Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Looking beyond the edge; NonStop becomes “First Processor!”

NonStop has always done a good job when it comes to product roadmap presentations and at ETBC, Scotland we are all looking forward to hearing the next presentation

It was many years ago that a group of Tandem developers took a side excursion to Grand Canyon. There had been an industry conference on networking, but in between the conclusion of the event and the scheduled flight home, we all elected to take in the sites of this natural wonder. As we walked from one viewing area to the next there was always an opportunity to look over the edge and of course, I have to admit, this old grainy photograph is of me taking a look!

Wanting to know more about what is just out of sight is always of interest to us all and even as there may be risks involved, it’s always a lot better to know what is just beyond the horizon or, in this case, on the  other side of the edge. When it comes to IT there is always a premium paid for information describing what will likely happen next and it is on this basis alone that so many of us plan on attending vendor events whenever we are informed that there will be business and product roadmap presentations. Of course, this has become of paramount importance of late as we watch the transformation of IT as it polarizes around the core and the edge as the implication that more changes lie ahead is inescapable.

But what is the core? And just as importantly, what is the edge? For many the core is quickly becoming associated with cloud computing and where enterprise data is stored and where the enterprise crunches numbers as it continuously analyzes data to gain better business insights about the customers ever-changing behavior. However, as for the edge, the lines blur considerably as there are as many definitions of the edge as there are deployments. It may have started out implying a thin client, but of late the definition has expanded to include everything that isn’t part of the data center. If it’s not the core, then it’s the edge, right?

It was only a few weeks ago that Karen Copeland, HPE NonStop’s Worldwide Product Manager, provided attendees at the SunTUG event with an update of the NonStop product roadmap. With the news about the strong uptake of NonStop X systems together with new customers – manufacturers in former eastern bloc countries – this latest roadmap presentation set the stage for a lot more good news of interest to all in the NonStop community. Whereas the vision for the “New IT” focused on the transformation under way inside of HPE where NonStop was making its presence felt, the strategic areas for NonStop saw a move beyond simply embracing industry standards and away from anything proprietary. What is new for NonStop is flexibility together with a new style of compute. Topping the list of what’s new for NonStop was NonStop as a collection of VMs together with customer-supplied hardware.

Who would have thought? Yes you can buy “converged systems” from HPE that meets your NonStop needs but increasingly, it’s all about “virtualized systems.” However, while NonStop makes a strong case for participation in the core (being cloud ready with support of virtualization), what about the edge? Surely, if it’s the domain of the core to provide resources to handle data and the subsequent analytics and other post processing, isn’t the edge going to be where transactions take place? If there wasn’t any thought being given to processing at the edge, why then are we considering the intelligent edge playing a role in IT?

Recently I wrote in my weekend weekly Buckle’d Edge email update about the mining industry revolution that is taking place in Australia. First, it was autonomous (yes, driverless) trains taking iron ore from the mines to the port. Now we have autonomous trucks picking up the iron ore and taking to the rail head. Shortly, we will have autonomous water trucks wondering around the mine spraying water on the extraction of iron ore to minimize the creation of dust. Yes, the fully automated open cut iron ore mines of Western Australia (WA) will be completely automated with nary a human in sight.

And thank goodness – do you know how hostile the environment is at these mines? The heat and the close proximity to heavy equipment is a deadly cocktail mine operators have been working hard to correct. While possibly not quite as hostile as the mines depicted in the film Avatar proved to be, nevertheless, the more that can be automated the better for all involved in the Pilbara region of WA. “There's the area’s remoteness - at 502,000 square kilometers it is more than seven times bigger than Tasmania - which can sometimes make recruiting staff a challenge and the risks when humans interact with large machinery.”

There is a lot more happening here in that this isn’t remote operations from some center far removed from the mines where workers tweak joysticks to manipulate the machines. “The truck knows where to go because of information about routes that are programmed by staff in a far-away operations center. The truck, which has a range of sensors that help it navigate, then drives itself to its destination.” Furthermore, "While we are creating technologically-advanced operations, where more repetitive tasks or those that pose a threat to safety are automated, the human element to how we operate remains, just in different forms," (Steve McIntosh, Rio Tinto group executive, growth and innovation said).

“What automation and the digitisation of the industry is doing is creating a need for different jobs such as data scientists and engineers in mechatronics, automation and artificial intelligence. It’s why our reskilling and retraining programs for our people are so important," McIntosh says. This led me to propose to my clients that perhaps they should think of these giants as being part of the new edge. Sensors and control mechanisms with each giant being home to a self-sufficient and self-reliant “data center”.

Thin clients? After a fashion yes, these giants are really big thin client aggregators. And between these giants and where the data will be stored there will be transaction processors – the world of mechatronics, automation and artificial intelligence will still benefit from interacting with servers handling transactions 24 x 7 and are just further examples of where edge meets core to find NonStop making it happen! Far-fetched? While it may not immediately lead to a leap in thinking to consider NonStop systems in every machine, it does beg the question though – why not?

Think of cars as data centers or more, precisely, think of what one Israel’s company is doing with respect to ambulances. MDGo, is leveraging deep learning together with biomechanical modelling with the understanding that turning cars into triage doctors will save lives. After all, “use information gathered by a vehicles multiaxis accelerometers and other sensors during an accident in order to predict the injuries inflicted on the occupants and then share the data with first responders so they’re prepared to provide precisely the care needed.” Again, where is the core and where is the edge in this example as well? Is the vehicle now the data center capable of independent processing feeding off literally hundreds of sensors?

In many ways, it was the advent of the IoT era that led to discussions (and proposals) concerning the edge – something had to be done out there, on the perimeter of IT or the core would be simply overwhelmed. However, as we explore what’s needed at the edge – the intelligent edge if you prefer – the more it needs support by processing systems capable of “autonomous, 24 x 7 operations!” Not quite the stretch you may have initially imagined, right?

Returning to the NonStop product roadmaps that NonStop’s Copeland presented just a few weeks ago, when you revisit the new strategy that depicts NonStop as a collection of VMs on customer-provided hardware then the future for NonStop is only as small as our lack of imagination. That’s right – it should be as big as the biggest iron ore mines imaginable. More to the point perhaps is that NonStop is now software. The transition is complete and while there are still a number of hardware pre-reqs (x86, Ethernet, etc.) these pre-reqs aren’t onerous by any means. There is one more revelation in the NonStop product roadmaps too that warrants further consideration – NonStop Dynamic Capacity (NSDC).

In case you missed it, business leaders want to consume IT as they do any other utility be it water, electricity or gas, or even networking bandwidth. Point is, as the NonStop team presents insights developed by IDC in the report FutureScape: Worldwide Datacenter 2018 Predictions, “By 2020, consumption-based procurement in datacenters will account for as much as 40% of enterprises' IT infrastructure spending.” But what if it isn’t so much a case of the needs of the core but the needs of the edge as well? Surely a giant ore-carrying machine operating autonomously with as much compute power as a former data center, will be spending much of its time idling as it waits for its next load. And surely too, cars aren’t crashing every minute of the day?

By now you have probably thought of your own examples and they may have little to do with cars, trucks and trains. However, what they may have to do is with “systems” that have become much more than thin clients and a way to filter sensor information. Aggregation, applying models, etc. – undertaking transaction processing but of a different type and with different outcomes – it’s just one aspect of what NonStop can do and according to the NonStop product roadmaps, may become a big part of the future for NonStop. Why limit NonStop to just the core? Why not the edge as well? Why put a fence around where NonStop should live when it will be capable of living everywhere? SHouldn't NonStop be the first processor to interact with what's out there, beyond the edge?

Ever the optimist I am now looking forward to the European NonStop Technical Boot Camp (ETBC) that will be held in Edinburgh, May 14 – 15. There will be further updates to the NonStop product roadmap and it’s clear to me that as of right now, HPE hasn’t revealed everything it’s doing with NonStop. Yes, there will be surprises and yes, conversations among the NonStop community will kick-off anew. And isn’t this all good news for the NonStop community? Investments continue to be made in NonStop; new partners are being added; new customers are being found and yes, we are still all here talking and writing about NonStop. Who would have thought?  

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Modern Marvels …

It may be big CATS tearing up the landscape but when it comes to mission critical marvels, HPE has more than one product offering that is a true marvel!

Houses are being built all along our street. While the street is called Sanctuary Drive, for now it offers very little by way of sanctuary as the noise and yes, the vibrations continually interrupt whatever we happen to be doing. Yes, you can argue that with modern machines what used to take weeks with pick and shovel can now be completed in a matter of hours (all contributing to keeping costs in check, of course). Sometimes you can be misled into thinking there is a battle of some sort raging just outside your door Today’s modern marvels in engineering are changing the local landscape on a daily basis and just watching them can leave you breathless!

A long time ago I worked for a Caterpillar distributor in western Canada and the only regret I have is that I never took advantage of opportunities to learn how to drive the big CATs. These massive vehicles that are quite capable of reshaping any landscape in short order have become tools we just cannot live without. Driving on the interstate highways, there is often a new piece of heavy equipment we haven’t seen before strapped down tight onto a big rig and these gigantic instruments of change have become so specialized that it’s hard to figure out what they do. Fortunately, I no longer have any ambitions to try my hand at driving one of these monsters and it’s only as an aside that I refer to a quote from the somewhat doomed movie, Mortal Engines, “An Engineer is no match for a Historian with his dander up!”

Well, there are occasions when I too get my dander up. It didn’t used to take much at all for me to take a swing at someone, a practice that got me into a lot of trouble at high school. However, reading a recent tweet from HPE that asked the question, “What makes HPE Superdome Flex a mission-critical marvel?” aroused more than just passing interest. “Discover the reasons in this blog: http://bit.ly/2VDFg2E ,” the tweet continued. When I followed the link to the HPE web site, I was somewhat amused by the subheading, “HPE Superdome Flex server gains momentum since launch with industry collaborations and enhanced features using latest Intel technologies.”

In support of the statement, HPE Superdome Flex “a mission-critical marvel,” HPE lists SAP HANA, Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server users as all beneficiaries of HPE’s “in-memory computing capabilities of Superdome Flex are also attracting software developers themselves, and why we have made a “sandbox” available to reimagine what's possible.” All very well (and reasonably fair for HPE to state) but then there was this closing commentary, “Building on the path to Memory-Driven Computing, our next generation Superdome Flex is the result of thousands of engineering team-hours. And like all 
HPE mission critical solutions, with a common objective – to help customers go further, faster, 24x7. Our innovation journey continues.”

The link to HPE mission critical solutions takes you to a HPE web page covering mission critical systems where it doesn’t take long to find information about NonStop. What are clearly on view are references to SAP HANA, Oracle Solutions and NonStop Solutions – a big step up for the HPE team. “Fault-tolerance, always-on operating systems that eliminate the risk of downtime in continuous, mission-critical business environments,” is always a good read.

However, when you dig a little deeper and look at the opportunities presented today from running both NonStop X and vNonStop, it would be nice to reference how you don’t need Oracle any more as you can easily swap out Oracle for NonStop SQL as the HPE data center has done. And yes, wouldn’t it also be nice to note how in a virtualized world, the NonStop transaction processing system could easily be configured to front-end the SAP HANA in-memory database. In other words, elaborate a little further about how NonStop does a lot more these days than running payment switch software (even as it continues to do a terrific job of doing exactly that).   

However, what really gets my dander up, whether you consider me a historian or an engineer as seriously, I am neither, is the reference HPE makes to all HPE mission critical solutions, having “a common objective – to help customers go further, faster, 24x7.” Seriously? I remember a time when Compaq slapped NonStop on a whole range of products that didn’t improve their status as much as it took away from the real NonStop product offering. Diluting the value of 24x7 and applying it equally to all products in the mission critical portfolio is doing nothing more that diluting the value proposition of NonStop – you cannot add availability to a system; it has to be designed into the whole stack from the beginning.

NonStop continues to defy industry norms and as such, continues to be a mission-critical marvel. That isn’t to say what HPE has engineered into the new Superdome Flex isn’t marvelous – it’s massive scale-up properties together with virtually unlimited memory – are testament to fabulous teamwork performed jointly by HPE and former SGI scientists. However, it’s hard for me to ignore just how well-suited to the monocle of mission-critical marvel NonStop just happens to be as well.

You want scale-up then marvelous, you have Superdome Flex; you want scale-out then equally as marvelous, you have NonStop. Both product offerings bring to the market superior execution, no matter your business requirements and while there can be a strong case made to bring a private cloud to Superdome Flex and run database in-memory, an equally strong case can be made to bring your customer facing applications to NonStop. You can start with processing just one tps with the full knowledge you can grow to processing one billion transactions over the course of a month. And much more – with no need to resort to the complexity clusters bring with them. How cool is that?

Now that my dander is well and truly up, let me continue. It’s hard to get the attention of business leaders when your product is buried deep within your web site. With all the news surrounding Apple and the Apple Card for instance and the relationship it has with MasterCard it was a great time to talk about MasterCard pumping as many transactions as they do through NonStop! The reliable network MasterCard has in place can scale and should those billion pockets worldwide that are home to an iPhone see an Apple Card drop nicely into the same pocket then yes, we have a huge opportunity for NonStop to shine.

I am only speculating here about the MasterCard relationship with NonStop and its potential to support Apple Card as I have read absolutely nothing about it coming from HPE. It’s no secret within the NonStop community that MasterCard has NonStop systems deployed in support of card processing and switching. But wait, there’s more to the story here. At a time when the HPE NonStop team are working feverishly to add more applications to NonStop, payments and payment switches continue to do well and with as much publicity as there currently is surrounding fintechs, it is no secret that I am working on numerous social media channels bringing the message of NonStop to this community. If you missed reading my articles, you may want to check the publication Fintech Futures web site by simply following this link -

The bulldozers and backhoes have finished for the day and it’s all quiet on Sanctuary Drive. These marvelous machines turn undeveloped earthen plots into building sites with the foundations they need for stability and future growth. Across HPE, NonStop is proving itself the equal of any marvelous machine and when it comes to transaction processing, Apple Cards or not, there is few mission-critical systems that can match NonStop for true 24x7 operations. And just as importantly, look at the user groups supporting NonStop – take the temperature of the community on any given day – and you will quickly come to the same conclusion as all NonStop users have reached. You want a mission-critical marvel? Then look no further than NonStop and if you are still vacillating over the future direction of NonStop then look no further than HPE’s own IT and the commitment that HPE has made to NonStop.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

First light – winter’s last gasp!

Reengaging with the NonStop community as changes to NonStop keep on coming may still be a challenge and yet, they’re hold promise for those with the skills learnt on NonStop!

Woke up the other day to an eerie glow emanating from a frozen landscape as winter reminded us all that while the calendar said spring, it wasn’t done with us, just yet! Living alongside Colorado’s famous Rocky Mountains there is always something going on and as much as I shivered and pulled on warmer clothes, in its own way winter was providing a beautiful spectacle. It didn’t last long. It never really does around here. As the temperature climbed into the high 40s, the snow quickly melted away and perhaps it will be eight or nine months before we see anything similar again. On the other hand, maybe we are speaking too soon.  

Having returned from our trip to Munich, Germany, it’s now time to plan for Edinburgh, Scotland. The premier user event for the European community is only a few short weeks away. Margo and I will both be in attendance and if you have looked at the agenda for this European NonStop Technical Boot Camp (ETBC), hosted by BITUG, you may have already noticed I will be giving a presentation on data – the plenary presentation Tuesday, immediately following lunch: NTI Strategy and Business Update: From Replication to distribution, integration and transformation; it's all about data! For all those planning on attending, I sure hope I will be able to pull you away from your after luncheon naps.

If as yet you haven’t registered for this event, then you may want to follow this link
https://www.bitug.com/tickets and while you are there, check out the agenda to get information on all of the presentations as BITUG Chairman, Collin Yates, together with the rest of the BITUG committee have ensured that there are plenty of sessions to choose from. Again, hope to see you there! HPE will be well represented at the event and where Neil Davis, EMEA NonStop Enterprise Division Director will be joined by Teresa Sorg, NonStop Engineering Director. Their Tuesday morning presentation HPE - State of the Nation and Development initiatives will be a session not to be missed!

While the image of throwing aside the mantle of winter may be a bit much and more than a little melodramatic, there is no hiding from the image of a NonStop attracting much more of the HPE spotlight. We are being advised quite candidly that this will be the year where more NonStop users migrate to NonStop X, even as there are suggestions being made that virtualized NonStop (vNS) will generate a lot more than simply passing interest as it takes its first tentative steps on what will likely be a very long journey into the heart of the data center. There are many questions to be answered of course but HPE has already rolled the dice having announced eight NonStop community vendors as providing additional go-to resources for modernization and migration services.

Whenever we talk about NonStop attracting more of the HPE spotlight, this isn’t just hyperbole. There is no getting around the sizable investment HPE has made in NonStop over the past decade nor the pride HPE takes in having NonStop present in some of their biggest blue-chip accounts. In talking to the members of the HPE Influencer program, none of which have come from NonStop, there are always questions coming from them about what NonStop is up to today. And the interest is genuine and a reflection of just how much catch-up is going on across the larger HPE community – NonStop isn’t going away and yes, now that NonStop has become open and embraced standards there isn’t any reason at all not to incorporate NonStop within any enterprises’ ecosystem of processors.

“The most common tools that enable (DevOps) are Jenkins, Ansible, Git, and Nexus,” wrote Justin Simonds, Master Technologist, HPE, in an article published in the March – April, 2019 issue of The Connection. “All of these tools can be used with NonStop. Many of the tools can run directly on the NonStop if that is preferred or the NonStop can be integrated into the tools running as a corporate standard. If your company is embracing agile and DevOps know that NonStop can be a part of the infrastructure and standard.” The arrival of NonStop X and vNS is indeed game-changing in the sense that they break down any remaining barriers that may exist within the enterprise that fence-off NonStop from greater participation inside its data center.

This post isn’t just about NonStop X and vNS. Rather, it’s a look at the people that make up the NonStop community. On LinkedIn this weekend was a rather interesting post encouraging each and every one of us to help out those who are looking to reengage with us - it wasn’t targeting the NonStop community, but it made me think. How many of these messages do we see each month as the depth of NonStop talent simply warming the benches continues to grow? As much as I enjoy the growing presence of the NonStop Under-40 SIG, I am just as keen to figure out ways to help those more mature ones, so to say, who are just as keen and want to return to supporting the NonStop community – users and vendors alike! We are the sum of everyone, engaged or and looking for an engagement.

For the most part, those looking to reengage with the NonStop community possess the skills that enterprises are looking for today – including all of the tools and utilities Justin wrote about. Analysts and coders have kept up and can contribute right out of the gate. Some of them even have truly in-depth knowledge of the internals of NonStop having been a part of NonStop development going all the way back to the days of Tandem Computers. These are highly valued resources every enterprise can benefit by recruiting. What’s more, with the  LinkedIn messages I have gotten of late, the advent of OSS has opened the door so much wider when it comes to supporting new tools and utilities that almost everything is possible on NonStop – once skilled with NonStop, you might like to say, always skilled with NonStop!

Point is – there is a market shift underway. The once dominant position for NonStop among financial institutions and telcos is lessening, in some regions, even as new applications including manufacturing, transportation and distribution, are growing in other regions. Not by accident is there a concerted effort to stall future deployments of NonStop into financial institutions as competition pushes new initiatives including open banking. In their evangelical zeal these new competitors are branding NonStop as legacy – a label that just doesn’t make any sense when you think about it, given the delivery of NonStop on Intel x86 architecture, together with the delivery of NonStop support for deployment atop hypervisors, including VMware. The NonStop community needs to push back on this aggressive and somewhat reckless behavior demonstrated by the competition. These competitors are simply ill-informed, but it really is up to us to “educate” our enterprises in this regard.

However, be that as it may and NonStop has always welcomed competition for more than four decades now and still remains the premier platform for mission critical 24 x 7 real time transaction processing. It’s just what a NonStop system does – and does well. The world of NonStop may be orbiting around the twin stars of edge and core and that’s OK too; NonStop as software can live on the edge even as NonStop as a system can live inside the core. This has been a consistent theme of NonStop supporters now for quite some time and the arguments as to where NonStop best resides are becoming tiresome – where there are transactions at the edge or inside the core, this is where you can find NonStop. Want to know more about how to make a better contribution to your enterprise or how best to become better known for your skills across the community?

“As you know we are in continuous learning in our careers; the trick is picking what to learn and at what level,” said Simonds in an update following the publishing of his column. “The NonStop skills will be applicable as long as NonStop remains a viable platform (and), so far so good.  I firmly believe that enhancing those skills is a way to improve chances for employment.” Returning to the topic of DevOps, for instance, “So understanding the agile precepts and how DevOps plays into that I would believe would help people find work.  If you add DevOps to your LinkedIn profile – how many additional ‘looks’ will you get?” If this appeals to you and you want to reengage, perhaps you should take a closer look at the material being covered by the NonStop Academy via the web portal. Have you seen the promotion for the April 17, 2019, customer webinar, NonStop DevOps Utilizing Continuous Integration and Deployment – it’s free? To find out more, check out the web site https://www.nonstop-academy.com/upcoming-calls/.

Even so, the many skilled NonStop developers, testers, deploy-ers and such wanting to reengage have seen this all before – yes, we will always be in this cycle of continuous learning. You may even recall how the Cupertino campus was reorganized when it was realized that Client / Server computing would demand a rethink when it came to the software needed to support such a major shift – core versus edge? We have seen it all before, right? And the skillsets honed over decades can be put to use immediately – just ask those wanting to reengage with us all. “They just know stuff,” continues to resonate well with us all!

The news that yet again, winter is going to hit North America hard over the next couple of days is yet a further reminder than spring still has work to do to turn back old man winter. For the NonStop community and for all those looking to extend their careers with NonStop, there is a growing sense of renewal following a large an investment that HPE has made in NonStop and to reengage with IT and bring value to the table, the skills honed on NonStop through the years are every bit as valued as they have always been and to quote a popular tag line, all that’s now left is to go out there and just do it!

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...