You cannot teach anyone to go fast! You can teach developers to NonStop …

With the Indy 500 looming, leave it to legend Mario Andretti to talk about an up and comer we can relate to in the NonStop marketplace …

It seems only fitting that at this time of year we include a reference to the upcoming Indy 500 race. Marketed as the greatest racing spectacle on earth, that despite contrary arguments from my colleagues in Europe, has challenged even the best of Formula One drivers through the ages. It looks so simple but even as someone who has pulled on a helmet, strapped himself into a “race-able car,” driven at 140 mph onto the banking of the Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, CA), I cannot comprehend what it would take to enter turn one of the Indianapolis Speedway at 240 mph as was the case this past weekend during qualifying.

Every country has its racing heroes and there is none bigger in America than Mario Andretti. It was almost two years ago that I had the opportunity to sit in the “second seat” behind Mario in a Honda-powered Indy car for an inaugural two-lap “session” at Sonoma just as qualifying for that Indy event in 2018 wound down. This was the subject of a post to Margo and my social blog that I wrote back on September 20, 2018, That “flying fickle finger of fate” together with a little serendipity and a whole lot of good fortune! 

When the magazine Robb Report turned to Mario Andretti and asked the question, “Who’s the next you?” he responded not with his grandson Marco Andretti, but rather, “Up-and-comer Colton Herta.” For many years Margo and I have followed the career of Colton as he is the grandson of our good friends in Simi Valley, CA, the Kennys. Colton is the grandson of Brian and Jan Kenny even as Bryan Herta is their son-in-law. So we consider them as part of our extended family! According to Mario:

“I see myself in him for several reasons. Number one, in his very first season at the top level of IndyCars, he was the revelation as a rookie. He won two major races, including the last one of the season.”

I have often thought that it would be a good exercise to ask the NonStop community to name their next you. Recently, I published a document on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of NonStop and I have to say thanks to a lot of folks who contributed to this research note which is now in the public domain. First published in the August 2020 issue of NonStop Insider, you can read it in full by following this hyperlink, The ABC’s of an Affordable Business Critical Compute

At a time when there are many discussions circulating about the next us – the “up-and–comer” community focused on NonStop and continuing to build and support new applications on NonStop – it was from a younger group of executives that I heard the following:  

UK-based TCM Managing Director, Daniel Craig, “There’s no longer a pressing need to learn NonStop, not when the option is there to just leave it to the experts. The NonStop customer gets all the benefits of the NonStop platform with little to no effort regarding management or maintenance.”

In the Americas, it was Odyssey Information Services’ Business Development Manager, Ben Coan, who said, “We are always open to sharing our knowledge / expertise with our clients.”

What is meant these days by “learning NonStop” and what are “the benefits of the NonStop platform?” And how often do we avail ourselves of those open to “sharing our knowledge / expertise?” It is often alluded to in our industry that you cannot teach NonStop. To program NonStop at its lowest level, down at the message system level, you have to approach it almost as a religious experience and if you haven’t been accepted into the fold then well, nobody can expect you to program NonStop, right? 

For the NonStop community at this time, it is Mario’s next response to Robb Report that many of us can identify with: 

“Here’s the thing: You cannot teach anyone to go fast. You either have that inside of your belly or you don’t. The only thing you can teach is to minimize mistakes. There are some good drivers, some great drivers, and then you have the racers.”

You cannot teach anyone NonStop … the only thing you can teach is to minimize mistakes! Ouch; but is this true? Is there still “passion for NonStop” present in our community? Are we sure we cannot introduce NonStop to the “up-and-comer” generation in a manner that ensures the underlying fault tolerance is leveraged by solutions that truly don’t fail? Just as importantly, do we even program NonStop anymore?

For many years now we have watched frameworks appear that have made the task a lot simpler. Pathway (now TS/MP) was certainly a great starting point when it came to developing new solutions for processing transactions. Then we saw support for Java Virtual Machine (JVM) added as a Pathway application. As we now recognize the JVM for what it really is, a container, it opened the doors to solutions being written in Java and today, with a couple more tweaks coming, Java rocks on NonStop!

But wait, there’s more! If TS/MP and JVM improved the flexibility at the API, micro-services level, then much deeper down the software stack, the NonStop team revolutionized NonStop by giving it the ability to run virtual. This is ground that has been covered for some time, but when any discussion about Digital Transformation (DX) arises, then there’s no reason at all to discount NonStop. Yes, run NonStop on the hardware you have. Run NonStop as part of your private cloud.

We don’t program to the metal or to the message system but rather, we leverage the work done by a lot of people to make it easy to bring applications to NonStop. Yes, we are NonStop developers and yes, we really get it, thank you Mario. If you weren’t sure of this, just look at the fun times that are being had by those in the Under 40 SIG and to the level of enthusiasm for NonStop they exhibit whenever they meet. If you want more good news as a NonStop developer then you just have to read the blog post of March 9, 2020, now on the HPE web site, Modernizing the development world of NonStop applications where the topic is DevOps and covers the many tools to ease the development cycle that are supported by NonStop: 

What may also surprise CIOs is how DevOps tools like Git and Jenkins can be used to develop applications even as NonStop developers directly interface with products like Ansible. What may surprise IT management even more is that NonStop engineers actively use GitHUB, Jenkins, Ansible and other open source tools for DevOps to deliver many new offerings for the NonStop platform. 

And there is more to come. A new Ansible-based NonStop Manageability Framework (NSMF) is currently being created to help customers configure and deploy NonStop as well as manage HPE supplied software products on NonStop. 

There is no discounting the challenges the NonStop community is facing in these times where keeping the conversation going for NonStop seems difficult at times. But here’s the thing. Are we looking at the problem the wrong way around? Surely, we are no longer wanting NonStop programmers but we do want programmers who want NonStop. In other words, let them bring their favorite development environments with them and view NonStop as just another target server environment – one in tune with the requirements of running real time mission critical solutions.

NonStop programmers may be thin on the ground even as they are surely thinning on top. And graying! But that’s not the real problem today. It is so easy to get the next generation fired up about NonStop and what it can provide leaving us only to muse on how best to communicate this message. Can you hear me now? Good programmers are a breed apart where all we need to teach them is how to minimize mistakes. And yes, they do get it.

When it comes to the NonStop community, the companies willing to support development and deployment and who are willing to share their knowledge are out there, at hand and ready to help you. It’s no accident surely that this sector of the NonStop marketplace is growing. It’s also no accident that it’s leaders like TCM’s Daniel Craig who are actively engaged in the Under 40 SIG. 

Those original thirteen coders of the original NonStop software stack were brilliant young talent with leaders prepared to support them all the way. Not only support them but with the ability indeed guile to push them to where they achieved amazing outcomes. It was through their efforts that so much of the NonStop software stack is approachable at levels that make it a lot easier to program. 

With little reservation, those who develop today’s games are the same developers who can roll-out your next killer app on NonStop. Or as one NonStop enthusiast noted, "the current generation of 'Kernel Kiddies' empowered by management could continue to deliver" results similar to that initial group of thirteen. With NonStop part of HPC and with HP CEO Antonio Neri's recognition that "we have a transnational business which is very large," perhaps such empowerment is highly likely. 

Mario’s closing words to the Robb Report still resonate with me as they should with us all: 

“The racer is the one who really gets it. And (Colton) is a racer.

 “For me to mention that I see myself in him? It makes me look good.”

Shouldn’t we all be encouraging / mentoring the up and comer developers? After all, shouldn’t we all like Mario be looking to make ourselves look good, too?


Richard Buckle said…

[Late update: there is being a racer and there’s being a professional. Something the NonStop community understands. Imagine this – at the running of the Indy 500, pole sitter Marco Andretti is part of the Andretti / Herta team and is being managed by Bryan Herta. Colton, Bryan’s son, is part of the Andretti / Steinbrenner team.

Consider then this much-discussed hypothetical. With 15 laps to go, just saying, Marco is in the lead but losing time to Colton (on fresh tires). So what would go through the mind of Bryan Herta? When I checked with family, it’s Bryan’s profession, and he would do everything to ensure the best possible outcome for Marco! And we IT professionals think we face tough decisions sometimes.]
Richard Buckle said…
Even later breaking news: Yes, Colton scored the pole position and then went on to win this Sunday's second race at Ohio - now fourth overall in the championship and knowing on the door to take over third position. No, you really cant teach fast ... R

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