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!

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

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