the focus was purely political or held a human interest story. I could tell whether an article was breaking news or just an opinion.

When it comes to NonStop systems there are so many things it can do but it only takes a quick glance of the big picture to recognize what it does best. And what is this big picture in 2021? For me, what I see is the edge and the core offering opportunities for NonStop in ways we have more often than not simply glossed over. Yes, I know it can do that and yes, I have seen NonStop customers deploying NonStop in that manner but in glossing over such deployments perhaps we are doing NonStop a disservice. It’s a powerful picture this edge to core and well worth reading in full before putting down the paper. Coming to terms with the big picture may not be easy but it really is a must for anyone looking at the future of NonStop in modern enterprises.

As I was chasing down where to buy a paper map of North America it also occurred to me that it wasn’t just the big picture such maps provided. It was in the myriad details that the paper map provided – where state boundaries lay and where mighty rivers flowed. Even the history of big cities in the middle of nowhere becomes a lot clearer as you see just how many highways, railway lines and rivers merged where today rises a very large city. These are details that are very important for anyone preparing to drive across the country. For me these many lines are important and if you need a reminder of the difficulties NonStop vendors face today when building mission-critical infrastructure just count the number of lines coming out of Kansas City. Or St. Louis, or even Denver, for that matter!

For the NonStop community the details have always been important. Even as the big picture highlights how there is an edge and a core, what might jump from the page are the many “hops” involved between edge and core. Security and the closing down of vulnerabilities is not a trivial matter. As a community, we are constantly bombarded it seems every day, with even more bad press about unauthorized intrusions taking place. Early on it was about working through the issues of what might happen if such illegalities occurred and making sure there was nothing of value to be mined but that’s sidestepping the main issue. Those many lines on the map connecting sites scattered around the planet aren’t there for dramatic purposes but rather as a reminder that our very business integrity demands we take steps to protect our enterprise.

When it comes to the big picture in this regard, the HPE NonStop system does provide value. Not only can we visualize NonStop out on the edge or deep insider the core, there is a real sense that NonStop offers a level of security that should not be ignored – it’s still a case of NonStop having never been compromised. Whether you are processing transactions at the edge or storing data at the core, there is a reason we cannot ignore NonStop. To answer those questions raised earlier - what role can a NonStop play and how does NonStop truly differentiate itself then we can be very clear about our response. Because no other vendor can do what NonStop does and do so out of the box – on delivery through to eventual deployment, NonStop just works and continues to work 24 x 7! As for my enthusiasm, aren’t we all proud to be working with today’s NonStop systems?

The map arrived from Amazon in due course. Baggage we haven’t used in a year is being retrieved from storage and being cleaned. However my chasing paper left me both bemused and more aware. I was bemused by how much faith I place in the paper I held in my hand even if just for a moment. I was also aware that I may be among the last generation to truly enjoy the feel of a map as it is unfolded. Fortunately, when it comes to HPE and the NonStop system there is nothing transient or old fashioned about anything involving NonStop – it truly is a system of and for the times, no pun intended. And yes, it truly has changed in ways that make it even more suitable for meeting the demands of today’s enterprises, non-stop!

Friday, March 26, 2021

For the NonStop community, news is good; I will take that!

Whether you are looking for news about NonStop, NS SQL, GreenLake, a cloud experience and more, it is hard to overlook just how well HPE is performing in the marketplace. The news certainly looks good for Nonstop in 2021.

In former times, it was the town crier we relied upon for the news of the day. It therefore comes as no surprise to hear that down through history,   such news was often misconstrued. Semantics, emphasis, a wrongly placed punctuation mark can play havoc with what may have been communicated. I am always encouraging my readers to check things out for themselves as my take on the news may differ from what you read elsewhere. Indeed, I will take that as a complement should you follow the links I provide in many of my posts.

When HPE released its financial results for Q1, 2021, the response was mixed to say the least. There was good news reported by HPE CEO Antonio Neri even as there were some declines in sales for some products within the HPE product portfolio. However, what many of us in the NonStop community are witnessing with respect to NonStop continuing to sell well isn’t finding universal acceptance among investors and for the most part, this comes down to an expectation of HPE to execute more quickly.

In his exchange with financial analysts that followed the release of the Q1, 2021, financial results, Neri responded to questions about execution with the following that in part looks good for NonStop -

“We are a company that has unique portfolio from edge to cloud. Our competitors don't have all of that. Some have in one area, some have in another area. And what customers want is an integrated experience more and more.

“And HPC, I'm very bullish about HPC because ultimately, the data sets we see in customer sites continue to grow. And they all need AI machine learning at one point in time.”

When it came down to the financial performance of the combined HPC / MCS organization it was a clear case of it being difficult to misconstrue Neri’s update -

“HPC and MCS are on track to deliver full year FY21 growth of 8 – 12% with over $2B in contracts.”

In fact, during the conference Neri was very bullish when it came to the outlook for the rest of 2021 –

“I am very pleased with HPE’s Q1 results. Our revenue exceeded our outlook and represents a stronger-than-normal sequential seasonality. We significantly expanded our gross and operating margins, driving strong profitability across our businesses ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

“Our non-GAAP earnings per share exceeded the high end of our guidance, and free cash flow was a record Q1 performance. These results give us confidence to raise our fiscal year ‘21 EPS and free cash flow outlook ...”

“Our revenue exceeded our outlook.” “Our non-GAAP earnings per share exceeded the high end of our guidance, and free cash flow was a record Q1 performance.” Nice; while he was upbeat and talking about the seasonality impact from COVID-19, I will take exceeded! Whenever business leaders talk openly about exceeding expectations the financial community takes note. Already analysts are pegging share price to reach $16 and last time I checked, it has been bounding around at this price point.

In January 2021, “JPMorgan analyst Paul Coster upgraded HP Enterprise to ‘Overweight’ and lifted his price target to $16 from $13. Coster told investors the stock was a good ‘contrarian long trade,’ given the company’s move into the SD-WAN space, its ongoing cost-cutting initiatives, and the expected recovery in enterprise IT spending.” To even the most casual observer, it looks like HPE’s performance is headed in the right direction.

Sounds good but even if the positive insights provided by Neri cannot be misconstrued, what do other industry observers make of HPE’s progress during this global pandemic? If you happened to visit the HPE web site you could not have missed the promotion of a recent Gartner report that you can download and read for yourselves. Again, it is important to check things out for yourself.

Under the heading of For the third year in a row, Hewlett Packard Enterprise receives an overall positive rating in the 2021 Gartner Vendor Rating this March 23, 2021, post promoting the Gartner report then notes the following rating overall by Gartner -

“We believe HPE continues to have a solid product strategy that is supported by a well-run operational foundation.”

The overall rating of HPE by Gartner was positive as documented in their Figure 1 below:

With regards to the highlights of importance for the NonStop community there were a couple that did stand out. Both pertained to the strategy as well as the execution according to Gartner:

“New HPE GreenLake Cloud Services, such as networking, containers, machine learning and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), have allowed HPE to reach new markets, but it needs to continue to educate customers and prospects as well as its direct sales and Partner Ready channel partners on their value proposition and differentiation.

“HPE has a very large installed base of server customers and offers a wide and deep portfolio, including industry-standard, fault-tolerant, HPC and edge servers.

“Within its Mission-Critical Systems segment, HPE is in the midst of a multiyear transition from Itanium to x86-based hardware, with the latter now the primary option in both its fault-tolerant NonStop portfolio and scale-up Superdome systems.” 

GreenLake; Fault-Tolerant; a positive transition to x86-based hardware – it all points to a vendor that knows what they are doing, where they are headed and how best to meet the demands of a changing enterprise computing environment. If you really want to know about the highlights then look no further than at NonStop – it remains a key contributor to the overall performance of HPE and increasingly is being called out for delivering such a contribution.

Certainly, the work being done to better integrate NonStop with GreenLake is commendable even as the renewed focus on NS SQL are giving NonStop greater visibility within HPE, the financial and industry analyst communities and to enterprise IT management. And with greater visibility the prospects for NonStop only look to be getting better. When it comes to NonStop being better positioned, making a better contribution and performing better in the marketplace than expected, then what more can I say? 

I will take NonStop!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Hey, you, get off of my cloud!

We are witnessing major cloud service providers flexing their muscles giving us all cause for concern; NonStop in the data center becoming a viable alternative for many enterprises.

We have just come through our twelfth snowstorm here in Northern Colorado. It is pretty normal to see that many snowfalls by the time spring arrives. However, this particular snowstorm broke a number of records and it has taken me many days to clear a path to our front door, but as the weekend approached the skies have cleared and there is very few clouds to be seen. What occurs in nature however is no indication of what happens in the world of business where there are many more clouds to be seen than what was present overhead that day.  

There is no escaping how many references to cloud computing you will come across of late. The mega-vendors who are the big purveyors of cloud computing are battling it out over market share and all the time, the questions keep coming up. Can I afford not to move to the cloud? Can I be assured that my data is safe? Can I enjoy the cloud experience all on my own using my own systems?

However, this year we have witnessed an escalation in something quite different and it comes in two forms. Clouds that burn down and well, clouds that throw you off; reminds us all of those lines in a song from the 1960s:

Don't hang around 'cause two's a crowd
On my cloud

Hey (hey), you (you)
Get off of my cloud

 The NonStop community is well aware that disasters both natural and manmade can occur. Not surprising at all is our knowledge that by its very definition, real-time mission critical transaction processing requires infrastructure implemented in ways to ensure there are no outages, whatsoever. Fortunately, the NonStop community is blessed in having a number of sources that they can turn to when it comes to extending fault tolerance to disaster tolerance and are just as prepared to pay a little extra to have access to that level of availability.

Apparently, not every business is inclined to pursue deploying such an infrastructure and just this month, many businesses were simply burnt for their lack of insight. Perhaps burnt is the correct word as in France, a cloud services firm caught on fire! According to the March 10, 2021, report from Reuters, Millions of websites offline after fire at French cloud services firm this fire at OVHcloud “disrupted millions of websites, knocking out government agencies’ portals, banks, shops, news websites and taking out a chunk of the .FR web space, according to internet monitors.”

Apparently, it was just before midnight at OVHcloud when the fire broke out and it “destroyed one of four data centers in Strasbourg, in eastern France, and damaged another, the company said.” Disruptive as the fire obviously was to the French community it did surprise some members of the NonStop community. One NonStop vendor went so far as to suggest they dodged a bullet in that, “We used OVH for some cloud and web services up until about two years ago. It is scary to realize that we could have been knocked out for a bit.”

Let’s consider the fire as being something we could classify as a natural disaster and for the majority of NonStop users, adequate measures have been taken to mitigate disruptions to transaction processing that usually involve the deployment of secondary sites that will activate instantly, no matter what takes place. However, what we have witnessed in 2021 is totally unnatural; cloud services firms are taking unilateral actions to throw businesses off of their cloud.

These unilateral actions were highlighted in a recent Gartner report referenced in the article Gartner - Three tips to avoid cloud service suspension - that appeared in one of the oldest publications (now digital) in the world, Computer Weekly. The opening lines of this article tell the whole story as reporter Lydia Leong states, “As recent events have shown, public cloud providers have the power to terminate cloud contracts, and seemingly legitimate businesses may be at risk. Amazon Web Services, Okta and Stripe suspended or terminated service to Parler after the organized mob invasion of the US Capitol building in January. Not only did this effectively result in Parler’s business being shut down, but it was also a public demonstration of the willingness of technology service providers to ‘deplatform’ undesirable customers.”

This comes after similar actions were taken by Technology service providers (TSPs) that have rejected, terminated or announced they would no longer support contracts with certain companies before. “For example, Mastercard, Visa and PayPal terminated services to Pornhub, a YouTube-like site for adult videos, in December 2020, and Salesforce changed the language in its terms of service in 2019 to deny services to gun retailers.” Irrespective of whether or not  you find these sites distasteful or simply yet more instances of exploitation of the unwary going global, censorship has a tendency to grow unchecked such that, in time, parties become embolden to take down anything and everything that they may disagree with – next, it could be your business!

Now I am not suggesting for one moment that any members of the NonStop community are embracing practices that might incur the wrath of the mighty cloud service providers and yet, with no real rules being publicly addressed (and promoted), it should send a strong signal to us all that perhaps our most mission critical transaction processing applications together with the data that they create doesn’t belong on public clouds. As one NonStop executive noted, there are still those enterprises that “have definitely not thought about the unavailability of a cloud infrastructure should the cloud provider takes a dislike to them and kick them off their cloud without warning.” 

The risk that a cloud provider would de-platform a customer’s infrastructure, without warning, has now become a real possibility. On a whim, perhaps, and maybe following a warning note but imagine having your call center or your order entry system suspended simply because a cloud service provider had AI scanning your content and coming up with a sequence of words that the cloud service provider had flagged as unworthy of further support. “Get off my cloud,” said another reporter may have been an appeal for “unauthorized hackers to stay away from confidential and proprietary information stored in a very publicly accessible place” but now it’s cutting much deeper. Not hackers but businesses – who could have imagined we would come to this?

When HPE is actively promoting the cloud as not being a destination but an experience and lobbying enterprises to take a serious look at GreenLake to better build out their own, mostly on-prem private clouds, perhaps they were being prescient. Did they know in advance that something was afoot? Did they suspect that big public cloud providers would soon wield the power to choose who to support and who not to support? Probably not, but it’s hard to ignore their approach to clouds and there is mounting evidence that NonStop has become part of their GreenLake offerings.

However, perhaps the strongest message that has come from these recent headlines is that the cloud is no panacea. It’s not a one size fits all or one approach satisfies every business. Enterprises are ultimately responsible for their actions, their destiny and their employees and customers. Isn’t it wise then to look at NonStop systems and the cloud experiences that are coming to market that feature NonStop? To the seasoned IT professional there has been a sense of reticence to be all-in on clouds and now we know that any misgivings they may have had were clearly quite warranted.

All we need to know now is not which cloud service provider to choose or even which financial model makes the most sense – CapEx vs OpEx – but rather, how about longevity? How about stability? And yes, most important of all perhaps, how about staying in business. We may all know the words to the song Hey, you, get off of my cloud!, but did we ever think that it would become the rallying call of enterprises prepared to disrupt our business? Fires and other natural disasters we should all be prepared to handle. Isn’t it about time then that we give more than a cursory look at what is perhaps the very worst of manmade disasters – parties that for whatever reason just don’t like us and send us packing?

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Hang on – someone's on the line!

Phone technology and products are constantly evolving. When it comes to NonStop it too continues to evolve and remains in synch with ever-evolving enterprise needs …

Blame it on the isolation. Blame it on social distancing. Whatever the reason I have been listening to satellite radio a lot of late as I have been driving all over town doing the family chores. By way of a brief update, Margo is now well on her way to recovery following her accidental braking of her leg a few days before Christmas. All the same, I have been doing double duty keeping the house in order. Then again, irrespective of who lands a task we are both only too willing to just get things done.

On this one occasion while out and about, as I listened to the Margaretville station, on came the song One Particular Harbor and being the sailor I once was, it always tugs at my heartstrings. However, I almost forgot this verse:

I used to rule my world from a pay phone
And ships out on the sea
But now times are rough
And I got too much stuff
Can't explain the likes of me

Before tackling the topic of can’t explain the likes of me (which I don’t plan to do any time soon even as I complete yet one more trip around the sun), it’s the opening line rule my world from a pay phone that, on this occasion, got my attention. Long before cell phones came onto the scene, I had an AT&T card that allowed me to use any payphone anywhere around the planet. And I sure did come to depend upon the presence of these payphones in almost every country I visited.

Staying in touch with family and friends, let alone conducting business right out of a phone booth was such a routine part of my business life that I never gave it another thought, but now, how often do we see payphones? Remember hotel lobbies where you could find a corridor full of payphones and during the breaks in meetings and events, there was that headlong rush to grab an available phone? No longer, it seems although I continue to see the counters where they used to reside – I wonder what the younger generation makes of them?

Of course, with the global pandemic, applications like ZOOM and TEAMS have become essentially modern-day versions of the payphone as we flip open our laptops and begin conversations from almost any vantage point. But the bigger question that follows is what’s next? Do we need to be “on the phone” as much as we appear to be these days? For the NonStop community have we all made the jump to being available, non-stop?

While driving in Sydney, slowed by peak hour traffic, I once saw a convertible being driven by a man who had one of those old mobile phones to his ear when he switched hands just to pick up and answer a second mobile phone wired to his vehicle. I had to think wow, such an important captain of industry. Then again, with mobile phones, how many of us now carry two phones when on the move – separating business from pleasure.

Yes, my hair may be graying, even as the years of experience I have gained are on the rise. And yet, I am still here looking at the world of transactions and at the data being created as a result of these transactions. All of these activities with a NonStop focus, no less. It continues to amaze me how persistent the NonStop community is even as NonStop continues to reinvent itself. Once considered little more than another ubiquitous minicomputer albeit with special qualities, who would have imagined NonStop would have seen off the stage the likes of Prime, Wang, Nixdorf, Four Phase, Data General - even DEC?

As I look at the world of transactions and data I remain very impressed with the investment HPE continues to make in NonStop. In describing it’s various products HPE called out HPC & MCS as being the portfolio offering workload-optimized servers designed to support specific use cases.  This is distinct from how HPE describes its Compute organization where HPE informs us that the Compute portfolio offers both general-purpose servers for multi-workload computing and workload-optimized servers. Yes, within MCS NonStop is special.

However and this is good news for the NonStop community, it’s not just that HPE continues to invest in NonStop but rather, it is investing in a way that ensures relevance in the world of edge to cloud platform as a service derived business. Should you be looking for a cloud experience, then look no further than NonStop; virtual NonStop that is where the database takes the center stage. NonStop SQL/MX Data Base Services (DBS) has the potential for steering NonStop into having an even bigger presence in our data centers than many of us anticipated only a short time ago.

“The DBS acronym in the name stands for ‘Database Services,’” wrote HPE Master Technologist Frans Jongma, in a recent article published earlier this year. “This is a reference to what is described in the industry as Database-as-a-Service or DBaaS.” Jongma has a lot more to say on this topic in an article to be published in the March issue of NonStop Insider – look for it. You may be surprised at what the NonStop team has achieved with SQL/MX DBS. And there is even more to follow if you truly are looking for the SQL/MX Cloud Experience!

The humble payphone isn’t about to make a reappearance just as the mobile phone we once insisted on installing in our cars. The technology in support of phone connectivity is moving at a rapid clip – what comes after 5G, you may be wondering. Do we really want to view Avatar on our wrist watch? No matter, as today’s cell phones are just another iteration of computers we have elected to make accessible while “on the go.” Once called client devices or even user touch points but however you view them, they are an important link in the chain that brings transactions to NonStop. And yes, as we all now know, transactions are the important ingredient for NonStop as they create data.

Excited by what you read about NonStop today? Curious to see what new applications will leverage NonStop in the future? Will we see the facilitating of financial transactions be usurped by all types of transactions that involve the creation of a record – virtual and real? And a record that is created then saved on NonStop. I have a sense that this century’s equivalent to ticket processing is about to happen. Just saying. Have you seen how the rise of QR codes has escalated in the pandemic – think vendors aren’t modifying their business based on data gathered in real time? Hang on, I think someone is trying to reach me right now; no, let it go to messaging and maybe I’ll call.

As I continued to listen to Buffett’s song, it struck me how well it described future destinations. It wasn’t just about one particular harbor but rather, that progression from one harbor to the next, each one presenting an opportunity for safety; for less risk than the previous harbor. With each harbor visited a continued yearning for more. And perhaps that’s what NonStop has been providing for a very long time. As it met the needs of business yesterday and is meeting the needs of business today it continues to reinvent itself to meet the needs of business tomorrow.

Ever wondered why NonStop truly excelled for as long as it has even as it continues to remain in the conversation whenever real-time mission critical transaction processing is discussed? Yes, NonStop will continue to attract our attention as we move from one opportunity to the next. As for future offerings then like destinations, even now I can hear the words:

Most mysterious calling harbor
So far but yet so near
I can see the day when my hair's full gray
And I finally disappear 

After which, like Buffett himself sings, even after one more trip around the sun I can only add, “but not yet!”

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The future came quickly … enjoying the ride?

Predictions! Vision! Schedules! All have been subject to change; impacted by the spread of COVID-19. Read how HPE investments in NonStop have helped NonStop to better pivot into support of core and edge initiatives …

 I have to say I am not sure whether we have seen our eleventh snow storm of the season or whether it’s a continuation of the ninth. For the past couple of weeks snow has been falling on most days but perhaps more disturbing for someone who grew up close by to the beaches of Sydney, Australia, was the bitter cold that draped its arms across it all. Living in Colorado you would think we are used to the cold, but not really. We have our days, of course, but watching the thermometer drop below -20 Fahrenheit is always cause for alarm.

There were no concerns over whether we had enough food and drink at hand as COVID-19 has made us cautious about our supply chain – trips to the grocery store were all to do with ensuring we always have a month plus of everything we needed. We had always had plans to add to our basement’s storage area so that we didn’t have to make as many trips to the store, but had been slow to embrace.

With COVID-19, our plans were accelerated such that now we make fewer trips to the store to ensure we continue practicing social distancing. On the other hand, we realize we are on a ride unlike anything we have experienced before and as such, we are hanging on and making the best of our time together, at home.  

Our online activity has remained high and the delivery trucks continue to make regular visits to our front porch. Nevertheless, Colorado was among the lucky states this time around as news broke of the horrific situation to the south of us in places like Texas and Louisiana. Pity those poor birds that flew south for the winter! In Texas, the surrounding gulf waters have turned so cold that even sea turtles had to be rescued and brought in from the unexpected cold – five thousand of them, apparently, with a little help from the human friends have found temporary homes on South Padre Island.

A new fulfilment center has appeared nearby our house in Windsor and nothing has stopped them sending the trucks out into the cold for which we have become highly appreciative. Then again, we haven’t really tried to go anywhere and as a result, we are spending more time at home than we have ever done in the past. We may be grudgingly enjoying the ride but it hasn’t translated into drives across the country.

Having a little time on my hands I went back through posts to the HPE web site. I often do this just to keep myself plugged into the current sentiment of the HPE executive team. It’s not like there are surprises, mind you, as much of what is covered has already been announced at major events but even so, there are times when a sentence or two can stop you in your tracksand to think a bit more about the story behind the lines that catches your eye. When such sentences include words like prediction and vision followed by schedules then even the most jaded of NonStop users might want to take a look at what is being posted just to be sure they haven’t missed anything important.

What caught my attention this time was the December 16, 2020, blog post by HPE CTO Kumar Sreekanti, Hewlett Packard Enterprise 2021 predictions. Having been written by HPE’s CTO certainly warranted my time and the time spent was rewarded when I came across the following:

“While no one could have predicted the disruption brought on by COVID-19 this year, early on we did foresee the way it would impact the world of technology. In fact, HPE’s CEO Antonio Neri has said that the vision of the future everyone talked about before the pandemic is here now, ahead of schedule. Other tech leaders have echoed this sentiment; Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said we saw two years of change in two months.”

I know you have been an IT professional for many years just as I suspect you have found that you have more time on your hands to visit web sites and to read commentaries and opinions from many IT executives.  A little jaded from all that reading? Underwhelmed by much of the messaging you come across? Perhaps then you have missed the sparks that are flying as industry leaders take a more serious look at the rides they have committed taking in 2021 and beyond.

Even as this past year has let us spend more time in front of our screens, HPE has continued to push ahead with its pursuit of being a world leading core to edge platform as a service company. So when you see references to predictions – in this case, predicting the disruption brought by COVID-19 – your first reaction might have been to wonder whether deliverables were going to come later than expected.

However, not in this case, as HPE not only acknowledges that there was no way to predict the arrival of a global pandemic, HPE notes too that they did come to terms with the impact it was going to have on the world of technology and have responded accordingly. Predicting the future is not without risks. Likewise, ignoring what was happening around you and its potential to alter your plans could be viewed as being even more risky.

You could say that the future did arrive a little faster than anyone had planned and in so doing, drew the spotlight on how best the world of technology handled change. When it comes to HPE and NonStop systems, what we have seen is the volume of transactions climb astronomically and the value within the transactions becoming much greater. Data creation was happening at an unprecedented rate and with it, a greater need to ensure data created on NonStop could be put to good use. In real time!

Predictions are easy to make and to change as circumstances change but when it comes to promoting a vision, particularly when it’s all about a vision of the future, there is less flexibility in terms of modifying or enhancing on-the-fly as it were. Visions are for the long term and when HPE then adds how the COVID-19 has shrunk the industry’s vision of the future which is here now, ahead of schedule, then it’s placing renewed emphasis on decisions taken more than a year or two ago.

Who could have imagined that NonStop initiatives like support of x86, going virtual and now, NS SQL Server and NS SQL Cloud Edition becoming a reality would be timely changes to the vision for NonStop that meets current market conditions. Yes, it’s all about the data and yes, it’s all about the cloud experience.

When it comes to predictions and visions and the impact COVID-19 is having on both of them then it comes as no surprise to read of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella telling us that at Microsoft, “we saw two years of change in two months.” What HPE has funded for NonStop over the past decade is now proving to be pivotal for the future of NonStop. Where HPE is taking NonStop, consolidating its role in support of data at the core while testing the waters for a role where transactions are created, out at the edge, is now turning out to be an enlightened strategy.

Did you read how IBM is considering selling its Watson Health business unit? As the old adage goes, you can only sell what someone else wants even as it follows news that IBM is also planning on a spin-off of its managed infrastructure services unit. In case you missed it, on January 22, 2021, IBM Corp stock price slumped 10% and was the top drag on the Dow Jones industrial index. What does this mean? IBM too is pivoting and, for now its focus will be on hybrid cloud business.

Coming many years after HPE pursued a similar action, industry analysts are now wondering whether IBM will be able to catch up to the rest of the industry. COVID-19 has accelerated major shifts in the industry. It has compressed timelines unlike anything we have seen before. As IT professionals, we expect change even as we anticipate relearning new ways to support business.

eCommerce is changing the face of global business even as working from home is effecting how our homes are being constructed – will that be one or two offices in this home we are building for you? However, even as we adapt to change and relearning the way we build, test and deploy solutions there remains an element of cynicism in what we witness. There are still many of us holding out for a return to the old normal but as we can see from the remarks of industry leaders, don’t hold your breath.

If you don’t understand the predictions being made or give little heedance to the visions being described here (and their impact to schedules) then perhaps it’s time to return to your screen and take a good long look at what is being written about. For me, it wasn’t so much a surprise as it was that technology executives actually said what many of us have been thinking. The future is here now and normalcy has forever changed. It all may be happening quicker than you previously though possible but it’s here to stay – it’s a non-stop, real time and yes, ever changing world; have you signed on for the ride?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

As for our working lives have we started running non-stop?

As familiar as we are with the NonStop systems fault tolerance and their ability to run 24 x 7, are we too destined to work non-stop? Could the new normal break down any separation remaining between weekends and the days in between?

I truly cannot count how many times I have read a story about life in the new normal. Ignoring the fact that there’s absolutely nothing normal about the way we work these days, what is perhaps even more galling is the way assumptions are being made about our newfound daily routines. Who really cares about my reduced commute times or who is shocked that I don’t stop by for a Starbucks’ Caffè Latte No, the more I think about normalcy and what I concur has become the new normal, the more I am struck by the thought that well, perhaps we will never see our formal normal times ever again.

This week I received an invitation to attend an IT conference, ATMIA US Conference 2021, that will be held in Las Vegas, late June. Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t about a return to a form of normalcy for the HPE Discover event. As best as I can tell, this will once again be a virtual experience in 2021. The invitation I received was complete with a list of all those Platinum, Gold, Silver, etc. sponsors we have become familiar with if not by name or even reputation then by the way they seem to fill in the blanks.

The punchline in this invitation? “As effective vaccines are increasingly deployed, the worst of the pandemic will soon be over and the industry can start planning its recovery strategy and begin to enjoy in-person networking once again in growing safety.” This was followed, a couple of sentences later, with “We know you are ready for some in-person business networking after a long pandemic with its associated social isolation.  You want to see an exhibit hall filled with new technologies, innovations and new business opportunities.” Ouch; and to think here I am, at my desk, behind my monitor, looking pretty glum about the prospects of seeing the greater NonStop community any time soon.

Working out of a home office may have its upside in that there is no commute and coffee is readily at hand – remind me, I have to cut back on the caffeine, but not today, mind you. As for the downside, searching journals, newspapers, tech web sites all the while looking for story lines that could be developed is no substitute for hearing directly from those more closely connected to the tech we all appreciate. NonStop systems! Yes, one big downside the NonStop community can appreciate is that with no boundaries, many of us have found ourselves working non-stop.

The photo above is of my office. It hasn’t really changed all that much since the last time I included a similar photo. About all I can add is that it’s a little tidier but that may be a moot point. Can you make out the coffee mugs mementos of events past? There is a mug celebrating the conclusion of the Exceed program as well as a mug from the launch of Himalaya. Tucked in behind them and probably hard to see is the ITUG mug handed out at the 1992 European ITUG event in Nice, France. It does feel strange to have no human contact but then again, there were times on the campus of Tandem Computers where I experienced much the same feelings.

If you didn’t have a multi-screen set up prior to COVID-19, I am sure you now have such a set up. How many times a day do you converse over TEAMS or ZOOM? Without commenting any further on that Texas lawyer who became trapped behind a cat filter there have been times when I wondered if my colleagues viewed my image as being presentable or not.

Depending upon the call, I set the camera up to display something or another just as a way to keep them guessing as to where I am. However, for the NonStop community they should recognize the painting hanging in my office as captured in the photo above. It used to hang in the German offices of Tandem Computers and was a gift from ITUG when I stepped down from the Chairmanship of ITUG.

To round out the German connection, there is the framed track map of Germany’s famous Nordschleife, or North Loop, of the Nürburgring! I spent a day on track there as part of an open track day way back in 2010! But there are also helmets and caps from different track events taking up space on this shelving – all mementos too of a life apart from work.

A perfect offset to what occupies my daily routines of late. When you think of normal then perhaps it’s a stretch after all to include NonStop as part of any normalcy we care to consider. Isn’t NonStop far from normal? Hasn’t NonStop solved business problems by doing something completely different? But will NonStop change even more? Will we change along with NonStop? The fundamentals of NonStop are such that try as they might, clusters and clouds, no vendor has managed to recreate NonStop!

I was asked this week if a client’s product was first to market. What struck me by this question was just how many firsts the original NonStop system achieved – there may have been early prototypes and perhaps a model or two but from memory, NonStop as it first appeared as a Tandem Computer, was the world’s first fault tolerant computer. Any other fault tolerant implementation was purely a copy that simply followed the leader.

No IT executive questioned the fact that NonStop was first and in so doing, acknowledged that NonStop had solved one of the most troubling problems for IT. What to do when the system crashed? I don’t have to go digging through libraries and check out Wikipedia to know that in the mid-1970s, Tandem Computers brought the first fault tolerant system to market. And it never crashed; cross off a major concern for those IT executives.  

Working from home as most of us have been doing – if not all of us, I suspect – gives us time to understand where we came from. It might be trite to say that any understanding of where we have come from is a good indication of where we are likely to go. And I agree with that in every sense. The application of fault tolerance in support of applications led to it becoming the premier solution for mission critical applications – those applications a business relied on 24 x 7. What also struck me was how almost every application supporting human contact has become mission critical.

Off my office is a combination storage and library. If you want to know what almost four decades of Road and Track magazines looks like then you need to look no further. My reference material? Not so much, as these magazines are a reminder that what was once fashionable and what excited the motoring community long ago and have now been relegated (for the most part) to any one of those wrecking yards you pass on any interstate highway.

And this is what has struck me the most while sitting in my home office; where is the competition to NonStop systems today? With all the talk of clouds and indeed even commentaries over edge to cloud, complexity continues to raise its less-than-pretty head whereby ensuring our systems will never work perfectly and yet, there is NonStop continuing to process the most critical of mission critical applications. Amazing! Transaction processing as we know it isn’t about to change any time soon and that is a foundation we can depend upon as all else around us changes.

Normalcy, as we like to think about it, is forever changed. Living and working as we now have been doing for a year ensures we have built new routines and developed new habits that will now be with us for a very long time. Social distancing? Masks? New ways to replicate the shaking of hands? Our social interactions as we knew them and about which we have derived comfort through the years, replaced and quickly becoming ingrained in all we pursue.

Isn’t it reassuring then that NonStop, that system engineered to be anything but normal and that thrives in situations where business simply have to continue uninterrupted, thrives today? Yes, truly amazing! Perhaps it’s a harbinger of things to come; for all of us who cannot refrain from working non-stop, maybe the career opportunities that lie ahead will only grow bigger.

We may not know of what the future holds or what new habits we develop even as we begin to realize that we may be running down this path for many years to come. With a degree of assuredness and from checking the product roadmaps, we can say that at its most fundamental level, NonStop isn’t changing. However the same cannot be said about all of us. Who knows, just like our NonStop systems, the challenge may be one of simply making the adjustment and remaining as available as NonStop. On the other hand, after conversations that took place this week, we could do with a brief stoppage; I need that extra cup of coffee after all. 

Feeling good out on the edge, are we?

  HPE is committed to becoming a significant player in edge to core; will we see NonStop contributing to both edge and core? It was just abo...