Friday, May 13, 2011

Just nick and tuck!

In the previous post, to build something new you don’t first have to tear anything down. What is addressed here is that yes, older solutions running on NonStop can be easily modernized!

Yes, it’s hard for many of us not to smile when we hear the expression “modern computer”. Surely this has to be a case of tautology! Qualifying anything to do with a science, particularly when it has to do with computing, as new really looks odd and yet, in an age when technology breakthroughs show no let-up in the frequency of their occurrence, much of what we considered cool and innovative only a short time ago can be found stacked in a corner or alongside a loading dock!

Last week comForte conducted a webinar carrying the catchy title of “Survival of the Fittest – Modernize your NonStop Applications Today” and a podcast has become available, so I have replayed it. It was presented as a not-quite-so-technical perspective on NonStop and drew an audience that included managers further up the organization chart than you would find responsible for the daily management of the NonStop server.

While modernizing the applications falls into the same category as modernizing the computer, very few CIOs will own up to just how long they have been depending upon a successful execution of a mission-critical application and yet, almost in the same breath, they have to admit that they don’t really know how much it is costing them! Whether it’s the developers charged with the application’s maintenance or end users looking for access from an open client platform, retaining older systems consumes a lot of scarce resources.

For many of these CIOs it’s all about trying something new; taking the latest sound bights from an industry or financial analyst and accepting them at face value, no matter how untried or controversial they may be. With almost no consideration of the history, or the need for baby-steps taken that has led to their own IT running what it has today, it’s almost as if the CIO suspects he’s missing out on what every other CIO is benefitting from if he doesn’t take an axe to all that is in front of him as he looks down the aisles of computers wracked high inside the data center!

Good computing remains good computing and there are implementations where decisions taken two, or even three decades ago remain relevant. Perhaps all that they require is a connectivity update or perhaps, alignment with new, fresher approaches to presentation of the information! There’s absolutely nothing amiss with applications deployed decades ago that were designed with a separation between the presentation services, the business logic, and views of the data – this is as modern as anything else available today.

comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, reassured those participating in his webinar of the relevance of NonStop in support of mission-critical applications. But perhaps his most telling observation, from my perspective, was when Burg compared what was required to modernize NonStop to what today surgeons can achieve with minimal invasive surgery. Perhaps this message was directed at the axe-wielding CIO, but even if it wasn’t, the image is spot on, NonStop servers today are among the most modern server packages – energy efficient, small footprint, and supporting standards on a platform among the most powerful available from HP.

“This should have (been presented) to my company’s higher level of technical management,” was the response from one participant. Today the value that comes with deploying NonStop applications is widely appreciated, but perhaps what is not quite as well known is that a small nick here, a thin slice there, produces a degree of mobility and flexibility unimaginable only a short time ago. Isn’t this what we all want to see happen with NonStop? And isn’t it tangible confirmation that really, as well-engineered and as cluster-aware as it is, NonStop has never needed anything dramatic altered to retain its position among modern platforms.

“Please send the link to my CIO,” was another comment recorded and, in response to this request, I am including a link to the podcast here; the first part of the webinar can be found at and the second, at

Burg admitted later that he was pleased that the webinar did actually happen. Not everyone is keen to openly discuss the few steps that need to be taken to completely modernize the NonStop platform – but after sitting through the podcast, it was obvious to me that today, we are only talking about making small, manageable, changes with little to no impact on the running applications or on peer servers depending upon the workloads they process. Certainly, procedures well worth spending a little time checking out!

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