Tuesday, July 28, 2020

It may be chaotic but NonStop sustains business faultlessly.

Despite the gravity of a situation, levity can be found in apparent chaos. Sometimes, at least! But for NonStop, data gravity is already being addressed …

I am always looking out for interesting photos, doesn’t really matter the subject or what might be taking place that captures the photographer’s interest. When I came across this photo of a truck losing a load of literally thousands of bottles of beer, creating chaos on a local highway and led to its closure, I simply couldn’t let it pass by without a comment.

It takes little to throw well-oiled plans into disarray. Inserting such variables into books and movies is what keeps us on the edge of our seats. For me, anything featuring a velociraptor has me cringing and for anyone who has ever sat in a darkened theater watching The Lion and The Darkness had probably experienced something similar. But as a car enthusiast, seeing so much debris on the road would have me turning away from the scene in a hurry.

Obviously, the beer bottles were full of beer based on the amount of liquid on the road, but then again, I have to believe that whoever sorted out this mess found a bottle or two still intact. Scrolling down the file sure enough, there it was, someone taking respite while clearing the scene. Perhaps, chaos can have its own reward? Or, more relevant perhaps, even as times may look bleak, we can all make adjustments even if it’s simply sitting down on a case of beer to catch your breath.

News is now breaking that many of the NonStop user events planned for 2020 are being cancelled. The latest victim of the global pandemic; the news coming out of Germany that GTUG / Berlin event has been cancelled as the organizing team looks at other options. I dare say that no prospective attendee was surprised to read this as it had looked pretty grim for some weeks now. Americans were still not welcome in Germany and HPE wasn’t letting its folks travel, no matter the destination.

The NonStop user community’s annual summit – the NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) – that for a number of years has been held at the San Francisco airport Hyatt looks to be on shaky grounds as well. Nothing definite as yet and Margo and I still have plans to drive from Colorado to California, but even so, if I was a gambler of any note, I would say the odds against TBC are beginning to stack up. Seems there is no staff at the hotel assigned to events as the hotel’s staff is mostly on furlough and that’s never a good sign. Maybe now is a good time to go look for a lost crate of beer and simply kick back and take it all in!

So much is happening for NonStop in 2020 that it’s important that we don’t lose focus. It’s been a very long time between drinks when it comes to NonStop taking on so many different forms. Converged, Virtualized Converged and Virtualized. What’s your poison, as they say! Better expressed as having choice over how best to deliver 24 x 7 offerings to  most critical of applications of the business, there are no limits as to how you pursue deploying NonStop. So long as you are a fan of Intel and the x86 architecture, we are now seeing steps being taken to run NonStop every which way that best satisfies the needs of business. You really have to dig deep into the history of NonStop before you find a choice between two NonStop products, let alone three.

We are all aware of the choices we have today and have been for some time even as 2020 has seen a number of businesses deploy virtualized NonStop on equipment already installed. Whether your choice of vendor is Lenovo, Dell, HPE or something else it matters little. All that is needed are x86 servers, access to multiple converged Ethernet connections and VMware and you can be up and running virtualized NonStop in no time at all and there are now multiple references that you can have HPE provide. Very little chaos about this and in today’s world where the focus is on bringing the cloud experience on-premises, it’s good to know that NonStop can be present as a converged system or as a virtualized system or both. After all, the Hybrid IT message is as strong today as when the concept was first raised, almost a decade ago.

But there is a wrinkle and it was covered in part in my last post to this blog, Changing rooms; cleaning house. Have you taken a good look at what NonStop delivers? You may recall the coverage given to the topic of data gravity and of the explanation that it is simply a reference to “a theory around which data has mass.  As data (mass) accumulates, it begins to have gravity.” More troubling for some was the reference made to this “attraction (gravitational force) is caused by the need for services and applications to have higher bandwidth and/or lower latency access to the data.” I received a number of comments about the implications here for NonStop and of how I could have expressed the concepts and indeed the benefits for NonStop better than I did.

One way to think of this is that within the data center a particular data base implementation grows so big and is of such importance to the business that it behooves the business to relocate applications closer to the data. Nothing too surprising here! But it gets a little more chaotic when clouds are introduced, particularly when decisions are taken to move data bases to the cloud for better cost optimization of data. As one source explained it, “The shift of data to cloud and cloud-adjacent colocation environments is creating larger data gravity forces, making it harder to run applications and store data far away from those data nexuses.”

With NonStop now capable of being deployed on-premises as a converged system, very much along traditional lines, as well as a virtualized system residing on a private cloud, the Hybrid IT characteristics can be recognized; Data on NonStop in the private cloud; application on NonStop on the traditional system. The real issue however is not so much the on-premises Hybrid IT configuration described above but rather, when we begin considering edge-to-cloud and the recognition that applications are heading to the edge.

If we want actionable insight into our business it’s best to work with the freshest data; data that is created as transactions are processed, with those transactions being traditional from terminals we all know, the communication from a sensor or robot, or simply a mobile phone. Bringing the cloud experience to the edge now gets complicated. Left poorly-architected, it can quite easily become chaotic. No IT professional is suggesting we relocate the data base at the core all the way out to the edge – loading multiple copies perhaps – just as there’s little to be gained by pulling the application back to the core.

With NonStop you can have your cake and eat it too, literally! Yes, there are bakers running NonStop but that’s story for another time. With products like DRNet®, Striim, etc. there are vendor products that support data distribution whereby the forces of data gravity can be mitigated. You can easily select the data you want at the edge to be there when needed on NonStop on the edge just as you can just as easily select the data that needs to be forwarded to NonStop in the core. Almost Lego-like, you have yet more choices should data gravity truly become an obstacle to business.

It’s now quite the same as finding beer on the road after a traffic accident and perhaps the image of eating cakes isn’t going to work for you. However, what will work for you is NonStop in any configuration and at any location you care to choose. Flexibility? Agility? It’s all there and looking ahead with new ways to pay for NonStop via GreenLake about to happen, you have to ask yourself, why all the chaos? And no, there is nothing scary about watching NonStop becoming central to your edge-to-core initiatives in 2020. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Changing rooms; cleaning house. Have you taken a good look at what NonStop delivers?

One thing that has accompanied the global pandemic is a complete rethink of where our applications and data reside. NonStop remains “in the house” supporting “workloads close to the data.”

With the global pandemic continuing to dominate headlines it’s hard not to think that the sky is falling. Perhaps Henny Penny was right, after all. Fortunately, nursery rhymes can only take us so far, but tragically there are many friends who really did have a piece of the sky fall on their heads as the world seemed to collapse around them! But what to do as we live, entertain and work all while practicing social distancing? Surely, there is stuff that needs doing! Can we take this time to clean the house? Change-up the look of a room or even change rooms so that the underutilized rooms become home offices? 

In the Buckle’s residence, there has been a flurry of activity to do with furnishings and decorations. After three years of living in our Northern Colorado home, there were just a few things missing and the flow still need improving. Compromises had been made for the benefit of a quick move-in but as with any expedient course of action, more often than not the results can be underwhelming.

Coming off the HPE Discover Virtual Experience and going through the notes Margo and I took as the event unfolded, a couple of statements jumped off the page. The biggest item was the news that so many applications continue to be run on-premise and what has moved to public clouds has just been the “the easy stuff.” Furthermore, data suggests that many CIOs rue the day when being expedient overruled being expeditious and compromises were being made for the sake of convenience. No, the sky wasn’t falling and CIOs haven’t been hit on the head. Surprised?

When we talk about compromises, perhaps that second or third data center really isn’t needed after all. Perhaps it’s just a better proposition to turn to a cloud service provider to run workloads of lesser importance. For NonStop users the solutions on offer from a number of vendors has meant that building out reliable links between multiple sites and having them essentially in-synch was part-and-parcel of their business continuity planning. No need to change anything in this room; our business critical systems and solutions are running just fine and no, we don’t need any additional staff. NonStop system managers are au fait with overseeing such setups. Now, leave the room!  

The most important message coming out of earlier HPE Discover events was on the topic of elasticity of provisioning. When it comes to clouds, discussion about any cloud experience focuses on speed, agility and just as importantly, the perceived simplicity in so doing. It’s just so easy to spin-up the necessary resources to run an application and it’s just as easy to scale-up to meet any additional processing needs. However, there is more at stake for enterprises running business critical applications than access to such flexibility. And again, more importantly, there is a cost – nothing about clouds comes for free!

There is a saying that you can’t have your cake and eat it too! Then again, returning to nursery rhymes, we all know these words:

Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing …

When it comes to cloud computing, in reality when you peel away that tantalizingly sweet crust, those chirping birds want to be fed. You know, singing for their supper; we all know that when it comes to clouds, we pay! And there’s no way to stop that incessant chirping until we do. Point is, it’s not only a case of moving the quick and easy-to-do workloads conveniently to the cloud, it’s consideration of the least costly option. For many business tasks, the need for oversight, security and yes, compliance dictate taking a much closer look at the offers being made. For the NonStop community, apart from the obvious benefits that come with continuous availability and unlimited scalability, it has also been about performance, security and compliance.  

When it comes to throwing things away, improving the flow and adding a couple of deft touches to finish a room, I continue to stand in awe of items that suddenly reappear as if by magic. Discarded items on one floor somehow appear on another floor and yet, there is no strange magnetic anomaly that I can detect. Our home isn’t constructed atop a giant iron ore deposit and yet, it is still an odd feeling to pass an item that simply wasn’t there a short time ago. Gravity can act weirdly, sometimes! 

Until HPE Discover Virtual Experience I have to admit, neither Margo nor me had heard of references being made to “data gravity.” And yet, as a metaphor, it’s been with us since 2010. In a blog post back then, Dave McCrory, a former VMware and GE software engineer, introduced the IT industry to the idea of data gravity:

“Data Gravity is a theory around which data has mass.  As data (mass) accumulates, it begins to have gravity. This Data Gravity pulls services and applications closer to the data. This attraction (gravitational force) is caused by the need for services and applications to have higher bandwidth and/or lower latency access to the data.”

In writing about data gravity, Dave McCrory described a phenomenon in which the number or quantity and the speed at which services, applications, and even customers are attracted to data increases as the mass of the data increases. In a post of January 2, 2020, to vxchange, industry blogger Kaylie Gyarmathy suggests that:

“While data doesn’t literally exert a gravitational pull, McCrory used the concept to explain why smaller applications and other bodies of data seemed to gather around larger masses. More importantly, as applications and the datasets associated with them grow larger, they become more difficult to move.”

HPE’s CEO Antonio Neri gave further impetus to the impact data gravity was having on IT when he connected the dots between moving to the age of insight and the difficulties arising from data gravity:

“…we are now moving from the Information Era to a new Age of Insight that's driven by the next phase of digital transformation.

“To make the next wave of digital transformation a reality, our first priority is to address the workloads that must be close to the data – whether at the edge or in data centers.

“(Workloads) still lack agility due to data gravity, latency, and app entanglement. As a result, you have two divergent operating models – one in the cloud and one on-premises – while paying higher costs to maintain them both.”

Didn’t you see the sky falling down? Can’t you hear those blackbirds singing? For the NonStop community there are NonStop systems today that are running fine given that there is already the ability to have workloads present where data is created. With little impact on wither agility or flexibility. Together, these combinations of workloads and data more readily enhance business outcomes faster than otherwise achievable, cloud-based or not.

The beauty of NonStop that is often overlooked is not just its ease of use, simplicity, data base and more but rather, NonStop systems ability to be deployed everywhere – edge or core – running workloads close to the data and delivering on the promise of providing the insights that businesses demand. With as much talk as there has been of late concerning data gravity, moving data comes easily for businesses running workloads on  NonStop.  

Big or small, traditional or virtual, on-premises standalone or as part of a hybrid cloud, it matters little. And as attractive as data may be proving to be at your enterprise, fresh data created in real time on NonStop is just a connection away. After more than four decades accommodating the most demanding transaction streams, the now affordable NonStop doesn’t miss a beat.     And yes, in spite of the cautionary tales from fables and rhymes, today you can call up HPE and have your own NonStop for a song!


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Right spot; right time!

Call it good planning or call it serendipitous but whatever the call, sometimes it just pays to be in the right place when news breaks. And this was the case as HPE Discover Virtual Experience reached out to us all!

It was late 1984 and I was returning to Sydney from a trip to Australia’s capital, Canberra. At that time I was working for Nixdorf Computers where I was managing the organization responsible for the introduction of Nixdorf’s Plug Compatible Mainframe (PCM) – the 8890. Having checked in early for my return flight I ventured into the Ansett Golden Wings lounge to relax. Ansett Airlines was the second national carrier alongside Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) and whereas Ansett eventually failed as an ongoing airline, in the early 1990s, TAA was gobbled up by that flying red rat, QANTAS.

For many of my friends in America, what then happened may hold little meaning but it so happened that I was in the right spot at the right time to meet the most gracious cricketer of the twentieth century, Clive Lloyd. Having been knighted since that time, Sir Clive Lloyd captained the West Indies cricket team during their most dominant period of all times and all through the 1983-1984 series in Australia, proceeded to crush the locals.

We chatted for a while and as we both rose to catch our flights, I asked Sir Clive to autograph the back of my business card. As we then began to walk to our flights he was joined by another famous WI cricketer, all-rounder Roger Harper, but I had no more business cards and so missed getting his autograph. Then again, I really didn’t want to push my luck as my good fortune was more than just a signature as I had that unique privilege of talking to one of the greatest cricketers of all time.

Being in the right place at the right time is something we are all acutely aware of, whether it’s business, our private lives or simply alone time in an airport or train station. This past week, it’s been about alone time working from my home office but I have to say, that’s not unusual for me nor is it a result of the global pandemic. It’s just the way I work these days where email and phone calls dominate the daily calendar. However, last week HPE held its annual HPE Discover event, but in a manner that none of us who regularly attended the event expected to witness. Yes, it was rebranded the HPE Discover Technical Experience with registration open to everyone at no charge. Free, and with the ability to continue the “experience” long after the event itself had run its course.

While there were no autographs involved, back in November 2017 attending the HPE Discover 2017 Madrid event, I managed to join with other HPE bloggers and HPE Influencers for a photo shoot with Antonio Neri just a few months before he took over from Meg Whitman to become the CEO of HPE. Did he already know something? By the size of his grin in this picture along with his willingness to talk to us lowly folks slumped over keyboards for most of the show, posting and tweeting, I dare say that he was indeed aware of what the future held for him.

As much as I have totally enjoyed the real events where there was plenty of time for face-to-face networking and where the exhibition hall, or what HPE referred to as the Transformation Zone, was the place to hang out should you want to button hole any of the executives. For me, it was always good to catch up with Kirk Bresniker, HPE Labs Chief Architect and HPE Fellow, who always was up for a chat and who knew exactly where “the big stuff” was headed – supercomputers, quantum computers and even The Machine.

Being in the right spot last week, seated by my laptop and screens, the world of HPE came to me! I was free to get up and have a coffee, grab a cookie and in some of the ZOOM sessions, raise my hand and enjoy a conversation. It wasn’t so much a case of talking about cricket but when the session brought us together with Formula E team principal, Susie Wolff, and he driver Felipe Massa, then simply having Susie state, “good question, Richard!” had to be one of the highlights for me. Imagine being introduced by the moderator as “Richard, who also racers cars, Susie, has a question …”

I know I posted of this last time writing to this blog but I still chuffed to say we kind of had a conversation going there, but again, no possibility of an autograph on this occasion. Virtual events can only go so far and provide only so much of an atmosphere – the “occasion” is truly mitigated by the fact that I am in the basement. But here’s the thing, when it comes to events real and virtual, it comes back to content and presentation and if you are given an opportunity to hear directly from charismatic personalities (yes, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton participated in one of the sessions) where the content is interesting and where you have an image of them and their slides right in front of you, virtual is not a bad alternative to the real thing.

Prior to HPE Discover Virtual Experience kicking off in earnest, as a blogger I had an opportunity to sit in on a press, analyst, influencer and blogger pre-event update. Joining the 140 attendees online for this pre-event briefing were John Shultz, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer and Head of HPE's Transformation Office,Keith White, head of the new GreenLake Cloud Services business group and Kumar Sreekanti, CTO and head of HPE software. The NDA expired mid-morning Tuesday following Antonio’s keynote but what these executives covered was enough to get the press that were present pretty excited and willing to publish articles promoting HPE as returning to a leadership position.

For me, it was a few of the data points that I found of interest. From John Shultz, “The trend is towards smaller data centers, everywhere (placing) intelligence closer to the source. Clouds still don’t address 70% of enterprise’s applications and data; it’s still residing on-prem. Software is now a huge focus for us.” From Keith White we heard, “Public clouds simply weren’t built to handle everything; (as for) Hybrid Program progress, HPE has 1,000 customers, a 90% retention rate and $4Billion contracted business.” And from Kumar, it was all about “Software is a huge and critical part of HPE; Software both stand-alone and as part of GreenLake.”

These executives were then followed by Antonio who presided over a Q & A session with the same group. His central message and one repeated throughout the event was how HPE was becoming the leader in Edge-to-Core delivered as a Service, and where Software and Services dominated the product roadmaps. With GreenLake and then with Ezmeral, “we are leveraging our software portfolio (creating) a software defined stack in Ezmeral.” HPE GreenLake cloud services would now become the benefactors of taking the cloud experience into the data center where it would be operationally seamless to move some of that 70% of applications still present in the data center to the cloud, as appropriate.

Leveraging the company’s software portfolio isn’t an exclusive response to industry trends. The message from HPE generally is that after one year of a three years program, HPE was making available all of their products “as-a-Service.” If your preference was for traditional purchase options, then these were still a vital part of HPE’s business plan. Yes, you can still buy from HPE but with GreenLake you now have an additional option. You can for what you use and pay as you go. You can forget about capital expenditures and enjoy the taxation benefits that come from chronicling operational expenses.

It’s now all about selecting the right option and this is important news for the NonStop community. With options and with the benefits that come from choosing, NonStop is now affordable to even the most fragile of enterprise IT organizations. After a fashion you can forget about everything other than deploying a fault tolerant system that won’t let you down no matter what might be happening around you. It’s the business equivalent of piping utilities directly into you premises. Pick up your phone and there’s a network; flip a light switch and you have illumination; turn a tap and you have water. Initiate a transaction and it completes. NonStop as traditional systems and NonStop as virtual machines – it’s just up to you.

As a community we are truly in the right spot at the right time. Never before have we been able to sit back and explore the best fit for our business needs. Do we need NonStop at the core supporting SQL or do we need NonStop at the edge processing transactions?

Events will continue to be held and, for the foreseeable future, they will be virtual. Having sat through HPE Discover Virtual Experience 2020, I have to say I could see no downside to participating. Don’t ignore them or think of them as being second class or even less than meaningful. HPE is moving very quickly and NonStop is aligning ever more closely with the vision – it would be a shame if you let something important to your business pass you by. It’s now so easy to find yourself in the right spot at exactly the right time!      

Editor’s note: If you are a cricket fan and would like to have the Sir Clive Lloyd autograph, send Richard a check for US$10K and I am sure he will now part with it!

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