Sunday, March 2, 2014

It’s simply good cricket – NonStop’s Australian connection!

The game of cricket revolves around confidence even as it calls for bold actions by those participating. But it’s not just sportsman that Australia produces as it is the home of many vendors supporting the NonStop community – and all find traction with the user community!

Wickets continue to fall and run chases simply petered out – of course we are talking cricket and coming off the complete obliteration of the English side, Australia has drawn first-blood against the highest ranked cricketing nation, South Africa. Even so, as of right now, Australia is holding its collective breath, hoping its good fortune continues and right now, it’s delicately poised.

This is not the first time I have turned to cricket as a way to ease into a topic, but the turn-around in Australia’s cricketing fortunes has surprised everyone who follows the game that today accounts for about a third of the planet’s population. When compared to the populations of Great Britain, India and Pakistan, as well as South Africa, it still comes as a surprise that such a small country can generate such competitive teams.

It’s not just in sports where Australia fights “well above its weight”, but in technology as well. For a country with similar population to Florida or New York, the influence of Australian vendors on the NonStop community continues unabated. NET/MASTER and its NonStop derivative, NS NET/MASTER; Insession’s ICE, WebGate / SafeTGate; Integrated Research’s Prognosis; and not forgetting ISS / Gresham, with TOP (now a part of comForte) and there’s probably one or two products I have missed. If it needs connecting, accessing, securing or monitoring at one time or another, there’s an Australian product being marketed worldwide that meets the needs.

As a city, Sydney on the other hand is really big – larger now than the US state of Kentucky, and closing in on Louisiana. While the definitions of cities among countries is not truly comparable, it may surprise many that according to 2012 US data Sydney, with a population of 4.58 million (2010 Aust. data), is bigger than Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, and places second behind New York City. Australia is a big country, sparsely populated but with extremely large clusters of people. Perhaps that accounts for the good cricketers. And good developers.

As a dual citizen, enjoying the best of all that the US and Australia can offer, I have to admit that I live a charmed life being able to transition between countries and feel at ease with either country’s culture and preferences. I can happily watch a baseball game in California’s sunshine even as I can show up for a good game of rugby in Sydney. I can go for a sail on the Great Barrier Reef just as I can enjoy racing a car on the high deserts of Colorado. Americans and Australians may be on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean but little else separates them culturally, commercially or even competitively – was it just me that observed how last year’s winning America’s Cup yacht was skippered by an Aussie?

I last wrote about cricket in the post of January 7, 2014, She’ll be right, mate! where I happened to mention just how fiercely Australia was beating up Old Blighty, that is to say, England. In that post I complained bitterly that there isn’t a lot more being done in support of NonStop citing users and vendors alike. Following a recent conversation with Infrasoft Managing Director the opportunity to discuss the commitment, and investment, in NonStop wasn’t something I could easily overlook. In business for only a few years, Infrasoft attracted seed money, pulled together a small development team, brought their first product, uLinga, to market and was able to convince HP that licensing important Cloud intellectual property to a small Australian development company was a good thing to do – hence, maRunga.

Equally important was the emergence of a global partnership with comForte who have now ensured uLinga has a firm foothold in the NonStop market. Following the introduction of uLinga barely two years ago, uLinga has successfully replaced HP’s SNAX and ACI’s ICE products even as it brought new technology to NonStop, (in the form of CICS IPIC support), to better modernize transactional interaction between NonStop mission-critical applications and IBM CICS applications. In so doing, requiring neither MQ nor FTP style connectivity and improving availability as well as performance.

Supporting applications such as ACI’s Base24 and providing an alternative API implementation to SNAX HLS, the uLinga implementation focused on retaining compatibility at the API level to ensure migrations could be undertaken with minimal to no impact on important operational applications. But now, Infrasoft’s Shell informs me, in response to input from prospects, MQ APIs are available that remove the need to run IBM’s WebSphereMQ (MQ) on NonStop. Through the years I have been involved in MQ on NonStop – working first with Candle and then later with IBM including a brief time, while at ACI, where former Insession developers were providing support for MQ on NonStop. Consequently, this news from Shell grabbed my immediate and undivided attention.

When I asked Shell if uLinga now eliminated the need for MQ on NonStop his response was immediate, “It is important to recognize that MQ may still be used on the mainframe as it could be used for many other purposes.” Shell explained. “The major benefit of what we are providing is for applications on the NonStop (or other server platforms including Linux and Windows) that currently use MQ to communicate with a mainframe application, can do so now with uLinga and with no need for any application changes. They will save a lot of money by not requiring MQ to be installed on the NonStop nor have to worry about MQ versions.”

Even as I worked through the potential simplification that uLinga would provide, Shell went a little deeper, in terms of making sure I understood the ramifications. “If the application on the NonStop/Win32/*ix platform uses the MQ Interface (MQI) to communicate with an application on the IBM mainframe ‘and’ the mainframe application is CICS based ‘and’ the CICS-WebsphereMQ bridge is used, then what we provide with uLinga can replace the usage of WebsphereMQ and the CICS-WebsphereMQ bridge on the mainframe for that application's purpose. The CICS-based application would not need to be modified and once again, it is the IPIC protocol that is used between the NonStop/Win32/*ix platform and CICS.”

In the past, MQ has proved expensive, difficult to keep current and often impossible to get support in a timely manner. I know – I have been on the other end of calls from NonStop customers. However, if you are using MQ as a pipe into IBM applications and not dependent on its store-and-forward properties, uLinga will definitely prove to be a godsend. The number of times I have seen implementation schematics full of MQ references is too numerous to recount here in this post, but suffice to say, IBM did a wonderful marketing job in convincing data centers to overlay physical, heterogeneous fabrics with MQ to level the inter-process communications.

“The feature will be available in all uLinga products in Q2 2014 and it will be available on all the platforms supported by uLinga - HP NonStop, MS Windows and Linux,” Shell added. “Any application that is transaction oriented can benefit from this additional new feature of uLinga.” Current users of uLinga – in support of either DLSw or EE as well as uLinga for CICS will be able to upgrade for free as part of Infrasoft’s goal of ensuring uLinga becomes the best option for all NonStop (and yes, Windows and Linux) to IBM mainframe communications.

Not lost in these exchange with Shell was the message about NonStop longevity, and growth. Even as we see the volume of transactions passing through NonStop continue to rise, there remains some questions about the overall health of the NonStop marketplace and the attraction it still holds for developers worldwide. As I posed this question to middleware and solutions vendors, there’s an acknowledgment that a couple of years back, the market for NonStop appeared to be heading down but of late, there’s been a visible easing in this downward trend and stability has returned.

On a more positive note, the arrival of mobile devices (and the network demands they make) has seen the emergence of a new marketplace and with that, an upward tick of the growth curve that is a surprise to many. uLinga, supporting critical connectivity options and following a solid introduction into all GEOs, looks assured to ride this upward tick as it distances itself from all competitive offerings. And there’s no question at all about Shell not agreeing with this observation!

There have been occasions in the past where Peter Shell and I have been called upon to explain the game of cricket to visiting Americans. Suffice to say, should you come across the two of us at an event, don’t even raise the topic, unless you are prepared to listen to a competitive explanation of the game for an hour or so! However, when it comes to networking and communications in today’s heterogeneous world, Infrasoft has few peers and as plans for future NonStop systems take form, uLinga holds many of the cards when it comes to realizing the potential value such systems will provide.

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