Fields of grain; with a side of mountains!

A drive alongside of Colorado’s front ranges had me thinking more of hybrid IT and of possibilities for greater participation of NonStop in what is yet to come …

With some ability to get around, but still with the need to wear masks entering any state or commercial building, we have taken plenty of trips of late between Ft Collins and Boulder. However, it was something Margo and I talked about, as we drove to Boulder, that captured my imagination and for many reasons – the cornfields were high and behind them were the Rockies. Look, “cornfields; with a side of mountains!” Who wouldn’t want to take in this view every chance they had? 

Given my imagination all I could think of were "clouds; with a side of NonStop!" Just as the scenery would have been incomplete without the mountains to add depth and contrast, so too it is when we cover the topic of clouds without talking about NonStop! No hybrid IT deployment can realistically be considered complete without the presence of NonStop. Too strong? Mission Critical solutions are an integral part of hybrid IT and any argument about what system should be front-ending the arrival of mission critical transactions can’t be complete without a reference to NonStop. Right? 

And when it comes to our view of what the future might be like and what industries will be thriving as we crawl out from underneath this scourge that is COVID-19, there will be this contrast between what we see ahead of us and what might be helping out, on the sidelines as it were. Conversations about NonStop have never been about a homogenous NonStop presence, although there have been exceptions in the past, but rather, it’s about the business benefits that come from having NonStop supporting mission critical applications or even as the 24 x 7 database server. 

However, there really isn’t any way to sidestep concerns many of us share with regards to whether the mantra “good enough” will suffice for most enterprises. Nobody’s phones stay connected all the time and in today’s working environment where our workplace is carved from available space in our home, laptop / desktop environments aren’t all that reliable. Just this morning as I sat down I noticed that yet another Microsoft update had happened while I slept. Yet, even with all of this in mind, there are markets where NonStop excels and as HPE ramps up its promotion of its growing transactional business, there is plenty of room for growth for NonStop. 

In this year’s HPE Discover Virtual Experience, HPE CEO Antonio Neri touched on this topic perhaps to the surprise of some. When very large vendors like HPE talk about new business directions, oftentimes tech communities see this as an all or nothing break from past practices. Given how much emphasis HPE placed on Edge to Core delivered as a service and backed this up with considerable emphasis on the pay-as-you-go model that HPE has branded GreenLake, you would expect that the full weight of HPE marketing has been energized to support this brand to the exclusion of all else.

However, not so fast! On reflection of Neri’s boldest statements made during his keynote address, CRN reporter Steven Burke was quick to note that HPE was more in touch with reality than perhaps Neri was being given credit for honing in on one of his observations -   

“It is not just about GreenLake because we have a transactional business which is very large and we are pivoting to as-a-service, which is the long-term future. We need to be able to do both and be able to give partners the flexibility to come along.” 

We need to do both and be able to give partners the flexibility to come along to which we can easily add the need to give enterprise customers a choice as well. However, herein lays the conundrum for the NonStop community. The days of operating a proprietary solution in isolation, silo-ed to some extent, are over. The reason for this is that as HPE sees things, we are entering the age of insight and insights can only be derived from data; fresh data, as it’s created and NonStop as we all know, is where much of this fresh data is created. So integration with where data is being assembled and where analytics and AI live is important for the enterprise.

Connectivity with the outside world has always been an important attribute of NonStop in the past but today, much more is needed. It’s not just about connecting and moving data so much as it is about tapping into applications in a way that they too may be on the move. When there is as much talk about containers and the orchestration of containers as there is of late, attention needs to be paid to the implications for NonStop. I have been proponent of virtual machines in support of the transactional business NonStop has supported preferring to discuss hypervisors than I am discussing the merits of containers and yet, I cannot ignore this movement to a world of containers.

This would be all well and good if NonStop was nothing more than a Linux – like distribution, but then again, there is a reason why NonStop isn’t just Linux dressed-up for the occasion. Simply put, at its most basic level, mission critical applications running on NonStop and subject to all sorts of mandates and oversights wouldn’t be valued as highly as they are today if NonStop was subject to patches, fixes and reboots every couple of days. However, the argument persists. In a data center that is increasingly hybrid and where private clouds are appearing, participation is now trumping simple connectivity.

One of the points emphasized by Neri during his keynote was the importance of bringing the cloud experience into the data center. Recognizing that only 30% of apps and data have completed the journey to public clouds, there is value in having the other 70% residing in the data center take on the appearance of being cloud-like. Of course, GreenLake is a part of HPE’s answer along with Ezmeral, but there is more. According to Neri as reported by CRN’s Burke: 

“On top of that, HPE is bringing the full GreenLake Cloud experience to, where customers can price and try the various services - from disaster recovery/backup to private cloud and container as a service.” 

Followed by one more bold statement: 

“With HPE GreenLake and our container services based on Kubernetes, you are not locked in. You can move those workloads and data to any public cloud if that makes sense for you.”   

Again, it’s worth repeating that the context here is GreenLake and already, we have noted that transactional business is different even as HPE needs to do both. However, it’s clear to all analysts following HPE and NonStop that at some point, NonStop would benefit greatly from playing nicely with the world of containers and with NonStop applications delivered as a service. But does this imply that at some point, there is need for NonStop to support Kubernetes? 

Maybe? Maybe not? This was the topic of a recent exchange on the LinkedIn group, Tandem User Group. If you didn’t catch it you may want to check it out and if as yet you aren’t a member of this group, then perhaps it’s time to join. We talk about NonStop running as a virtual machine but within the comments that followed, NonStop architect Keith Moore asked the very pertinent question:

“What if we could have an application or data instance of NonStop under Kubernetes? Is that of interest? I (we) need to know if this is a customer need. Please do-tell, folks.”            

A strong point of the NonStop team is that they prefer to pursue development projects after input from customers. It’s still too early to know for sure whether support for Kubernetes in one way or the other makes sense but given the emphasis HPE has placed on Kubernetes, it’s something the NonStop community needs to discuss. It might lead nowhere but again, it’s probably not a good idea to ignore the topic. Kubernetes at its simplest is an open source container orchestration enabler with an API “that controls how and where those containers will run.” Kubernetes recognizes that (indeed is in response to) today’s applications may “grow to span multiple containers deployed across multiple servers.” NonStop included, in time.                         

Our drive back along Colorado’s front ranges had us passing through many more fields as we continued to glance sideways at the mountains. These fields of grain come and go but those mountains, well, they have been with us for eons. So it is with NonStop whose presence within IT might be measurable in eons. We have seen trends and fads develop, flourish and eventually fade but transactional business continues to demand NonStop. On the other hand, as part of the HPE community can we truly ignore the potential that would come from clouds, with a side of NonStop?  


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