Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Changes in procedures, changes in models – at HPE, NonStop set for further growth.

There have been numerous posts following recent press releases from HPE concerning Enterprise Services and Software. But for the NonStop community it’s all smooth sailing and the news says it all; NonStop is an integral part of HPE’s vision to become a major provider of infrastructure and platforms!

After decades of flying every week to every corner of the planet I seldom board a plane these days. In former times, however, even when not on business the first inkling concerning potential downtime would see me scanning airline sites for deals and checking my mileage balance to see what options I had. Neither my wife, Margo, nor me were born in the U.S. and arriving in the U.S. after we had become adults, American holidays didn’t mean all that much to us so we seldom hung around to participate. For a number of years we flew to Singapore, just for Thanksgiving, to enjoy chili crabs on Singapore’s south east coast.

In those days of constant flying I knew by heart all the different procedures in place at airports. Updates to terminals and gates were a constant test of one’s perseverance but I always managed to adapt pretty quickly. And yes, time zones never seemed to affect me back then and no matter the time of day, you would likely find me working away in a hotel lobby somewhere in the world. However, when I do get to fly these days I am so out of touch with current procedures that travel is no longer enjoyable and even the simplest requests by the airline staff can lead to stress – something I simply never experienced all those years ago.

We are all creatures of routines. For us, following protocols and understanding procedures simply reflect the order we desire as we go about living our lives. However, when it comes to large corporations it is though we live in times where we have to prepare for change to happen almost as regularly as some of us take to the skies. For the NonStop community, this has been the case almost from the time of the HP / Compaq merger. It seems that almost with every quarter that passes there’s news of one kind or another starting with the big announcement that HP was going to release NonStop on blades to where we now have NonStop on x86 from HPE. Exciting news, of course, and the stuff that keeps us focused on just how well NonStop meets our business needs. And when it comes to organization, change is happening almost as often.

In the last couple of posts I have written about the most recent changes hitting the newswire. HP has split to become HP Inc. and HP Enterprise (HPE). HPE in turn has announced the retirement of Martin Fink, HPE CTO, and then proceeded to pursue “spin-merges” of both its Services and Software organizations. If you were a shareholder in the former HP and had elected to hold onto your shares then life has become very interesting indeed and opened the doors to more astute gauging of the value proposition of your holdings. And this is an important backdrop to any new discussions the NonStop community is now having when it comes to the future of NonStop.

In all the years since the HP / Compaq merger, financial analysts were at a loss as to how best to categorize HP. Was it a consumer company selling through big box stores? Was it a server and software company? Was it a growth company or was it a value company? Was it even just a finance company? Of course this inability to categorize the HP of that time led to stock valuations well below what otherwise may have been considered fair value. After all, if there was no other company in the same category, was it even a legitimate category? Clearly, HP had to do something to (a) unlock the true value of HP for its shareholders, and (b) manage the different financial models under which each business unit operated.

All too often discussions within the NonStop community centered on HPE’s investments in NonStop. These discussions arose following questions on whether NonStop was profitable or not and whether the revenue was sufficient to justify continued investments in NonStop. When a company makes $130billion in revenue, does a product line bringing perhaps one or two billion really warrant as much management attention as was needed? Did marketing and then again sales, really need to invest resources to support? Again, it came down to categories – just how big is the market for fault tolerant systems? Surely, near 99% availability was good enough!

The spin-merge of HPE Enterprise Services with CSC and then, just recently, the proposed spin-merge of HPE Software with Micro Focus is welcomed news to financial analysts and shareholder alike. When the dust finally settles sometime in 2017 and with no further roadblocks appearing that could delay the process, shareholders will be holding stock in HP Inc. HPE, CSC and Micro Focus – shares in companies operating in four well-defined markets; Consumer, Enterprise Infrastructure and Platforms, Services, and Software.

But again, for the NonStop community, this spin-merge of services and indeed software, didn’t involve NonStop. After a year or so promoting NonStop as the best software platform on the planet, HPE has acknowledged that NonStop isn’t a part of the “non-core software” that participated in the spin-merge with Micro Focus. As for Enterprise Services, these weren’t the services HPE needed when it came to supporting customer deployments of HPE infrastructure and platforms. Rather, that is the role of the Enterprise group’s Technology Services (TS) which remains an integral part of the new HPE.

If you missed it, the HPE News Release of September 7, 2016, HPE Accelerates Strategy With SpinOff and Merger of Non-Core Software Assets With Micro Focus - HPE to retain key software assets to deliver on the promise of hybrid IT is a must read for everyone in the NonStop community. It describes, in no uncertain terms, what HPE considers as its non-core software assets even as it asserts that those software assets contributing to the delivering “on the promise of hybrid IT” will be retained. NonStop is one of those key software assets according to Randy Meyer, Vice President and General Manager, Mission Critical Systems.

I referenced this News Release in my post of September 15, 2016, Changes for the better? HPE to focus on what it does best; infrastructure and platforms! However, what I want to make perfectly clear is just how important the organizational changes that came with the news that Software was following Enterprise Services in its own spin-merge. Reflecting the changing revenue model of the slimmed down HPE – now expected to be just a little less than $30billion and a far cry from a year ago when the much bigger HP generated revenues of $130billion – the priority has been to bring greater focus onto the infrastructure and platforms HPE believes will be key to differentiating its portfolio from those of its competitors.

“When you consider the non-core assets that are part of this latest spin-merge, it’s important to understand that they operated within different business models, with different business processes and indeed, a whole different approach to financials,” said Randy Meyer. “These non-core software products represented software that competed in the software business arena whereas the software assets retained all contribute to HPE being able to deliver on its vision of being a major provider of infrastructure and platforms.”

Furthermore, when it comes to organization, the Enterprise Group has announced the formation of three major groups: one focusing on software-defined and cloud technologies, one focused on data center infrastructure, and one focused on edge technologies and the internet of things. Additionally, there is also Technology Services as noted earlier that was already established to help all three of these groups deliver on opportunities that arise from sales of infrastructure and platforms coming out of the Enterprise Group.

“Mission Critical Systems is part of the newly formed data center infrastructure group (DCIG) and for a reason,” said Randy Meyer. “NonStop remains a value play within the data center where fault tolerance is still required for select markets. It is making a financial contribution to DCIG at a time when there is disruptive transition under way as we watch private clouds take off and the melding of traditional IT with private clouds provides great potential for NonStop development.”

There are changes in procedures even as there are changes in business models. In the coming quarters we will see the appearance of virtual NonStop (vNonStop) that will be provided independent of the hardware and the NonStop group is busily sorting out the processes that need to be in place for the NonStop community to be able to order NonStop as software only. In all likelihood, Technology Services will be looking to provide best practices to ensure NonStop as software lives up to user expectations when it comes to fault tolerance – reference architectures will be developed even as the HPE sales and marketing teams work to identify new markets for NonStop. Yes, NonStop is going to be a big part of HPE, something that NonStop community is only getting its first glimpse as HPE IT commits to running its DataBase-as-a-Service based on NonStop SQL on virtual NonStop.

So let me be as unambiguous as I can. In case you still need to be reminded of the pertinent points following these recent news releases from HPE. NonStop is not considered “non-core software” but rather, an integral component as HPE pushes deeper into the marketplace for infrastructure and platforms. Furthermore, the NonStop organization remains firmly within the Mission Critical Systems (MCS) group and as such, is now a part of the core group, Data Center Infrastructure Group (DCIG). Randy Meyer remains the head of MCS and as such, has the responsibility for NonStop – no change there. And finally, NonStop today is in good shape demonstrating quarter over quarter growth with margin sufficient to support further investments in the NonStop product line.

It’s probably not inappropriate to say that we are all as pleased as we are today to see that NonStop has survived – the hard work to turn the NonStop ship around and return it to profitability has been done. Attendees at last year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp can all recall the challenge the NonStop team faced when asked to “fix it, or exit.” And fix it they did – NonStop X together with SuperDome X are running on the Intel x86 architecture and has proved to be a major positive turning point for NonStop. But it’s only the beginning.

The new HPE needs NonStop and the steps it has just taken to better address the needs of the financial industry and shareholders will be trickling down to individual groups within HPE and with that, for the first time in a long while, the NonStop community can rest assured in the knowledge that today, NonStop has become one of the all-important key software assets contributing to the delivering on the promise of hybrid IT!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Changes for the better? HPE to focus on what it does best; infrastructure and platforms!

Hard to miss reading one article or another on what is taking place within HPE and for the NonStop community, questions were being asked. NonStop had become the best software platform on the planet – was it being sold, too? The answer is no, it isn’t!

Fortune smiled on me rather gently this week. I returned to the local motorcycle shop to pick up my cruiser. A considerable amount of work had been done on it after it’s been sitting in our garage for more than two years, unused and somewhat unloved. However, it’s amazing what care and attention can do for an old-world cruiser but as I pulled into the shop, it began to rain. I haven’t been on a motorcycle for all of those two plus years, so looking as the clouds gathered and the raindrops grew heavier, I was a little concerned. Fortunately, getting back on the motorcycle revived past memories and no, you never forget how to ride a bike. You just have to get back into the saddle.

I have to believe that at HPE much the same concerns passed through the minds of its executives. It wasn’t so much the rain that was a concern as it was the clouds gathering on the horizon. And I am not posting about the clouds that cross our skies but rather, the growing presence of clouds in enterprise data centers. When it comes to clouds, just like those we see in the sky (many times taking on the shape of familiar objects), oftentimes all we appreciate is how fluffy they look and how soft they seem to be – software-defined everything is becoming the response from enterprises as they too contemplate the new IT order made up of constantly morphing pools of resources.  To HPE, all the recent investments in products and human resources that aren’t directly reusable in the cloud computing marketplace looked increasingly like they were addressing legacy requirements. They might be good cash cows in the short term but HPE wasn’t about to take a back seat and simply milk the past. HPE recognizes the need to tap the momentum developing around clouds and to ride that momentum well into the future. And so they have acted, and acted rather dramatically!

I suspect that by now you have all read the announcements from HPE this week. Yes, apparently the die has been cast and HPE is now out of the services business and out of the software business. Looking back over the past couple of months, even with all the rumors that circulated widely, it’s all happened pretty quickly. But what does it really mean for the NonStop community? After taking a lot of pride in cementing the role of NonStop as the best software platform on the planet, has that only led to an increased vulnerability for NonStop?

Before addressing these questions, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at what HPE is telling the industry. With the news breaking of the spin-merge of HPE Software with Micro Focus, HPE published the news release late September 7, 2016, CEO Meg Whitman on HPE’s Plans to Spin-Off & Merge Non-Core Software Assets With Micro Focus -Company doubles down on delivering software-defined hybrid IT solutions. In that news release was the explanation from Meg Whitman, HPE CEO, that, “When we launched the new HPE, we laid out a vision of being the industry's leading provider of hybrid IT, built on the secure, next-generation, software-defined infrastructure that will run customers' data centers today, bridge them to multi-cloud environments tomorrow, and enable the emerging intelligent edge that will power campus, branch and IoT applications for decades to come.” 

Explaining this further, Ric Lewis, senior vice president for the software-defined and cloud group at HPE, told Infoworld in the article that followed the September 8, 2016, announcement of the pending sale of HPE Software to Micro Focus, What's left at HPE is focused squarely on the hybrid and private cloud “To achieve this vision, we've been busy realigning our portfolio and product roadmap with our go-forward strategy. In just the last few months, we announced enhancements and new products across storage, infrastructure, converged systems, cloud and a truly differentiated set of edge compute products for the Internet of Things." Furthermore, added Lewis, “The whole world is talking about the public cloud growing, but not that many people are noticing that the private cloud is growing at double-digit rates as well. That's a huge opportunity for us.”

As Whitman explained the moves behind the realignment, she reiterated that, “Today's announced spin-merge of our non-core software assets with Micro Focus is another important step in our strategy to unlock a faster growing, higher margin, stronger cash flow company. As we said in the Enterprise Services announcement last quarter, both software and services remain key enablers of our go-forward strategy, and we are focused on building the right portfolio to win in our target markets. We believe the portfolio changes we've made over the past year are setting up HPE for long-term success while unlocking tremendous value for our shareholders." 

HPE has also unveiled a new look organization now that the company has become just a combination of the Enterprise Group and the Finance Group. As the article in InfoWorld noted, “‘HPE's strategy for the future is to focus on hybrid IT,’ said Ric Lewis, senior vice president for the software-defined and cloud group at HPE. Accordingly, it recently formed three core business groups within HPE's Enterprise Group division: one focusing on software-defined and cloud technologies, one focused on data centre infrastructure, and one focused on edge technologies and the internet of things. It is retaining the software efforts that are central to its hybrid IT focus, Lewis said in his interview with InfoWorld, including the CloudSystem brand, HPE OneView, Helion OpenStack, and its software-defined storage and networking products.”

Retaining software central to its hybrid IT focus is an important consideration. NonStop is now playing an active role when it comes to the ongoing transformation to hybrid infrastructures integrating traditional IT with private clouds and products have already begun to ship that make it easier for enterprise customers to capitalize on the benefits that come with private clouds. But again, what of NonStop and its current organization, Mission Critical Systems? According to Randy Meyer, Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Systems (MCS) at HPE, MCS is now “part of the Data Center Infrastructure Group (DCIG).”

With this return to infrastructure and platforms HPE may not be the size of company it was just a short time ago when the world knew of only HP. But the changes are definitely for the better. HPE may have sold off its legacy software offerings – yes, anything that isn’t contributing to a software-defined everything HPE has lumped into the legacy category – and the rapidity with which NonStop development has pursued virtual NonStop brings it now into the realm of software-defined infrastructure. And with MCS, including the NonStop organization, becoming part of the strategically important group, DCIG, for the NonStop community this is perhaps the most significant change of all!

Riding my own motorcycle up the driveway into my home, with the falling rain easing considerably,  can not be considered an accomplishment on the same scale as to what HPE has achieved these past couple of weeks. And yet as I turned skyward, there is never any rain without clouds! The more I look into the changes taking place within HPE the more I see a resurgence of enthusiasm in support of the many things NonStop does particularly well. NonStop SQL/MX, for instance, is the best-suited to OLTP of any databases available today – when it comes to mixed workloads, in parallel, it is simply without peer. With NonStop, customers can leverage the best software on the planet even as they are assured it is a platform crucial to HPE’s future.

The InfoWorld article closed with a particularly telling observation coming from Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “I’m actually relieved HPE is getting back to what everyone knows they do well, and that's infrastructure and platforms,” said Moorhead. “‘Big’ and application software didn't work well for HPE, and I think they have the potential to move much more quickly in the future in areas where they can make a real impact.” Perhaps then, all things considered, we should be singing right along with Eric Clapton – Let it rain! Let it rain! Let it rain!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The song remains the same – major events of importance to the NonStop community

Embracing virtualization, integrating analystics and turning to clouds may be all part of the plan but it may be the messages coming from industry and user events that influence us most. And the more technology appears to change, in reality, we stay the same!

In the coming weeks I will be attending numerous events but perhaps for me, the most beneficial of them all will be the two held on opposite sides of the continent. In late September, I will be travelling to Chicago, IL for the September 19-21, 2016, 2016 Bank Customer Experience Summit and then in November, I will turn around and head in the other direction, towards San Jose, CA, for the November 13-16, 2016, 2016 NonStop Technical Boot Camp. These two events will feature networking with customers from financial industries as well as interacting with HPE executives that will provide me with the ideal backdrop for the numerous stories and posts that will follow.

The 2016 Bank Customer Experience Summit, originally branded as the The ATM & Mobile Innovation Summit, is dedicated to exploring next-gen self-service, the reinvented branch, digital banking, mobile payments — and the people who use them. An August 11, 2016, post to the ATMmarketplace web site, by Suzanne Cluckey, 7 reasons why the Bank Customer Experience Summit should be on your fall travel calendar is well worth reading if you are looking for more information about this event and shortly my own post will be published on this site – look for it as well. For those NonStop users running payments solutions that would like to attend, simply follow this link, Register now and to save 30% off the price of registration, enter the promotional code, PYALLA30. If you would like to check out what will be taking place at the event you can follow this link, Agenda.

It is a reality today that in our always-on world we rarely think twice about how our communications works – for me it’s still close to magic as so much can go wrong between a client end-point and a services delivery end-point. People should be pleased when anything at all simply works, but yes, it’s very much magic by my books. The same can be said about mobile devices today as very few users of smartphones and tablets are aware of all that transpires whenever they text or download a picture. Streaming songs and movies? Unbelievable!

And yet it all happens with little consideration being given to just how it all happens. People have now reached a point where mobility is the new norm and so when it comes to an event on ATMs and Mobility, changing the name of the event to Bank Customer Experience just seems natural – why wouldn’t we assume mobility is a key factor in banking today and just part of any experience we may have when it comes to oversight of our financial affairs?

The HPE event on the other hand, plumbs the depths of technology. The essential plumbing that so many of us are simply ignorant about and where we always assume, it just works. From the introduction of the first ATMs to the general populace, Tandem Computers gave the world the potential to operate ATMs 24 X 7 and some of the earliest payments solutions targeted the Tandem Computer platform. Today, Tandem Computers is no more. Instead, renamed NonStop systems and a key part of HPE’s Mission Critical Systems product portfolio, they still account for the processing of much of the world’s ATM traffic. According to the latest figures from HPE, $3.6+ trillion in debit card (including bank cards and ATM cards) and credit card charge volume passes through NonStop systems each year and the largest retail payments processors in the world run on NonStop. 

Among the more popular solutions is OmniPayments and I have known Yash Kapadia, the OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, for many years. He has been a very good source for updates on how people worldwide interact with financial institutions. His products run exclusively on NonStop systems and he has become one of the largest users of the latest NonStop X systems having already populated three of OmniPayments data centers with NonStop X systems underpinning the new OmniCloudX services – yes, payments on NonStop from out of a cloud. At this next Boot Camp event Yash is throwing a reception mid-evening Monday night, specifically for the purposes of giving event attendees an opportunity to network among themselves following the sessions that day and if the past is any indication of what to expect, this reception is among the liveliest all week! I hope to see you in the Gold room Monday evening, the reception will start at 8:30 pm.

HPE and the Connect organization are now working through submitted proposals for presentations and this should be resolved shortly. If you want to keep abreast of who will be the keynote speakers and whose papers made the cut, then check the Agenda page on a regular basis and make sure you complete the Registration as early as you can. It will be tough to top last year’s program but I know that over the past year so much progress has been made with NonStop X, with perhaps the biggest news of all is just how committed HPE itself is to anchoring its own IT on NonStop with virtual NonStop (vNonStop) in support of NS SQL/MX running as a DBaaS at the very heart of HPE’s operations. Like many who will be attending I am more than interested in hearing all the details of how this has been helping HPE transform to a hybrid infrastructure.

Where I suspect the intersection between these two events will more than likely occur will be on the topic of Big Data and Data Analytics. Everything that takes place today is being influenced by companies understanding the ever-changing behaviors of people and this includes financial institutions as much as it does those vendors providing the underlying plumbing. We need to know what’s on the minds of people from the time they sit down for a coffee to the time they swipe or insert their card to purchase a product just added to their shopping cart.

I am finding that analytics is permeating almost every discussion I have had in the past couple of months – from security to application monitoring and SLA validation to the monitoring of the physical data center itself (Power, HVAC, Fire-Suppression, Communications and Networks, etc.). As my good friends at Striim Inc. so often remind me, providing “an end-to-end, real-time data integration and intelligence platform; ingesting data in real-time from a wide variety of sources; making it more valuable while it's streaming before loading it to common data targets” is all critical today for better interaction with people whether end users, business partners, or simply their IT staff.

We write and talk so much about our customers and about consumers but in the end, it’s all about people. What I particularly liked about the post by Suzanne Cluckey on the 7 Reasons to attend 2016 Bank Customer Experience Summit were her opening sentences. “The new Ikea catalog arrived at our house yesterday. I haven't thumbed through it yet, but I doubt anything in it will grab my attention the way the cover did,” Cluckey began. “It wasn't the photo that got my attention, with its predictable assortment of ultra-hipster types looking uber-cool around a NorrÃ¥ker dining table. It was the tagline above: ‘Designed for people, not consumers.’” The upcoming events may differ in agendas even as they differ in the networking opportunities that arise but the people attending the events, well, we remain people and not just clients, customers, prospects or users. And as people, we are the lifeblood that keeps all such events lively and yes, keeps us all coming back for more!

It was while I was travelling country to country in the 1970s that I first heard Led Zeppelin perform The Song Remains the Same:
Oh, yeah
Crazy dream, uh-huh
Anything I wanted to know
Any place I needed to go …

This was Led Zeppelin's lead singer Robert Plant's tribute to world music, reflecting his belief that music is universal. And the aspirations of people are universal as well. Even as we are witnessing a revolution in the way people interact with all that is around them – other people, commerce, news and in general, the environment each person moves through – staying connected to friends and family and being informed about what’s happening in the world at large, has changed very little. Furthermore, as what is around us is subject to the seasons - if you compare the photo above with that included in the previous post published just a week or so ago, you can see the changes taking place - so the ebb and flow between centralization and distributed continues unabated even as we continue to behave much the same way we always have.

We may carry less cash but we still shop. We may wear our computers and we may be constantly on the move but we still find time to stop by a coffee shop and take time to check out all that’s happening. And the oversight of our financial affairs is now something we do 24 X 7 even as we are less likely to pull out our bill fold or purse preferring instead whatever gadget of the day has captured our attention. While the instruments of commerce have changed dramatically of late we have remained essentially the same through all this change – something few of us will likely ever forget. Looking forward to seeing many of you at these events and should you see me passing by, don’t hesitate stopping me. I’m always open for any discussion you may want to have! 

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