Sunday, April 5, 2020

Everybody’s on the phone? Disruption, followed by innovation?

Remember the lines, “Alone again, naturally!” Or maybe the lines from other songs that in these times reinforce the massive societal changes under way – will these changes be with us for good?

There is something very comforting about kicking off a post to this blog with lines from a Jimmy Buffett song. Resonating with the times, Jimmy penned the lines -

Everybody's on the phone
So connected and all alone
From the pizza boy to the socialite
We all salute the satellites

On the other hand, as Margo and I continue to practice social distancing and yes, washing our hands at every opportunity, it is still very unnerving to watch how society has changed. Yet again! We have spent a month holed up in our Windsor home, so grateful that we bit the bullet and finished our lower floor complete with a media room and a wet bar. After a brief scare when we were diagnosed with Influenza B there was a follow-up this past week with x-rays and blood tests and it’s all good. Sigh of relief coming from the Buckles household.

One upside from being housebound is that it has given me plenty of time to catch up on magazines, blogs and emails. I know, I should be doing it on a regular basis. NonStop Regional User Group (RUG) and major Big Tent Geo events all cancelled – there are some postponements, but even so, it’s still not certain if they will proceed. They cancelled Wimbledon? They postponed the Indy 500! And golf’s Masters is likewise postponed. But catching up on my reading is a pleasant enough task that I am finding excuses to skip household chores while I check out an “interesting story.”

As I skimmed magazines I came across the following in one magazine I turn to for relevant quotes. Imagine my surprise then to come across this –

“In the realm of detestable corporate lingo, the term ‘disrupter’ barely rates.

“It might be routinely and annoyingly misused to dress up a mundane change or as cover for a disastrously bad business decision but compared with linguistic crimes such as ‘peel the onion,’ ‘let’s unpack this,’ and ‘drill down,’ the word ‘disrupter’ is a paragon of clean, simple language. It has a meaning that’s not easily captured by other metaphoric mumbo-jumbo.

“In general discourse, ‘disrupter’ refers to a product, person, or process that upsets the status quo.”

Understandably, these were the opening lines in a comprehensive review of all that is new in the world of automobiles and appeared in the April 2020 issue of Car and Driver. If you missed its relevance then think again. We are in the midst of a global pandemic where everyone I know is affected and when working from home means an office may be anything from the kitchen table to a sawhorse in the garage. We may not consider this an era of disruption and yet, at every turn we see disruptions.

As for technology, the markets NonStop serves have become even more critical – getting cash to a society struggling to keep its heads above water has become a priority. Mission critical is every bit as relevant today as it has ever been and products built on a fault tolerant architecture make a significant contribution to maintaining a semblance of normalcy during these times. Business Continuity Plans (BCP) are being put to use as supporting an upsurge in staff access is just as important as ensuring applications remain available.

As for Jimmy Buffett’s observation that we are “So connected and all alone” even as we have become so dependent on the internet, it’s hard to miss his often “We all salute the satellites!” Where would we be in these dire times if we lost our connections? Of course, some connectivity options look more elegantly implemented than others! Against a cultural backdrop so dependent on our interactions, I cannot recall how many invites I have received this past week to Skype, GoTo (a) Meeting or Zoom. My smartphone has never been busier and I have to admit, I am not a phone guy in normal circumstances. But there you have it, we truly salute the satellites.

For the NonStop vendor community the changes are obvious. So many development and support staff have become remote workers and yet new products and features continue to be produced. Did you read the announcement coming from TANDsoft and NTI? There’s now a new product, FS Compare, hitting the market and to read more on this, check out the NTI article in the upcoming April 2020 issue of NonStop Insider. No, innovation knows no limitations or restrictions but is constantly fueled by creative folks.

I was reminded of this just recently of how, during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), beginning in 2007 and extending into 2009, we have seen the arrival of such powerhouse companies as Dropbox (2007), Groupon and Cloudera (2008) and even Uber, Slack and Square (2009). I would alsolike to point out that DocuSign, started in Silicon Valley in 2003, was named a disruptor 3 times by the time it went public but truly came into it’s own during the GFC!  

 I don’t think any of us would be surprised to read in the coming months of even greater innovation taking place, particularly in healthcare and the bio sciences. The stock market may be a roller coaster for now, but I suspect it will turn around pretty quickly with the arrival of new companies breaking out and creating new markets and industry verticals.

One industry that certainly could get a boost is robotics. After all, robots never get sick and already there are pictures on the internet of robot greeters directing folks to appropriate counters, etc. for support. How far to take this is a question for economists and technologists to sort out in the coming months, but I cannot help but wonder; could a robot really clean our house? And not just our floors as can be done today! Our workplaces and indeed our very lives are being disrupted on an unimaginable scale, but already I am seeing trends develop that may be with us for a very long time.

The biggest hit once life returns to normal? Real estate and in particular, commercial real estate! Why do we need those multistory temples supporting little more than corporate branding? Do we all need to be taking up office and cube space at a prohibitive cost to all stakeholders? There is considerable speculation that, looking ahead to what might be here to stay, society will have so adjusted to social distancing that there is little point in bringing everyone back to the office.

ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott had a lot to say on this topic just last week. “Australia,” he said “won’t look the same because it will impact a whole generation of our customers, the way they think about technology, the way they think about borrowing, the way they think about employment, the way they think about frankly the capitalist system and democracy." Looking back at previous pandemics including the 2008 GFC, Elliott noted that, “For Australia in particular and New Zealand, all of those other crises were something we almost watched on television, and we experienced in some ways. With this one it’s fundamentally changing our way of life. That is, I think, psychologically massive compared to all the other ones.”

For the NonStop community for the most part this represents only a small shift in current thinking as remote workers have been part and parcel of our daily lives for quite some time. Put it down too to the emergence of the “gig economy” where in tech there are so many individual contributors that without them, costs would soar astronomically. But therein again, lies further potential for NonStop. Wouldn’t you want your support infrastructure – your desktop, your comms, you data and yes, your security lead you back to a fault tolerant system? NonStop is certainly one desirable outcome in this respect.

Alone, but connected! Remote, but an integral part of the team! We all salute the satellite and in so doing, have become fully aware that the longer society operates in this current manner the lesser the likelihood we will see a swing back to practices of the past. Tech may be the bellwether for disruption and the driver of further innovation but within tech, there are the seeds of even greater change. Suddenly, “Home Alone” may not have negative connotations. Nor will it be a reference to a neglected child! Ultimately, we all may welcome the change and embrace the disruption for what it truly means: Freedom to innovate!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

NonStop – it’s all about trust and track record!

What comes to mind when you think about home court advantage? NonStop has the experience and yes, the top score when it comes to running mission critical applications! 

It has been almost two years since Margo and I last ventured onto a race track. Over the course of a decade we turned up at events in various cars but when asked, we both enthusiastically supported our beloved Viper SRT/10 as the true car of choice for track weekends. With regard to our favorite tracks, in time High Plains Raceway (HPR) became our favorite simply because it was our home track. Previously it had been a track out on the edge of California’s Mojave Desert, Willow Springs International Raceway (WSIR), which was our favorite and, for a time, it was our home track.

If you have seen the movie Ford v Ferrari (or Le Mans ’66 as it has been called in some markets) you will be somewhat familiar with WSIR as in that film they made extensive use of the property, but drove around the track counterclockwise – something we never had the opportunity to do. As we head into Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere there will be a lot of discussion about new cars finally hitting the marketplace, but here’s the thing; whether your intentions are to drive a backroad, commute, or take to the track today’s cars have become so good that you can do it all with few changes needed to your motor vehicle.

Put it down to standards if you like – almost everyone has a ZF or Tremec Gearbox and everyone has a cable they can plug into any cars industry-standard ODBII interface to see what’s going on and, if you have the skill and software, gives you the opportunity to re-program your car. Simple: It’s all standards based. Even so, you have some choices – Wilwood or Brembo brakes; Toyo or Hoosier tires; Pfadt or Bilstein suspensions. And it’s become very similar in our IT industry today – numerous architectures, infrastructure, utilities and tools and even message formats. All universal and all designed to ensure business keeps its eyes on what lies ahead.

Whether you call it a home track or a home field, there are advantages of competing on familiar turf. Or pavement! How often do we hear the cry go up, “Not in my house!” and this is where the conversation about the importance of standards intersects with the need for creating business value. If the cry of “Not in my house” aptly applies to sports contests how can we ignore a cry of “NonStop, won’t stop!” In other words, when it comes to projecting the true value that NonStop brings to business then it’s hard to ignore the decades of trust NonStop has created among businesses in general. No NonStop user can ignore how NonStop meets all the criteria businesses impose when it comes to availability.

In presentations given by the HPE NonStop team members it’s hard not to be impressed when they quote the likes of VocaLink (now a Mastercard Company) –

“It comes down to trust and track record. When you are running systems this large you have to find a way to be able to sleep at night and the only way you can sleep at night is to have exactly the right tools for the job. And for these really high performance, large scale, cant’ ever fail applications, NonStop is the right tool for the job!”        

However, possessing the best system for the business implies more than technology. You can have the most impressive hardware architecture and software implementation but if in its uniqueness it calls upon levels of skill not readily at hand, then CIOs and IT departments will likely shy away from the solution on offer. Fault tolerant computers arrived when hardware reliability was problematic and carved out marketplaces where business needed support for mission critical applications. Today, businesses have as pressing a need for reliability not because of unreliable hardware but because the sheer complexity of modern deployments has become fragile at best.

We may think modern cars have become complex, but in reality they are the sum of components and sub-assemblies tried and tested over decades. So much of what goes into modern cars is the same where the only differentiation is style, comfort and yes, perhaps color. Engineers and service mechanics can download manufacturers tools to a laptop and become familiar with your car in no time at all – even the codes generated by the engine control unit (ECU) have been standardized across different models. Modern cars are little more than computers – the engine is programmable, as is the transmission as are today’s electronic differentials. One report on the new Corvette talked of there being two million lines of new code just to manage the e-diff!

It’s easy to gain consensus from NonStop professionals over issues like trust and track record, but what is very new is that with the commoditization and standardization of NonStop as it transitioned to x86, is that it has opened the doors to modern development environments. The same teams employed to write and operate modern applications via programming languages, test tools and the like can direct those very same capabilities at NonStop. There are almost no remaining barriers to developing applications on NonStop using exactly the same stuff as have been used developing applications for other systems.
In her post to the HPE Community blog,
Modernizing the development world of NonStop applications, Karen Copeland, Manager, Worldwide HPE NonStop Product Management, made a point of highlighting just how far NonStop has come with respect to ease of programming - 

What may also surprise CIOs is how DevOps tools like Git and Jenkins can be used to develop applications even as NonStop developers directly interface with products like Ansible.

To which we can now provide an update to what has already been published by adding –

What may surprise IT management even more is that there are now groups within the NonStop engineering team working on NonStop middleware that are actively using GitHUB, Jenkins, Ansible and other open source tools for DevOps to deliver many new offerings for the NonStop platform.

If you have trouble with the above hyperlink, you can always cut and past the following link into your browser -

It makes a very big difference when it comes time to consider NonStop for your next project – there will be applications that continue to be mission critical and CIOs and IT departments do want to sleep at night. NonStop has always delivered the highest level of availability even as IDC continues to endow on NonStop the much coveted Availability Level 4 (AL4) -   where “AL4 servers will failover in a way that the user won't notice.”

The days of heading out to the garage to build your own race car are long gone. The need for heavy investments in cutting edge technologies does not exist for weekend excursions on a racetrack. We may have our home tracks and we may have preferences for simple things like oils, brakes and tires, but ultimately, there are lots of options when it comes to turning to off-the-shelf components and perishables. As for that Viper featured atop this post it will always hold a special place in our hearts even as it no longer resides in our garage.

When it comes to systems, HPE NonStop has pursued a radical program for NonStop embracing industry standards, including support for open source software. It demonstrates considerable flexibility in support of traditional converged systems even as it supports virtual machines. And now, the need for costly support and operations staff has been negated as well. When it comes to any home track advantages, there is no denying that for CIOs, it’s time to deploy NonStop, “in my house!”

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Fires, floods, pestilence and plagues; all of biblical proportion: What next?

NonStop has been tagged as being reliable, robust even rugged but unlike any time in the past, NonStop is being called upon to keep on running, continuously, in spite of everything else that is occurring today …

It has been a headlines driven year so far. Images appearing in our nightly newscasts have shown fires in Australia, floods in Venice (and yes, in Australia as well), swarms of locusts in East Africa and now, cities in lock-down following a plague of a virus originating in China that has turned into a global pandemic. What did we do? Obviously, in a globally-connected, social media-driven world news travels faster than ever before, but really, how many of us were prepared to face such an onslaught?

No sooner than events were organized in Australia in support of volunteer firefighters than events were cancelled due to concerns over “community spread.” In Australia, one minute you have crowds saving that most-treasured of dwellings, the outside loo (or "dunny" as the locals like to call it) from encroaching fires and at the very next moment, barely an individual prepared to face the mobs given the rationing of toilet paper. If there is any message we can take from this is that in 2020, all things are possible and being prepared for everything is now the new norm.

When you consider the roller-coaster ride that investors have been on for the past couple of weeks it is as if there is now a heavy gloom settling over us all. We are locked down, with our homes “off-limits”; we have no money anymore with our savings shredded; and we are out of toilet paper! All we need to hear is that the global networks that keep us all informed and essentially connected with each other has been compromised and we can no longer download our favorite movie. What next? Well, a good laugh might be one way to respond. Even as the seriousness of our situation begins to sink in, perhaps it’s a good time to postpone that trip to grandma’s and that vacation on the Côte d'Azur.

First we received news that the DUST Regional User Group (RUG) meeting in Arizona had been cancelled and then just last week, we received news out of Germany that the organizers have decided to postpone eGTUG European NonStop HotSpot / IT-Symposium 2020 planned for May to sometime in the fall. Possibly September, well before November’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) comes around! As for those of us looking to participate in events any time before the summer well, it is probably prudent to think of making alternate arrangements, just in case.

For the NonStop community this is a stark reminder that there is a reason why we have deployed NonStop in support of our mission critical applications. There is a reason too why we have disaster / recovery plans and there are very good reasons as to why we test and test again out ability to handle outages. If events of the past couple of weeks have taught us anything at all it is that outages will happen and furthermore, our systems will be subject to stress. Those key attributes of availability and scalability suddenly seem to come home way more than just highlights on PowerPoint slides. But what do we mean by mission critical in today’s hostile world?

“If you are a rocket scientist, or pilot, or consumer, your definitions are very different when it comes to expectations surrounding mission critical,” said Randall S. Becker, Managing Director, Nexbridge Inc. “The point is that the length of the mission and the availability during the mission, have to be BOTH defined. They are connected but not identical, like urgency and importance.” Furthermore and by way of explanation, according to Randall, “I view ‘reliability’ and ‘priority’ as meta words that group their respective two.” When banks transfer huge sums over a short period of time, they want their systems to be online. Likewise, an online purchasing network needs to be truly available 24 x 7 because customers can be anywhere and up all night!

The NonStop community is well-served with multiple product solutions when it comes to disaster / recovery preparedness. There is probably not a NonStop user that doesn’t have disaster / recovery plans in hand, whether it includes a second site capable of taking over or up-to-the-minute backups resident in popular clouds. There are many ways NonStop users can go about ensuring that they have the protection they need. Again, it’s not just the loss of a site and its ability to process transactions as this also includes a site being overwhelmed and just as unable to process transactions.

“If you truly cannot afford to be unavailable for any reason, there are cost-effective solutions today,” said Tim Dunne, NTI Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales. “NonStop users deploying DRNet® have known for many decades now that there are ways to protect your enterprise and it really doesn’t matter the type of disaster being faced, a disaster is always a disaster and you just have to be prepared. This truly has become the new norm in 2020! While NTI has broadened use-case scenarios of late, it’s still the ability to keep multiple sites synchronized that lies at the very heart of NTI’s product suite.” 

The history of NonStop is steeped in tradition that is focused on surviving faults. It has a culture too that few in Silicon Valley have duplicated, where every move made by NonStop development was focused on ensuring that there would be no loss of accessibility even as there would be no loss of data. Looking back to when it was Tandem Computers, the NonStop system of the day kept on processing transactions when the Wall Street crash of 1987 took place and yes, they even kept running when the “big one” struck Northern California – the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 – that I for one will not soon forget. Yes, over at Forge, where Tandem maintained its support operations, the systems kept on running!

When a customer called in following the quake that their system had “fallen over” conventional wisdom evidently was that well, the system had crashed for one reason or another. But no, the Tandem computer was still running but false flooring had given way and the computer was now lying on its side; could that be a problem? Or so the story goes but as Randall tells it, “The system that fell over was the Tandem MIS system itself. The Ampex drive had walked the floor, hit the limit of the wire, and fell over. It kept spinning – don’t ask me how the disk heads didn’t crash.”Irrespective of which system was involved following the quake for many of us it became a time where we were all obliged to work from home. Sound familiar?

We often talk about the one constant being change but there really is another constant: Uncertainty. Systems we relied upon can be disrupted. Applications we use as a matter of course go missing. Recall the Polar Vortex that hit our home state of Colorado last year? It brought such extreme cold to a state where cold happened often but it was the background for a memorable quote by climate scientist, Jennifer Francis at the Woods Hole Research Center. “It’s a complicated story that involves a hefty dose of chaos and an interplay among multiple influences, so extracting a clear signal of the Arctic’s role is challenging,” she noted.

The NonStop community knows well enough that NonStop systems provide continuous operation even with single points of failure but increasingly, it’s complicated: Chaos abounds! And it’s into this world that NonStop continues to play an important role. So the next time you hear those famous lines from a popular song:

I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end

Fires burn out; quenching rains come even as floods appear and then ease; there’s protein in those locusts, or so it seems, and now we are looking for the curve to flatten as the virus plague is upon us in earnest. Ultimately, it all comes back to:

So bare your heartaches your grieves and pain
Whether the sunshine and the rain
Just know it cannot last
(Choir) This too will pass

Hunkered down here in our Colorado home, there’s just one last thought. Know well that today’s NonStop will support your mission critical applications in ways that too will never end. 

So, what’s next? Returning to the lyrics of the song by James Taylor:

Well, there's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things
To come    

And if this rings any bells then just give me a call!  

Monday, March 9, 2020

Where are we headed: Looking back over half a century!

This past week marked a milestone; and what a trip it has been or as Jimmy Buffett once sang, “Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic. But I had a good life all of the way!”

During a recent road trip in Colorado, Margo and I were late in realizing that we were happily driving along “Richard’s Lake Rd.”. With as much talk as there is of late about Data Lakes, it’s hard not to think about how big a lake might be out there with information about any of us. Really, how big would “Richard’s Lake” turn out to be and just as importantly, should anyone even care? We all know that data is being accumulated at an enormous rate so I have to believe there is a lot of data on me, considering how active I am on social media.

This wasn’t always the case … there was a time, a long time ago, when just getting published in the newspaper meant something. This month it wasn’t just the road trip that had me late in realizing something important. With the arrival of March 2020 I am celebrating fifty years in IT. There are bound to be many who have diligently pursued a career in IT for longer than I have, but that really isn’t the point – it’s not a competition. However, as I look back through all that has transpired for nearly half a century I cannot help but muse, how did I get here?  

With my love of music and with my attraction to clever lyrics, this is perhaps an ideal time to reference the later part of the opening verse of the song, Once in a Lifetime –

And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?

Quite right; automobiles, houses and a beautiful wife have been featured in much of my writings and when I look at how I did get here then, in all honesty, it’s a mystery to me! I suspect no other NonStop professional has done more to derail their career over such a lengthy span of time as I have managed to do. Given how it is my anniversary and is such an important one, indulge me for just a paragraph or two before I return to the topic of lakes and in particular, data lakes.

While I was recruited in the Australian summer of ’69 by IBM and having passed tests and interviews, I showed up at the Steelworks in Wollongong, south of Sydney, on March 2, 1970. Yes, those who have been so kind to send me birthday greetings over the past couple of days, this was my birthday – in more than one sense, an ominous portent of what was to transpire. Two years in the Steelworks as an IT cadet was followed by stints as a programmer and then systems analyst at Overseas Containers Limited that included a transfer from Sydney to London. And then it was a couple of years with a Caterpillar distributor in Edmonton, Alberta.

However, after eight years working on the user side of the profession I jumped ship and joined the vendor community. In 1977 I returned to Sydney where I became the youngest Australian resident Managing Director (CEO, as it would be called today) of an American software company. In this instance, it was The Computer Software Company (TCSC) – what a name; imagine calling yourself that these days, but in the late ‘70s there weren’t too many software vendors so why not! But this is where the roller-coaster ride really began.

My area of expertise in 1977? Well it was database and in particular, relational database management systems and my product of choice, Datacom/DB. Fair enough, but it was only a few years later that Nixdorf Computers acquired TCSC, launched a plug compatible mainframe where I managed to secure the position of National Manager, Australasia Compatible Information Systems. Start-up and a Managing Director role followed by an acquisition and a senior manager role continued through to 2010 – forty years. Who would have planned such a path or at least, who would have openly admitted that this was their game plan all along.

TCSC to Nixdorf Computer; Systems Technology / Netlink to Tandem Computers; Insession to ACI Worldwide; GoldenGate to Oracle! Except, with this last acquisition, my roller-coaster ride came to an end! There was no room for me at Oracle and in almost every way I consider this to be a bullet well dodged!

While still back in Australia, I was coming to the attention of the media and for a while, Australian Computerworld identified me in articles as a “voice close to the industry”. A moniker that took decades to shake however the upside was that by the time I joined Tandem in Cupertino, I was a regular guest columnist in the Australian Computerworld newspaper. I had even written a couple of feature articles including a four page feature on the arrival of the Tandem Cyclone.

Little did I know that meeting a deadline and dreaming up story lines all those years ago would prove to be every bit as important a cadetship as when I showed up at the Steelworks five decade ago. This was a cadetship too that benefited from the many times I moved country – in all eight international moves – Sydney to London, then to Edmonton, Canada, to Dallas, TX, back to Sydney then of to Raleigh, NC, back to to Sydney again and then to Cupertino, CA. It took me three attempts to finally get the right visas to live full time in the US and for that, I have to thank my managers at Tandem.

Fifty years have passed by and it’s almost as if I can hear familiar lines from a Jimmy Buffett song; I did go to Paris after all. Many times! In fact, I proposed to Margo in Paris. On one occasion I even took an Air France Concorde flight from New York to Paris and it’s really a pity that you can no longer do that. Given I was a non-smoker, I had the whole back section of the Concorde – all 48 seats – to myself which led to much speculation among those seated forward. Bringing this to a close, there is no doubt that the data that could be accumulated about me would probably fill a disk drive. Or, a thumb drive! However, my only response to this would be “good luck” – when you figure it all out, let me know. Perhaps there is a story line after all.

In my conversations of late with HPE folks, there is nary an occasion when privacy and security don’t come up at some point. Writing about where I have worked as I have done here is pretty much acknowledgment that try as I might, I couldn’t have expected to keep it a secret. The message of NonStop has evolved over the past two decades to where it’s now very much about availability, security and scalability. When I first joined Tandem it was very much a message of availability, scalability and data integrity. But I digress – the important message is that now, security is right up there with only availability having a higher marketing priority.

And what have I learnt about security? It’s all really simple it turns out. Just as in the late ‘70s the issue was fallibility of hardware that in turn gave rise to Tandem that survived single points of failure, security needs to be addressed in the same way. Start with the real foreboding that any system any application will be penetrated and with this knowledge, build security solutions that are based on the premise that you will be compromised. Someone will get it – it’s as inevitable as a hardware failure was all that time ago.

Dig a moat, build a wall, disconnect from the internet, whatever – the bad guys will find a way. Fortunately, for NonStop it will be a little more difficult than most, but as the statistics of late highlight there is a marked increase in “insider penetration.” Clearly, while a NonStop system hasn’t suffered a hack to date it may very well happen at some point so moats, walls and isolation will only get you so far. The obvious solution? There are numerous NonStop vendors already all over this – make what you might find inside a NonStop totally useless. Nothing in the clear, whatsoever.

In the past this wasn’t always an option but with the speeds of processors these days, taking a few extra steps to make it all worthless to anyone other than those authorized to access the NonStop is a starting point. As for those accessing NonStop I continue to be a huge fan of two-step verification. I am no real expert in security, but fortunately there are those in the NonStop community who are and even so, sometimes we just make it too easy to get to our stuff!

I may be cavalier in my approach to protecting my own presence inside the ether and yes, I have been subject to malware and even ransomware attacks but in all cases, ignorance is bliss. And so far, nothing has materialized. However, when it comes to our NonStop systems, this simply doesn’t fly. Privacy isn’t my thing either. As a blogger I am fair game to anyone building a really bad profile of me through selective use of stories I have written. And yet, that data lake out there; that Richard’s Lake, just has to be full of data about me that I suspect can only be considered confusing at best. 
On the other hand there are those institutions and indeed countries where this is a big deal so again, take as many steps as you must to make information unreadable – sure, a Cray will crack the code eventually but who has a Cray these days? And I know multicore Intel chips can match a Cray in some instances on tasks like this, but again, I am simply not worth it! Just call me – I will fill you in on what you might want to know! And yes, that was me doing a U-Turn on the Sydney Harbor Bridge one night. Very late at night!

Five decades in IT and it has all passed by so quickly. Where are we headed? What five decades have taught me is that as soon as we see a dominant technology or solution on the horizon, just over the horizon is something completely different! And those data lakes? Water always wins and sooner or later, the need for lakes will evaporate – it’s all going to be a memory! The only good news for the NonStop community is that I will not be blogging for another fifty years. That ship has most definitely sailed. But to all of you who have joined me on in my topsy-turvy roller-coaster ride that has been fifty years of IT, many thanks. Simply put, I couldn’t do what I do today if it wasn’t for all the missteps I took along the way. And here I am, finally: The CEO of me!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Best of both worlds – NonStop has you covered!

It hasn’t been hard to catch a sunset or two in California; for the NonStop community, it’s time to look again at twin stars (as covered in a post more than a decade ago) that is even more relevant today!

Looking towards the far-off horizon especially when it has to do with watching the sun set over the ocean has always been a sight that has grabbed my attention. Of late, Margo and I have had the opportunity to drive up and down on California’s coastal highway where there was more than one occasion to enjoy brilliant sunsets. Margo and I now live in northern Colorado where it is not the sea but rather the mountains that frame the suns last rays but, all the same, it is a reminder that no matter what took place during the day, there is a finality to it all; the sun has set and night will prevail.

Paging through older posts to this blog I came across the post of October 20, 2007, The pull from twin stars ... published just after the European ITUG event in Brighton, England. It began with references to the very first Star Wars film (Episode IV). Given the topical nature of all things Star Wars of late, you may not recall that in that first installment of the Star Wars saga, Luke Skywalker was depicted living on a planet that orbited two suns where the double sunsets were a spectacular sight.

Two suns or better still, twin stars, present in the real universe exhibit some pretty interesting gravitational effects – pulling very large bodies into their orbits while, over millions of years, kicking many heavenly bodies into the depths of deep space. Bright as they are they are turning up pretty much everywhere astronomers look. And yet, this image of competing forces got me thinking once again about this new decade for NonStop. It’s hard to ignore that change is taking place, rapidly, to the point where vendors like HPE are wrestling with solution priorities as no vendor can address it all!

Furthermore, when you think of twin stars, gravity and the inherent conflicts that arise from the presence of such twins, images of conflicted CIOs come to mind. In that post of 2007, I noted that when looking for the right solution (to today’s business problems), there is more often than not the question about “the dynamics of the pull and push effects on our data center, as we first distribute and then centralize. We empower our department users and then we pull it all back again. And over the years there have been very sound economic reasons in support for each directional change.” But is it really a question at all? Are we in fact on the receiving end of the best of both worlds where there really isn’t any wrong answer – just answers?

What is even more interesting to Margo and me is that as we scrolled back even further through the blog we came to a post just a few days beforehand. If you look at the comments that followed the October 6, 2007, post, Don’t change my toys! When it comes to further consideration of what answers will work for business today, it’s good to note that there is nothing new about such discussions as even after a decade, some observations still ring true today. For instance, with regards to the October 6, 2007, post -

Take a look at the first comment:

Shouldn’t we be spending our time addressing the requirements of our business more than re-working our code? Shouldn’t our NonStop servers be transparent to the graduates out of school wanting to develop solutions?

We are spending tremendous energy and money to make the systems (toys) we use make sense to more of us. Just further evidence to me that the hardware is reaching its limits and has far outstripped the soft side of IT.

And then the subsequent comment:

We are still "babes in the woods."

We are just beginning to feel the first waves of compressed time in a rapidly changing world. Platforms, environments, UI's cannot and will not remain the same... unless we want stagnation. Get used to it.

There is much that I could say about these separate comments even as they resonate as strongly with me today as they did all that time ago. And who could have guessed we would still be talking about how best to “educate” IT professionals about how easy it is to write solutions for NonStop even as we continue to think in terms of the world being software driven. 

But there is one more item that needs to be included here and that is that circling back to the issue of two stars, and the influence they exert, given that today we have the issue of where NonStop lives in a world dominated by conversations of the Core and the Edge. While there are some questions about the gravitational effects on orbiting satellites when it comes to whether or not this HPE strategy is having an effect on NonStop then the simple answer is, of course!

Analogies with heavenly bodies can only go so far and as the comments posted back in 2007 highlight, there are just as many questions as there are describable business scenarios. However, when it comes to NonStop systems today, we can safely say we have the best of both worlds – for support of databases and SQL at the core, NonStop performs well and for support of transaction processing at touch points with end users NonStop performs equally as well. Throw into the mix the option to deploy a traditional converged system or virtualized and companies now have an abundance of riches with NonStop.

When describing the conflicts faced by CIOs it’s hard to ignore too that they are being tugged back and forth. The comment made all those years ago that asked “
Shouldn’t our NonStop servers be transparent to the graduates out of school wanting to develop solutions?” is right on the money. While other vendors are promoting the programs they are supporting at universities around the planet, the real answer lies in ensuring the tools we use today to develop solutions for systems can readily be used with NonStop. In other words, use the tools you have – no training required! In a world where it’s all about DevOps, deployment on NonStop shouldn’t be a problem.

Given the work done of late to ensure NonStop can participate as easily as any other system in a DevOps world, there is little chance that the ill effects of gravity hurling orbiting bodies deep into outer space will apply to NonStop. And this is indeed good news. As a community we now know that we can leverage the attributes of NonStop – availability, security, scalability – easily and readily just as we now know we can deploy NonStop at the Core or the Edge. Perhaps the heavens can continue to educate us after all; the models that hold the universe together seem to be working quite satisfactorily since time immemorially.

Looking at sunsets as we often do on our travels, particularly when it involves travel to the west coast where sunsets involve watching the sun disappear over the horizon, is a time-honored custom for Margo and me. But then again, so too is ruminating on the positive aspects of NonStop and the benefits NonStop continues to bring to companies whose business cannot be interrupted for any reason. 

Gravity indeed may influence the decisions we make but isn’t it good to know, we are maintaining a stable orbit around the mission critical needs of those businesses. There will indeed be challenges ahead in this new decade but taking a positive stance over NonStop will not be one of those challenges and as a community, this is perhaps the bright spot of the year for us all!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

It’s time for three more wishes for NonStop!

Three years have come around rather quickly this time but it’s still worth thinking further ahead when it comes to our wishes for NonStop in 2023!

Celebrating each New Year comes with a lot of obligations. It’s not just a case of staying up late to enjoy the fireworks, although, I have to say, I haven’t managed to do that very often – my trip to Sydney to see its firework display being the most memorable exception. Then there is the mandatory popping of champagne corks and celebratory hugs, and more, and it was only a few years ago when Margo and I took to the streets of Key West to witness its approach to welcoming the New Year, where we were quickly educated about crowd control. However, perhaps entering each New Year is even more memorable because of the tradition of making a wish. Whether it’s embracing a new diet, spending more time at the gym or simply deciding to spend more time outdoors, each of us makes a wish / resolution of one kind or another.

Having written this, it seems only appropriate that I segue into the focus of this post – it’s a post I always approach with enthusiasm. I write it only once every three years, but even now, with the rate of change accelerating perhaps I need to consider providing an updated list of wishes at the start of each year. Imagine for a moment, as some pundits are declaring, what IT might look like in the future if the cost of computing does indeed go to zero. How far would you like to see computing go in terms of interacting with everything we do? On the other hand, what if it meant that NonStop could run everywhere and anchor all applications we would then be relying on round the clock, every week, every month, every year?

However, before taking a deeper dive into my next three wishes, it struck me that with the beginning of a new decade and as we move deeper into the twenty-first century, what predictions others had been making that were more general in nature. As a CNN Business report published, Nanobots, ape chauffeurs and flights to Pluto. The predictions for 2020 we got horribly wrong that weren’t shy about reporting on the shortcomings of some predictions. “According to various experts, scientists and futurologists, we would have landed on Pluto and robots should be doing our laundry by now. Oh, and we'd all be living to 150. ‘Futurists and technology experts say robots and artificial intelligence of various sorts will become an accepted part of daily life by the year 2020 and will almost completely take over physical work,’ Elon University noted in 2006.”

Furthermore, and just a little closer to home and to reality, it was also reported by CNN that “in 2000 (futurist Ray) Kurzweil also predicted that computers would be ‘largely invisible’ and ‘embedded everywhere - in walls, tables, chairs, desks, clothing, jewelry, and bodies,’ by 2020.” What doesn’t escape our imagination is that indeed, we are close to entering an era where robots can do many of the tasks we do today and much of the information we gather and the transactions we execute will be guided by AI somewhere in the background. If only we could get rid of those dreaded chatbots, we might be able to see better uses of data and ML / AL becoming beneficial to us all. One last prediction as reported by CNN: “In 2000, Eric Haseltine wrote in Discover magazine that written signatures would be ‘considered quaint’ by 2020, replaced by biometric IDs, including iris, fingerprint and voice-recognition systems.”

Back in posts to this blog in 2008 I managed to squeeze in two separate quotes by legendary baseball manager Yogi Berra. In the March 2008 post The path well-trodden – to Mandalay Bay! , where I wrote hesitantly about which NonStop products will gain traction with the community, I wrote that when making predictions we might do well to remember Berra when he said, “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” It was only a matter of a few months later in the June 2008 post It's still the same, just different! where I wrote about strategy and setting directions, I again referenced Berra noting how he once said, “If you don't know where you're going, chances are you will end up somewhere else.” When it comes to NonStop it is indeed tough to make predictions about the future of NonStop even as it’s perhaps even tougher to state categorically where NonStop is headed.

Putting all of this aside for one moment, there is still value in taking the information the NonStop team has provided in presentations given to the NonStop community in 2019 and extrapolating a couple of highlights that in turn can be used to anchor further conversations about what might happen over the course of the next three years. Naturally enough, in the preview post of July 30, 2019, Three more wishes coming soon – the path ahead for NonStop I dropped a few clues as to what I might be covering in this post. But then again, in the short time that has passed since that post was published, events have intervened to the point where the direction has changed and the predictions taken on a different meaning.

If we are looking to start then it is useful to look back at what three wishes were documented on February 13, 2019, Three new wishes for NonStop that address the next three years! To summarize, these included predictions that NonStop users would be buying more NonStop X systems and in migrating to L-Series OS, begin looking at virtualized NonStop. As for NonStop vendors, it was an admonishment to them to lift their game not so much because they were slipping behind as much as it was an encouragement to keep up with NonStop development. When it came to the NonStop development team, the predictions here would be that we would see more education, training, mentoring and promotion and this was to be driven by a need to better educate the industry (including the press and industry analysts) about the new NonStop! So, how did we do?

Sales of NonStop X really took off in 2019 and new services in support of modernization and migration were introduced. Virtualized NonStop has come through some serious PoCs and contracts have been signed. Virtualized NonStop too has been the subject of a HPE video that is now live and can be viewed at -

Or, if you prefer to view this video on Youtube, that too is now an option

Furthermore, HPE Mission Critical Systems (MCS) marketing has published a new post on the subject of virtualization and Virtualized NonStop that can be found at -

This uptick by MCS marketing is refreshing to see in that it is a tangible sign that NonStop is very much a part of HPE’s modernization program. When you think about it this is one aspect of my wishes for NonStop through the years, that are coming to fruition, even as it has been an area of interest for most of us – well done HPE and the MCS team!

As for NonStop vendors, they did indeed step up their game and the NonStop community now sees more vendor products included in the NonStop price book than ever before. As for NonStop development, including the Mission Critical Systems (MCS) marketing team, we have seen three videos produced promoting NonStop even as at major events, symposiums and boot camps, we have seen presentations being given that were designed to educate and challenge. The changes that I wished for in that post of three years ago have mostly come true even if looking back, they weren’t all that aggressive in terms of measurable deliverables.

However, this all changes with this post as, once again, we go out on a limb. Predicting the future may indeed be hard but then again, it’s also an opportunity to begin a whole new conversation on NonStop. To put headings or titles to these latest three wishes, then perhaps these will prove helpful: Three Platforms, One Channel and yes, Transparency. HPE has laid out its vision and is executing a strategy that targets June 2022 – their own three year plan if you like, that was launched last June at HPE Discover 2019. When it comes to transforming the enterprise and delivering Hybrid IT based on a model that calls out Data, the Core and the Intelligent Edge, everything available today at the Core will become available for the Edge and everything in the product portfolio that is software will become available as a service.

And now for the wishes that I have for the next three years!

Firstly, NonStop will be an option on all primary systems from HPE: Three Platforms - from ProLiant, to Synergy, to Apollo! In some instance this will result in NonStop “morphing” into just a feature of these product lines whereas there will be other instances where NonStop as software will be present on a co-processor plugged into massive amounts of shared data. Virtualized NonStop will hold the key and in so doing, proves that there will be no limits as to where NonStop can be deployed; consider this as a key deliverable within the framework of everything running at the Core will become available at the Edge. Within the Core or out on the Edge, enterprises will have options and it is only reasonable to expect NonStop to gravitate closer to where the action takes place – the Edge. 

Secondly, NonStop will find its place (and role) within HPE Greenlake: One channel!  The recent announcement of Greenlake Central is setting the stage for delivering on the promise of everything as a service. If all goes to plan, this will make NonStop available through major channel partners and combined with the new gateway / console model, almost any business manager will be able to choose to run mission-critical applications on NonStop. HPE will retain a dedicated sales force in support of NonStop but in time, as HPE gains experience with NonStop participation in Greenlake, the emphasis will likely shift to this sales force becoming more integrated within Greenlake.

Thirdly, there is still a lot taking place within the data center where you will see progressively greater usage of private clouds: Transparency in that you may not know where NonStop is running and it won’t matter. We are still seeing the majority of NonStop users deploying NonStop on traditional converged systems, but very quickly and because of the cost savings from reliance on standardized automation, orchestration and provisioning and yes, management and monitoring, NonStop on private clouds will prove popular and in three years’ time, begin overtaking the presence of NonStop on traditional systems. We will see a clearer understanding of how enterprises can benefit from infrastructure and middleware running on NonStop such that DevOps will be able to include NonStop deployments complete transparently – and hasn’t this always been an ultimate goal for NonStop?

When it comes to starting a new conversation on NonStop, perhaps it should begin with the new mantra being repeated in all high level presentations on NonStop: Industry Standard, Software Defined, Cloud Optimized. Yes, NonStop? Won’t Stop! That too conveys a lot in just a few simple words. So, to really put it out there, I see a future for NonStop that even the newest member of the IT organization can assemble new services using Java or Python or Ruby together with tools that are being widely deployed today across the IT organization including the likes of Puppet, Chef, Jenkins, Salt, Ansible, Kubernetes, Docker, Nagios, Cloud Computing and storage platform, and Infrastructure as a Code.  Yes, the barriers have come down to where today GIT and Jenkins run on NonStop just as NonStop can interface with Ansible.

NonStop on all systems! NonStop in all channels! And yes, NonStop becoming transparent, disappearing as it were, into the cloud. All that is then left to ask: Are you ready? 

Monday, February 3, 2020

For NonStop users, feeling all at sea - RUG events are a must!

Where do we really learn about what’s new with NonStop? Who do we turn to for the real skinny on all things NonStop? It’s when the NonStop community comes together at RUG meetings where it all happens!

Many of the miles Margo and I accumulate on our cars, in any one year, have to do with driving to Regional User Group (RUG) meetings. For us both, it’s an integral part of the culture that is NonStop. We wouldn’t miss an event held anywhere in North America if we can attend and oftentimes memories of past meetings are only triggered when we remember which car we drove to the event. There were even times where we elected to drive our former Company Command Center clear across country. Maneuvering the RV in and around Virginia proved a daunting task I have to admit!

But then again, we like to drive. This past month it’s been all about the drive, once again. If you come up short on the specifics of those recent trips, you may want to just check back through recent posts to this blog as well as to the January post to our social blog, Buckle-Up. All up, driving is a time to decompress and to simply take solace from a little downtime. How many times have we started our day looking forward to pursuing a task only to have the day’s plans turned upside down with an email or a phone call? For the NonStop community, particularly the NonStop user community, so much is taking place within our companies that simply staying atop of change is proving particularly challenging.

Long gone are the days sitting in a classroom setting listening to knowledgeable instructors talking about how best to leverage our investment in NonStop. It is perhaps a sad commentary on the times when we no longer have budget approval to upgrade our skills – remember those times when we would happily participate in a three-week course on data base, especially when the fundamentals of a relational data base  management system (and SQL) were being covered? Or when there was an in-depth tutorial on how best to capitalize on the features of a transaction monitor like Pathway? Point is, if we cannot find a Youtube clip walking us through a process then we are left bereft of knowledge and that’s never good in our world of IT.

Fortunately, the NonStop community has RUG events. For as long as I can recall, there has always been some form of education involved, whether directly through an optional half-day session or indirectly, where a NonStop engineer or product manager is presenting. When it comes to the bigger events that are held annually either here in the US or in Europe, there are frequently front-ended by full days’ worth of education and the value that participants derive from the guidance and information provided is well, priceless. It cannot be underestimated or downplayed in any way – gathering of the NonStop community always communicate something beneficial to the participants no matter the focus of the event or the agendas of the presenters.

Shortly, we will see SunTUG kick-off its much anticipated RUG event in Tampa, Florida. Anticipated, that is, by all those who continue to be knee-deep in snow. Any opportunity to embrace the “snowbird lifestyle” is welcome at this time of year. I have attended several SunTUG events through the years and the team that puts the program together always makes sure that there is a social day immediately following the formalities. Once again, it will be the SunTUG Golf Tournament. Living alongside a golf course in Northern Colorado these days is no substitute for being on a course in Florida and I am expecting a goodly crowd to show up for both the formal and social portions of the event.

Successful RUG events have traditionally been associated with opportunities to socialize. And this is an important aspect of RUG events as it’s always a time for informal discussions on matters raised at the event. Strategies can be fine-tuned and complex infrastructure options all sorted out. In days when there’s an absence of meaningful user case studies oftentimes, it is over networking opportunities where we jet the skinny on what really works and what’s still very much slideware. Who else should you be turning to other than to a colleague that is already a couple of steps further along the product deployment path than you are?

When it comes to NonStop RUG events in 2020 what may very well top the list of topics being covered will be virtualization. This is very much a topic near and dear to my heart having first tested the virtualization waters five decades ago (yes, I was a child prodigy as I keep reminding myself). Replacing traditional converged NonStop systems with virtual machines is well, different. After being inundated for decades with the message that Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) computing models were the way to go and that having many touchpoints to the metal was important, it’s as if we have left dry land and are all at sea – the seabed now hundreds if not thousands of feet beneath us. 

The novelty of Virtualized NonStop is beginning to wear off, fortunately. And yet that feeling of being out of our depth, with no lifeboat, to be seen is a reoccurring thought many of us are having – will NonStop lose its identity, for instance? If NonStop is out there, running atop hypervisors as a collection of virtual machines, does it even exist? Of course, any existential musings we may experience may only alleviate part of our angst that is, until we catch up with the experts at the very next RUG event! Want to know about lifeboats when all at sea? Just talk to a NonStop solutions architect or someone from product management as they pretty much have the seabed all mapped out for us.

This time last year I was all at sea, literally. On the Majestic Princess – a monstrously large vessel that is a city more than a mode of transportation. One of its features was a glass walkway that curved away from the ship all the better to view the sea below and yes, the lifeboats still in their derricks just a few decks above the waterline. Several times, late at night when it was all quiet on deck, I would walk out onto this glass deck just to watch the waters rushing by – for a big ship, the Majestic could ease any concerns you may have for your safety. It was a modern ship and as such, its propulsion system ensured that at that late hour, it could cut through the waters at a high rate of knots.

When it comes to RUG events, it’s unrealistic to view them as our life rafts. Yes, NonStop is moving forward very rapidly and yes, we no longer have our feet on dry land. And yet, knowing we can turn to life rafts should situations develop is comforting. There is so much to be learnt from RUG events: Isn’t it good to know that, with the speed of change taking place with today’s modern NonStop, there’s no reason at all why we need to lack knowledge on any NonStop related topic. It’s all out there and it’s all accessible.

Perhaps the image of a life raft isn’t as much a comfort as it is a tangible reminder that we all need to be onboard the ship. Moving with the speed of the ship, well aware of where we are headed. As the year unfolds before us there will be plenty of opportunities to network and socialize even as we hear from HPE itself – will we see you at one of these events? Margo and I will certainly be attending as many as we can, so don’t hesitate in coming to us even if it’s just to say Hi! We would be only too happy to chat about the good ship, NonStop! 

Everybody’s on the phone? Disruption, followed by innovation?

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