Friday, August 30, 2019

Simplicity; understood by many but rarely achieved!

Sailing a modern racing yacht can be complicated and yet, for many years this too it’s been the same for IT. However, CIOs all want to see IT simplified and HPE has now stepped up to address this …

When I first started sailing I had to learn the ropes. Actually, and figuratively! In terms of actually I had to be able to translate what I had to do into tying an appropriate knot and as for figuratively, just a few outings before I really did have to know how to tie a bowline knot. No excuses! Yes, and pretty much blindfolded. So much for learning, “the rabbit comes out of the hole” and yes, “around the tree and back down the hole!” Never did visualize that but one seasoned sailor taught me a short-hand way of achieving exactly the same goal. Simple, right? Well not exactly; seems like everyone with whom I sailed had a different way of tying a bowline knot.

No matter; the ends justify the means, right? On the other hand a yacht is a vessel where everything can go horribly wrong in a split second as was often the case during my times racing aboard yachts. For all of that time racing other yachts it was on Sydney harbor; I never truly became a sailor – just a competent deckhand and due to my size this meant I spent almost all of my time at the pointy end of the yacht dancing atop sails, halyards, sheets and braces. No, there aren’t any ropes up front, just oddly named items that eventually you get the hang of, more or less. Bigger yachts? Well they have lazy sheets and lazy braces but that’s a whole different story!

There is a reason why seasoned sailors talk about the creeping sophistication that is changing the way sailors interact with their craft. If you have had the opportunity to watch the latest Americas’ Cup racing series or simply seen pictures taken at this regatta, they are no more yachts than a Formula One racer is a car we can take out for a Sunday drive. I have looked at these pinnacle racers and simply scratched my head – apart from being extremely dangerous to sail, they have very few components that I recognize. No sails, no real keel and almost nothing in the water. Sophisticated? Why then am I reminded of one definition of sophisticated as being “overly complicated!”

When it comes to technology there is a lot of talk about transforming to hybrid IT. Almost every product vendor has their own ideas as to what this really means. Likewise, those in the services industry put different spins on hybrid IT as well. What they all have in common is that with just a little wordsmithing, vendors of products and services keep on doing what they have been doing for years – selling products and services; if it was only that simple!

Whereas some advocates argue very strongly that hybrid IT is centered on cloud services others argue just as strongly that it is a mix of traditional systems and cloud services. Others still would prefer to have you believe it is a combination of everything already described and now, with the intelligent edge, there is even talk of mini clouds leading, I have to assume, to discussions on edge hybrid OT/IT!

For HPE customers, up until now it’s still been a hit-and-miss affair. As Phil Davis, HPE’s Chief Sales Officer & President, Hybrid IT, said in a post to LinkedIn, “Users have learned that public cloud is all about capacity. There’s a role for that, especially with non-critical data. But when vital applications are stored in the public cloud alongside those from hundreds of other companies, that shared infrastructure can lead to latency and other performance issues.”

However, Davis also said that, “Nevertheless, public cloud has helped usher in an attractive payment model – pay-as-you go consumption.” This cuts to the very heart of the cloud issue even as it adds significant weight to the argument for the need for hybrid IT.

As with everything else that has transpired in IT there are very big upsides to what’s deemed as being new even as there are oftentimes serious downsides. When it comes to public clouds the downside just happens to be predictability tied to performance. Like that famous box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. On the other hand, the upside continues to entice enterprises, as clouds are all about unlimited capacity together with consumption based pricing. Elasticity of provisioning, as we have heard talked about for some time, together with only paying for what you use, when you use it!

But talk of hybrid IT equally has its upside and downside. In this case, the upside is that an enterprises important mission critical applications can still run on-prem while other applications (more often than not, related to data lakes and data analytics) can run on private clouds also on-prem. There are even opportunities to choose to run some applications on public clouds where enterprises can leverage the many tools and utilities provided by the public cloud service providers.

However, the downside can best be summed up in one word – complexity. Yes, it takes a sophisticated enterprise to tackle the overly complicated results of engaging all three models. In some respects it’s mind-blowing when you start conjuring up images of applications being able to run on-prem, off-prem and on traditional as well as on virtualized. Provisioning it all correctly and ensuring all required resources are accessible is stuff of operational nightmares. You want to run it where? So yes, it’s complicated.

At least it was none other than Einstein who said “Everything should be made as simple as possible. But no simpler.” When it comes to hybrid IT what is central to nearly every enterprises plans is some sort of way to hide the complexity. It was not through happenstance that HPE updated it’s key message for HPE Discover a few years ago to “Simplifying the transformation to Hybrid IT” as I am sure that they caught on that this wasn’t going to be an easy assignment for any enterprise. But then again, giving data center managers the flexibility to select where applications run based on availability of resources, the optimum cost (for running the application) and the overall transparency of any shift of platform well, they bought into this idea of true hybrid IT.

This past week at VMworld Conference, HPE took the wraps off it’s latest initiative. As the headlines explained, “
HPE brings hybrid cloud-as-a-service to VMware customers - HPE is offering its GreenLake, its pay-per-use managed service, to VMware Cloud Foundation customers.” For some time now we have been watching the GreenLake program storm into the market – some 600 customers and over $2.8 Billion in total contract value – is the key program when it comes to everything-as-a-service together with consumption pricing supporting the HPE pay-as-you-go (and no-hardware-required) model. Forget images of stagnant lakes in Florida awash in slime. This is the real deal and it’s the focus of HPE’s drive to simplify the task of embracing hybrid IT.

In a post to LinkedIn, Phil Davis posted that, “For years, HPE has stood by our belief that we are moving toward a hybrid world. Now, nearly everyone is adopting a similar vision - including the same public cloud vendors that claimed private clouds would eventually become a thing of the past … As we reaffirmed at HPE Discover Las Vegas just last month and at Discover More in Singapore this week, there are many pathways to take us there, with cloud being one of the options.”

All well and good as we all know that many paths lead to clouds. However, it was Davis who then added, “At HPE, we believe that your cloud experience should be open and seamless across all clouds, and should be powered by a partner who offers customer choice as their first sales priority.”

Open and seamless; but how? According to CRN journalist, Steven Burke who follows HPE for CRN, “The new GreenLake as a service offering, which runs on HPE’s fast-growing Synergy composable cloud platform, allows partners for the first time to provide VMware virtual machines (VMs) on a pay-per-use basis with the full VMware Cloud Foundation stack on GreenLake.”

Quoting Paul Miller, HPE Vice President of Global Marketing, who Burke interviewed for CRN, HPE thinks that they “have a better VMware solution with Synergy that enables speed, agility, a lower cost point and more flexibility over Dell with metering at the VM level. … Dell meters at the server level. We are the only ones that meter at the VM level and enable customers to bill at that level.”

The way another publication, ZDNet, saw the announcement was, “
The integration effectively creates a hybrid cloud-as-a-service offering for customers using HPE appliances and VMware software.” And yet again, this publication quotes Miller, "We're enabling [customers] to get the cloud economics, the cloud speed and agility in their own data center."

Expressed another way, Davis also said in his LinkedIn post, “
HPE is focused on providing customers with the right mix of hybrid IT, one that is tailored just for them. Our goal is to solve, not simply sell. Furthermore, our portfolio was developed to guide customers along any point of their cloud journeys by helping them integrate new components in legacy environments, and helping them connect to next-generation cloud native apps.”

While I have not discussed the ramifications of this announcement with the HPE NonStop team two thoughts come to mind that I believe we may all want to consider. Firstly, HPE IT is running NonStop-as-a-Service where the application just happens to be the NonStop SQL data base. HPE talks about this as DBaaS supported by NSaaS. For now, its on-prem, but it’s also got many of the attributes / expectations you would typically associate with private cloud deployments. Secondly, there is the reference to HPE Synergy.

I cannot speak for HPE, but it should be clear to anyone who has attended any of my recent presentations or read previous posts, that I am very bullish about HPE Synergy and of the potential to be able to interact with Synergy to provision NonStop. It’s not too hard for me to imagine hearing news at some point that this will become yet another way to consume NonStop – again, nothing official and I cannot point at anyone who has confirmed any of this but it does have me wondering. What’s driving my interest in such an end game? Well its simplicity of course – it has to become very easy to deploy NonStop any which way I want without slaving over a console to correctly provision all the required resources.

Ignoring for a moment my earlier observation about sophistication being best described as overly complicated! According to Wiki, when it comes to sophistication, “Today it is common as a measure of refinement—displaying good taste, wisdom and subtlety rather than crudeness, stupidity and vulgarity.” All of the energy that HPE has exerted in making transformations to hybrid IT as simple as possible and perhaps, as fluid as enterprises would like, has a lot to do with diminishing the complexity involved. And with the most recent announcements by HPE, it may very well have hit the mark this time with combinations of GreenLake, Synergy and its partnership with VMware. Arguably, brilliant! Or, as Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!” 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Another milestone – and yes, milestones are coming along all too often!

For Pyalla Technologies, LLC major business milestones are being passed more often of late – hopefully, there are many more still to appear! 

On Monday, August 20, 2007 I posted for the first time to this blog. It was an introduction, naturally enough, and something that had started as a suggestion by the ITUG board of directors. There had been an ITUG board meeting in Chicago and as I was just hanging around at the time; being a former Chairman the board kind of tolerated me. To this day I think their suggestion was to give me something to do and as an encouragement for me to return to my hotel room.

At that time of that first post I introduced myself as RT Writer, a reference to the presence of a column in The Connection of the same name as this blog – Real Time View – and of how this was going to be RT Writer’s blog. But so much has happened in the intervening years that my use of the handle RT Writer has for all sakes and purposes, disappeared. A relic, if you like, of former times when the NonStop community operated differently to how it functions today.

The picture above was the one I used with that very first post and in a way, proved to be an indication of a topic that worked its way into many of the story lines. Taken of me while seated, waiting for the start of the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix, wearing a rather unique cap – supporting Australia’s Mark Weber as he raced for the Jaguar F1 team – it would come as no surprise that for almost a decade I not only became a fan of open wheel racing, but that together, Margo and I found our way onto race tracks in the US behind the wheel of a number of different vehicles.

But this really was never the main story line, as so much has happened across the past 12 years that it’s impossible to highlight all of them. From the time immediately following the acquisition of Tandem Computers by Compaq through to the “merger” with HP to the slit into HPE and HP Inc. to what can now only be referenced as the offloading of non-core products, to compare it with being on a rollercoaster ride is simply overrating such rides.

Starting my thirteenth year well, all I can say is that as I hung on to that rollercoaster that today is HPE, the storylines materialized right before my eyes and there was no lessening in the many twists and turns that HPE executed that gave me something to post about. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from the book (and now a film) The Art of Racing in the Rain, by
Garth Stein:

“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.”

I cannot recall a single month where something didn’t occur that was worth posting to this blog. And yes, as many were written out of ignorance as were written with intent – and intention to always ensure the spotlight shone brightly on NonStop. For good reason there have been stories to write featuring NonStop as it has demonstrated an amazing ability to keep on transforming with each new architecture and to embrace wholeheartedly each new technology. NonStop thrives to this day as it meets a fundamental need of business – don’t fail me when I most depend on you! Simple and yet, the hoops through which other solutions jump only add complexity to where the solution becomes fragile – just ask any business who has tried to scale Oracle RAC!

Looking back at the first post in 2007, by way of introduction I covered some of my early work and in so doing, I referenced a number of colleagues from my earliest days with Tandem Computers. As I said back then,
most of you know me - I have been involved with the NonStop server since my early days at Netlink Inc. out of North Carolina. The company's R&D center was in Sydney - but as we looked for additional funding we ran across Tandem Computers and eventually, Tandem made an investment. I was so impressed with the folks I met (folks like Andy Hall, Jeff Tonkel, Suri Harish, Chris Russell, Bob Marshall, and so on) that I returned briefly to Australia so that I could join Tandem. Yes, we truly are the creators of our own destiny!

When I started writing these posts, having a social media presence and posting to blogs was very much in its infancy. When I introduced myself to others in IT and told them I was blogging, the assumption was that I was simply chronicling life events. It came as quite a surprise to hear that I was blogging in support of a community and that I was covering products, technologies and architectures and yes, marketplaces.

Why would I be doing this and surely, this cannot be a real job, right? In fact it was back in 2007 when I was on stage at the ITUG event in Brighton that some of my colleagues bemusedly informed me that I had referenced this blog many, many times. It was only later that I heard from one of them of how, at that time, they hadn’t fully realized the impact blogging would have on a community.
You may recall that it was Mark Twain who encouraged others to:

 “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Today, the blogs I support and to which I regularly post anchor the business of Pyalla Technologies which shortly will be celebrating yet another anniversary. And it’s an important anniversary as in October, it will the completion of a decade of providing articles, commentaries and yes, blog posts for the NonStop community, the Payments industry and yes, even HPE.

I have only just recently been asked if I had plans to revisit my paper on the true cost of ownership of today’s modern NonStop systems to add a section or two featuring virtualized NonStop. This would be something I would like to address and hopefully, I will find support within HPE to pursue this as honestly, the paper I wrote back in 2012 can still be found on the HPE web site -
NonStop offers the lowest TCO in its class for complex mission-critical applications Up until very recently, some data points in this paper were still appearing on HPE NonStop PowerPoint slides.

There are times where I struggle to fully comprehend some decisions taken by HPE, but the good news is that HPE has created a community for bloggers and social media influencers so there are now colleagues I can turn to for additional insights even as this group has a HPE management team supporting them so I can dig even deeper into the background. Having this channel means that I am less likely to speculate too far outside the lines even as some of my posts may have puzzled some readers!

At all times I have tried my best to prepare the community for what I truly believe is about to happen. There have been times, I must now confess, when HPE has asked me to shut down a discussion as my speculation has touched on a topic HPE was not prepared to let develop within the community – if you have ever known about the
Osborne Effect then you know why HPE becomes concerned whenever this happens.

Overall, it’s been a fun time creating these posts for this NonStop community blog. NonStop survived the spin-merge of a few years ago when non-core products were offloaded to Micro Focus – clearly, evident of the high esteem with which NonStop was held inside of HPE. NonStop then thrived when support of Intel x86 architecture was delivered and yes, took another giant step forward when it was announced that NonStop would be a collection of virtual machines.

And now, we are preparing for NonStop being made available on the basis of “as-a-Service” even as it will be available for deployment on the core and the edge. “Exciting times,” as Jimmy T was fond of saying? Yes it is and even now, with this post, I have no intention of letting up on my coverage of HPE, Mission Critical Systems and NonStop! And why should I? After all, business continues to find value in systems that simply don’t fail when they are most needed.   

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Sunrise often signals the unexpected; NonStop in ascendance!

Recent travels created memories; for HPE NonStop, the coming of dawn bodes well for a spectacular and bright future for the new NonStop!

Memories of travelling the rivers and canals of Europe remain fresh. It wasn’t all that long ago and every time I reach for the phone there is a picture being displayed that does a very good job of opening the floodgates to these memories and they just come flooding in. I guess it would be unrealistic to expect that they will last forever, but all the same, one of the reasons any of us ventures far from home is to create new and lasting memories. On the occasion when this photo was taken, I had just strolled to the top of the boat and onto its “sun deck” to check on how far we had travelled overnight when I was greeted with this spectacular sight. I hadn’t expected to see this red a sky emerging with the dawn but it was hard to ignore!

While the passage of time seems to accelerate through the years, as I looked to the horizon from the boats sun deck all was peaceful and yet I knew that as we traveled deeper into the countryside there was a possibility for afternoon storms to develop. All the same, it was a scene that stopped you in your tracks even as it suggested a moment to pause and admire. To simply take it all in and yes, relax! It was only a short time later that the morning’s red colors faded and the clouds dropped out of sight leaving behind a radiant, bright blue sky!

When it comes to IT today, there are moments of brilliance that are oftentimes missed. Perhaps not to the extent of lighting up the morning sky, but definitely bright enough to catch the eye of those who may be close by. HPE has been very busy this year filling in many of the pieces first described in its vision and strategy statements and there is much the HPE community applauds. Clearly, just being the first to place as much emphasis as it did on Hybrid IT HPE placed itself ahead of the mainstream – yes, according to HPE CEO, Antonio Neri, HPE had been the “first to say world will be Hybrid.” However, it turns out that this was merely the first glimpse of what was to shine even more brightly with the passage of time.

Identifying and then labeling the world of IT as being a Hybrid world seems so obvious now, so much so that many IT professionals may have missed its significance. However, by 2015 HPE was already talking about Hybrid IT and when the company announced HPE Synergy, it was left to Neri to say:

“Market data clearly shows that a hybrid combination of traditional IT and private clouds will dominate the market over the next five years,” said Antonio Neri, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Enterprise Group at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “Organizations are looking to capitalize on the speed and agility of the cloud but want the reliability and security of running business critical applications in their own datacenters.” 

My earliest references to Hybrid Computing came in a post of June 8, 2015, when I described my impressions following the then-HP Discover 2015 event. However, going back to 2014 I wrote of how then-HP was introducing Converged Systems that were coming from “different development groups and delivering hybrids all nicely tested, configured and with a common operational interface.” However, a lot has changed during the intervening years, so much so that barely a press release is published without some reference to data processing being carried out on one form of Hybrid IT or another.

For the NonStop community, this is really good news as the coupling of a traditional NonStop system to clouds or the other way around, having a cloud, populated by virtualized NonStop, coupled to traditional servers is the realization of aspirations formed inside of Tandem Computers a long time ago! Whether you want to view NonStop as perhaps the first true programmable networking front-end processor or perhaps as an early entrant into the world of database servers, there really isn’t hiding the fact that NonStop was always deployed alongside something else. Such hybrid configurations helped prioritize software development, whether it was support for file transfer products like NDM (now known as Connect:Direct), SNAX CDF – the first and only implementation of IBM’s SNA PU4) – and monitoring software, like NonStop NET/MASTER.

Not every program in support of better integrating NonStop with what was beside it fulfilled the initial ambitions of the program, but as time progressed NonStop embraced open software and industry standards. In so doing, it became easier to program and operate NonStop and so it is today that under the oversight of HPE, NonStop plays a critical role in HPE’s Mission Critical Systems organization. Offering the ultimate in uptime, NonStop finds itself without peers when it comes to availability for true 24 X 7 operations. However, this is where the storyline diverges from the initial goals set for the original Tandem Computer. NonStop, the system, is becoming NonStop, the service.

As HPE’s Neri explained at HPE Discover 2019, when it comes to infrastructure available today from HPE then this is all about to change. “Everything-as-a-Service; any workload, anywhere!” Giving this a little more clarity, Neri said, “I am committing to you that in the next three years, HPE will be a consumption driven company and everything we deliver to you will be available as a service.” Even as we are adjusting to the new reality that NonStop is nothing more than a collection of virtual machines, exposure to those virtual machines will disappear behind infrastructure increasingly cloud-like in terms of “elasticity of provisioning”, or as we refer to it these days, composability. Infrastructure as software and as
manipulable as anything we interact with today – easily becoming just another set of selectable icons on a laptop or smartphone. Yes, I want the option to run 24 x 7!

For the NonStop vendor community this is both a likely attractive godsend even as for others it may prove to be unattractive. On the one hand, mess up the pricing and a vendor could end up simply migrating its customer base to a much lower priced alternative. On the other hand, suddenly demonstrating, testing and performing PoCs / Pilots can be undertaken by prospects without any need for expensive hardware purchases or software licenses. It’s safe to say that there are many wise heads now playing with the numbers to determine the optimal pricing for NonStop-as-a-Service, but for now, it hasn’t yet been established and I can’t take too seriously the pricing for NonStop on NS2 (virtualized NonStop (vNS) on HPE sourced ProLiants) all that seriously as it surely is just a one-off in order to bring the virtual NonStop to market.

There is a temptation however for NonStop vendors to explore building their own global “solution-specific” private clouds based on vNS. By now we have all read of OmniPayments building out such an environment as part of its deployment of OmniCloudX. “This has been a boon to OmniPayments as it has allowed us to support prospects introduction to OmniPayments including running PoCs and Pilots but also, during any period where they are without a NonStop platform, traditional or virtual,” said OmniPayments, LLC., CEO, Yash Kapadia. Some features of OmniPayments can coexist with other vendors payments solutions – OmniPayments  Preauthorization Engine / Fraud Blocker for example has been deployed alongside BASE24. “Having the option to capitalize on our approach to OmniPayments-as-a-Service in this manner,” said Yash, “goes a long way to endearing us with our prospects; no cash up front is always attractive for potential customers!”

Returning to Neri’s unambiguous statement, “HPE will be a consumption driven company and everything we deliver to you will be available as a service,” there is something else the NonStop community needs to consider. From every conversation that I have had since HPE Discover 2019 it is clear to me that the execution of this directive will involve HPE’s partners. Greenlake, and it’s portfolio of partners are at the fore in this regard even as Greenlake itself will be stepping into the business of supporting the edge and other infrastructure as a service. “We are at an inflection point in the market,” said Neri in a press release. “Everyone recognizes that customers want technology delivered as service, but they also want it on their terms. HPE’s unique approach to as a service, which empowers customers with choice, flexibility, and control, is driving HPE Greenlake’s tremendous success.”

Given Greenlake’s penchant for being able to point to a growing number of enterprises that it supports, the only question remaining for the NoNStop community is when Greenlake will point to HPE’s own IT organization to say, “HPE IT runs NonStop and supports the NonStop SQL/MX on the basis of DBaaS!” This scenario was covered during a discussion between the Greenlake team and a group of HPE Influencers at HPE Discover 2019, so fingers crossed that it will develop traction and indeed momentum inside of HPE as after all, every potential customer of NSaaS would want to know that HPE is “eating its own dogfood!” And in a way, you couldn’t point to a better reference considering how many support / maintenance contracts for Oracle were retired.

Cloud-watchers and early risers who look at sunrises all know that over the span of just a few minutes, the sky will change. What was once just a foretaste of the day that lay ahead will be replaced by the sun itself. What may have been in the shadows comes into full view and more often than not, is a spectacle all unto itself. For the NonStop community, for now we can only see the sun’s corona – it’s outermost layer – but we all know the substance that will follow. However, just as we know what will transpire with the sun each morning, NonStop is ascending and for that, it has to be said that HPE was not only first with Hybrid IT, first with Converged (and later, Hyperconverged) and first with Composable but it must also be said, first with delivering fault tolerance to the cloud!    

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...