Thursday, December 26, 2019

For the NonStop community it’s time to reflect.


With the year rapidly winding down there is much for the NonStop community to consider going into 2020 …



The traditional Christmas dinner is over and for some it’s been a time to revel in even more traditional Boxing Day fare. For Margo and me it’s been a time where our thoughts have drifted back to where this time last year we were busy celebrating the season in Sydney. When it comes to traditions then yes, it was a feast that included grilled sausages (on the nearby BBQ) together with Pavlova for dessert. Sorry, my Kiwi friends, Pavlova is an Aussie creation / tradition. On the other hand, so too is watching a cricket test match beamed live from Melbourne, even as locally all eyes are on Sydney Harbor for the start of the annual blue water sailing classic, The Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Here in Colorado it’s been more a case of celebrating Christmas Eve with the family where Polish traditions have dominated the conversations. And the food! There will be deviled eggs along with special Polish cakes and much more. Our grandkids are now 6 and 4 and continue to develop right in front of our eyes – after a troubling time for the twin boys following birth routines have been established and they seem to be making good progress. There is nothing quite like ripping the paper off presents to set a positive upbeat tone for any gathering. And did I mention, laughter?

For the HPE NonStop global community the holiday season as such takes many forms. It would be hard for me to catalogue them all so suffice to say, in whichever language or custom it takes, Margo and I wish you all the happiest of times as we head towards a New Year.  When it comes to 2020 there are plenty of commentaries being shared highlighting that in years like 2020 we do think about how far we have come. Automotive executive Bob Lutz just wrote of how:

“There's something about a year with a zero at the end that gets our attention. It seems more important. It makes us recall the last "zero" year, causing us to pause and reflect—not only on our own lives (slipping by ever faster), but also on society, politics, the world.”

Lutz also wrote that:

“It's been quite a decade, marked by arguably more change than in the previous five decades put together. I'd like to highlight some of the more notable ones, whether they're caused by creative engineers, manipulative marketers, government regulations, fickle buyer preferences, or, in some cases, a complex blend of several initiating factors.”

Indeed! A year ending with a zero sure does get our attention even as the changes we all witnessed were caused by creative engineers, manipulative marketers, etc. or simply by a complex blend of several initiating factors! I am pretty sure that this rings true for many of us. Not everything that came to fruition was by design nor did everything that was designed resonate with everyone. Where’s my flying car? Where’s my robot housekeeper? Ooops, that’s right – we are almost there on both counts, I have been informed. The sad thing about making longer term predictions is that they have a habit of coming about in ways not imagined. Who would have imagined that I could order paper towels and have them delivered the same day?

A year ending in zero reminds me too that it was back in 1970 that I turned up at Wollongong’s steelworks (John Lysaghts and not nearby BHP), to start a two year cadetship in computing. Yes, back then Australia’s universities did not consider computing an academic pursuit so to be part of this new industry you had to become an apprentice. I had sat for the apprenticeship qualifying tests back in the summer of ’69 – that’s the Australian summer of ’69 but that’s a whole different story – even though my interest in computing dated back to ’65. That was when my father, Roy Buckle, was responsible for bringing to Australia’s shores a computerized Mergenthaler “line-o-film” typesetting system and the first such system to be setup in Australia. The data entry keyboard for such systems is depicted above where the photo could just as easily have been taken at my dad’s place of work.
 
As I look back at that apprenticeship, we were taught IBM 360 Assembler in excruciating detail – our online system in support of the different steelwork machinery (from cold reduction lines to pickle and plating lines) only accommodated programs that could fit into 4K of memory. Yes, 4K. And I am sure that this will bring back memories about the early days of computing for many members of the NonStop community looking at the improvements in productivity over the past decades! At the time, I was given the task of writing the disk access code – as yet we didn’t have enough memory to support logical I/O; it was all at the physical / channel level where sorts could be executed directly within the disk channel processor.

For some reason, I recall the concept of channel command block / channel command words (CCBs /CCWs) and in particular, the Transfer-In-Channel (TIC) command. And I am not sure why that is! Even so, here we are writing about DevOps and the breakthroughs we are seeing with Open APIs and technologies like REST and JSON. Wow! So likewise, this has taken five decades to reach this point, but productivity today is incomparable to anything we witnessed in the very early days of IT. And yet, here we are. Whereas I was learning 360 Assembler way back then today it’s more the case of assembling a process / program from libraries of code that are then used to flesh out a basic code stub pulled from somewhere else. And I thought it really cool to have an approved global macro accepted by IT and to have it saved to disk for other programmers to access.

Fickle buyer preferences? Have to believe that without the push to accelerate the way we develop code we wouldn’t have key social media channels that dominate today’s conversations. Just think what Google has brought to the table or before Google, think of what Netscape achieved? In many ways I am glad to report that I never made it to where programming was all about the manipulation of objects, and more, or where a terminal was anything other than a simple keyboard. On the other hand, it would be unreasonable to expect an industry so forward thinking as IT would have ever stood still over any prolonged period. Yes, those fickle buyers of computers always wanted something better, faster and naturally enough, cheaper.


For the NonStop community there has been so much talk this past decade about the need to train more programmers on NonStop. Just as importantly, there has been equally as much talk among CIOs about the difficulties in finding qualified NonStop staff. Unfortunately, both discussions missed the point – with the steps that the NonStop team has taken this past decade, you shouldn’t be too concerned about either, but more so, leverage today’s modern development environments and platforms to build applications for NonStop. Again, deployment shouldn’t be confused with development and with the options available today for development teams to choose from, there shouldn’t be any need to look outside the skillsets already on-hand inside any IT organization. The above slide was used recently by HPE’s own Franz Koenig and it has already began turning heads and in so doing, has begun framing the discussion for the coming decade – why not NonStop?

I may not be able to describe in any depth the majority of tools and utilities listed on the above slide. But I do know where to go to obtain more information should I need to do so – talking to the NonStop vendor community and almost all of them are leveraging one or more of the products included on the PowerPoint slide. What stands out most of all is that we are no longer thinking in terms of bringing programmers to NonStop but rather, quite the opposite. We can now talk openly of bringing NonStop to any programmer and thereby leveraging the current skills of all programmers. Key point? Program today’s business logic and have the deployment option inherit NonStop attributes transparently!

This decade beginning with a zero will prove to be a fascinating decade. Starting with 2020 we will see even more discussion about clouds and service models with many new ways to consume technology. However, by the end of this decade, when it comes time to write about expectations of those entering 2030, will the cloud be even part of the discussion? Will traditional computing models even be relevant? Will we even have to pay for a chip or worry about memory – 4K bytes, or even 4Y bytes (Yottabyte) it won’t matter; the cost will essentially be the same.  What then? Will we be throwing out ideas to an assistant buried deep within our car whatever that might be and see programs come to fruition automatically?

We may yet be still waiting on our flying cars but suggesting ideas and having them transformed into programs well, probably not too far away. Let one more zero show up on the calendar – I am ready for it, are you? And with that, Margo and I wish you all the very best for the coming year and yes, the coming decade!

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