Sunday, January 27, 2019

HPE is playing the long game with NonStop and IT is the beneficiary!

Looking for a fun ride into the next decade? You can’t do better than jumping onto NonStop – still the best platform for mission critical applications …

Our time down under is now well and truly over. We have returned to Windsor, Colorado, where the weather is taking some getting used to – after a lengthy stay in what can only be described as tropical conditions, it has been snowing here in Colorado and temperatures dropped overnight to 8F degrees (about -13C). Looking back through the photos taken during the time spent in and around Sydney, I came across the photo I took as the family walked towards “The Dish” – one of the largest movable dish radio telescopes ever built. The Dish was also the title of a movie made a while back that highlighted how it was this radio telescope that relayed the signals coming from the moon when Neil Armstrong first stepped onto its surface back in 1969.

Yes, it’s huge. But until you get close enough to give it a good look, its size is deceptive. At 210 feet across it was only beaten, size wise, when a similar radio telescope was erected in Tidbinbilla, close by to Australia’s federal capital, Canberra, which was upgraded to 230 feet in the late 1980s. Both radio telescopes remain operational and still have ties back to the US NASA administration. According to the CSIRO –
The observatory has remained involved in tracking numerous space missions up to the present day, including:
·         Mariner 2
·      Mariner 4
·      Voyager Missions (but no longer due to distance of the probes, only the 70m dish    at the CDSCC can still communicate with the two Voyager probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.)[16]
·      Giotto
·      Galileo
·      Cassini-Huygens

What is remarkable about this is that the city of Parkes other claim to fame happens to be the Parkes Elvis Festival held every January, with Elvis impersonators arriving from all around the world. You just have to believe that seeing so many Elvis impersonators in the very same city as The Dish has some of the locals scratching their heads and wondering whether aliens have arrived in Australia’s outback. What is equally as remarkable is that you soon realize that this is all located out there in the middle of nowhere!

It is only with trips touching the perimeter of the outback that you get a real sense of how big continental Australia really is and how remote are the townships with their pubs, gas stations and newsagents! You also realize how challenging it is to live on the second driest continent that, at this time of year, is proving to be among the hottest places to be found anywhere on the planet. Challenging? Remote? Middle of nowhere?

As I look back at places we visited during our time down under, I can’t help but muse on the opportunities ahead of NonStop in 2019. HPE has done much of the heavy lifting needed to bring NonStop back into relevance for CIOs and data center managers, but the onus is still on the majority of the NonStop user community to translate this heavy lifting into meaningful deployments in support of the most critical of mission critical applications that just have to run without any interruption. It’s also a clarion call to the NonStop vendor community to help simplify the tasks of managing NonStop as well as developing new applications on NonStop. There are still many NonStop users that feature NonStop at the very heart of their operations and who will continue to depend on NonStop for as long as HPE keeps on making NonStop.

In a recent post to a financial blog that appeared shortly after IBM announced its fourth quarter (and year ending) financial results January 22, 2019 retail investor, Tom Armistead, wrote of how he was quitting investing in IBM. Among the remarks he made was the observation that, “In the 2017 10-K, (IBM) noted that Unix is being supplanted by Linux, without specifying what its strategy and tactics as far as participating in the transition were expected to be. My initial reaction to the planned acquisition of Red Hat (which is all about Linux) was favorable, in that they had to do something, and the transaction was of sufficient size to make a difference.” With respect to the Red Hat acquisition, if it goes through to completion, Armistead added, “It's Hail Mary business thinking - bet the farm on one last shot at a quick recovery. It's the same scenario, an old tech company languishing while innovators flourish, then trying to buy its way back into the game.”

Yes, IBM is experiencing challenging times even as, from a technology perspective, it is in the middle of nowhere when it comes to transforming to Hybrid IT. Its plans to push deeper into cloud computing have stalled even as it hasn’t been making a lot of money from its extensive library of patents. And all the while the Unix market and indeed, IBM’s persistence in relying on proprietary Power chip sets, is only adding to the remoteness many of its enterprise customers are feeling right now. IBM continues to promote zLinux, advertising how the combination of zSystems / zLinux provides, “
A powerful node for new capabilities, revenue generation, and cost savings. See what is possible with a more secure and reliable Linux platform.”

Ouch – a more expensive option for Linux can scarcely be imagined and the point here is that having sold its x86 server business (to Lenovo), it’s an all or nothing gamble as few enterprises would ever consider deploying zSystems for the first time. zLinux only appeals to current mainframe users who have excess capacity and view Hybrid IT as being little more than running zLinux alongside zOS until their cloud compute environment becomes fully operational. Compare this to the x86 based NonStop system we have today where the L-Series operating system opens the door to running NonStop not only on x86 metal but on any hypervisor running atop x86. Such flexibility drives home the importance of industry standards and commoditization in a real way – you no longer write to NonStop but rather to SQL, to Java and to frameworks that allow you to very easily port to NonStop.

There comes a time when you just have to take stock of what is needed and what is on offer when addressing the business needs of enterprise IT today. Whereas IBM focuses on the mainframe and looks around to what could be deployed on the mainframe, NonStop has turned the tables right around. You want a highly available platform to support mission critical in a way that is completely fault tolerant – you have NonStop. You want to scale out to whatever – you have that too on NonStop. And so the list unfolds – your mission critical application has very specific requirements and NonStop accommodates. The IT world is no longer heavily centralized, but rather it’s distributed and NonStop plays better in a distributed IT world than almost any other “seven nines” platform.

I have been in IT for a very long time – in November, 2019, I have been in IT for five decades. I have seen IBM pull away from the BUNCH and fend off the emergence of a very competitive, albeit potentially disruptive, Plug Compatible Mainframe (PCM) business. It is with a tinge of sadness that I am seeing the decline of the mainframe as this was my introduction into IT and for some time now I have been of the opinion that you should not “go long” on IBM, but rather to short your positions should you have any investments in IBM stock. Having written this, I am not privy to any inside scoop or have access to information other than I read in trade publications.   

On the other hand, it is with a great sense of relief that those in power at HPE gave NonStop its due and invested in the new NonStop. To put it mildly, NonStop is no longer in the middle of nowhere and it doesn’t need a massive, world-beating Dish to be sensitive to what is happening all around it – NonStop is right there in the mix of today’s competitive IT landscape. You want Linux then just look at the new NS2 for an insight into how to best do virtualization in as open a fashion as is possible in the world of x86 today. In time, IBM will be broken up and there will be numerous spin-mergers announced. It’s inevitable. And yet, why NonStop? It’s still the best solution on offer today from any vendor that meets all the criteria business demands when it comes to running those all-important mission critical applications.  

HPE can only benefit from being early to this spin-merger game and that NonStop was recognized “core software” is important for everyone in the NonStop community to acknowledge. Aren’t you glad you maintained your investment in NonStop? Aren’t you glad that HPE NonStop developers made the migration to x86 as easy as they did for you? And there is no doubting that the virtualized NonStop (vNS) is going to become an important option for many looking to embrace private clouds – aren’t you pleased to see that option become available?  

You don’t need a world class radio telescope to pick up the signals emanating from HPE when it comes to NonStop these days – all you need do is visit any Regional User Group (RUG) meeting to hear firsthand from the NonStop user community. They have all the real inside scoop when it comes to how well NonStop performs today in support of mission critical business applications. From everything HPE is telling us, if you want to assess the future of NonStop today then all I can add is to “go long!” It’s going to be a fun ride for all us in the 2020s.  

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Building the NonStop ecosystem …

The NonStop product is alive and doing well and now attention has turned to expanding its market presence. It’s time to talk about partnerships and ecosystems …

Having returned from Sydney after spending three months “down under” the takeaways were as numerous as they were informative. The most striking thing about Sydney is that after decades of minimal investment in infrastructure suddenly the city is investing in upgrading every imaginable piece of its infrastructure. From new tunnels for freeways aimed at allowing big-rig trucks to get off arterial roads and out of site, to new traditional and light rail networks and even tunnels under the harbor (or so we were lead to believe). 

The city skyline is totally compromised with construction cranes everywhere you turn – from Sydney’s Circular Quay to Darling Harbor and Cockle Bay, it’s all go, go, go as if with a sense of urgency. Sydney has to play catch up with infrastructure to match its population growth that has seen it become a city of more than 5.5 million. To put this into context, in 1981 Sydney had a population of 3.2 million and a decade later in 1991, it had grown to just 3.6 million.  But over the next twenty five years, wham! So in a sense, having done very little investing in roads, tunnels, bridges, railways and yes, even airports (developing a second airport is finally gaining traction among politicians and investors at last) Sydney is on a building binge.

The city isn’t going alone in this project but is partnering with companies from all over the world. It’s very much a global exercise, with funding and expertise coming from every corner of the globe so much so that reading the newspapers and seeing the names of the property holders, architecture and engineering firms and construction companies, it’s an exercise in putting pins into a map of the world. It’s not without its mishaps, as new residents in the just-completed Opal Tower will tell you, but the impact from everyone “pitching in” so as to speak, is truly impressive but it is a touch overwhelming to those with a past tied to Sydney of old.

Cruising Sydney Harbor and taking in the sites of all the waterfront homes that now fetch prices of $50million and up, it’s equally as hard to take in. In my youth, there wasn’t even a significant premium to be paid to live right on the waterfront – ease of commute was still the major consideration. But no more as overseas buyers have been purchasing at auction pretty much everything that comes on the market. Imagine then my surprise to read of two recent waterfront purchases made by Australian businessmen, both of whom worked in the software industry:

“Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and his wife have bought Australia’s most expensive home, the Fairwater mansion on Sydney Harbour, Business Insider can reveal.
“The price has not been disclosed, but Business Insider understands it is close to $100 million.
“$100 million. That dwarfs the previous highest price paid for an Australian property, which was $71 million for the property next door.
“That would be Fairwater’s older sister “Elaine”. Also formerly owned by a Fairfax family member, John B. Fairfax. And bought by Cannon-Brooke’s fellow Atlassian co-founder, Scott Farquhar and his wife Kim Jackson.”
[Amounts are in Australian Dollars]

Of course, there will always be one house on Sydney Harbor that will never be put up for sale – the Sydney Opera House. The picture above I snapped on our last night in Sydney, appropriately enough, one that we spent dining at the Bennelong Restaurant the shells of which are featured in this photo. But Atltassian? Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar? What’s going on and who are these young lads as indeed they are young?

Almost AUS$200 million paid to live side by side on Sydney Harbor in one of the most famous harbor-side residences of all time? Surely, the money didn’t come from software and especially from “enterprise software” developed in Australia? The truth is even stranger than that as VC money barely exists in this country and when the company started in 2002, they bootstrapped Altassian using their credit cards to the tune of AUS$10,000. It was only in 2010 that they finally caught the eye of US venture capitalist, Accel Partners, and raised the more meaningful sum of AUS$60million.

They now have more than 2,000 employees serving 60,000 customers (and counting). Even though they elected to restructure the business in 2014 and became
Atlassian Corporation plc of the UK, they are still very much headquartered in Sydney. Accel Partners was one of the VCs that had also invested in the Australian networking company, Systems Technology (also restructured to be headquartered in the US under the name, Netlink) where I once worked. However, I am also familiar with the early struggles of other up and coming companies like Insession (and, more recently, Infrasoft) and Software Developments International (SDI) who were all busily creating software products.

These are familiar names for many in the NonStop community as it was from these vendors that such products as the SNA_Hub, ICE, uLinga, and Net/Master appeared, some more successful than others. However, in each case, there were partnerships involved where other parties were involved in joint development pursuits as well as in sales and marketing pursuits. It was only normal to expect a small Australian software company to create relationships with others to take its products into global markets.

Of late, HPE has been placing considerable emphasis on partnerships and on the development of ecosystems in support of NonStop. RFPs have been announced and deals cut with vendors for products that help complete the overall NonStop solution set. In many ways this is not too dissimilar to what the manufacturers of robots are telling their audiences – robots aren’t replacing humans as much as they are freeing up those people to do tasks humans do better. NonStop development is building an ecosystem of partners to allow it to stay better focused on what really counts, the NonStop integrated software stack! The Operating System, the database and the TP monitor which are crucial elements within this stack and that’s where the NonStop differentiation can be seen.

By coincidence, as I was leaving Sydney for Colorado, I came across an article on Atlassian written after it had just published quarterly financial results for Q2, 2018/19:

“Atlassian has done it again: the Australia-based software vendor that is best known for its workflow and collaboration tools has posted yet another blowout quarter with a raise to its guidance targets.

“The company is also seeing tremendous success with its Atlassian Marketplace, which is a sort of Atlassian-linked app store for third-party extensions on which Atlassian collects a royalty. Many large-cap success stories in the software sector, like have widened their ecosystem and captured an entirely new revenue stream from app sales. For Atlassian, Marketplace revenue growth of 58% y/y far outstripped overall revenue growth.”

Yes, there it is – success owed to widening “their ecosystem”, capturing “an entirely new revenue stream.” Clearly, the two lads from Atlassian have done well in tapping enterprise software in a way few newcomers to the market have achieved in recent times making both of them billionaires not from half page business plans but from creating and delivering real products, and they started in 2002, no less. For the NonStop community there is a very real message here and one that cannot be ignored – NonStop is of a size that a growing ecosystem is crucial to the future of NonStop.

The NonStop vendor community has to become stronger and has to start thinking of growing inorganically – there truly isn’t enough time remaining to look for organic growth. NonStop vendors need to partner and indeed cooperate at an almost unthinkable (and unprecedented) level even to the point of merging. They need to more fully embrace the future and work with vendors already entrenched in the VMware market, for instance, even as they need to strengthen their commitments to Linux and to Hybrid IT.

Of late I have been asked numerous times about the NonStop message being too technical and not the message needed to address the real business needs of industry leaders. Approaching C-level execs with the message of NonStop being the solution without truly articulating the business needs it addresses has always been a situation where a lot of fine-tuning needs to be accomplished. However, that’s really only part of what needs addressing – simply put, we need more “feet on the ground.” And an expanded ecosystem made up of traditional and non-traditional partners has to be developed and quickly, else the voice of NonStop will remain weak.

I have always been a strong advocate for developing ecosystems. Partnering with vendors with market presence already is the simpler way to project strength in the marketplace than almost any other alternative. NonStop today is a vastly different product to what it was way back in the early 2000s but how many in IT are even aware that NonStop even exists? Fortunately, the NonStop community remains highly evangelical and there are a lot of powerful testimonials that can be given by major brand names committed to NonStop. The good news here for the NonStop community is that the promotion of NonStop isn’t starting at ground zero with nothing practical to talk about.

We may not all end up being able to buy harbor-side properties in Sydney or San Francisco, or London, or perhaps the Côte d'Azur. On the other hand, we may just be able to push the needle just a little further to where the readings show success!!! To the NonStop vendor community I say; have you talked to those NonStop vendors adjacent to you? Have you considered turning up to a major industry event? CES, perhaps? In other words, step outside your comfort zone (no pun intended)? It may just be the very thing you need as you head into 2019 as I for one know only too well, no one today in IT can do it all by themselves; you need an ecosystem!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

What does Sydney bring to the table …

My time in Sydney has taught me one very good lesson – systems we depend on (leisure, transportation, financial, etc.) just keep failing at a time when these applications could so easily be run on NonStop!
Very soon bags will be packed and that last trip from the hotel to the airport will be taken. It’s time to return to Colorado and to see our home, once again. After three months on the road there is no question whatsoever about us looking forward to returning to our “home office” and to, immerse ourselves in the issues of the day. We have a great group of clients representing a diverse mix of products and yes, expectations, but it’s good to see that their enthusiasm for NonStop has only increased over the past year. With more information on strategy and on where future investments will be made (think partnerships), it’s clear that the future for NonStop is rock solid going into 2019.

One of the most interesting aspects of spending an extended time in and around Sydney has been the realization that while I am from Sydney, I am no longer of Sydney. I can’t really consider myself a Sydneysider – it’s just been too long. Once familiar landmarks have gone as have many people I called friends and yes, even some family members, are gone. Sydney was the place of my birth but I can no longer pretend that it is my home. That has changed and the realization that it has all changed is perhaps the biggest takeaway for me from this trip down under. 

So now it is 2019! Yes, the famous Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks display is over and for those lucky enough to be out on the harbor for this annual spectacle as we were, it’s definitely a once in a lifetime “must!” Can we expect to see fireworks from HPE and can we expect to see the sky ablaze with announcements of new technologies, products and solutions? Are there still more stories to come from the NonStop team? Or will 2019 be a period of consolidation, with the focus on deployments and growing the NonStop user community? If you are a regular participant in HPE Discover events you will know that HPE can still deliver magic and have excelled of late when it comes to pulling rabbits out of the hat but for NonStop, with as much as has happened over the past five years, the sense within the NonStop community is that it’s now a time to take all the pieces and put them together in support of today’s mission critical applications.

I found time to watch a movie – Passengers. Indeed, despite the poor reviews, I watched it twice as I wanted to make sure I caught the dialogue. At one point, while contemplating waking up a second passenger, our main character reviews a video clip filmed before the craft left on a 120 year voyage through space. This second passenger, Aurora, said “My dad used to say, ‘If you live an ordinary life, all you'll have are ordinary stories. You have to live a life of adventure.’ So ... Here I am!”

While I will leave to other posts to cover the adventure side of this trip in more detail, at the very least I can acknowledge that I have enjoyed adventures and that I will be leaving with a lot of “developing” story lines. The central theme however, whether it’s story lines for this blog or simply comments posted to social media channels, has been the many failures of people, sporting teams, enterprises and technology. .

The banking system here in Australia is in a very messy condition. The essence of the mess that banks find themselves in has been the deterioration of trust – if you don’t trust your bank, then what? Bank leadership has been put under the microscope by a Royal Commission on banking. It began in February 2018 with the headlines that the “Australia royal commission inquiry into banking begins. A landmark inquiry into wrongdoing among Australia's banks and financial services has begun. The royal commission - the country's top form of public inquiry - will investigate alleged and established misconduct in the sector.” Yes, wrongdoing and misconduct – by banks. Yes, it’s a mess and no, it isn’t going to be cleaned up overnight!

Naturally, I have been interested as there is still a very strong presence of NonStop systems among the banks. Even as one bank is in the process of moving off the NonStop platform - yes, the same bank that tried to replace NonStop with a combination of Dell clusters and Microsoft Windows only to return to NonStop following the first attempts to deliver the new solution – it is still recognized by those I have talked to (and who are close to bank leadership), that NonStop wins out when it comes to running mission critical applications.

And why is this? It’s a well-known story by now but still worth repeating: History, together with the collective experience of a core group of technicians – they know how to deploy NonStop in a manner that ensures application availability unmatched by any other solution - tells us that NonStop has no peers when it comes to providing a fault tolerant platform.

Putting distance between what I am seeing and the “ordinary story” this represents I am reminded of just how impatient society has become with any hick-ups or outages in any of the services it depends upon. For the few short months I was here in Sydney Margo and I have witnessed firsthand an outage of major online betting systems the day of “the horse race that stops a nation” – the Melbourne Cup. 

A matter of a few days later, we boarded a transit bus only to note that our Opal Card, an electronic transportation payment card, showed no charge as the network was down. Sorry, but this bus trip will be free! Furthermore, as reported January 10, 2019, “Opal Card bosses admit they won't refund all incorrect fare charges ... made as a result of equipment error or outages.” Over the past year, while claiming 99.9% reliability, the government still had to deal with faulty card readers at an alarming rate – some 8,000 failed in the year – whereby Opal Card users were charged the maximum fare for the journey taken. Ouch …

And then payments networks of the big banks failed on one of the busiest shopping days of the year – Boxing Day. According to news headlines, “Furious customers stranded in shops are lashing out at Westpac and ANZ on social media saying they are unable to pay for their goods.” Westpac spokesman was reported as having said, “We want to sincerely apologize to customers,” she said. “It’s a terrible day for this to happen.” As one politician stated, “Australians expect and deserve better!”
And then, things got really bad …

Following the New Year’s Eve fireworks show the train system, taking everyone home after midnight, failed – a lightning storm earlier in the evening played havoc with the overhead power lines as well as the new digital signaling system. Apparently, no redundancy of systems and lines meant a lot of people clogged areas around railway stations for a very long time. It was a mess and this time, while there were apologies (but no refunds), once again there were no encouraging signs that anything was going to be done to prevent future disruption to Sydney’s transportation network.

Any one of these disruptions could be viewed as “life happens” as it is in today’s everything-connected, everything-on, digital world. But together, they represent anything but an ordinary story. Of all the attributes claimed to be of value when it comes to digital technology, you would think that availability would top the list. However, this is no longer the case. My PC stops so I re-boot, is the popular disclaimer. Not so easy when it’s a betting, transportation, or banking network with national and indeed global reach. And yet, this continues to be the primary attribute of NonStop systems today – they truly run, non-stop.

What my time in Sydney has brought into focus is that little has changed with respect to improving uptime through conventional means – it takes a NonStop to provide non-stop support of any consumer interaction. Surely, with the fireworks over and the crowds dispersed, it’s time this year to tell the world; yes, there is a lot of mess surrounding industries and yes, it isn’t going to be an easy task to clean it up.

However, when it comes to supporting our customers, NonStop continues to provide the goods – 24 X 7. Furthermore, with as many options when it comes to deploying NonStop now being provided by the NonStop team, there are few excuses as to why we cannot deploy NonStop today. Outages of any kind can be avoided - there's no reason to accept anything less than permanent availability. Call it consolidation, if you like. Call it an opportunity to expand the presence of NonStop in your enterprise. Any way you want it, you can deploy NonStop and any uptime requirement you might have, NonStop can meet it! And that’s the message I am coming away from Sydney with for 2019!

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...