Thursday, June 30, 2011

Alive and kicking!

Even as the excitement generated at HP Discover begins to recede, and daily routines re-emerge, NonStop remains very much in the spotlight. In this first of two posts, I again return to the theme of modernization …

There has been a lot of commentary that’s been floating around LinkedIn groups – yes, social media certainly is entertaining, on occasion, but like most of you, I view the content as I do any story I come across in the tabloids on display at supermarket checkout counters. From my perspective, NonStop is still the premier implementation when it comes to delivering services with zero downtime.

NonStop, and before NonStop Tandem, has played a big role in my business life and I am often reminded that perhaps I have become somewhat sentimental when it comes to assessing the future prospects of the HP NonStop server. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Quite to the contrary, all too often the role assigned to the HP NonStop server is pursued with such efficiency that many within IT fail to recognize this server’s presence and just assume that something else is involved.

I have witnessed first-hand how NonStop generates so little respect for the role it performs! Or, as comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, acknowledged recently to me in an email, “in many instances, NonStop does twice the work with half the people and still does not get any credit. And yes, I have my own theories on why this happens!” And on this point I tend to agree with Thomas.

During my time with Tandem Computers in the early 1990s, when I worked with Tim Chou and Chris Rooke on the NonStop Availability Initiative, (NSA), a cooperative marketing program involving development and marketing, renewed emphasis was placed on just how available the Tandem computers of the day had become. To best illustrate this, Dr. Chou suggested that just as we assume that when we turn on a switch, we have light; just as we lift a telephone handset, we have dial tone; and just as we turn on the tap, we have water, then so it is for anything connected to a NonStop server – it’s always there!

Indeed, whenever new NonStop system was first created, the moment we saw the TACL prompt, we celebrated, as we knew the system was alive and whatever we pursued, there would always be a response. From the appearance of that TACL prompt there was never any possibility we would be presented with the dreaded “blue screen” of death, as is so often the case today with commodity servers.

In exchanges with folks who recently attended a BITUG users group meeting, the topic was raised of how to best reinforce the message that the NonStop server was alive and kicking and supporting business critical interactions. To the enlightenment of all in attendance, the biggest payments processor in the UK proffered their own experience that has helped them ensure the role of the NonStop was widely recognized, and appreciated, throughout the company.

“Here’s what we did; we have monthly dashboard meeting where each platform has to report on the number of incidents, number of SLAs being missed, etc. Every month, the NonStop representatives report ‘zero incidents; SLA kept perfectly’. That very brief report has generated visible and tangible positive attention for the NonStop server!” Reading through the emails that this generated, I couldn’t help but reflect on the days when yes, being able to tell all other participants that no, nothing untoward had happened to any applications running on NonStop was held in the highest esteem by all within IT!

When so much negativity permeates through our community, and when it is so easy to apportion blame for any failure to promote the merits of the NonStop platform at the feet of marketing, it’s still refreshing to read of the enthusiasm for NonStop that is present within the NonStop community. The NonStop is as modern a server as any of its peers within the data center and let’s not lose sight of that attribute. Whether it’s through the presence of a modern ANSI SQL database, or services externalized via SOA and Web services, or even from the support of open source routines developed using Java, there’s very little that NonStop cannot do when compared with peer platforms.

Yes, NonStop is alive and very well, and processing much of today’s business critical transactions, just as it has for many decades now! And yes, it’s not just alive and very well, but kicking aside usurpers with relish! In the coming weeks this will be a theme I develop further and just as last week I expressed interest in discussing further the modernization of networks and user interfaces, so too, am I going to make sure NonStop servers are never left in the corner, ignored with the assumption that whatever they are doing, don’t touch!

Yes, sir – no incidents to report, and every user happy! With that assessment it’s hard not to be impressed and, as for everything else we read, no more credible than what we see at the check-out counter tabloids!

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