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.  

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