Monday, February 25, 2019

Just how fast is change happening?

Within the NonStop community change has always occurred at a measured pace, but with NonStop X and virtualized NonStop will that still be the case and can the NonStop team do it all by themselves?

It has become a popular practice, fraught with danger and unintended consequences, changing lanes without signaling in the hope of jumping into a lane that is moving a lot faster! In some metros signaling that you are about to change lanes typically encourages the slower driver in that lane to accelerate; closing the door on any opportunity to capitalize on traffic that is moving more quickly. Indicating your intent, such obvious signs of being courteous, is taken to be signs of weakness; a passive driver unsure of their next move. However, the desire to get to a destination more quickly is inherent in every driver on America’s freeways (as it is in other countries I have visited) even if that means taking risks.

When it comes to technology, it has always been a race – an opportunity to outflank the competition with something new. The “unfair advantage” is as keenly sought after today as it has ever been and there is no mistaking the media coverage of a company that announces a breakthrough that propels it not only into the spotlight but onto the radar screens of every business in its market segment, no matter how big they happen to be at the time. Yet, there are unintended consequences more often than not. Signaling a lane change and then lifting off the gas, as I once witnessed on Southern California’s dreaded San Diego Freeway (the I405), resulted in the car behind slamming into the poor driver uncertain of their lane change. This collision then propelled both cars into another lane and as cars began spinning it became clear that a major multicar pileup was in progress. For the technology savvy within IT, aware that making a change and then hesitating, weighing the risks involved even as the first steps towards implementing something new oftentimes can be as detrimental to the business as not making a move at all (as time-sapping recovery steps are initiated)!

One hallmark of the NonStop community is that when it comes time to change, it has done so in a very measured manner. How often have we heard it described as similar to changing a tire while the vehicle is in motion or perhaps even more graphically, engineering a change of plane while the aircraft is at 35,000 feet!  NonStop is deployed because of its fault tolerant attributes; it’s ability to run 24 X 7 and this means accommodating changes of systems, the OS and key middleware and the solution as well, without introducing any disruption to the NonStop supported solution. Over the years, this has seen the rise of numerous processes designed to aid the cutover to something new, be that an additional processor, an addition of a system and even an additional site.

When it comes to the network itself, however, there are even greater exposures to unintended consequences, so much so that more often than not it’s more practical to keep a line or a server or even a complete system connected using existing technology than running the risk of changing protocols at the same time as changing the rest of the system environment. Change is happening fast all around the data center, but sometimes it’s more prudent to work with what you have when it comes to the network.

This harks back to the days when IBM drove all networking decisions and where major networking architectures centered on IBM’s architecture de jour! For many enterprises dependent on the fault tolerant attributes of NonStop as they applied to supporting their networks 24 X 7, IBM’s System Network Architecture (SNA) drove the decision making so much so that all vendors seeking a presence inside the network had to support a basic set of protocols and services that came with SNA. First unveiled in 1974, the deployment of physical SNA networks comprising mixes of SDLC, Token Ring, etc. are no longer the mainstay of modern networks and yet, the applications and the devices with which they communicate are oftentimes still tied to 3270 display formats (LU2) as well as to Advanced Program-to-Program Communication (LU6.2) exchanges.

The networks have been updated and more often than not are based on IP, but the applications, that wealth of critical business logic, hasn’t been looked at for years. Mapping these APIs and supporting services on top of modern networking protocols has proved to be the least risky approach to embrace for many enterprises as they face major upgrades of their systems, so much so that with each successful upgrade there has been less and less enthusiasm to dig into the code to see what it’s doing – SNA networks are well and truly deceased; long live SNA applications! This has had ramifications for HPE and the NonStop team and even as it saw the turning signal begin to flash, the team wasn’t prepared to crash into the stalled traffic that was up front!

The move by HPE and the NonStop team to embrace the Intel x86 architecture brought with it a couple of challenges, not the least being what to do with SNA support. NonStop users had for quite some time the option to deploy the NonStop product, SNAX, or to choose between the third party products – ICE from ACI Worldwide and uLinga from Infrasoft. The resources (and money) that would be required to test and validate SNAX on x86 seemed disproportional to the number of NonStop users that required support of SNA applications so HPE, together with Infrasoft’s partner, comforte, began promoting uLinga as the preferred choice and Infrasoft, have been able to meet the needs of those NonStop users migrating to the new L-Series operating system.

As early as 2015 the NonStop team provided numerous updates on the future of SNAX on NonStop X including the L-Series Application Migration Guide (Published: November 2015) that advised the NonStop community in a chapter labelled What is Changing Differences between the H- and J-series and L-series development environments where it called out specifically that “communication protocols that are not CLIM-based are not supported on L-series RVUs. These include native SNAX, legacy IPv6, ATM, and X.25.” With the decision not to support SNAX on NonStop X (or virtualized NonStop) in L-Series releases, NonStop product management has steered the community to uLinga as it has been validated as capable of supporting SNA applications on NonStop X (and virtualized NonStop).

HPE is a vocal advocate for partnerships albeit partners prepared to sell HPE systems, peripherals and software in volume. NonStop differs from this model slightly in that NonStop partners support the HPE NonStop sales effort with products and services that otherwise might be missing from the NonStop product portfolio.
Educating the NonStop sales force to the benefits of the uLinga products as a solution for NonStop X (and virtualised NonStop) fits well with the overall strategy of working with boutique specialty shops focused on just one aspect of NonStop. Turns out, if you want SNA protocols such as LU2 and LU6.2 (and many others) to run over IP then either uLinga EE or uLinga DLSw is the product to turn to – cool! Alternatively, if you have some other protocol that you need supported on NonStop X one of the other uLinga products may be suitable.

"Infrasoft and comForte have forged an incredible partnership together over the years, with Infrasoft focusing on development and support and comForte providing the sales and marketing" said Infrasoft Managing Director, Peter Shell. “The unique advantage that comes with uLinga is that the Infrasoft development team is well equipped to accommodate almost any enterprise-specific implementation of SNA applications that you could possibly describe – yes, they have seen it all through the years. “There is likely to be still configurations out there that might surprise us,” added Shell “but they are deployed in support of SNA applications and that’s not going to phase us.” Maybe a surprise for some members of the NonStop community, uLinga now runs on Linux as well as NonStop and this Open Platform version of uLinga is in production already at a major southern hemisphere bank.

Given the availability of uLinga with its support of the L-Series operating system, enterprises that have commitments to NonStop systems no longer need to worry about the network when it comes time to migrate to x86 systems (including virtual machines atop of x86). uLinga supports all the major APIs, including those familiar to many in the NonStop community such as HLS and APC. “Bringing in uLinga with the latest NonStop X system is a relatively easy if indeed a no-brainer option,” added Shell. “The upside of course is that enterprises can focus on the real value from migrating to NonStop X – better price performance along with a move to industry-standard hardware and open software.” There will be many more migrations to NonStop X in 2019 and having uLinga on hand to ease the system migration makes the decision to move equally as “no-brainer” as keeping the network whole.

Migrations undertaken by the NonStop community have always been approached a in a measured fashion, with steps taken to mitigate risk at every level. The HPE NonStop team has done a tremendous job in providing tools and even access to systems that dramatically simplify the process of moving to a new architecture. By promoting the use of uLinga to maintain support for existing network connectivity while remaining very focused on the system holds merit – the NonStop team knows NonStop systems. Working with partners like Infrasoft and comforte simply means that the NonStop Development team is focusing its own resources on what matters most for the NonStop user – avoidance at all costs of any potential crashes, no matter what signals might be given. And for this the NonStop community is being well served – so much will change in 2019 and NonStop X will be firmly in the mix; isn’t it good to know that even as change is happening, there are at least some constants beneficial to everyone in the NonStop community. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Of culture, and what we take for granted!

When it comes to our culture and the mindset that sustains our culture, the NonStop community shows flexibility and resilience. But can it continue moving forward as everything around NonStop transforms?

It doesn’t take all that much to witness a cultural transformation. From a home where there was always a little bit of Australiana filtering through the conversations, it was just a week ago when our Windsor home became a Polish mecca. For five days, it was only Polish spoken in the home and the food selections reflected Polish traditions – lots of eggs, processed sausages, potatoes and yes, Vodka! Most every night it was a case of simply sitting down at the bar and sharing different Polish regional delicacies that somehow Margo managed to whip up. Fortunately, the intrusion of another culture wasn’t painful and it demonstrated that there is little hindrance to changing cultures whenever the mix of participants brings with it all the necessary elements to drive such a change. 

For many of us, a trip to Europe is always prefaced with the observation that the trip will be an opportunity to immerse oneself in a different culture. Driven by ancestral ties to a location or simply looking for a change of scenery, it doesn’t really matter, as key differentiators such as having to deal with a foreign language, work with unfamiliar currencies and navigating a menu where nothing is recognizable all work together to reinforce that our surroundings have indeed changed. For the NonStop community, there is another cultural change underway and it has a lot to do with the journey NonStop has embarked upon thanks mostly to the energies of some very smart folks inside of HPE. “After years of investment and engineering, NonStop’s fault tolerance (is) fully implemented in software,” said Mark Pollans, Senior WW Product Manager, Mission Critical Solutions. NonStop can be “orchestrated and managed like any other x86 workload in the cloud.”

Pollans made these statements in a must-watch NonStop Solutions’ Video available on the HPE web page for
HPE Integrity NonStop, “Powering your daily digital transactions” – it’s easy to find; just scroll down the page to find a pointer to this video first shown at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp last November. However, the topic most covered of late has to do with whether NonStop as software will find its home within the existing NonStop user community or does it mark a change of direction for NonStop? Does this NonStop as software open the doors to the broader world of IT and will it appeal to the IT leaders even though they may never have experienced NonStop deployments in the past?

The tone set by the Pollans video suggests that there is more benefits from running NonStop than existing NonStop users may know about and, taking just one example from Pollans video, for those contemplating running virtualized NonStop (vNS) with VMware the orchestration tool can be leveraged “to automate the tasks of VM definition, configuration, provisioning, sequencing, instantiation, connectivity, and such through simple workflows aided by powerful graphical interface.” (For more about this and additional capabilities when running with VMware, look for the just published “Hardware architecture guide for HPE Virtualized NonStop on VMware” written by NonStop product management and I am sure NonStop Product Management can provide you with a copy if as yet you haven’t seen this guide.)

Changing the culture of the NonStop community and having it embrace NonStop as software may prove more challenging than simply introducing NonStop to new users, new industries and new markets all supporting new applications. Culture and yes, cultural differences exist within the NonStop community and it’s really just a question of mindset – a situation that is heavily influenced by what others might say. Having just returned from Australia I have been immersed in that country’s famous laissez faire culture.  Whether it is their irreverence, the idea of the “fair go,” their love for a drink (or two), or just their obsession with sports and the outdoors, residents of the Lucky Country exhibit a deep-rooted belief in a diverse and tolerant culture that supports their laid-back lifestyle, but even in this lucky country, the ability to absorb change – be that the metric system, the changing population mix or the recent lack of success playing New Zealand in any sport – Australian culture is capable of embracing, absorbing, and then accepting change on a scale (and at a rate) that continues to surprise visitors who return to the country on a regular basis.

This need for cultural change within just one industry was illustrated recently as the findings from the
Australia’s Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry were delivered to the government. This was the subject of my February 18, 2019 article published in Fintech Futures, Can cultures really change? Can trust ever be reestablished?  “Overriding all of what was covered in the findings of the Royal Commission was the sentiment that the Australian population had lost trust in banks. Once lost, trust is a difficult commodity to see reinstated – the population is now wary about approaching banks for any financial service,” I wrote before quoting ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott from his keynote presentation at SIBOS Sydney 2018. “There is a lot going on,” said Elliott, highlighting how there were going to be “cultural changes to address past indiscretions while the bank addressed digital transformation.”

Australia and Australian Banking recognize that cultures can be changed and when it comes to IT in general there is a growing awareness that the traditional mindset of CIOs also needs to change. In a HPE sponsored submission to CIO magazine,
Stumbling with your public cloud deployments? An industry analyst offers advice under the heading of Bridging the cultural divide: a new level of communication Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, discusses this topic with Edwin Yuen, Principal Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services. At one point, Yuen “brings up something he calls an inverse mindset. Traditionally, organizations maintained and optimized specific infrastructure to impact an application in a positive way. ‘Now, we are managing applications to deliver the proper experience, and we don’t care where the systems are. That infrastructure could be in the public cloud, across multiple providers; it could be in a private cloud, or a traditional backend and large mainframe system.’” It might even include a NonStop system including an on-prem virtualized NonStop in an x86 server farm.

An inverse mindset? From the data center controlling everything that can be accessed, processed and stored according to the constraints generated by the selected technology deployed, to where today the tail is most definitely not wagging the dog and where any access can be changed with a simple swipe or click. The infrastructure no longer dictates application usage. Sounds simple? Sounds a tad preliminary and setting an unrealizable expectation too soon? Not really, as it’s happening all around us. Just look at the traction developing around open banking in the U.K., where the holy grail of banking, the customer check account number, is no longer central to what customers hold dearest. They have lots of check accounts!

Yuen also touches on something very important to all NonStop users – the coming importance of automation, analytics and the transition to prescriptive processing versus simply responding after the fact. “As organizations embrace this inverse mindset, Yuen says it will be critical to monitor everything across all the different environments effectively with tools that automate and orchestrate. Additionally, organizations need machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI). ‘Once we train the models, they can be self-learning, self-healing, and self-operating. That’s going to relieve a lot of work.’” This is now better understood within the NonStop community as NonStop vendors of monitoring solutions are already well down this prescriptive processing, but the bigger question now is one where it shouldn’t matter where NonStop runs today.

You have options and choices to make and you may elect to run it all – a mix of traditional NonStop with vNS - in a private cloud, together with the Debian distribution we see with the new NS2 product along with vNS together with VMware in a public cloud; a mix too of NonStop on HPE hardware as well as on hardware sourced from other vendors which will more than likely be the case when it comes to public cloud deployments. There are no hardware or infrastructure barriers to how you run NonStop or where you deploy NonStop – it’s all industry standard using common x86 and InfiniBand / Ethernet fabrics: Your choice! Mindsets can evolve and along with changing mindsets, the underlying culture can change too. This is no longer the NonStop of Tandem Computers but rather the NonStop of Hybrid IT – the transformation of NonStop in lock-step with the transformation of IT itself.

The only real question remaining for the NonStop community as it stands today is whether or not it wants to embrace change, but history already tells us that the NonStop community has a proven track record of doing just this. Think CISC to RISC, from MIPS to Itanium, from proprietary to Intel x86 – the culture of NonStop turns out to be every bit as diverse and tolerant as what is at the core of cultures such as Australia. Countries can change too as can banks and the financial services industry and every indication today is that the NonStop community is embracing change right along with everyone else. Transformation to Hybrid IT? For the NonStop community, it’s a journey that started almost five years ago and to everyone else, the NonStop community can take pride in being among the first to embrace it – it may not be as simple as sitting down to plates of eggs, processed sausages, potatoes and yes, Vodka but the results should be every bit as visible to everyone in IT! As a community, NonStop already has in place the mindset and the culture that best accommodates even greater change in the decades to come.  

Thursday, February 7, 2019

And now, for something completely different …

HPE NonStop team has certainly unveiled much that has surprised the NonStop community and as unexpected as it may have been, it’s positioning NonStop to play in an even bigger marketplace for 2019!

While this picture was taken during our recent trip to Sydney, this post will not be about Sydney, as even now memories are beginning to fade. Take a good look at this picture of a street – well a lane actually – that we ran across towards the end of our stay. It’s an artistic display, although at first it was difficult to actually make sense of it all and then it all fell into place! Underwood Street – it’s obvious, isn’t it?  As colorful as the streets of Sydney can be and in spite of all the creativity that is present even in the CBD (Central Business District), it’s still refreshing to see that someone with a “tongue in cheek” sense of humor would be allowed to put such an edifice in place in an otherwise out of sight lane. Yes, it’s different alright!

For much of my IT career I have been tilting at windmills, oftentimes electing to make a career change that has dumbfounded my colleagues. Twice I rose to take on Managing Director positions, the equivalent to today’s CEO position, and on both occasions after a reasonable amount of time I elected to jump ship to tackle something that interested me, rather than try to move up to an even bigger leadership challenge. Having said this, it wasn’t like I didn’t work with the occasional headhunter or two but even then, there was a surprise install for me. Returning to Australia for the last time, my cheerful headhunter with whom I had worked previously, rang me to advise me I had made the short list of candidates for Managing Director of a very well-known IT peripherals supplier. Wow, sure would be an impressive step up, career wise.

Unfortunately, the next meeting with him was to let me know that he liked the job prospects so much that he decided to take the job himself – bad news for me, but good news for him! As a point for later discussion, he was probably better suited than I was to fill this executive vacancy but all the same, it was surprising to say the least. My drive back home that night where I had to face the family left me less excited than when I had departed earlier in the day. Talk about something different alright and I can’t imagine describing anything better to illustrate the point. Whenever I talk to members of the NonStop community there are always stories about surprising career choices and all I can think of is the Monty Python Flying Circus television series that kicked off each week with the catchphrase, “And now, for something completely different!”

As we now look at the NonStop product roadmaps and begin to grasp more fully what it all means for the NonStop community in 2019, there is much that was completely unexpected. Even to the most jaded of NonStop watchers, it would appear that the multiple paths down which NonStop is travelling are bound to take NonStop into unchartered waters. By this I mean that NonStop is on the verge of tackling market verticals and global regions it has never before viewed as fertile ground for NonStop systems. We have heard at major NonStop events of NonStop systems deployed in bakeries as well as in baggage handling systems and much more, but now there really isn’t any limit to the type of applications NonStop will support as the whole world has become mission-critical. What was once a very finite marketplace is now way more common place to the point where simply saying you’re focused on mission critical applications is way too broad a generalization!

In an article by CAIL’s CEO, Ron Thompson, published in the January – February, 2019, issue of The Connection, he raised a pertinent point. For Ron, there may be merit in “changing ‘Mission Critical’ to ‘On-Line, Real-Time, All-the-Time.’ This identifies the market and applications where NonStop is clearly superior and has significant advantages to improve business outcomes. With Enterprise Business Executives focused on increasing relevance and revenue, expanding opportunities, having competitive advantage, etc., there is a need to highlight how NonStop delivers on these objectives, plus reduces business risk.”

Of course, there will be push back as to the exact language we might consider using if we were to ever move beyond Mission Critical – everyone has their own opinions, of course, but the mere fact that there are leaders among the NonStop vendor community willing to step outside the box to suggest something completely different shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The history of NonStop is liberally sprinkled with leaders who are only too willing to share their ideas and this is a part of the community’s culture that has helped create the camaraderie with which we are all well versed.

Diversification across the NonStop user base however is an important next-step in the history of NonStop. We have seen the fallout from consolidation among the big telcos and now we are seeing fresh moves to further consolidate banks. News is just out of BB&T and SunTrust merge, forming the 6th-largest bank in the U.S and, more than likely, this is just the beginning of another round of M&A actions. With more than 6,000 banks in the U.S. (or, is that more than 10,000 Financial Institutions), there is plenty of room for more deals to be cut, all of which will fuel further consolidation among NonStop users. As you consider what is next for NonStop then “growth verticals” need to be targeted and that will take the full commitment of HPE to properly execute. As Ron pointed out, we really do live in an on-line, real-time, all-the-time world where I would like to think NonStop begins fine-tuning its marketing efforts to target industries like e-commerce and transportation, including rail and shipping.

There are probably other much easier growth verticals to tackle but the important aspect to all of this is that the discussion needs to begin and it needs to involve every member of the NonStop community. On the other hand, what came as a surprise for many members of the NonStop community was the successful transition of traditional NonStop to virtual NonStop by the NonStop development team. Few among us ever thought that something this creative, this radically different would ever see the light of day and yet, here we are in 2019 looking at the many projects that have been announced where virtual NonStop will play a leading role – just look at how committed NTI is to virtual NonStop having placed orders for multiple copies as it goes about building out its own global virtualized NonStop presence. Surprised? And NTI is just the beginning as you can also count OmniPayments in the mix of NonStop vendors committing to greater usage of virtualized NonStop!

These are only the vendors that I know about and I have to believe that there are many others making similar commitments who no doubt will be quick to tell me that they too share the same level of enthusiasm over the potential that awaits greater virtual NonStop adoption as do these NonStop vendors. 2019 will be a watershed time where the true value of NonStop will be tested. Opportunities exist to really expand the business and we haven’t even talked about the potential for NonStop SQL as a true DBaaS offering. NonStop is truly delivering something unthinkable just a few years ago and as such is delivering something completely different to what any of us expected to see coming from the HPE NonStop team and it’s all for the betterment of the NonStop community – since when did having more choice ever hurt a product line?

The many twists and turns in my own IT
career have led to me undertaking a variety of roles, a number of which were completely unexpected. Yes, competing with my own headhunter wasn’t expected. However, when it comes to witnessing the completely unexpected, who knew how dramatically different NonStop would become and just how big a potential market for NonStop is now being created. Could NonStop be an option on offer from public cloud providers? Could NonStop be the chosen platform for trains planes and … well, ships? Could we see NonStop regionally deployed in support of autonomous vehicles? Could we see NonStop penetrate new markets originating out of IoT? All of this might happen given the commitment of those building today applications, but at this time, all I can add is that yes, it is time for something completely different!

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...