Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hybrid – with NonStop, a bigger bang for the buck!

We know CIOs prefer taking baby steps, looking to see if new technology can be introduced incrementally, so the uptick in hybrid computing is completely understandable. However, for the NonStop community, hybrid computing has been a way of life for decades and throwing clouds into the mix doesn’t faze them one bit …

The ancients, from time immemorial, took advantage of the lack of anything closely approximating scientific or rational consideration. For the Romans and Greeks of antiquity it seemed entirely likely that Griffins existed; combining the features of a lion with those of an eagle, very possible! Just as it was reasonable for Pegasus to take flight, as a winged stallion. Then of course, there was fabled unicorn that enchanted populations for centuries.

In nature, hybrids do exist – the mule (a cross between a horse and a donkey) being perhaps the best example. When it comes to technology, however, hybrids not only exist but they are gaining in popularity. Not limited to a specific vendor, references to hybrids are coming from IBM, HP and even Oracle following their purchase of Nimbula (a provider of private cloud infrastructure management software). Included in the conversation, naturally, are NonStop systems, even as part of hybrid clouds, because so much mission-critical data (for greater business insight) resides on NonStop.

Hybrids by definition imply more than one entity, working in combination (often with just small amounts of data and / or less valuable transactions offloaded from an adjacent primary system) and as such, it all makes so much sense, as IT prefers taking incremental, baby-steps. Nothing grabs greater negative attention of the CIO than rip-and-replace solutions, and hybrids eases the deployment plans leaving CIOs with the choice to opt out at any time.

Infoworld of January 27, 2011, drew early attention to the merits of hybrid computing with the article, Why the hybrid cloud model is the best approach. “When the industry first began discussing the hybrid computing model back in 2008, cloud computing purists pushed back hard. After all, they already thought private clouds were silly and a new, wannabe-hip name for the data center,” author David Linthicum, noted. “To them, the idea of hybrid clouds that used private clouds or traditional computing platforms was just ridiculous.”

However, Linthicum noted how, “Over time, it became clear that hybrid cloud computing approaches have valid roles within the enterprises as IT tries to mix and match public clouds and local IT assets to get the best bang for the buck. Now it’s the cloud computing providers who are pushing back on hybrid cloud computing, as they instead try to promote a pure public cloud computing model.” Linthicum then observes, “However, these providers are hurting the adoption of cloud computing.”

When I raised the topic with comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, he agreed with the inherent value that hybrid computing provides. “Hybrid computing is nothing new, in fact SABRE presented an example of how to combine low-cost, stateless, x86 computing power with a NonStop in a single hybrid system nearly a decade ago. Today the x86 bit of this system would be called private cloud in a hybrid environment. Terminology aside, as described in a recent article in The Connection, comForte has long had the technology to both enable and protect hybrid architectures encompassing HP NonStop architectures”.

In the post to the blog Real Time View of January 17, 2014, NonStop adding further chapters to its rich history in a hybrid world! Infrasoft Pty Limited Managing Director, Peter Shell, highlighted how transactions themselves have been processed by hybrid computers for many years with great success. “With so much being discussed about hybrid computing today, we shouldn’t overlook the traditional NonStop – IBM mainframe ‘hybrids’ that have existed for many decades,” Shell observed. “Integrating, and indeed simplifying, communications between respective transactional environments has many upsides and with uLinga for CICS and uLinga for IMS, application integration can be taken to a whole new level.”

Enhancing uLinga and reshaping it in support of clouds, as is the case today with maRunga, ensures transactions are not only processed by a hybrid IBM and NonStop configuration, but inside clouds as well. Highlighting, yet again, that the shape of future data centers will be completely arbitrary as CIO’s seek “the best bang for the buck”. Nowhere is this more widely understood than it is by those companies providing monitoring solutions, a circumstance I came to appreciate a few days ago when presenting thoughts on hybrids to managers and executives of Integrated Research.

In the PowerPoint slides that I used in my presentation, I pulled material from the post to realtime.ir of January 13, 2013, Data centers with hybrid systems; challenges persist for all who monitor. In that post, I acknowledged that IR recognized the growth in interest in hybrid computers several years ago, and are now more advanced in supporting hybrid configurations than others in the marketplace. As IR’s General Manager Products and Alliances, John Dunne, told me back then, “If our customers determine that there’s value in having the oversight of the heterogeneous mix of systems, so typical of a modern data center, then IR will continue to ensure Prognosis features communicate with each other!”

According to Burg, “whenever we see interest in a technology, and hybrid computing is a good example, then we get excited by the prospects it creates. Now that HP has announced plans for NonStop to support the x86 architecture and also added support for InfiniBand, there’s a strong possibility that NonStop itself will take on the appearance of a hybrid computer. Particularly when you consider the likelihood of clusters of Itanium and x86 NonStop systems. The potential to exploit this technology may open the doors to supporting users in new and exciting ways – yes, the best bang for the buck is certainly possible with NonStop today!”

As a community, we have still a long way to go in convincing CIOs of the value proposition but the option to take simple baby-steps greatly reduces the risks involved in going down a hybrid path – hybrid clouds included. However, considering the alternatives when NonStop is already in place, it’s not too big a stretch to imagine NonStop making a sizeable, positive contribution, to ensuring hybrids are robust and reliable and with that, the bang for the buck gets even bigger. And, with that, I expect to hear few arguments to the contrary from any CIO! 

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