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 - https://techlibrary.hpe.com/docs/enterprise/servers/nonstop/Beyond-Finance-and-Telco.pdf 

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!”

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