Sunday, November 22, 2020

Dashboards; one way to view future of NonStop

The HPE NonStop team launches Showcase; GreenLake participation under way! Could you see it all displayed on a dashboard near you?

There is very little similarity between the interfaces to motor vehicle produced in the 1950s and what is now part of the interface we see in vehicles manufactured today. Similarly, looking at photos of aircraft cockpits of the 1950s and then at what we find today in the cockpits of modern planes highlights how far we have come in terms of dashboards. My first flights aboard early jetliners had flight decks so complex with its many dials and switches that it was occupied by more than one pilot, a flight engineer and in some instances, a navigator.

Now that we have glass dashboards in our cars, most of which have become touch sensitive, where any number of instruments can be displayed as motorists we are entering a period of information overload. How many displays make sense and do we really know what they are telling us? More often than not, dials are set up so the needle points to the top of the dial, the twelve o’clock position, if all is good. But they are digital and in some vehicles we have options as to how that alignment takes place with driver-selected warning indicators becoming an option.

The picture atop this page was taken of our Jaguar F Type where the simplicity is welcome. Even the analogue presentation is all digital! For the NonStop community, dashboards will shortly be playing a very important role in how we configure NonStop, what applications we would like to execute and what resources would be required in support of the application. This is in addition to any dashboards we deploy to monitor and manage the NonStop system and the applications that happen to be deployed.

HPE has made it clear that in time, everything will be available as a service. Not in total, but optionally. Reading between the lines we will still be able to order our NonStop system in the traditional manner for many years to come. We will still be able to stand alongside the dock when our new NonStop X system is unloaded. However, that will not be the sole manner by which we take delivery of our NonStop system. This is where the fun really begins and where the ultimate end game for NonStop begins to take shape.

Let’s not mince words here. As HPE talks about everything as a service, or XaaS, it is worth contemplating that in time, NonStop will fully participate. In the September – October 2020 issue of The Connection, there was reference to a new program under development that involves the NonStop vendor community. The goal is very simple. Simplify the process of purchasing a NonStop system through reduction in the number of Purchase Orders (P.O.) a purchaser had to sign. Think of it as a new model for purchasing NonStop, including all of the software.  

Doesn’t sound overly dramatic even as it is opens the NonStop price book to all NonStop vendors to participate. As Karen Copeland, Manager, NonStop Product Management Team, wrote in that issue, shortly there will be “A new business program called NonStop Showcase will make it easier for customers to purchase more of what they need on the P.O. they have open with HPE and to use the HPE Global NonStop Support Center for support on these products.  This is an evolution, where partners can apply to HPE to resell their products and leverage HPE’s worldwide sales force to market them to target customers.”

At this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) held as a virtual event, Karen Copeland gave a presentation on the Showcase program. In her presentation she talked about the benefits for NonStop customers in quite colorful terms. “Easier engagement” with HPE and the NonStop vendor community she said. There will be “fewer throats to choke,” was how she described one advantage. “Over time (it will) allow customers to purchase nearly all NonStop products from HPE: One P.O. with HPE to simplify the order processing (with less companies to engage with, negotiate with and qualify as vendors.”

Altogether, it is a really brilliant plan on the part of NonStop product management. As for the Showcase benefits for NonStop partners there are many – global visibility of their product, a common approach to support via the Global NonStop Support Center (GNSC) and in time, alignment with the HPE purchase models so NonStop customers aren’t thrown for a loop each time they plan on upgrades or adding additional systems. For the smaller vendor who doesn’t have a global reach today, this has the potential to really put them on the map!

There will be ways to check out new products, including those with features or functions they need but weren’t aware they were available from a NonStop vendor. There will also be ways to check out products from one NonStop vendor or the other that may not have been referenced in the past by the HPE sales and support teams. For the first time, with the NonStop Showcase business program, NonStop customers will be able to see it all – from the NonStop vendors participating in the program. There will be a catalogue published for all to see – reminiscent of the former Alliance Partner catalogues published in the days of Tandem Computers.  

In time, NonStop customers will have an online interface to show them around the NonStop vendor community in ways never before supported by the HPE NonStop team. While it sounds like a big step up for the NonStop vendor community in terms of visibility, it is also a boon to the NonStop user community. They will be able to locate the exact widget they need and know beforehand how much it will cost.

While there is no direct connection at this time to the GreenLake program, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any NonStop user that NonStop too will be participating in the GreenLake model for purchasing HPE resources, be that hardware or software. As Karen highlighted in her column in The Connection, “The GreenLake program is all about making it easier for customers to purchase what they need in the way of hardware, software, support and services and pay for it in an easy monthly payment. NonStop is also embracing this program and working to integrate into the GreenLake offerings from HPE so we can offer our customers new ways of purchasing NonStop and can review their usage through the GreenLake Central website.  We are not there yet, but we are steadily working towards that.”

Clearly, what to purchase will only work well for the NonStop customer when they can view all the product and service offerings available to them via Showcase. This brings us back to dashboard and one potential role of dashboards when it comes to NonStop. Not only will the dashboards associated with GreenLake central tell us a lot about our usage over time – I sense a lot of dials and indicator lights appearing very quickly just as I see a number of customer-optional “reset buttons” tailored to meet their unique needs – but ways to try out something new.

And this is where the story line takes a distinct leap of faith. Could there be a future where NonStop users can truly try-before-they-buy simply by clicking on a GreenLake dashboard icon? Is the Apple Apps model coming to HPE and will it include NonStop? Is Showcase a first step towards opening the doors to a much bigger market for NonStop than we had previously imagined? While NonStop benefits from a great NonStop sales force, there simply aren’t the numbers to grow the NonStop base exponentially but if all it took was clicking an icon then perhaps we need to think of the potential for NonStop deployment in a different manner.

There are a lot of hurdles to overcome before this could be a reality. Many NonStop vendor solutions and utilities simply aren’t set up for invocation on a click-to-play basis. Sorting out all the pre-reqs will be quite a task for some NonStop vendors even as thinking of GNSC handling a growing population of novice, first time NonStop users, has me sucking on air. However, one unmistakable strength of NonStop is the thriving ecosystem of partners complementing NonStop development in ways that make other vendors envious.  

However, if you look to the rest of the 2020s decade, it may very well transpire that NonStop becomes a feature any enterprise can invoke with the selection of an icon on a screen. Ultimately, how are we preparing ourselves for a future where the dashboard lets us try out NonStop simply on the basis of asking the users whether or not they would like to see how their application might look running NonStop?

My clients frequently ask me how I imagine the NonStop community growing over the coming decade. In part, this question points to a need to have a lot more sales feet on the ground. But what if that isn’t the right question to be asking. What if our dashboards have NonStop as an option – a gauge sitting alongside your SLA needs that when cranked way over to the max (for availability) means you are now running NonStop! This is more than one way to run NonStop and think of this as the only way to run future variants of NonStop. What do you think and how will you respond will, to some extent, drive how quickly this might happen! Pretty cool, eh?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Ideas; branding and a look at one possible future path for NonStop

 NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) 2020 is ending with NonStop future looking bright. But is it time to take another look at our usage and branding with the NonStop label?

It was during the latest NonStop Technical Boot Camp that wrapped up a short time ago that someone posted to the community page. While I am not a big fan of virtual events and even as this wasn’t my first rodeo, so as to speak, nevertheless I am still not into this style of community gathering. Call me a tad old-fashioned if you like but then again, what is a virtual beer bust? I have been attending events since the mid-1970s – I gave my first user presentation at a database conference in Dallas in March 1977 – so I will make the claim that, for me, there is still no substitute for the real deal.

Put it down to a couple of threads that were kicked-off early in the week. “Do you find NonStop platform is ignored by management?” And then there was “What is the future of HPE NonStop Tandem?” There was even the question of “How much has NSK changed in the last 10 years?” Apart from seeing Tandem referenced (and there were multiple references to Tandem during the event), much of the tone of the responses seemed to be related to clouds and cloud services providers. Hybrid IT was certainly covered as was digital transformation and along with it virtualization. Consumption pricing models and Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) played a prominent role in many of the responses.

But when it came to my response to the question about the future of HPE NonStop Tandem – ignoring the Tandem reference for now – my response was a little rushed with a number of overly simplified assumptions thrown in as well. If you missed it, here’s what I wrote at the time –

Whenever I think of the future of NonStop - and this is a pet topic of mine - I think about a future where operationally, you elect to launch an application and in so doing, you say it needs AL4 (or equivalent perhaps even requesting fault tolerance) and you will automatically be given resources that are in fact underpinned by the NonStop software stack.

Forget the hardware; we are out of the hardware business. It's quaint but longer term, it's the software that now represents the "special sauce" we talked about for decades. What fuels my interest in all things NonStop is to make NonStop disappear, essentially.

Something that is only known by a select few ... for the applications / solutions folks their only involvement and indeed their only knowledge / awareness would be limited to their acceptance that they want to run AL4 / Fault Tolerant ... make sense? Possible? I think so and I suspect we are going to be very close when we really dig deeper into GreenLake, for instance.”

What we cannot forget or lose sight of is that when it comes to maximum uptime, NonStop today is without peers and as such, cannot be ignored. Just as important for IT professionals; the less they need to know the more they gravitate to the solution and in so doing, maximize the focus that they can direct towards the business itself. 

For those whose tastes in humor may be a little dated, while I was listening to one presentation on roadmaps and possible product directions I was reminded of Max Headroom. When it comes to any conversation about maximum this or that, I always think of television’s Max Headroom that I tuned into on a regular basis decades ago. A small-screen futuristic series, it caught on worldwide and influenced many in advertising even as Max Headroom was basically born as an advertising avatar with the emergence of the “blipvert” - a very brief television advertisement, lasting one second. The term and concept first appeared in the 1985 film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes.

But again, in this context, why Max Headroom? Well he was a digital talking head who, “after a nasty incident where (he) was left comatose, the last thing he saw before falling into a coma was ‘MAX. HEADROOM: 2.3 M’ indicating the clearance in a car park entrance.” The connection? More than just advertising, it is also about branding – overnight everyone in my neighborhood knew exactly who Max Headroom was and of the type of humor he brought into our living rooms.

Let me propose something for us, as a community, to consider. Just as references to Tandem make some of us shudder, is it time we dropped all references to NonStop? Shouldn’t we be looking to rebrand with something more modern, perhaps even a little controversial and at the very least, have the potential to become a talking point inside data center coffee hideouts. How about “MAX:Avl” – Maximum availability with optimum scalability thrown in for free! As I noted in my response referenced earlier, it’s all about the software and NonStop is now software.

More importantly, it’s an integrated stack providing much of the goodness we have come to expect from clever frameworks. As such, MAX:Avl should be hidden from sight, known only to a few who see it as little more than just another piece of enabling middleware. In the virtual machine world, there is unlimited support for processors and MAX:Avl would be little more than a collection of virtual machines that are provisioned in support of applications that yes, you guessed it, need maximum availability!

Why do we need to let on to anyone at all that it’s all powered by today’s modern NonStop? What’s in it for us other than generating a little rolling of the eyes and perhaps a head crashing to the table! If you can’t fix it, change it! Yes, sad to say, after two plus decades championing NonStop, the message is broken and as much as we extol the virtues of commodity hardware open software industry standard APIs, it’s a legacy product to most IT professionals: “How much has NonStop changed.”

If we keep doing the same thing and expect different results well, do I need to say anything more? NonStop is undergoing some serious evolution and when the finished product surfaces, it will bear little resemblance to NonStop of today or Tandem, for that matter. So why not make the NonStop brand disappear? Why not quietly morph the name even as we are all witnesses to the morphing of today’s NonStop. GreenLake as being presented today and as it’s being addressed by NonStop in waves, has the potential to do exactly this – making the NonStop brand subservient to so much more capability than many IT professionals could possibly anticipate occurring.

 Yes, MAX:Avl holds the key. Perhaps not that brand, exactly, but you get the idea. For many vendors who see their product become super successful, it’s a simple step to rename their company with the product name. How many of us truly remember the company, Software Development Laboratories (SDL)? It’s a lot easier to say, Oracle, right? If the standout attribute of NonStop is availability (with a lot of scalability on the side), could the time be fast approaching where we rebrand to feature availability. The image of a Tandem bicycle doesn’t really cut it anymore even as few remember the red chevron or even the chevron itself? Does it even appear anywhere on a NonStop system today?

What should have us all thinking about is that with GreenLake, it’s not strictly about consumption pricing. It’s not strictly about a new way to pay for NonStop. Its focus is on delivering on HPE’s promise of XaaS – everything-as-a-service, but wrapped up in all of this is the digital transformation that is taking place, the shift to virtualization and the ubiquitous nature of rack after rack of x86 servers. “The future of NonStop is now,” said HPE Vice President and General Manager, Mission Critical Solutions, Jeff Kyle.

And right now, our future is far more than simply building another NonStop. MAX:Avl delivers the permanency of availability and with that, applications have all the underpinnings they need to deliver 24 x 7 x forever. There will be those who think that the NonStop brand will continue an association with traditional converged systems and that is one option that is worthy of a conversation. Then again, legacy is for those who relish the past; the future is all about not stopping which is fine but it’s a lot more … how do you want to position your next installment of NonStop? Ask yourself; NonStop will change so much in the next ten years, isn’t it time to consider rebranding?   

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Time to clean house and embrace what’s new from NonStop!

There will be numerous highlights during the upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp; perhaps time is right to retire older NonStop systems!

A short time ago I was assisted by one of the local parcel delivery company’s driver to move some unwanted office furniture to the curb to be picked up by our trash collectors. This has been a fairly regular routine over the three years we have been in residence in Windsor, Colorado. A small tip was all that was needed to encourage the driver to shift focus away from carting new furniture to the house to help us dump the old stuff.

It is very true to say these days that furniture, like many other household items, lose value very quickly and as much as we might like the quality and the comfort, there is no residual value to talk about. We have been fortunate more than once to find new homes for some items, but furniture purchased almost two decades ago no matter how stylish it might be, is like fish and needs to be disposed without agonizing over the decision for too long.

In the world of IT there are companies who like to trail technology’s continuous evolution. There are companies who deliberately search for systems a couple of years old knowing full well that the initial owners see now residual value in the metal, wires and fabric. On the other hand, there are other companies where mandates exist such that for no other reason than that mandate, with each introduction of something new they simply have to acquire it, install and migrate, no matter what.

For the NonStop community there are adherents in both camps. Walking into one US federal agency a while back was like walking into a technology museum. They pretty much kept running on systems that dated back to the mid-1970s. It looked like a herder’s basement rather than an agency tasked with looking after commuters safety. My brother Greg once walked me through an Australian’s banks brand new data center with false flooring ten or more feet deep simply to cater for regular updates to the processors.

The structure was massive covering three floors and all it was doing was processing the bank’s day-to-day functioning.  It was modern for the time, but it was only a decade or so later that I read of this bank deserting the premises. Planning for a future in IT can be fraught with missteps and poor anticipation and when it comes to the NonStop community its members are not immune to this syndrome. The purchase of the last computer they will ever need may sound promising, but in reality there is no place for old computers. Just as with furniture, there comes a time when marching orders need to be issued and foot soldiers retained to dispose of the system.

In a few days’ time the NonStop community will be participating in the annual NonStop Technical Boot Camp. Not in the traditional way of past events, but virtually this time. As a collective, these attendees will huddle around their monitors to hear presentations by HPE, the NonStop team, NonStop vendors and NonStop users. It will be a new experience for many but for those who participated in the June HPE Discover event that likewise was virtual, the format will look familiar.

Among the many highlights of this All-Digital Experience as this year’s event has been branded, will be the update on NonStop X systems as provided by HPE Senior WW Product Manager for NonStop, Mark Pollans. Look for the session TBC20-001 - HPE NonStop - Next Generation Servers on Monday. It follows immediately after the keynote presentations by HPE HPC and MCS head, Peter Ungaro, and HPE MCS leader, Jeff Kyle. While very little information has been provided in the agenda, I expect there will be some surprises install.

Ever since the decision was taken by HPE to fund the modernization of NonStop, including the transition to the Intel x86 architecture it has been the assumption that in so doing, HPE would be able to readily ride on the coattails of the x86 roadmaps. If you have had an opportunity to hear Mark presenting over the past year, you will realize that the Next Generation Servers Mark references in his title can only mean something new is coming from the NonStop team. And of course, who wants to miss any presentation by Mark who has a natural ability to fire up the community and have them leave his presentation excited for the future.

This is one presentation not to miss. And in case you haven’t heard the latest news from the organizers, looks like we have reached a major milestone! 2,000 NonStop community members have registered as event attendees and as such, this virtual event is “sold out!” By all means continue registering as a waiting list will be created, so I am sure for some sessions there may be opportunities to sneak in under the wire, as it were!

What will happen to the existing NonStop systems? If you are still running on blade systems – the NB5x00x or similar – then perhaps it is time to have some serious conversations? Traditional NonStop systems will continue to be available and can be delivered to your data center dock as in times past, but is it time to tip the delivery company’s drivers to have them cart away the old systems? In former times, calculating the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for computer systems always included the subtraction of the residual value (on the understanding that there was a thriving market for older systems) but this is now less important. I have to believe that the time to migrate will only become more pressing once you have heard Mark’s presentation!

There is also one other presentation that always attracts a crowd even as over the past couple of years it has courted a little controversy. I am talking about the presentation given by the Head of WW Advanced Technology
Center, Franz König. Scheduled for Tuesday morning (early), TBC20-013 - HPE NonStop - The Art of the Possible – 2020, Franz will provide an updated presentation with focus clearly on making the development (of NonStop solutions) “work more efficiently for the NonStop system by using DevOps products and tools.”

Together, Mark’s presentation on new NonStop X systems combined with Franz’s insights into how NonStop fits in today’s modern IT environments will only further add to any conversations you may have started within your enterprise over the future of NonStop. Perhaps the most startling realization that might be made is that well, we continue to talk about NonStop. After the passage of time since NonStop was first introduced – as a Tandem Computers T-16 – the contribution NonStop continues to provide business worldwide, is in recognition that at it’s very core, looking at the building blocks that make a NonStop run non-stop, it has become the premier product offering in support of mission critical applications.

The upcoming NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2020 with its 2,000 attendees will be an occasion not to be missed. The message from the HPE NonStop team will be very clear. It may not be a call to toss whatever you have today to the curb but it most definitely will prove incentive enough to have you taking a second look at what is at the heart of your mission critical operations. 

What will be new from NonStop will more than certainly have you looking at what you will do next and as I helped lift that last piece of furniture to the curb and turned back towards the house, the walk back had me excited by what I knew was to be installed. Will you be walking away from this major NonStop event with similar emotions? And with that, I am looking forward to giving presentations next week and hope to see you all in one or more of them; this All-Digital Experience has all the hallmarks of being one of the best events of all times!      

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Just one more time, and with feeling!

Are you ready for this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp? Are you prepared for an All-Digital Experience? 1,700plus colleagues are already registered – how about you?


It’s been an amazing ride these past couple of weeks as we have kept an eye on the ever increasing attendance numbers for this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp. As it will be a virtual event, the NonStop community was heading into virtually unknown territory so when the numbers look like they have pushed past 1,700 registered attendees for the now virtual All-Digital Experience, what can we say other than, can we pass the 2,000 mark?

For those of us who sat through the virtual HPE Discover event this year, we know what to expect. On the other hand, for those who will find this all-digital experience a completely new experience, don’t worry, it really does work. And it does keep you engaged. I guess the good news here is there will be ample opportunity to walk to your coffee pot wherever you may have it set up and help yourself to fresh coffee whenever you like – or tea, or soda or even an adult beverage. Or two!

Point is, from the comfort of your office wherever you may be working these days, you can tune into a collection of presentations that feature speakers from the user community, vendors, consultants, futurists and more. Perhaps the biggest take away from this is that NonStop continues to thrive as we all recognize that there is no substitute for permanent availability. No matter the number of nines that might impress you, there are many deployments of NonStop today that have never recorded an outage and if you watch the headlines, there is a constant stream of articles about those businesses which very livelihood has been disrupted by outages.

It may also be time to reflect further on how far we have come as a community and how NonStop has remained as relevant today as it ever has been. Did you ever read the 1981 book by Katherine Davis Fishman, The Computer Establishment? Described as being “the inside story of America's dynamic computer industry tracing the growth of the new technology and profiling the major personalities and businesses that dominate the field.” It should be on all our bookshelves if only to remind us of what the computer landscape looked like in the 1970s when Tandem Computers came on the scene.

While the main theme of this book was an exploration of how IBM succeeded in rising above the BUNCH (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, and Honeywell) to enter the 1980s as the dominant vendor with revenues greater than the rest combined. I was sitting at a café in Edmonton, Alberta, when I read my first ever copy of the Fortune 500 and saw that IBM had cracked the top 10 which, at the time, surprised many in industry who still weren’t all that sure what contribution IBM was making to society.

As for personalities, my old boss out of New York, Charles Lecht, was featured. Charlie founded Advanced Computer Techniques in April, 1962 – yes an independent software company that arrived on the scene in the ’60s – running the office initially out of converted space atop The Plaza hotel on Fifth Avenue. The most memorable part of the book was a photo of Charlie taken in his office circa 1977 (now relocated to Madison Avenue) which, at the time, looked more like Studio 54 complete with velvet wall paper and much more, with Charlie seated behind his desk wearing a car racing helmet! Full face!

It was around the same time that Charlie published his own book, The Waves of Change (which was serialized in Computerworld) and where Charlie asked me to throw together a couple of paragraphs on the then new IBM 370/148 and my comments made the final cut! I’m not too sure I still have a copy of the book but even as I worked for Charlie for barely a year, we stayed in touch all the way up to when he passed away in 1992. Did you ever read that book, too?

When Tandem Computers shipped its first system in 1976, it was also the time when Apple demonstrated its first Apple computer, the first Altair computer convention (for hobbyists) was held and when there were articles being written accusing Bill Gates of software piracy in an article for the Altair newsletter. X.25 was approved as a CCITT X series standard. Point is, our industry never sits still. It never sleeps, if you like. And the surprises keep on coming; Jack Dorsey was born in 1976.

It is against this backdrop that we evaluate the success of Tandem Computers, now the NonStop family of systems. Lined up alongside the likes of Digital, Data General, Interdata, Texas Instruments, Prime, Wang, Four Phase and more, not forgetting the likes of Nixdorf, Olivetti, Phillips, ICL, Honeywell Bull and the likes, it still surprises many to see NonStop featured as prominently as it still is in articles and research notes published today. NonStop never lost its way and it’s march to predominance in the real time transaction processing marketplace is both a testament to the product itself as it is to the willingness of business to trust NonStop for the support of their most critical of mission critical applications.

The reference to conferences of 1976 reminds me of the truly big events that were being held around that time. I recall attending the National Computer Conference (NCC) in both Houston (1982) and again, a year later at Anaheim (1983). I also recall attending the Hanover Fair (before the successful CeBIT spin-off) in ‘82, ‘83 and again in ‘84. On each occasion I can recall seeing Tandem Computers being promoted but even so, the impact on me was minimal. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina that I heard about ITUG Summits when my colleagues made it down to an ITUG event in New Orleans in 1987, as I recall.

For the past three plus decades, participating in vendor events has made up a large part of my professional life. It is with some sadness then that I have to say that many of the events I looked forward to each year are now missing from the calendar. For a while it wasn’t all that clear whether NonStop-specific events would continue, but from a tentative start several years ago when the concept of a boot camp was first imagined, there has been no stopping the growth in interest by the NonStop community or in its desire to come together to hear the latest about NonStop.

The format this year may be new and not without its challenges. However, with a matter of hours remaining before 2020 sees the commencement of this All-Digital Experience, there’s a feeling among those I have talked to that this event is setting the scene for a format that may stay with us for some time to come. Not surprisingly, should the numbers of registered attendees pass that magic 2,000 mark then I suspect that their feelings about NonStop community gatherings might be correct.

Some might say it is nonsense to rely on feelings alone, but then again, call it feelings or call it intuition or better still, experience and it makes sense. Perhaps we see a resurrection of the smaller Regional User Group (RUG) meetings where travel requirements are scaled back or perhaps we see an expansion of a more globally inclusive event, but either way, I am not ruling out the desire of many NonStop community members to network somewhere around the planet. However, just to see this NonStop event taking place one more time despite the changed world we all live in, is something that brings back those feelings from the past. And for that, we all have to thank HPE, the NonStop team and all those volunteers who are working diligently even now to make this THE show of the year for NonStop!




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

NonStop users - do you a seat at the table?

When it comes to promoting NonStop fundamentals, are we still making our voices heard at the table where it counts?

Here we go again. It is Monday morning and there is a very strong opening on Wall Street with stock prices going up by ten percent and more. Anxious investors are looking to check their positions, possibly with the intent to sell or at least place stops under some of the positions they hold. But wait; there’s nothing; nadda! Nobody can login, phone calls are not being answered. One of the major trading platforms goes silent. Can you imagine the conference room table of one of such a large firm where everyone seated exchanged furtive glances: Was it you? 

In this instance it was Schwab that took this Monday morning outage with the only indication that something is wrong being a message that your login was incorrect. To be more accurate, it was an indication that your login credentials never made it to the Schwab server. Problem? It took a while but ninety-four percent of Schwab users were left in the dark for quite some time. Schwab’s response? The cloud services provider we use isn’t that reliable; so sorry. Or so it was reported in social media.

Ouch! First reaction in the Holen – Buckle household is that well, we have been hacked with someone having taken our identity and emptied our accounts. I don’t ever want to wish that brief feeling on anyone as Margo and I looked at each other momentarily frozen with fear. But then the picture slowly emerged. Schwab was down; a victim of technology that I suspect those seated around a conference table didn’t fully understand. 

I suspect no one truly anticipated such a spectacular opening this Monday morning and yet, when it comes to Wall Street, anything can happen. More so in today’s anxious marketplace looking for direction. All it took was for Pfizer’s news of a COVID-19 vaccine that is proving to be more than ninety percent effective. Euphoria broke out – hotels, airlines, restaurant and even some retailers broke for the upside early in pre-market open trading that continued once Wall Street rang the opening bell.

The response from retail traders to the Schwab outage – or more precisely, a brownout - has been devastating. Ordinary folks were not able to sell for profit nor were they able to simply see how their stocks were doing. As a community, members of the NonStop ecosystem know all too well that availability and indeed, just as importantly, the ability to scale are of paramount importance for any enterprise that has consumer-facing application. It’s a timely reminder that NonStop has key attributes that mitigate against bad things happening. Just how bad have been the tweets coming from these retail traders? Hard to hide the tweets these days and even as I captured a screen shot, there were 18 more new comments posted:

This unfortunate glitch is, after a fashion, a timely reminder for NonStop users that this year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp is about to start. Given the state of the global pandemic, this year’s event has gone virtual with the NonStop team encouraging us to participate in this All-Digital Experience. Have you registered yet – there’s still time? Have you downloaded the Whova App and begun claiming seats for individual presentations? Yes, it’s a classic two step but once you have registered that is just the beginning so continue and complete all other actions needed to ensure you are fully participating. Did you know that there are now more than 1,700 registered attendees?

When it comes to businesses interfacing with consumers in the real world, degrading a much sought after service can be detrimental to the business even as it leads to disgruntled users prepared to go elsewhere on a whim. In this case, the prospect of losing money on the trading of stocks is proving incentive enough. Will these users be compensated? Will these users be given a true picture of their trading status or will they be left to rue missed opportunities. It’s easy to say that this will be fodder for busloads of lawyers but this can happen. As the early morning hours ticked by it turns out that it wasn’t just Schwab that was affected but other electronic trading platforms as well, including TD Ameritrade, Vanguard and Fidelity.

By midday, Schwab said that the technical issues affecting access to accounts had been resolved. Earlier it tried to dissuade their users from repetitively entering trades as it wasn’t so much a problem with trading but rather with the displays. In other words, keep your hands away from the enter key for the time being but even so, the flow of information between these electronic trading platforms was spotty to say the least. When you think that it is this type of transactional deluge that NonStop was specifically designed to address. 

When it comes to scalability then one session at next week’s All-Digital Experience in particular might be one to pay particular attention to; HPE NonStop Solutions Master Technologist Justin Simonds will be providing the presentation Scalability when you need it:


“One of NonStop’s primary features is scalability which can be multi-dimensional. Through the Dynamic System Capacity cores can be turned on online and in real-time (Scale up) and as everyone should know additional processors and I/O can be added online while the system contuse to run (scale out). This also highlights a real-life customer emergency scale up due to Covid-19.” 

As a community we shouldn’t need to be reminded of this important attribute that is part of the DNA of NonStop. Scalability is a core fundamental; its raison d'être, if you like! For this reason, many financial intuitions continue to rely on NonStop and their expectation is that solutions running on NonStop will keep them out of the headlines. As CNBC news saw it today, it was a case of “Stocks surged on Monday but some customers of online brokers Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Vanguard and others could be missing out on the record market highs.” As for the tweet that asked “why isn’t this on CNBC?” well, turns out it sure was. It just took them a short time to become aware of this situation.

When business executives sit down around that conference table to talk about their systems and platforms, for most of the participants it’s easy to simply go with the flow; if everyone is using the cloud then why not our business? Truth be known, not every business is turning to the cloud and like any technology decision there are pros and cons to be assessed. What is important for the NonStop community is to understand that they need a seat at that table as such important decisions are being made. Perhaps the most significant and somewhat understated remark I came across this week was, “If you don’t have a seat at the table you may end up on the menu!” 

This is the message that you will hear at the upcoming NonStop All-Digital Experience. It’s a message that we need to take to heart. To all those wondering where NonStop is headed there is a need to understand that it isn’t so much where HPE is headed with NonStop as it is about us and our telling the NonStop story in a way that is both convincing as it is completely rational. No business should face the wrath of the media of glitches and other technicalities. Not today. Not ever. And this is the most important message of all that should be resonating with the NonStop community as a whole – HPE is investing strongly in NonStop; what aren’t we likewise as emotionally invested in NonStop?

Thursday, November 5, 2020

All-Digital Experience 2020 with more to follow!

As the countdown to 2020 NonStop Technical Boot Camp continues – this year, an all-digital experience – have you registered?

It was only two years ago that Margo and I arrived in Sydney, Australia, for what would be the start of a three months sojourn that took us to Tasmania and then to New Zealand. We were in Sydney for my daughter Lisa’s birthday and the grave site visit to where my mother had been laid to rest. It marked the fiftieth anniversary of my graduating high school class – all boys’ school, mind you – and we managed to hang around long enough to welcome the New Year from the deck of a boat anchored close by the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. Catching up with family, former business colleagues, and a number of friends even as Sydney was lashed by fierce thunderstorms that lasted for most of November and well into December. 

Perhaps the only real downside to the time spent in the antipodes was that Margo and I missed the 2018 NonStop Technical Boot Camp. Dating back to the time of my very first ITUG event in 1992, held in Nice, France, there have only been a handful of major NonStop events that I have missed. Probably as few as two, or three, that were held back in the latter half of the 1990s. I can’t point to what attracted me to these events, although being a Tandem Product Manager had its upside and working with Insession and later ACI also meant putting presentations together and working on my manners for booth duty. Then again, volunteering for the ITUG Board also meant attending any ITUG supported events held anywhere in the world.

During my time in Sydney I did manage to attend the big banking show – SIBOS Sydney 2018. I must have, as I still have the backpack and a nice one at that. It was a tough assignment as I was part of the FinTech Futures editorial team out of the UK and we had to create enough material to publish in a daily hardcopy multi-page event flyer.

Walking the aisles of the exhibition hall where banks of all sizes had their booths was quite an experience as there were all the users extolling the virtue of their solutions even as there wasn’t a NonStop representative to be seen. I did manage to catch up with IR’s Jamie Pearson, who as a good Product Manager was taking notes while he collected cards for his rolodex.

Events, a sense of community and opportunities for those responsible for maintaining product roadmaps, means time spent simply walking around and networking. It’s as if there was something magical piped through the A/C ducting that has us all being on our best behavior as we strike up conversations with complete strangers.

However, when it comes to the major NonStop events there are neither true strangers nor surprise product announcements as the NonStop community is singular in its understanding of where NonStop is headed. Or, it has been up until the last couple of years. Yes, the sense of community is still as strong as it ever been but product announcements? They seem to be coming thick and fast of late!

At this time of year I would normally be making hotel reservations in Utah and Nevada as Margo and I always drive to these events in California. Our most recent trip to California was in a sense making up for what we will not be doing this year as the event has gone virtual. On the other hand, at this time of year you can usually find me creating a PowerPoint presentation or two and that hasn’t changed for 2020.

If you have had time to check the agenda you might have seen how I will be giving an NTI-sponsored presentation on Monday, November 16, at 12:00pm, PST, followed by an HPE-sponsored presentation early Wednesday morning, November 18, at 7:30am, PST. At this time I encourage you to check them out and to add them to your own schedule of sessions as you continue to plan for this major NonStop event of the year.

So on that score, nothing has changed. I have to admit while spending time in Sydney I missed all the excitement of creating presentations but then again, who would seriously consider missing any opportunity to hang out in the most beautiful harbor side city in the world. Forget that city by the bay, Sydney still has its hold on me and I guess that hasn’t lessened in any way over the years.

This week it’s been all about putting the final tweaks to articles submitted for inclusion in the upcoming fiftieth issue of NonStop Insider. 50 issues? Almost 1,000 articles, all on NonStop! Who could have imagined as we put out that first issue as the NonStop Technical Boot Camp was about to kick off in Burlingame, California. It was 2016 and the idea had come to us following discussions with Tony and Daniel Craig of TCM.

Well, to be honest, it was really at the prodding of Tony and Daniel with Margo and me more or less rising to the challenge such a commitment represented. To this day, the team at TCM hasn’t let us down and a couple of days after we finalize the submissions, this digital publication goes live. Have you subscribed to NonStop Insider yet? You really should do so – and find the time to read the articles because the scope of the content you will find there covers a lot of ground.

Looking through the submissions and knowing what some of the entries from HPE are as detailed in the agenda, there will be a number of exciting product and service announcements. It’s tough for Margo and me to go into too much detail as Pyalla Technologies like many of the vendors, is under confidentiality agreement. Nevertheless, I suspect everyone knows that there will be new NonStop X systems announced as HPE continues to ride the Intel product roadmaps even as the push by HPE for “everything-as-a-service” or XaaS as its being labelled has implications for NonStop about which we will hear a lot more.

Hint? Check the agenda for presentations by NonStop Product Managers including those by Karen Copeland and Mark Pollans. If up until now you were sort of ambivalent about the color green, then you had better get used it this color; you will come across it more than once at this 2020 All-Digital Experience.

No gathering of the NonStop community would be viewed as complete without a parallel social program being offered. Not completely sure how this will work or exactly how it will contribute to further networking opportunities, but there it is on Monday night; at the end of Day 1 over ZOOM, there will be a “nerdy break – the event beer bust!”

Starting at 1:30pm PST, after which there will be opportunity for virtual tours of partner booths together with a number of developer chats apparently there will be plenty of opportunity to do what we always have done first afternoon of a major NonStop event – meet colleagues, network and in general discuss business as it relates to NonStop.

Apparently, as you dig through the agenda there are many more ZOOM fifteen minute opportunities set aside specifically to network with colleagues. Again, will be very interesting to see how we all make the adjustment to this kind of association with our peers.

The plans for next year are to hold the event a month earlier and to have it in Denver. Certainly, October brings with it late fall weather with opportunities to still see Colorful Colorado at its colorful best. But here’s the thing; already registrations are well past 1,000 and more like 1,500 even as we all know that for events of this type, there’s always a surge in registrations over the last couple of days. These are numbers more like the SIBOS Sydney 2018 event or even past ITUG Summits we may remember from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Will there be a temptation to simply repeat this kind of virtual event even if the restrictions on travel are lifted and we are all safe to travel? Looking at the industry as a whole and following the success of the virtual HPE Discover 2020 event in June, it’s not out of the question that the big events of the past have passed the use-by date. What do you think? For Margo and me we aren’t dusting off our travel bags any time soon. Perhaps it is a good thing we don’t possess any large cars suited to cross country trips any longer.

Having made only two trips to California all year along with one Princess cruise in February (and no, not on any of those virus infected Princess cruise ships), Margo and I have made the adjustment to working out of our home offices rather smoothly. This is not to say we don’t miss the travel as much as it’s a recognition that yes, we can say it too, we have become more productive being this close to our work place than at any other time in our careers.

So there you have it; we may not be travelling any time soon, events will increasingly become virtual, for the long haul, and those beloved “BizCations” we have enjoyed for several years now well, they too have become a thing of the past. Sydney? You may just have to wait a long time before you see Margo and me again and with that, it’s back to business as we begin the countdown to this first time running of an All-Digital Experience featuring NonStop. See you there somewhere in the ether!

Feeling good out on the edge, are we?

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