Sunday, February 26, 2012

At home on the web, NonStop may benefit from clouds!

A decade ago there were so many discussions as to whether NonStop should support internet clients and today this has become routine. Will we see similar developments for NonStop with clouds?

There’s barely a day that passes without a question arising about accessing NonStop from the internet. Whether companies opt to leverage the lower costs that come with exploiting the internet, or simply expand their user community and open up to any smart device with a browser, the increased adoption of standards on the HP NonStop Server have made it all a lot easier.

In my previous post, “A connected community …” I returned to the subject of the explosive growth of tablets and smartphones and how it had become a lot easier to open up NonStop to new types of transactions sourced from these devices. And again, it was all about NonStop supporting many industry-standard interfaces and services. Surprises, I asked in that post, before responding with well, perhaps the biggest surprise is that for most of us within the NonStop community, there is no surprises. By this I mean to imply that, with the modern NonStop Server we have today, HP has provided us with a platform where network support is already in place – it’s easy to connect to NonStop!

And perhaps our success from opening NonStop mission-critical applications to clients accessing them via the internet, using a variety of web-based protocols and services, is just a foretaste of more to come. After all, having seen how easy it is to externalize the wealth of business logic we had deployed on NonStop to our customers, wherever they may be, it doesn’t seem all that big a stretch to move beyond the wan and begin to seriously consider the cloud.

“The tangible economic benefits of cloud computing,” according to former IDC Australia Managing Director, Len Rust, as published in his newsletter The Rust Report (November 10, 2011), “are driving IT investments as traditional enterprise data centers are transformed into private clouds. With server and storage virtualization as core building blocks, private clouds offer enterprises a step change in efficiency of their data centers, without the perceived risks associated with evolving lower-cost public cloud services.”

What Rust focuses on quickly is the advent of private clouds and the speed with which some companies are morphing more traditional data centers into resource centers, not unlike what Salesforce.com, Amazon.com and others have been advocating as public clouds for some time. Stripped of the potential security exposures and more robustly set up to meet the demands of CIOs, with possible secondary and even tertiary cloud back-up implementations, companies are beginning to realize the value that comes with embracing “elasticity of provisioning”, as Randy Meyer, HP NonStop Enterprise Division (NED) Director of Product Management, recently highlighted for me during an email exchange on the subject of cloud computing.

“Cloud computing is not only helping organizations to save money and be more agile,” Rust continued in his newsletter, but “‘on-demand’ solutions are also enabling organization to better support their employees serve their customers and gain a competitive advantage. As a result for many, adopting cloud computing alternatives is no longer an option – it is now an imperative.” Doesn’t this sound like so many of the messages we were given when first SOA and Web services appeared in the marketplace?

In a feature Thomas Burg wrote for July – August, 2002 issue of The Connection, “Web Technologies on the NonStop Platform: Why Bother? Which Ones?” he wrote “the days of the Internet hype are over – just about any company has its corporate Web site up and running.” Burg then observed how the statement “‘we need to be on the Net’ was a sufficient justification to spend money on Web technologies.” It seems so long ago when this comment was made and yet, it segues nicely into an area where most companies considering cloud computing quickly transition – who has the experience? Who should we involve in the transformation?

“In the business climate, there is no room for vendors that provide services with marginal value, during these tough times,” Rust concluded. “Only the best will survive and the marginal will struggle and eventually collapse. Successful IT companies have realized that providing able bodies is just not enough anymore, product and service offerings must provide more value. In today’s world, security, returns on investment and solution lifespan are still major concerns.” How very similar is this to what Burg wrote as his conclusion ten years earlier.

“Connecting a NonStop system to the Internet requires careful thought, including a cost/benefit analysis. However, I do believe that people underestimate the effort of (securely) running a Web server on other platforms that the NonStop platform deserves some consideration as well,” Burg observed as he concluded his feature. “HP’s message about the scalability, availability, and low TCO of NonStop servers are convincing arguments in favor of a Web server on the NonStop system.” And how very similar to what we observe as necessary prerequisites for deploying private clouds.

The trigger for further consideration will come with more complete understanding of the value of transactions – not every transaction in any mission-critical deployment is of as high a value as all others. There are many, still important of course, low value transactions that could just as easily be off-loaded onto real-time “provisioned resources” available on low-cost Blades technologies. Perhaps even on NonStop, as price differentials continue to erode. Solutions vendors facing an increasingly more competitive marketplace may elect to embrace this model and companies will need to be prepared.

It will be the experienced vendors with a long standing reputation within the marketplace that will fare the best as companies begin to turn to clouds – particularly, private clouds. And to paraphrase Burg’s final words in his feature from so many years ago, “starting with a small internal solution will give you a feel for what cloud computing can do for you. Go ahead!” We have mastered the web and so yes, it really is time to head upwards, into the clouds!

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