Thursday, October 22, 2020

Regaining our composure; watching for signs!

Attending virtual events with more to come, the signs suggest that this is now normal; have you composed yourself ahead of what’s to come?

I have to admit, when this image came to me in a tweet, it brought a smile to my face. Who else but the local authorities in San Jose would have come up with this, based on the expectation that travelers in their city would understand the reference. Given all that is happening around us in these times, it’s pleasing to see that at least one authority retains a sense of humor. On the other hand, I am sure it had the desired effect. Silicon Valley will always have its detractors but it is with signs like this that the human side of technology comes through, resonating with us all.

We didn’t make it up to Silicon Valley on our last trip to California; Monterey was as far north as our time allowed. It’s unusual for us to skip an opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues but I wanted to make sure I was back in time to wrap up assignments before tuning into the latest virtual event, IR Connect. Let me just say at the outset that this was a very well done event and perhaps the best virtual experience I have had this year.

I am going to leave further observations about this event to a future update for NonStop Insider but having the opportunity to hear first-hand from the IR CEO, Jon Ruthven, and then the Chief Marketing and Product Officer, Kevin Ryder, was illuminating. For the NonStop community, there was plenty of coverage of IR’s three decades in this business with numerous references to NonStop and even as we welcomed the introduction to three overarching solutions - Collaborate, Transact and Infrastructure, all powered by Prognosis – we saw tangible proof that Prognosis not only was embracing the world of Hybrid IT but was capitalizing on the elasticity of provisioning provided by clouds to bring greater ML and AI to bear on addressing real business needs.

Much of this focused on the changes being brought about as we continue to navigate our way through the global pandemic. In a presentation that looked ahead at a direction Prognosis might take, I heard a sentence that has stuck with me ever since. “If we have the predictive insights available and the prescriptive analysis at hand, we should be able to then just translate that into something that could be executed out on the edge to solve the problem for you.”  

Wonderful; not only was this update on Prognosis about Hybrid IT but in addition to the well-known, traditionally functioning Prognosis Server, we now have support of the Cloud (for analytics) as well as for the Intelligent Edge. All of which is to say we are seeing the emergence of an entirely new framework for management and monitoring of systems and applications that has arisen from these times where so much of our interaction with business is virtual, hands-free and for the most part, highly unpredictable if not indeed, entirely subject to the influence of the day!

Almost at the same time, Gartner was holding their annual big-tent IT symposium that normally, many of us trekked to Orlando to join but this year, it too became a virtual experience. According to some of the press coverage that followed, Gartner didn’t shy away from hyping the many ways IT is changing as a result of the global pandemic. Top of the list is our need to focus on availability even as we build out frameworks of our own that are capable of supporting this evolving omni-channel world.

It was several years ago when I quoted Infrasoft CTO Neil Coleman in the post, Frameworks – nothing to write about and yet, in NonStop they are the rock … where he reminded us all that “Frameworks are like our navels, everybody has one.” Explaining this perspective he then added, “and a lot of people may actually think ‘so what’ while others may simply ask ‘why bother, just use something already out there.’” However, there is a lot that is now surfacing that looks awfully like frameworks as vendors launch into bringing the cloud experience to whatever Hybrid IT configuration you elect to deploy. This was very much the subject of considerable promotion by Gartner at this event, the Gartner IT Symposium – Expo.

As reported in NetworkWorld, under the heading Gartner: Top strategic technology trends for 2021 “Companies need to focus on architecting resilience and accept that disruptive change is the norm, says research firm Gartner, which unveiled its annual look at the top strategic technology trends that organizations need to prepare for in the coming year.” This was according to Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. Resilience and accepting disruption shouldn’t come as a surprise to the NonStop community and this too was called out in presentations by IR. 

The TechRepublic, under the heading Top tech trends for 2021: Gartner predicts hyperautomation, AI and more will dominate business technology drilled down to what Gartner labelled as trend number 4: Intelligent Composable Business.  “‘They can be developed by vendors or provided by vendors or developed in-house. That kind of framework, that allows you to cobble together those packaged business capabilities, and then access data through a data fabric to provide its configuration and rapid reconfiguration of business services that can be highly granular even personal acts. The intelligent composable business is about bringing together things like better decision making, better access to data that changes the way that we do things, which is required for flexible applications, and which we can deliver when we have this composable approach to application delivery,’ Burke said.”

How about ourselves being composed? It has become so easy to lose our composure during these troubling times and yet, with all the promotion behind composable business, composable approach and yes, composable infrastructure (as frameworks) one thing is for sure. We aren’t decoupled from the demands of IT today even if we no longer can say that we remain hands-on; it’s a virtual world where our desktop monitors are all that connects us with what’s going on out there in the wider world.  

As IR and Gartner now have held their annual summits as virtual events likewise, very soon we will all have the opportunity to attend this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp. Given the current global pandemic, it will be virtual even as it has been renamed, The NonStop All Digital Experience. Have you registered yet? Last time I checked more than a thousand of your peers have already done so – you cannot miss out on this major event of the year for NonStop. Predictive; prescriptive; cloud and edge supported; hybrid IT enabled – what IR went to pains to describe has become typical of what today’s IT landscape has become.

There isn’t a business active today that can predict the outcome from the global pandemic nor are there businesses today that can ignore the suggestions coming from vendors, analysts and their competitors. Frameworks may be boring even as composable is becoming rather tired and yet they are anchoring so much of what is now being discussed. Fortunately there is no missing the recommendations for “architecting resilience and accept that disruptive change is the norm” messages for which NonStop is attuned.

There is no shortage of signs telling us how to transact business in these times. Laugh at some and maybe smile a bit, but there’s no shying away from the fact that the world is online 24 x 7 and that resilience benefits most from fault tolerance. These signs may not stop traffic or otherwise prompt us to hit the brakes. They are just reminders that business is a lot harder today than it was just a year ago. As events continue in the virtual world the message couldn’t be any clearer. Keeping an eye on our value proposition, our product differentiation and on our ability to accommodate change are all important; dropping service at any time don’t you think is, well, irresponsible at best and totally ignorant at worst.             

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A torched landscape – burnt earth is neither good for nature nor for our IT

Driving through a scorched landscape with little left to remind us of its former beauty, it begged the question: Are we torching (our plans) to retain on-prem IT and do we have a path back?

In the last post to this NonStop community blog I wrote of how we had few plans to drive the Sierras any time soon. A reference in passing to the times we have driven to Burlingame, California, for the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) event. The reference was followed by remarks about taking away any opportunity to drive somewhere as being a real downer for Margo and me. Well, that all changed over the course of just a week although we really didn’t cross the Sierra divide to head into the Bay but rather, we drove a southern route that took us into the greater Los Angeles area.

Call it being optimistic about our chances of escaping the global pandemic but the opportunity presented itself as almost a last minute development. We had been on the phone with a number of clients of late after which we realized that we hadn’t really talked to anyone face-to-face since we returned to Colorado very early in March. Spending my days posting to social media outlets was beginning to feel rather hollow without any real social interactions so we set about catching up with folks we know inside and out of IT.

I have to tell you, putting another 3,000 plus miles on our car’s odometer felt really good. We had read all the updates about travelling safely and we followed the protocols to the letter. We gloved up each time we stopped for gas and we switched to fresh masks routinely. We had packed hand sanitizer and we stayed in hotels that taped-off their rooms prior to our arrival and post cleaning. We only exchanged towels with housecleaning once and kept all interactions to a minimum. However, we did stay with friends in Simi Valley and had a blast – it was his birthday and having partied with him a decade ago, we weren’t about to let him down because of COVID-19.

One memory we have taken with us is of the devastation left behind by a number of wildfires. Drive up the famous California State Route 1 or as it is better known, particularly when it takes you by the coastline of Malibu, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Further north as you head to Monterey and Santa Cruz, it becomes the Cabrillo Highway. As we headed north out of San Simeon, we encountered our first sign of burnt-out headlands and the blackened vegetation continued all the way to Big Sur. We have seen many firefighters next to their trucks, on the ready! Much later, as we headed home we traversed the Glenwood Springs canyon we saw even more devastation as fires had burnt all the way down to the Interstate.

As a business trip it didn’t meet all of our objectives as some meetings were postponed even as another was cancelled but it’s hard to say that we were surprised. Then again, we had to see for ourselves how everyone is adjusting to this new normal – a normal that with each passing month seems to indicate that we will be living with the changes it has wrought for some time. Then again, being able to talk to folks also meant we were being constantly reminded of another natural phenomenon – cloud formations.

For the NonStop community adjusting to a world that is increasingly hybrid, the number of times we were told in no uncertain terms that this or the other IT was heading to an all-cloud operation. It bothered me that so many of us simply go with the flow and don’t take the time to really ponder the bigger issue – will the enterprise retain skills enough to monitor a public cloud provider and to be in a position to move on-prem mission critical applications as the need arises?

You may have missed it but there is an increasing number of posts to LinkedIn promoting the idea that we will never have to buy another server ever again. While the cloud has successfully demonstrated its ability to handle vast amounts of data even as it offers a veritable buffet of applications, it really should be considered as just another resource and evaluated on that basis. It’s not solely about security that has some IT groups concerned, but rather, yet one more instance of vendor lock-in. After decades of trying to embrace standards and open systems, suddenly we only too keen to launch into one cloud providers model and pay the price accordingly.

Cloud lock-in is real. Even as is being locked-in to that cloud providers subscription model. There really isn’t any magic when it comes to clouds. If you want to run mission critical applications 24 x 7 and have all the necessary files and databases available 24 x 7, then the resources the cloud provider commits to providing that is about the same as what you would already have deployed in your data center. And it will cost much more than what you have deployed. Sure you can trim your IT staff but to what extent – will the cloud provider know your applications and your customers the way you do? And if you watched Steve Kubick’s video, the 2 minute failover? it’s clear that enterprises support of mission critical applications cannot afford to sit back and wait for two minutes as a system recovers.

I am appalled at how many IT professionals are skirting the issue of imminent proprietary deployments that lessens any idea about portability – and no, higher level frameworks offering multi-cloud deployment simply move the bar a little higher as they lock you into their own middleware. And such middleware doesn’t come cheap either in financial terms or in terms of adding new skillsets to your IT group. Then there is the network – happy to connect to your users and business partners where there could be thousands of IP addresses over the net?

Clouds are a resource plain and simple. For the NonStop community there is merit in considering moving data to a cloud where analytics applications will mine the data for useful information that could affect business outcomes. There is also merit in turning to the cloud as another vehicle within your overall business continuity plans. You might even turn to the cloud for use as a back-up resource. There are good reasons to consider using the cloud but for the NonStop community, it’s just another option to be considered.

The latest NonStop systems remain cost-effective option for all mission critical applications. Enterprises are now moving off other platforms and onto NonStop and for good reason. I have come across anecdotal information that suggests that there is Asia / Pacific and Japan enterprises that have successfully migrated off of Oracle / Linux onto NonStop with relatively little fuss. Bringing any Oracle application, whether housed in a server farm or in a public cloud, is now easy to do and is a real bonus for those enterprises looking to reduce their financial commitments to Oracle. Didn’t you read that this is exactly what HPE IT concluded and then implemented – NonStop SQL is at the heart of much of what HPE does these days.

No blogger, influencer or journalist is suggesting that you pursue a scorched earth policy. This is not the time to burn the boats once you have landed. Rather, it’s a time to give serious thought to just how effective is the hybrid configurations of NonStop and clouds; where it makes good business sense and where it doesn’t. It takes a long time for a torched forest to return to any semblance of its former glory – will you leave your enterprise scorched and unable to remain in business simply because you let go all the skills IT needs today?

Our road trip really highlighted the damage forest fires inflicted on both California and Colorado. The air still smells smoky around our northern Colorado home and the smoke haze is still with us. Yet, colorful Colorado is at its very best right now and stands in stark contrast to what we saw alongside America’s highways further west. But with colder weather in the forecast, these hazy skies will dissipate at some point and we will once again begin to enjoy the fresh air that continues to attract so many visitors to Colorado. Are you prepared to inflict something similar on your enterprise and have you given any consideration to just how long it would take to see cloudless skies once again?  


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

It’s getting cold outside … will it be warmer online?

Ready for the season to change? Ready for the nature of events to change? The weather may be turning chilly but there will be a warm reception for the NonStop All Digital Experience …

The posts and updates this week have been about making the transition to winter. Living alongside the Rockies means we have to anticipate change happening almost every day. It was just a few weeks ago when it snowed and at the time, I posted of how the telltale signs of summer coming to an end couldn’t be more evident when you have several inches of snow on the ground. That was before fall arrived – who would have predicted we would be living under almost perpetual haze from forest fires to the west as snowflakes drifted earthwards.

Among the posts have been queries as to which winter tires to buy and what exactly does the state of Colorado mean as it declares active traction laws are in place October through May. Turns out you have to fit tires that are either snow tires, tires with the mud/snow (M+S) designation, or use a four-wheel/all-wheel-drive vehicle. When I sought out chains for our four-wheel drive Jeep Grand Cherokee, the tire company told me that if the Jeep could only operate with chains mounted then “get off the road!”

Sometimes, it is the obvious that all that is needed to pull you up to realize that well yes, that makes sense. For the NonStop community, what has been obvious for many years is that there is no comparative server that can assure us of a level of permanent availability that is a standard feature of the NonStop server. As we continue to read posts to sites like LinkedIn that inform us that there is no reason at all to buy one more server, the obvious has clearly escaped the authors.

More times than not, there are reasons to run applications on NonStop and those reasons haven’t changed. For interactions with end users 24 x 7 nothing else can deliver the same degree of uptime than NonStop continues to do, irrespective of the market vertical. More importantly and yes, probably not always on the tip of our tongues, is just how NonStop has been doing this for four plus decades. It may be cold outside but this just has to warm our hearts knowing that HPE continues to make major investments in NonStop.

I was reminded of this as Margo and I pulled together the October 2020 issue of NonStop Insider. As the first issue of our fifth year of publication, it attracted 20 submissions which is close to the maximum we set for ourselves. This issue may already be available online as you read this post, but it wasn’t just the number of submissions but how there were three of them coming from HPE NonStop team members from different NonStop organizations. While they are promotional after a fashion they draw our attention to their videos, posts and industry observations some of which were published on popular social media sites.

From the sales organization we see that HPE Enterprise Account Executive Steve Kubick continues to post short video clips drawing our attention to just how reliable NonStop systems are today and of how a two-minute outage, acceptable to some IT managers, simply won’t fly for the NonStop community. Master Technologist at HPE, Frans Jongma, is now posting videos about NonStop SQL/MX (and continues to do so) highlighting, “how easy it is to work with NonStop SQL/MX and how little advance knowledge is required to create and use a fault tolerant database.”  

Separately, Master Technologist at HPE, Justin Simonds, looks at potential hybrid configurations based upon NonStop. “NonStop could provide a continuous feed to the Apollo’s for continuous learning and model creation.  This became even more interesting with the acquisition of Cray Super Computers,” writes Simonds. “They have a number of government contract systems and a fabric that is faster than InfiniBand … I’m calling this concept the Artificial Intelligence Driven Enterprise or AIDE.” Reading these commentaries as delivered did warm our hearts on this occasion.

Where NonStop Insider continues to break new ground is in terms of hearing directly from HPE NonStop insiders, third-party vendors and a number of consultants. One particular column that I wrote had a lot to do with a challenge to all those in marketing. Are existing marketing practices still relevant and is the traditional CMO becoming a legacy vocation – who would want to hold this title in today. Talking about being warm, the corridors of marketing must be chilly places to hang out these days. Perhaps, not coming from a place where marketers like to go and yet, as with so much that has been influenced by the presence of this global pandemic, what once was the mainstay of practices may no longer be valuable going forward!

There was another thread that worked its way through many of this month’s submission and that was the upcoming NonStop community event, the Nonstop Technical Boot Camp. By now we have all read of how TBC has been rebranded The NonStop All Digital Experience with free registrations being accepted. If, as yet, you haven’t registered then simply go to this site, NonStop TBC by clicking on the hyperlink or by cutting and pasting this link into your browser www.nonstoptbc.com

There will not be anything chilly about this event even as we all adjust to events being held virtually. This year I will be giving a presentation based on the research note I wrote about the affordability of NonStop. This is a revisit of the topic of the TCO of NonStop I first raised back in 2012, but with the publication of a new report on Availability Level 4 server offerings by IDC the timing seemed appropriate. Once again, I will also be presenting on behalf of NTI where its DRNet® product line has taken off in ways many might find surprising.

If you want to be sure you make it to these presentations, for now the dates and times are as follows:

Talk 1:  “The ABCs of NonStop TCO” 
Sponsored by HPE
Scheduled for: US TRACK 2 – Wed – 11/18 @7:30am – Pacific Time

Talk 2: “From replication to distribution, integration and transformation, NTI is putting data first”
Sponsored by NTI
Scheduled for: Vendor Theater:  US TRACK 2 – Monday 11/16 @ 12:00 noon – Pacific Time.

(Consider this as a guide only and check with Connect for possible future changes to dates or times.)

Is this proving warming? Is this taking your mind away from the cold that is headed our way? As for Margo and me we cannot entirely dismiss the thought of snow days ahead, but then again, those first snow falls are always a welcome reinforcement of the way seasons come and go. And yes, we are ready for cooler days ahead. While we will truly miss the opportunity to drive to Burlingame, California, to meet you all in person, we are looking forward to the virtual event. It should still be a whole lot of fun and the numbers of registrations continue to climb suggesting that this could be the biggest event ever, including those back in the days of the annual ITUG Summits.

Any sense of urgency to make sure we have the right tires on our SUV has lessened as we have no plans to drive over the Sierras, although in all seriousness, we will have one eye on the weather over the course of the next month or so. For those who know us both very well you will know that taking away any opportunity to drive somewhere is a downer for us. Then again, participating in a major event from my home office has its upside but I will say more about that closer to the event taking place.

With that, I trust you are all preparing for the biggest event of the year for the NonStop community. And understand this very well, our NonStop systems remain the premier server offering supporting mission critical applications so take time to read this month’s edition of NonStop Insider for a comprehensive view of why availability still matters. And oh yes, stay warm!     


Regaining our composure; watching for signs!

Attending virtual events with more to come, the signs suggest that this is now normal; have you composed yourself ahead of what’s to come? I...