Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The big surprise and the need for comForte …

Important messages and an ever-evolving storyline were among the more important aspects of 20014 HP Discover and comForte was present to take it all in!

There are surprises and then there are really big surprises. Back from 2014 HP Discover now for a week and I’m still coming to terms with the announcements made during HP CEO, Meg Whitman’s, keynote presentations. Last year I thought the unveiling of a new form factor and packaging in Project Moonshot was impressive, but compared with the unveiling of The Machine, it’s more of a footnote by comparison. This came as a really big surprise and like many in the NonStop community, I am still rather shell-shocked by the announcement.

For decades now I have been a willing attendee of vendor’s major marketing events. When I worked at Nixdorf Computers in the 1980s it was always a big deal to get a company invite to attend the Hanover fair, and by happenstance, I managed to get invited twice during my time with Nixdorf. The importance of this industry trade event was that Nixdorf turned it into its own special event going as far as to take over a railway station in Hanover, as well as an airport hangar on one occasion, to celebrate the year’s results!

At Tandem Computers, getting invited to participate in an ITUG event was special – particularly for us in America, if it was the European event – loved Nice and Lyon. Similarly, at IBM the events put on by the mainframe user community, SHARE, were must-attend opportunities. For anyone associated with HP then clearly, HP Discover is a must-attend event as well, but perhaps not for all subsets of the community.

Looking back on this year’s events there was clearly a focus on vendor executives as well as those in the vendor community charged with business development. HP Discover was the place to meet with HP executives and to hear firsthand HP’s vision and strategy and to see the roadmaps that executing on the vision and strategy produced. Coming to terms with where HP is headed, particularly when it involves NonStop, is of great importance to all who make up the NonStop vendor community.

When it comes to comForte, they were one of only two vendors with a kiosk on the exhibition floor. No longer simply a space to demonstrate your wares, HP calls this portion of the venue the Discover Zone. According to HP, the “Discover Zone is the heartbeat of the show, your area for conversations and investigation. Here you can find pavilions, demo theaters, kiosks, tours, the Innovation Theater, and more – all centrally located.”

Seeing the familiar faces of comForte’s Brad Poole and Dieter Orlowski as they shared time in front of the kiosk brought back so many memories and was a foretaste of what to expect at the bootcamp in November. Hearing about the opportunity for Poole to give a HP NonStop solutions architect a demo of maRunga running on one of their own HP systems was good to know. Of course, comForte CEO Dr. Michael Rossbach was never far away, ever attentive to the developing story from HP as it unfolded.

Just recently, InfraSoft’s maRunga product has been installed in HP NonStop’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC) and is now accessible by all HP NonStop sales and solutions architects. It replaces the original prototype developed by HP NonStop solutions architects for 2012 HP Discover, and marks a major milestone in the effort for greater promotion of a solution jointly developed by HP and its partners, comForte and Infrasoft. Getting the opportunity to present to HP NonStop personnel, as Poole was able to do? Priceless!

Partnerships are of paramount importance to HP and this was easily recognized with the multiple sessions where HP had partners on stage with them – either as part of a panel or as the subject of an interview. The importance of partnerships with select vendors is only going to become even more important and it’s all because of The Machine, referenced earlier.

In short, The Machine was introduced to the community by HP CTO, Martin Fink, “We've been using the same architecture and been doing it the same way for decades,” said Fink. When you look at it, Fink explained, ninety percent of what the operating system and processors are doing “is just shuffling data between different storage tiers.”

Furthermore, The Machine is “a new compute design built from the ground up. Processors, specialized for a particular task or ‘workload’, connect to a fabric based on light for communication. In turn, all of this is connected to a large single pool of ‘universal memory,’ which obviates the need for separate memory and storage tiers.” So what’s in this for NonStop? And what of NonStop vendors like comForte, deeply steeped in the NonStop architecture for nearly as long as NonStop has existed?

The message from HP with The Machine was very simple, and it contained two very important points for the NonStop community. Firstly, for the rest of the decade, The Machine would consume 75% of the total HP R&D budget and then secondly, even with this level of funding, HP would be looking for partnerships – commercially, from the private sector as well as institutionally, from universities around the globe. Bottom line? It will be partners who forge ahead with NonStop and it will be NonStop partners who will be contributing to The Machine.

Almost lost in the slideware is the imminent arrival of NonStop on Intel’s x86 chips – but for it to succeed, and look like something completely new from HP, it will require modern languages, frameworks and tools – not just a continuation of what exists already. It will provide challenges in connectivity as well as in management and monitoring even as it seeks out new solutions vendors and indeed, completely new market segments in which to compete. The load on partners will be sizeable and for companies like comForte, these opportunities will be significant.

“But wait”, as the TV promoters like to add, “there’s even more!” As all systems today converge on The Machine, and as models are developed in support of everything HP builds from handheld devices to supercomputers, it’s going to need to leverage some aspects of NonStop – yes, post 2020, NonStop as a pure software play, may not be supported with hardware as we know it, nor will it even be identifiable from the outside but as the new operating system is built for The Machine, deep inside the code I suspect there will be much that is recognizable as NonStop.

Yes, it was a very big surprise to see the level of commitment HP is making in support of The Machine but it’s not going to be surprising in the short term to see partners taking on more of the development load and for those with the experience, including vendors like comForte, the opportunities may prove boundless in the extreme. And that’s a good thing for every constituent in the NonStop community! 

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