Monday, October 28, 2019

NonStop Technical Boot Camp – prosperous times ahead?

Road trips persist in 2019 but the next one, taking us to Boot Camp we expect will be the highlight of the year!

Having just returned from one road trip we are now prepping for another. A change in the weather; a change of clothes and yes, a change of vehicles! This is probably my second to last post on the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) as the event draws near. I am bound to have more thoughts about this event while driving the three days from Colorado to California. We drove to Washington in our AWD Jaguar F Type and as small as the car is, we managed to fit in all the clothes we needed for the ten days road trip. Perhaps the strongest indication of a bright future for NonStop manifesting itself came when we passed the sign suggesting we needed to make a turn in order to visit prosperity!

This post is also the last post I write from my trusty laptop that I have had since 2011. Amazing it’s lasted this long, but on this latest trip, the key board of my Sony Vaio packed it in and while the keyboard can be replaced it’s time for a new laptop anyway. Did I mention this Sony is heavy; coming soon is my new “2018 Newest HP Pavilion Business Flagship Laptop PC 15.6" HD Touchscreen Display 8th Gen Intel i5-8250U Quad-Core Processor 12GB DDR4 RAM 1TB HDD Backlit-Keyboard Bluetooth B&O Audio Windows 10-Gold” Now, that’s a branding situation that simply rolls off the tongue, but yes, after so many years working with the HPE community I am finally getting a HP Pavilion laptop.

There are probably many better options but, for me, weighing just 2.65 pounds (1.2 kilos) it’s a winner and since I already have a HP printer and a big desktop monitor, I am all set. However, during this process I was visiting many web sites for information and it struck me just how static many web sites have become. By this, I mean how little they change over time and yes, how little attention they are getting on a daily basis. 

The question I have been asking myself of late is whether or not web sites have outlived their purpose and whether they have become more of an artifact of a lost era. Have apps that direct us to communities and conversations replaced the need for web sites?

Having just written this let me reiterate that I am a writer, commentator, speaker, blogger where social media channels represent my line of sight to the NonStop community. As an IT analyst who continues to track HPE, Mission Critical Systems and NonStop web sites remain an important “encyclopedia” for me as they provide access to almost unlimited reference material. The sites that draw me back to them are those that continue to evolve and yet, I do not rely on them to develop a sense of community.  

Then there is the topic of white papers, customer case studies and yes, technical (and even marketing) briefs where objectivity is of paramount importance. As a writer working in an era where extracting anything specific from a client or customer is increasingly difficult due to many companies’ policies (together with recent company-directed legislation) restricting anything published that could be regarded as being a recommendation or endorsement, it’s difficult. Anyone attempting to publish an update on a product or service oftentimes has to resort to using generic descriptions. 

I am at the point where I simply don’t want to read anything more from that “large national bank” or even that “industrial behemoth”, particularly when the community at large can figure out who these anonymous entities are pretty quickly. It’s quirky, I know, but there are only so many auto manufacturers headquartered in Bavaria, or Stuttgart.

There is another factor at work when writing such white papers and that is the dreaded revue cycle. For the papers I have produced for vendors, some have been in review for as many as six months, by which time the “wow, or news,” factor has worn off. A number of papers I have written have not even made it out of the review cycle at all – one large UK payment processor was acquired twice during the process so the quotes attributed to execs made no sense! 

But the point is, we turned to web sites to find such information and traditionally depended upon them for references and indeed, in some situations, meaningful reviews. But no longer – any information available on a web site is dated at best, and yes, potentially misleading at worst.

On the other hand, when we talk of blogs we change gears and talk about opinions. Rather than being objective they are peppered with subjective information – it’s all about storytelling, isn’t it? All too often in our industry it’s important to know well your blogger before taking to heart the information provided.  When it comes to the NonStop community we are very fortunate to have as many social media channels as exist today. Even once traditional printed media has gone on line and it only takes keying in a couple of appropriate terms and search engines will return pages of posts and commentaries on the topic.

NonStop is being transformed even as the community is on the precipice of even greater transformation – by 2022 HPE will deliver every product it sells today on the basis of a service. It has introduced the term XaaS to cover this topic – everything as a service. Having noted this and the timetable against which HPE is executing, nevertheless having the option to run NonStop-as-a-Service may be a nice option to have but in the world of mission critical transaction processing, the bulk of NonStop deployments will remain traditional. That is, on NonStop X and at this upcoming TBC, NonStop X will continue to attract the brightest spotlight.

If as yet you aren’t aware of my own presentation at TBC let me just inform you that at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, November 5, in Regency Ballroom B I will be a guest speaker of NTI where I will be discussing NTI strategy; From Replication to distribution, integration and transformation; NTI is putting data first! Hear me talk about DRNet® support for replication, distribution, integration and transformation of data to meet whatever requirements that enterprises demand today of data generated on NonStop! “NTI has also announced DRNet® VISION – support for better NonStop integration with AI, BI, data lakes and warehouses - add to this, NTI is pleased to announce DRNet® supports JSON formats.” Again I very much thank the team at NTI for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to seeing you there immediately following lunch.

However, it would also be remiss of me not to mention two other events taking place during TBC. The first intrigues me a little as it’s the first time I recall ever seeing a Hackathon being advertised by the NonStop community. Jointly promoted by Connect and the NonStop Under 40 (NSU40) planning team it will be the first ever NonStop Hackathon and the challenge for participants will be to “build a web server that answers HTTP requests with a web page or REST API response.”

As for the goal, one key aim of the NSU40s organizers “is to encourage and celebrate a wider participation in NonStop from an emerging generation of IT professionals.” As for the event, it is directed at bringing together Women in Technology at a “Mixer- Sponsored by XYPRO.” This will be a networking event taking place at 5:00 pm Tuesday in Sandpebble C; Sandpebble D – and I know already that this will prove to be well attended. Will I be able to put my head through the door? We will just have to wait and see …

Where will social media be helpful at TBC? During the event and very likely in the weeks that follow, there will be many posts and commentaries provided by individuals and all of them will be worth checking out. That, of course, is the beauty of opinions – we all have them. However, when it comes to opinions, remember the subjective nature of them and make sure you know in advance the storyline being pursued. There will be numerous competing points of view and, by itself, competition is good. But here’s the thing we need to take stock of – as a product family, NonStop is a key member of the Mission Critical Portfolio and as such, it’s a product line that has prospered and now encourages numerous members of the NonStop community to write about it – isn’t that a good thing?

Web sites, white papers, social media channels – the pendulum continues to move through its arc and with each passing, popularity waxes and wanes. TBC will be a huge source for new material that will be readily snatched up by all those who continue to be storytellers looking for new, fresh material. To think, NonStop may soon be celebrating fifty years – yes, it’s a ways off but check the NonStop product roadmaps while you are at TBC and do the math – and even as attention is being directed towards the younger generation of which there will be many present at this year’s TBC, there will be many of us who will be present for that fiftieth birthday bash. 

How many architectures, technologies indeed product lines have flourished for this long? How many computer systems have enjoyed the prosperity of NonStop? Well, that’s another story for another time but for now, there are still presentations to be drafted, bags to be packed, weather forecasts checked and many miles to cover. See you all in Burlingame, California next week!   

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Stories from the road; what transaction processing really means today!

We are in the middle of yet another road trip, driving across the United States. This time, it’s a trip that will take us to the east coast to visit with former colleagues and good friends and as it’s been “in the works” for some time, actually pulling out from our driveway allowed us to let go and to breath. Our carriage of choice for this trip is our Jaguar F Type – a first expansive road trip for the small sports car but it’s the all-wheel-drive version shod in all-season tires (with the Mud and Snow rating) so we are hopeful that the snow that fell on us just a few days ago proves to be an isolated instance.

“There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart,” said Toad to Mole and Rat in the book, Wind in the Willows. “The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!” Fair enough; we may not be in Toad’s prized cart but the sentiment expressed is understandable. Revisiting this quote, it was the “horizon that’s always changing” that caught my attention as when it comes to HPE and NonStop, it’s as if the horizon is simply mist that appears every now and then before vanishing mysteriously into thin air!

This begs the question, naturally enough, as to whether there is a visible horizon for NonStop. So much change has taken place – the management, the teams, the products, the partnerships and much more. Could we say, paraphrasing Toad, “There's real life for you, embodied in that NonStop system!” As the premier offering for mission critical transaction processing, it may not be real life, per se, but doesn’t it strike you that without NonStop, real life may not have progressed to where it is today? It’s no secret that the world’s financial institutions all have connections to at least one mission critical application somewhere in the world where a NonStop system is actively involved.

Recently, I had an OpEd column returned to me for reworking because it contained too many references to NonStop systems and their support of payments solutions. The publication was aimed at banks and fintechs and yet the editorial team was totally blindsided by my observations concerning the pervasiveness of NonStop within the financial services industry. With hindsight, I don’t think that these journalists fully understood the payments switching aspect of payments nor were they aware of just how many ATMs are connected to NonStop systems.

You rent a car from Hertz and it’s my understanding that a NonStop system is involved. You stop by a MacDonalds and yes, again, unless I am corrected at some point, there is a NonStop system that’s also involved. I rent a Mercedes Benz or a Porsche in the full knowledge that a NonStop system helped with the assembling of the vehicle. I use my Visa debit card and yet again, a NonStop system plays a big part in making sure he transaction completes to my satisfaction. When you are driving towards that horizon that’s always changing, there is plenty of time to reflect on just how engaged NonStop systems are in nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

Several years ago I wrote an opinion paper for HPE that highlighted the many use-cases for NonStop systems that weren’t deployed by financial institutions or telcos. The paper,
HP NonStop systems as you haven’t seen them before is still available on HPE’s web site and you can easily download the PDF. Yes, it’s now five years old and I haven’t had an opportunity to revisit the specifics but I know many of the users continue to run NonStop today. 

If you have trouble with the hyperlink above you can cut and paste this link into your browser - 

Whenever we talk about NonStop on trips like this, it’s not uncommon to hear responses such as “Does business still run on NonStop?” Or, even more to the point, “Hasn’t NonStop been replaced – doesn’t everyone run Linux?” As for my personal favorite, it continues to be “NonStop, eh? Do they even make them anymore?” I have to admit that of late HPE is doing a much better job of including NonStop references in presentations by executives and whenever presentations featuring Mission Critical Systems are given there is NonStop clearly visible in the PowerPoint slides.

But can HPE be doing even more? While this is not so much a message for the majority of the NonStop community there is still a strong case to be made that HPE needs to reinforce the message of NonStop even more succinctly when presenting NonStop to enterprise executives and senior managers – a lot more visible pride in what NonStop provides would be more than welcome today! Having said this, I was encouraged to see HPE Mission Critical Systems VP & GM, Jeff Kyle, not flinch when asked questions about HPE support of financial institutions at the recent SIBOS 2019 London where HPE had a much bigger presence than what I saw at SIBOS 2018 Sydney. As the photo atop this paragraph accurately reflects, Jeff referenced NonStop when asked and yes, NonStop SQL was visible on the display behind him as was a simple schematic of what we all know as NonStop X today.

HPE’s enthusiasm for NonStop was a topic I touched on in my latest article just published in the October issue of NonStop Insider, Opinion – Is the NonStop community growing?  In that article you will read that:

It’s a known fact that HPE doesn’t break down the numbers by product line, but even so, it’s not too difficult to extrapolate and come up with numbers. As for supporting evidence all you have to look at is the uptick in numbers of NonStop customers attending regional and major user group meetings 

Enterprises are being given options unlike anything previously coming from HPE. You want out of IT and want to run everything virtualized, cloud-like, but secured, supported and operated by HPE? You got it [with vNonStop and Greenlake]! You want your new NonStop X delivered dockside of your data center? You got that as well [with traditional NonStop]!

And then there is the new mantra concerning embedded technology – in an always connected, always communicating world, technology will be embedded in new products, many of which are still on the drawing boards.

Again, should you have trouble with the hyperlink above and would like to read the article in full, you can cut and paste this link into your browser -

Transaction Processing today has exploded and the transaction volumes being bandied about are mind blowing. And yet, as you travel the “open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common” and much more, you quickly come to appreciate that everyone is initiating a transaction almost everywhere you turn. Having said this, we have also seen those signs that inform customers that they are only accepting cash as their systems and networks are down. Cards, not being accepted at the gas pump, is the worst as it forces you inside to join a line only to be told that yes, the pumps are being upgraded but no, they don’t know when the upgrade will be completed.

It is as if we all know NonStop is the answer but have we become reticent of late to be seen promoting NonStop to our executives and management? We shouldn’t be defensive any longer and that is the overriding sentiment we have been experiencing while on the road – the silence in meeting rooms is totally unnecessary. NonStop really does have the answers to every question that arises over transaction processing. Yes, you can cluster and yes, you distribute but at what cost? Layering more and more software in order to perform even the most simplest of transaction processing doesn’t make the system more reliable. Quite the contrary – it only adds to complexity and complexity is the enemy of reliability.

HPE IT knows this. HPE executives know this too and for the majority of the NonStop vendor community NonStop remains their primary supported platform. Isn’t it about time we tell the story of NonStop, “seven nines,” and yes, of how NonStop continues to provide so many options for enterprises looking at how best to keep up with processing transactions today? Tell stories from the road? No kidding – and this is what it really is all about. We see it in our daily lives so yes, leave it to Toad to sum it up best. “Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!”

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Ten years, and counting …

Pyalla Technologies, LLC is celebrating ten years; it’s been a long journey but with HPE NonStop the storylines kept on coming …

This will be a fun month for Margo and me as we celebrate Pyalla Technologies, LLC.’s tenth birthday. When the company came into existence we were still commuting between Simi Valley, California, and Boulder, Colorado, but with the changes that took place over the course of the decade that Pyalla has been in business have been monumental. Almost nothing from our first weeks remains the same. Nothing. And it continues to surprise our clients, colleagues and friends that the storylines not only continue to develop but remain fresh and by most accounts topical so that the NonStop community checks out the articles posts and commentaries that appear each month.

When we look back at our office in Simi Valley and recount the number of times I headed to the local Starbucks for what I said at the time was “inspiration”, but in all reality, was an excuse to catch up with the local coffee club, it’s not so much a blur but rather a retelling of a time that was so different to what exists today. Not just for Pyalla but for business in general. Ten years ago iPhones were still new and very much untried and the iPad was still a quarter or two away from being announced. The prospect that IT would become so heavily influenced by what we all carry in our hands wasn’t a consideration back then.

As for our Boulder office it was substantial, with plenty of room to spare. Whereas Simi Valley was an upstairs alcove overhanging the dining room, in Boulder we had a lower level multi-room suite. With external entrance – perfect for a doctor’s office but way more space than we needed and yet, over the course of a few short years, we grew into it. The challenges that came from those early days were simply finding clients and three of them stood out and indeed, without them Pyalla may not have made it to its tenth birthday. In time, we left Simi Valley and our business life became a lot more straightforward. No matter the manner by which we started the best part of all was that yes, we were open for business!

Ernie Guerrera of NuWave kicked us off with a small contract to help out with collateral and a presentation. Then it was the work put in by Dr. Michael Rossbach of comforte that really helped kick things along and working with the comforte team was when I realized we could make a go of this – Pyalla could play a role within the NonStop community. Business picked up considerably when IR, under the then leadership of Mark Brayan, engaged with Pyalla. After that, the business really picked up. Even as we made Boulder our sole office and ceased commuting between California and Colorado, there are plenty of anecdotes noting how we continued to drive back and forth across America. And there are many posts where cars and road trips anchored the storyline.

With Pyalla we made a decision to stay focused on the NonStop community, with one small diversion that took Margo into supporting nonprofit associations. Focused on NonStop, as we were, didn’t detract from our interest in payments given that Margo and I had ties back to the payments processing industry. As a consequence, we have grown the attention we give to financial institutions to where we are now contributing articles and posts to payments-focused journals on both sides of the Atlantic. Naturally enough it was easy to cover both the NonStop and payments communities, as in many instances, payments meant NonStop! But even so, there have been times when editors of publications like ATMmarketplace and Fintech Futures have raised an eyebrow over the unabashed support I gave to HPE and NonStop.

Ten years, and counting … But here’s the deal; there has been little that has been constant when you look at HPE and NonStop. The headlines just kept on coming and there was no lessening in newsworthy stories for the whole ten years Margo and I have been covering HPE. Back in October, 2009 when Pyalla first began, NonStop on Blades had only just been announced back in June, 2008 at the HPTF event in Las Vegas. NeoView was still going strong and all six then HP data centers had been built and populated with NonStop Blades supporting the embryonic first foray into the world of OLAP and Data Warehouses.

S-Series NonStop was winding down and there were huge changes about to happen inside of NonStop development. In no way could you intone that there was a shortage of stories to write and they kept on coming each and every month. The success of Pyalla in hindsight had a lot to do with the early work Margo and I had put into creating a NonStop focused blog – this blog, Real Time View, that now has seen more than 500 posts – that in reality was an extension to a column I had been writing for the previous two years for publication in The Connection. It’s now been replaced with a new column, Back for more … that continues to this day. But what drives Pyalla today? What makes working with Pyalla an option for many members in the NonStop vendor community?

“Congratulations! You have created a huge following among financial customers,” OmniPayments CEO, Yash Kapadia, wrote recently and while Margo and I welcomed these kind words from Yash, it does reflect the full ten years of time and effort we both put into the company. There are well known statistics available today from America’s Small Business Association (SBA) including “30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10.” Phew, made it! But the point is, and to echo Yash’s sentiment, it is all about creating something of value and I think Margo and I, after a fashion and a lot of trial and error together with some disastrous undertakings, have kind of figured things out – and they are working for us.

Now, before you go “Good grief, Richard …” I am making a point here to highlight that in today’s economic reality, having skills in the NonStop marketplace are no longer enough to stay fully employed. We have lost count of the number of emails asking both of us about opportunities around the world for NonStop programmers – it’s tough out there. Add an aging population along with well-meaning statements from IT corporations concerning right-sizing the employer age-pyramid, and the landscape isn’t pretty. And yet, the demand on NonStop folks isn’t going away, but rather, it’s being redirected.

Have you thought any more about HPE’s stated directive that for every product in the HPE portfolio, there would be the equivalent as a service. XaaS, as some inside HPE are calling it and a reference to “Everything as a Service” will be with us all in three years’ time – who will industry be turning to for help with such a transition? I have to say, everyone who is still reading this post – begin your preparation as you too will become an important component in any successful transformation to XaaS. When you look at growth opportunities among the NonStop vendor community there will be a strong uptick in valuations among all those who aggressively pursue the services opportunities that are bound to arise.

It may sound cold, perhaps a little corny, but there is a popular saying within industry that, “One common path to success for many small businesses is to find a niche market and establish a dominant position as a player in that niche.” Or, something like that and, for many decades, this was a core strength of NonStop. The NonStop systems were participating and being deployed worldwide in support of mission critical applications and became the go-to-solution for everyone who needed fault tolerance and a true 24 x 7 supported operation. This still holds true for all those enterprises looking for such straight out of the box – nothing can compete.

Pyalla’s niche, if it has one? This past decade has taught us one important message – no matter what, sit down and type. Our niche is storytelling. Not everything will be a masterpiece and there will be times when the storylines are hard to find but like every pursuit in business, there is no substitute for simply doing what you love to do. And those storyline; they will come … Along this journey Margo and I have been helped many times over by many and there really isn’t enough space to list them all. Perhaps another time: Our next goal? How about twenty five years?

Who knows but one thing Margo and I agree on – NonStop in one form or another; bladed, racked, virtualized, core to edge and beyond, whatever – it will be here as fundamentally, no other approach to providing fault tolerance out of the box has proved as successful over time. And with that, all we can add is that yes, future storylines? Bring them on … 

Looks can be deceiving! HPE NonStop; when being the best still matters!

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