Friday, September 28, 2018

Frameworks – nothing to write about and yet, in NonStop they are the rock …


They aren’t the standout element of a product and they may not attract any attention at all and yes, they are the rock that is the foundation for many of the products found on NonStop!


Finishing up the walk-out lower level of our home was expedited considerably as it was being framed when we made the decision to buy the home and move to Windsor, Colorado. Having lived for almost twenty years in the village of Niwot, Boulder County, we elected to sell our former home and downsize to something more manageable. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to watch the framing of our new Windsor home to the point where during the framing process, we were able to customize certain aspects of each room and our requests were accommodated in a timely manner.

On the other hand, our former Niwot home took almost a year to completely frame. Weather is a factor in Colorado, particularly when working on a house that at the time didn’t have a roof. In the intervening years, so much has changed when it comes to framing. Today, once the planning is complete and the related approvals granted, the design passes to the lumber yard and a big rig arrives with everything pre-assembled, ready to go. Twenty years ago and the saw mill came to us and everything had to be built from scratch holding back the process considerably and costing so much more to do. Sound familiar?

Many years ago, on December 18, 2010, I posted to the
comforte Lounge blog, “It's OK - we are being framed!” In that post I quoted Infrasoft Managing Director, Peter Shell, who described the framework that underpins the uLinga product and allows it to accommodate many different networking protocols and services. New features can be introduced quickly and with greatly reduced risk, as much of what is required of the new feature has been debugged and tested extensively, even as it can benefit from a standardized dashboard familiar to all existing NonStop users of the Infrasoft uLinga product. What Shell added in that post was how, from his observations over the years, “my concept of a framework, or whatever we call them in the future, is that of a continuum.”

“Their development doesn’t stop at the simple utility functions; in fact, it doesn’t stop at all! In time, everything is turned into libraries where the product is just a bunch of libraries bolted together,” Shell explained. “Because this adds a degree of pressure to really think hard about how to externalize the functionality, you end up with nice clean interfaces, clean design further encouraging code re-use.” It’s also pretty easy to mix and match functionality while enjoying the benefits from not re-writing code, I suspect. Whenever we are presented with additional requirements or the NonStop customer expresses a desire to move between products that don’t exactly align, we can make the changes necessary to be compatible very quickly.

On the other hand, as a community, NonStop users rarely pay attention to the underpinning frameworks and simply assume something behind the curtain is making everything work. “Frameworks are like our navels, everybody has one,” suggested Infrasoft CTO, Neil Coleman in the post of August 4, 2011,
Engineering for longevity [Part 1]! , before adding “and a lot of people may actually think ‘so what’ while others may simply ask ‘why bother, just use something already out there.’” Surely abstraction layers of all types are readily at hand that can be easily leveraged to bring new products onto NonStop?  And this was a consideration in the early days of uLinga even as Infrasoft recognized that frameworks were the rock on which stabilized everything that was subsequently built using the framework.

In the follow up post of August, 2011,
Engineering for longevity [Part 2]! David Finnie, VP of Infrasoft R&D acknowledged that yes, “Another abstraction layer that was considered at the time was Apache Portable Runtime (APR).” However, Finnie added, “while we looked at APR, it proved inappropriate as it assumed that target Operating Systems (OS’s) were all POSIX-like under the covers. Perhaps just as important for the middleware we were developing, and the expectations our users would have when it came to performance, APR didn’t fit well with the underlying Guardian non-blocking / no-wait I/O model and this is important as it’s the Guardian personality we leverage with such a critical subsystem as uLinga.”

These older posts to the former comforte lounge blog are a reminder of how important it is to start out heading down the right path. This blog site may be hard to find as comforte recommends the NonStop community checks out its new site, comforte Insights. On the other hand, my thoughts turned to comforte and Infrasoft when frameworks were again part of the conversation. At this year’s GTUG supported European NonStop HotSpot 2018/IT-Symposium 2018, we heard about another company with plans to support NonStop – a Hungarian company, Quattrosoft.

The one constant to be heard coming from the NonStop community is the desire to see more solutions ported to NonStop. Whether it is in support of the telco marketplace or helping financial institutions improve their customer service, being aware that there are other vendors out there taking a fresh look at NonStop is encouraging to hear and it was only after visiting with another vendor that I became aware of Quattrosoft and of its Technical Director, Peter Boros. It was Boros who attended the GTUG supported event and who talked about the plans in play at Quattrosoft.

“My company is working with mission critical systems in Hungary and even though it’s a small market the expectations are as high as anywhere else in the world,” Boros told me in a recent email exchange. “We have a great portfolio of software features based on our technology,” and that technology is a new framework that has proved itself to be extremely flexible, accommodating deployment in support of a lot of different use case scenarios. It is a framework that is accessed via adapters and according to Boros, “we successfully created the adapters for NonStop (and) after meeting with HPE NonStop’s Franz Koenig to check it all out, “all looks well; no showstoppers were found and we are now preparing a demonstrable business use case for the command and control scenario as required by police and firefighters here in Hungary.”

Of themselves, frameworks aren’t viewed as marketable products by the NonStop community a circumstance Infrasoft became aware of a decade ago. On the other hand, well-executed frameworks lend themselves to addressing a variety of business problems and this is exactly what Quattrosoft are finding. “What we are providing is a combination of technology with our framework, a methodology that expedites the creation of new products and yes, access to the expertise we have developed having worked now on problems for a variety of markets. “Quattrosoft has strong references in financial, telco, police, government, utility as well as some with pharmacies and healthcare,” added Boros.

“But for now, it is our goal to find good partners in the NonStop community that will help sell our technology and products on NonStop – at Quattrosoft, after becoming familiar with the NonStop platform, we truly believe that with such cooperation with the NonStop vendor community, we could help further strengthen the NonStop presence in the marketplace and attract even more customers to NonStop. Frameworks may be a tough sell but Quattrosoft has moved beyond that with products supporting the office, mobile devices with a DMZ resident product, and an operational CRM application.

However, the important aspect from the exchanges that have been taking place with Quattrosoft is that here is a mature vendor with a strong knowledge of customer requirements with an underlying framework that has been ported and tested on NonStop and yes, has the ability to bring to NonStop additional applications. For this, the NonStop community should be pleased – there’s no guarantees of course and there isn’t still much work to
be done in cooperation with HPE and the European NonStop team, but to say it’s an encouraging development is an understatement. For members of the NonStop vendor community who might like to take discussions with Quattrosoft much deeper than can be written about here, Peter Boros can be reached by email at boros@quattrosoft.hu or by phone at +36 (1) 382 78 00 Either way, I am sure he would be only too happy to hear from you.

My time as an independent HPE blogger is almost always focused on what’s coming next. Whether it’s the new hardware that might follow after x86 (and yes, I suspect that there is) or virtualization options apart from what we have seen or even new developments whereby NonStop runs with assistance from software-defined pursuits, it’s still very much a case of hardware, software and services all playing a supporting role to real world applications. For the NonStop community, reading about one more vendor choosing to invest in NonStop is not only encouraging but perhaps the start of even more vendors finding a path to NonStop. In the meantime we should all be wishing Quattrosoft the very best of good fortune as we welcome yet one more vendor to the NonStop community!  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Heading “Down Under” one more time; SIBOS Sydney 2018 beckons to FIs worldwide!

Sydney Harbor provides a wonderful backdrop to any gathering held around its shores and in a couple of weeks’ time, SIBOS Sydney 2018 will kick-off. Will you be there? 


There is no escaping the inherent beauty that is Sydney or hiding the fact that the best way to approach Sydney’s Circular Quay is on a traditional Manly Ferry. As you make that final turn into the ferry terminal, the city opens up to provide a panoramic view that sweeps from the Opera House to the International Terminal and then, should you pivot to your right as it’s just behind you, Sydney’s famous Harbor Bridge. Or, the coat hanger, as it was referred to for much of the bridge’s life.

This photo was taken the last time I was on Sydney Harbor back in 2013 and I have to believe much has changed. Looks like there was a Princess cruise ship tied up at the terminal and much of Sydney’s popularity as a tour destination has a lot to do with the first impression made on all visitors arriving by sea. And yes, you can book a sailing excursion on a racing yacht, although I am not sure the one pictured here ever raced in any challenge for that “Auld Mug” prized in sailing above all else – the America’s Cup.

However, my return to Sydney in just a few weeks’ time is a mix of business with a little down time thrown in as and when time allows, a BizCation of sorts, if you like! Fortunately, through the generosity of family and friends, Margo and I will have a place to stay and yes, an office out of which we will be working. As we arrive in Sydney, our focus on business kicks in almost immediately as Sydney will play host to SIBOS Sydney, 2018. While I missed out on the opportunity to participate in SIBOS Toronto, 2017 – a short trip up north for us – reading that this year’s SIBOS event would be in Sydney set the wheels in motion and now I am really looking forward to this major event for the financial community.

If you aren’t familiar with SIBOS, then you need to know that is THE global financial services networking event organized each year by SWIFT. According to the brief I was provided, “The preeminent annual conference and exhibition connects more than 8,000 executives, decision makers and thought-leaders from financial institutions, market infrastructures, multinational corporations and technology partners. Sibos facilitates debate, networking and business collaboration that collectively shapes the future of payments, securities, cash management and trade.” This brief was given to me as I will be a part of a small team of journalists and bloggers covering the event and for that, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity afforded me by the great folks at BankingTech.

If you aren’t all that familiar with SIBOS, “it started out as a banking operations seminar in 1978, has grown into the premier business forum for the global financial community to debate and collaborate in the areas of payments, securities, cash management and trade.” If you have any association with Tandem computers or as they are now known, HPE NonStop Systems, then you know that the biggest part of the business is in support of Financial Institution (FIs) and that globally, $3.6+trillion credit and debit card volume each year - see below:


While this post isn’t a promotion of NonStop or of its leadership position in payments processing, for the NonStop community it’s often overlooked just how big a role NonStop plays in support of FIs globally and while there are numerous alternatives to NonStop available to FIs, it’s that history of processing transactions, 24 x 7 x forever, that continues to resonate with CIOs everywhere. It was just a few short weeks ago that the NonStop user group, OzTUG, wrapped up their annual meeting staged in both Sydney and Melbourne and perhaps the main drawcard proved to be security and blockchain.

Yes, the R3 Corda has been ported to NonStop and the NonStop underpinnings of HPE’s new Mission Critical Distributed Ledger Technology (MCDLT) as blockchain on HPE NonStop is being called, already has its first deployments in the field and early stage pilot in Australia. However, the first candidate for full rollout will likely be on the other side of the Pacific in South America where one payments solution vendor, OmniPayments, has completed a successful Proof of Concept (PoC). To hear of this from solutions vendors responding to market needs with their implementation of technologies like blockchain is very encouraging for all NonStop stakeholders.

When you look at the program for SIBOS Sydney, the sheer diversity of presentations is hard to ignore. You need to know more about open banking, AI, Cyberattacks / Cybersecurity, Blockchain and yes, even Quantum Computing, then this is going to be the place you want to find way to get there. Time is winding down but the opportunities to participate are still open for all and I am going to be looking at the future of payments processing and the inroads mobile devices are making into traditional banking. We read so much about transformation of late, whether it is transforming to Hybrid IT or simply transforming to a digital core, it’s hard to escape the message of transformation and for good reason. Put it down to the power now being wielded by the end users – whether teenagers on smartphones or even businesses run from tablets – the tail has certainly warmed to the task of shaking the dog!  
  
Perusing the SIBOS web site – and it provides a comprehensive look at all the topics to be covered, I was struck by the obvious, “the world’s businesses and consumers are migrating to a digital economy, banks and financial service providers are making their own transformational journeys, reappraising and reengineering their business models, service offerings and relationships with third parties.” For the NonStop community, this is already being witnessed as this process can be traced back to when NonStop elected to support the Intel x86 architecture and in so doing, responded to those FIs looking for HPE to support commodity hardware with open software and standard APIs. With NonStop X, this has pretty much been achieved and puts NonStop users at the forefront of migrations to the digital economy. Or, as HPE often reminds its users, the pursuit of the idea economy!

However, SIBOS then adds to the above, suggesting that when it comes to transformation, “This can be seen in the rapid adoption of common utilities to meet compliance needs and develop standards-based platforms – including SWIFT’s KYC Registry and global payments innovation service.” And here we go again – KYC and yes, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) – candidates for blockchain and indeed the work being done with NonStop X on the other side of the Pacific is exactly for this reason. Know Your Customer (KYC) will likely lead to even greater adoption of MCDLT, according to HPE and those NonStop vendors with pilots already planned or under way.

For those who may not be familiar with SWIFT it’s worth pointing out that it has become a “global member-owned cooperative and the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services” or, as they are keen to let us know, “provide our community with a platform for messaging, standards for communicating and we offer products and services to facilitate access and integration; identification, analysis and financial crime compliance.” As a community NonStop stakeholders are cognizant of the marketing opportunities that this represents and even when I was a product manager at Tandem Computers, the message types, formats and protocols were a major requirement that the company and its partners stepped up to support.

The resultant population of NonStop systems driving payments switches is a direct result of the early embrace of SWIFT by NonStop and its support for the exchange of standardized financial messages. It is uniquely positioned as not just the “postmaster general” for all financial transactions but as the equivalent of the airport traffic controller advising who goes where and who has authority to land or takeoff. For all product managers in the NonStop ecosystem, this will be the place to take it all in and I am now aware that there will be members of the NonStop community present apart from myself. 


Part of the reason I am returning to Sydney is to join in the celebrations – my daughter has a birthday, there is my old high school reunion and yes, like the world over, I want to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks display that Sydney put on each year. Waking up in North America, New Years’ Eve we always welcomed TV coverage from Sydney and it’s a celebration I have put off for far too long. It was never like this when I lived there! SIBOS too will be a celebration as well, as Sydney will turn on a show even without the fireworks. Although, returning to the agenda, some topics may generate fireworks among the participants – it always happens, but that is really the value that big-tent events like SIBOS provide everybody doing everything that has anything to do with payments will be there and yes, I am looking forward to meeting all of you! Safe travels and yes, even now, I hear the siren call from Sydney Harbor beckoning my return!   

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Summer heat along with summer views …


One of the big advantages that come with driving an RV is the view out front it provides – wouldn’t it be great if we had a similar view of what lay ahead for IT? 


Summer is over, or so we are being led to believe. With the Labor Day weekend now behind us and our children and grandchildren off to school, those lazy, hazy days of summer are being replaced with milder temperatures. Or, are they? Camped here as we are in Arizona, a little to the east of Scottsdale, we have had to deal with daytime temperatures hovering around 105 Fahrenheit. Our Company Command Center’s AC units were no match for such conditions, barely dropping the interior temperature to the low 90s. Back in the township of Windsor, construction teams continue to work long into the afternoon even as there is little respite from the heat and convertibles continue to be seen on our highways.

Through the years we have changed our vehicles regularly. We have always maintained two separate vehicles for business use and we have had two more, sometimes three, for personal use and fun. We continue to have a car we like to spend our weekends laying down laps on race tracks, and we have to have a 4 X 4 SUV for winter use whenever those first snowflakes descend on our lawns and yet migrating from one vehicle to the next has slowed down a little of late, tempered by a general lack of enthusiasm about where the auto industry is headed. While we own a hybrid and have enjoyed the benefits that come from passing gas stations without any need to drive in to fill up, the possibility of a future with autonomous vehicles, all shaped like shapeless pods, isn’t something we are excited about.

When it comes to why we are camped out in an Arizona desert, it’s because we were overnighting before heading to DUST – the local Arizona (Desert USers of Tandem) Regional User Group (RUG) – for a morning listening to a couple of vendor presentations. OmniPayments, ETI-Net and IR all participated and when you think about it, they represent a very good cross section of the NonStop vendor community.

From a private company to a public company, from a solutions vendor to an infrastructure and tools vendor and from software to hardware both real and virtual, the diversity that comes from just these three key members of the NonStop community highlights just how well served the NonStop user community is these days. Yes, HPE may be turning up the heat on its competitors in the all-important mission critical systems marketplace by taking NonStop to x86 and then following that by taking it virtual with support for VMware, but in so doing, HPE is opening up even more opportunities for the NonStop vendor community and right now, for the smart technology shopper, it’s all there for the taking!

When you get behind the wheel of our company command center you sit up high, behind a massive front window. From this position there is very little that escapes your attention as you see everything that’s happening around you. And this is good position to be in as changes of speed or direction take preparation as responses to inputs to the RV unfold at a much slower pace than that of a car. Working closely with NonStop oftentimes I wish there was a way to step back, elevate our view and become better prepared for what is to come.

By this, I mean, it’s all well and good to be familiar with product roadmaps – and yes, the NonStop team have been doing a good job of late to keep us all advised about what is coming down the road – but what I think many within the NonStop community would like to see is NonStop better represented in the world of HPE.

What does HPE mean by Hybrid IT? What is Synergy? What will OneSphere do for us and how will we, the NonStop community, benefit from virtualization, blockchain and clouds?  And is there anything coming from Micro Focus that we should be paying attention to – security, perhaps? I have to admit that I am still not all that sure about why HPE spun off services and helped create a new services company (DXC Technologies) only to then create Pointnext to fill the void that has been created by the spin-merge?

It’s through rose-tinted glasses of course that I look back at a simpler time when there was just hardware, software and some hand-holding consulting services, where the boundaries defining each of the three groups was easily recognized. However, in all seriousness, it is clear HPE is reshaping itself, evolving its messaging even as it gracefully sidesteps business opportunities that aren’t clearly aimed at helping HPE bring added-value to its product portfolio.

But then perhaps it’s all a reflection of just how complicated IT has become of late and of how technology companies are no longer inseparable from other business endeavors. When you read about powerhouse companies like J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) worried about the intentions of Amazon and Google “Intruding on their turf in areas from deposits to payments,” as was reported this week in an article on Chase CEO Jamie Dimon published on CNBC.com, it’s no wonder that the line separating technology from all else has become blurred. Every business is a technology business whether you are in container shipping, auto manufacturing, power generation or simply picking up the trash. Almost everywhere there is a business undertaking, you will come across a technology company taking a second look at it to see where they could become a serious rival to the establishment. 

Listening to Yash, OmniPayments CEO, giving an update during DUST on recent customer wins and new feature introductions, reminded me that even in the staid business of payments, change is taking place are a pretty rapid clip compared to the almost glacial like movements by Financial Institutions (FIs) in former times. And yes, IT is complicated even as IT can be confusing for many of us.

What became very clear from Yash’s presentation this week was that mobile devices were drowning out almost every other conversation at FIs as every FI looked to add features to make it even more attractive to do business using just a mobile device. “And we have done all the prereq development to ensure mobile phones are supported today by all users of OmniPayments,” said Yash.

The only other conversations making any noise within FIs, according to Yash, were blockchain and clouds and “that’s where we are now focusing more of our time!” Coming off a successful PoC of OmniPayments own blockchain implementation in support of an FI needing to implement Know Your Customer (KYC), OmniPaymnts is now confident that it will shortly have its first blockchain customer up and running in a production environment.

Perhaps it was the topic of clouds where Yash really came alive and where his recent meetings with customers and industry analysts highlighted a number of issues that most advocates rarely mention. If you are looking to embrace clouds and are expecting a reliable platform for your applications then think again. The cloud neither provides the reliability of an on-premise deployment nor does it come with guarantees about uptime. When it comes to meeting strict SLAs which so often are in force today between IT and business units then yes, forget about it! Not going to happen. Finally, looking to save money then you might be surprised to hear that clouds don’t save money – they are more expensive.

So why clouds? Well with cloud computing you can tap into a wealth of applications being developed worldwide, but for enterprise users, these offer little appeal as these applications only succeed as they appeal to mass markets that are mostly focused on individual consumers. No, for most enterprises, the transition from traditional computing to cloud computing involves renaming some of what already exists, calling it a private cloud. Wow!

Yes, that’s it … and here’s the deal for the NonStop community. Think of front-ending cloud(s) with NonStop or, as Yash fervently explained, when you build out a cloud offering for a specific marketplace, like payments, then think of having a server farm running virtualized with Linux OS images and then underpin with NonStop to ensure the level of reliability CIOs think that they should be getting with cloud offerings.

Turns out OmniPayments foray into cloud computing with OmniCloudX isn’t just one thing – not one service or one product – but a collection of technologies and products. Lots of Linux servers running virtual with NonStop holding it all together and being the home for the critical aspects of payments processing that just  have to be completed no matter what – when you audit transaction logs, you want to know every transaction was executed and completed in a manner that left no doubt as to where the money went. It’s just that simple.

“For years now we have been demonstrating no loss of transactions the traditional way, pulling CPUs and disk drives, to showcase how NonStop just keeps on running,” explained Yash to those gathered for DUST. “Now, we can do a similar exercise where resources are scattered across a cloud front-end; you want the ease with which you can provision resources for new applications or increased transaction volumes which our cloud provides and yet, you want to be sure the conventional side of payments continues without loss. We can now demonstrate this in a very real way and it’s getting the attention of those in the industry – even those jaded analysts promoting cloud for everything are aware of what really needs to be done in support of the biggest FIs on the planet.”

It was hot when we were in Mesa and even hotter by the time we made it to Scottsdale for DUST. But this isn’t the only heat that was observable during the event. We may not get the opportunity to see for miles or have a panoramic view of all of IT set before us, as is the case sitting high behind the wheel of an RV. Mobile Devices, blockchain, and clouds are the hot topics being addressed by NonStop users and while not everyone is on board today with the value NonStop can bring to conversations on any of them, it’s going to get even hotter for HPE as the message gets out among FIs. You want to save money? You want something a lot cheaper than Linux? But you want x86 and you want virtual machine support? Then think NonStop – it’s all there for the taking! 

All that was revealed at NonStop Partner Symposium!

When the HPE NonStop team gets together with the NonStop vendor community, as it now does each year, it becomes clear that there are no li...