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! 

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