Monday, November 28, 2016

A last look at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2016

From the many activities listed in the NonStop Technical Boot Camp program there were presentations, panels and social events that I really liked. Each of them added a big exclamation point to the value proposition from attending this event …

Margo and I have always loved to travel even as we have always loved to entertain and there have been many miles covered in the years since leaving Tandem Computers even as there have been many good times around our BBQ and alongside our pool. In many ways, the willingness of Margo and I to entertain at our home have defined us to the community as looking back through Facebook and the social blog posts we have made, there is rarely a comment passed that hasn’t included some references to the fun times we have had.  If you were an ITUG volunteer or even an ITUG Board member not to mention a SHARE volunteer or SHARE Board member, you will remember the times you may have spent in our company.

All of this is by way of introduction to the fondness Margo and I have for all gatherings of the NonStop community – today's users of technology are often accused of adding fuel to a legacy model for networking but if that’s true, then Margo and I will willingly take some of the blame. But networking is just such a powerful communications tool that has so many side benefits that there is little chance of us ever scaling back on our willingness to continue sponsoring such gathering.

This past NonStop Technical Boot Camp was perhaps a strong reminder for us all just how much the NonStop community warms to the occasion and it’s such a great feeling to have as we left the venue knowing that in 2017 there will likely be even more attendees than this year – NonStop sales are growing at double digit pace so wouldn’t it be good to see future NonStop user events enjoying a similar level of growth.

What really captured my attention and what did Margo and I enjoy most at this year’s event? From presentations to workshops to panels to social events, there was a lot of good material from which to pull stories and there will still be many more written before the year winds down. However, what has been on my mind has been a mixture of social occasions, a panel session and yes, real user presentations.

Oftentimes, the networking opportunities that arise at events like Boot Camp are discounted and more or less relegated to the nice-to-enjoy bucket but they are valuable for determining what’s really going on across the NonStop community. I have touched on this in previous posts to this blog so won’t be revisiting the topic other than to start out with saying one of the highlights of this year’s Boot Camp was a farewell dinner comForte held for Dr. Michael Rossbach.

Michael has been a good friend of the community for many years and has been a strong advocate for user events ever since I began attending ITUG Summits and associated RUG meetings. He has stepped in numerous times to help out financially ensuring comForte always had a presence and over time, of course, this served him well as he saw comForte develop as one of the more influential partners within the NonStop vendor community.

The photo above was taken of Michael with his brother Knut on one of those occasions when we entertained clients at our home. At the time I snapped the photo I wasn’t sure what the topic was that they were discussing but it looked serious and that is one of the few times I have seen such intensity – Michael has always been a warm and friendly host whenever he has entertained guests and Margo and I wish him all the best for his retirement even as we will miss his presence at events like Boot Camp.

Networking of a different kind saw me participate on a small panel where the topic was services. Following the news from HPE that NonStop was now enjoying its second year of double-digit growth, a revelation to many of the attendees at Boot Camp, the topic of this panel session was how would companies manage to staff up to support the deployment of more NonStop systems as well as more applications on NonStop. Where was the knowledge going to come from as we entered a new era with virtual NonStop (vNonStop) capturing market share.

It is easy for HPE’s own IT to deploy vNonStop and to implement NonStop SQL on the basis of a new DBaaS offering – they had all the NonStop skills they would ever need just across the hall (or across the ocean) inside of the NonStop development team. But this is not the case for everyone else and coming at a time where there is a record number of retirements together with limited educational programs (and simply not offered in many regions) – how will access to skilled NonStop personnel grow in numbers commensurate with the double-digit growth in NonStop sales?

TCM Solutions led off the session with an aptly named presentation, Adapt or Die! A tad draconian for some tastes but it made the point that the audience agreed upon – there’s a compelling story behind the growth in companies providing managed services. TCM happens to be one such provider and they have found a willing market in Europe even as they plan on entering other regions, including North America. The questions that were directed my way during this session had mostly to do with whether or not there was a way to tap into the presence of a very knowledgeable and all together willing work force of retirees, all looking to continue to provide support. 

The shortest and simplest answer from me was to contact your nearest managed services vendor – something that the folks from TCM were only too willing to acknowledge. As enthusiastic as I am about another generation of NonStop supporters coming into the marketplace – something I acknowledged in a discussion I started in the LinkedIn group, Fools for NonStop simply called
NonStop "young guns" (If as yet you haven’t joined this LinkedIn group – you may want to consider doing so) I also have a great deal of respect for the knowledge and experience brought to the table by the retirees, many of whom did not really seek the opportunity to go fishing, but were persuaded with high payouts….

Managed services providers will see a major uptick in interest by NonStop users in the coming year and a half particularly as we see vNonStop making inroads into the data centers of the biggest NonStop users. However, existing solutions and middleware software vendors are already taking a serious look at either partnering with existing managed services providers or complementing their product offerings with Software-as-a-Service out of cloud computing environments they create.

One of the more compelling reasons to attend events like Boot Camp is to hear from other NonStop users who are deploying new solutions on NonStop. With double-digit growth, there has to be quite a number of them but even after hearing how well AsiaPac / Japan has done in terms of adding “new logos” it’s very important to hear from users a lot closer to home. OmniPayments supported two such presentations – Banco Agrario replaces Unix-based financial transaction switch with NonStop X solution which saw a new NonStop X system installed, and Casa Ley select new loyalty rewards program on HPE NonStop which excited me just as much.

Adding a second or third application onto an already installed NonStop systems is a healthy situation. As Craig Lawrance, VP New Business Development EMEA, OmniPayments, Inc., reminded me after the event, “End-user presentations created discussions which were hugely positive. To my way of thinking, every HPE field member should have been in that room after all, they want new Nonstop customers, right?” Following these user presentations OmniPayments hosted a late night “Nightcap” for attendees where they provided a live demo highlighting just how many transactions can flow through an OmniPayments switch.

According to OmniPayments VP Client Services, Jessica Nieves, “The NonStop System used for the demo was a NonStop X NS7 X1 featuring 6
quad-core CPUs. OmniPayments was configured to run in four of them while our simulators were configured to run on the other two. We sent over five million purchase transactions to OmniPayments and we exceeded 5,000tps. The CPUs were only running at half capacity while the average response time remained around 4ms. Shortly, there will be a video becoming available that describes this demo and I will let everyone know the moment that happens.”

Looking back at Boot Camp 2016 and at the presentations, panels and social events where I was present, they all reminded me of just how far NonStop has come in a very short span of time. The references here to comForte, TCM and OmniPayments are just a few examples from many that I could have featured when it comes to the variety of sessions that made up this event. I hope that as Boot Camp continues to grow, there will be many more I can reference in future posts.

Recalling the early days of Boot Camp going back to 2010 or was it 2009 when a NonStop-centered event was given a reboot, they were very humble beginnings indeed. And even as I wrap up this post, the final in the series on Boot Camp, I have to admit I am really looking forward to the return event which in 2017 will be held on Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco and I hope to see even more of you in attendance as that date rolls around!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

vNonStop – coming to a desktop near you!

NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2016 wrapped up a few days ago but with the start of a new week, it’s still very fresh in our minds. Did it meet all your expectations? Does the future of NonStop look bright for you? There are still many more questions but at least now we have so many more answers than ever before …

The NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2016 wrapped up last week and it left all attendees with much to think about. Not the least because attendance was, once again, up from the same event last year – more than 450 enthusiastic members from the NonStop community. And yes, there were plenty of NonStop users in the audience, which is a very healthy sign for all involved in organizing the event. My congratulations go out to every individual who in any way contributed to making sure the event went off without a hitch. More importantly, for those pondering the future of NonStop well, what can we say - the future now looks bright!

It was an easy drive for Margo and me this year – no sudden snowstorm in the Sierras and no road closures in the Rockies. We chose to take the northern route from Boulder, Colorado, that took us through Wyoming and then in to Utah and it proved easy going. It also gave us lots of time to speculate on what we might see and hear at the event as we drove westward to San Jose even as it gave us more than enough time on the return trip to Boulder to dissect what was actually said at the event. On the way over we were concerned whether it would be more of the same – generalities with soft dates but it didn’t go that way. On our way back it was more a case of now what! NonStop was staging a comeback unlike any of us had anticipated just a few short years ago.

Comeback? Seriously, NonStop re-energizing marketplaces? NonStop going virtual! NonStop inside the clouds! NonStop on the Edge! NonStop supporting Blockchain! There were moments during the event where Margo and I heard the very distinct sounds of an audience inhaling noticeably with surprise. As optimistic as I have been through the years – I’ve always been the “glass is half full” kind of guy when it comes to anything to do with NonStop – it’s clear that whatever restraints had been placed on NonStop have been well and truly cut. It’s now only up to the imagination of solutions vendors to find the boundaries of the new NonStop and even then, they will be hard to find. Just as importantly, it’s up to HPE marketing and sales to communicate a consistent message to the marketplace - #NonStopRocks!

Last year, it was all about Yuma and InfiniBand (IB) and the potential to couple NonStop with Linux in Hybrid Systems configurations, with just a side reference to the potential for NonStop to find a home as a guest of a virtual machine. Since then, Yuma has been productized as NSADI – NonStop Application Direct Interface – with middleware and solutions vendors openly discussing early adoption. One workshop, jointly conducted by comForte and DataExpress actually provided insights into what performance can be expected from using NSADI even as they openly admitted that there was even more work to be done before the real performance characteristics could be ascertained. When comparing IB to regular TCP/IP (over Ethernet and with CLIMs), the image that was presented was akin to comparing a multilane freeway with a well-paved two lane highway. Fill as many lanes as you can possibly do with IB and it looks as thought the performance scales linearly.

This year, it was all about virtualization and the likely impact of Industrial IoT (IIoT). These messages were introduced by Randy Meyer, VP & GM Mission Critical Systems at HPE, who began by quoting HPE CEO, Meg Whitman. "If you can't name the problem, you have no hope of fixing it," she said and something that was repeated in an article published late last year in Business Insider and even with its roots in organizational aspects of HPE it applies equally to product development. For the NonStop community this has particular relevance – and yes, there are always risks in taking the initiative – providing virtual NonStop (vNonStop) has its roots in real needs arising in the telco industry (who want to virtualize everything) but also in the very real needs of HPE IT.

The photo above is of two servers, each with two sockets housing Xeon x86 chips with 14 cores running OpenStack software, including the KVM hypervisor. Providing the fabric interconnect was a Converged Ethernet switch supported by RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). All off the shelf hardware and as you can tell, sitting atop a desk. The coffee cup beside the fully functioning vNonStop system gives you a good idea of just how much room these DL380 Gen 9 physical servers takes up and while a far cry from anything an enterprise might consider using in a production environment, just about every developer who saw the system wanted one to take home. Development, testing and QA as well as staging and piloting would all be good candidates for similar configurations and I fully anticipate such configurations entering the marketplace in the first half of calendar 2017.

Just as relevant and very timely was the keynote presentation given by former Tandem Computers leader, Dr. Tim Chou, who titled his presentation Precision Planet. Focused on IIoT, Tim walked the audience through the major transition from the Internet of People to the Internet of Things giving us all an appreciation that things aren’t people! Already there are more things connected than people and it’s only going to skew even more favorably for things versus people with the passage of time. “Things can be where people can’t (be)! Things have (way) more to say! Things can talk more frequently! Things can be programmed, people can’t!” And yes, Tim introduced us all to the prospect of a future with considerable “Digital Exhaust” and on the drive back to Boulder, never out of site of eighteen wheelers, this image of digital exhaust never left us.

Will there be a role for NonStop out on the edge? Will HPE provide Edgeline products capable of running NonStop? With the addition of new Edgeline products supporting Xeon and capitalizing on Moonshot packaging, we will soon adopt to IoT edge solutions that are both lightweight (buried in walls, etc.) as well as heavier weight servers spread throughout the network performing real time analytics. Of course, this plays well to the team at Striim and after meeting with Sami Akbay, EVP & Cofounder at WebAction, Inc. (the company behind Striim), “it’s really a different kind of analytics that’s taking place out at the edge – light or heavy – but one that the NonStop community should be very familiar with as it’s real time and transaction centric.” Perhaps those HPE solutions architects involved in very early stage consideration of NonStop on the Edge have something going for them after all!

Real breakthroughs with NonStop and more importantly, real breakthroughs in addressing customer problems – yes, we have plenty of business problems we could name and where NonStop could be a solution – provided plenty of material with which to work and as the week unfolded, I was able to post numerous times to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View. If you missed any of these posts, they have been summarized (with links to all of them) in a new post to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse. Check out: The week in review – a successful NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2016 or cut and past this link into your browser: For each of these posts I included words from songs current and past as it’s just something I tend to do – see if you make the same connection with these popular lyrics as I did.

As Boot Camp came to the last night, there was a Reception and Casino night held on what had been the exhibition floor. Suddenly transformed into a fun venue where attendees could pursue their favorite Casino game whether Roulette, Craps, or BlackJack trying their best to bluff their fellow gamblers, it provided a much needed lighthearted forum for further networking. All the while, it was hard to ignore that vNonStop system we all had seen running in the corner of the exhibition hall. There was no faking or bluffing going on here among the HPE NonStop team – this was the real deal and a completely new approach to supporting NonStop that has all the potential in the world to take NonStop in a completely new direction.

And of course, seeing it on the floor of the Reception and Casino venue, it would have been hard for any of the attendees not to think of the lines from the Bog Seeger song of the 1980s, Still the Same:

A gambler's share
The only risk that you would take
The only loss you could forsake
The only bluff you couldn't fake

At a time when there is news of Global Temperatures Are Mostly Fake and of Record Crushing Fraud From NOAA And NASA after reports of readings from non-existent sensors, covering half the planet, were revealed and a situation that “would get them fired and probably escorted out of the building by security at many engineering companies.” And yes, at the same time, news too came of Facebook having released Inflated Ad Metrics, Fake News at about the same time that the U.S. population began to suspect data may have been faked with election polls in the lead up to the election, it’s good to see that vNonStop hasn’t been faked in any way – getting HPE to show its hand may likely get you vNonStop on x86 servers in ways we could have only dreamed about just a short time ago. And yes, it may even be coming to a desktop near you very soon!

Monday, November 7, 2016

There’s power in networking; NonStop community does it better than most!

Even as we scan the agenda and sessions-at-a-glance for next week’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp, the opportunities for networking remain high on the list of priorities for most attendees. And for a good reason – networking is the cultural heart of the NonStop community and shouldn’t be missed! 

The first Saturday of each month sees a gathering of car enthusiast at our local coffee shop. What shows up on any given Saturday can be anything from a rusty 1950s coupe to a  fully restored 1960s muscle car to a couple of full-on race cars. The Corvettes depicted above are from a nearby racing school, appropriately enough called GO4IT, and they are regular attendees at our local race track, the High Plains Raceway. Seeing the crowd that gathered around these two cars was a reminder of how it takes very little to attract car enthusiasts even as it also reminded me that networking among car enthusiasts is ultimately the major draw card as ownership of many of the cars on show changes hands with some regularity. 

While presenting at CTUG last month I opened with a couple of slides featuring blog posts and online commentaries and invariably one of the posts in the collage that was projected included a picture of a car. When I attempted to apologize for yet another car photo the audience responded with a chuckle or two before someone responded with “we like to see the cars!” As it’s been a couple of posts since I featured any car I felt it was perhaps timely to do so as the focus of almost everyone in the NonStop community this week is the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp. If the sight of many cars can be the draw card for networking among car enthusiasts then there is no bigger draw card that attracts networking among the NonStop community than Boot Camp.

From its earliest days, Tandem Computers valued networking. In fact, the original Friday afternoon beer bust on the Tandem campus in Cupertino, California, originated as a means for everyone to engage in open dialogue, no matter where they stood on the corporate ladder. Jimmy could be seen talking to a developer even as Dave Rynne or Bob Marshall could be seen talking to someone from manufacturing. Coming from Australia, the first time I made it to Friday beer bust I instantly warmed up to the practice as Australians had enjoyed informal beer busts as a means of enhancing communication for quite a long time. To see it formalized the way it was at Tandem left everyone who ever participated with a very positive impression about the level to which Tandem would go to encourage all employees to network.

Over the years, the NonStop community too has integrated beer busts into the many user events that were held around the world and at this year’s Boot Camp, it comes as no surprise that first up, Sunday night, starting at 6:00 pm, there will be the official Boot Camp Kickoff Beer Bust that to many will be a priority. I can think of no better way to start networking than over a couple of beers, especially as it follows a number of very interesting pre-conference workshops.

Want to know who’s really been testing and leveraging the NonStop Application Direct Interface (NSADI that, as of last year, what had been previously called the Yuma project) then join the workshop starting at 3:00 pm. As for a workshop on security then take your pick as there are several workshops starting much earlier on Sunday, with the first kicking off at 8:00 am.

Sunday nights’ Beer Bust takes us back to a more laid-back, casual, atmosphere where the NonStop community can freely discuss projects and implementations as well as plans for further roll-out of new solutions featuring NonStop. Contrary to many technology pundits expectations, NonStop continues to roll and for good reason. The unique benefits of today’s NonStop systems remain unmatched by any other product offering and yes, it matters – availability matters; scale matters; performance matters; efficiency matters.

Attendees at any of the lead up regional events will have heard this message numerous times and it remains key to the success of NonStop. If you aren’t all that certain, head to the Sunday night Beer Bust and just ask anyone in attendance as they will make this value proposition abundantly clear.

Scrolling down through the agenda for Boot Camp, the first nights Beer Bust isn’t the only opportunity to network. Monday night features not one but two separate opportunities to network. At 5:00 pm all attendees can join the Boot Camp Reception hosted by many companies from the NonStop vendor community. Monday night too has been the time when, traditionally, vendors take selected users to dinner but having the option to network on a grander scale is definitely going to prove attractive to the NonStop community.

After all, as it’s so often said, you cannot have too much of a good thing, right? Fortunately, whether you have joined a vendor for dinner or socialized with other attendees at the Reception, as these events wind down there’s still one more important opportunity that will start up at 8:30 pm.

Proving popular last year, even though it was held in a reception room that was a little hard to find, there will again be the Final Nightcap of the Day hosted by OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash. This time the venue will be the Gold Room located in the main building of the Fairmont Hotel, where earlier in the day several of the sessions will have been held. And as of time of posting, there is late breaking news!

OmniPayments, Inc. CEO Yash will be putting on a demo of just how fast transactions can be processed on NonStop X - yes, a 4,000 tps demo. This is something I want to see and I am sure there will be many others interested in watching a payments solution process this many transactions per second. OmniPayments are headlining this demo as “OmniPayments and NSX - Thunder and Lighting 4,000 TPS Demo!”

Yash tells me that last year, the similar event ran past midnight and so I have the sense that, with an even more convenient venue, that duration may be surpassed. There’s never any shortage of NonStop users willing to share their stories as they network with their peers to find out what other NonStop users are doing to better support the enterprises where they work.

If you would like to catch up with Margo and me we will both be in attendance at the Final Nightcap of the Day and we would be only too pleased to catch up with you – Margo has volunteered to help out Connect and so many of you will likely run into her working on the registration desk so of course say Hi! and yes, by all means, let her know of how you are looking forward to any and all opportunities to network over the course of the event. Who knows, you may catch her sipping on an adult beverage somewhere in the Fairmont. As for me, well, I may be off in a corner somewhere as I will be providing routine updates on the event to the LinkedIn group, Real Time View, as this is something I have been doing for many years now – and if as yet you haven’t joined this LinkedIn group, check it out!

There will be so much attention given to sessions by executives and to product presentations by HPE and the many vendors participating even as there will be a number of user presentations as well. This attentions shouldn’t be downplayed in any way as this is central to the success of Boot Camp – it’s the place to really come to terms with all that is transpiring in the world of NonStop. With as many as six separate breakout sessions running in parallel for most of the three days, there will be a lot of time where the NonStop community is scattered throughout the conference floor of the hotel.

The exhibition hall will be a constant draw card, of course, and from memory, coffee and drinks will be served on the exhibition floor. So yes, there will be many smaller conversations taking place but when it comes to networking with our peers, this event has left no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring there is a forum that any attendee will find attractive and highly conducive to networking.

It may be a tradition for the NonStop community. It may not be as flashy as a cars and coffee show (as far as what’s on display) and yet, it may be far more productive. As a former Tandem Computers product manager and then, much later, Chairman of the ITUG board, I have witnessed first-hand several discoveries made at NonStop events as “eureka moments” took place.

NonStop has always prided itself on having a very proactive ecosystem of vendors and that’s very beneficial for every NonStop stakeholder and perhaps Beer Busts and the like aren’t to everyone’s taste even as there may be those harboring some angst over the possible political incorrectness of it all, but if you want to be sure to catch Margo and me at some point, head to any one of these social events as for sure, you will find us there. Yes, GO4IT! and see you all at Boot Camp next week!

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