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! 

Looks can be deceiving! HPE NonStop; when being the best still matters!

For the NonStop community, we know what looks good may not only be deceptive but borderline dangerous; mission critical applications are bes...