Thursday, January 2, 2014

When it comes to modern servers, their best ability is their availability!

This year's holiday season has seen even more outages than normal - with a lot of red faces thrown in for good measure - if we demand our sporting stars to show up and perform, should't we expect the same from business leaders?

I was reminded again over these past few weeks of just how important a role NonStop plays and of how big a contribution NonStop makes to ensuring all we do on a daily basis runs smoothly. Move too far from NonStop in your infrastructure and wear the wrath of your customers and clients.

In commentary last night about a footballer prone to injury, the television analyst suggested that for this player, “your best ability is your avail-ability”! All with whom I work within the NonStop community couldn’t agree more, and yet the headlines decrying the outages as well as the compromises of key systems this month have been prominent.

In my private client newsletter circulated a week or so ago, I referenced the impact that the skimming of card information from 40 Million American Target customers had on their customers. At a time when these customers were shopping for holiday season gifts, one bank’s response was to limit the amount of cash that could be withdrawn as well as the total value of transactions per day allowed - a circumstance now relaxed, according to the bank.

The situation wasn’t much better for millions of Myer’s Australian customers as well, as the news that the Myer website crashes on Boxing Day sales – one of the busiest shopping days of the year. This bad news was followed by something much worse as it was then reported how the Myer website down 'until further notice'

According to the reporter, Ben Butler, “It means Myer will see no benefit for those days from booming domestic online sales, which were tipped to hit $344 million across the retail sector on Boxing Day alone. ‘We're continuing to experience significant issues with our website, and as a result we will not be activating the site for customers until we are confident the issues have been resolved,’ Myer said in a statement on its Facebook page.”

Throw into this mix all the issues to do with scale – and in particular, scale out – that both, UPS and FedEx, experienced as retailers everywhere guaranteed their online shoppers overnight or two days delivery and these shippers were unable to process the flood of orders these services created. These shipping companies did experience difficulties rotating aircraft as winter storms affected the Dallas / Fort Worth airport, but that was only a small part of the problem – the capacity exceeded all of their systems capabilities.

“It’s a reminder that massive undertakings with lots of uncontrollable variables and tight deadlines have multiple points of failure and we shouldn’t be shocked when they fail,” said reporter, James Joyner, in his report
UPS and FedEx Ruin Christmas for Late Shoppers published in the publication, Outside the Beltway. As anyone within the NonStop community can attest, systems aren’t becoming simple – they are in fact becoming more complex, and meeting demands, scaling out and remaining available are every bit as important attributes of today’s systems as at any time in the past.

I have been discussing the issue of the future of NonStop with several vendors. The uptick in interest has definitely coincided with plans announced by HP for NonStop to support the Intel x86 architecture. This has generated both, relief that the NonStop roadmap will not just end with the last spin of the Intel Itanium chip as well as excitement over the future potential of NonStop in new and innovative ways.

Making NonStop cool again for a bigger audience is one element in this equation, but so too is seeing “the swagger” return to HP’s sales and marketing efforts – it’s a lot easier talking about a product that is being viewed positively in the popular press. But where will NonStop develop the most traction and which markets will see broader acceptance of NonStop and produce more customers?

As unfashionable as it sounds, the likelihood is in markets unnoticed by the general public. It’s in the infrastructure where the potential for inexpensive, commodity, NonStop servers to generate the most interest, so long as HP marketing gets behind it – something I believe they are beginning to do. It’s a lot less flashy, and way less fashionable, but without infrastructure, all the potential for the user-led “universal integration of everything” train will be derailed before it leaves the station.

When you consider the partnerships and acquisitions by comForte of late, you will see considerable focus being paid to enhancing the ability of NonStop servers to participate with others and to do so relying on industry standard interfaces, protocols and services. To get the train onto the tracks in the first place, of course, relies upon efforts to modernize as today’s basic infrastructure makes some sizable assumptions.

Protecting and securing data, moving data and better integrating the networks needed by data are all central to what comForte is providing. Modernization simply underpins many of the activities associated with these data actions. The recent acquisition of the Escort family from Carr Scott (now completed) is just one example of how comForte is building out its solutions designed to help NonStop servers play a more important role in infrastructure.

“The Escort range of products complements the comForte product portfolio and helps us to expand our offerings into the database modernization space, said Dr. Michael Rossbach, CEO of comForte 21, in the press release that came out at the time of the recent NonStop Advanced technology Boot Camp. Data Base, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Hybrid Computers; these are the hot topics within IT today and all of them require healthy, robust and available infrastructure, all of which are central to what NonStop servers provide.

It’s a commentary most of us can sympathize with – every sportsman is only congratulated (for an achievement) when they are actually on the playing field making a contribution. For the applications industry pundits anticipate making a big difference to prove attractive, the supporting infrastructure must be in place. Without NonStop servers and without the vendors enhancing the services on offer, the limitations of these new applications will be visible to all. To rephrase the sports commentator, perhaps our best cap-abilities will remain dependent upon our best avail-ability and with all we saw over the holiday season, there’s little likelihood this requirement will ever go away!     

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