Sunday, November 3, 2019

Three things we may want to hear more about at the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) event!


There are always expectations when the annual TBC event comes along but for me, there are three items I will be looking to see being addressed ...

In the quiet moments during the drive from Windsor, Colorado, to Burlingame, California, there were plenty of opportunities to think on what lays ahead. Not in terms of road conditions, as almost all evidence of the snowstorms that had hit us hard during the week had evaporated (except for a few spots in Wyoming), but rather, with regards to expectations as the biggest event of the year for the NonStop community draws near. Margo and I have missed very few major events over the course of three decades – whether ITUG Summits (yes, Margo and I both served as ITUG Summit Chairs during our respective times on the ITUG Board), joint ITUG and DECUS events, or TBCs as these NonStop focused events  are now called. 

As expected, the thoughts we had centered mostly on change. Maybe it did have to do with the two storms that battered Colorado’s front ranges. Maybe though it had to do with what transpired around us – we have a new home finally working even as we have changed every car in the garage and parted ways with our company command center. Just this week I changed my laptop (after almost a decade with the old one) finally succumbing to the demands of business by switching from a flashy Sony to a much lighter HP Pavilion Business Flagship Laptop PC. Whereas in the last post I wrote of how that post would be the last written on the Sony I can now say that this post was written on my HP Pavilion and it seems to be an improvement over the old Sony, but it is still early days and our IT department (yes, Margo) still has a few items to tidy up before it is fully sorted. 

Before diving into the three things I expect many of us want to hear from HPE at TBC, I want to express my gratitude to all those on the HPE NonStop team for all the effort that they have put into ensuring this event is a success. Like many of you I await the final attendance numbers, but they look solid and yes, let me extend a warm welcome to all those who are making the trip across the Atlantic and yes, the Pacific, too – great to see! I am also aware that there will be a number of HPE’s Technologists, Solutions Architects, Analysts and the like taking time out to meet with us all. Again, a big thanks to everyone in HPE helping out at this event. 

It should come as no surprise that at the top of my simple list of three items that I want to hear a lot more about is virtualized NonStop (vNS). Like many of you, I was quite surprised when it was first announced that NonStop would not only be running on traditional machines but on virtual machines as well. Then two years ago, at the same venue we will be returning to, we saw demonstrations of the NS2 atop a table. Yes, desktop NonStop! Well, not exactly, but the impression NS2 created was one where almost everyone who saw the demo came away super excited. Imagine that, I can have my own development / test / pilot NonStop system right there on my own desk!

No question; this was a serious turn of events for the NonStop product line – we had heard former NonStop managers talk about the commoditization of NonStop hardware and even talk about NonStop being a software play but seriously, running NonStop on any vendors hardware with Ethernet as the fabric? Who could possibly have imagined such a possibility just a half a decade or so ago? But there it was; running nicely on a couple of ProLiant servers, right before our very eyes. Well done, NonStop development. But here’s the question that many of us still have with regards to vNS – which market was to be addressed with vNS and what was the go-to-market plans?

It’s all well and good coming up with a great product, but seriously, was it driven by HPE’s own IT organization? Was it driven by the need to be able to run NonStop from within vendor private networks that are being deployed by some of the payments solutions vendors? Was it just a baby-step that was taken for NonStop to be involved in the HPE Synergy program? Did the size of the VMware marketplace look too good to ignore? Or, was it simply a combination of all of this and much more? From the discussions I have had with the community over the past two years it would seem that vNS has a role to play, but at the same time, almost everyone considering running vNS on other vendors x86 servers is approaching the opportunity with a lot of caution – how exactly are all the many moving parts to be supported?

I have to believe HPE has a plan and that it is executing to that plan, but all the same, I am hoping that we will hear a lot more about vNS. It was not a trivial undertaking so I have to believe too that there is a demand for vNS and that’s what I really want to hear a lot more about – it’s just so cool to know NonStop can run almost anywhere on almost anything x86, so HPE, fill us in on what comes next! And with whom and for what markets! Additionally, will we see the rise of the independent NonStop “broker” building a successful business simply by “selling” NonStop as software? 

Moving on from the topic of vNS it’s only a small shift in emphasis when we begin to think about HPE’s ambitious program to provide “Everything-as-a-Service” by June 2022. I only mention the June timeframe as HPE CEO Antonio Neri told attendees of HPE Discover 2019 that XaaS (as it’s being referred to) will be complete by the time he delivers his keynote address at HPE Discover 2022. Just three years to accomplish a monumental shift in product delivery is quite the commitment by HPE, but what will that do for NonStop? NonStop-as-a-Service (NSaaS) is already appearing on slides and in commentaries and posts, but is it for real? Perhaps there will be some form of dispensation provided to the NonStop team to fully deliver NSaaS, but I doubt it – the more I see NonStop moving closer to the center of HPE’s strategy the more I believe NonStop will comply with Neri’s promise. 

The big question then becomes one of execution. We already have seen presentations on the progress HPE’s IT has made in turning its own deployment of NonStop into a DataBase-as-a-Service (DBaaS) model based on the latest iterations of NonStop SQL that supports the new Data Base Services (DBS) and where multi-tenancy is already in place. However, when it comes to NSaaS then it surely is appealing to markets apart from mission-critical applications – running true 24 x 7 doesn’t suggest any cursory service provisions as the application needs to be available all the time. What then? Perhaps the question lies in supporting vendors and their development programs or perhaps it’s a question of being a contingency option. Then again it could be something altogether unexpected and perhaps we will hear about it for the first time next week at the TBC. There are always surprises and this is one surprise I would look forward to experience! 

Finally and reverting back to Neri’s keynote presentation at HPE Discover 2019, where he promoted the idea that every product available for the data center would become available for the intelligent edge. Whether this includes HPE Synergy, HPE Edgeline, Moonshot or something else it’s clear to many of my clients that in time, mission critical transaction processing will move to the edge if only for reasons of preprocessing with reduced network latency, but all the same, it takes the NonStop community back into essentially the distributed computing model and just how many remote instances of NonStop could we possibly manage? 

Again, talking to my clients it’s clear that for now, they are all adopting a wait-and-see position as the merits of pushing NonStop to the Edge are still being debated. Then again, it is also an opportunity to reconsider the prospect of embedded technology. It wasn’t all that long ago when the community present for the ATUG event in Atlanta heard Jeff Kyle, HPE VP & GM, Mission Critical Systems, talk of how, “We, at NonStop, create data!” or every bit as interestingly of how, “Technology will be embedded, everywhere!” Could a vNS be part of this program? On this topic I am very interested to hear if there is any further coverage (or indeed explanation) forthcoming at TBC, but we will all just have to yes, wait and see! 

Past TBC events have all had their surprise moments, form the time Randy Meyer first talked about the Intel x86 architecture to when Martin Fink talked about vNS to when Andy Bergholz talked about DBaaS not to forget the news of RoCE fabric support. It’s all part of why we show up each year and it’s also further evidence that HPE’s interest in NonStop is strategic. Isn’t it ‘xcitin, as Jimmy T was fond of saying, to be still talking about NonStop? Perhaps that is the question that no longer needs to be answered – NonStop has been transformed and in so doing, the community is transforming even as the industry is beginning to take a fresh look at NonStop. Can’t wait to finish the drive and to all those in transit, safe travels! See you in Burlingame!   

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