Saturday, June 29, 2013

It’s running on NonStop – I didn’t know that!

HP Discover is still having an impact on what news items I am covering. However, one presentation did stand out – just how diverse the deployments of NonStop systems has become - and we should all make it our business to know!

There was a time when most vendor presentations to prospects’ CIOs were populated with customer case studies – nothing sells a product better than solid testimonials from Fortune 500 companies. However, so much has changed in recent times, and corporations have become loathe to be associated with vendors, viewing any such support as de facto endorsements and that’s baggage that they do not need. All we seem to get these days is the generic reference to a “large bank”, a “regional Telco”, or a “well-known retailer”.

At this year’s HP Discover there were several high profile customer case studies involving the likes of Nationwide, FOX, United Airlines and NASCAR. Sound bites from their presentations, as video clips, made it into several of the HP keynote speeches including that of HP CEO, Meg Whitman. However, when it comes to NonStop, there was little visibility – these users might have had NonStop systems deployed, but the focus of these customer presentations was on products that were new and that pushed servers to one side.

The picture above is of the entrance hallway that led to the exhibition hall. Clearly visible and easy to read (even in this small photo): “It’s time to build a better enterprise. Together.” For me, this could only be illustrated with examples of what others have done that has led them to believe that they now have the better enterprise. And here’s the issue I have with this – can a vendor as large as HP (with as broad a product portfolio as it has), build a better enterprise with only generic references to customers with whom they have partnered? Do they have to do a lot more, despite the best efforts of the customers themselves? Surely we have a very pressing need to know as we will be making a very big investment!

Behind closed doors, I am certain, HP is no different from any other vendor – details of a specific customer installation will be revealed at some point. So, imagine my pleasant surprise when reviewing early emails I found that Wendy Bartlett would be giving a presentation “NonStop solutions: beyond financial services and Telco”. I had been invited to a special briefing session for customers from Asia – Pacific Japan (AP-J) and among the presentations I was given, as a preview, was this presentation by Wendy.

“When is it okay for your business to be unavailable to your customers?” An often-repeated question that has worked its way into the start of numerous presentations by the HP NonStop team for some time now, but increasingly, in today’s always connected, always on, world too many of us have been dumbing down our expectations and simply shrugging our shoulders whenever we are plagued by an outage.

Wendy’s slide deck, headlining with “Businesses that need to be continuously available are running on HP NonStop,” quickly segues to verticals - transportation, retail, entertainment, manufacturing, services. I once proposed a story line that hit all these verticals and it went something like this. A businessman in Germany drops of his car at the manufacturing plant for special service (yes, you can still do that with some auto manufacturers in Europe), buys a rail ticket to Frankfurt where he catches a flight to New York where he is to follow up on a recent shipment that he had made.

In New York, he doesn’t feel that well and checks into a nearby major clinic and watches television while he waits. He searches the list of stations coming to him via satellite before he locates a soccer match in Germany. After his medical check-up returns nothing (could have been the shrimp on the flight), he rents a car, and heads to the wharves to see about his shipment only to find it was transshipped in Hamburg and went to Singapore by mistake. Texting his office, and then messaging his office in Singapore he straightens it all out – and heads back to Germany where he takes the train back to where he had dropped off his car and then heads home.

There are many more embellishments here but you can see that mentioned here are a lot of companies, from auto manufacturers, like Mercedes Benz, to the German Railways to the Mayo Clinic in new York, to DirecTV, to Hertz, to the Port of Singapore Authority. For any NonStop user who has attended a regional user group meeting during the past couple of years, all of these names have come up at one time or another. Some of these companies, who are all NonStop users, I referenced in an opinion paper written on this very topic that HP continues to promote on their web site – Why more corporations today depend on HP Integrity Nonstop mission-critical servers

Wendy’s presentation talks about NonStop systems in support of sales orders, reservations, distribution, auto rental, shopping experience, POS, entertainment programming, ticketing, banking, inventory control, billing, production, shipping analytics, scheduling and historical data – all applications running today on NonStop. Many of these tasks are supported by bespoke applications developed in-house or together with consultants. However, many more are supported by applications or tools designed to rapidly generate code (e.g. CAGen that has now been ported to NonStop).

Today, NonStop is not only involved in our nation’s ports, but in managing our planes, trains and automobiles. Furthermore, and increasingly more important as our dependence on mobile devices continues to climb, impacting many of these verticals – online and mobile access to applications, that in turn interact with other systems anywhere on the planet, has become normal and expected way to go about our daily lives.

Being able to openly talk about who is doing what in which vertical is becoming increasingly important – it’s as if the “silent majority” politicians bemoan for their lack of engagement are alive and well inside everyone’s IT department. Certainly, legislative changes of the past decade that have tried to level the playing field when it comes to information sharing have triggered serious unintended consequences. I can’t believe any of the legislators involved realized that the byproduct of their act(s) would be stopping people from sharing stories about the technology that works best for them. It seems that the only open channel remaining is the blogosphere – where did you see that news item? In a blog …

The very nature of social media as a less-than-trusted source has brought about unintended consequences as well. Corporations just don’t take seriously anything they read in a blog – about their competitors, their industry or even themselves. Blogs have become a global insider and that is impossible to legislate as the genie has definitely no intentions of ever going back inside the bottle. And the NonStop community has a forum where just about any question to do with what someone has heard about a specific use case scenario can be learnt with a couple of simple keystrokes.

Let’s build a better enterprise; together – well, irrespective of who we turn to for information, we most definitely have the tools to go dig. Where generic answers may narrow down our search criteria, they no longer have to be as bland as they always appear to be. If  an Australian newspaper publishes something about a big, national bank – well, there’s only four of them and a simple Google search will get you what you need to know with just a few clicks.

 As I have learnt of late, associations and user groups have become the biggest (and sometimes only) source for information about what truly is going on inside some large corporations – it’s simply amazing how much a corporation provides to such groups should an executive be tapped to speak!

Key takeaways from Wendy’s presentation? “We eliminate the risk and cost of downtime; we continue to expand our footprint beyond payments and communication”, and if you missed HP Discover 2013 you need to know of companies committed to NonStop and to find out more, you need to launch a few searches. Each country where NonStop has a presence seems to have at least one nontraditional use case reference and when combined they represent a wealth of experience in some very interesting marketplaces.

There are many more than a thousand active NonStop users out there on the planet and a quarter of them are doing things that might surprise you. There’s just no way today to prevent it all from being revealed! Likewise, there’s just no way anyone in the NonStop community should be surprised with what they discover. Just rip off a couple of judicious clicks … and let us all know what you find out!

Friday, June 21, 2013

At long last, disruptive innovation from HP!

With seven posts to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View, written while attending 2013 HP Discover, a week later I have had time to reflect on all I saw. And it really is game-on for NonStop!
This year, the program we built around HP Discover unfolded in reverse as compared with our 2012 plans. Perhaps it was the prospect of doing something a little more challenging or simply a case of forgetfulness about just how stressful HP Discover can become. Perhaps too it was simply a huge mistake and one I would like to forget, but as for the event itself, it was well attended and the picture above shows the early attendees heading for the registration kiosks, Tuesday.

Readers may recall that our trip last year to Las Vegas was via Rosamond, California, where we kicked off the week with a weekend laying down laps at Big Willow – much of this covered in the post of May 31, 2012, Java rocks! But no, this time it would be completely different.

As 2013 HP Discover wound down, we headed for our company Command Center , our transportation hub, this time just as it was last year,  and headed north to San Francisco and to Sonoma, California. We spent the weekend laying down laps on the famous track at Sear’s Point. However, this time I crashed, backing the car into one of the track’s infamous concrete barriers – more to follow, of course, in postings to other blogs. The driver is quite OK, apart from being slightly embarrassed, but the red ‘Vette is in the shop having its rear end corrected.

On the other hand, I was invited once again to participate in HP Discover as part of HP’s supported blogging community, and HP put on quite the show and one that proved well worth the effort to attend. If last year’s event could best be described as being steady-as-you-go with HP CEO, Meg Whitman, only being at the helm for a few months, this time it was a more assertive Whitman who appeared to be giving the command to the rest of HP to lock and load! It is time, apparently, to lead with the front foot and to come out swinging.

There are risks involved in every pursuit. Nothing comes without a price being paid – to be truly good at anything requires considerable effort as well as patience and perseverance. To stand out, to innovate, to change the game – that requires revolutionary thinking, and on several occasions we saw HP demonstrating a new-found swagger that was good to see.

I have been driving cars on racetracks now for six years and am gradually coming to terms with what it takes to drive well. But the weekend’s crash only reinforced how much further I have to go and just what risks are involved. I cannot stress strongly enough that the association I belong too goes to great pains to ensure everyone’s safety while on the track, however, as experience increases so do speeds and with speed comes a need for precision and it only takes one mishap to produce devastating results.

In business, managing risk is a fundamental cornerstone for senior executives – bet-the-business situations are rarely undertaken. Books have been written over the years whenever such a situation took place – Boeing bet-the-business on the Boeing 707 jet and came out victorious, but so many other companies simply crashed and burned. Remember Osborne with it’s prematurely announced the Osborne Executive? However, this time we saw firsthand just how powerful an initiative Converged Infrastructure has become and how big a game-changer Moonshot would be.

For the NonStop community much of what these major initiatives represent seems far removed from daily concerns – indeed, some of the goals of these initiatives look to be playing catch-up to what is already available today with NonStop. Commodity hardware? Check! Standard languages and tools? Check! SQL? Check! Simply building block architecture with nothing shared? Check!

Hold on just a tad – simple building blocks? Shared nothing? The more I looked into a drawer full of Moonshot cartridges the more I saw the future, and with it, a possible glimpse of what very well might keep NonStop relevant for decades to come. The Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) processor and it’s closely-related peers are taking us back to a much simpler approach and I like that a lot – yes, CIOs polled of late are all looking to simplify technology.

“The ARM processors are all single core,” was how one HP colleague expressed it. “The good news about single core is that it really devalues multithreaded applications – no need to complicate the core if you only have a single core. If programming models were to go back toward single or minimal thread applications, the NonStop starts looking very good again and applications should port much more easily and have immediate scale through Pathway server class cloning.

Of course, the new Intel ATOM chip will likely see additional cores added – but the key here is that the foundation for all these chips is the mobile phone / tablet industry and with cores come heat. The mobile phone / tablet users despise heat and would reject any future product if it was simply “too hot to handle”. So perhaps the rush to stack cores as high as possible has run its course. And if so, my HP colleague may very well be right.

For now, the future for NonStop is very secure and the roadmaps call for further porting to Itanium Poulson and Kittson chips. There’s very little risk associated with this roadmap – more steady as she goes philosophy, and a continuation of the program to provide increasingly better price / performance metrics. But looking further down the road, there’s obviously going to be increased risk.

Will there be a new iteration of the x86 chip that combines the robustness of Itanium with the wealth of applications that exist today for current generation of x86 chips? Or will the arrival of Moonshot, with ARM / ATOM create a very large fork in the road where coins will be tossed, and chickens gutted? Will it be another case of lock and load? The very real prospect of IBM selling off its server business almost sounds as if they knew something really new was heading their way and weren’t prepared to double down to compete.

Earlier this year, in an interview with e-publication, ZDNET.Net, Whitman told the reporter of how “
there are a number of new programs and disruptive innovations that should help us along … we will be bringing the latest innovation from HP Labs and our Enterprise group to market, the first commercialized product from our Project Moonshot. We expect this to truly revolutionize the economics of the data center with an entirely new category of server that consumes up to 89% less energy, 94% less space and 63% less costs than our traditional x86 server environment.”

HP and disruptive innovation? HP and revolutionizing the economics? This is definitely the new HP, and one apparently quite prepared to take risks. For all who participated at last week’s event, it was impossible to miss just how proud all involved at HP were with what they have achieved in just twelve months – yes, much of what was revealed had been on the drawing boards and in the labs for much longer, but little had leaked out to prepare us for what eventuated.

It will be only a couple of days for the red ‘Vette to be ready for the track again and we have a big weekend planned for mid-July. For HP’s competition, it will not be that simple. I just cannot see where competing technology will come from – yes, Project Moonshot is in its infancy and is targeting simple web and proxy server “applications”, but over time it holds the promise of so much more with every likelihood of handling the many different workloads typical of today’s enterprises. And NonStop will not be denied in the years to come!  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Off to Discover

It is June and HP Discover is happening again, ipso facto, I am off to Las Vegas, participating alongside Richard.

Discover is an opportunity to network, and I figure being in the V Bar that is strategically located at the entrance to the Conference will likely be where you will find me - I will find a spot from which to watch people as they pass by.

maRunga, the cloud burst solution from Infrasoft, will not be demonstrated at any of the stands at the Conference. However, Peter Shell, Managing Director of Infrasoft, PTY Limited, will have his laptop with him, and I am sure he will be only too happy to give a demo and presentation. This newest offering is from the company that brought you uLinga, which is installed and running at many major customers’ shops.

Just this week, after a meeting between Infrasoft engineers and IR technical staff, we saw a demonstration of the Prognosis screens showing maRunga in action, giving users a view of how this application bursts into private or public clouds and where it is running at any given time. It’s a prototype at the moment, but IR tells us that if a customer wants visibility to his maRunga installation, it will be a matter of days to productize these screens and make them a part of Prognosis!

I am very happy to see the results of the napkin discussions between ourselves at Infrasoft and the solution architects at HP taking shape, resulting in a new, exciting, and timely offering coming to the market just in time for HP Discover – and I have to say that the investment Infrasoft made into the infrastructure of their software paid off handsomely! All the configuration, tracing, logging, and user interface components (WebCON) are reusable across uLinga and maRunga. In so doing, our Infrasoft engineers, the“Sydney boys”, were able to create the product that has its “guts” proven, tested, and actually working well in production at many accounts. If you are using uLinga, this view of maRunga will look familiar:

Although we are working with HP on wording of the formal announcement, which will speak to the origins of maRunga, you won’t have to wait for this news announcement to see how your organization may benefit from enabling your applications to run where you want them to run – be it on another NonStop system, Windows, Unix, or Linux boxes, or in private or even public clouds including offerings from vendors such as With maRunga, it’s up to you to decide when and what applications can burst into the cloud. While we have discussions under way with a number of solutions vendors, if you manage to make it to this year’s HP Discover event, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to talk to us, or to our re-seller, ComForte, and see if maRunga is for you.

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