Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pie in the sky ...

Richard and I got engaged on a barge in Paris – the idea was to have a romantic dinner and exchange rings. The dinner out turned to be anything but romantic … we were seated behind a group of three couples, and each man in that group tried to outdo the others in a conversation.

Finally one of them decidedly won – he started talking, and every sentence contained a cliché … grass is always greener, strike while the iron is hot, opposites attract, what goes around comes around …
You get the idea? It was painful!
I was thinking about these exchanges as a few  clichés of my own came to mind on this cold December day; another holiday, another year ending, and I am thinking … every cloud has a silver lining.

As I remember our time at Insession, when we introduced WebGate, it was so much like this year’s introduction of maRunga by Infrasoft: putting the horse before the carriage, or a solution ahead of the problem!
When WebGate was introduced we knew that it is not avoidable, everyone will be competing on user interfaces to their services, and externalizing application’s functions as web services will be the way to go. We were right, and although we did not have sales in the first year, it took off and one financial institution externalized over 500 services using WebGate!

In all seriousness, Clouds will affect every aspect of our data center operations and touching NonStop will be unavoidable. Knowing there are solutions available will be important to all within the NonStop community. True, we are on an “evangelic sale” right now, but the team of developers in Sydney is among the best focused on NonStop solutions – success with uLinga more than proves that point.

maRunga did not attract anyone this year. It is brand new, and yet we know that it is what will be needed. More evangelism lies ahead, even as we know of the merits in having NonStop guarding the clouds, be it public or private! NonStop bursting into Clouds for capacity, essentially on demand! NonStop letting transactions follow data where Clouds are used in D/R scenarios!

We know that, and HP Field Support (where the idea of the product was conceived and first demonstrated) knew it, too. Customers will realize it very soon and I can’t help but think I need the guy on the barge to say; all’s well that ends well.

So, this holiday season I am saying to myself: don’t get your knickers in a twist; it's the quiet before the storm!

Monday, December 16, 2013

NonStop offers balance, and why not?

Even as there are those within the NonStop community who continue to “hold the breath” when it comes to predicting the future for NonStop, there are many more who argue why not NonStop for decades to come?  

In a clever turn of phrase, our local Niwot village coffee shop calls itself the Winot! And with the sudden drop in temperatures – almost 40 degrees Fahrenheit overnight – we see the seasons changing once again, and we continually ask ourselves shouldn’t we be in Florida? California? Perhaps Australia? Then again, part of the balanced life we enjoy from simply being in Colorado is watching the seasons’ change, so this holiday season, Margo and I are electing to stay put in Boulder, reminding each other, why not?

Taking advantage of our village name with an anagram the way our coffee shop has done, was just one way to draw attention to the shop and many of us can be excused for doing something similar, at one time or another. However, watching the snow come down, as I did earlier today, was only a small distraction as I pulled together the theme of this post – balance, and the need to look very closely at when we consider deploying HP NonStop systems and when we consider other resources.

There has been a lengthy discussion on the LinkedIn group, Tandem User Group. It started after a group’s member asked the question, “Why Tandem technology has (been) used in all banking areas, why not Mainframe? Is there possibility for migrating Tandem to any other new Technologies?” Among the commentaries posted was one by comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, who responded, “the ‘Tandem’ systems have changed tremendously in the last 15+ years: while they still provide mainframe type stability, they also have non-mainframe type price points, non-mainframe type modern-ness. They will run on x86 (architecture) in the next few years.”

One of the struggles that has continued across IT for as long as I have been a part of the industry, has to do with heterogeneity; with tapping the right platforms, the right resources, all to create the optimal mix of technology that balances the needs of all the constituents, or stakeholders, that make up today’s modern companies. As someone who has a lengthy history with IBM mainframes, before championing the benefits of NonStop, it wasn’t always an easy task for me to articulate why there was a role for NonStop when even the most casual supporter of the mainframe resisted change whenever the topic of switching was raised.

It was almost six years ago, on March 26, 2008, that I posted the blog A question of balance! This post included quotes from many within the NonStop community – users and vendors alike. Again, it was the quote by comForte’s Burg that rings just as true today as it did all those years ago. After observing that not every application needs NonStop, and sometimes we may pursue projects better suited to other platforms, Burg said, “You can do ‘anything’ on ‘any’ platform – the trick question is ‘which platform do I choose given my requirements (cost, availability, security, performance …)?’”

Using an even stronger turn of phrase, Infrasoft’s founder, Dave Finnie then observed, in that same post of 2008, “Enterprise systems need a bit of a rethink. Does it always need shared nothing versus shared everything? Independent processors, versus (symmetric multiprocessing) SMP? What about a mix?” Eight years later, we now know that NonStop plays just as an important role in support of mission critical applications as it ever has. Perhaps more so with the planned availability of NonStop solutions on the x86 architecture.

As I posted just a week ago, it was HP CEO, Meg Whitman, who said, “Today, enterprises operate in a world where the demand for continuous application availability is growing exponentially. The need to choose the right computer for the right workload at the right economics has never been so important … we are on the path to redefine mission critical computing.” It was Whitman who then added “Our NonStop customers truly make it matter” recognizing that while NonStop may not rule the entire data center, it will play an important role for years to come.

Vendors are among the first who recognize this important shift within the HP product portfolio and are, once again, turning to developing new products and services. “Having successfully introduced our first product uLinga, we have only just released our second product, maRunga. It is our goal to not only provide continued support for infrastructure on NonStop systems but to assist in making it easy for NonStop to tap new resources (in the case of maRunga, this being Cloud computing resources), as and when it’s deemed appropriate,” Infrasoft Managing Director, Peter Shell, told me recently.

According to the marketing literature already published by comForte, uLinga (as a replacement for both HP’s SNAX as well as ACI’s ICE product), should find additional growth with NonStop solutions on the x86 architecture. comForte’s development partner, Infrasoft, is committed to supporting NonStop on x86 even as ACI’s priorities, on the other hand (and my own speculation, of course), lie elsewhere. “Granted, the potential market for comForte with uLinga on NonStop x86 may never be as big as what exists today for NonStop systems on HP Integrity NonStop systems (Itanium)”, according to Inrasoft’s Shell, “yet prospects and customers alike will appreciate that, in selecting uLinga, they will have the latest, most modern implementation protocol and services stack focused on networking”.

As for maRunga, it’s early days but already there are opportunities developing in support of transactions following data into the Clouds, but more of that in a future post. Together, uLinga and maRunga are contributing to integration of NonStop into the data center, whether it is to the IBM mainframe applications often found behind the NonStop or to the Clouds in front or beside NonStop. Such integration only helps deliver on the balance desired by the stakeholders within a company. However, it’s not only providing a balance via products that is on the agendas of vendors, as services too plays an important role.

“For companies like OmniPayments to succeed over the long term, we are looking to balance the creation of products with the development of services,” said OmniPayments CEO, Yash Kapadia, this past week. “This is needed for two reasons; for some clients we can augment their staff with skilled and knowledgeable experts who can help them bring new business products to market faster but it’s also a growing need of some clients to have better fallback capabilities and nothing can match the expertise in OmniPayments as OmniPayments can!”

When it comes to finding a balance in mixing technologies, Yash then noted how “We are fully supportive of Cloud computing and see it’s exploitation as a resource-on-demand. We will see the Cloud increasingly become a repository for data as our clients turn to Clouds for disaster recovery (DR), and we anticipate the next phase to be Cloud bursting in support of low value transactions – if the data is already in the Cloud, supporting transactions that simply look-up data, will be an easy next-step to accomplish.”

Finding a balance whether it’s lifestyles or technologies will always present a challenge. With a known tradition for simply doing just enough to serve a market, watching vendors continuing to invest in NonStop, adding new products and services, is a clear indication that they are taking up this challenge even as they know more business is headed their way. With the support by NonStop of x86, the market will exhibit even stronger signs of growth that in turn will pull in more vendors – that’s just the nature of this business.

Perhaps it should be left to simply repeat the words I used in closing the post of 2008, where I referenced the last track on a Moody Blues album; the song Balance. “Just open your eyes, and realize, the way it's always been. Just open your mind and you will find the way it's always been.” NonStop remains an amazing technology that has thrived for decades. It now has a future and we understand where it’s heading. We have learnt how to leverage NonStop in support of our most important, mission critical, applications.

With the continuation of the NonStop platform embracing, as it is now doing, the Intel x86 architecture, will likely see the balance scales lifting in favor of NonStop. In so doing NonStop, too, will bring balance to our data centers that companies need, and where they are looking to add even more NonStop systems I can only say, why not? More importantly, as comForte marketing head Thomas Gloerfeld pointed out, another anagram for Niwot is “to win” and I concur with that thought even as I know I have the support of all NonStop community stakeholders! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Give the people what they want …

There is still much that can be learnt checking social media posts and commentaries as well as web sites – but doing nothing is not really an option in the informed world we all belong to …

At this time of year, driving on roads paved with ice in extremely cold conditions, the lowest sustained cold spell in decades even by Colorado standards, has reinforced the notion that it’s never good to have something between your vehicles tires and the road surface. Each year, as winter descends, we see it; students, new to the local university, driving Jeep AWDs looking astonished as they find themselves in the ditch with everyone else. Aside from fitting metal-studded tires, there’s really no safe way to negotiate ice.

There are occasions when we take advantage of friction, and there are times, too, when it’s best left alone. When we drive, the amount of grip our car develops is commensurate with the amount of friction we generate between our tires and the road, and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, when we sail, the drag we encounter from friction created as our vessel’s hull displaces water, is a bad thing. Everyone watching the recent Americas Cup challenge may remember that the competitors sailed on yachts designed with foils that raised the yachts out of the water to eliminate as much drag as possible; avoiding contact with the water was a way out for these high-tech yachts.

In general, friction too is something we tend to avoid in our daily lives. In the December 16, 2013, issue of Time magazine columnist, Joel Stein, wrote of 2013 as being the year of not trying too hard. “Remember 2012, with all that running for President, jumping out of the stratosphere to break the speed of sound, watching a 2 ½ hour movie about Lincoln negotiating for congressional votes, and pretending to understand the Higgs boson? All that trying so hard,” asked Stein. “This year, we learned a lesson. This year, we took it easy: 2013 was the year of not trying too hard.”

One way to avoid friction is to do nothing whatsoever, and Stein broaches that topic for Time readers. Stein ended his column by suggesting that, “Maybe, for 2014, we should just take a nice, long nap”. In winter conditions, such as I am experiencing right now, I can just as easily stay at home; I don’t have to venture out onto the highways. Friction can be so easily avoided. However, when it comes to the NonStop community there’s no escaping that one topic above all else generates friction – NonStop systems cost too much! No matter how you present the value proposition that NonStop provides there’s still arguments being made that NonStop remains an expensive purchase, but is that still true?

Scrolling down the ATMmarketplace web site – a publication where I am a blogger – I read an article based on an interview with Diebold Inc. Executive VP and Chief Innovation Officer, Frank Natoli. Under the headline of ATM innovation: Give the people what they want an argument was given by Natoli that “Any system, any process that stands on its own, that requires you to transfer information you know, or get from another channel – all those things are friction.” And he’s right, of course. Check with anyone in the NonStop community who has been asked to explain why they still support NonStop as a solution in support of mission critical applications, and why less-expensive solutions haven’t been introduced?”

Anyone not familiar with just how much energy the NonStop community has when it comes to justifying NonStop in support of certain applications need look no further than the discussion on the LinkedIn group, Tandem User Group, Hi, Why tandem Technology has used in all Banking areas, why not Mainframe. Is there possibility for migrating Tandem to any other new Technologies. Passions rose quickly when the subject embraced costs, with perhaps the best response coming from former ITUG board member, Joe Ramos, who reiterated how he “would throw in cost savings on a Tandem Enterprise vs. and IBM Enterprise. Cost drivers HW/SW, infrastructure, and personnel. No one does it better or cheaper. The reason why HP Nonstop owns the electronic transaction business is due to availability, UPTIME, and cost.”

The above discussion proved long lasting and extremely volatile with arguments pro and con bandied about with abandon. Few participants were prepared to remain quiet and do nothing when it came to discussing whether NonStop was still expensive. In prior years I had the opportunity to talk to current users on this very topic and through introductions provided by HP I also interviewed HP users running Linux, Unix and Windows (LUW) solutions. Two papers were produced and both are available for download from the HP web site. The findings were also covered in a number of blog postings here and elsewhere. To find these papers, check out these links:

I am revisiting these papers as a result of an inquiry from a real NonStop user who knew little of their existence. Checking further on his behalf, as well as with other users, I became aware that they have dropped down the list of opinion papers and research notes and few know where to find them. However, these papers remain every bit as relevant today as they have ever been – and the numbers have improved significantly since I did the initial crunching. No, there wasn’t the NB56000c and no, there wasn’t the NS2100. And no, HP had as yet not announced plans for NonStop to support the Intel x86 architecture. It’s as if new chapters are being written by HP on a predictable basis now, and we need to communicate that every one of these chapters is good news.

When I last wrote about these latest systems in the post, By the numbers … Looking at the new NB56000c I quoted  Yash Kapadia, CEO, OmniPayments Inc. when he said “we have seen a marked uptick of interest in OmniPayments when we were first able to talk about the new entry-level NonStop system, the NS2100. Having everything in the one box, as I noted last year, at an affordable price is the most important number of all – the additional performance is great but it’s still all about price/performance and I hope HP keeps an eye on the overall bottom line!” There’s no friction here whatsoever as far as Yash is concerned. It’s simply cheaper to put an OmniPayments solution into the marketplace running on NonStop than on equivalently sized LUW cluster solutions.

That’s right, out of the box, a NonStop system in support of a mission-critical solution costs less today on NonStop than a similarly configured system running a stack that includes a popular SQL offering such as Oracle. Knowing Yash the way I do, and the markets in which he operates, it’s not surprising to see how aggressive Yash has become about pricing his OmniPayments solution; and he is not alone – other payments solutions providers are now following suite. Perhaps the myth about high prices can be traced back to the early success of ACI where competitive pricing took a back seat for many years!

For more about real world experience download the paper on Pulse, written following its decision to go with NonStop in support of a new application. Pulse also had a new business opportunity where the alternatives had included adding to the IBM mainframe or building out the Unix / Oracle infrastructure. Instead, NonStop won, on cost. “In addition to high availability and scalability, the HP Integrity NonStop BladeSystem environment reduces our overhead costs and our system complexity while delivering a cost point for transaction processing that meets the requirements of our business model,” according to Tony Zeis, Senior Vice President of Switch Technology, PULSE.

For more, download the paper from the HP web site:

And I am sure HP will direct any of us to even more stories on the subject of costs, should we ask.

Furthermore, out of the box, NonStop systems are meeting the needs of the CIOs charged with the oversight of the mission-critical solutions deployed on NonStop. HP has done a wonderful job staying engaged with these CIOs and responding to their requirements. First came the move to commodity chips, then commodity storage followed by support of multiple industry standard and open interfaces making development of new products easier. And now, the final piece of this jigsaw – planned support of Intel x86 architecture. By my count, this is definitely a positive reinforcement of just how closely connected to CIOs HP continues to be – and that’s a message more of us need to communicate to our peers.  

Avoiding friction is easier said than done. In our everyday lives, it seems impossible to escape friction however when it comes to NonStop and the topic of pricing, it’s not a time to do nothing. It’s not a time to simply take a holiday and to take it easy. That’s exactly what competitors to NonStop hope we do and from my perspective, it’s not going to happen. This is simply a case where presenting the facts on NonStop is giving the people what they want and the good news is that this is a story that’s only going to get better with each new chapter! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

HP continues to set goals very high and the NonStop community is enjoying the stretch!

HP announced plans for NonStop to support Intel x86 architecture and the reverberations continue as users and vendors alike take it all in … but one thing is for sure, extending fault-tolerant computing to the largest server architecture worldwide will broaden the appeal of NonStop!

One of the earliest memories of my wife, Margo, that I have of her going back to when we both worked for Tandem Computers, is of her telling an audience “not to set goals too low in case they will achieve them”. Not to be confused with the anonymous, yet better known, quote by motivational gurus, "Set your goals high enough to inspire you and low enough to encourage you!" with her expression, Margo made it very clear that she didn't suffer mediocrity well.

Many of us within the NonStop community have publicly held the NonStop architecture in the highest of esteems and yet, in private, have expressed anxiety over just how much longer the NonStop architecture will prevail. A failure to prevail for NonStop, of course, casts a poor light on our future job prospects, so there may be some merit in our private musings. 

Blogs and discussion groups are liberally littered with such commentaries on this very theme – just how long can NonStop prevail? Just how long can we remain fruitfully employed doing what we really like? Yet today, we have one more example of the timeliness of the NonStop architecture as there are firm plans for NonStop to support the x86 architecture, the most popular server architecture, by volume, on the planet.

It took a long time to close the deal and many parties were consulted. However, earlier this year Margo decided to seriously upgrade her daily drive, and yes, our former racecar, the supercharged Corvette which we used to begin our track adventures has departed the garage being replaced with a Maserati Grand GranTurismo Sport. I’ve never been one to ever aim low, but this purchase came as a surprise even for the likes of me. Readers of my social blog, Buckle-Up-Travel, may have picked up on the clues in the post of February 18, 2013 Roads less travelled … when a former school mate of mine, David Roberts, visited from Australia and, as a bona fide race car driver, shared with me his positive opinion. That pretty much sealed the deal.

If her goal had been a Fiat 500, as Margo had once dreamed of when living in Warsaw, Poland, achieving this goal would have been a hollow victory in 2013, even with the reintroduction of this car. Perhaps, it was with this in mind, that she admonished us the way she did. Yet, the goal for many within the NonStop community is for NonStop to attain universal acceptance as the best mission-critical server with a broad range of solutions available. This definitely represents the kind of stretch goal Margo had in mind.

I covered the announcement of NonStop support of the x86 architecture earlier in the month. In the post of November 4, 2013, The real deal - NonStop supports x86! I included the quote by HP VP and GM of Integrity Servers, Randy Meyer, talking about NonStop as “a timeless architecture”. I also quoted HP CEO, Meg Whitman, who stated “Our NonStop customers truly make it matter” in a video clip everyone can view at:!

Whitman began her video presentation with “Today, enterprises operate in a world where the demand for continuous application availability is growing exponentially. The need to choose the right computer for the right workload at the right economics has never been so important … we are on the path to redefine mission critical computing.” To preface the announcement of NonStop supporting Intel’s x86 architecture resets the bar, or goal, for NonStop in ways many within the NonStop community no longer thought possible. Yet, on a simple commentary, such as Whitman provided, internally within HP as much as externally across the NonStop community, the message was unmistakable – in one short statement, NonStop became the premier product offering to those with the greatest need for mission critical computing.

Present at the keynote session of November 4, 2013, when the announcements were made, was IDC Research Vice President, Enterprise Servers, Jean Bozman. Later that morning, I ran across Jean as she was about to depart the venue and she was only too happy to talk with me. When I asked Jean about what stood out for her as the “really good news” she responded, “Moving NonStop to x86 platforms is a very good move, for several reasons. It will extend fault-tolerant computing to the largest server architecture worldwide. More than 95% of all servers shipped are x86 servers - and x86 servers generate more than 60% of all server market revenue. This brings a new operating system -- and fault-tolerant functionality - to that broad platform. It will join Microsoft Windows, Linux and Unix (Solaris/x86) on the x86 platform, as choices for customers.”

However, Jean didn’t stop at this point. She added, “For NonStop customers, in the installed base, this move to bring NonStop to x86, will open the door to wider adoption, and continued ability to tap NonStop functionality and applications into the future. It also brings the prospect of attracting new customers that might not have considered NonStop before. This also will allow NonStop to be used for new workloads that are emerging in the datacenter - and that require very high levels of availability.”

To my ears, this is exactly what the NonStop community had as a goal for many years – opening the door to wider adoption and allowing NonStop to be used for new workloads. The week after the NonStop Advanced Technical Boot Camp (TBC), I was able to interview Pauline Nist, GM Enterprise Software Strategy at Intel Corporation. Pauline is well known to the NonStop community having headed the NonStop Enterprise Division several years ago. However, it is in her current role at Intel that I sought out her opinions on plans for NonStop to support the x86 architecture. “When it comes to Intel’s expectations as to which businesses will relish NonStop on x86 the most – existing customers or new customers - it will likely be a little bit of both,” Pauline began. “As an observation, existing and new users alike really value the NonStop architecture and having it support Xeon simply ensures its longevity.”

Pauline then added how “The move to Xeon will not be earthshattering for either groups, with respect to porting existing or new applications, as NonStop development is well-experienced when it comes to embracing new chip architecture. We are always happy to help our partners differentiate the x86 architecture and with NonStop, it’s just another example of a vendor capitalizing on the popularity of Xeon. As we work with partners, we seek their input and the people at Intel take partner’s requests and work with them, feeding these requirements into the roadmap – Intel is simply more willing to do this than it ever has been before.”

In closing Pauline then talked about how, at Intel, “We proved that with the latest iterations of Xeon, it was practical to share infrastructure between Itanium and Xeon such that today, after several years of effort, much of the supporting infrastructure for both chips is common. Furthermore, when it comes to the needs of NonStop development, much of the RAS in Itanium that NonStop required is now an integral part of Xeon. The result is that the migration of applications running on NonStop on Itanium will find the transition to NonStop on Xeon a simple step to take.”

This message has already begun resonating with the vendor community. In a post to that should appear shortly, I quote IR’s
General Manager - Products & Alliances, John Dunne, who was quick on the uptake about the importance of this announcement. “There were concerns that Itanium would be the undoing of NonStop,” Dunne told me. “With the architecture moving to a mainstream chipset, as is the case with the x86, NonStop won’t fall off the ‘chipset cliff’ as Itanium reaches end of life and is discontinued. Software vendors that support NonStop have had to undergo several chipset migrations – each one with a substantial transition cost for the vendor; the challenge, as always, will be finding an appropriate return on investment (ROI).”

OmniPayments CEO, Yash Kapadia, said something similar when he told me that “OmniPayments has a long history with HP NonStop and with the ATC and have seen the NonStop development team navigate several changes of chip technology as well as interconnect fabrics. Adding support for Intel x86 as well as InfiniBand should be transparent to solutions vendors such as us and I can’t imagine any scenario that would have me losing sleep over this transition to a more popular architecture.” However, much as IR’s Dunne had indicated, Yash then added that, “All the same we will run extensive volume tests before we ship our software.

HP has definitely set the bar much higher and for those who still pegged the NonStop architecture as fleeting at best and problematic at worst, the game has really changed. And for the better. HP hasn’t dropped its guard or lowed its expectations when it comes to NonStop systems. Once considered the domain of the fortunate few, HP is extending fault-tolerant computing to the largest server architecture worldwide. No, never set your goals too low, as Margo reminded all who worked for her in the late 1980s, and with what we have witnessed this past month how true this sentiment has turned out to be!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hear the news – it’s all about great storytelling!

I have been following InkaBinka since the beginning of this year and now there are folks within HP, too, that see plenty of opportunities as we all become newscasters. “Capturing your world!” could involve us all and NonStop may very well be involved … 

To the dismay of many, Margo and I drove from Boulder, Colorado, to Orlando, Florida. What were we thinking? After road trips for business to Atlanta, Georgia, to Mississauga, Canada, and then the extended travel we did while in Australia, you would have thought a 2,000 plus mile trip to sunny Florida would be a bit much – but we love the travel. The picture above was taken of Margo and me after making a detour to Daytona Beach for lunch, Sunday. 

We have checked in to one of Disney’s kingdoms specifically, Magic Kingdom; looking down on this fantasy world from high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort. When you enter Disney, the “wonderful world of meetings” that is, there’s a tag line displayed on their folios – “the secret of an inspiring meeting is great storytelling”, and for someone who makes a living writing, nothing could be closer to the truth. The meeting we are attending is for the medical community, but for the NonStop community, it should evoke memories of the past as this association is headed by none other than ITUG’s former Executive Director, Jon Lindberg.

In an opinion column published in the November 12, 2013, edition of USA Today, under the headline of “Modern Journalism Fails Taste Test” – a testament to just how good a job Walter Cronkite did many years ago – reporters, Timothy M. Gay and Susan Bennett, bemoan the shoddy news reporting of late. “Too often in today’s tragedies, stories are triggered by social media hearsay and unconfirmed chatter on police scanners”, they wrote. “Today’s journalists need to renew their vow to get it right – from the first.” Unfortunately, here’s the problem: increasingly we are relying less and less on newscasters, even as they try harder to impress; when it comes to forming opinions on any topic, we check the details ourselves and usually follow a small cadre of acquaintances, whose views we share.

Readers of this blog should by now be familiar with InkaBinka and its founder, Kevin McGushion. I have covered the company and its founder in previous posts, including my post Ideas! Innovations! Will we keep on inventing? , as well as Margo’s commentary in her post Comes the revolution . Since introducing InkaBinka to the NonStop community the product has come a long way and now has the attention of HP.

However, it was a comment made by Kevin during my last conversation with him that hit a nerve – “we trust newscaster less and less these days so why not create our own channel using InkaBinka, express our own preferences and opinions and follow those whose observations which pass your own taste test! Add to that the ability to educate yourself on anything and now you have a true democratization of information.”

In other words, as Kevin reiterated, “Surely we can weight information based on what a user thinks is important and deliver that content fast and in an unfiltered way; community sourcing of real time information what’s important’ to me could become the channel like-minded users turn to first – essentially, paralleling the world of crowd sourcing, news and information distributed in this fashion (with enough channels tuned in)  the goal  is to get closer to what is real and what is the truth.”

What is InkaBinka? It’s the capability to live create channels, just as you would create “favorites” on your satellite or cable TV controller with Tivo mixed in and the discovery channel ready to launch a window to educate you on anything you don’t understand about whatever you are reading. It’s the support from InkaBinka to keep all channels current, updating content as it changes, in near real time. It’s then the opportunity to share you channel with others in a public forum.

In bringing InkaBinka to market it’s essentially relegating traditional RSS feeds to the trash can – a reminder of legacy channels of the past. Expectations are high as InkaBinka roles out in earnest. “We are hoping people will create channels based on their areas of interest or expertise and share them on the public board for others to enjoy,” Kevin told me. “We allow users to rate channels they follow, and the creators of channels to see their following as well as provide  a venue for commentary.

At this point, let me tell you how HP is involved, and why I believe the NonStop community will likely be impacted. For the NonStop user this will not be immediate, as the consumer market is being addressed well ahead of the enterprise market, but as we have seen with the take-up of mobile devices, they have become the almighty tail that now wags all dogs. With InkaBinka on your smartphone or tablet, it could become the gateway to enterprise applications now being externalized as services. We have witnessed the steady march from monolithic applications to the client/server model to a services-driven world. As aggregation is increasingly happening on the client device – more often these days, our mobile device – and performance is beginning to suffer.

When I first broached the subject of InkaBinka to the America’s team responsible for Project Moonshot, the team noticed the value proposition immediately. Clearly, following 2013 HP Discover we became aware that the sweet spot for marketing Moonshot (hyperscale servers) was not the existing big players like Amazon, Yahoo or Microsoft but rather up and coming potential competitors to these heavyweights. It’s way too early to promote InkaBinka as upsetting the status quo just yet, but for HP there’s every opportunity to be involved with a winner from day one – and that’s their mantra going forward.

“When I was first briefed on InkaBinka’s strategy, I saw enormous potential,” said Paul Santeler, vice president, HP’s Hyperscale business segment. “Their approach to content delivery is innovative and as my understanding of their architecture deepened, I can see that Moonshot is an ideal platform to achieve their goals. HP is excited to be working with InkaBinka and we are pleased that they are evaluating Moonshot for their cloud-based solution.”

InkaBinka will roll out using HP’s Cloud Services but as Moonshot matures, InkaBinka will populate its data center with Moonshot cartridge servers on a scale that I’m sure will prove impressive. Currently deployed on servers on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, the economics for server-oriented solutions, like InkaBinka, makes switching to Moonshot an attractive option. All my own interactions with the Moonshot team to date suggests other companies will follow suite and I am already across another vendor, perhaps better known in the NonStop space, that has just begun discussions about leveraging Moonshot. 

InkaBinka relies heavily on servers, and lots of them. Every channel that is created is processed on InkaBinka’s servers and this is where the immediate performance gains over existing products emerges – when you invoke your channel, it’s just a single connection even though multiple channels may be updating in real time – it’s the servers doing the heavy lifting to keep you engaged as a newscaster, not your mobile device. Stop by Starbucks for coffee and while you pay for your latte right from your phone, your channels continue to be updated in real time, but via a single pipe.

Among the tag lines being trialed at this time is one I particularly like, as it conveys to me what InkaBinka provides. “Capturing your world,” says Kevin, is just one tag line under consideration, but when you consider InkaBinka is an ecosystem comprising incredibly powerful tools, a whole new social media play whereby you exchange ideas as if you were a newscaster broadcasting live, “it could very well become the standard as it offers people freedom, immediacy and relevance all directed to just one location – your device.”

What does it look like and how do you get started? Below is a screenshot of a well-populated InkaBinka page depicting the many sites of interest that you may be viewing, as channels, in real time – all from a single feed from the InkaBinka servers. A quick glance will show you that there are buttons to create a channel (yours, of course) as well as to add a channel (someone else’s). Clicking on “Create Channel” opens a dialogue box whereby you can select a publication, click on just those stories you are interested in (and bypass all the advertisements, of course), or you can select a blog or other social media feed / channel, and so forth.

Now comes what I consider to be the serious value-add from what the InkaBinka servers are supporting behind the scenes. In the screen shot below, you will see this user has set up a “twitter reaction” box capturing commentary that is currently ongoing about a story the user has selected to read in more detail. Furthermore, items in the story you may not be familiar with are the subject of “web research” that unlike Google or Bing, is current and will often reflect items other InkaBinka users have found prior to your access – it’s all fresh and new!

“What might interest your NonStop community”, suggested Kevin, “is that this is not just about news – imagine how this will evolve as users add individual shopping channels, perhaps the monitoring of stock, and even airline schedules, flight departures, etc.; it will be up to our users to push the channel creation as far afield as they want and it’s up to us to make it happen”

“The secret of an inspiring meeting is great storytelling,” according to Disney, to which we can add, the secret to inspiring newscasting is immediacy and accuracy. At a time when enterprises today are turning to analytics to better derive value from all that they provide, products and services, imagine the power that could be put into employees’ hands via a product such as this? For the NonStop community, this is where the product paths of both InkaBinka and NonStop will likely intersect – increasingly, applications on NonStop are being externalized as services, and providing access to multiple applications concurrently from NonStop may be a boon to many enterprises.

it's very early days but all the same, InkaBinka can be accessed  – all you need do is visit the web site, I will be making a visit as I sense it holds potential to be the next Yahoo! or even the next Google! A stretch perhaps but this I know; our industry never sits still for a moment and complacency is never rewarded. We may be watching the evolution of a whole new way to interact with information, in a manner far richer than we had ever imagined possible!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The real deal - NonStop supports x86!

The timelessness of NonStop on display as Intel's x86 is embraced - yes, the plan to support of x86 architectures as part of the NonStop product family has been unveiled at this year's NonStop Advanced Technical Boot Camp.

While I was visiting Australia, I was kept informed of a young up-and-coming racecar driver. While only in his early teens, he was featured on American television as one of three youngsters worth watching as likely future stars. Colton Herta, the son of Indy Racing League (IRL) team co-owner, Bryan Herta, this year raced in two programs for open wheel racecars (smaller versions of F1 cars). In doing so, he managed to win the major series (in an F1600) while narrowly missing out, as we heard while travelling, on winning the second series (Skip Barber formula) by a margin of two points even though conflicts with the F1600 series meant he missed many Skip Barber events.

For 13 year old Colton, campaigning against much older participants with years more experience in open wheelers, winning has become a way of life so much so that his trophy room now only houses those trophies awarded for first place. Being good is no longer the point for Colton and just being good enough on the day, never a consideration. It’s also a fact that fellow racers are going to have to get used to as the picture above depicts. (The other racecar driver featured on American television alongside Colton? Turned out to be Matthew Brabham, grandson of Australia’s own Sir Jack Brabham.)

At a time when it’s becoming apparent to many IT professionals that perhaps, with budgets trimmed as tightly as they have been for the past four or five years – ever since the Global Financial Crises (GFC) –good has become good enough, all involved with NonStop have become perplexed over the almost daily reports of major system crashes. From government data centers to stock exchanges to online retail service providers, we all watch as major failures are simply dismissed as being nothing more than technical glitches and that an acceptable response from those in charge is that everything is now OK as they powered-off, powered on, and reset the application.

The humble PC has indeed revolutionized IT but it’s not without its downside not the least being it’s influence on IT managers and executives who rationalize that every need in the private and public sector can be addressed with essentially a PC-based server. No; good by itself, is simply not good enough! Unfortunately, the discussions about doing a better job for IT usually stop there, as few are willing to set aside the budget required to properly address these availability shortcomings and for further transformation of IT to take place, bold actions must be taken by the major vendors.

It was five years ago, on March 26, 2008, that I posted A question of balance! to this blog. In that post, I quoted Randall Becker of Nexbridge Inc as stating, at the time, how with NonStop, “HP has a real diamond here, if they could only see that the cut glass, through which they’re looking, isn’t good enough!” Randall then asks “but then, we all struggle with the question of what reliability is good enough? Where do we set the bar?”

A short time ago, I posted NonStop: Good, but now better! where I concluded that when it comes to the merits of NonStop few discount the value the presence of NonStop can provide. I then made the observation that, as we continue our march to even greater heterogeneity in the data center (with hybrid computing becoming common place), there will be lot of good systems inside the data center but the better solution for mission critical transaction processing will continue to come from NonStop!

As more information became available for HP’s project Odyssey, HP talked openly about extending the full mission-critical experience for x86 and all within a common modular infrastructure. At the time, there were presentations about how the knowledge within the NonStop development team would be exploited by developers working on other OS’s. However, at no time was there any discussion about NonStop bringing its availability proposition to x86. Quite the contrary, NonStop would remain positioned at the top of the pyramid depicting HP’s product lines – it’s unique attributes reserved for those in IT well-acquainted with NonStop’s true value proposition. Yet many within the NonStop community wondered whether there would be a time when NonStop did add support of such popular chip architectures as the x86.

It was in 2012, following that year’s HP Discover event, in the post Sailing, tacking and avoiding conflicts! I referenced Intel. For me, I posted at that time, it has always been the “Intel Architecture”. It was less about the chip products per se and in I referenced a conversation I had with Intel Corporation’s General Manager, Enterprise Software Strategy (and former head of NonStop Enterprise Division), Pauline Nist, who reminded me that whatever transpires with future chip products, the Intel Architecture will prevail. In telling me this, Pauline was reiterating clearly that NonStop customers would be protected and upward compatibility would be assured. Should we anticipate NonStop supporting Itanium and Xeon going forward? Two distinct marketplaces with two separate product lines?

The question over good becoming good enough has bothered many within the NonStop community but this week, at the NonStop Advanced Technical Boot Camp, HP demonstrated that indeed they will be taking the bold steps. The bar hasn’t been reset – being good isn’t good enough – but rather, rising up to the height of the bar will now be more attainable as HP NonStop embraces x86 and the economic model that comes from making this move. That’s right – a complementary product line exploiting for the first time x86 architecture with InfiniBand. Welcome, too, to the new Lxx operating system.

Imagine a future, we have just been told, where you could provide customers and business partners alike, 100% NonStop fault-tolerant environment on the Intel Xeon platform! “Our NonStop customers truly make it matter,” said HP CEO Meg Whitman in a video adding how pleased she was to extend NonStop to include x86. Demonstrating once again for the NonStop community that indeed, NonStop “is a timeless architecture,” was how HP VP and GM of Integrity Servers Randy Meyer summed it up. Key objective of this program (with deep roots into both Project Odyssey as well as Converged Infrastructure), according to one NonStop manager, was “maintaining compatibility at the application level – just recompile and go”!

The move to InfiniBand has been predicted for some time. In my post of February 13, 201, Three years on, and three more wishes! I quoted HP CTO Martin Fink who had proposed that, “with every new microprocessor that becomes available to us, we continue to evaluate ServerNet and its impact on overall system performance. Certainly at some future date, we'll move to a standard interconnect – probably Infiniband as a possible alternative.” Now that Fink’s observation has come to fruition, not as a replacement to ServerNet but as a complementary fabric solution better optimized for use with x86 architectures.

In the coming weeks as we hear more about these new technologies and products are I will be following up with further posts to this blog. Young racer Colton Herta may be comfortable with winning and not one to accept good being simply good enough, but I suspect it will take some time before the rest of IT wholeheartedly embraces such a concept. With HP delivering, as we have just heard, “HP NonStop on the industry’s leading platform and interconnect, (it) means your transactions will execute with even faster performance and lower latency”.

Furthermore, “The combination of HP’s proven leadership in mission critical x86 technology and in HP NonStop technology will offer a compelling business choice,” HP pitched in its presentation today further highlighting how big a transformation of NonStop has occurred. With HP saying this, the many naysayers doubting the future of NonStop will find little to talk about in the months ahead. The bar didn’t get moved, and there was no temporary fix proposed for a select few (we didn’t get a box to stand on, for instance); this is the real deal. Believe!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

By the numbers … Looking at the new NB56000c

It’s all positive news with the availability of the NonStop BladeSystem NB56000c and when you look closer, you can see that the ongoing investment in NonStop remains strong and that the roadmaps presented by HP NonStop continue to be pursued aggressively and passionately.  

Greetings from within the world’s tallest residential tower, the Q1, on Australia’s famous Gold Coast, Queensland. While we are not residing on the highest floor, the “hotel” does include floors much higher than the surrounding buildings, so the views are spectacular to say the least. I have been a visitor to the Gold Coast since 1962 as it became a popular vacation option for my family, but nothing quite prepared me for how other-worldly the experience is proving to be. The picture above was taken on the first night of our stay by a highly skilled photographer – no trickery involved – and almost 40 floors above the street!

With business in Sydney behind us and just a couple of more “catch-ups” and site visits remaining, it’s finally proving possible to just sit back and relax. Having a client from the US join us, we are now very much in the business of tour guides but it’s turning out to be fun. Anyone from the NonStop community who has had the opportunity to tour with me over the years knows that the amount of trivia I manage to retain can prove entertaining at times.

However, it is the numbers here that have kept me busy – the hottest day in Sydney for the month of October – well, it missed by just a couple of decimal points. The fuel efficiency of a potent, small displacement V6 that seems to go days without needing a top up even as we cover 500 plus kilometers, a circumstance so alien for us who typically avoid driving such vehicles. And what happened to the bananas of Coffs Harbor – one of the major growing regions for Australian bananas and not a single tree in sight as we drove into this regional center!

The Big Banana roadside café has always been a favorite stop-over on the drive between Sydney and the Gold Coast and helped spread the name of the region along with the fame, of course, emanating from its most popular resident, Russell Crowe. Although, like the bananas, Crowe too is apparently no longer in the region with his residence listed for sale with a price tag including more zeros than most folks in this slower-paced fishing village can comprehend.

On the flight from the US to Australia I flipped the pages of magazines that had accumulated on my desk. Among the publications was the October 7, 2013, issue of Fortune magazine with the article, IBM and Watson. In particular, what caught my attention were the observations, “In the 2 ½ years since it appeared on Jeopardy, Watson has simultaneously slimmed down (in form) and bulked up (in capabilities). It once consisted of 90 servers packed on 10 racks taking up roughly the space of a large room. Today it fits into a server roughly the size of four pizza boxes and it runs 240 times as fast.” Furthermore, according to Fortune, “Experts anticipate the system will get even speedier and shrink to the size of a mobile device. Already it’s being made available as a service through the cloud.”

It is often the case where raw numbers fail to convey the full story. However, what the story these numbers do convey (at least on face value) is that it’s now becoming possible to do almost anything with what is in our hands. Data centers will continue to provide the data but when it comes to processing, it’s anyone’s guess as to how small the physical appearance of even the world’s most powerful computer will become. Of course, NonStop systems are just as much a part of this as well, and the recent announcement of the NB56000c brings with it even more surprising numbers. But how many of us have really taken a close look at the new NB56000c “Poulson” line of servers and seen how powerful NonStop systems have become? What do the numbers being bandied about really convey?

Before looking behind the numbers being provided by HP for the new NB56000c, what is being reported, according to the HP web site, is that raw performance has benefited from Intel’s new Poulson chip, which is delivering up to 50% more performance when compared to the previous NonStop system family members. Furthermore, an NB56000c can scale “up to 16,320 cores, up to 192,000 program processes per node, and an incredible 48,960,000 program processes in an Expand network”, according to the data sheet HP Integrity NonStop BladeSystem NB56000c – for businesses that never stop written by HP’s Global Product Manager responsible for HP NonStop systems, Mark Pollans.

The first thing that strikes me is the tangible evidence (this new addition to the NonStop lineup provides) that the investment by HP in NonStop continues – from the first time we heard of NonStop support for Blades, there’s been three generations of NonStop BladeSystems. The move to closely track the Intel roadmap and to embrace commodity products continues and this ongoing investment by HP in NonStop remains the big story for all stakeholders across the NonStop community. For even more information on this latest iteration of the BladeSystem watch for the November / December issue of The Connection – Virtualization a shoe-in! Big Data, Hybrid Computers and Cloud Computing become Megatrends!

There’s even more hiding behind the numbers than just the ongoing investment commitments. For those in the NonStop community experiencing growth but simply cannot alter the number of processors because of the work already done to tune the system and simply want more performance then the NB56000c should prove beneficial. As it was told to me, this applies even if it is from NB50000c or NB54000c (2-core) to NB56000c (2-core) as well as from or to 4-core configurations. Furthermore, in expanding the performance capacity it opens us up to NonStop to being a more viable migration destination from other platforms, including IBM mainframes.

However, for those who do live by the numbers, perhaps the most important number will be one of value. “The number that carries the most weight with us is the price – keeping NonStop systems affordable is important to our company. In some markets where we work, it’s the only metric that gets us in the door,” said Yash Kapadia, CEO, OmniPayments Inc. “The upper numbers for the new NB56000c are impressive, for sure, but we have seen a marked uptick of interest in OmniPayments when we were first able to talk about the new entry-level NonStop system, the NS2100. Having everything in the one box, as I noted last year, at an affordable price is the most important number of all – the additional performance is great but it’s still all about price/performance and I hope HP keeps an eye on the overall bottom line!”

comForte’s CTO, Thomas Burg, has expressed a similar sentiment in an email exchange with me just this week. Yash and OmniPayments are already aware that the price for solutions needs to also track that of the new NonStop systems, and according to Burg, “the gains in price / performance are only fully relevant if the ISVs follow suit with their pricing.” Driving home this point, Burg then reflected on how, “taking away these important cost savings from the customer by keeping prices of ISV’s products high isn’t lost on customers today who, not surprisingly, will always look at the full price of whatever solution they are considering..” However, it’s hard to dismiss the challenge faced by all vendors who know the cost of support isn’t riding a similar downward trend.

In the Fortune magazine feature, IBM and Watson, the writer then states, “If a primary challenge of the 20th century was accessing information, the challenge for the 21st century will be navigating the ensuing complexity”. The BladeSystem NB56000c is now giving the NonStop community the type of system well-suited to handling the complexity. Increasingly, the world of transaction processing and business analytics are on a collision course with the focus of vendors turning to address business analytics in real time, mapping what’s happening in real time with material accumulated elsewhere including social media as well as emails and texts that otherwise fall outside of traditional transactional models. Vast volumes of data will be cached and the power of parallelism all of us in the NonStop community are familiar with will come to the fore.

Queensland’s Q1 building was the world’s tallest residential property in 2005, but since then Dubai has added four residences that are taller, relegating the Q1 to fifth tallest. However, the views out the windows that continue to distract me even as I type this post are remarkable. With yet another almost as tall residence on Queensland’s Gold Coast the insatiable thirst for properties in this glamor strip of land will surely see even taller properties built. For the NonStop community, the promise of 4th, 5th and even 6th generation BladeSystems tracking, as they do, the Intel roadmaps will likewise cater for the insatiable demands for more computing power many within the NonStop community will witness.

The numbers are impressive and the capabilities of modern NonStop systems almost unthinkable just a decade ago and yet, our demands will not lessen in the future. Price will always be important and not just for Yash with OmniPayments but for all those dependent on a full product line from NonStop. However, knowing that the top end is being covered and that there’s little likelihood of ever exceeding the capabilities of NonStop is welcome news for all stakeholders within the NonStop community.   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NonStop: Good, but now better!

Greetings from Sydney, Australia! However, it was the trip to Canada, to participate in CTUG, that influenced this post – Tandem was good but NonStop today is so much better! Given the opportunity would we still invest in good when better is available? I don’t think so …

There have been a number of posts since I referenced boats, cars or travel – but it seems appropriate to, once again, dip into this pool to pull  out some well-meaning metaphors and this time, the connections or associations will not be hard to miss. It’s been some time, but we finally replaced the ten plus years old Cadillac Escalade. With more than 175,000 miles on the odometer there was sense of imminent doom with every outing we took, and later this year we will be driving to Orlando for a major event that Margo will be overseeing.

The Escalade was good, and served us well, but was there something better? After testing a number of SUVs, including the new Escalade, the Mercedes Benz ML550 and ever so briefly a Range Rover Sport, the driving experience was revealing. They were all good, but it was hard to say that they were better. The addition of extra gears has significantly slowed the responsiveness of the above cars under hard acceleration – they just didn’t want to go when we stepped on the gas!

To cut further speculation short then yes, we have replaced the Escalade with a Jeep and not just any Jeep, mind you, but the grand Cherokee SRT – a close relative of the SRT Viper. It goes – and surprising many in the SUV and 4X4 brigade, not only doesn’t it have a selection knob allowing you to move between snow, ice, mud and sand but rather offers drivers a choice between snow, sport, track and launch – this Jeep has
circulated the Nurburgring in a mind-bending 8 min 48 secs. Definitely, a suitable new flagship for Pyalla Technologies, LLC, and sitting alongside our SRT Viper, some similarities can be seen.

It came as no surprise then as I flipped though the editorial section of this month’s Motor Trend (MT) that I came across the words of Mercedes Benz Chairman, Dr. Dieter Zetsche that tapped into the same theme. Asked how much better a new Mercedes Benz could be compared to what’s already in the market, Dr. Zetsche responded, “Oh, because time goes by, and the better is the enemy of the good”. He then added, “The capabilities of the average customer to sense any difference between the good and the better is more and more limited. You could say all the cars are getting close.”

“Dr. Z is right,” responded the MT editor, Edward Loh. “As the auto industry continues to evolve at a relentless pace, cars are getting closer and closer in capability to one another, and it has become more difficult to differentiate between good and better.”  When it comes to the business of computing then the connection is very clear – IT executives appreciate the difference between simply good, and better.

For the NonStop community, it is getting better. When it comes to running mission critical applications with near real-time responsiveness, the NonStop system is not just better, it’s been proven time and again, the best. It’s true that with programming, you can implement just about anything but taking commodity servers and writing the code to make them as good as a NonStop system continues to be beyond the reach of even the most gifted developers and the almost daily headlines we are reading about outages due to technical glitches are on the rise.

It was a simple observation made by HP VP and GM, Integrity Servers, Randy Meyer, that we shouldn’t be thinking that innovation in the Financial Services marketplace is slowing. The solutions available today are, by no stretch of the imagination, complete – there is a lot more to come. Take for instance, Meyer said, “More Person-to-Person (P2P) transactions; small business with PayPal and Square” are generating more transactions and are involving even more people in the transaction path. It’s not just about performance, added Meyer, as, “This translates to much higher degrees of expectations when it comes to availability and to capacity”.

Four decades ago, Tandem set the benchmark for fault tolerance and with that, a new appreciation for availability and scalability. However, the modern NonStop system is far removed from the Tandem Computers of the1980s. Commodity hardware and open software – a complete “stack” that has become recognized as the “special sauce” that is uniquely NonStop. In fact, for many industry observers, NonStop has become a showcase for how a complex technology made up of proprietary hardware and software has become a near-software solution with potential for deployment on practically any new hardware that might appear.

With all these changes, today’s NonStop system is even better than it was in the past – ask those who have been involved in recent benchmarks – you want more than 1,000 TPS from just two processors? How about many times that? You want a low price-point for an entry-level system comparative to a cluster of Linux or Window servers, with an SQL database? Throughout the years the developers at NonStop have continued to evolve the product and even as good product offerings have come from other vendors, they simply have failed to prove that they are better.

Recently I posted about the
transformation of NonStop where I closed with where the surprises for many within IT will come from the transformed perception among IT leaders over just how well NonStop will play in the new world and of how that might be one transformation that will surprise few in the NonStop community! Transformation that has come about following a multitude of changes of a long period of time. Existing users of NonStop systems were able to upgrade at any time without putting their mission critical transactional systems in jeopardy. Evolutionary steps, often called appropriately enough, baby steps, remain the quintessential hallmark of all successful systems companies.

To paraphrase Dr. Zetsche, the capabilities of the average CIO to sense differences between the good and the better is more and more limited. Yes, some system configurations are getting close to NonStop in terms of either availability or scalability but throw in high performance transaction processing with the need for massive scale-up, and the work involved by prospective customers to come close to NonStop out of the box becomes a task almost all fail to realize. You can also say all the systems are getting close but that’s like dumbing down the question to where good enough will do!

In the MT editorial, Dr. Zetsche was describing the arrival of the new Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan. “This one (today) must look old compared with what we can do in seven years, but we don’t have the technology today to get to the next S-Class right away. So it’s a constant – not revolution, but evolution.” So too the work with NonStop – it’s a constant. Make it open, attract today’s solutions, support standards that let it easily integrate with other servers, and most importantly of all, make it affordable to everyone with higher expectations that their application will always be there for them.

Not quite the mantra of all associated with NonStop systems, but very close. However, when it comes to discussing the merits of NonStop today with CIOs and IT executives, few discount the value the presence of NonStop can provide. As we continue our march to even greater heterogeneity in the data center with hybrid computing becoming common place, there will be lot of good systems inside the data center but the better solution for mission critical transaction processing will continue to come from NonStop! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Take a chance on me…Yes, I like ABBA!

It was many years ago, shortly after arriving in the U.S., that I moved to Boston and began my career in IT. If it wasn’t for the generosity of those prepared to give me a chance, I probably wouldn’t have had any opportunity to get a toehold on what was then considered an industry in its infancy.
Keydata Corporation, the first commercial time-sharing computer firm, was my very first employer in the US. Most of the processing was done in batch, with reports generated nightly. The businesses sent Keydata their daily transactions logs which we processed for them. There was nothing real time about it, as I recall.

Perhaps the concept of time-sharing and cloud computing differs by just that one fine point – cloud computing assumes real time processing, otherwise, conceptually, these are the same approaches to data processing! When you look back at early service bureau companies supporting time-sharing, they were just providing a big resource (for computing) with an archaic interface. Furthermore, they typically catered for just one type of client – either scientific, commercial or government.    
The demise of Keydata’s time-share model came about when mini-computers entered the market and IT managers brought their applications in-house, wanting to have full control of the environment, including all the data. With cloud computing, IT managers can retain control over some parts of the application and data, while only farming out components to the cloud  that they feel comfortable with running outside the shop!

Technology, like fashion, seems to be cyclical – centralized, decentralized, skinny jeans, bell bottoms … etc. However, this time around, I really do not think that the cloud model will disappear; it is a logical progression, considering ever growing databases and a need for processing power, that  makes sense out of all the data we are capturing today. Cloud computing offers alternatives to when it is no longer  practical to own and manage all the resources that are necessary from time to time; especially when setting up a data center for a department store in support of Black Friday’s rush or building out the resources for stock exchanges to be ready for  a Facebook public offering. Would sure be nice, but the cost would be astronomical – in come public and private clouds, where you can burst (who came up with that allegory anyway?), in case of a dire need.
Where am I going with this? I think that the ability to take advantage of cloud computing should be an integral part of every platform, and I am glad maRunga is here to support the cloud computing model on HP NonStop! Yes, it’s new. Yes, it’s in its infancy in terms of addressing business problems, and it will be up to cloud evangelists to establish the models that will later influence everyone else.  However, the evangelists are out there, and it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has been around NonStop to see the NonStop platform becoming involved. 

The decision to develop maRunga was made because we knew these evangelists are out there and so, once again, I am looking forward to renewing the cycle of where, in my own experiences, someone comes to help me out and gives us the chance!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Impassable? Bridges will be built …

Once again, it’s all about user groups and the benefits they provide. I continue to support them as I see few alternatives when it comes to better understanding their passion for all things NonStop!

It is a common observation of mine, and coming as it does so soon into my eight year of blogging, it should not come as a surprise to anyone. I like participating in NonStop regional user group meetings, and this week I have the privilege of participating in the CTUG fall event. The turnout was encouraging and the engagement amongst the user group’s stakeholders was hard to miss. As Randy Meyer, HP VP and GM of Integrity Servers observed in his opening remarks, “If you want to see an example of how to run user group events, then you only need to visit CTUG!”

HP Canada Sales VP, Roger Walker, who was clearly excited by the prospects of NonStop, rattled off numbers that surprised many in the audience. It’s not only hard to ignore how engaged the user group’s stakeholders were, but ignoring the contribution NonStop is making to the overall performance of the Integrity Servers group proved even more difficult! I took the picture above as the day’s event wound down and the stakeholders gathered to enjoy wine and cheese, and one further chance to network.

When it comes to what has been hard to ignore of late then it is probably all right to mention the tough time our home town of Boulder, Colorado, has experienced. For several weeks, Margo and I had been planning to drive to Mississauga for CTUG, but in the days before our scheduled departure the heavens opened and the creeks and streams that flow down the many canyons that surround Boulder became torrents that overwhelmed the infrastructure in a matter of hours. Roads became impassable as bridges were swept away and low-lying areas turned into lakes. We accelerated our plans to leave Sunday and as soon as we found a way out, with a bridge still standing, while driving the nearby roads, Saturday morning, we returned to throw clothes into bags and get out of Boulder as quickly as we could.

Four days later, we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel in Canada and in almost no time, caught up with other vendors as they gathered in the hotel lobby. What immediately struck me was how the make-up of the vendor community has remained consistent over the years – yes, some of those getting a heads start on networking had worked for different vendors at one point, but they remained as enthusiastic about NonStop as they had always been. The knowledge of NonStop shared by this group had to be priceless as, irrespective of the products and solutions they were promoting, together this group had pretty much seen it all.

More to the point, when it comes to knowledge of NonStop, there is now a serious repository of in-depth knowledge within the vendor community to where, in some product areas, they likely have more real world practical experience than can be found inside of HP. Not to say HP doesn’t have the talent, but from necessity, the knowledge of NonStop inside HP is tightly focused whereas vendors spend a lot more time at the coal face and simply are exposed to more varied environments than anyone else. These vendors also never really get a second chance so they have to be always at the top of their game.

I have been around user groups for as long as I care to recall. For several years, my responsibility as an ITUG Director had been to support the Regional User Groups (RUGs). Today, they are called Chapters within the Connect Community but to me, they will always be RUGs and given the opportunity (and an invitation), I will do everything in my power to ensure I can participate. Of late, some of you may have noticed, I cannot always make it to all the RUG events I should support, but I continue to try and when the planets align, and days free up on my calendar, I jump right in. From my perspective, the day RUGs will attract no stakeholders, it will be the time to ride off into the sunset and “call it a day”.

The singular, most important, aspect of RUG events as far as I am concerned is the feedback from users about how they are using their NonStop systems. Yes, Financial Institutions (FIs) and Telecommunications companies (Telcos) continue to represent 65% of the NonStop user community, but the remaining 35% is what interests me these days. According to Randy Meyer, this group includes European Auto Manufacturers that I know, from personal experience, includes companies like Mercedes Benz, Audi, Porsche as well as Peugeot / Citroen. Who knew Steelworks need NonStop and again, and I know of several that do.

Rail ticketing? Again, whether you are in the UK, Germany, Japan or parts of the U.S. the ticket you buy (particularly when you purchase online) will involve NonStop. Entertainment? Yes, you want to purchase a pay-per-view in the U.S. so you can watch a fight or see a concert, then depending upon the carrier there is a NonStop involved. Car Rentals? Yes, that is covered too. When there are solutions involving interaction with customers, availability remains as important as it ever has. For those planning on attending the NonStop Boot Camp in November, there will be some serious discussions on who all runs NonStop and for many, not only might it prove illuminating but possibly the highlight of the event.

This is not to gloss over situations where NonStop has lost ground. It would be hard to have a discussion on NonStop today without some lamenting over the loss of NonStop presence in stock exchanges. Yes, you can do almost anything with Windows, we know, but it is not always as smooth sailing as some would like it to be. The number of times stock exchanges have suffered from embarrassing and costly outages following the implementation of a solution on a Windows platform hasn’t gone unnoticed by either the exchanges or the sales teams that have worked with them in the past – while I have nothing concrete to offer at this time, it’s not unreasonable to believe that NonStop sales teams have already begun chipping away at potential opportunities.

A very large Australian bank elected to replace NonStop with Windows a decade ago or so– and witnessed the full weight of Microsoft and Dell brought to bear on the migration. However, to no avail – eventually, they gave up and returned to NonStop. An acquisition that needed the bank to scale to size even bigger than initially projected proved the final nail in the Windows coffin – so no, not everything is lost forever. I would not be surprised to read headlines next year of at least one exchange partially returning to NonStop perhaps in a variation of the look-to-book hybrid NonStop / Linux configuration a major travel operator successfully implemented a few years back.

No roads remain blocked forever. Even as the water recedes from Boulder, the size of the task (to rebuild) takes shape – but eventually, enough of the infrastructure will be fixed for arterial roads to be passable. Building bridges will prove time consuming but it will happen. Much the same can be said about industries that once championed NonStop only to bring in commodity products – eventually, their infrastructure too will prove fragile and require considerable effort to correct. Making it reliable once more could be so much easier with the presence of NonStop!

Moreover, this is where RUG events hold the potential key – reinforcing the message that among the Fortune 500, there remain many companies deploying modern solutions on NonStop. Simply talking about such use case scenarios over a glass of wine, with a little cheese, is one of the best ways to get the message out there – you never know who may hear you. In addition, you never know when it may strike a chord and trigger a deeper exchange.

As I returned to the road to drive the return leg back to Boulder, I was struck by just how much information was shared at CTUG and how strong a presence HP provided; although it helps, of course, it’s really not just about the wine and cheese. As with Boulder and its infrastructure, bridges continue to be built among the users of NonStop systems. The chance to hear something new taking place involving NonStop is what keeps me coming back to RUG events and I am sure it’s the reason too why so many other NonStop stakeholders return as well.

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