Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Top of the mountain? Wide valleys look even better …

The niche NonStop occupies is about to widen to include all mission critical scenarios – and it’s all because critical CIO concerns have been addressed …



Living alongside Colorado’s Rocky Mountains certainly has its moments. There are times when it’s all about rapidly changing weather conditions even as there are times when the view to the west can be awe-inspiring. Driving across the top of the Rockies is always a wonderful distraction from the daily routine and to cross the continental divide well, spectacular is the most descriptive word that comes to mind. Having driven the Peak-to-Peak Highway many times and traversed the length of Trail Ridge Road almost as often, Margo and I never shy away from the prospect of driving it one more time.

Estes Park anchors both drives – one heading south along Colorado Highway 72 while the other heads west, up and across Rocky Mountain National Park along US Highway 34 – but choosing either way highlights how clinging to a ribbon of road may have many advantages when it comes to the views provided, but leaves few opportunities to accommodate much greater traffic flows. There is much to be said about the benefits of the wide open spaces. When it comes to the landscapes that are present between mountain ranges it is apparent to us that perhaps what’s in these broad valleys offer a more diverse vista – with its wide open prairies to the east of the Rockies or the high plains to the west, driving along a sinuous ribbon of road might just be the exception to the rule!

In conversations with clients this week, the common thread turned out to be the need to know more about NonStop penetrating markets beyond financial services. Almost from the very beginning of NonStop’s presence in IT, NonStop has been all about front-ending networks of ATMs and POS devices with some presence in branch banking and more recently in support of mobile devices used in payments. It has been a lengthy journey, skimming the tops of peaks as it were than it has been a case of enjoying popularity across a broad and clearly diverse landscape. Occupying niches to the point of dominance has its upside but only insofar as it can be turned into a reference base for finding even more niches where NonStop’s value proposition can be leveraged.

At face value, supporting mission critical applications suggests something more than a very focused outlook that is so specialized that few in IT are even aware of its presence – no, step outside of the financial services marketplace and you will only get puzzled looks should you suggest your CIO consider NonStop as a solution. Of course, every member of the NonStop vendor community would like to see NonStop’s presence become more widespread as this is in their interests to see increased diversity. However, it’s not too hard to imagine that there are many more markets for NonStop than simply financial services even as there are sizable niches that once identified could provide many opportunities for NonStop. Is it our lack of imagination holding us back? Is it messaging that’s missing the mark? Or, is it something more basic to which we need to pay more attention and if that is the case, can such a basic need be one that can be overcome?

For as many years as I have been associated with NonStop here have been many discussions about the need to port this or that application to NonStop. If only we could provide a modern healthcare solution or even an airline reservation application or perhaps take a couple of baby steps that see us building on partial success in manufacturing and transportation. Why isn’t NonStop a major force in the world of container shipping where having documentation available, 24 x 7 is a must! With all of these observations the talks turn on how best to pull together a new application and present a working model in an abbreviated timeframe. Isn’t it possible to do something along these lines without pursuing a training program of staff needed for such a project?

NonStop has come a long way over the past decade – NonStop SQL now is as compatible with major SQL offerings like Oracle than at any other time in its history. When it comes to Java so much work has been done to simplify ports to NonStop and now, with the commitment coming from NonStop product management to support Kernel Level Threading (KLT) in a way that’s compatible with the NonStop architecture, 2020 clearly has the potential to be a breakthrough year for any IT organization looking to port a Java / Oracle solution to NonStop. But having said that is it enough? And more importantly, is this taking NonStop down from the mountain tops and into the broader valleys where opportunities abound for a platform that is fault tolerant and scalable?

When it comes to the conversations I have had over the past week, what has stood out is that there is a growing awareness that the new NonStop may indeed be compatible with all other systems you can name that can be found in any data center. Compatible, that is in terms of ease of development using standard development platforms. There is now a consistent message of development versus deployment resonating within IT – a message taken up by NonStop product management. And for good reason – the NonStop no longer needs anything special in order to develop a new solution. In fact, perhaps thoughts of porting an application may prove to be old hat and a reflection of what was done in the past. Let’s look at rapid development of new applications on NonStop that can be as easily done as for any other platform. Bigger yet, it can be done leveraging the skill-sets on hand as possessed by the latest college graduate!

Tall order? Not possible? There are many questions that arise from observations like those described above but does that necessarily mean that it’s wrong to think this way? When Franz Koenig, head of NonStop Advanced Technology Center (ATC), gave the presentation “NonStop – The Art of the Possible” at this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) he included a reference to what the NonStop team is hearing from CIOs. Among those listed there were two standouts that caught my attention. “Leverage common technologies and standards” together with a call for “High productivity of staff. No steep learning curve.”

Considered as challenges to the NonStop team, it led to a short list of answers (to the CIO challenge) that highlighted just how far NonStop has come in addressing the needs of application developers. Again, two answers provided stood out. “Build new services like on other platforms” and “Deploying on NonStop gives your services automatic scalability and fault tolerance!” While Franz had more to say on this topic the point he drove home in no uncertain terms was that any barriers to developing new solutions on NonStop are being dismantled to the point where, as I wrote in a client newsletter recently, almost anyone can program today’s NonStop. DevOps ready? Wonderful! Applied to more than financial institutions and retailers? Terrific!

Knowing more about applications available on NonStop as its appeal widens to include niches beyond what are considered traditional NonStop niches may prove to be the wrong question to be asking. Rather, greater penetration into all mission critical environments may be realized more quickly than we thought if it becomes common knowledge that everyone can program for NonStop! The evangelism coming from the NonStop team is  admirable and a pursuit that has been percolating for some time is now coming to the surface. Those executives present at TBC 2019 have gone away with many questions on their minds – why didn’t we know more about NonStop’s answers to our challenges? I suspect that in 2020, there will likely be even more attention given to just how easy it has become to develop applications on NonStop.

Margo and I will continue to drive the peaks of the Rockies as we explore new ways to cross the continental divide. The views to the valleys below will continue to be spectacular and yet, what opens up in the wide valleys below will be every bit as spectacular as what is found high up on the narrow ridges. Anyone who has ascended Utah’s Highway 12 Scenic Byway and driven along the narrow confines of its Devils Backbone will appreciate that while the road itself is a marvel what opens up to the east is the amazing Capital Reef National Park. A reminder to all drivers that there is a lot more to take in than a narrow strip of bitumen, given so much beauty on display beneath the pavement! And for NonStop, being part of that much wider niche – all mission critical environments – is now within reach! Taking in this much wider vista will likely be the highlight of 2020; yes NonStop can do it all!   

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