Thursday, July 28, 2011

Advisory Signs – past and present!

Out on the road, we rely on advisory signs to help us navigate uncertain terrains and to get us safely to our destination. And already advisory signs are being erected for those heading towards Cloud Computing!

I have always paid attention to the advisory signs posted by our highways. The message that they convey is that caution is advised and experienced drivers rarely take them for granted. Whether they are associated with sharp turns, or asking us to chain-up for winter driving or just giving us a heads-up that deer may be crossing, the down side from ignoring the advice provided by these signs usually carries a price tag that most of us don’t want to test.

Looking through my cabinets this week I came across my collection of The Connection magazines, and as I flipped through the covers I came across the November – December, 2006, edition with the article co-authored by comForte’s Michael Horst and Thomas Burg: “Business-Critical SOA-based Services on NonStop Servers.” For an article written five years ago, I found it remarkable how current most of the information provided remains. When it comes to technology, and the almost daily changes we witness, five years is almost an eternity.

“The NonStop platform provides an excellent infrastructure for massively scalable fault-tolerant applications,” the authors begin one paragraph. But then, just two paragraphs later, they add “considering existing mission-critical applications on NonStop, it is certainly not advisable to re-host those applications on weaker platforms just to SOA-enable them.” So, here we go again, more advisory signs being erected cautioning even the most experienced IT professional.

In the post to the blog, Real Time View, of July 24th, 2011, “Nostalgia; comfortable and seductive! And yet …” I quoted Martin Fink, Senior VP and General Manager of Business Critical Systems at HP, who acknowledged that “there will be a significant move to Clouds and with the move, the necessity to look at how many core applications move across … however, there’s always going to be a set of customers who will chose to run their own infrastructure and within that set of customers, there will be those who need NonStop.”

These comments came as Martin and I talked about the future role specialty servers, like the HP Integrity NonStop server, might play with all the attention being given today to Cloud Computing. With the unveiling of HP’s strategy earlier this year and the prominence given to Cloud Computing, many close to NonStop were beginning to wonder whether to start looking at changing careers. But fortunately, it’s becoming clearer that there will continue to be role for NonStop to play.

The coincidence here is that the argument being put forward for retaining the NonStop, even as Clouds, private as well as public, are being embraced, looks very similar to what was proposed by Horst and Burg. Just as today some components may never be moved across to outside agencies, no matter how robust and secure their solutions may be, it was also the case some five years ago when we were cautioned that it may make little sense to re-host NonStop applications onto a weaker platform.

Responsible CIOs are pushing ahead with embracing SOA and with exploiting virtualization and some of the initiatives being created do involve Cloud Computing. But not everything! In fact, along with the consideration of Clouds there’s also the consideration of how to bring something back inside the data center should the Cloud ever be compromised. So the dynamics are shifting to where a server of one type of another really does need to know what’s going on after all. No one is suggesting that we leave considerations such as this solely to those providing the Cloud!

comForte continues to support SOA and their CSL offering is among the better ones available today. One of the strengths of CSL has always been its ability to integrate multiple, disparate programming models and client user interfaces. It may yet be a while before Clouds are represented as just another platform but with the right set of requirements in hand, it could very well happen. Irrespective of any eventuality like this, the point raised all those years ago and echoed more recently by Martin Fink is that responsible CIOs will view Clouds as just another weaker platform and there’s little to be gained from an early exit off NonStop.

Signs, even those along the side of the road, are advisory and experienced drivers usually begin to factor in such things as the condition of the road, the state of the weather, and the behavior of drivers around them before steering through a corner on a highway. I would like to think that seasoned, responsible IT professionals follow similar procedures before ever directing services to anything as outside of their control as a Cloud!

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