Thursday, November 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 28, 2019

NonStop Technical Boot Camp – prosperous times ahead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have trouble with the hyperlink above you can cut and paste this link into your browser - 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Ten years, and counting …

Pyalla Technologies, LLC is celebrating ten years; it’s been a long journey but with HPE NonStop the storylines kept on coming …

This will be a fun month for Margo and me as we celebrate Pyalla Technologies, LLC.’s tenth birthday. When the company came into existence we were still commuting between Simi Valley, California, and Boulder, Colorado, but with the changes that took place over the course of the decade that Pyalla has been in business have been monumental. Almost nothing from our first weeks remains the same. Nothing. And it continues to surprise our clients, colleagues and friends that the storylines not only continue to develop but remain fresh and by most accounts topical so that the NonStop community checks out the articles posts and commentaries that appear each month.

When we look back at our office in Simi Valley and recount the number of times I headed to the local Starbucks for what I said at the time was “inspiration”, but in all reality, was an excuse to catch up with the local coffee club, it’s not so much a blur but rather a retelling of a time that was so different to what exists today. Not just for Pyalla but for business in general. Ten years ago iPhones were still new and very much untried and the iPad was still a quarter or two away from being announced. The prospect that IT would become so heavily influenced by what we all carry in our hands wasn’t a consideration back then.

As for our Boulder office it was substantial, with plenty of room to spare. Whereas Simi Valley was an upstairs alcove overhanging the dining room, in Boulder we had a lower level multi-room suite. With external entrance – perfect for a doctor’s office but way more space than we needed and yet, over the course of a few short years, we grew into it. The challenges that came from those early days were simply finding clients and three of them stood out and indeed, without them Pyalla may not have made it to its tenth birthday. In time, we left Simi Valley and our business life became a lot more straightforward. No matter the manner by which we started the best part of all was that yes, we were open for business!

Ernie Guerrera of NuWave kicked us off with a small contract to help out with collateral and a presentation. Then it was the work put in by Dr. Michael Rossbach of comforte that really helped kick things along and working with the comforte team was when I realized we could make a go of this – Pyalla could play a role within the NonStop community. Business picked up considerably when IR, under the then leadership of Mark Brayan, engaged with Pyalla. After that, the business really picked up. Even as we made Boulder our sole office and ceased commuting between California and Colorado, there are plenty of anecdotes noting how we continued to drive back and forth across America. And there are many posts where cars and road trips anchored the storyline.

With Pyalla we made a decision to stay focused on the NonStop community, with one small diversion that took Margo into supporting nonprofit associations. Focused on NonStop, as we were, didn’t detract from our interest in payments given that Margo and I had ties back to the payments processing industry. As a consequence, we have grown the attention we give to financial institutions to where we are now contributing articles and posts to payments-focused journals on both sides of the Atlantic. Naturally enough it was easy to cover both the NonStop and payments communities, as in many instances, payments meant NonStop! But even so, there have been times when editors of publications like ATMmarketplace and Fintech Futures have raised an eyebrow over the unabashed support I gave to HPE and NonStop.

Ten years, and counting … But here’s the deal; there has been little that has been constant when you look at HPE and NonStop. The headlines just kept on coming and there was no lessening in newsworthy stories for the whole ten years Margo and I have been covering HPE. Back in October, 2009 when Pyalla first began, NonStop on Blades had only just been announced back in June, 2008 at the HPTF event in Las Vegas. NeoView was still going strong and all six then HP data centers had been built and populated with NonStop Blades supporting the embryonic first foray into the world of OLAP and Data Warehouses.

S-Series NonStop was winding down and there were huge changes about to happen inside of NonStop development. In no way could you intone that there was a shortage of stories to write and they kept on coming each and every month. The success of Pyalla in hindsight had a lot to do with the early work Margo and I had put into creating a NonStop focused blog – this blog, Real Time View, that now has seen more than 500 posts – that in reality was an extension to a column I had been writing for the previous two years for publication in The Connection. It’s now been replaced with a new column, Back for more … that continues to this day. But what drives Pyalla today? What makes working with Pyalla an option for many members in the NonStop vendor community?

“Congratulations! You have created a huge following among financial customers,” OmniPayments CEO, Yash Kapadia, wrote recently and while Margo and I welcomed these kind words from Yash, it does reflect the full ten years of time and effort we both put into the company. There are well known statistics available today from America’s Small Business Association (SBA) including “30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10.” Phew, made it! But the point is, and to echo Yash’s sentiment, it is all about creating something of value and I think Margo and I, after a fashion and a lot of trial and error together with some disastrous undertakings, have kind of figured things out – and they are working for us.

Now, before you go “Good grief, Richard …” I am making a point here to highlight that in today’s economic reality, having skills in the NonStop marketplace are no longer enough to stay fully employed. We have lost count of the number of emails asking both of us about opportunities around the world for NonStop programmers – it’s tough out there. Add an aging population along with well-meaning statements from IT corporations concerning right-sizing the employer age-pyramid, and the landscape isn’t pretty. And yet, the demand on NonStop folks isn’t going away, but rather, it’s being redirected.

Have you thought any more about HPE’s stated directive that for every product in the HPE portfolio, there would be the equivalent as a service. XaaS, as some inside HPE are calling it and a reference to “Everything as a Service” will be with us all in three years’ time – who will industry be turning to for help with such a transition? I have to say, everyone who is still reading this post – begin your preparation as you too will become an important component in any successful transformation to XaaS. When you look at growth opportunities among the NonStop vendor community there will be a strong uptick in valuations among all those who aggressively pursue the services opportunities that are bound to arise.

It may sound cold, perhaps a little corny, but there is a popular saying within industry that, “One common path to success for many small businesses is to find a niche market and establish a dominant position as a player in that niche.” Or, something like that and, for many decades, this was a core strength of NonStop. The NonStop systems were participating and being deployed worldwide in support of mission critical applications and became the go-to-solution for everyone who needed fault tolerance and a true 24 x 7 supported operation. This still holds true for all those enterprises looking for such straight out of the box – nothing can compete.

Pyalla’s niche, if it has one? This past decade has taught us one important message – no matter what, sit down and type. Our niche is storytelling. Not everything will be a masterpiece and there will be times when the storylines are hard to find but like every pursuit in business, there is no substitute for simply doing what you love to do. And those storyline; they will come … Along this journey Margo and I have been helped many times over by many and there really isn’t enough space to list them all. Perhaps another time: Our next goal? How about twenty five years?

Who knows but one thing Margo and I agree on – NonStop in one form or another; bladed, racked, virtualized, core to edge and beyond, whatever – it will be here as fundamentally, no other approach to providing fault tolerance out of the box has proved as successful over time. And with that, all we can add is that yes, future storylines? Bring them on … 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

By HPE’s account, we at NonStop, create data!

There is one certainty coming out of NonStop Regional User Group (RUG) meetings, you will hear something new about NonStop and ATUG, Atlanta didn’t disappoint …

It has been another extended period on the road. A drive to California for a major HPE NonStop event – the NonStop Partner Symposium followed up by several days in Atlanta for the ATUG Regional User Group (RUG) meeting. Enough travel to say it’s time to call it quits and head for home meaning we will miss the annual big event outside Toronto, Canada – the CTUG RUG meeting. It’s always a busy time of year as fall arrives but even so, it always seems to prove to be a worthwhile program to pursue as information about NonStop continues to arrive and it’s taking a lot of effort to understand it all. Let alone respond.

And this past week too followed the production of the September issue of NonStop Insider – have you read it yet? If not, you may want to check it out as it was another 20 submission issue: NonStop Insider Issue 3.12 This was a special issue as it celebrated three years of issues and next month, we will begin year  four. A lot of work has been done to ensure the success of this publication and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of our good friends at TCM, Scotland. At this point it’s worth noting too that the upcoming Sep – Oct, 2019 issue of The Connection will feature multiple articles, commentaries and opinions by your team at Pyalla Technologies, LLC so look for the promotion of this issue as it is only a matter of days from being published online.

One thing has always intrigued me with RUG events – the numbers of NonStop users attending each event may be in the low double digits but with as many as there are held each year, it soon adds up to a sizable number. And this doesn’t include the major regional events held each year including the NonStop Technical Boot Camp that will be held in a couple of weeks’ time or even the past European TBC held a few months ago in Edinburgh, Scotland. There was a time when just one customer showed up for a RUG event then five or six and now oftentimes, a dozen or so. My experience is that each RUG event represents an opportunity to tell a lot more of the NonStop story at a time when there is a lot more to tell. In case you missed it perhaps the biggest story is that NonStop X is being deployed at a faster rate than the upgrade to Itanium which in turn saw upgrades to NonStop I taking place fast than the upgrades to the S-Series.

This was according to HPE VP, Mission Critical Systems, Jeff Kyle who was present for ATUG and provided invaluable insight into not only the NonStop product but the NonStop business as well. Jeff, pictured above gave one of the better presentations I have seen him give and it was encouraging to see an HPE executive of his statute take the time to fill us all in on the progress HPE is making with NonStop. And yes, one again, it was Jeff who reiterated that NonStop wasn’t offloaded to Micro Focus as just one more non-core products but rather, was kept and showcased in numerous ways as being core to HPE’s future. Showcased? It’s hard to ignore the investment of the past five or so years HPE has made in NonStop even as it’s hard to ignore the substantial investment HPE’s own IT has been making in NonStop – you want another option rather than Oracle and you are finding Oracle RAC both expensive in not scalable? Well with NonStop you have a worthwhile and viable alternative – just ask HPE IT!

However, it was just two statements by Jeff that really caught my attention and drove a number of conversations among the NonStop community that was present. What triggered my attention began when Jeff reminded us all of statements made by HPE CEO Antonio Neri at this year’s HPE Discover 2019, Las Vegas. “BY 2022, everything as a service,” was by now a well-known declaration but Jeff added to this by saying that a few years later, we will see “everything in memory!” I have written about this in briefing papers to my clients but it’s worth dwelling on for just a minute or two. Has development of storage progressed to the point where there is little difference between cache, main memory and storage? Are we seeing the possibility of flash storage available in vast quantities and yes, even optic memory having an impact to where we can consider memory as being universally unlimited? Does this make as think again about analytics and the intersection between analytics and transaction processing?

Consider this one way to segue into the first statement that intrigued us all. According to Jeff, “We, at NonStop, create data!” Simple enough to say but how often do we overlook this important consideration? After all, with all the talk about analytics and the value of data – yes, for business today, data is the new currency – data has to originate somewhere and with NonStop occupying the front lines with respect to end user engagement, of course NonStop is where data is created. So, having said that, data has to be moved! But how far? In an increasingly virtualized world, perhaps that movement now is just a matter of nanometers as the analytics is performed in an adjacent virtual machines possibly even running on the same x86 server as NonStop. Yes, the world of analytics and transaction processing – the world where OLTP meets OLAP and more – is colliding and perhaps a lot faster than we may have imagined.

As for the second statement coming from Jeff, having just about the same level of impact on the attendees was when he said that “technology will be embedded, everywhere.” Not merely a cliché or yet one more example of perhaps AI but rather, when you consider the cost of CPUs as predicted by VC firm, Andreessen Horowitz,  going to zero then expect to find CPUs in everything. Or at least this is the current thought of industry watchers and if you would like to read more on this, check out this latest issue of NonStop Insider and read the
CTO Advisor newsletter by Keith Townsend.

As if to confirm what Jeff stated, Townsend adds that he expects “I to see more of this model where services companies give away the hardware because of the non-existent cost of CPU. It also means that Intel and AMD will push into adjacent areas where they now partner. Intel’s push into AI, Networking, and Storage are examples of this trend.” For the NonStop community the implication is pretty straight forward – expect to see NonStop embedded right along with the CPUs. While it hasn’t been confirmed as a product as yet, just the sight of NonStop running on HPE’s own Edgeline systems designed for deployment at the edge and a likely candidate for embedding, reinforces the premise that technology will be embedded, everywhere!

So there you have it. You would have only heard about this and been a participant in the discussions that followed over coffee if you were actually present for the RUG event. Simple enough – it you missed the event, you missed the discussions. And of late with as much that is happening with NonStop as is being reported, do you really believe in the status quo? Do you really think you know everything about NonStop? More importantly, if you want to be in a position to help your enterprise, you need to know the full story and be able to paint a picture of NonStop that is both relevant for your enterprise as it is an opportunity to expand its responsibilities. NonStop has one key attribute that diminishes little in the current world of IT – availability. This is something we can never leave out of the conversation.

Over the next couple of months, Margo and I will be heading out on the road again this time travelling from the east coast to the west coast. From Washington D.C. to San Francisco. And we will be gathering further insights on how enterprises are embracing NonStop but to hear more about this, you will not only need to follow these blog posts but you will have to be present at TBC. Will we see you there? Sure hope you make it and remember, it really is very true, it’s on NonStop where data is created!

Monday, September 16, 2019

All that was revealed at NonStop Partner Symposium!

When the HPE NonStop team gets together with the NonStop vendor community, as it now does each year, it becomes clear that there are no limits to what can be achieved …

Any trip to the West Coast is a trip we look forward to taking and this latest trip proved to be no different; as always, it proved to be a great time to be out and about on America’s highways! This year has seen a record number of flights taken by Margo and me but despite the time spent in the air, there has still been a lot of time spent behind the wheel of our car. On this occasion, we chose the relatively new BMW M4 that we leased only last year. Turns out that yes, you can turn a track-focused car into a grand tourer!

If you have not been keeping up with posts to our social blog, Buckle-Up, you may have missed all the excitement surrounding our exit from the RV lifestyle along with our retirement from track-day outings. Everything has gone – the RV, the car-hauler, and yes, even the venerable Corvette track car. Scaled down and with the downsizing a realization that we are now free to travel anywhere without constraints or limitations. Those ubiquitous highways that glue the country together are now ours to enjoy without us having to plan ahead and find locations where we could pull in 60+ feet of rig. Ahhh – the luxury of simply choosing any hotel for the night!

Flexibility, choice and yes, even opportunities to try something different; it’s all refreshingly new for us after a decade of pulling our house behind us everywhere we went. Fair enough, it provided us with many memorable times out on the highways of America otherwise we wouldn’t have maintained the gypsy lifestyle as long as we did, but then again, there is a realization that a burden has been lifted from our shoulders and we couldn’t be happier. And yes, here’s the thing; for NonStop users, we are just entering a time of flexibility, choice and yes, the opportunity to try something different – virtual NonStop!

While much was revealed at the 2019 NonStop Partner Symposium there is very little that I can share at this time. HPE tied up the vendor community, appropriately enough given the nature of the symposium, in CDAs and you will just have to get yourselves to the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp to hear more about material covered last week, but what I can share without breaking any terms in the CDA is that when it comes to NonStop, talk of R & D isn’t solely about the D even among the NonStop team! If you missed reading the September issue of NonStop Insider you would have missed reading the very first article,
HPE HQ hosts NonStop Partner Symposium where you would also have missed reading that:

“When you consider just how far NonStop has come in such a short time – from custom to industry standard and from proprietary to open and yes, from NonStop as traditional systems to NonStop as a collection of virtual machines - the one take away that can be reveled is that the big bets HPE continues to place on the future success of NonStop continue to be made.”

In short, HPE isn’t easing of on its long term commitments to the NonStop community as investments in NonStop are being made all the time and the results of these investments can be seen in recent announcements and updates.  What is becoming better understood is that among the NonStop vendors there is a renewed sense of camaraderie. In the past it may have not been all that common to come across vendors in similar markets sharing an adult beverage, but on this occasion, as can be seen in the photo above, there was a particularly friendly gathering of vendors seated together at the bar. Then again, this is a huge differentiator when it comes to the NonStop community – everyone just wants to see a win for NonStop!

Big bets on NonStop? What does that really mean for the NonStop community? Stated as simply as I can then is that visible evidence of the type of bets the NonStop team is placing on NonStop and just as importantly, the bets that they are placing on the NonStop vendor community. It’s more than tradition or a return to the halcyon days of the Tandem Alliance program as it’s now very evident (just check the NonStop price book, for instance) that for many NonStop projects select vendors are considered an extension of the development team. We shouldn’t be surprised to read this as so much talk exists today in support of all vendors building out ecosystems that pull together primary vendors, third party development shops and yes, even customers. The competitive nature of today’s ever changing IT landscape calls for a degree of creativity and indeed vision that left to just a single vendor with a single outlook on IT would likely not be successful.

I am often asked at major HPE events like HPE Discover why I am continuing to follow NonStop? After all, surely the market for NonStop is in decline and just as surely, the need for true 24 x 7 x forever levels of availability are possible using redundancy up and down the stack? More to the point, isn’t good enough well, good enough? When every interaction is triggered by a swipe on a smartphone or tablet where connectivity is still an issue, dealing with a service that goes away is no big deal. We will click on something else, right? As for the cloud, doesn’t everyone save their most precious valuables – pictures of family, pets and vacations – in the cloud and it’s always available, isn’t it? Well, not exactly … I have been down this path so many times of late with my peers at these big tent marketing events that it’s getting boring. Even as I write this I have lost count of just how many times I have gone down this path with every reader of posts to this blog.

But at the most recent NonStop Partner Symposium I picked up on something refreshingly new and it’s something that falls well outside the stringent requirements of the CDAs everyone signed. It’s a sense that old dogs are indeed learning new tricks. At a time when the discussions turned to how best to appeal to a younger generation of developers with their demands for support of new-age tools, utilities and languages, one after the other, seasoned hands at developing for NonStop revealed that they were already using these very same tools, utilities and languages. Yes, the new stuff is really good; for the most part it’s portable and better still, productivity gets a solid shot in the arm. So why would we be surprised to find so few TAL programmers among these seasoned practitioners?

Not for one moment am I suggesting we lessen our plans to attract younger aspiring developers to NonStop, but rather, let’s realize that it’s not the hoodie a developer may be wearing or the headsets they may be wearing that defines a modern programmer, but it is yes, attitude! So often we look down on the younger generation and chastise them for the attitude they project and yet, when it comes to developers every one of them needs an attitude and it was clearly on display at the NonStop Partner Symposium. Age was no indicator of the way developers tackled the tasks of writing and testing code and it is about time that we acknowledge that good developers are a breed apart and come in all sizes, genders, nationalities and yes, age groups!

The HPE NonStop team certainly understands this even as they also understand that there really aren’t any limits to what can be achieved when HPE and a vendor community with attitude cooperate. Looking around at who was present at the lobby bar that first night of the NonStop Partner Symposium I could easily recognize nearly four decades of “experience” on display. We talk of a younger generation taking over the business their parents started and yes, it’s true and on display as well. But just as importantly, not all of the experience gained through the decades is leaving the community just as it’s not true to say we need to cater to the needs of younger programmers. There is most definitely a science behind programming, but then again, I will argue there is an art as well and it’s not limited in any way to any specific demographic. On the other hand, it would seem that even the most gifted of those who are attracted to the NonStop platform do like the occasional beer from time to time.

Let this be an open invitation to join all of us at the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp to be held November 3 – 6, 2019 in Burlingame, California. There will be some coverage of material shown to the NonStop vendor community I have to believe – some, but not all mind you and in saying even this I need to be careful - but be assured, developer or simply end-user, there is a lot going on with NonStop. It’s not standing still and it’s certainly not gathering dust on warehouse shelves; NonStop is as vibrant and as relevant today as it was four plus decades ago and this is something not lost on any generation of developers we might encounter. See you in November! 

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

You can tell a lot about an organization from their body language and when it comes to the NonStop team, they have to be pleased by all th...