Monday, November 27, 2017

Impressions from Madrid – all to be discovered shortly!

And it is all about to happen - only hours away from the official kick off of this years HPE Discover Madrid event and already, following a brief visit to the venue all I can say with all the chaos going on - it's huge!

This is just an opening paragraph or two as I settle into Madrid after Sunday’s flight – don’t plan on passing through Newark of an afternoon and expect to make connections. Expect delays and book your entry into Newark a flight or two before the one any airline suggests – yes, the eastern corridor from Philly to Boston is a mess as airport traffic controllers back up flight departures all the way to the west coast. Yes, then need a NonStop or two – and isn’t there a couple buried deep inside the FAA? Seem to recall signs posted on the old Tandem campus directing FAA folks to training sessions but I digress. I made it and have been involved in the pre-event in formalities even as I call it a day.

Been busy on social media channels already – seen the tweets, and posts to LinkedIn and Facebook?  And by the way, forgive the typing miscues as I still stumble when it comes to using my iPhone but what the heck, I am getting better with time. But the point is, HPE is doing a terrific job in bringing together what they are calling an “influencer program” – and yours truly is among this group of influencers. Some of the participants are already familiar faces based on previous HPE Discover events in Las Vegas but others are completely new to me so it should be a fun week.

The serious side of the event will be when Meg and Antonio take the stage tomorrow afternoon and it is hard to believe how much has changed since HPE Discover Las Vegas this past June. If you were a HP shareholder just 12 to 18 months ago, you have done extraordinarily well as you now are invested in four companies whose combined market capitalization exceeds that of former times. In case you missed the critiques about HPE from some sources, this just came out today and it may surprise many:

Congratulations to Meg Whitman for her fine work at HP - and creating so much value for shareholders! And kudos for following the advice I offered 6 years ago: Stop HP's horribly destructive M&A and spin-off its enterprise, services and software divisions. Indeed, the old HP broke into legacy HP Inc. (HPQ) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) as well as the spin mergers of its service and software divisions.
Including its spun-off software (($9 billion) and services ($14 billion), HPQ and HPE together have a market cap of $80 billion. In 2011, I calculated breaking up would give HP an aggregate $80 billion market cap, precisely where we are today. The parts were indeed worth quite a bit more than the whole - $47 billion more, in fact.

Subscribers to Seeking Alpha financial reports may recognize where this came from in response to HP Inc (HPQ) announcements of late. But returning to HPE – everyone in the NonStop community has wanted HPE to be profitable and focused and that is what we are now seeing. The results are still mixed even as I remain bullish on the blockchain program centered on NonStop and NS SQL/MX and working at the enterprise clearly much slower to realize but the changes to the organization are beginning to have an effect. Industry Analysts are now paying a little more attention to the product portfolio now under the oversight of HPE’s new enterprise group management team.

I am expecting to hear a lot more about all of this firsthand in a matter of a couple of hours’ time but for now, it’s still very much a waiting game as all around me, speculation whirls. What will take center stage in terms of new product and technology solutions? Will it be much ado about software-defined (which I think it will) or will it be about sending computers into space (which they have done) or even about the race to build even bigger high-performance computing systems … we will just have to wait and see!

In closing after a very long day - there will be familiar faces at this event just as there will be others I simply don’t recognize. However, the mere fact that HPE continues to go these lengths to keep the community informed is admirable and being part of the folks HPE believes can shift the needle somewhat, helping them get it into more positive territory is equally as admirable. Stay tuned as yes, not only do we have to wait and see but yes, we also can anticipate hearing so much more that is simply positive for the NonStop community.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What will I Discover in Madrid this time around with HPE?

Bags packed! Heading for the car in the morning! The trip to Madrid for the year-ending HPE Discover event is about to start and I will be providing commentaries and posts every opportunity I get … stay tuned for more news to follow!

It’s only been a week since we drove back from the NonStop Technical Boot Camp and even as I finished up a number of posts and commentaries and finalized submissions to a couple of publications,  I have just had to return to the wardrobe to repack for another week away from home. The photo above was taken just as the first keynote session was about to begin and as you can see, the event pulled quite a crowd. I don’t do anywhere near as much travelling as I once did when it wasn’t unusual for me to make it to Europe for an ITUG event in May only to see that I had already passed 100,000 miles. And yet, it’s hard not to have many of the emotions from that past life resurface and they don’t help; a time to relax in business class? Not quite! For me, it’s a return to the back of the bus, as even with the status I have reached with United I simply don’t fly enough for any benefits to kick in.

When it comes to social media outlets like Facebook, many of you probably are part of groups similar to mine and share many of the same friends and it likely hasn’t escaped you that so many of our friends still do the heavy lifting when it comes to promoting NonStop and related NonStop software solutions. Look at the updates coming from HPE VP & GM, Synergy, Blades and Mission Critical Systems, Randy Meyer, for instance, or Striim Cofounder and EVP, Sami Akbay. No kidding, they live at the airport and the conversations over adult beverages late into the night at Boot Camp only reinforced the message of just how many air miles those in sales accumulate in a year. However, this time I am extremely thankful no matter what class I happen to land or where I end up staying as I am a guest of HPE. You will not be hearing any complaints from me! To the contrary, I am truly excited to be heading to this final HPE Discover event of the year. I will be a part of the “independent blogging community” and designated an “influencer” even as I continue to be active in the HPE VIP Community. On the other hand, as someone who is passionate about NonStop and yes, Mission Critical Systems (MCS) too, it looks as though I will be the sole voice promoting all things NonStop within the blogging community so we will just have to wait and see how much visibility I can generate for NonStop.

NonStop continues to be a very special product line within the MCS portfolio. It doesn’t escape the NonStop community that the spotlight rarely falls on NonStop these days and in many ways that is a shame. For sure, it is a technology-heavy product that plays in a well-defined niche but in all other respects, how users can go about exploiting its capabilities today has very few limits. The world is now connected, always-on and users expect services to be available 24 X 7 – we are coming off Black Friday in the US and already articles are appearing highlighting lost revenue opportunities due to outages, with Macy’s being the latest to acknowledge a slow-down of their card processing systems. Ouch! HPE Discover is a showcase for the entire product portfolio on offer to enterprises worldwide and Madrid should be a place where we see a little more attention being given to NonStop. Even though I have just read that the weather forecast for Madrid is for rain (should I be surprised – the Rain in Spain, etc.), I am hoping for some sunshine radiating from NonStop!

Back in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, I visited Madrid numerous times as part of NonStop Product Marketing and then again, as part of NonStop Product Management. However, my best memory of all was when NonStop Director of Product Marketing, Chris Rooke, called me in my Cupertino office and asked if I could leave that evening for Madrid. NonStop was on the hook for a comms and networking presentation to a major bank and there were no resources on hand in EMEA to give the presentation so out the door I rushed and grabbed that flight to Madrid. Transiting though Heathrow, it was only on arrival in Madrid standing in front of the Spanish immigration booth that I was asked for my visa – as a “green card” holder living in the US I was still an Australian citizen and I had to have a visa to enter Spain. Again, ouch! Seems like the Heathrow folks should never have allowed me on that flight to Madrid!

Well, as the story goes, the local NonStop country manager called the airport police, vouched for me, after which I surrendered my passport to the airport authorities in exchange for a 24 hour pass. Needless to say, I was focused and after a very late nightcap with Chris who checked into the hotel around midnight, I found myself back in my Cupertino office a short 54 hours later. I attracted little sympathy from my Cupertino colleagues, needless to say, when I told them that I was a  little exhausted from being jerked all over Europe! In subsequent years I enjoyed a more leisurely time in Spain and made sure that for each trip I had the right paperwork, but now, as a freshly minted US citizen it has become a lot easier to take those journeys into Europe.

The NonStop community may yearn for more attention within HPE and long for the white-hot spotlight to be directed onto NonStop, the HPE product, but this past week, it really has been all about HPE, the company. There has been so much news coming from HPE in the lead up to HPE Discover that at times I simply haven’t had enough time to digest it all. One of the things I like to do is to review various financial filings coming from HPE so it was very early on that I saw the footnote about current HPE CEO Meg Whitman preparing to hand over the role of CEO to current President, Antonio Neri. As from February, 2018, HPE will have a new CEO and one who has a firm grasp on technology, and for many in the financial industry, this is cause for some renewed interest in HPE.

According to a report in Bloomberg last week,
HPE Returns to Techie Roots Naming Neri to Succeed Whitman they wrote of how,  “‘The next CEO of the company needs to be a deeper technologist, and that’s exactly what Antonio is,’ Whitman said Tuesday on a conference call discussing the succession plan.” Blomberg then reported how,  “The CEO position is a different job now than what it was when Whitman first took over, and will focus more on the operational aspects of the company, said David Heger, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co.  ‘They’re at a point now where they need a different skill set than what she offered,’ he said. ‘They’re finished with doing spinoffs and re-engineering, and now what they have left is what they’re going to focus on going forward.’”

I think it is safe to say that Bloomberg wasn’t the only publication to highlight this shift in focus from financial to technology nor were they shy about the importance of the timing. There is a real sense of urgency about correcting the course HPE has set to better compete with companies already dominating in markets where HPE once held sway. There continues to be a lot of nay-sayers when it comes to the future prospects of HPE and yet, the NonStop community knows full well that the availability, scalability and business continuity attributes inherent in NonStop quickly separates it from the rest of the server pack. In many ways, it is time for HPE to move on from Unix and even OpenVMS – the time for mourning is long over and it’s time to embrace the hybrid world of Linux, Windows and yes, NonStop! If it truly is good for HPE IT then it is good for the rest of IT, no matter the industry – financial services, retail, telco, manufacturing and distribution, healthcare and yes, travel. 

It hurt to read in a post published by the investor-centric publication, SeekingAlpha, Hewlett Packard Enterprise: A Company In Chaos. According to their reporters, “The unifying theme is clear: HPE operates a portfolio of legacy businesses, and while it can manage to hang on to customers in the near term, it doesn't have any definitive brand leadership or reputation for quality in the markets that can drive sustained growth in the longer term. Everything that HPE does, other companies also do - perhaps even better.” Really? No definitive brand leadership? No reputation for quality? Even as it reflects the consensus view among investors it makes light of just how good the technology coming from HPE of late truly is – just ask Randy Meyer about their latest High Performance Computing (HPC) offerings!

Yes, it is time to pass the baton to a technologist. Yes, it’s time to feature all that differentiates HPE’s product portfolio from those of others. And it’s time, too, to direct that white-hot spotlight onto NonStop (did someone say, blockchain?)! Participating in the final HPE Discover big-tent event of the year is certainly going to prove interesting as we get to hear even more from heir-apparent, Antonio Neri, but every bit as important will be the attention given to all that differentiates HPE from its competitors. And safe to say, I will be watching for just how many references are made of NonStop and in so doing, use the references to blog, comment and post to as many social media channels as I can. And with that, it is off to the airport for my longest trip of the year!   

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Foundations are never glamorous but when it comes to NonStop, they’re making a big difference!

A solid foundation is important for any structure erected on a site and when it comes to NonStop, the NonStop Technical Boot Camp keynote presentations highlighted just how strong a foundation NonStop systems have today …

Planning for travel across the western states of the U.S. can be a gamble at times – will it snow or will we be blessed with sunshine? Over the years we have encountered almost every conceivable weather condition on the route that takes us north into Wyoming before turning west to that beautiful city by the bay. This year, the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) was held by the airport so our drive to San Francisco would mean tackling not only multiple mountain summits, but also some of the worst traffic in all the country. Naturally enough, we have left behind more sporting modes of transport in preference for the much sturdier Jeep. 

The picture above was taken just as we were about to leave for TBC. As you will note, work has now begun on the new home of our soon to be neighbor’s house and it’s been quite a project to get to this point – there was something amiss with the soil where they were excavating that needed more attention than normal, but nothing can be built without a sound foundation. And as we watched the proceedings over the past couple of weeks, the work proceeded at a cautious pace, but now, even as the snow began to fall, we can better see what the foundations will be supporting; the formwork already suggesting the layout of the home even as contractors waited for the concrete to be poured.

However, in a sign of things to come, the presence of snow at the outset of our trip was a little unsettling and yet, the rest of the drive to San Francisco was trouble free. I always pack the Jeep prepared for the worst – bags of kitty litter in case we get caught in a drift; chains we had made for the Jeep’s rear tires, but in truth, if the snow is that bad that we are forced to fit chains then we head to the nearest hotel and wait for better weather. We pack a shovel, candles, lots of water and a variety of snacks, just in case. The candles? It’s quite amazing how much heat a single candle can provide should we slide off the road and into a gulch.

But again, nothing happened, but I am reluctant to tempt fate and leave any of these items behind. When it comes to IT and to NonStop, TBC proved to follow a similar pattern. Oftentimes, the discussions on social media sites suggest that bad things are about to happen and, that as a community, NonStop users need to prepare themselves for the worst, but not this year. Just a lot of good news about the company, about the NonStop development team and about the NonStop products put a real positive spin on the goings-on of the event.

Right from the outset, Randy Meyer, VP & GM of Synergy, Blades and Mission Critical Systems, gave us the good news about NonStop we always like to hear. While HPE never gives out details of specific products, when it came to NonStop, Randy enthusiastically reported that for the third year in a row, NonStop beat its numbers! 

I am often asked for just what these numbers are – and I have asked many HPE managers this question through the years, but to no avail – when I look at what they potentially could look like, I have to admit that I continue to come up with a big number that covers everything (the systems, the storage, the network and yes, the software) then I seem to be attracted to a number between half a billion and a billion with perhaps the needle leaning more in the direction of the billion dollars, U.S. And as for the installed base I think the community is now somewhere close to 400 global enterprise customers.

At its peak, around 1990 (or a little before), sales of everything passed the two billion dollar mark but that included Ungermann Bass and Atalla and perhaps the pre-"spin-off" of TSA Inc. which, much later, became ACI Worldwide with revenues that in 2016 topped a billion dollars!  As for the installed base of NonStop systems all those years ago, a figure of close on 2,000 global enterprise customers comes to mind …

But the numbers don’t really matter anymore! It’s the transaction volumes that continue to climb with one bank here stateside already processing more than a billion transactions a month according to the data being provided by one NonStop solutions vendor. And the numbers don’t really matter anymore as HPE is truly focused on “high-value business” and there were many former NonStop users who probably should have looked at alternate product offerings.

At one time, Tandem Computers had a huge footprint across the newspaper industry even as it had an equally large footprint in police stations, but today, it’s clear that the value proposition of NonStop proves most appealing to financial institutions, retailers and of course, telcos. Manufacturing and distribution and yes, even transportation continue to see a sprinkling of NonStop systems around the planet but as a general purpose, fault tolerant system, NonStop has been deployed in numbers that support it being viewed as a niche solution. Now, after reading this I am sure there will be a number of NonStop community members that will take me to task over all this and so yes, I encourage you all to post comments! Could prove very interesting reading.

Terms like high value and niche aren’t to be scoffed at. Oftentimes, niches can be “owned” by just a single vendor and when you look at the data provided by industry analysts such as IDC, when it comes to the very highest levels of availability, what IDC calls availability level four (AL4), then the only legitimate system seen up at the top of this pyramid is NonStop. Yes, we all know IBM can provide a Parallel Sysplex cluster of mainframes, but you would be hard-pressed to acknowledge it provides fault tolerance out of the box. However, returning to the numbers game one last time, the number of nines supported is meaningful and very important to those processing customer transactions, 24 X 7.

Just ask any eCommerce company about lost business every time they report an outage and even stock exchanges, once the bastion of NonStop, but long since a haven for inexpensive off-the-shelf servers havn’t seen the levels of availability they once enjoyed with NonStop and more often than not, make the evening news with stories about their latest crash! Or hack! Yes, NonStop supports seven nines and beyond – that’s just what it does!

All of this is by way of a backdrop or introduction to what transpired at Boot Camp. We saw a lot more of the framework surrounding the future of NonStop even as we witnessed a new foundation being laid for NonStop systems, whether traditional or virtual. It’s all about the L-Series and no longer about the boxes. It’s all about compatibility being maintained across any deployment of the L-Series version of the NonStop supported OS and accompanying integrated stack. It’s all about what the application sees and there is no difference at the application level whether you run on a NonStop X system or on the Converged Virtualized NonStop, of which we all got a “sneak peek”, or on hypervisors deployed on any commercially available off the shelf x86 server cluster! Cool!

Yes, you read this right it’s all about the L and for the rest of the industry, catching L as they attempt to enter the niche owned by NonStop. And supporting a growing proliferation of foundations and frameworks, there is nothing stopping NonStop becoming a formidable presence inside the hybrid IT data centers or further afield, supporting real time streaming analytics platforms as part of the intelligent edge.

The return drive to Colorado, well, that didn’t go quite so well with Wyoming closing Interstate 80 part way across because of high winds, drifting snow and icy roads. We had always planned on stopping the night partway across and our hotel just happened to be where the boom was dropped across the highway. The following morning proved a difficult test of drivers’ patience but we made it out of these conditions intact.

As I was focused on negotiating the trying conditions it occurred to me, NonStop has really emerged from some testing times. It is so much stronger and a lot better suited to today’ needs. Yes, it’s a high value solution as seen by HPE but it’s also a very high value proposition for all those enterprises looking to stay out of the nightly newscasts. This was perhaps the biggest impression that was made on the community – run NonStop your way from a vendor who can support you any way. And that just has to be the money number for all of us!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2017 – it’s all about to happen!

In 48 hours’ time we will be back out on the highways mixing it up with all the big rigs, trucks and SUVs and even though it takes us three days, there is no way we would miss the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, 2017, in San Francisco. Will we be seeing you there?

If by now you haven’t heard about the biggest event of the year for the NonStop community, then listen up! This is a big occasion and already the number of attendees is crossing the line and approaching a really good figure – not sure exactly what the final count will look like but I do know there are a lot of people really looking forward to this event kicking off in just a few days’ time. The move to San Francisco may be one factor, or simply because it’s a chance to head to sunny California where the real appeal lies. No matter, the chance to hear the NonStop team outline the next milestones for NonStop and to hear firsthand about recent successes in the marketplace by HPE along with the vendors providing solutions on NonStop, remain important catalysts driving continued interest in all things NonStop.

For the past couple of weeks I have been out on the road. Mixing it up with current and former Tandem and NonStop developers, sitting at tables with multiple vendors and yes, participating in webex and goto meeting calls, have made one thing very clear. Any doubts I may have had about the potential longevity of NonStop and any thoughts as to whether the best days of NonStop are behind it are incorrect and quite misleading. It’s always easy for competitors to downplay the significance of systems and platforms – just look at the angst being expressed among the IBM mainframe supporters of late. Not to make too fine a point of it, but for as long as I can remember, I have been questioned over my support for NonStop and as time has passed there have been days when I may have had my doubts. But no longer!

When driving America’s highways it is hard to miss the impact that trucks, SUVs and crossovers have had on the driving population. Trying to find a coupĂ© or even a sedan is proving harder to do as this niche market addresses those who rarely take their vehicles any further afield then their office. Or the airport! As for the humble station-wagon, fuggedaboutit! What is more surprising is that time and time again, there is only one person occupying the vehicle and while these automobiles are often filled with equipment or towing a trailer loaded with materials, it is still significant that the go-to vehicle of today is big, brawny and gas guzzling 4 X 4 whose owners expect to use them in many different roles. And so it appears to be happening within IT. No matter how we look at it, cloud computing deployed on-premise looks every bit as big as the largest systems we deployed back in the heyday of mainframes. Yes there are collections of industry standard servers but just take a look at the pictures used to illustrate the server farms supporting on-premise clouds and the racks of servers disappear far into the distance.

Point is, big is back and the distributed systems of just a few years ago are being pushed aside in favor of much larger configurations. Of course, we cannot ignore for one moment the huge uptick in volumes we are dealing with from our online networks, as everyone is connected. Everywhere! Nor can we ignore the waves of change heading our way as we begin to deal with IoT and the intelligent edge. The technology pendulum we know so well is swinging back to bigger centralized on-premise system complexes. Did we see this developing just a decade ago? As we turned the corner and entered this century, the populist thoughts were all on the network as the system where client / server computing prevailed. Certainly, aspects of what was talked about, all those years ago, remains but nothing really prepared us for the uptick in big systems that we see being deployed today.

When it comes to NonStop systems and where the NonStop community is headed, there is a developing wrinkle to this story. Consider NonStop Technical Boot Camp platinum sponsor, OmniPayments, who is happily populating their clouds with NonStop X systems. A very unique situation, but one worth watching all the same and yes, at TBC, I am sure we will hear from Yash about some of his recent successes originating from his ability to offer OmniPayments as a SaaS. But Yash is not alone. Already there are discussions at vendors as diverse as comForte, IR and even DataExpress about the value that might be realized in offering their products on the basis of IaaS / SaaS. In so doing, of course, adding the capability to support multiple enterprises can only be effective if they scale up their servers to meet the demands that could materialize.

Are we ditching our economy boxes? Are we retreating from our niche servers? The short answer is yes, we are. And it’s all about the value proposition of commercially available, off-the-shelf, hardware. As one source states, “Commercial off-the-shelf or commercially available off-the-shelf  (COTS) satisfy the needs of the purchasing organization, without the need to commission custom-made, or bespoke, solutions.” So yes, as one of my former bosses used to tell me, “The gigs up!” You either support COTS or you find another line of work. Really? Yes, really – in less than a decade, the NonStop systems we know so well will be relegated to museums even as virtualized NonStop permeates many enterprise clouds. Too dramatic – well, let’s just see. When TBC kicks off and we get past the opening keynote presentations, come visit me (I will be part of the Striim team, working the Striim booth in the Partner Pavilion, Booth # 52) and let’s have a coffee and talk about it. I think it will be hard to escape the inevitability of a substantial change in focus for NonStop development.

It is not so much a case of pursuing a path that takes us back to big general-purpose computers but rather the array of processes strung together in support of a cloud (or cloud-like) to provide more flexibility which allows enterprises to run pretty much everything they have needed in the past. COTS open the door to containers and virtual machines and whatever is your preference, you can fire up a configuration to suit even the most custom application you may have. In the same way we are headed to autonomous, driverless, if not totally boring but ubiquitous motoring experiences, so too we are headed to autonomous, operatorless (thanks to AI, machine learning and the like) and yes, ubiquitous computing experiences. Move some icons around a screen and Voila! There you have it – your computer provisioned just the way you like it …

Of course, none of this may take place in the immediate future and the market that NonStop serves so well today is notoriously slow-moving, but my reading of the tea leaves suggests it is inevitable. And I am happy to see that as niche markets, even those dominated by boutique players, eventually close down. Disappear! Giving NonStop wings to fly inside every cloud well – isn’t that a world we all have wanted to see for as long as NonStop has existed? The picture atop this post is of me in front of both an S-Series (note the Tandem badge) and an Itanium Blade system – the S-Series is pretty easy to identify but the older Blade system? Not so much; in the future, it will be next to impossible to locate where NonStop is running because the simple truth might very well be – it is running everywhere!

See you at TBC 2017 and safe travels!  

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

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