Gravic and HPE Shadowbase Software – Our Humble Roots

Paul & Paden Holenstein of Gravic Inc.

Introduction

Paden: Hi everyone, this time, we’ve decided to do our Connection article as a podcast: interview style. This should be interesting.

I’m Paden Holenstein, Business Development and Marketing Coordinator at Gravic, Inc., and I’m here with my colleague, boss, father, and friend, Paul Holenstein, Gravic’s Executive Vice President and Chief Technologist.

 Year of Anniversaries!

Paden: This is the year of anniversaries, isn’t it, Paul?

Paul: In fact, it is. This year mark’s HPE NonStop’s 50th Anniversary. That’s pretty remarkable in this day and age of come-and-go internet startups. My brother Bruce and I formed our first company, Compucon Services Corp, soon after Tandem started, and we will soon be celebrating our 45th year in business working in the NonStop world as well.

History of Paul’s Career

Paden: How did you get involved with the HPE NonStop world?

Paul: Well, Bruce and I are forever grateful for the early impact that Dr. Bill Highleyman had on our careers. Dr. Bill gave us the opportunity, back in the ’80s when we were still in college, to work for his company, Sombers Associates, programming in a new language called TAL.

Those were the days of custom apps. Every company was racing to build new apps on the new systems they purchased. Time-sharing and Remote User Sessions were “OUT,” and build-your-own was “IN.” We had never heard of TAL (as BASIC and ASSEMBLER were the languages du-jour) nor of this fancy new system called a NonStop [Tandem]. And drinking out of our new two-handled mugs was rather awkward.

We even have fond memories of flying in Dr. Bill’s White-Knuckle Airlines. He would periodically fly us to customer sites in the single prop plane he earned as payment from one of his early projects.

Paden: Wait – what? Dr. Bill flew you around in a plane?

Paul: He certainly did! He and his wife Janice owned a trainer with dual controls. He even let me pilot the plane a number of times using Visual Flight Rules when the weather was good.

Paden: That doesn’t sound legal.

Paul: In fact, one time I had to turn the plane on its side to [reduce air pressure so I could] open the door mid-flight because I had closed the door on my seatbelt!

Paden: Let’s move on. I really love hearing about the experiences and funny stories you’ve had over the years. Does anything else in particular come to mind?

Paul: Oh, sure, especially from our contracting days. These became Dr Bill’s “Never Agains.” Like the time that my pal “Liquidation Lenny” actually sold a company’s entire portfolio of IBM stock on a Friday afternoon. Guess what? He was the hero Monday morning because the price dropped over the weekend!

Or the time when my officemate Jan accidently coded in an elderly lady’s home address out on Long Island [New York], and sent tens of thousands of mutual fund statements to her house! Believe it or not, the postal service actually dropped off dozens of mail bags on her doorstep! She had to call the police to get out of her house!

History of Gravic

Paden: Never again. Earlier you mentioned Compucon. How did Gravic get its name?

Paul: In 2001, we rebranded our company “Gravic.” Bruce and I got the idea based off the word gravity. Gravic means “attraction to the core.” By this, we mean that we focus on our core mission of Improving Society Through Innovation® while rapidly prototyping Minimally Viable Products, or MVP’s. We do this to test out their worthiness for satisfying our customers’ and the markets’ needs. Those that pass muster then get the full product build and roll-out sequence.

Paden: A really important aspect of Gravic’s business is its partnership with HPE; how has that evolved and what impact has it had?”

Paul: 2024 marks our tenth year as an HPE Pricebook Partner. Over the past decade, we’ve grown very close to our friends and colleagues at HPE, to the point where they feel like family. Many of them have won our annual Shadowbase Hall of Fame Award in recognition of major customer sales and successfully completing significant projects for our joint customers.

“Over the past decade, we’ve grown very close to our friends and colleagues at HPE, to the point where they feel like family.” Paul Holenstein

In 2019, we were honored to receive the HPE Momentum Technology Partner of the Year Award due to the growth in global HPE Shadowbase sales.

Paul’s Outlook on Gravic’s Next 10 Years

Paden: Switching gears, where do you think the next 10 years will take us?

Paul: Our listeners may not know that we have a Gravic Labs Research and Development organization, and that we invest heavily in it. This group is tasked with looking into the proverbial crystal ball to seek out where the future is heading, find undiscovered opportunities, provide insight on how to develop our products, and ultimately satisfy Gravic’s core purpose of Improving Society Through Innovation®.

Over the years, Gravic Labs has been awarded over 80 patents based on innovative ideas and promising technologies. Many are in our traditional Lines of Business, although some are completely unrelated in emerging markets. We expend considerable energy adding patents into our products and bringing them to market.

Paden: Can you share a few examples?

Paul: Why sure. In an early patent, we invented a clever method for implementing bi-directional replication for just about any database environment. We literally have hundreds of references from follow-up inventions that are based on our principles.

Another exciting area that we are working on right now is Detection and Prevention of Fraud, Malware, and Ransomware for mission critical applications. We call this a Validation Architecture. It provides a method to quickly detect processing divergence.

The idea is that it is almost impossible for a hacker to simultaneously attack two different processing systems, especially if the two systems are constantly validating and comparing their results. We are currently looking to use this approach for building a new voting system to audit and verify election results, although the use cases are endless.

Another really cool area of invention is in our new Blistering-Fast Database Compare solution, or BFD COMP, for short. This patent-pending algorithm is extraordinarily fast, efficient, and is currently being beta-tested at a major UK bank; and we expect to bring it to market soon as well.

Were All of Bruce and Paul’s Ventures Successful?

Paden: That’s great, but let’s be honest here – were all of these patents and ventures instant successes?

Paul: No, we had plenty of failures along the way. Have you ever heard of Multimedia Equipment Works?

Paden: Nope.

Paul: Well, no one else has either, except Bruce and I. That was one of our unsuccessful ventures in the early days, used for automatically digitizing television commercials for proof-of-performance and data analysis. But enough about me, let’s turn the tables and talk about you.

Turning the Tables: Paden’s Background

Paden: Uhh – I’m not really prepared for…

Paul: Don’t worry, we’ll start off easy! As a bit of background, where were you born?

 Paden: Oh alright. You know, it’s hard to say no to my boss and dad? I grew up in Downingtown, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, along the Mid-Atlantic. It’s basically in the middle-of-nowhere, but I still live there, and I love the area because of the rolling hills and beautiful farmland. And it’s really an undiscovered gem. I am the oldest of four kids. My parents must have been crazy.

 Paul: Crazy is right! Did you know that it costs almost $365k USD to raise a child to age 18 in the US? Add another $250k to get them through college? I’m looking at over a half million-dollars of investment!

Paden: Let’s not mention this to someone who is considering getting married. Let’s get back to the interview, OK?

 Paul: OK. How did you find your way into technology as a career?

Paden: I always had an interest in technology, sort of a “how does it work?” kind of interest. I entered college with a major in Computer Information Systems. After my first Marketing class though, I fell in love. I switched to a Marketing major, and I ended up minoring in IT.

Paul: How did your parents feel about that?

Paden: I think they were scared that I’d turn into a hippy and drive a Volkswagen bus around the country wearing tie-dyed clothes.

Paul: Yeah – let’s get back on track. What else influenced you?

Paden: Along the way, I was awarded Connect’s Future Leaders in Technology Scholarship during my senior year at West Chester University. This award really boosted my confidence and validated all of the hard work that went into it (my career up to that point). I would like to thank Connect for their organizing of this scholarship; it was a real boost for me. And, I look forward to being able to pay it forward to help the younger technologists.

Paul: How did you end up at Gravic?

Paden: Gravic has an incredible and extensive Internship Program that they run every summer. I distinctly remember, going back to the age of 12, vacuuming a workshop room in the old office, and my Uncle Bruce paid me something like $5 for the chore. Ever since then, I came back every summer. Little by little, and as the internship program grew, I interned with 10 other interns from a number of universities, representing a diverse set of backgrounds.

Over the years, I have had every kind of job imaginable too, while I tried to figure out what jobs I liked and had a passion for. This had a range from painting the walls and carpet cleaning to helping plan the office move, to [recreating] the website, to now working on the marketing and business development teams.

Paul: Then what happened?

Paden: I’m proud to say that only the best get offers when they graduate, and I was one of the lucky ones. Sure, I am the boss’s kid, but that just meant that I had to work all that much harder to prove I was really a keeper. I actually considered turning it down initially as I had a budding landscaping business on the side. But I soon learned that managing and running a landscaping company with lots of creaky unreliable equipment, constant trouble finding employees, subcontractors, not to mention customers, it was a difficult field. The low barrier to entry, and it is a very harsh task master. I do truly cherish those times though, because I learned so much from it!

I ended up being the only child in my immediate family that stuck with technology. Funny enough, I started off saying, “I’ll never work here at Gravic after I graduate college, finish up the internship, and enter the real world,” right? Never say never, because guess what? It’s been over seven years, it’s been a blast, and I don’t anticipate leaving anytime soon.

Paden’s Outlook on Gravic’s Future

Paul: So, what keeps you at Gravic?

Paden: One of my favorite early initiatives was upgrading the Shadowbase website. This made it easier to use and brought our high-quality content to the forefront so customers and partners saw it come to life and got more value out of it. Speaking more broadly, I realized early on that there was so much that I could learn from others, especially at our Gravic Headquarters, and then later learned that there is this whole wealth of knowledge in the NonStop community as well.

We have an incredible amount of functionality in our Shadowbase software too. Our customers are still learning about it, whether it’s the Business Continuity, Data Streaming to integrate the NonStop with the rest of the enterprise, or Data Validation to ensure database copies match. That’s one of my goals: to make sure that everyone knows about us and what we do. I believe there’s an immense, unique opportunity here at Gravic, and that’s why I’ve stuck through it beyond the pandemic and other difficult times.

I’m extremely optimistic about our future: the Innovative Research and Development in Gravic Labs and other areas Gravic is working on, whether it’s Zero Data Loss, Heterogeneous Compare, or the Validation Architecture. My understanding is that no one else out there has solved these problems, especially in the ways we can, using our algorithms and leveraging the unique traits of the NonStop. I believe in the mission of HPE NonStop and that it’s extremely important to ensure the rest of the world knows the value that it brings to society.

“I believe in the mission of HPE NonStop and that it’s extremely important to ensure the rest of the world knows the value that it brings to society.” – Paden R. Holenstein

The HPE NonStop Community

Paul: OK. When did you first hear about NonStop?

 Paden: When I first started working at Gravic, I asked, “What’s a NonStop,” right? I remember seeing a graphic of the system and thinking it was about the size of a regular PC, right? And then I saw a full-sized NonStop in our server room. I learned about it over the years from working on our website and, ultimately, from attending the User Group meetings. I feel like my perception of NonStop really came to life when I started meeting technologists who work in the industry and by listening to all their experiences and perspectives.

Paul: What were some of your initial impressions about HPE NonStop and the eco-system that has grown up around it?

 Paden: Too good to be true. I love how accepting the community is and how welcoming it is to newbies like me. NonStop is built on brilliant technology, and there is an intense passion for it. The technologists in this industry have a ton of questions about everything, vast amounts of knowledge, and wisdom based on their experience. I believe these folks are under-represented in their companies and society in general. They’re being challenged with innovating in a world with ever-shortening deadlines, decreasing budgets, and tight time constraints.

Paul: Well, excellent answer, Paden. With that, I think we’ve run out of time. Thank you, Paden, for sharing your insights.

Paden: You’re welcome Paul, and thanks to our listeners for tuning in. We hope our dialogue was interesting and informative. We look forward to chatting with you next time.

Paden & Paul: Take care [everyone].

Authors

  • Paul Holenstein

    Paul J. Holenstein is Executive Vice President and Chief Technologist of Gravic, Inc. He is responsible for the HPE Shadowbase suite of products. The HPE Shadowbase replication engine is a high-speed, uni-directional and bi-directional, homogeneous and heterogeneous data replication engine that provides advanced business continuity solutions as well as moves data updates between enterprise systems in fractions of a second. It also provides capabilities to integrate disparate operational application information into real-time business intelligence systems. Shadowbase Total Replication Solutions® provides products to leverage this technology with proven implementations. HPE Shadowbase software is built by Gravic, and globally sold and supported by HPE. Please contact your local HPE account team for more information, or visit https://www.ShadowbaseSoftware.com. To contact the authors, please email: [email protected].

  • Paden R. Holenstein

    Paden Holenstein works in marketing communications, business development, and branding for the HPE Shadowbase Products Group. He is a “NonStop Under 40” member, who attends and presents at regional TUG/RUG meetings and partner technical conferences. He writes extensively for the Shadowbase Products Group and is also responsible for the Shadowbase website. He graduated from West Chester University with a B.S. in Marketing and a minor in Information Technology. For more information, please see HPE Shadowbase Zero Downtime Migration (ZDM) or read the white paper, Using HPE Shadowbase Software to Eliminate Planned Downtime via Zero Downtime Migration.

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