Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Taking a fall!

The message never gets old – even when our own appreciation runs hot and cold; availability is still instrumental for the success of NonStop. Perhaps not the sole reason for deploying HP NonStop Servers but still as influential as at any time in the past!

Lying flat on my back, wondering whether I had broken anything, and feeling far from my usual self, I started to think of just how careless I was. As my feet slipped from underneath me, yes, rushing to complete errands before the holidays arrived, any thoughts I may have had at the time were quickly displaced by more fundamental - ouch! I hurt … and it was entirely my fault.

That was last week, as ice and snow returned to Boulder, but as I write this post I am enjoying the heat and hummidity as well as the glorious sunshine of the Florida Keys and the cold Boulder is but a distant memory. As are the aches and pains I sustained. Right now my thoughts are on the nearby restaurants and bars and on where I will grab a bite to eat - spending New Year’s Eve on Duvall Street, in the heart of Key West, is imminent and I certainly appreciate Margo’s choice of venue.

There are so few occasions where we see failures that we tolerate! But it seems of late all I have been reading about is of highly visible corporations falling down. And I have to wonder, what was going through the minds of the executives in charge as they slipped and fell. Since when have companies developed a taste for risk in an otherwise risk-averse business climate of uncertainty where punishment of late has been swift and uncompassionate?

There were the incidents with the Australian Stock Exchange, not to forget the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. And yes, there were problems with RIM and with everyone who was dependent on Blackberry PDAs. Just as other global stock exchanges weren’t immune from faulty components, as I recall, one commentator expressed it so succinctly recently when he responded about how, should he hear just one more time, that it was simply an issue with the network, he will scream!

And of course, I have simply forgotten about how many failures occurred across our transportation industry, whether it’s on the ground or in the air! Scanning the headlines of the Sydney Morning Herald, staple reading for all expat Australians, I came across a report about a QANTAS flight that ran into some pretty serious trouble a year or so ago. “Qantas flight terror blamed on computer” began the headline of the December 19th, 2011 edition. “Wild ride mid-flight on a Qantas Airbus that left a third of passengers on board injured as they were tossed out of their seats has been traced to a computer programming glitch, air investigators have found.”

The reporter then went on to explain how “incorrect data from a sensor measuring airspeed, altitude, air pressure, temperature and the flying angle was fed to the computers controlling flight (and the) computer code, called an algorithm, could not cope with the erroneous data from one of the three air sensors that malfunctioned.” Eventually the pilots regained control and landed safely, otherwise QANTAS may have suffered its own monumental falling down!

Properly handling fault components is at the very root of what today we have as a NonStop Server, and from the earliest Tandem Computer there’s considerable history in terms of what today’s very modern NonStop Server accommodates. Very early in the history of Tandem Computers, the top venting (for cooling) was replaced with side venting after one Tandem Computers executives (could it have been Jimmy?) spilled coffee all over the top of the system just as a customer demonstration was about to start.

Or so the legend of Tandem insists – and yes, that led to an immediate redesign of Tandem Computers cabinetry. It’s a small item and probably inconsequential for other vendors, but it’s just this very attention to detail and the experience gained from so many operational fault tolerant systems that continue to fuel NonStop Server’s relevance in today’s marketplace.

As comForte CEO, Dr. Michael Rossbach, suggested “from my very earliest experience with Tandem Computers, it was their pragmatic engineering approach to addressing all that could take down a computer that impressed me most and for the several decades now, the work we do at comForte continues to focus on the user being able to more easily integrate the latest iteration of the NonStop Server within the most demanding mission-critical applications a company may elect to run! There’s still no substitute for the remarkable level of availability solely achievable from today’s NonStop Server.”

How quickly we have forgotten, or apparently so, the history of Tandem Computers – the pioneers, indeed, dare I suggest, the inventors of commercially successful fault tolerant computers. I may not have been able to recover from my own failings and paid the price accordingly, but for the original Tandem Computer, a fall wouldn’t have caused a problem - it would have immediately recovered from it!

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