Thursday, October 22, 2020

Regaining our composure; watching for signs!

Attending virtual events with more to come, the signs suggest that this is now normal; have you composed yourself ahead of what’s to come?

I have to admit, when this image came to me in a tweet, it brought a smile to my face. Who else but the local authorities in San Jose would have come up with this, based on the expectation that travelers in their city would understand the reference. Given all that is happening around us in these times, it’s pleasing to see that at least one authority retains a sense of humor. On the other hand, I am sure it had the desired effect. Silicon Valley will always have its detractors but it is with signs like this that the human side of technology comes through, resonating with us all.

We didn’t make it up to Silicon Valley on our last trip to California; Monterey was as far north as our time allowed. It’s unusual for us to skip an opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues but I wanted to make sure I was back in time to wrap up assignments before tuning into the latest virtual event, IR Connect. Let me just say at the outset that this was a very well done event and perhaps the best virtual experience I have had this year.

I am going to leave further observations about this event to a future update for NonStop Insider but having the opportunity to hear first-hand from the IR CEO, Jon Ruthven, and then the Chief Marketing and Product Officer, Kevin Ryder, was illuminating. For the NonStop community, there was plenty of coverage of IR’s three decades in this business with numerous references to NonStop and even as we welcomed the introduction to three overarching solutions - Collaborate, Transact and Infrastructure, all powered by Prognosis – we saw tangible proof that Prognosis not only was embracing the world of Hybrid IT but was capitalizing on the elasticity of provisioning provided by clouds to bring greater ML and AI to bear on addressing real business needs.

Much of this focused on the changes being brought about as we continue to navigate our way through the global pandemic. In a presentation that looked ahead at a direction Prognosis might take, I heard a sentence that has stuck with me ever since. “If we have the predictive insights available and the prescriptive analysis at hand, we should be able to then just translate that into something that could be executed out on the edge to solve the problem for you.”  

Wonderful; not only was this update on Prognosis about Hybrid IT but in addition to the well-known, traditionally functioning Prognosis Server, we now have support of the Cloud (for analytics) as well as for the Intelligent Edge. All of which is to say we are seeing the emergence of an entirely new framework for management and monitoring of systems and applications that has arisen from these times where so much of our interaction with business is virtual, hands-free and for the most part, highly unpredictable if not indeed, entirely subject to the influence of the day!

Almost at the same time, Gartner was holding their annual big-tent IT symposium that normally, many of us trekked to Orlando to join but this year, it too became a virtual experience. According to some of the press coverage that followed, Gartner didn’t shy away from hyping the many ways IT is changing as a result of the global pandemic. Top of the list is our need to focus on availability even as we build out frameworks of our own that are capable of supporting this evolving omni-channel world.

It was several years ago when I quoted Infrasoft CTO Neil Coleman in the post, Frameworks – nothing to write about and yet, in NonStop they are the rock … where he reminded us all that “Frameworks are like our navels, everybody has one.” Explaining this perspective he then added, “and a lot of people may actually think ‘so what’ while others may simply ask ‘why bother, just use something already out there.’” However, there is a lot that is now surfacing that looks awfully like frameworks as vendors launch into bringing the cloud experience to whatever Hybrid IT configuration you elect to deploy. This was very much the subject of considerable promotion by Gartner at this event, the Gartner IT Symposium – Expo.

As reported in NetworkWorld, under the heading Gartner: Top strategic technology trends for 2021 “Companies need to focus on architecting resilience and accept that disruptive change is the norm, says research firm Gartner, which unveiled its annual look at the top strategic technology trends that organizations need to prepare for in the coming year.” This was according to Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. Resilience and accepting disruption shouldn’t come as a surprise to the NonStop community and this too was called out in presentations by IR. 

The TechRepublic, under the heading Top tech trends for 2021: Gartner predicts hyperautomation, AI and more will dominate business technology drilled down to what Gartner labelled as trend number 4: Intelligent Composable Business.  “‘They can be developed by vendors or provided by vendors or developed in-house. That kind of framework, that allows you to cobble together those packaged business capabilities, and then access data through a data fabric to provide its configuration and rapid reconfiguration of business services that can be highly granular even personal acts. The intelligent composable business is about bringing together things like better decision making, better access to data that changes the way that we do things, which is required for flexible applications, and which we can deliver when we have this composable approach to application delivery,’ Burke said.”

How about ourselves being composed? It has become so easy to lose our composure during these troubling times and yet, with all the promotion behind composable business, composable approach and yes, composable infrastructure (as frameworks) one thing is for sure. We aren’t decoupled from the demands of IT today even if we no longer can say that we remain hands-on; it’s a virtual world where our desktop monitors are all that connects us with what’s going on out there in the wider world.  

As IR and Gartner now have held their annual summits as virtual events likewise, very soon we will all have the opportunity to attend this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp. Given the current global pandemic, it will be virtual even as it has been renamed, The NonStop All Digital Experience. Have you registered yet? Last time I checked more than a thousand of your peers have already done so – you cannot miss out on this major event of the year for NonStop. Predictive; prescriptive; cloud and edge supported; hybrid IT enabled – what IR went to pains to describe has become typical of what today’s IT landscape has become.

There isn’t a business active today that can predict the outcome from the global pandemic nor are there businesses today that can ignore the suggestions coming from vendors, analysts and their competitors. Frameworks may be boring even as composable is becoming rather tired and yet they are anchoring so much of what is now being discussed. Fortunately there is no missing the recommendations for “architecting resilience and accept that disruptive change is the norm” messages for which NonStop is attuned.

There is no shortage of signs telling us how to transact business in these times. Laugh at some and maybe smile a bit, but there’s no shying away from the fact that the world is online 24 x 7 and that resilience benefits most from fault tolerance. These signs may not stop traffic or otherwise prompt us to hit the brakes. They are just reminders that business is a lot harder today than it was just a year ago. As events continue in the virtual world the message couldn’t be any clearer. Keeping an eye on our value proposition, our product differentiation and on our ability to accommodate change are all important; dropping service at any time don’t you think is, well, irresponsible at best and totally ignorant at worst.             

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A torched landscape – burnt earth is neither good for nature nor for our IT

Driving through a scorched landscape with little left to remind us of its former beauty, it begged the question: Are we torching (our plans) to retain on-prem IT and do we have a path back?

In the last post to this NonStop community blog I wrote of how we had few plans to drive the Sierras any time soon. A reference in passing to the times we have driven to Burlingame, California, for the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) event. The reference was followed by remarks about taking away any opportunity to drive somewhere as being a real downer for Margo and me. Well, that all changed over the course of just a week although we really didn’t cross the Sierra divide to head into the Bay but rather, we drove a southern route that took us into the greater Los Angeles area.

Call it being optimistic about our chances of escaping the global pandemic but the opportunity presented itself as almost a last minute development. We had been on the phone with a number of clients of late after which we realized that we hadn’t really talked to anyone face-to-face since we returned to Colorado very early in March. Spending my days posting to social media outlets was beginning to feel rather hollow without any real social interactions so we set about catching up with folks we know inside and out of IT.

I have to tell you, putting another 3,000 plus miles on our car’s odometer felt really good. We had read all the updates about travelling safely and we followed the protocols to the letter. We gloved up each time we stopped for gas and we switched to fresh masks routinely. We had packed hand sanitizer and we stayed in hotels that taped-off their rooms prior to our arrival and post cleaning. We only exchanged towels with housecleaning once and kept all interactions to a minimum. However, we did stay with friends in Simi Valley and had a blast – it was his birthday and having partied with him a decade ago, we weren’t about to let him down because of COVID-19.

One memory we have taken with us is of the devastation left behind by a number of wildfires. Drive up the famous California State Route 1 or as it is better known, particularly when it takes you by the coastline of Malibu, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Further north as you head to Monterey and Santa Cruz, it becomes the Cabrillo Highway. As we headed north out of San Simeon, we encountered our first sign of burnt-out headlands and the blackened vegetation continued all the way to Big Sur. We have seen many firefighters next to their trucks, on the ready! Much later, as we headed home we traversed the Glenwood Springs canyon we saw even more devastation as fires had burnt all the way down to the Interstate.

As a business trip it didn’t meet all of our objectives as some meetings were postponed even as another was cancelled but it’s hard to say that we were surprised. Then again, we had to see for ourselves how everyone is adjusting to this new normal – a normal that with each passing month seems to indicate that we will be living with the changes it has wrought for some time. Then again, being able to talk to folks also meant we were being constantly reminded of another natural phenomenon – cloud formations.

For the NonStop community adjusting to a world that is increasingly hybrid, the number of times we were told in no uncertain terms that this or the other IT was heading to an all-cloud operation. It bothered me that so many of us simply go with the flow and don’t take the time to really ponder the bigger issue – will the enterprise retain skills enough to monitor a public cloud provider and to be in a position to move on-prem mission critical applications as the need arises?

You may have missed it but there is an increasing number of posts to LinkedIn promoting the idea that we will never have to buy another server ever again. While the cloud has successfully demonstrated its ability to handle vast amounts of data even as it offers a veritable buffet of applications, it really should be considered as just another resource and evaluated on that basis. It’s not solely about security that has some IT groups concerned, but rather, yet one more instance of vendor lock-in. After decades of trying to embrace standards and open systems, suddenly we only too keen to launch into one cloud providers model and pay the price accordingly.

Cloud lock-in is real. Even as is being locked-in to that cloud providers subscription model. There really isn’t any magic when it comes to clouds. If you want to run mission critical applications 24 x 7 and have all the necessary files and databases available 24 x 7, then the resources the cloud provider commits to providing that is about the same as what you would already have deployed in your data center. And it will cost much more than what you have deployed. Sure you can trim your IT staff but to what extent – will the cloud provider know your applications and your customers the way you do? And if you watched Steve Kubick’s video, the 2 minute failover? it’s clear that enterprises support of mission critical applications cannot afford to sit back and wait for two minutes as a system recovers.

I am appalled at how many IT professionals are skirting the issue of imminent proprietary deployments that lessens any idea about portability – and no, higher level frameworks offering multi-cloud deployment simply move the bar a little higher as they lock you into their own middleware. And such middleware doesn’t come cheap either in financial terms or in terms of adding new skillsets to your IT group. Then there is the network – happy to connect to your users and business partners where there could be thousands of IP addresses over the net?

Clouds are a resource plain and simple. For the NonStop community there is merit in considering moving data to a cloud where analytics applications will mine the data for useful information that could affect business outcomes. There is also merit in turning to the cloud as another vehicle within your overall business continuity plans. You might even turn to the cloud for use as a back-up resource. There are good reasons to consider using the cloud but for the NonStop community, it’s just another option to be considered.

The latest NonStop systems remain cost-effective option for all mission critical applications. Enterprises are now moving off other platforms and onto NonStop and for good reason. I have come across anecdotal information that suggests that there is Asia / Pacific and Japan enterprises that have successfully migrated off of Oracle / Linux onto NonStop with relatively little fuss. Bringing any Oracle application, whether housed in a server farm or in a public cloud, is now easy to do and is a real bonus for those enterprises looking to reduce their financial commitments to Oracle. Didn’t you read that this is exactly what HPE IT concluded and then implemented – NonStop SQL is at the heart of much of what HPE does these days.

No blogger, influencer or journalist is suggesting that you pursue a scorched earth policy. This is not the time to burn the boats once you have landed. Rather, it’s a time to give serious thought to just how effective is the hybrid configurations of NonStop and clouds; where it makes good business sense and where it doesn’t. It takes a long time for a torched forest to return to any semblance of its former glory – will you leave your enterprise scorched and unable to remain in business simply because you let go all the skills IT needs today?

Our road trip really highlighted the damage forest fires inflicted on both California and Colorado. The air still smells smoky around our northern Colorado home and the smoke haze is still with us. Yet, colorful Colorado is at its very best right now and stands in stark contrast to what we saw alongside America’s highways further west. But with colder weather in the forecast, these hazy skies will dissipate at some point and we will once again begin to enjoy the fresh air that continues to attract so many visitors to Colorado. Are you prepared to inflict something similar on your enterprise and have you given any consideration to just how long it would take to see cloudless skies once again?  


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

It’s getting cold outside … will it be warmer online?

Ready for the season to change? Ready for the nature of events to change? The weather may be turning chilly but there will be a warm reception for the NonStop All Digital Experience …

The posts and updates this week have been about making the transition to winter. Living alongside the Rockies means we have to anticipate change happening almost every day. It was just a few weeks ago when it snowed and at the time, I posted of how the telltale signs of summer coming to an end couldn’t be more evident when you have several inches of snow on the ground. That was before fall arrived – who would have predicted we would be living under almost perpetual haze from forest fires to the west as snowflakes drifted earthwards.

Among the posts have been queries as to which winter tires to buy and what exactly does the state of Colorado mean as it declares active traction laws are in place October through May. Turns out you have to fit tires that are either snow tires, tires with the mud/snow (M+S) designation, or use a four-wheel/all-wheel-drive vehicle. When I sought out chains for our four-wheel drive Jeep Grand Cherokee, the tire company told me that if the Jeep could only operate with chains mounted then “get off the road!”

Sometimes, it is the obvious that all that is needed to pull you up to realize that well yes, that makes sense. For the NonStop community, what has been obvious for many years is that there is no comparative server that can assure us of a level of permanent availability that is a standard feature of the NonStop server. As we continue to read posts to sites like LinkedIn that inform us that there is no reason at all to buy one more server, the obvious has clearly escaped the authors.

More times than not, there are reasons to run applications on NonStop and those reasons haven’t changed. For interactions with end users 24 x 7 nothing else can deliver the same degree of uptime than NonStop continues to do, irrespective of the market vertical. More importantly and yes, probably not always on the tip of our tongues, is just how NonStop has been doing this for four plus decades. It may be cold outside but this just has to warm our hearts knowing that HPE continues to make major investments in NonStop.

I was reminded of this as Margo and I pulled together the October 2020 issue of NonStop Insider. As the first issue of our fifth year of publication, it attracted 20 submissions which is close to the maximum we set for ourselves. This issue may already be available online as you read this post, but it wasn’t just the number of submissions but how there were three of them coming from HPE NonStop team members from different NonStop organizations. While they are promotional after a fashion they draw our attention to their videos, posts and industry observations some of which were published on popular social media sites.

From the sales organization we see that HPE Enterprise Account Executive Steve Kubick continues to post short video clips drawing our attention to just how reliable NonStop systems are today and of how a two-minute outage, acceptable to some IT managers, simply won’t fly for the NonStop community. Master Technologist at HPE, Frans Jongma, is now posting videos about NonStop SQL/MX (and continues to do so) highlighting, “how easy it is to work with NonStop SQL/MX and how little advance knowledge is required to create and use a fault tolerant database.”  

Separately, Master Technologist at HPE, Justin Simonds, looks at potential hybrid configurations based upon NonStop. “NonStop could provide a continuous feed to the Apollo’s for continuous learning and model creation.  This became even more interesting with the acquisition of Cray Super Computers,” writes Simonds. “They have a number of government contract systems and a fabric that is faster than InfiniBand … I’m calling this concept the Artificial Intelligence Driven Enterprise or AIDE.” Reading these commentaries as delivered did warm our hearts on this occasion.

Where NonStop Insider continues to break new ground is in terms of hearing directly from HPE NonStop insiders, third-party vendors and a number of consultants. One particular column that I wrote had a lot to do with a challenge to all those in marketing. Are existing marketing practices still relevant and is the traditional CMO becoming a legacy vocation – who would want to hold this title in today. Talking about being warm, the corridors of marketing must be chilly places to hang out these days. Perhaps, not coming from a place where marketers like to go and yet, as with so much that has been influenced by the presence of this global pandemic, what once was the mainstay of practices may no longer be valuable going forward!

There was another thread that worked its way through many of this month’s submission and that was the upcoming NonStop community event, the Nonstop Technical Boot Camp. By now we have all read of how TBC has been rebranded The NonStop All Digital Experience with free registrations being accepted. If, as yet, you haven’t registered then simply go to this site, NonStop TBC by clicking on the hyperlink or by cutting and pasting this link into your browser www.nonstoptbc.com

There will not be anything chilly about this event even as we all adjust to events being held virtually. This year I will be giving a presentation based on the research note I wrote about the affordability of NonStop. This is a revisit of the topic of the TCO of NonStop I first raised back in 2012, but with the publication of a new report on Availability Level 4 server offerings by IDC the timing seemed appropriate. Once again, I will also be presenting on behalf of NTI where its DRNet® product line has taken off in ways many might find surprising.

If you want to be sure you make it to these presentations, for now the dates and times are as follows:

Talk 1:  “The ABCs of NonStop TCO” 
Sponsored by HPE
Scheduled for: US TRACK 2 – Wed – 11/18 @7:30am – Pacific Time

Talk 2: “From replication to distribution, integration and transformation, NTI is putting data first”
Sponsored by NTI
Scheduled for: Vendor Theater:  US TRACK 2 – Monday 11/16 @ 12:00 noon – Pacific Time.

(Consider this as a guide only and check with Connect for possible future changes to dates or times.)

Is this proving warming? Is this taking your mind away from the cold that is headed our way? As for Margo and me we cannot entirely dismiss the thought of snow days ahead, but then again, those first snow falls are always a welcome reinforcement of the way seasons come and go. And yes, we are ready for cooler days ahead. While we will truly miss the opportunity to drive to Burlingame, California, to meet you all in person, we are looking forward to the virtual event. It should still be a whole lot of fun and the numbers of registrations continue to climb suggesting that this could be the biggest event ever, including those back in the days of the annual ITUG Summits.

Any sense of urgency to make sure we have the right tires on our SUV has lessened as we have no plans to drive over the Sierras, although in all seriousness, we will have one eye on the weather over the course of the next month or so. For those who know us both very well you will know that taking away any opportunity to drive somewhere is a downer for us. Then again, participating in a major event from my home office has its upside but I will say more about that closer to the event taking place.

With that, I trust you are all preparing for the biggest event of the year for the NonStop community. And understand this very well, our NonStop systems remain the premier server offering supporting mission critical applications so take time to read this month’s edition of NonStop Insider for a comprehensive view of why availability still matters. And oh yes, stay warm!     


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Working from home and doing overtime!

It may not always be smooth sailing ahead but for NonStop, our journey continues; better hands than mine are on the tiller and nobody is getting wet …

Almost forgotten this day, given the world’s current plight of fighting the global pandemic, was how this blog passed yet another milestone. As we started the month of September it was the beginning of our fourteenth year of blogging. Yes, thirteen years have passed since the first post appeared, August 29, 2007.  When it comes to the subject matter of NonStop, there has been no end to the stories that we can tell and even after all these years, I have no thoughts about easing up on the posts. There’s just too much excitement about NonStop still to come!

When I first started blogging I did so from a corner desk tucked away on the landing of our Simi Valley rental townhouse. Commuting between Boulder and Simi Valley, even as I was working out of San Francisco, meant time on the road to kick around ideas with Margo that mostly wound up in one of the posts to this blog. Today, I have a great office in our Windsor, Colorado, home that affords me a wider view and provides direct site lines to the bar outside my office. Mind you, this is unrelated to storytelling but on the other hand, when the day’s work is done, my commute is rather trivial and somehow, there’s always an opportunity to detour to the bar before heading upstairs for mealtime.

I have often been asked about the various storylines that I have explored on this blog. Surely, there are only a finite number of things you can say about NonStop! And yet, with every email I receive and with every HPE event that is held, there is something newsworthy that has direct bearing on the NonStop community. With the NonStop All Digital Experience drawing nearer with its November date highlighted on my calendar, it’s fair to say that expectations are running high that announcements of some significance will be made. Which begs the question, naturally enough, as to what each of you will consider the highlight of the event?

However, before looking into that have you registered for this event as yet? The virtual gathering of the NonStop community is substituting for the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC). If you have as yet not paid a visit to the Connect web site to register and the hyperlink above doesn’t take you there, then cut and past the following link into your browser –

https://www.nonstoptbc.com/

Should you be interested in reading how the registration is proceeding then I encourage you to read the upcoming monthly column, HPE RUGS, when it appears in the October, 2020, issue of NonStop Insider. Working from home has not only allowed me more time to email and to converse but it’s also provided me with greater quality time to spend on reading current affairs and this is reflected in the articles you will find in this upcoming issue of the magazine. I trust you will find the time to read the articles and columns that make it into the issue as they come from a variety of sources and feature many familiar faces from across the NonStop community.

 

When it comes to storylines for NonStop it would be remiss of me not to call out the work being done today by the NonStop product management team. The game has changed for them in so many ways and it’s difficult to relate the work they do to what product management did in the days of Tandem Computers. When I was part of the former Tandem Computers product management team, we had a director, three second level managers and half a dozen or so first line managers each with teams of three or four product managers.

By way of example, I was one of those first line managers overseeing the comms and networking group that included four product managers. All up, within the product management team there were enough product managers to crowd the deck of the Santa Cruz 70, Chardonnay II (yes, a seventy foot yacht), when we went for a sail across Monterey Bay. With Ray Walker trimming sails and me at the helm, it was a lot of fun. Team building within product management was always fun even when in this instance, on a tack (or was that a gybe?), I managed to “drown” our leader, Bill Heil, with an untimely wave over the foredeck.

Today, it’s a lot different and far more challenging. Team manager, Karen Copeland, has five product managers that she works with – one focused almost exclusively on the hardware with four overseeing software programs grouped under operating system, database, middleware (including Java) and system manageability (including CLIM). A far cry from the heady days of Tandem Computers and yet, through the recent modernization and diversification with the way to deploy NonStop systems, the NonStop product line looks superior to anything delivered in former times.

NonStop SQL has gone from strength to strength and has gained the upper hand of some of the more established rivals with which it competed. Stories are coming to me about former Oracle sites that have migrated to NonStop and I am expecting to hear of even more migrations in the coming year. There are now more payments solutions using NonStop SQL than I can recall ever having leveraged this database – many may recall that in its earlier iteration, solutions vendors shied away from any dependence on NonStop SQL. But no longer!

As for supported languages and frameworks, if your preferences steer the conversation towards Java then no problems on this front as many solutions take advantage of Java and the JVM on NonStop. Want to program in Pearl? Script languages including popular open source languages like Perl, PHP and Python have been ported to NonStop. Furthermore, and what continues to surprise CIOs, is that DevOps can be pursued with NonStop - you can use Git and GitHUB to build and store your application in  a repository, Jenkins as an automation server supporting the creation of pipelines. Nexus and Artifactory are available as artifact repositories and Ansible for setting it all up to be production-ready.

When it comes to traditional and virtual machines, NonStop has you covered as well. NonStop can be delivered to your dock as a complete system or you can deploy NonStop on any server farm based on x86 where converged Ethernet fabrics are included and where VMware is supporting virtual machines. NonStop running inside a private cloud, without giving up any of its core fundamentals – availability, scalability, security and data integrity – who could have imagined such options just a short time ago? Running on real machines or on virtual machines, NonStop has quickly morphed into a platform that can be deployed any which way you prefer and to think, this has all occurred in just a few short years.

As for a thriving ecosystem of development partners in support of solutions, utilities and tools then the NonStop team has nurtured a community that is now the biggest such ecosystem of any product line within HPE. There are resellers, vars and channel partners supporting the sale of HPE products but when it comes to working with the developers, NonStop is unmatched in this regard and for some, has become the envy of other product managers. It is against this background that HPE IT chose NonStop to be at the core of its operations and in doing so, displaced hundreds of Oracle databases – the cost savings alone proved material to the continuing operation of IT within HPE.

Do I miss those social days sailing on Monterey Bay? Do I miss the times when we grilled on the deck of Building 4 in Cupertino? Of course, but those were different times. Have I now enough material to exploit within storylines featuring NonStop? Naturally as the productivity within the NonStop team ensures that there is something happening almost every week. My time may be spent sitting at the desk of my home office, outlining upcoming posts and commentaries and I am finding myself laboring into the early evening but NonStop has taken over center stage as far as storylines go. And for that, the overtime is well worth pursuing even as I continue to convey in no uncertain ways the excitement that NonStop continues to generate!

 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Coming up on the busy season – will we see your participation?

In previous years, with the coming of fall, participation in NonStop user events has dominated our calendars. For 2020, it’s changed and we have gone virtual: Will you be logging into upcoming virtual events?

Sports events kicked off a short time ago. It’s all now very serious. Here in the US the National Football League (NFL) has already started its fall classic even as colleges get back onto the gridiron. Crowds may be nothing more than cut out silhouettes even as some sporting events have opened the gates to a tightly monitored small group of fans. At this weekend’s Indy races, where the Governor’s consent only arrived a week before cars went on track, it was a case of there being only 8,000 fans on hand around a three mile circuit. In F1 it was similar, only that there were no spectators whatsoever.

As governments hold the reigns tightly in the hope that this global pandemic can be managed and biotech labs hustle to bring to market lifesaving vaccines, it is clear to all and sundry that enjoying the fellowship of our peers is still a long way off. As much as the big operators in places like Las Vegas, London, Sydney and elsewhere around the planet want to see the return of major conventions and conferences, there is nothing solid to work on in this regard. It’s still very much up in the air as to when this will look more normal.

For the NonStop community this time of year is one where there are numerous regional user group events being held, with the biggest event on the NonStop calendar drawing near. For a number of years now, attendance at the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) has been climbing higher but this year, there is little talk of fellowship and more of sitting in front of our computers watching others stepping before the cameras to provide technology, platform and systems updates. Already, regional user group events have been held virtually and now the work is going ahead to ensure this year’s TBC will be a virtual success.

I have always been a big fan of events for real. The opportunities to network and to hear something new seemed to outweigh any negativity that may have arisen over travel. But who really wants to leave home anyway? Which of you want to deal with the hassles of travel in today’s carefully monitored environment? Even those who prefer to drive to events have to take precautions but how many bottles of hand sanitizer and how many boxes of sanitizing wipes must you pack into your car? Even as the prospects look better for a working vaccine to appear shortly, each day provides its own level of stress each time we head to the grocery store.

 

On the other hand, what we can say about the upcoming NonStop All Digital Experience is that it will not be stressful nor should it prove disruptive to our daily lives. We will not have to pack our best conference clothes nor will we need to pack a whole lot of business cards or exhibition “trash and trinkets!” Should we reserve time at the local barbers? And for those with dietary restrictions there’s no need to worry at all as meals will continue to be “home cooked.” We will not have to worry about whether or not we are sitting at the right place or of missing an important conversation at an adjacent table. In fact, any concerns over finding a parking space for our rental car just won’t materialize.

What will take center stage of course will be setting aside the time to pour a cup of good strong coffee and stay seated in front of our computer for the duration. Even as the agenda is being worked on with the date for submissions now passed, I suspect that this year’s all-digital experience will come with some surprises. There is no doubting the success that NonStop must be enjoying having gone commodity hardware-centric to where it is now a software solution but the idea of commitments to NonStop is being overtaken with more awareness that it is the consumption of NonStop that is taking center stage.

Expressed, as bluntly as I can, the try-before-you-buy, pay-for-what-you-use model is coming to a NonStop near you! It’s inescapable and it’s actually to the credit of the NonStop team to recognize this major sea-change under way across all of IT. When HPE executives talk about bringing the cloud experience to all users, even those interfacing with data centers populated with traditional systems, NonStop is not on the outer. It’s a participant and with that, we are seeing a new way with which to view the acquisition of NonStop.

This may not be obvious at first. This may not even be visible to many NonStop adherents. But change it will, say those close to the NonStop development teams. It has been coming for some time however and early success with running virtual NonStop on VMware has proved beneficial to some who have sought for quite some time to run NonStop, as software, on hardware they have already deployed. The move to X86 in hindsight has proved to just be the first roll of the dice in this regard.

It will not be the sole choice for running NonStop as the option to deploy traditional NonStop system will remain, but even here, you may hear news from the NonStop team that will challenge your understanding of what traditional NonStop systems really means. Look for some interesting presentations on this topic even if that means you need to get up early to hear the news. While I haven’t seen the agenda as yet nor have I been made aware of Q and A sessions that might follow I have to believe there will be lots of discussions even if many of them are pursued via IM.  

One presentation that I am hopeful I will be giving will be on the topic of a recent article published in the August issue of NonStop Insider - The ABC’s of an Affordable Business Critical Compute. This research note is on the topic of NonStop TCO in today’s world – a revisit of a much older research note that I had published back in 2014. If as yet you have not read it, you may want to do so and I do hope that you tune into my presentation when it happens.

The good thing about the all-digital experience is that I will not be taking to the stage but rather, running through my slides and providing commentary that will be recorded to be played back on demand. At least, that’s the current plan so stay tuned to hear more about this closer to the scheduled dates of the event. I plan on providing a fresh post prior to the event itself. The other good thing about the all-digital experience is that you really will never know what I will be wearing which could be anything from a Hawaiian shirt to a un-pressed tee shirt to a button-down business shirt. Here’s a clue, however; one of the above will not be making an appearance.

Prior to the event there will be a number of “partner only” webinars that the NonStop product managers will provide; a practice from earlier times when ITUG Summits were often preceded by partner updates so that there would be no surprises in the exhibition hall when users turned up at vendors booths. This is a very good sign and further evidence of the value the NonStop team places on the NonStop vendor community. About the content of these webinars you will just have to wait till you hear the full story at the NonStop All Digital Experience as it is beamed to your desk. 

Will we see your participation at this upcoming November event? I sure would like to think you all want to hear the latest news and updates from the NonStop team. I cannot imagine of any excuses whatsoever that would hinder such participation. As for Margo and me we are looking forward to the event and while we will not be able to see what table you chose to sit at and we cannot pass comments about your attire chosen for the  occasion, we can say that we sure would be pleased to read your name appear alongside the presentations.

For now, there is still plenty of time to register so please, take it from the both of us, turn to the Connect web site and complete your registration. Like us, I have to believe that they are looking forward to hearing from you. And now, it’s time to adjust to a new busy season and to embrace a more normal environment as best as we can provide – so, see you in the ether at TBC 2020! And hopefully, the NonStop team will come up with some creative way for us all to participate in a traditional beer bust. My adult beverages are already on ice; cheers!

 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

What insights are we looking forward to; transactions meet analytics!

Even as the finishing touches were put on the upcoming September issue of NonStop Insider, it proved too hard to ignore the observations about NonStop, analytics and the age of insight!


The telltale signs of summer coming to an end are beginning to become apparent here in Northern Colorado. In a matter of a few days’ time, snow is predicted with a forecast maximum temperature of only 39 degrees, Fahrenheit (4 C), and summer isn’t truly over nor has Fall arrived. Too bad about those last lazy days of summer being spent around a lake or on your favorite bike trail – change is on its way and there’s little we can do to stop it. On the other hand, it’s hard to reason with the season, or so Jimmy Buffett sang some time back.  

Driving to my local car service center, a warning message appeared – overdue service, 8/2020 – which was the first indication that anything was required, raised an eyebrow. Standing by the service center desk I was politely informed that it would be several weeks before the car could be serviced as all the SUVs suddenly showed up wanting a winter-prop service. Seems that in today’s highly connected world our cars know more than their drivers about what servicing they require. No more flashing lights but rather, a forceful reminder that with our apparent driving style, attention was needed and yes, it had to be done right now!

In a world where we are seeing more interest being paid to providing management with insightful information, it’s hard to know that important information will flash by unexpectedly, or where. Will I be told that I have left the kettle on and that the iron is still connected and getting hotter by the minute? I cannot tell you how many times I have turned the car around to check on that iron just on the possibility that I did leave it on. But today, as IT professionals, providing insightful information carries more important information than a potential ironing board mishap.

Can we call it insight when our credit card fails to process a transaction due to lack of funds? On the one hand, it’s a not too subtle way of informing us to either pay the bill or top up the account. Either way, it’s hard insight! As for something more useful would be text messages many of us already receiving – particularly if you use Starbucks – telling us that we have run too low and that a top-up has automatically been done for us. An example of soft insight! You may not agree as to what’s hard and what’s soft but for most of us, it’s tied to the degree of embarrassment we feel at the time.

For the NonStop community our lives have been very much focused on executing the transaction. Ever since its introduction many decades ago, NonStop has been prized for its ability to relentlessly process transactions with no downtime, ever! For making sure what is initiated by an end-user runs to completion without interruption or mishaps of any kind. The fact that NonStop is built, form software through to the hardware, as a total fault tolerant package, has served us all well for many decades. But what’s happening with NonStop when those same transactions could benefit from having additional insights to draw upon? What are our options for improving on a simple yes, or no?

I haven’t heard anyone argue with the benefits of having access to additional information – enriching the interaction, if you like – but the question remains; do we run any kind of analytics processing on NonStop systems? Perhaps not! And analytics are, after all, key to how we obtain insight. After years of building data warehouses and populating data lakes, ponds, streams whatever, it is the power of the analytics engines that deliver the goods. By this I mean there is a lot of choice out there when it comes to analytics engines but none run on NonStop. And for good reason – they are CPU intensive in a way that is at the opposite end of the processor-devouring spectrum than what’s needed to complete you average transaction.

For quite some time there have been discussions about whether or not to add a GPU to Nonstop specifically to run analytics. Or perhaps a custom box akin to a CLIM added specifically as a type of co-processor onto which CPU intensive work can be offloaded. Then there is the concept of peer processor whereby a capable Ethernet connection to a Linux box ensures the heavy lifting is done when needed and without disrupting the transaction processing under way on NonStop. Well architected, the peer processor could fail on occasion without any downtime taking place on NonStop.

Then again, such discussions can become a never-ending story. Arguments for and against could continue where such vacillation could ultimately prove unhelpful. Transactions on NonStop, in combination with analytics, need to be addressed, and soon. This is the topic covered in the upcoming September 2020 issue of NonStop Insider. Look for the regular column, HPE NonStop Corner – one partner’s perspective. And check out what comes about when we reach that “AHA!” moment.  

Whichever way you look at it, there are ways to address combining the world of transaction processing with analytics. It’s a technology that holds the promise of separating all the so-so-run companies from those that grow more rapidly. Figuring out the best way to serve an end-user has always been the goal of business and it was in such a pursuit that so much of the mundane devices we interact with today came about – the ATM, the POS, the smartphone and much more. Every time we walk up to a self-service device its presence has come about because the enterprise recognized there were transactions we felt more comfortable doing with a device than interacting (and facing disparaging looks) with and from a human.

But maybe we don’t need to fuss too much over the pros and cons of combining NonStop with co-processors. What is now making it more interesting is that when we look at combining the world of transaction processing with analytics, suddenly consuming analysis on the basis of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) makes even more sense. In fact, some of the peer approaches under consideration may in fact involve connectivity between NonStop and a cloud environment – private or public depending upon our appetite for secure processing – whereby analytics is tapped as and when it’s needed. Not all transactions benefit from a lengthy Q and A that otherwise might be initiated.

Analytics, and for all the discussions we may be having about the intersection of transaction processing with analysis, is in its infancy and we are only seeing early baby steps being taken by most solutions. However, no matter how far they reach and how quickly they get there, the important thing is to be aware that even with NonStop, it’s best to take some early steps to reconcile both worlds. Enterprises need to be better prepared for what’s to come and in an age of insight, as HPE keeps reminding us about, we can’t have NonStop developers ignoring the need to tap analytics. 

For my money, analytics server up as we need them, on the basis of SaaS, is looking likely to be the best bet. Simplicity may be the key driver as might be agreed-upon, open APIs allowing ease of access and operation. Perhaps too it’s going to come from knowing more of what NonStop’s development peers within HPC can offer. Perhaps it’s in the coming world of GreenLake that we find some answers. Ultimately, our transactions need feeding; where, and how, the insights are provided that enterprises will value most suggests that simply executing the transaction will not be enough.

Looking at the forecast for Colorado, you may not need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind blows; just look to the mountains. Or as Jimmy Buffett sang, “the wind is blowin’ harder now … there’s white caps on the ocean.” When it comes to the weather, we can see for ourselves that changes are taking place. We don’t need a flashing icon on our dashboard either to know we need to change the oil; it’s simply the right time to do it.

As for NonStop, analytics, SaaS, private clouds, virtualization – it’s all there. The pieces have taken on form and now it’s just up to us to decide how to pursue the integration of transactions with analytics. Shouldn’t we at the very least start a conversation within our own IT organization and yes, shouldn’t we use this as just one more opportunity to talk openly of how far NonStop has come in the decades that have past its introduction all those years ago?    

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Time to get my head out of the clouds …

We have now heard that the easy stuff has moved to the cloud but that leaves 70 percent of apps and data where they have always been. What does that mean for NonStop solutions?


I was sitting inside the house for the past couple of days, avoiding breathing in the outside air, as the sky has been a source of constant smoky haze. Living in Colorado, we often refer to the end of summer as the beginning of the bushfire season and it hasn’t disappointed us this year. It’s awful and for anyone with allergy problems it is a time to hit the antihistamines hard. On the other hand, our friends in California are facing an even more problematic circumstance – should we stay or should we go. To think that the governor is calling for Aussie firefighters telling all and sundry that they are the best in the world!

Put me in the category of agitators extolling the virtue of pulling out all the eucalyptus trees growing in California. Perhaps the Aussie firefighters are that good because they face horrific eucalyptus fires each and every year and know the value of ensuring the forest floors are kept free of debris. Oh well, with smoke in the air and the stench of burning timbers proving difficult to ignore, it’s hard to think about the sky and the clouds traversing the heavens above us. To be truthful, Margo and I haven’t seen any clouds for the past couple of days as the smoke haze hangs low.

However, for anyone who checks social media feeds, you must have seen the many references to clouds, cloud computing and hybrid IT. At a time when the discussions among IT professionals continue to address Digital Transformation (DX), it seems as though clouds and DX have become almost inseparable. Though essentially different topics the intersection of clouds and DX is a reminder that when it comes to our data centers and the solutions theses data centers support, any moves to pursue DX has a very visible line of clouds hovering overhead.

Like everyone else who attended this year’s HPE Discover Virtual Experience I was surprised to hear HPE CEO Antonio Neri reference recent data from Gartner:

Today public clouds are extending their platforms into the data center in what [market researcher] Gartner calls distributed cloud. The problem is these solutions were architected to be very centralized and rely on connectivity to their control plane. They still don’t address the over 70 percent of your apps and data.

This is not the first time I have referenced this remark of Neri, as reported by Steven Burke in a CRN update, but it is worth taking a second look. With as much discussion as there currently is about clouds, should we be surprised to hear that only 30 percent of our apps and data have made it to the clouds? Should we be a little concerned over the fact that it’s not going all that well for those enterprises banking on living in a cloud-dominated operational IT environment? Clearly, security always steps into the discussion but what is really hindering the move to clouds, distributed or otherwise?

A successful advertising campaign features a character called Captain Obvious. As I dug into this movement to clouds a little deeper I came across a posting to LinkedIn by HPE influencer and blogger, Keith Townsend. Otherwise known in social media circles as the CTO Advisor, he promoted a short video clip by podcaster and economist Corey Quinn. According to his LinkedIn profile, Quinn is “the Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group (where) Corey specializes in helping companies address horrifying AWS bills.” In his preface to the video, Townsend posted:

Cloud migration is hard. Every option to do it using Corey's language "Sucks." So, we end up with a hybrid infrastructure. Which is where we should have started by design.

The key words here aren’t so much “hard” or even “sucks,” but rather “start with design.” No enterprise looks forward to migrations. Neither does it look fondly on re-architecting existing solutions. In the 1990s, so many major corporations embarked on complete overhaul of their systems where timeframes were reported as being three to five years and yes, much longer than the typical duration of any CIO at these enterprises at the time. No surprises here to read that midway through the re-architecting and re-implementing, the enterprises’ IT strategy changed dramatically.

Furthermore, I haven’t heard of any system or platform migration where the financials were fully understood ahead of time. As we so often like to remind ourselves; if it seems too good to be true, it likely is! To date, very few enterprises have publicly acknowledged their cost projections as it’s still all being pursued on the basis of a “feel good” philosophy. Budgets, fully described and appropriately annotated, are a rarity and I would challenge any enterprise to fully disclose to agencies, like the SEC, the likely impact on shareholder value!  Ouch; we are paying for this?

But moving to clouds is hard. And as Neri reminded his audience, what was mostly moved to the cloud had been the easy-to-move applications. In response to Townsend and Quinn, another cloud leader, Richard Bown, had this to say: 

I don't see much magic here. Cloud itself is not an end state. There is no end state. All we are doing is applying previous (project) learnings to a new array of diverse commodity products. Make yourself technically aware of the offerings and apply sound approaches to migrations. Any effort you spend in relearning or even rebuilding your systems will pay support and running cost dividends.

Unfortunately, as true as this might be, what might concern the NonStop community in particular is the reference to the pursuit of “relearning and even rebuilding!” Whenever something new floats up from the technology horizon, our first instincts is to contemplate a complete re-do. But as those massive technology undertakings of the 1990s reinforced, it’s always better to pursue baby steps than it is to attempt wholesale re-engineering. Big projects often fail not because of the lack of skills and availability of expertise but because something even newer comes along!

Call me a pragmatist and someone who is adverse to any rip-and-replace mindset. And yet, when thinking of any migration to a cloud environment, the pundits are now arguing strongly to simply migrate without changing a thing. It’s as though rip-and-replace has been superseded with lift-and-shift. Townsend’s posting on LinkedIn attracted another interesting comment that shone additional light on this mindset:

For existing applications lift and shift is where it starts but it must not end there. Having done several, I mean “several” big and small cloud migrations after 100+ datacenter audits, I can attest the fact with much confidence that lift and shift is where you should start when it comes to moving existing workloads to cloud.

Never try to do any type of transformation during the move and doing it prior to move is a moot point anyways. So workload transformation should occur only after migration to cloud … people make shortcuts and those shortcuts can cause performance issues as environments stay hybrid for quite a long time (perhaps forever) for most enterprises.

This is more or less consistent with my own observations through the decades. Firstly it was the big push in favor of distributed computing not forgetting our brief dabbling in time-sharing; whatever happened to service bureaus? Then followed client/server, not forgetting either the terrible turmoil that came first with the rush to move to an object-oriented world; anyone still relying on Object Request Brokers (ORBs)? All the while we were left to deal with database offerings that kept us on the back foot; anyone still running S2000 or Total or even IDMS? And now, it is cloud computing; are you preparing for what will inevitably follow?

Perhaps it’s one of the more recent comments to Townsend’s post that may be of greater interest to us all. Jason Benedicic who bills himself as a Cloud / DevOps / Automation Consultant suggested that there is an underlying reason why we still have 70 percent of our apps and data still running on-prem, on traditional systems: 

It really is harder than it looks, in so many ways. Once you get into the weeds of your own systems and start trying to break it down into manageable pieces to migrate or work on you almost certainly find something unexpected.

Building fresh in the cloud is relatively easy, and as was said lift and shift, while hated and expensive is relatively easy. Anything else is complicated and will either end up being far more costly than you anticipated or take years beyond what you’ve planned for in project timescales.

The NonStop community is widely read and stays abreast of change. In times where DX, Virtualization, Containers and even Hybrid IT have become talking points for many NonStop users, perhaps the key message here is to proceed with caution. Mission critical applications are called mission critical for a reason; the enterprise depends upon them to stay in business. For some NonStop users the opportunity to lift and shift some mission critical applications from traditional NonStop systems to virtual NonStop deployed within a private cloud may represent the first and indeed manageable next step to take.

Not for the purpose of saving money, but rather, for more intangible reasons like already having the hardware in place and the skillsets onboard to manage virtual machines. For these enterprises then the lift and shift philosophy makes sense. What would be tragic to read in the future is of those enterprises even with the presence of NonStop attempt wholesale rip-and-replace on a scale that simply isn’t manageable. For yes, it is a lot harder than it looks!

As I look to the distant horizon clouds may be hard to see as today smoke haze covers the sky. But perhaps what is worth considering is that clouds are transient at best and as plans are drawn up, NonStop users do need to be cognizant that, in time, these clouds moving into sight may indeed be fleeting as they too will pass. NonStop continues to demonstrate a resilience that oftentimes defies common knowledge but then again, for the NonStop community, this isn’t hard to come to terms with; not at all!


Regaining our composure; watching for signs!

Attending virtual events with more to come, the signs suggest that this is now normal; have you composed yourself ahead of what’s to come? I...