Tuesday, December 25, 2018

What did you do in this season of joy?

Australia is a big country offering many options – we need to talk to others before deciding where to go; isn’t this true also of how we deal with the new, bigger NonStop product offerings?

With as much time as we have spent these past few weeks in and around Sydney it seems we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to all that the city has to offer. Ask anyone what place or event is worth attending and the responses vary as widely as the landscape itself. Australia is truly “the big country” and if there are any Texans curious about the relative size of the states making up Australia, at 1,021,478 square miles Western Australia could be home to three and a half Texas size states. Even the state of Queensland could house two and a half Texas size states (and seven Great Britains, not to forget, five Japans). Making sure you see the best of Australia quickly becomes a head-scratching exercise for many visitors to its shores unfamiliar with the size of Australia. 

Determining where to go and setting priorities has always been the challenge for anyone visiting Australia for the first time. We have seen the shell-shocked look on the faces of many first-timers to Sydney as they begin to take in the scope of this magical harbor city. What I continue to be drawn to is just how well Sydney’s city fathers move to ensure the old blends with the new and even if it is just façade architecture, as it is most of the time, older buildings still hold their charm. The hotel we will be staying at the end of our Australian tour is relatively new, but it is very well integrated with the original post office retaining the charm of a past era.

I ended my last post with comments about the real challenge for NonStop and its meeting the rising demand to process transactions is where exactly NonStop systems of the future will be stationed – closer to the core or out on the edge? However, absent in this post was any reference to what real NonStop users were doing with NonStop today – what were their agendas and how enthusiastic were they about the path chosen by HPE for NonStop development. With as much focus as has been directed on HPE’s plans and to some extent, what the NonStop vendor community is doing, as the year winds down it’s a good time to look back at what is happening across the NonStop user community.

The agenda may have changed following the news from the NonStop Technical Boot Camp that the Nonstop i family was being phased out and that increasingly, it will become harder and harder to place orders for new i systems. Not entirely unexpected, but this will translate to a lot of deals being made in 2019 for NonStop X systems, so much so that the move to NonStop X will accelerate. Many enterprises are committed to purchasing only the latest systems on offer, so this decision by HPE to pull back from aggressively selling NonStop i systems is going to see many more NonStop users pivot towards NonStop X and the L-Series Operating System (OS) and stack.

Like those first-time visitors to Sydney looking at what others are choosing to do during their “3 perfect days” in the city, it is expected that there will be many NonStop users looking to see what others have been doing of late as they check out the steps they will need to take to migrate to NonStop and to the L-series OS. After the past couple of years of quietly pursuing migrations there are a number of vendors and users opening up to what they have done and of the number of orders for NonStop X systems and it’s L-Series sibling, virtualized NonStop (vNS), that have been placed. Did you catch the news at TBC of how NTI, for instance, has placed firm orders for multiple copies of vNS? Did you hear too of NTI’s plans to move quickly to create a virtual playing field for both vendors and users alike to check their own next steps into the world of virtualization?

One of the highlights, from my perspective, that came out of TBC was the news about just how many user presentations sponsored by OmniPayments were given. With powerhouse users like Visa, JCPenney and Evertec providing updates – and yes, I know with a certainty that JCPenney was all about NonStop X – there is no excuse really for not knowing what’s happening within the NonStop community. To read more of this, check out the post to the OmniPayments blog, OmniPayments covers a lot of ground at NonStop Technical Bootcamp; customers step up to talk about experience with OmniPayments! You may just be surprised by what you read and just like NTI, OmniPayments too is heavily committed to rolling out NonStop as a Service with its solutions available on the basis of SaaS via its OmniCloudX offerings. And in support of this, it’s NonStop X that holds center stage.

What is apparent here when it comes to what NonStop users are doing and what is determining the direction they take it has as much to do with partnerships as it has to do with products per se. The former reluctance of some very big middleware and even solutions vendors to put in the heavy lifting to support the Intel x86 architecture is now history with these products now supporting the L-Series. But as impressive as the many NonStop user presentations were at TBC, it’s still good to be able to read about migrations published as user case studies. Over the years, these have proved to be hard to come by as many enterprises are reluctant to put anything in writing that could be mistaken for a product endorsement and yet, when these case studies do appear they are worth their weight in gold.

Raymond James can best be described as a diversified financial services holding company with subsidiaries engaged in investment and financial planning, investment banking and asset management. This is how the Raymond James company describes itself in a case study talking about its migration from multiple Itanium-based NonStop System i systems to multiple x86 NonStop System X systems. “Stepping up from the two-dual core NB54016 systems and the one dual core NB54008 and bringing in to Raymond James two 10 CPU NS7 and two 4 CPU NS7 systems was a significant increase in performance,” noted (Raymond James’ Senior NonStop System Engineer John) Trizis.   

“Important for the business, on the other side, was how the data has been archived and purged: deleting archived data from seven years ago it’s being done by purging 100MBytes of data. When it comes to archiving today’s data we were talking terabytes, which is thousands times more than 7 years ago. Raymond James had to recalculate its storage needs not only for the present backups and archives, but also for the future. And again, this is where working with ETI-NET really helped.” This is how Raymond James described the work that had to be done as well as some of the challenges it faces when addressing its data needs now and for what they expect to see in the future as part of user case study just published and in the public domain.

“There wasn’t any hesitation on the part of ETI-NET to support us. Unlike other NonStop vendors we had worked in the past with who were slow to move their products to NonStop X, ETI-NET did the upgrade fast and efficiently. So we had no concerns whatsoever about the ability of ETI-NET to support us,” added Trizis. “Yes, we did look at other vendors in the NonStop space, but given our history with ETI-NET, we felt confident that staying with them was our best course of action.” All of this information including the quotes by Trizis is contained in a user case study that has been made public, but if you missed it, just email ETI-NET COO, Sylvain Tétreault, as he would be only too happy to get a copy of the user case study into your hands.

These references to user presentations given at events and user case studies appearing in the media are important reinforcements of the success and indeed the enthusiasm and passion that are hard to hide. NonStop migrations will be a big deal in 2019 but it’s good to see as many enterprises as there are referenced here that are willing to talk about their experiences with migrations and the professional assistance they are getting from their partners. It’s always a good sign for any community that its users are willing to talk and I am anticipating that we will see more such case studies appearing as 2019 gets under way. And we should all be encouraged to see this move to publish and we should all be quick to ensure our management is seeing the referenceable material as it appears in various media.

As we fine-tune our own agendas for NonStop even as we continue to enjoy this joyous holiday season where celebrations dominate our conversations, let’s be sure we keep our eyes open to what our colleagues are doing when it comes to moving up to NonStop X. There should be no excuses out there when it comes to knowing what is going on, so let’s get in front of any conversations within our own enterprises. Yes, NonStop continues to add value for mission critical transaction processing even as it has few peers when it comes to executing 24 x 7 – and let’s keep the season of joy rolling in 2019 as we make the big moves to NonStop X!  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

ATMs - going the way of FAX machines: Maybe? Maybe, not!

The ubiquitous ATM has been around a very long time but it is morphing to better serve the changing needs of its users. What’s not changing is the rise in transaction volumes from ATMs and equivalents and this is good news for NonStop!

There is so much about Sydney’s shopping and banking scene that continues to raise an eyebrow or two, especially for those stalwart Aussies who just happen to have been out of the country for an extended period of time.  There has been so much published in the local press about the shameful pursuit of business by all the major banks, with a Royal Commission set up to examine business practices that today have found bank executives wanting when it comes to integrity and honesty. The axe has fallen on some of them even as others have taken extended leave over the holiday season. However, moving past the flamboyant headlines there is so much that is taking place with banking that it’s no exaggeration to say that more mature markets like the U.S. seem hopelessly behind the times.

One example worth referencing is the Opal card – a single method payment for all state-run transportation, whether that involves a train, a bus or a ferry. It’s a tap-and-go implementation with the ability to register the card and have it automatically topped up from you credit card. But more importantly, and Margo and I have come to appreciate it in the time we have been in Sydney, it is supported by a very flexible pricing model. You use the card and in time, fare prices drop. You stop at one railway station to pick up a magazine and when you return for further legs by train, you find out that it’s all just an extension of your original trip. Use a whole lot of money early in the week and by mid-week, the price you are charged drops dramatically. Switch from ferry to train and again, it’s just a continuation of the original trip.

And this is important in a place like Sydney which is fundamentally being ripped apart as its infrastructure is significantly updated. Forget Elon Musk and his “boring company”. The sandstone plateau on which Sydney is built is being riddled with tunnels for trains, light rail and freeways / toll roads. So much so that it brings to mind that quote attributed to someone or other and understood to be a reference to Paris in that Sydney too will be great when it’s finished!

On the other hand, as once former banking head offices become homes to fashion shops and around the Central Business District (CBD) insurance head offices become hotel / apartment towers, the changes taking place across Sydney reflects a repurposing of the city as its urbanization continues To this end, the “city dwellers” concept is something new for most Australians and the services they need and the timeliness of delivery of any such service is accelerating to where it’s now a city of walk-up, press the buttons and all impulses are satisfied immediately. No time to waste, naturally enough!

There is no escaping the presence of the changes occurring at the bank branch office. Gone are the branch-wide counters separating bank staff from their customers. Gone too are any of the traditional trappings of banking as we knew it just a short time ago. The humble ATM is being transformed to where it has become a de-facto branch teller, where every manner of transaction is supported. In-wall terminals tailored to support specific functions, including the handling of coins, the processing of even the smallest of merchant’s needs such as the local convenience store, and every imaginable combination of accounts management are visible everywhere.

The customer, fresh from the supermarket, is at ease interacting with these devices just as they are ordering MacDonalds from a free-standing terminal or interacting with the self-checkout terminals on departure from the supermarket. And yes, wheeling their trolleys “next door” to the bank seems to be a logical next step in shoppers’ deliberations along the shopping byways within the city.

Recently I was told by one banking industry insider that the humble ATM was headed to the same destination as FAX machines – nothing more than a footnote on the technology roadmap of once-loved devices. However, the more time I wonder the streets of Sydney, the more I think such pundits may be missing the point – ATMs too, like their patrons, are evolving. What was once a priority when all that was needed was cash is now secondary to the need to self-manage our accounts moving money to where interest earned is best even as we cover expenditures incurred with the transfer of value, be that the purchase of a melon, a watch or an airline ticket.

ATMs are nothing more than touch points that we are finding useful when there is more involved than simply banging away at keys on our mobile phone. Yes, mobile phones are changing the way we interact with banks and other financial institutions but trying to absorb information from multiple accounts and the options on offer for each of them as we struggle with groceries while surrounded by society at large is not the preferred choice of many bank customers.

One outcome from all of this – we all are doing banking on an almost daily basis. Our daily interaction with financial institutions has grown significantly over the past couple of years. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the Global Financial Crisis of a decade or so ago where we just don’t want to be caught out. Perhaps it’s even a byproduct of our heightened interest in managing our retirement accounts given how so many countries have thrown the responsibility back into our own laps. Perhaps too it’s simply that technology has made us want to stay on top of things we view as important and maybe knowing our true financial position on a daily basis is important to us. Bottom line though is the number of transactions everyone is doing is on the rise and for the NonStop user, this is important as NonStop’s presence on the front lines of transaction processing will only become greater with time.

There will always be new approaches to banking developed, all aimed at ensuring we stay plugged into our favorite banks network even as we continue to give them our money (for safe keeping). While in Sydney I heard all about the efforts Aussie bank Westpac is putting into wearables as it unveiled a new ‘PayWear’ wearable payment accessories. Don’t carry your wallet – wear it! Or, so the tag lines go. “Westpac customers will soon be able to tap-and-pay hands-free with the waterproof and battery-free wearable, which includes a silicone band and a ‘keeper’ that can be easily attached to an existing watch or fitness band.” So not only is the ATM looking like it will share the same fate as the FAX machine but perhaps so too will the mobile phone as a platform for interacting with financial institutions, but then again, are we truly looking at the end of the ATM product lifecycle?

Just like Sydney’s ever-changing infrastructure projects, today’s networks and terminals on which we rely almost daily will continue to evolve. Our choice of device for such interactions will be always one of individual preference and it is being driven by the functionality supported. With such payment instruments as the Opal card, Sydney-siders are getting used to not needing as much cash as they once carried even as cash is still in wide circulation – having discarded the one and two cent coins, is the five cent coin following a similar trajectory and facing extinction?  It’s not all that difficult to imagine, even the Opal card being one more supported payment method may integrate with our wearable. Point is, irrespective of where it’s all heading, transactions demand processing and NonStop still reigns supreme when it comes to true 24 X 7 support for mission critical applications.

At one time, NonStop supported FAX machines and may still do so in some markets  and the breadth of communications protocols and services NonStop has been able to support through the years is a clear indication that nothing new in this regard fazes the NonStop development team. I am thinking that ATMs being just automation in one guise or another will be with us for many years to come. It will parallel developments of mobile devices including wearables and it will continue to evolve to include tighter integration with POS and with Kiosks and yes, every possible instrument supporting gambling of every type. If there is one last observation to be made about Sydney-siders it’s the love of having just a little flutter on the horses as the recent Melbourne Cup illustrated so well.

As a community, the real challenge for NonStop and its meeting the rising demand to process transactions is where exactly NonStop systems of the future will be stationed – closer to the core or out on the edge? Should the requirement of NonStop be its data base then an argument can be made for NonStop to be closer to the core but when it comes to transaction processing, the future will likely see NonStop running virtualized on commodity hardware out at the very edge. This makes all the recent moves taken by the NonStop development team make even more sense as there really will not be any restriction as to on what platform NonStop will be deployed out at the edge.

A completely new age for NonStop just maybe around the corner and who knows; every financial institution may have NonStop everywhere financial transactions are captured and wouldn’t that make heads turn across the IT landscape. Possible? I believe we are much closer to achieving this than you may think. Happy holidays; and keep those transactions coming! 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Memories; celebrations and yes, winning! NonStop has it all and much more …

Every time we approach the end of the year there are lots of opportunities to look back at all that took place and 2018 is proving to be a bumper year for those who follow NonStop!

Having spent several weeks in Australia and now New Zealand as well, there is much to be said about the great “Aussie Lifestyle.” It’s a lot different from living in the U.S and it’s a lot different from living in Europe. And yet, there are elements of both continents visible everywhere you turn. There are still Starbucks coffee shops and there are more than a handful of places happily selling donuts. There are plenty of stores specializing in Mediterranean foods as well as some of the best Thai food places in the world just happen to be in Sydney. Walking into a Belgium pub in Wellington, New Zealand, that sold magnificent muscles in a lightly-curried sauce was something Margo and I will remember for quite some time.

However, the events of the past couple of weeks are already beginning to fade from memory. As we begin the fourth phase of our five-phases-stay in the Antipodes, we are once again heads down working out of our Sydney office, courtesy of my brother Greg, where you will be able to find us right up until New Year’s Day. Looking at the picture above of Margo with both Sydney ferry boats as well as giant cruise ships framed in the window behind her only further highlights how these memories past, current and future will all be behind us just that very soon; memories!

But the good news, we are now looking forward to the next couple of weeks as there will be even more to celebrate. One of the big enticements for hanging around Sydney was the opportunity afforded by Greg to see Sydney’s’ famous New Year’s Eve fireworks from the deck of a Sydney harbor dinner cruise ship and that will be something to see. And yes, the source of even more memories!

As we head towards the final weeks of the year, how many of us are revisiting milestones of 2018? And how many of us are already looking ahead to 2019 and wondering just how big a community NonStop will become. Yes, there are more ways to run NonStop than ever before, but how will all of these new options be received by the industry? Just how well will they be received within HPE?

When you consider just how well executed this year’s GTUG event was and for those who attended HPE Discover 2018, Las Vegas, how diverse the HPE product portfolio has become, not forgetting either how this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp was so well supported by the HPE NonStop team you can’t help but notice that HPE is upping its investment in all things NonStop.

HPE IT is now running a sizeable chunk of its business on NonStop. HPE elected to introduce its first commercial blockchain product on NonStop. HPE elected to go with Nonstop (over OpenVMS and HP-UX) in ports to x86 and just a short time later, support for virtual machines. There is “smoke,” too, surrounding projects to have NonStop supported by Synergy as well as a virtualized NonStop running on chips more likely to be found out on the edge. Is it enough to suggest that there is more than a few fires already having been lit. If you think NonStop investments are winding down then think again! The question however remains; will the bigger HPE begin take notice of NonStop? Will there be more marketing support for NonStop?

When questioned, NonStop Product Management openly talked about the steps being taken to elevate the role NonStop is playing within HPE IT. To this end, there was a keynote presentation on this topic given at this year’s TBC. “Whether the field is paying attention to NonStop, which I am hoping that they do,” said one source within NonStop Product Management, “any previous wavering about the future of NonStop should be quickly dispelled as the field hears more about NonStop inside of HPE!”

Yes, “eating your own dog food” has always been one metric used to determine the future for any IT product in the past, so obviously, like many within the NonStop community, fingers are crossed at this time as we all look to seeing more support of NonStop coming from our friendly HPE field offices.
The mood, too, is changing within the NonStop user community. I have just completed an interview with one large NonStop user in the financial services industry. The surprising factor here is that NonStop isn’t deployed as an adjunct to other systems deployed – it is the main system upon which the rest of the business relies to stay in business and to face-down its opponents in a highly competitive market. “As long as HPE is selling NonStop systems,” said this NonStop user, “we will by buying NonStop!” Of course I was happy to be involved in this project and even happier to see the NonStop user’s management sign-off on the completed work.

Entering 2019 I am looking forward to interviewing even more NonStop users and perhaps I will have the opportunity to update an opinion paper I wrote for HPE Product marketing many years ago – do you remember reading this update:

That was five years ago and even as HPE executives, including our own Randy Meyer, talk about new deployments more than a handful of those included in this opinion paper of 2014 continue to rely on NonStop. As I take a fresh look at the NonStop user community this coming Spring, expect to hear more about this project as I begin pulling together the references I will need to make this a little fresher and a tad more relevant for today’s NonStop users. Hopefully, I will be able to reference early virtualized NonStop (vNS) users as well as a handful of NonStop vendors offering NSaaS.

My upbeat outlook on NonStop and my enthusiasm for refreshing this paper has come about as the submissions to the upcoming December issue of NonStop Insider began arriving in earnest this past week. Should be a good issue with more than a couple of submissions designed to get us thinking more about NonStop, HPE and even Silicon Valley in the coming year. What struck me were the submissions to do with NonStop users, the increased number of NonStop user presentations at TBC and a couple of quotes by users themselves included in this December issue.

Point is, in the December issue of NonStop Insider you will see more people talking about new undertakings involving NonStop than I have seen openly talked about in quite a long time. Does this mean there will be the uptick in NonStop users I have been anticipating for some time? Does this translate to there being a broader marketplace for NonStop than has been traditionally considered the home of NonStop – Finance and Telco?

The mood within the NonStop community may be changing even as our memories of Tandem and the systems we once relied upon fade even further from memory. Even as we may find ourselves reflecting on what was Tandem and yes, NonStop decades ago, the good news here is that we can turn around and view the most modern, fastest, biggest NonStop systems ever created. We can also view a NonStop presence even when sighting the hardware is difficult to do. And with the increased focus on a network of managed service providers ready and willing (and yes, supported by the HPE NonStop team) gaining wider attention within the NonStop community, we can view more applications running on that most important release of NonStop ever: the L-Series OS and stack!

What makes the Australian and New Zealand landscape so different from what we are used to seeing in the northern hemisphere is not so much them having quaint, slightly “behind the times,” a lot more friendlier  disposition, but rather their willingness to  try new things and to carve an identity all their own. Don’t get me wrong as there is no fiercer rivalry than there is between Australia and New Zealand and given the disparity in population size, it still ticks off many Australians that so many shared competitions are “owned by those darn Kiwis!” It was only a short time ago when these very same Kiwis complained to me of how they had to buy more shelves to hold their “saucers” as the Aussies had all the “cups!”

Of course, NonStop isn’t about winning on a playing field but there is no hiding the competitive nature of everyone in the NonStop community. On the other hand, as a community we all want to be seen as being associated with a winning platform. A platform with a very strong future and one that we are only too happy to talk about at events worldwide! There are times naturally enough when you think time isn’t on the side of NonStop and almost magically, the NonStop team pulls an entirely new product out of its hat.

A product that assures NonStop’s future for another decade. NonStop in one form or another may fade from memory but on the other hand, the root cause is that there is something even better to focus on. Aren’t you glad you are now on the winning team and aren’t you pleased to be around people committed to NonStop?  With that, I wish you all the very best for the year that is coming to a close even as I along with most of the NonStop community, look forward to celebrating the arrival of a new year! 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Are you being served? Services for NonStop take the spotlight!

A short stroll past bank branch offices in New Zealand had me thinking about the role of services in support of NonStop systems and in NonStop migrations …

This past week it’s been all about working from a unique location. Yes, for a couple of days we have been all at sea, so as to speak. With the need to be in Auckland for a couple of days followed by a day in Wellington, Margo worked out that we could sail to NZ, stop by both places and then return to Sydney. We also threw in a visit with former Connect board member, Alan Dick, who even today continues to work on issues of advocacy with long time NonStop supporters Bill Highleyman and Bill Honaker as well as with another strong advocate for NonStop, Randall Becker. We spent a leisurely day with Alan whose tenure with the board dates back to the time when ITUG elected to participate in the creation of the Connect worldwide community. Indeed, at the time Margo was Vice President Alan was there to offer wise council during the period of significant upheaval for the group.

While the trip across the Tasman had a distinct business focus – and yes, we were able to compare the service offerings of both Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) and ANZ – each evening we found ways to unwind and to simply kick-back and enjoy the ever changing seascape. I will be covering the topic shortly in a separate blog for the financial services industry, but to walk into a “branch office” of BNZ where it was all self-service supported by a wide array of function-specific devices, was quite intimidating for first-time users even as it was an insight as to where bank branch offices may be headed. On the other hand, ANZ was a “galley style” branch office with a mix of tellers and self-service devices on one side and cubes manned by ANZ staff down the other side.

One initial observation however had Margo and I discussing all of this and that was the need to be patient. Silly as it may sound, when it came to interacting with the self-service devices, it paid to read all the instructions and not to rely solely on the intuition. Watching other banking customers of our generation – yes, the baby-boomers – it was apparent that there was a high degree of discomfort when it came to interacting with machines, to the point where those at the ANZ branch were a completely different demographic to what we observed inside the BNZ. When I looked a little deeper into this phenomenon, it was borne out by observations of others – where one generation prefers to talk with banking staff, another generation simply wants to be left alone.

Our trip across the Tasman was on the latest addition to the Princess cruise fleet – the Majestic Princess. At 19 decks high with gross tonnage over 140,000 tons (and yes, gross tonnage is a nonlinear measure of a ship's overall internal volume and has nothing to do with weight) it had on board 3,500 passengers together with about 1,500 crew collectively sharing 11 bars and lounges. Two days into the sail to Auckland we passed a P&O vessel that had left Sydney much sooner than we had so with all of its size, the Majestic Princess is not only a smooth sailor, but fast! On the other hand, life on board such a leviathan gave me ample time to write as the WiFi network was pretty good even if the login / logout protocols were a tad complex – again, I had missed reading through all of the instructions to see many “free minutes” wasted. Ahhh! Next time …

While all at sea, news began trickling in following the recent NonStop Technical 
Boot Camp (TBC) event. In my previous post I wrote about a number of topics as the event was under way. In one respect, not much new was announced other than perhaps the departure shortly of longtime NonStop stalwart, Randy Meyer. On the other hand, it is clear now that the NonStop team is consolidating its position in the marketplace and by this I mean it is very much focused on getting the NonStop community across to the L-Series operating system. Whether it’s upgrading to the NonStop X systems or trialing the new virtualized NonStop (vNS) either with the new NS2 package or by itself on independently sourced hardware,  the focus of the NonStop team is on working through 2019 to ensure the NonStop base is all smooth sailing with L-Series!

Part of this new vision has to do with ending future sales of the NonStop i family of servers. Another part has to do with broadening the availability of capacity on demand (or NonStop Dynamic Capacity, as the NonStop team prefers to call it) so that it wasn’t just for NS2 but for NonStop X as well; in this case, limited to just the bigger NS7 models. All this is to ensure baby steps can be taken when it comes to testing and then migrating to NonStop X. All sound decisions made by HPE and recognition of the risk-averse approach as demonstrated by the majority of NonStop users through the years.

However, there was another very important step taken by the NonStop team and that had to do with providing support for those users who may lack today all the skills needed to do a migration to L-Series. Services gained more attention this year at TBC than I can recall hearing at past events and for good reason – while the ATC was beneficial to many NonStop vendors with regards to validating the middleware and solutions it was never going to be in a position to scale up to handle all of the NonStop user community.

However, services come in two parts – offering your solution as a service as well as providing access to skilled service providers capable of helping  NonStop users through any migration to L-Series. Among my current clients  there are those NonStop vendors who have moved well down the path to providing solutions as a service. A lot more will be written about these early adopters in the coming months, but for now it’s important for the NonStop community to understand that the messages coming from the NonStop team aren’t hollow wishes about what might happen. And then there are the legitimate managed services providers operating in different regions as there is a firm plan by the NonStop team to partner with them as well.

Much was said about the help at hand from the Pointnext organization, formerly Technology Services. With a focus on Hybrid IT and the Edge, there are a lot of skilled technicians on hand, but even so, not enough to cover the NonStop community as a whole. Even with help from the current NonStop Solutions, Technology and Business Analysts currently supporting the NonStop sales organization, there is only so much that can be done. In case you missed it at TBC it’s going to be the NonStop team partnering with a number of managed service providers and from whichever way you look at this pursuit, it is good news for everyone that is involved.

As was often said by actors in the BBC comedy, “Are You Being Served?” when it comes to these managed services vendors, then yes, “I am free (to serve)!” No suggestion here that such services will be free of charge, of course, and the reference here is simply directed at shop assistants who may be available. Point is, by partnering with a much larger community of managed services providers, the NonStop team too can ask a similar question – are you being served? Can we help? And, most importantly, we have you covered!

Being all at sea and looking forward to being back in Sydney shortly, there is ample time to look around. Comparing a trip across the Tasman Sea in this vessel to when I first journeyed abroad by boat (back in 1973), it was a time when the full impact of the world’s first oil crises was having an effect on all forms of travel. This enormous Princess ship is travelling three times as fast as did the P&O Himalaya – 22+ knots versus 7 to 8 knots. Couldn’t help comparing this to when we were all excited to be processing on the NonStop Himalaya “K-Series” systems. Of course, we now process at much more than three times the speed of the K-Series but the image still has merit. Not only are the new ships faster but the volumes being dealt with are considerably larger as well – 5,000 today versus 1,250 (500 crew). Volume and Velocity, once again come to mind but of that a lot more can be written. 

Suffice to say, ships have little to do with Moore’s Law and yet, they are part of the Intelligent Edge when you think about it and as such, the amount of data being generated across a single week is enormous. It is this escalation in data – particularly data needed by today’s mission critical systems – that bodes well for NonStop’s future. If one thing has come from all that was covered at this year’s TBC is that there is a future for NonStop that is clearly supported by product roadmaps stretching out for a very long time.  You need blockchain / distributed ledger technology? You want NS SQL as a service? You want more temporary capacity? You want to mix traditional with virtual machines under the management of just one OS? With the spotlight turning towards the services sector shining brightly on many well-known NonStop partners, the strategy is clear – getting to L-Series is imperative and with that, future TBC events will all be focused on just how well you are being served.      

Monday, November 19, 2018

The fading lights of shore – we are all at sea?

On looking back to all that transpired at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp, there was much to excite the NonStop community …

Seems more than appropriate to kick of this latest post with observations about shorelines that recede and lights that dim. We have just pulled out of Sydney’s Circular Quay as we start a very brief long-weekend voyage to Tasmania. I have written about Australia’s southernmost state on more than one occasion, but one sight has always intrigued me – Port Arthur. It was the extreme final destination for those Australia’s convicts who misbehaved in Sydney cove to such an extent that they had to be expelled from the more civilized penal colony along Sydney’s shores.

As for the voyage itself it will follow almost the same course as the yacht fleet that will depart Sydney on Boxing Day (December 26) to race down Australia’s eastern coastline, across the Tasman Sea and up the Derwent River to Hobart. The Sydney to Hobart yacht race is one of the premier yachting events on the blue water racing calendar and the fleet’s departure is among the great water spectacles of all time. I have watched the start of this race only once before (1974) and raced down the coast, but only as far as Flinders’ Island so I always have more than a passing interest in this famous race each year. Some may argue that there are better tests of man versus the open ocean and the classic Fastnet race covering a similar distance may offer a similar challenge, but for me, there is nothing quite like the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race for good old fashioned theater, full of drama and suspense.

With the smell of salt air strong on the breeze, stories of sailors and their battles with the sea and with the lights of Sydney fading in the distance, it’s appropriate that my thoughts turn to NonStop. It’s as if we are letting the old NonStop go as we begin a new adventure with a NonStop offering so much more than we could have imagined just a short time ago. Gone are the ties to the hardware that dominated the NonStop roadmaps for decades and indeed gone too are the ties to any hardware at all! All eyes are now firmly looking ahead as the full extent of the capability that comes with the L-Series operating system taking hold. Yes, it’s a brave new world we are entering and the lights that are diming behind us may be soon forgotten by a new generation of NonStop developers.

HPE NonStop held its NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC), an event that by any other name still smells like an ITUG Summit of times past. All the key elements were present – HPE NonStop executives and managers, a strong NonStop vendor community supporting an exhibition hall and a sizable number of NonStop users. Was the count accurate? One email I received as the event unfolded suggested there were one hundred first time attendees! If this turns out to be accurate then that is a very positive sign for the NonStop community as, after all, not only are NonStop systems transforming but the NonStop community is also going through a transformation – just look at the Under 40 SIG activities! Who could have guessed NonStop was attracting a next generation of supporters.

Among the many highlights of TBC, it would be hard not to begin with the breaking news that after so many years of commitment to all things NonStop, we have to finally say good-bye to Randy Meyer. While I am not sure of the exact timing as I think Randy arrived at NonStop after I had left NonStop Product Management for Insession, it does seem that Randy has been associated with NonStop like, forever! He has assured the community that he will be present for a little while longer to ensure handover goes smoothly and who will he be handing the controls of the NonStop organization to? Well, not unexpectedly, Jeff Kyle.  As a community we should all be thankful for the stewardship of NonStop by Randy for so many years as there had to be many times when Randy could have called time on NonStop by simply saying, it’s time!

In front of more than 400 members of the NonStop community, three announcements struck a chord with all those in attendance. Perhaps most importantly of all – and yes, strongly rumored to be a possibility for some time now – the lights will be finally going out for the NonStop i family of systems together with the J-Series OS. Orders for both the 2300 / 2400 racks will be accepted only through to October 2019 while the more powerful 56000 blades can only be ordered through July 2020. Yes, finally the inventory of Itanium chips looks to be thinning to where supply chains are simply drying up. Not surprisingly, really, as they have been around for quite a while. But what this means that NonStop i is no longer strategic in any sense of the word and enterprises need to begin planning for the replacement of existing NonStop i systems with the latest products on offer from the NonStop team.

No worries about supporting the NonStop i systems already in place, as existing practices of HPE will be maintained. That is, the HPE NonStop team will be providing support for the hardware for an additional five years beyond the sales deadlines. So in all actuality, there will be close to seven years of NonStop i systems driving mission critical solutions before they bid farewell to our data centers. On the other hand, NonStop supporting the Intel x86 architecture means that NonStop not only will ride the Intel x86 architecture roadmaps for a very long time but just as importantly, all the new stuff NonStop users want from NonStop development will only be found in the L-Series OS. And clearly, the NonStop we are sailing towards is going to take many forms and in so doing, find new homes in lots of new places.

However, before getting too deep into discussions about the many bays and ports that will become likely candidates for harboring future NonStop systems, there were two additional items covered at TBC worth mentioning. Yes, the just-delivered NS2 systems – the virtualized NonStop reference architecture systems as I like to view them – will be delivered with the newer Gen10 ProLiant processors a development not entirely unexpected by the community following numerous HPE presentations about Gen10 ProLiant at events where members of the NonStop community had been present. Currently, NS2 ships with Gen9 ProLiant servers. Not surprisingly, Intel is doing a lot more with HPE to the benefit of the NonStop community and I am pleased to see that taking place as Intel continues to set the pace when it comes to processors.

However, what may prove more interesting to the NonStop community is the extension of NonStop Dynamic Capacity (NSDC) beyond the just-delivered NS2 to include the largest member of the NonStop X family. This capability is now available for the NS7 – move from 2 cores per CPU to 4 cores (and yes, from 4 cores to 6 given how “the NonStop OS is fully aware of, and can make automatic use of up to 6 cores”) - “with a single command; no application outage to go up or down in cores!”

In so doing, enterprises with NS7 systems deployed can increase capacity for temporary peak workload periods for just one day or even a whole month! Black Friday or Mothers’ Day causing problems? No worries! If the month of December is always a horror stretch for many in IT, then again, no worries! If you want more capacity for longer periods then perhaps you need to upgrade your system as this is just the equivalent to Indy cars “push to pass” buttons reserved for use only on special occasions.

With the lights of the NonStop i family of systems fading in the distance and more capabilities being delivered for those systems where the L-Series is deployed – that is, traditional and virtualized – the NonStop team also announced that there will be support to help all enterprises migrate to L-Series. This will come from many sources with HPE Pointnext very much in the equation as will NonStop solutions architects, many of whom we know all too well. But in a further demonstration of the NonStop teams newfound willingness to partner the NonStop team will be working with a select group of managed services providers to ensure the entire planet is adequately covered.  Working in this manner and with coverage as extensive as it likely will become, HPE is ensuring there will be few missed opportunities for NonStop X and Virtualized NonStop.

There were events and meetings held in Australia that I needed to attend, and that meant that I was unable to be at this year’s TBC – a first miss in a very long time. However, by all counts it was a very well run show. Didn’t the NonStop team give the NonStop community something like 50 + presentations over the three days? The NonStop vendor community stepped up as well providing another 20 presentations – how many presentations did OmniPayments give, for instance, the neat thing being that OmniPayments featured a number of real world users. And did you hear how NTI has ordered a lot of Virtualized NonStop licenses? More about these and other announcements I will have to leave to other posts, but for me, it’s all an indication of just how well-received by the NonStop vendor community this new NonStop has become. The old is beginning to fade from sight. Farewell NonStop and yet, aren’t we all proud to be able to say, welcome! New NonStop! Your lights are shining brightly …

Friday, November 9, 2018

With TBC, what’s coming next for NonStop?

This is the time of year when the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) dominates many discussions – but what is coming next and are there further surprises install for the NonStop community?

We are happily settling into our new and very temporary working life here in Australia. It’s been such a long time “between drinks” as they like to say down under, but there is no doubting the lifestyle that the average Sydneysider enjoys.  With beaches stretching north and south and a harbor that penetrates the distant western suburbs, not forgetting too that the Blue Mountains frame the far west of Sydney, it is a city unlike any other on earth. Comparisons have been made of San Francisco with Sydney but clearly they were made by folks who really hadn’t spent time in Sydney. San Francisco is more like other bay cities, including Melbourne, but Sydney is a deep water harbor framed by rocky sandstone outcrops creating changes in elevation everywhere you turn.

Every time I return to Sydney there are the same old stories circulating in the press about one new development or another and how one high rise or another will detract from Sydney’s charismatic appeal and yet, somehow, through the years, the changes have usually ended up blending in to give Sydney the skyline familiar to us all. This time it’s all about infrastructure and how it’s all being done at once – a new light rail system through the heart of the City Business District (CBD), a new bypass tunnel running beneath pricey suburban homes, a whole new city supporting Sydney’s second airport. And so it goes on, but Sydney is always about the future and even as the city continues to climb upwards, there are still many new trees being planted and roads being repurposed as walking paths.

In many ways it is a shame that the timing of the events I committed to supporting meant that I will miss out on a couple of the big ones. I will not be making it back to Madrid for HPE Discover later this month and I will not, unfortunately, make it back for the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC). I know that there will be sighs of relief in some corners upon hearing this but as we draw up our plans for the end of the year, initially it meant three trips to Sydney with a side trip to Madrid, none of which looked enticing, but we will certainly miss the TBC. Over the years, there have been many surprises and the NonStop options available today would have been hard to predict just three years ago. Nevertheless, having options is always good and it would be naive to think that it’s all over and what we see today is all that NonStop will be offering in the coming years.

On the topic of naïve, I have been posing the question to business folks I have been around “what are your doing to prepare your IT for the post-cloud era?” Talk about generating blank looks and a certain smirking visage that clearly communicates their thought of me “being out of my mind”, but for the NonStop community that has been around NonStop systems for as long as many of us have been, we know there will never be an “end game” for IT and that the current trends we are witnessing will in time give way to what’s next.

 In a very short span of time we have seen the manner by which we interface with applications move from a desktop station, including smart terminals and PCs, to laptops to tablets to smartphones and now watches and jewelry to where, any time now, flexible screens etc. will be an integral part of the clothes we wear. Simply strolling the highways and byways we will be in contact with every application on the planet and we will be generating data with every step. Investing in tablets and smartphones – you have to worry about whether that’s worth pursuing in this day and age, don’t you? On the other hand, history has taught us that there is no slowing down of our creativity and innovation and no lessening of the disruptions that the outcomes of such creativity and innovation generate. 

Today it’s all about the Edge and the Core, including hybrids and clouds. But what does it all mean? There is so much talk about open platforms and open solutions but what is the real question here? It’s pretty much a continuation of the search for lower costs, greater flexibility and agility and yes, even more productivity. If we can’t get ahead of the curve, then it will peak and come crashing down on us as I heard one speaker suggest at an event a week ago. Coming as it did from a building close to the cities beaches, it was an image not easily dismissed, but there’s more here and it should be of interest to every member of the NonStop community.

We know, for instance, without a doubt, that the world will be virtualized – there will be a gulf between the physical world and the world we see from interacting with our applications. We know too that the clock is winding down on Moore’s Law – there isn’t a whole of wiggle room left to keep shrinking the number of transistors per square meter even as we extract more and more performance. For NonStop the move to virtualization has tremendous follow-on impact. And by this, I am implying that in a very short time NonStop as we know it today will essentially disappear. Hidden in between layers of software isolating the metal making up the real world from what we interact with on a daily basis.

Think NonStop being everywhere and not just present on isolated systems and ask yourself, how would you approach a market that was universal? If business had the option to run fault tolerant or not, with no price premium, what do you think business would select? What would business do if all the tools, utilities, languages were impervious to running NonStop with the advantage of there being new levels of SLA achievable just with a few clicks of a mouse (or fingers)!Over time, business always gravitates to what’s best and what’s easy and yes, what’s on offer without a premium. To this end, just as we are seeing Linux distributions that include hypervisors, ask yourself what you  would be doing if popular Linux distributions went one step further, and included the option for fault tolerance?

We have gone from NonStop needing specialized hardware to where it can run on any x86 motherboard with sufficient Ethernet bandwidth (and more than one) to where it can run virtually on any number of hypervisors. So what is stopping NonStop becoming part of Linux and available to all businesses looking for open platforms? The just-announced decision by IBM to buy Red Hat came as a surprise to many. At SIBOS Sydney 2018 I interviewed executives from Red Hat and they played it very straight – I had no idea (and yes, the story I wrote had to be discarded)! I have a sense that IBM is pretty desperate and this purchase represents a very big roll of the dice but what if Red Hat becomes even more proprietary, populated with key IBM middleware offerings, such that business turns elsewhere for product. IBM no longer generates the fear among CIOs it once did so who knows what’s going to happen.

However, what I am certain about is that once the dust clears from our infatuation with Edge and Core and once we start looking at what’s next, it’s going to be all software, all virtual and yes, all Linux like with distributions catering for marketplaces from mission critical to the completely casual operation. Software, virtual and open – we have seen this on whiteboards for ages but the reality is that we are only now getting our heads around what this implies. And I see the door opening for HPE to throw NonStop into the world of open with NonStop running everywhere. With Red Hat going proprietary (I can say that!), what of Susie? Debian? Ubuntu? Fedora? And many more? While not all are targeting business, there will be many that will be targeting the enterprises where NonStop could readily find a home.

Point is, there will be a world beyond Edge and Core and there will be new models appearing that will differ vastly from what we are keying into today. It’s just business as normal for IT – change is ever present and for vendors, it can be very fickle. I chose the photo at the top of the page quite deliberately – a ferry pulling away from the wharf. Away from the safety and protection of the harbor! As we pull away from traditional computing and into hybrid IT, the Edge and the Core, Clouds, etc. can we truly say we know where we are headed? I am no longer sure we can say we do, but what I know with more assuredness than I have enjoyed for quite some time, with NonStop a software solution and with NonStop running virtualized, there are now no limits to where HPE can take NonStop. And with that, let’s enjoy the ride and let’s just see what HPE has to say this week at TBC!

Friday, November 2, 2018

There is value in those meetings, b%^&&$y meetings!

If it’s Sydney, it’s meetings, ethics, and infrastructure and if we want to move the needle a bit further along, then I suspect even more meetings will be held …

The weather has distinctly turned warmer in Sydney. The formal meetings of last week are now behind me and it’s been a week of heads down typing as I catch up with numerous commitments, but the many meetings with which I was involved took me back in time when almost every hour included one meeting or another. Perhaps it had to do with the positive nature of communication – when gathered together, ideas seemed to take on form more quickly and what started out as just a couple of threads developed into a full-blown tapestry in no time at all! On the other hand, perhaps it was just the enjoyment I derived from the free flow of ideas that would happen and how, from nothing at all the gem of a really good idea appeared.

As I was walking the floor of the exhibition halls at SIBOS Sydney 2018 last week and yes, exhibitors were spread across two floors at the Sydney International Convention Center (ICC), I couldn’t help but notice that when you throw together a bunch of banking executives, they like to talk, or as ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott remarked without any apparent remorse, “I like to steal ideas” that he hears at events like SIBOS. Then again, this is what you would expect at such a conference where a substantial representation of the global banking community was in residence for the week.

However, the meetings conducted at SIBOS had a lot to do with AI. Of course, as we get more engaged in discussions about AI, ethics becomes a popular topic and at SIBOS, it quickly drew a crowd. And then there is open banking and the open bank platform that held the attention of audiences each time people met.

While I am not at all confident bank leadership fully understands what they are saying or the likely ramifications of becoming software houses themselves, nevertheless the push for open banking seems unstoppable at this time, but you had to sit through a lot of meetings before you got a complete picture of what bankers expected to win from open banking. 

AI with a healthy dash of ethics, and open banking often took us into discussions on infrastructure. Bankers want infrastructure that is flexible and capable of better integration with the banks planned rollout of new applications. As much as AI, deep learning, ethics, open banking and the like stimulated conversations among the bankers drawn into impromptu meetings, it was the ever present need to turn conversations back to infrastructure that was hard to miss no matter where you were in the ICC.

What Sydney is very good at is getting you thinking about infrastructure. As I have commuted to Sydney Central Business District (CBD) almost every day since I have arrived, it struck me that there isn’t a part of Sydney that isn’t under construction. New light rail lines are being laid with a raft of new stations being built. Downtown, the main street, George Street, is completely torn up with a new light rail system going in as well. Then there are tunnels being drilled nearby to better connect one motorway with another (and get heavy big rig trucks off the surface roads) and yes, plans for a whole new city were unveiled yesterday as plans to build Sydney’s second airport continue to move along.

If you have been curious about the photo at the top of this post depicting the Wells Fargo stagecoach, it was taken on Wells Fargo’s booth at SIBOS. Not sure  about the logistics and how the bank managed to get it to Sydney but it certainly looked the part as there was a constant stream of bankers passing by who stepped into the booth to find out more about the stagecoach. However, it was a tangible reminder of just how far we have come in terms of infrastructure modernization. It is at this point that I look at what NonStop is promising today following the numerous changes that have been made to NonStop. Freed from ties to hardware and freed too from traditional systems it now fits very well with where meetings on infrastructure are taking us and where NonStop continues to provide value for bankers – just think what NSaaS with DBaaS and possibly even DRaaS will lead us! 

If on the other hand you are simply curious about where NonStop fits in the bigger scheme of things from the edge to the core and whether in time NonStop will be crucial component of the infrastructure supporting many more open industry platforms, then I think you may just be getting your first glimpse of one potential future direction for NonStop. Definitely, we are headed towards product offerings delivered as a service and definitely, the potential for NSaaS underpinning other key middleware offerings like database and D/R are just the beginning. It will only take a couple of fertile minds to propel these projects deeper into IT and about that I will be providing more details in the near future.

As a community, members of the NonStop ecosystem aren’t all that enthusiastic about talking about NonStop purely as an infrastructure play and I am not suggesting we do. However, as infrastructure calls for more of the capabilities inherent in NonStop, availability, scalability, data integrity / security, it’s hard to miss the potential benefits that can come from ensuring NonStop is an active part of the infrastructure! In time, I predict that some parts of NonStop will end up in future special distributions of Linux, but that is a topic for another day. Possibly after the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) that will be held in a matter of days.

There was one last item on sighting the stagecoach in Sydney I wanted to touch on as it reminded me that so much of what we do relies on good infrastructure. Whether our daily routines involve jumping on a plane to a faraway destination or simply catching the metro to work, as remote workers (as many of us are these days), it’s often just the opportunity to participate in a simple meeting that gets us out of our remote offices. With the way infrastructure is developing, getting to a meeting is no longer the chore it once was – so yes, over the next couple of weeks I will be joining the commuter crowd too as I head from one meeting in Sydney to another. Believe it or not I am actually looking forward to my next meeting in Sydney – are you looking forward to TBC?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time …

It may just be the lyrics from a popular song but so much about Australia that warrants further attention even if it is only a matter of sibling rivalry!

I have just landed in Sydney, Australia. Looking out the airplane window in the hours before we landed and as first light began to illuminate the night sky, the window perfectly framed the Southern Cross stars along with the two pointers that combined have helped navigators through the ages determine where the south celestial pole lay.

Taking up temporary residence to the north west of Sydney, the bush setting of these Sydney suburbs is just so different from anything you can experience in the US or Europe. It’s definitely a far cry from what I have become used to living in Colorado. However, sighting the Southern Cross is a reminder that Australia is part of the Southern Hemisphere. Even though Australia may be better known as the land down under, it surprises many of our friends in America that Australia is really much closer to the equator than they suspected.

When a country is bisected by the Tropic of Capricorn, it is a clue how far from the South Pole the country really is – New Zealand, on the other hand, isn’t as much beside Australia as underneath Australia. And like siblings everywhere, it’s also fair to say that New Zealanders wouldn’t welcome me saying something like this as they are far from comfortable with the thought of being underneath Australia no matter the context.

All of which is to say, perceptions can be very misleading. Reality, on the other hand, requires work and mandates considerable fact checking. Next time you pass a globe depicting the nations, take a good look at where Australia lies and you may be surprised by what you see. The other surprising fact for travelers to Australia is that as far north as San Francisco happens to be, that city is a lot closer to Sydney than Los Angeles. For those of us living in the U.S. we tend to forget how far west San Francisco is and how this cuts the distance between two cities that are oftentimes considered as being similar in nature.

However, perceptions aren’t just limited to Australia’s presence on a map. Yes, it is the Lucky Country and “we’re doing fine in the lucky country; doing alright ‘cause we’re making money down in the lucky country.” And yet, oftentimes, my American colleagues return from trips to Australia enthusiastic about all that they saw with the caveat that it’s a reminder of what America looked like decades ago. I would love to have earned a dollar every time I heard that it’s like America was, twenty years ago. Of course, Australians say something similar about New Zealand so this must be a trait in all of us. Fortunately, digging beneath the surface, there are many areas where Australians aren’t just progressive, but are world leaders.

Take banknotes, for instance. While the Aussie dollar has always been colorful, the country’s introduction of banknotes printed on polymer compounds rather than paper was way ahead of the times. And then there is the drive to a cashless society – contrary to what you may read may be happening in other countries, it’s clear that Australia is well down the path to becoming cashless. On arrival, we converted U.S Dollars to Australian Dollars only to be advised to ask for smaller denomination banknotes as many retailers do not accept the larger banknotes.

By the way, when it comes to credit cards, paying with credit falls lower in the list of payment options displayed on card readers at most retailers! Indeed, taking my newly minted chip card from Chase to any retailer in the country I am being asked for a signature whenever I select credit. But again, perceptions! Tap and go is huge in this country even as tapping lines of credit seem to be less popular than I had envisioned. However, as you scratch beneath the surface the one thing that is obvious about Sydney is that its occupants appear to be a lot richer than you might have thought with an economy that continues to boom.

Australia is in the news this week thanks to the visit by royals, Harry and Meghan. Our flight from San Francisco to Sydney seemed to be filled with participants and supporters of Harry’s Invictus Games and walking out through the airports security doors and into the public area at Sydney’s International Airport, we saw crowds of supporters from many nations, including the Ukraine and Poland, just for starters. But you need more than stories to describe Australia. After an absence of five years while there is much that is familiar there are many infrastructure developments taking place all across the city – just how many highways and train lines are being buried deep within tunnels connecting all corners of the city?

With a heritage deeply rooted in IBM mainframes and HPE NonStop systems, it isn’t surprising to read that it is the SIBOS Sydney 2018 event that has brought me back home. Anticipating some 8,000 plus attendees from the SWIFT community which, according to SWIFT, is “A global member-owned cooperative and the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services; our messaging platform, products and services connect more than 11,000 banking and securities organizations, market infrastructures and corporate customers in more than 200 countries and territories, enabling them to communicate securely and exchange standardized financial messages in a reliable way.”

While IBM’s fortunes appear to be in decline even as it is reluctant to step away from its love affair with its mainframes, HPE has invested heavily in the former Tandem product lines to open up new opportunities for the latest generation of HPE NonStop systems. If your perception of NonStop (nee, Tandem) is of a legacy system, then think again. The new NonStop product line is all x86 based, supports industry standard InfiniBand for its redundant interconnect fabric and, more importantly, can be configured to run not only on HPE’s hardware but on virtual machines deployed on anyone’s x86 platforms. Bringing the new virtualized NonStop to market and giving it support for VMware means you will be seeing NonStop applying its fault tolerance properties to clouds, particularly enterprises’ private clouds. Hybrid IT? Yes, you are going to see NonStop on both sides of the Hybrid IT ledger.

It’s fitting, of course, to be having this latest SIBOS event in Sydney for one other reason. Apart from the venue’s stunning location in Darling Harbor with views of the Harbor Bridge and the CBD skyline, it’s also coming at a time when Australia’s general public view on banks and financial institutions is at its lowest point in living memory. Just this past week, the head of the National Australia Bank (NAB) told the countries parliament that he was sorry for how badly behaved his bank had been.

And Westpac announced at the same time the firing of many of its staff along with the closing of many of its branches in the aftermath of it too having to genuflect before members of the federal government. So much money had poured into the country and its banks that it proved a recipe for deception and fraud. And it appears that the four cornerstone banks in Australia were all behaving badly in one way or the other.

Witnessing leaders of Australia’s banks now interacting with bankers from around the world can only prove to be a good thing for the country. As much as this might be an embarrassment in some banking quarters, I suspect that there will also be commitments by all of Australian financial institutions to change the very culture of banking in this country. Perception after all is oftentimes more compelling than reality so perhaps the sight of so many bankers willing to discuss the future of the world’s financial network with Australian banks is a good thing.

The country has a long history of picking itself up, dusting off past failures and ultimately succeeding – just think of how many challenges it took before an Australian yacht took the Americas’ Cup away from its hallowed pedestal inside the New York Yacht Club after 132 years! Or how many games it is taking before the nation’s rugby team beats the Kiwis just next door!

The Southern Cross can be seen on the Australian flag even as it is the Southern Cross that is “squirrelled away in that diamond” that is the logo of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) according to a post published a few years back. In the back of my mind, however, as much as I appreciate Australia as being the Lucky Country, I cannot help but wonder if there is possibly too much of a good thing and whether or not, the country’s luck is about to change – Australia surely cannot continue this extended period of quarter over quarter growth (with no recession) indefinitely, can it? And yet, there has always been the Southern Cross overhead so perhaps, we are all asking the wrong question.

Perhaps, it’s really the last outpost for unfettered innovation mixed with a healthy relish to accept any challenge. Perhaps it’s the desire to forge new business models and succeed where others have tried and failed. On the other hand, perhaps the country is driven by an even deeper and more entrenched desire: Let’s just keep on beating our cousins next door - those pesky New Zealanders!    

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Nine long years …

Sounds like a prison sentence? Not quite; Pyalla is celebrating the start of its tenth year, but talking of prisons, has security become the sole focus of IT these days?

With last minute packing about to begin for our extended stay in Sydney and Auckland, I just noticed I was receiving more messages than usual on LinkedIn. When I checked the site, turns out folks are congratulating Margo and me for the nine years Pyalla Technologies, LLC has been in business. Just like that, nine years have passed by and we are into our tenth year. Who would have guessed?

While down under, Margo and I will be taking a quick side trip down to Hobart, Tasmania, and not just for the food. It’s one of those places where the food is outstanding and few people know much about Tasmania, other than the Warner Brothers’ cartoon character, Taz – the Tasmanian Devil and yet, just outside Hobart lies Port Arthur.

For anyone who has managed to read Marcus Clarke tome, For the term of his natural life, it occupies a particularly nasty position in Australia’s history. A prison of “last resort” for the early settlers who broke the law, yet again, even as almost all of those living in old Sydney town were convicts! Escaping Port Arthur meant facing Tasmania’s unforgiving interior and there were few reported success stories about such attempts. As much as it plays an important role in Australia’s early history, its remaining ruins are a reminder of the extremes to which planners will go to protect the rest of society.

The main reason for this latest trip down under is to attend SIBOS Sydney 2018. At this big event for financial institutions security is one of the major themes. Just check out how many times cyber security is referenced in a presentation or panel session! As an industry, there is probably no other topic that raises the hackles of C-level executives more than the subject of their institution being hacked and where, against the odds, critical customer information has been accessed!

For the NonStop community, security is an ever present concern. Just as the early settlers camped around Farm Cove on Port Jackson sought security as more and more convicts arrived, electing to simply push those “rotten apples” – prisoners too dangerous to house anywhere in Farm Cove - to places like Port Arthur, building a secure transaction processing environment is of paramount importance to the enterprise. Whether intrusions prove disruptive to the end-users or to the enterprise itself it’s all the same. Build the walls and mount the battlements! Flood the moat and pull up the drawbridge! Maintain a watch around the clock and most important of all, arm the troops!

This imagery from the past is something we all identify with readily and when seated around terminals in any enterprise Security Operations Center (SOC) conjures up similar images as there really is a war raging just beyond the battlements – those layers of defense we have erected to protect the enterprise. Based on everything that is being published of late you could be forgiven thinking that security has become the sole focus of IT these days but it’s not too far from the truth!

In a promotional article I just received from IDG / Computerworld for an upcoming series on The security operations platform: automation, orchestration and more there was commentary provided on what steps need to be taken before any enterprise can feel adequately protected. “Security Automation and Orchestration (SAO) platforms also enable users to orchestrate the vast array of security technologies in place at most companies (e.g. firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS), sandboxes, endpoint security assets, ticketing systems, deception technologies, vulnerability scanners, behavioral detection tools, etc.) into a ‘connective tissue’ that works in unison to reduce risk and drive efficiency in the SOC.”

OK, wow and time to take a deep breath. All I could think about was well, it has come to this as now we need a huge array of weapons operating on a coordinated basis throughout our IT deployment. How many people it must take? According to this IDG / Computerworld promotion, “Many in this industry call security a ‘team sport’ and there is no denying that collaboration is critical to winning the game. But are the applications we run on our NonStop systems today better protected than in the past or is there a lot of work to be done to better protect them? This was a question I recently posed to comforte AG Manager, Marketing and Partner Development, Jonathan Deveaux.

“Yes, Security of applications on NonStop systems are much better today than in the past.  Awareness has changed,” said Deveaux. “The big fear was older programming languages and who could acquire resources to keep on updating and maintaining code in COBOL?” These skillsets were definitely proving scarce and yet, modernizing applications running on NonStop needed to be done. Better and more comprehensive event and alert generation with better integration to industry standard monitoring and response systems was needed. On the other hand, there was a reluctance to rip and replace where the risks to the application might occur.

“Options to ‘modernize’ applications have emerged,” suggested Deveaux. “Companies realized they could modernize utilizing SOAP, RSC and REST APIs, depending on their situations. And today, we provide three product suites that many NonStop users rely on to better secure their applications and data – comforte SafePoint™, comforte SecurLIB™ and comforte SecurDPS™.”

Just like the explanation published by IDG / Computerworld, there is an abundance of features, products and solutions available for enterprises including those where NonStop plays a prominent role, and they need to be able to work together, connected and orchestrated, in order to keep safe out enterprise castle. Most definitely, a team sport!

IDG / Computerworld considered what were the important ingredients for a good security solution:
“Bridging the gap between SOC and IT operations is critical; scalability is key and yes there is a blurring of the lines between security operations automation and orchestration and advanced analytics.”

It’s worth noting that vendors well known to the NonStop community, such as Striim, are seeing increased interest in turning the power of their data streaming analytics platform at security. To Striim, streaming data integration is all about the continuous collection, in-stream processing, pipeline monitoring, and real-time delivery of data, with verification.

To this end, Striim delivers a fast and customized data security solution that transcends single-point solutions to analyze multiple sources and domains in real time. “With Striim, you can detect and prevent intrusions that may otherwise fall through the cracks among security information and event management (SIEM) solutions,” notes Striim on their web site.

Furthermore, “Striim quickly provides you with the contextual data you need to make the right decisions so you can take a proactive approach against future security incidents.” As comforte’s Deveaux readily acknowledged, “comforte provides the overall access management and reporting, security auditing, SIEM integration, and forensics such as key-stroke logging and file integrity monitoring with the comforte SafePoint™ suite” but even here the intersection, as IDG / Computerworld noted, is apparent – the lines are blurring.

For the NonStop user community, perhaps a mix of both solutions is one option to consider if for no other reason than you cannot have too many layers of defense when it comes to security. But why stop at two? Isn’t the key to any successful defense against intrusion having many layers of defense? In a post to the October issue of NonStop Insider,
Are your NonStop security measures up to standard? TCM acknowledges that securing NonStop may indeed involve having multiple products as well as access to knowledgeable consultants capable of sorting it all out.

“In an age of increasing pressure on IT security, combined with a global audience for the times things don’t go to plan, it pays to be on top of your NonStop’s security measures. But with a plethora of IT security standards and 3rd party security applications, it can be a challenge keeping all aspects of your security in check.” On the other hand, this is exactly the value proposition TCM provides members of the NonStop community who may feel a little outside their comfort zone when it comes to securing their NonStop applications.

The time we’ll spend at SIBOS Sydney 2018 where security will be a topic well-addressed by experts, will be a litmus test on just how far we have come in securing our data centers. Blockchain, anyone? Yes, another topic central to a number of sessions at SIBOS. TCM, Striim and comforte AG are vendors that are well-known to financial institutions deploying HPE NonStop systems and there will be many of these same financial institutions present at SIBOS Sydney 2018.

I have to believe too that this year’s upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) to be held next month will be subject to many presentations on security as well – but let me know how TBC goes as we will be by the shores of Port Jackson or Sydney Harbor if you prefer, talking just a little longer with the local IT community. You did know that Pyalla was Port Jackson aboriginal for “to talk,” right?  

For the NonStop community it has been known for years how we have taken it easy, somewhat, assured in the knowledge that the internals of NonStop offered the best security protection of all. But no longer, as we modernize and more tightly integrate with the rest of IT. The drive to open APIs has merit certainly but it’s clearly an issue that needs to be watched very carefully. As we talk about security we also need to act and fortunately, the NonStop community is now well supported by products, solutions and consulting services that tackle every aspect of security. Yes, we have the layers and yes, the NonStop vendor community has stepped up to deliver what we need. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Time spent in the desert …

They may be just lyrics in a song but my recent trip through the wide open spaces of the south provided a backdrop to rethink where NonStop might be headed …

How many books have you read where a central character elects to spend time in a desolate space? For me, there are the books about the fictitious planet DUNE that come to mind. There are also the Mad Max movies with which I grew up many decades ago. Not forgetting, too, the many prophets and sages that forego their lifestyles for time spent wandering the wild spaces – what many Australians simply call the “never-never!”
Possibly memories return of the lyrics of that popular song from decades ago
“I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name”

Right now, I have to believe there are many folks back on America’s east coast who really can understand being “out of the rain.” And our hearts go out to them all as they continue to struggle to rebuild following water levels not seen in a lifetime, but when it comes to “walking into the desert” I am also reminded that for the amount of time I have been associated with Tandem Computers and NonStop Systems, we do need to remember our name! We do need to remember our heritage and our culture. And most of all we have to remember all of our colleagues that spent so much time in the very bowels of NonStop to make it well, the NonStop it is today.

So much is written of today that has to do with branding. For what seems to be eternity, banks reinforced their brand with towering skyscrapers adorned with their company name. They just had to be the best bank in town – look at their office building and how it towers over the competition! However, in a digital world, nobody looks up at the skyline. Your business is either super-fast with its responses or it’s ignored by your end user community. Referencing HPE customer, Travelport, once again and the business behind the many travel sites promising the cheapest flight, car rental or hotel room and how, with the new Superdome Flex, they handle today some 5,000 transactions per second even as they strive to meet their own goal of reducing response times to one second. 

This post isn’t about branding just as it isn’t about what is pushing end users to do what they do today, flitting from one app to another, all on a whim. Instead this post is about dogs and who really is driving requirements these days. Yes, a hard rain is falling but fortunately, the NonStop community has shelter at hand. 

True, your business operates at the whim of the end-user. No doubt about that – just check any of the latest analysis from folks like Gartner or Forrester. Often stated down through the ages but today, it is representative of the real world: The tail wags the dog. Or perhaps, we are looking at it all wrong. That much sought-after end-user is the dog and we have become the wagging tail! Eager to please the enterprise and indeed the data center are wagging vigorously, seeking approval. And increasingly so, we are needing to become more responsive, more creative and yes more innovative just to ensure those end-users make a return visit!

For the NonStop community, my recent trip into the wide open spaces of Oklahoma and Texas reinforced my belief that NonStop is destined to return to the front lines. It will certainly continue to be a good choice whenever there is a need for an OLTP SQL database capable of running 24 x 7 x forever – a feat the competition still can’t achieve without a whole bunch of clustering complexity and pricing overkill. Point is, the future of NonStop inside the data center will more than likely be tied to enterprises’ understanding of just how powerful NonStop SQL has become. Not to make too fine a point about this, but HPE is turning to NonStop SQL to anchor much of their own database processing.

NSaaS and DBaaS has been appearing on HPE NonStop slides for quite a while now and for good reason. It is the future of NonStop for new users – yes, it allows the NonStop net to be cast much wider in the past, as NSaaS doesn’t require any initial capital outlay. It’s a cost-effective way to ease into the world of fault tolerance for those who may have remained on the sidelines when it comes to the future of NonStop. It’s also a way to test out something new that may just appeal to those end users the enterprises want to attract even as it allows for quick adjustments being made to critical features as well as to the end user interfaces themselves. NSaaS and DBaaS is a critical component of the NonStop strategy going forward.

However, with the emergence of a viable virtualized NonStop (vNS) offering, it’s tempting to say that there is even greater potential for NonStop positioned out at the edge. Whether the processors are x86, ARM, GPU, whatever – where there is the option to run a hypervisor and the Ethernet fabric is in place then well, why not? Just think about – as we cater to more inputs from people, devices, sensors, etc. there is a lot of value placing your OLTP close to where the first interactions take place as not everything will make it all the way back to the data center.

Finally, when it comes to the tail wagging the dog, there is one more factor to consider. The news here for the NonStop community is that while HPE NonStop is assembling the pre-req building blocks, it isn’t likely that HPE NonStop will be delivering the finished product. Again, think about it – the Nonstop team sorts out how to deliver vNS and comes up with an acceptable pricing model but then there is the hardware and all the services and support that this entails. There is no expectation that HPE will be proactive in supporting vNS on Lenovo or Dell or anything custom built for an enterprise. As much as HPE would prefer to see you select HPE’s products, the game is most definitely on here – build it yourself! So yes, in this respect it will be the vendor community that leads the charge here and not HPE NonStop.

Already we are seeing some prototyping being done by NonStop personnel but when it comes to the finished product well, no – there is a clear line that these NonStop folks will not be crossing. Creativity and innovation will be up to the vendor community to deliver, and it’s already starting. The very prospect of being able to download all the NonStop stack you need and then tailor to your needs to better support a chosen solution suggests that increasingly, NonStop will be taking a hands-off approach to anything other than a delivery mechanism (for vNS and the rest of the stack) but even here, when it comes to delivery mechanisms HPE NonStop may pull back from that as well.

In the desert you can remember your name and for the NonStop community, that name is NonStop! To inform the rest of the enterprise that you are supporting your OLTP on NonStop shouldn’t be something you pull back from or hide under a blanket. For most enterprises, NonStop is already behind browser interfaces and programmed via scripting languages and managed using industry-standard monitoring tools, no different from what is in use across the entire data center.

The unique distinguishing attributes of availability and yes, database, remain rock-solid reasons why enterprises should be running NonStop. Maybe it’s as simple as educating the enterprise about what’s in place already and maybe all that is required  is to better educate the enterprise on all that today’s models for “X”aaS at any level includes NonStop. Any conversations along these lines might even mean that there isn’t any need for you to head out into the never-never! Perhaps there isn’t any reason whatsoever to look past NonStop for edge to cloud processing. And yes, it feels good to be out of that hard rain that is falling!

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