Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Take a chance; align your messages – HP NonStop and HP’s big messages!

With another week to chew on all I saw at HP Discover, the more things change the more they stay the same. And that’s encouraging news for all Pathway fans I suspect … but there’s even more that’s positive for NonStop! Even HP!

If my immediate consideration following 2014 HP Discover was to let my mind shuffle around all that I had seen and heard, today I can honestly admit that I have developed strong opinions about what looks to have staying power. If your interests include mobility, security, clouds and big data, then there was plenty of material on hand and the Discover Zone (a.k.a. the exhibition hall) had it all; from kiosks, to demonstration booths, to specialty mini-theaters! Beneath overhead banners supporting the big messages from HP you could find out all you ever wanted to know about a particular theme or focus area with someone knowledgeable always at hand.

On more than one occasion I was rewarded with insight and perspective in an unambiguous manner, so much so that it was easy to see where to spend time wisely. Fortunately, I have a number of clients who are making investments in building products in support of these themes so at least I had a yardstick with which to measure what HP was talking about, but unfortunately, more often than not, it appears HP has a long way to go before any investments should be considered by the NonStop community.

Let’s start with big data and the work being done by Vertica.
When you consider HP’s recognition of data and of being overwhelmed by data - particularly when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) and, just as importantly, the explosive growth of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) dialogues – and that this is what has driven HP to pursue the vision of The Machine, you would think the team at Vertica would be well versed in all aspects of big data. However, it is unclear just how broad their focus is at this point in time.

Throw into this mix the recognized need for real time analytics and the rapidly-developing customer requirement to bring all pertinent data, including transactional, reference and historical, to bear at the time a transaction is being performed, and Vertica becomes vague on the matter. One expert tried to persuade me that I could achieve this is if I narrowed my “update window” sufficiently so that Vertica could refresh my operational database with pertinent information “in a timely manner” – a less than elegant solution, in my books.

On the other hand, anyone who has recently paid a visit to the web site of WebAction, Inc. knows full well that imagined technologies are coming off the whiteboard quickly with new products being aggressively marketed. “Along with NonStop real-time data, the WebAction platform can ingest any other structured and unstructured data source and provide you with a single view of your data streams,” said WebAction executive vice president, Sami Akbay. “For example, bring together your system logs, social media feeds, infrastructure logs, and correlate them with events happening right now on your NonStop system and elsewhere across your enterprise.” And that synchs well with my own observations but as yet, hasn’t really percolated up to Vertica management.

WebAction is light on its feet when it comes to NonStop, running outboard on a cluster of servers but what it detects, and then reports can be ingested on NonStop – applications on NonStop responding to web actions will become routine and this is very important to the NonStop community. However, while this is understood to be a legitimate business requirement, providing big data in real time remains alien to the team at Vertica.

Moving from big data to clouds, and to NonStop and clouds in particular, at HP Discover the discussion often ended even as it began. Get in front of the cloud evangelists and then raise the concerns large financial institutions have about privacy and security and of how comprehensive (and time consuming) the certification process is today, when it comes to changing a simple routine or process, the disengagement happens very quickly. However, the reality is that there’s numerous large applications that could benefit from cloud computing but all that seems to catch the cloud evangelist’s ear appears to be web hosting and web serving opportunities.

It’s all a services model today, right? So just put the services that chew up the most resources into the cloud and problem solved! Not so fast, or so it would seem – again, the work being done at the macro level by HP, with cloud messages omitting way too much to hold out much hope for the NonStop community. Or is there hope after all? “After marketing maRunga to NonStop users and telling them how easy it is to burst into clouds whenever demand on a NonStop system exceeds capacity, it’s clear that, to most NonStop users, introducing anything that’s cloud oriented scares them away,” said Infrasoft Managing Director, Peter Shell.

However, “what is becoming interesting is the re-awakening of interest in Pathway,” Shell added. “As much as the community talks about TS/MP, it’s hard to ignore it’s really all about Pathway so we are refining the message of maRunga to highlight the added capabilities we can provide Pathway users. Since the advent of TS/MP 2.4 it’s relatively easy to plug in maRunga and extend the persistent coverage Pathway provides to processes running on systems other than NonStop.”

Everything of value today on NonStop runs under Pathway – you want to set up a JVM then yes, it’s just another instance of a Pathway serverclass. NS SOAP? Yes, runs under Pathway, too! With consideration being given to hybrid configuration involving NonStop and Linux, “wouldn’t it be valuable for processes on Linux having the same degree of persistence as any other instance of a Pathway serverclass,” said Shell.

At HP Discover there were a number of packaged offerings built around Converged Infrastructure that HP is calling Converged Systems (CS) and it’s no stretch of the imagination to think about how easy it would be to throw in a rack or two of NonStop processors – the CS100 already holds a Moonshot cartridge draw – and then engaging Pathway via maRunga to obtain levels of availability normally reserved solely for NonStop. Should the wait for such a CS package prove too long, there’s already one solutions vendor who has begun building their own hybrid in a tower that I will cover in a future post.

However, few can argue that maRunga with clouds is off the radar screen for many within HP. But like WebAction, while the underlying product set isn’t changing, the messaging is – and finding a fit with HP’s big messages. Unlike some of the slideware I ran across in the Discover Zone, it is a real product and just prior to HP Discover, maRunga was successfully deployed within HP’s Advanced Technology Centers for all to see at the event.

When it comes to mobility it would be remiss of me not to mention InkaBinka – a product I have covered in several previous posts. InkaBinka was highly celebrated within HP and following the decision by InkaBinka to deploy the product on in-house Moonshot system, InkaBinka’s web serving solution was heavily promoted at the event. Late breaking news? InkaBinka featured in Enterprise Tech – check out the article by following this link: InkaBinka Moves From Cloud To Moonshot For Launch 

“Today, Sunday, June 22 InkaBinka became the #4 app under ‘news summary’; the same morning it had been #10,” wrote InkaBinka CEO, Kevin McGushion, this past weekend. “Thank you to everyone for downloading and loving the app!” Pictured above, is McGushion (on the left), along with HP VP & GM, Moonshot Business Unit, Paul Santeler, addressing InkaBinka on Moonshot during a panel session at HP Discover.

I will be covering this development in more detail in a future post. But again, Mobility? Today InkaBinka has become one of the most downloaded apps in news summary, and a lot of credit needs to go to HP for giving the InkaBinka product as much exposure as it did. So, even as I wonder about the effort needed to grab HP’s attention for work being done in support of big data and clouds, accepting chance opportunities can still prove beneficial to NonStop vendors as HP is not immune to throwing its weight behind something it sees as strongly aligning with its own interests.

And this leads me to my final observation – when it comes to the big messages being promoted by HP, it’s good to recognize the breadth of coverage as well as the intensity of focus. As of right now, the focus is intense but the coverage still presents opportunities and not for a moment should any in the NonStop community feel NonStop is not being given due consideration. Get the message right, and HP listens – what I have watched happen at InkaBinka more than proves that point.

For me, it’s encouraging whenever NonStop partners break through the noise and are given greater visibility – there’s no escaping an increasing NonStop presence in big data as mission critical transaction processing around the world continues to depend on NonStop. Cloud participation will continue to be a hard sell but again, it’s the message and not the solution that needs fine-tuning. There are more posts still to come about HP Discover elsewhere in the blogosphere even as the event itself begins to fade from memory but  for now, it was rewarding enough just to have participated. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

This changes everything!

Will the sun finally set on NonStop? Is the journey about to end? Or, will NonStop morph into something new and yet, still recognizable? It may take five or more years but there are signs that HP is taking bold steps to change everything!

The official program for 2014 HP Discover has ended and in a few hours’ time I will be heading back to Boulder. But for now, I am still in Las Vegas, sweltering under the heat of an early arrival of summer, and catching up on posts and other correspondence all the while letting my thoughts run free as I shuffle through all I heard at this year’s big tent event.

The doors to the conference have closed, and another event is probably in the early throws of being set up. 2014 HP Discover is now just another footnote in the 75 years of HP’s history with expectations for the next 25 years running high. When I posted to this blog around this same time last year, I titled the post, At long last, disruptive innovation from HP! Of course, this was a reference to HP taking the wraps off Project Moonshot. But little did I know of what HP may do to top that announcement, and yet they managed to do so.

However, before going into the specifics of what was covered during the final general session keynote hosted by HP CEO, Meg Whitman, let me just jump right into the event itself. As you can expect from such a large event attracting about 10,000 participants, there’s a wide variety of topics covered by HP – and yes, this is a HP event where every presentation has been vetted by HP, so it’s rare to see anything unexpected and yet, the unexpected still happens.

There were a handful of presentations the NonStop community could enjoy – presentations by Randy Meyer and then a little later in the week, by Mark Pollans, gave the NonStop folks present at the event some resemblance to user events of the past, but overall, if you wanted to hear about NonStop it was pretty slim pickings. However, NonStop just isn’t the focus of this event nor is it an event focused on users – it will be the bootcamp in November where this will all happen. On the other hand, it’s still incredibly important for all with investments in NonStop to see just what’s capturing HP’s attention as it is an important consideration for anyone prepared to keep investing in NonStop.

In England, the houses of parliament have been designed not to seat every Member of Parliament. And that’s for a reason – when there’s an important legislative debate taking place, members are literally hanging from the rafters and this is the mood  parliament wants to convey. When the issues being debated are so important it pulls every sitting member out of the nearby pubs just for the occasion. Something similar happens at events as well, and this year the big surprise was the keynote by the new Senior VP & GM, Servers and Networking business units within the Enterprise Group – Antonio Neri.

For his presentation (and reflecting the scope of his portfolio that includes NonStop, of course), he had invited a number of guest presenters that he essentially interviewed and among them was Steve Wozniak, former Dancing with the Stars contestant, but now Chief Scientist, Fusion-io. Yes, the same Steve that co-founded Apple. It appeared everyone wanted in on this presentation so as the hour approached, and with a meeting room seating fewer than 400, the line that developed snaked all the way down the primary corridor, into an adjacent corridor and back to the top of nearby elevators.

While little, apart from a reference in passing, was given to NonStop in between each interview by Neri were videos that were just collages picked from videos made about users and vendors of servers and networks.  And there were some better-known names referenced – Visa, UPS, etc. that were familiar to all at NonStop. With Steve on stage, and pretty much taking over the show, this was pure entertainment of the highest order.

 It seems everyone attending the event wanted to hear Steve and it reminds me of the grand old days when Jimmy Treybig held court. It’s a shame in some respects, but with the passage of time, I have to wonder how many more occasions there will be to listen to Silicon Valley legends and I was sure glad I made the cut and was able to hear Steve. And who knows, with Fusion-io partnering with HP, the management team at HP may see a new face!

NonStop wasn’t the star attraction of HP Discover nor were enterprise servers. When you look at the big themes then it was hard to miss mobility, security, clouds and big data. Clouds has undergone a makeover, resurfacing under the branding of Helion – yes, it was Helion this and Helion that. Big Data centered on Vertica, naturally, although no one I talked to at Vertica could explain to me how their vision of big data was going to engage with real time transactions and any reference to wanting to integrate big data into the transaction world and so enrich customer engagements simply generated a blank stare!

As for mobile and security they were well represented but what did catch my eye was the appearance of Converged Systems packages. Yes, cabinets labelled CS100, CS300, CS900, etc. were on display and represented a mix of general purpose Converged Systems as well as a couple of very specific packages. And packages these were – each illustrating what can be done when being creative with systems compliant with the previously announced Converged Infrastructure project.

What the folks here were doing was filling cabinets with processors, storage and networking kit sourced from different development groups and delivering hybrids all nicely tested, configured and with a common operational interface. To demonstrate the versatility of this group, the CS100 included Moonshot cartridges along with more conventional 3Par storage, together with HP networking products – all in a very clean package. On the other hand, the CS900 was optimized for SAP / Hana with another model optimized for Vertica. How soon would it be before a CS configuration would support a mix of say NonStop, Atalla, Linux and Windows? Who knows, but with the coming support of NonStop on the x86 architecture, some at the CS pavilion thought it would be highly likely (once I explained what a NonStop system was, of course).

As for personalities then there were still many familiar faces – there were the lads from comForte standing by a kiosk, with Dr. Michael Rossbach nearby. At another kiosk were our good friends at OmniPayments with Yash ever present.  WebAction sent Dale and JK, and Brian Miller of Lusis also were in attendance. Kramer from IR and I briefly exchanged opinions, and yes, I was able to catch up with Keith Evans, formerly of NonStop and now with Gravic as well as with his better half, Sharon Fisher. So yes, there was a sprinkling of familiar faces and we all thanked Tom Moylan profusely for hosting a Tuesday night soirĂ©e for all parties associated with NonStop.

In the weeks to come we are going to hear a lot more of the major announcement by HP concerning The Machine and I will cover in more detail in a later post. Suffice to say, when Martin Fink walked us through the technology it was a case of back to physics and back to chemistry. All you need to know is that “electrons compute, photons communicate, and ions store,” Martin told us. At the conclusion of his reveal, HP CEO, Meg Whitman, than wrapped it up with the observation, “This changes everything!”

The Machine will likely get a name at some point but there are at least four projects – the development of the special purpose processors, the photonics and the massive memory as well as a new clean-sheet operating system and stack. No small feat to even contemplate doing but the board of HP has approved 75% of all R&D dollars be earmarked to this project, so The Machine carries with it all the hopes of HP for the next 25 years. If Martin manages to pull it off, then indeed it will change everything.

Last year I came away impressed with Moonshot – so much so I managed to sway the principles at one of my clients, InkaBinka, to switch from the cloud to using an in-house Moonshot system and in doing so, they were one of the featured companies in Neri’s videos. This year, it’s The Machine. Neither of these projects seem to have any connection to NonStop, but can we be sure? I think there’s likely considerable trickle-down transfer but that I will leave to another post as well. More importantly what will become of NonStop with such a massive development project opting to go down the open source path?

For now, I need to pack and prepare for the return trip to Boulder. I want to take the two days I will be driving to let my thoughts continue to do their shuffle thing. Even as momentum builds in support of The Machine, NonStop has much to look forward to – first with x86 and then with hybrids clouds and much more. Even with a successful program behind The Machine followed by an aggressive roll out, NonStop will continue to provide value wherever mission critical transaction processing is needed. And for a very long time …

HP Discover events never cease to surprise me and I can only imagine what will be pulled from the hat next year, but in the meantime, the storylines that come from this week’s events are enough to keep me busy for another year. To all travelling home I wish safe travels and to those undecided about bootcamp, well, make plans and I will see you all in November.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Explosions possible even as hope springs eternal!

Time spent in Hope, B.C. held surprises for me and Sylvester Stallone however, time spent in Las Vegas, every bit as explosive (I’m almost sure) will create a renewed sense of hope …

In the 1970s, after spending a short time in London, England, I immigrated to Canada. When the opportunity came to put London behind me and to work in Canada, I jumped at the chance. As my final destination was to be Edmonton, Alberta, the Canadian authorities fast tracked my application for landed immigrant status and I was on the plane, out of London, in only a couple of weeks. That should have been a clue. Seriously!

All the same, I felt exhilarated to be going to a new country and I was hoping for the best. After landing at the airport, early March 1976, and with snow everywhere (yes, my first encounter with the fluffy stuff), I wasn’t sure how it would all turn out, but a few weeks later I was hard at work for the local Caterpillar distributor and had a great condo down town with a new BMW 530 sedan in the garage.

And this brings me to the matter of the small town of Hope, British Columbia, pictured above  – a small village on the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies. Early one morning, all those years ago, I executed a perfect U Turn on Hope’s main street only to be pulled over by the sheriff. Fortunately, it was only a brief lecture that time and I didn’t get a ticket.

Years later I was to reflect on this incident when I saw the township featured in a movie. It happened that this very same Hope, B.C., was the setting for the fictional American township of Hope in the film, Rambo, First Blood. Unfortunately for Rambo, the Hope sheriff depicted in the movie wasn’t as conciliatory as the one that pulled me over, and the rest, as they say, is history. In a case of serendipity, I share with Stallone considerable discomfort – even if only fleeting in my case – because of Hope.

Looking at the prospects of American NFL teams in 2014 sports reporter, Mike Tanier, blogged to the web site
Sports on Earth about The Hope Index. “How do you calculate hope?” he asked. “That is a question that has not baffled philosophers throughout the ages at all, because it is an incredibly stupid question that they would not waste their time with.” Stupid it may be, but then again, there are those among us who believe that hope can indeed be calculated.

As I prepare to go to Las Vegas this weekend, many of my conversations have included numerous references to hope. HP’s biggest event of the year (attracting crowds we could only dream of, back in ITUG days) will kick-off shortly and for the NonStop community there’s hope that NonStop will be referenced even if only in passing. As for me, I’m hoping to hear a lot more from HP about the big picture. The vision and strategy that
will shape the course of HP’s business for the next couple of years!

If you read any of the commentaries following HP’s just-released quarterly financial results, you would have been disappointed by much of the coverage that followed.
“Hewlett-Packard does not seem to have a working strategy in place,” wrote one analyst in a post to
Seeking Alpha. “Hewlett-Packard is still knee-deep in its restructuring,”  followed with the observation that if, “Hewlett-Packard was in the retail business, the stock would have likely declined 5-10% after results released as retail investors are much more sensitive to revenue declines than investors in the tech business (hopes are usually higher in the tech industry).”

Yes, IT has always has been driven by high hopes and it’s a sentiment I share (and one I am not ashamed to admit), even as it sums up my own impressions of HP. There’s just too much talent within HP for anyone to discount the company’s strategy and if we were to calculate hope, then I for one believe the final number would be large.

Beneath the surface, as turbulent as it may seem, I sense there’s major transitions under way and with transitions, opportunities. Something new is coming and I sure do hope HP gets it right. I have been around IT for a very long time and yet, whenever I hear of something new, I still get excited. At the top of my list is the coming need to accommodate today’s business (the enterprise) morphing into something very different to what we see today.

In a recent private email to my clients I made the simple observation - The application? Legacy! The data center? Legacy! How about the enterprise? Legacy, too! It was shorthand for suggesting that when we think of legacy, it shouldn’t surprise any is that anything that’s currently working is, almost by today’s definition, legacy and requires constant maintenance. It’s not surprising then that we can apply the legacy label to business itself.

Suffice to say, one reason I am hoping for change is that I cannot see us making much progress – when it comes to innovation and growth – if we stick to doing what we do today. IT will bear the brunt of these changes – in fact, I have a sense that IT as we know it has outlived its usefulness. So sorry! As for the CIO, well, we already know he’s increasingly focused on the business and is becoming an integral part of the marketing team.

Looking at the agenda for 2014 HP Discover I couldn’t miss the headlines promoting the general session presentations. On Tuesday HP CEO, Meg Whitman, along with HP executives, John Hinshaw, George Kadifa, Mike Nefkens, and Bill Veghte will talk about Defining the New Style of IT and about HP providing solutions for this new foundation. The following day, Wednesday, Whitman will be joined by a familiar face, HP’s CTO and EVP, Marin Fink, where they will talk about their Vision for the Future of the New Style of IT.

This all sounds like strategy and vision to me and likely, a recognition that there are indeed, observable transitions under way. But as part of these changes, what are we hoping will happen to NonStop? As of right now, within HP, all enterprise systems are conveniently packaged together in a single entity and while I am not suggesting they will be dropped overboard anytime soon, it does worry me a tad that this neat little bundle is so perfectly gift-wrapped. When it comes to defining the new style of IT, is there room for enterprise servers?

Together with NonStop there are a couple of other server offerings worthy of further investment so I believe dropping this bundle overboard isn’t in the cards at this point. Furthermore, just placing all the enterprise servers in one bundle under one leader and including a couple of cutting edge technologies isn’t all that bad – should the enterprise as we know it, be legacy and should the data center (and it’s CIO) be legacy too, whatever emerges will need a lot of compute power, for next to nothing.

Future enterprises will be even flatter (organizationally) than we have ever seen before, with every employee having access to all the compute power they need, and so vendors will be increasingly focused on shipping technology to the powerhouses on the grid delivering the compute power required. For many, the hope is that HP evolves to become something akin to the GE of computing and I see that very much in the cards. The question “does HP have a working strategy in place?” may be answered a lot differently than we may expect.

It was the eighteenth century poet, Alexander Pope, who penned the lines
Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

In other words, as one commentator paraphrased the above, people will continue to hope even though they have evidence that things cannot possibly turn out the way they want. The contrarian in me despite all that’s been written of late is hoping HP doesn’t disappoint!

Hope can blind us if we let it but it can also help us focus. In the case of Rambo, he became focused in a hurry when he found himself in an abandoned mine shaft after the sheriff’s deputies from Hope blew up the entrance. As for HP Discover I do anticipate there being explosions but of a different kind and amid all the entertainment and hijinks that accompanies big tent marketing events such as this, I am looking to discern more about the future of HP and of NonStop.

Well, at the very least, this is what I am hoping for …  

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