Thursday, September 24, 2020

Working from home and doing overtime!

It may not always be smooth sailing ahead but for NonStop, our journey continues; better hands than mine are on the tiller and nobody is getting wet …

Almost forgotten this day, given the world’s current plight of fighting the global pandemic, was how this blog passed yet another milestone. As we started the month of September it was the beginning of our fourteenth year of blogging. Yes, thirteen years have passed since the first post appeared, August 29, 2007.  When it comes to the subject matter of NonStop, there has been no end to the stories that we can tell and even after all these years, I have no thoughts about easing up on the posts. There’s just too much excitement about NonStop still to come!

When I first started blogging I did so from a corner desk tucked away on the landing of our Simi Valley rental townhouse. Commuting between Boulder and Simi Valley, even as I was working out of San Francisco, meant time on the road to kick around ideas with Margo that mostly wound up in one of the posts to this blog. Today, I have a great office in our Windsor, Colorado, home that affords me a wider view and provides direct site lines to the bar outside my office. Mind you, this is unrelated to storytelling but on the other hand, when the day’s work is done, my commute is rather trivial and somehow, there’s always an opportunity to detour to the bar before heading upstairs for mealtime.

I have often been asked about the various storylines that I have explored on this blog. Surely, there are only a finite number of things you can say about NonStop! And yet, with every email I receive and with every HPE event that is held, there is something newsworthy that has direct bearing on the NonStop community. With the NonStop All Digital Experience drawing nearer with its November date highlighted on my calendar, it’s fair to say that expectations are running high that announcements of some significance will be made. Which begs the question, naturally enough, as to what each of you will consider the highlight of the event?

However, before looking into that have you registered for this event as yet? The virtual gathering of the NonStop community is substituting for the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC). If you have as yet not paid a visit to the Connect web site to register and the hyperlink above doesn’t take you there, then cut and past the following link into your browser –

https://www.nonstoptbc.com/

Should you be interested in reading how the registration is proceeding then I encourage you to read the upcoming monthly column, HPE RUGS, when it appears in the October, 2020, issue of NonStop Insider. Working from home has not only allowed me more time to email and to converse but it’s also provided me with greater quality time to spend on reading current affairs and this is reflected in the articles you will find in this upcoming issue of the magazine. I trust you will find the time to read the articles and columns that make it into the issue as they come from a variety of sources and feature many familiar faces from across the NonStop community.

 

When it comes to storylines for NonStop it would be remiss of me not to call out the work being done today by the NonStop product management team. The game has changed for them in so many ways and it’s difficult to relate the work they do to what product management did in the days of Tandem Computers. When I was part of the former Tandem Computers product management team, we had a director, three second level managers and half a dozen or so first line managers each with teams of three or four product managers.

By way of example, I was one of those first line managers overseeing the comms and networking group that included four product managers. All up, within the product management team there were enough product managers to crowd the deck of the Santa Cruz 70, Chardonnay II (yes, a seventy foot yacht), when we went for a sail across Monterey Bay. With Ray Walker trimming sails and me at the helm, it was a lot of fun. Team building within product management was always fun even when in this instance, on a tack (or was that a gybe?), I managed to “drown” our leader, Bill Heil, with an untimely wave over the foredeck.

Today, it’s a lot different and far more challenging. Team manager, Karen Copeland, has five product managers that she works with – one focused almost exclusively on the hardware with four overseeing software programs grouped under operating system, database, middleware (including Java) and system manageability (including CLIM). A far cry from the heady days of Tandem Computers and yet, through the recent modernization and diversification with the way to deploy NonStop systems, the NonStop product line looks superior to anything delivered in former times.

NonStop SQL has gone from strength to strength and has gained the upper hand of some of the more established rivals with which it competed. Stories are coming to me about former Oracle sites that have migrated to NonStop and I am expecting to hear of even more migrations in the coming year. There are now more payments solutions using NonStop SQL than I can recall ever having leveraged this database – many may recall that in its earlier iteration, solutions vendors shied away from any dependence on NonStop SQL. But no longer!

As for supported languages and frameworks, if your preferences steer the conversation towards Java then no problems on this front as many solutions take advantage of Java and the JVM on NonStop. Want to program in Pearl? Script languages including popular open source languages like Perl, PHP and Python have been ported to NonStop. Furthermore, and what continues to surprise CIOs, is that DevOps can be pursued with NonStop - you can use Git and GitHUB to build and store your application in  a repository, Jenkins as an automation server supporting the creation of pipelines. Nexus and Artifactory are available as artifact repositories and Ansible for setting it all up to be production-ready.

When it comes to traditional and virtual machines, NonStop has you covered as well. NonStop can be delivered to your dock as a complete system or you can deploy NonStop on any server farm based on x86 where converged Ethernet fabrics are included and where VMware is supporting virtual machines. NonStop running inside a private cloud, without giving up any of its core fundamentals – availability, scalability, security and data integrity – who could have imagined such options just a short time ago? Running on real machines or on virtual machines, NonStop has quickly morphed into a platform that can be deployed any which way you prefer and to think, this has all occurred in just a few short years.

As for a thriving ecosystem of development partners in support of solutions, utilities and tools then the NonStop team has nurtured a community that is now the biggest such ecosystem of any product line within HPE. There are resellers, vars and channel partners supporting the sale of HPE products but when it comes to working with the developers, NonStop is unmatched in this regard and for some, has become the envy of other product managers. It is against this background that HPE IT chose NonStop to be at the core of its operations and in doing so, displaced hundreds of Oracle databases – the cost savings alone proved material to the continuing operation of IT within HPE.

Do I miss those social days sailing on Monterey Bay? Do I miss the times when we grilled on the deck of Building 4 in Cupertino? Of course, but those were different times. Have I now enough material to exploit within storylines featuring NonStop? Naturally as the productivity within the NonStop team ensures that there is something happening almost every week. My time may be spent sitting at the desk of my home office, outlining upcoming posts and commentaries and I am finding myself laboring into the early evening but NonStop has taken over center stage as far as storylines go. And for that, the overtime is well worth pursuing even as I continue to convey in no uncertain ways the excitement that NonStop continues to generate!

 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Coming up on the busy season – will we see your participation?

In previous years, with the coming of fall, participation in NonStop user events has dominated our calendars. For 2020, it’s changed and we have gone virtual: Will you be logging into upcoming virtual events?

Sports events kicked off a short time ago. It’s all now very serious. Here in the US the National Football League (NFL) has already started its fall classic even as colleges get back onto the gridiron. Crowds may be nothing more than cut out silhouettes even as some sporting events have opened the gates to a tightly monitored small group of fans. At this weekend’s Indy races, where the Governor’s consent only arrived a week before cars went on track, it was a case of there being only 8,000 fans on hand around a three mile circuit. In F1 it was similar, only that there were no spectators whatsoever.

As governments hold the reigns tightly in the hope that this global pandemic can be managed and biotech labs hustle to bring to market lifesaving vaccines, it is clear to all and sundry that enjoying the fellowship of our peers is still a long way off. As much as the big operators in places like Las Vegas, London, Sydney and elsewhere around the planet want to see the return of major conventions and conferences, there is nothing solid to work on in this regard. It’s still very much up in the air as to when this will look more normal.

For the NonStop community this time of year is one where there are numerous regional user group events being held, with the biggest event on the NonStop calendar drawing near. For a number of years now, attendance at the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) has been climbing higher but this year, there is little talk of fellowship and more of sitting in front of our computers watching others stepping before the cameras to provide technology, platform and systems updates. Already, regional user group events have been held virtually and now the work is going ahead to ensure this year’s TBC will be a virtual success.

I have always been a big fan of events for real. The opportunities to network and to hear something new seemed to outweigh any negativity that may have arisen over travel. But who really wants to leave home anyway? Which of you want to deal with the hassles of travel in today’s carefully monitored environment? Even those who prefer to drive to events have to take precautions but how many bottles of hand sanitizer and how many boxes of sanitizing wipes must you pack into your car? Even as the prospects look better for a working vaccine to appear shortly, each day provides its own level of stress each time we head to the grocery store.

 

On the other hand, what we can say about the upcoming NonStop All Digital Experience is that it will not be stressful nor should it prove disruptive to our daily lives. We will not have to pack our best conference clothes nor will we need to pack a whole lot of business cards or exhibition “trash and trinkets!” Should we reserve time at the local barbers? And for those with dietary restrictions there’s no need to worry at all as meals will continue to be “home cooked.” We will not have to worry about whether or not we are sitting at the right place or of missing an important conversation at an adjacent table. In fact, any concerns over finding a parking space for our rental car just won’t materialize.

What will take center stage of course will be setting aside the time to pour a cup of good strong coffee and stay seated in front of our computer for the duration. Even as the agenda is being worked on with the date for submissions now passed, I suspect that this year’s all-digital experience will come with some surprises. There is no doubting the success that NonStop must be enjoying having gone commodity hardware-centric to where it is now a software solution but the idea of commitments to NonStop is being overtaken with more awareness that it is the consumption of NonStop that is taking center stage.

Expressed, as bluntly as I can, the try-before-you-buy, pay-for-what-you-use model is coming to a NonStop near you! It’s inescapable and it’s actually to the credit of the NonStop team to recognize this major sea-change under way across all of IT. When HPE executives talk about bringing the cloud experience to all users, even those interfacing with data centers populated with traditional systems, NonStop is not on the outer. It’s a participant and with that, we are seeing a new way with which to view the acquisition of NonStop.

This may not be obvious at first. This may not even be visible to many NonStop adherents. But change it will, say those close to the NonStop development teams. It has been coming for some time however and early success with running virtual NonStop on VMware has proved beneficial to some who have sought for quite some time to run NonStop, as software, on hardware they have already deployed. The move to X86 in hindsight has proved to just be the first roll of the dice in this regard.

It will not be the sole choice for running NonStop as the option to deploy traditional NonStop system will remain, but even here, you may hear news from the NonStop team that will challenge your understanding of what traditional NonStop systems really means. Look for some interesting presentations on this topic even if that means you need to get up early to hear the news. While I haven’t seen the agenda as yet nor have I been made aware of Q and A sessions that might follow I have to believe there will be lots of discussions even if many of them are pursued via IM.  

One presentation that I am hopeful I will be giving will be on the topic of a recent article published in the August issue of NonStop Insider - The ABC’s of an Affordable Business Critical Compute. This research note is on the topic of NonStop TCO in today’s world – a revisit of a much older research note that I had published back in 2014. If as yet you have not read it, you may want to do so and I do hope that you tune into my presentation when it happens.

The good thing about the all-digital experience is that I will not be taking to the stage but rather, running through my slides and providing commentary that will be recorded to be played back on demand. At least, that’s the current plan so stay tuned to hear more about this closer to the scheduled dates of the event. I plan on providing a fresh post prior to the event itself. The other good thing about the all-digital experience is that you really will never know what I will be wearing which could be anything from a Hawaiian shirt to a un-pressed tee shirt to a button-down business shirt. Here’s a clue, however; one of the above will not be making an appearance.

Prior to the event there will be a number of “partner only” webinars that the NonStop product managers will provide; a practice from earlier times when ITUG Summits were often preceded by partner updates so that there would be no surprises in the exhibition hall when users turned up at vendors booths. This is a very good sign and further evidence of the value the NonStop team places on the NonStop vendor community. About the content of these webinars you will just have to wait till you hear the full story at the NonStop All Digital Experience as it is beamed to your desk. 

Will we see your participation at this upcoming November event? I sure would like to think you all want to hear the latest news and updates from the NonStop team. I cannot imagine of any excuses whatsoever that would hinder such participation. As for Margo and me we are looking forward to the event and while we will not be able to see what table you chose to sit at and we cannot pass comments about your attire chosen for the  occasion, we can say that we sure would be pleased to read your name appear alongside the presentations.

For now, there is still plenty of time to register so please, take it from the both of us, turn to the Connect web site and complete your registration. Like us, I have to believe that they are looking forward to hearing from you. And now, it’s time to adjust to a new busy season and to embrace a more normal environment as best as we can provide – so, see you in the ether at TBC 2020! And hopefully, the NonStop team will come up with some creative way for us all to participate in a traditional beer bust. My adult beverages are already on ice; cheers!

 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

What insights are we looking forward to; transactions meet analytics!

Even as the finishing touches were put on the upcoming September issue of NonStop Insider, it proved too hard to ignore the observations about NonStop, analytics and the age of insight!


The telltale signs of summer coming to an end are beginning to become apparent here in Northern Colorado. In a matter of a few days’ time, snow is predicted with a forecast maximum temperature of only 39 degrees, Fahrenheit (4 C), and summer isn’t truly over nor has Fall arrived. Too bad about those last lazy days of summer being spent around a lake or on your favorite bike trail – change is on its way and there’s little we can do to stop it. On the other hand, it’s hard to reason with the season, or so Jimmy Buffett sang some time back.  

Driving to my local car service center, a warning message appeared – overdue service, 8/2020 – which was the first indication that anything was required, raised an eyebrow. Standing by the service center desk I was politely informed that it would be several weeks before the car could be serviced as all the SUVs suddenly showed up wanting a winter-prop service. Seems that in today’s highly connected world our cars know more than their drivers about what servicing they require. No more flashing lights but rather, a forceful reminder that with our apparent driving style, attention was needed and yes, it had to be done right now!

In a world where we are seeing more interest being paid to providing management with insightful information, it’s hard to know that important information will flash by unexpectedly, or where. Will I be told that I have left the kettle on and that the iron is still connected and getting hotter by the minute? I cannot tell you how many times I have turned the car around to check on that iron just on the possibility that I did leave it on. But today, as IT professionals, providing insightful information carries more important information than a potential ironing board mishap.

Can we call it insight when our credit card fails to process a transaction due to lack of funds? On the one hand, it’s a not too subtle way of informing us to either pay the bill or top up the account. Either way, it’s hard insight! As for something more useful would be text messages many of us already receiving – particularly if you use Starbucks – telling us that we have run too low and that a top-up has automatically been done for us. An example of soft insight! You may not agree as to what’s hard and what’s soft but for most of us, it’s tied to the degree of embarrassment we feel at the time.

For the NonStop community our lives have been very much focused on executing the transaction. Ever since its introduction many decades ago, NonStop has been prized for its ability to relentlessly process transactions with no downtime, ever! For making sure what is initiated by an end-user runs to completion without interruption or mishaps of any kind. The fact that NonStop is built, form software through to the hardware, as a total fault tolerant package, has served us all well for many decades. But what’s happening with NonStop when those same transactions could benefit from having additional insights to draw upon? What are our options for improving on a simple yes, or no?

I haven’t heard anyone argue with the benefits of having access to additional information – enriching the interaction, if you like – but the question remains; do we run any kind of analytics processing on NonStop systems? Perhaps not! And analytics are, after all, key to how we obtain insight. After years of building data warehouses and populating data lakes, ponds, streams whatever, it is the power of the analytics engines that deliver the goods. By this I mean there is a lot of choice out there when it comes to analytics engines but none run on NonStop. And for good reason – they are CPU intensive in a way that is at the opposite end of the processor-devouring spectrum than what’s needed to complete you average transaction.

For quite some time there have been discussions about whether or not to add a GPU to Nonstop specifically to run analytics. Or perhaps a custom box akin to a CLIM added specifically as a type of co-processor onto which CPU intensive work can be offloaded. Then there is the concept of peer processor whereby a capable Ethernet connection to a Linux box ensures the heavy lifting is done when needed and without disrupting the transaction processing under way on NonStop. Well architected, the peer processor could fail on occasion without any downtime taking place on NonStop.

Then again, such discussions can become a never-ending story. Arguments for and against could continue where such vacillation could ultimately prove unhelpful. Transactions on NonStop, in combination with analytics, need to be addressed, and soon. This is the topic covered in the upcoming September 2020 issue of NonStop Insider. Look for the regular column, HPE NonStop Corner – one partner’s perspective. And check out what comes about when we reach that “AHA!” moment.  

Whichever way you look at it, there are ways to address combining the world of transaction processing with analytics. It’s a technology that holds the promise of separating all the so-so-run companies from those that grow more rapidly. Figuring out the best way to serve an end-user has always been the goal of business and it was in such a pursuit that so much of the mundane devices we interact with today came about – the ATM, the POS, the smartphone and much more. Every time we walk up to a self-service device its presence has come about because the enterprise recognized there were transactions we felt more comfortable doing with a device than interacting (and facing disparaging looks) with and from a human.

But maybe we don’t need to fuss too much over the pros and cons of combining NonStop with co-processors. What is now making it more interesting is that when we look at combining the world of transaction processing with analytics, suddenly consuming analysis on the basis of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) makes even more sense. In fact, some of the peer approaches under consideration may in fact involve connectivity between NonStop and a cloud environment – private or public depending upon our appetite for secure processing – whereby analytics is tapped as and when it’s needed. Not all transactions benefit from a lengthy Q and A that otherwise might be initiated.

Analytics, and for all the discussions we may be having about the intersection of transaction processing with analysis, is in its infancy and we are only seeing early baby steps being taken by most solutions. However, no matter how far they reach and how quickly they get there, the important thing is to be aware that even with NonStop, it’s best to take some early steps to reconcile both worlds. Enterprises need to be better prepared for what’s to come and in an age of insight, as HPE keeps reminding us about, we can’t have NonStop developers ignoring the need to tap analytics. 

For my money, analytics server up as we need them, on the basis of SaaS, is looking likely to be the best bet. Simplicity may be the key driver as might be agreed-upon, open APIs allowing ease of access and operation. Perhaps too it’s going to come from knowing more of what NonStop’s development peers within HPC can offer. Perhaps it’s in the coming world of GreenLake that we find some answers. Ultimately, our transactions need feeding; where, and how, the insights are provided that enterprises will value most suggests that simply executing the transaction will not be enough.

Looking at the forecast for Colorado, you may not need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind blows; just look to the mountains. Or as Jimmy Buffett sang, “the wind is blowin’ harder now … there’s white caps on the ocean.” When it comes to the weather, we can see for ourselves that changes are taking place. We don’t need a flashing icon on our dashboard either to know we need to change the oil; it’s simply the right time to do it.

As for NonStop, analytics, SaaS, private clouds, virtualization – it’s all there. The pieces have taken on form and now it’s just up to us to decide how to pursue the integration of transactions with analytics. Shouldn’t we at the very least start a conversation within our own IT organization and yes, shouldn’t we use this as just one more opportunity to talk openly of how far NonStop has come in the decades that have past its introduction all those years ago?    

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