NonStop in the Himalayas

Remember Himalayas servers? Himalaya was a project name for NonStop Servers sold in the early 1990’s. The connection between the Himalayas and NonStop was established then, and today the Himalayas are still very much part of NonStop, as a lot of NonStop development is happening in “Himalayas land”, in India, at Bangalore.

As you start from one end of the Outer ring road you will pass by these companies, Microsoft, HP, Intel, Cisco, Wells Fargo, Hitachi, Adobe, JPMC, Airbus, Samsung, EMC, in order to reach the Hewlett Packard Enterprise India Software Center, housing 3000+ R&D engineers. We work on various technologies, products ranging from firmware development, operating systems, fault-tolerant computing, Edgeline, storage technologies and OneView to HPE Aruba wireless technologies, all housed under one roof. NonStop India development group is also part of this mix. The center houses a state-of-the-art Customer Briefing Center and HPE Labs’s advanced technology center working on cutting-edge technologies. In the multi-acre beautiful campus, a new structure is coming up with to host more than 10,000 more people working on various HPE services, products, and customer support in Bangalore.

An office is not just about the building, it is about people. It is ever true with people who work to advance the NonStop product line, enable customer success, and NonStop business success. Let us look at some of the people, randomly selected, to find what they do and what goes around in their work life.

NonStop Development team in colorful dresses celebrating Ethnic Day, at HPE Bangalore site

We take pride in saying it is easy to manage NonStop systems, and it can’t be more evident by the way three system operations people in the NonStop development group manage probably one of the largest NonStop installations in the world, more than 220 NonStop Servers (1000+ CPUs), 25 vNonStop servers used for development, testing of various NonStop products, and managing 600+ Windows/Linux VMs, 70+TB storage used for product development. In addition, these people find time to help developers install and alpha test new products, and at times assist customers as well. Satish, lead system manager, is also working on a future project to automate vNS installation. Satish ran into a 3PAR storage controller failure in June, in the middle of the pandemic lockdown and a difficult time to get replacement parts quickly. He called his carpool-mate working on HPE Storage products, and was able to get a spare in a few hours, to ensure product build system remained available to the development community.

“If my customer doesn’t know or hear about my product and they continue running their business  application, then, I am happy”, says Bala, who did his Ladakh marathon run, one of the world’s highest high-altitude runs, testing the limits of human endurance. He knows a bit or two, to put the product under stress for continuous testing for days and weeks, in his specialization of endurance testing for DP2 (the core filesystem and database kernel) product.

This COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to work from home and our NonStop group had few exceptions. In the middle of a complete country lockdown, no movement of people beyond buying vegetables and groceries in the neighborhood grocery stores, Yogesh Choubey, had to visit HPE site to perform fault-tolerant testing of Storage CLIMs by physically pulling cables and disks while the system is running to certify a fix for a NonStop customer. He had to obtain special permissions and approvals from the HPE Crisis Management Team and the State government police department to visit our HPE site. It is an adventure by itself, crossing many police check points on the road to reach the HPE site, a sole person working in a massive data center with only security guards in the campus. Anything for our NonStop customer and business. Otherwise, Yogesh is also known for his exemplary work with educating school kids from economically weaker disadvantaged background, as part of the HPE Social Contribution Initiative.

We typically start the day with reading/watching world news, thinking how government should run and what others should do, etc., and it is a little different for Vijaya. Her day starts with scanning the US National Institute of Standards and Technology site to see what new Cybersecurity vulnerabilities have been published, reading HPE Security response team bulletins and other HPE partners’ security disclosures, and then directing the rest of the NonStop product groups to evaluate the vulnerabilities and take actions. And rest of the day for this NonStop Security architect goes in assessing security compliance for new products and features from the group and interacting with the rest of the HPE on adopting new standards to leverage best practices from other product developments. And her day usually ends with cycling around the city, and catching up on world news!

Plan quality, cost optimization, driver, latency, cardinality, ACID, query optimization, Oracle compatibility, migration these are typical words we hear in every other sentence Sachin breathes and speaks, who has 20+ years working experience in the database domain. He is currently spearheading and managing a large portion of the work for enabling SQL/MX database services. Well known for his outstanding project execution skills, quality focus, Sachin Daniel Oommen has set on his mind to investigating how our massively parallel SQL/MX database product could be used in a container world. Recently his kid commented ‘I thought you work at the office but I don’t see you working at all, always talking in the phone morning, evening, night and sending emails, do you work?’, a NonStop Manager’s life working from home!.

“Everything needs a balance, and everything needs to be balanced”, from an expert, Ranga, who works on one of the well-known classic load balancers in the world, TS/MP Pathway. Ranga is our inhouse Yogi and Spiritual guru, and we don’t miss his teachings and life insights even in the middle of heated debate on complex design discussions. He is working to enable and improve the adoption of pathway technology to be easy and transparent for newly ported applications from other platforms.

One person who feels much benefited from the pandemic is Kamala Sreenivasan. Nowadays she sleeps an hour more and spends more quality time with family, than when she used to come to the workplace, commuting 4 hours every day through infamous Bangalore traffic. Kamala is a leader for DevOps practice and works to develop enabling technologies/tools for NonStop customers to adopt DevOps in their operations. Incidentally, NonStop India is running a multi-year work transformation project automating hundreds of product test suites, build processes, code signing, automated test execution, while adopting agile methodologies, etc. This initiative helped product groups manage the daily workflow more easily when we all are working remotely. Kamala apart from working on DevOps also leads the R&D site TechFluence initiative to mentor and develop women technologists and leaders in the organization. Nowadays she enjoys virtual Tea sessions connecting with colleagues and friends.

Not everybody who works in the NonStop group works on NonStop systems all day, we do have two quality managers, Srini and Thiyagu, who solely work day in day out with Microsoft Spreadsheets to analyze every customer and internally reported defect, run prediction models, drive root cause analysis, drive preventive actions and be a quality gate-keeper for new product releases. Another person, who doesn’t do traditional work is, Reji Jacob, who sleeps with a phone all the time. As Escalation Manager for NonStop Customers, Reji guarantees developers will work on customers’ escalated situations within 30mins of him receiving a call from a worldwide support organization. We are happy if we don’t hear from Reji.

We have many new products and offerings, to name a few, NonStop Servlets for JavaServer Pages (NSJSP), NonStop Application Server for Java (NSASJ), SQL/MX Database Services, automatic network connection failover, many open source products, python language support, vNonStop, either fully or co-developed in India development center. We work on all NonStop technologies and domains ranging from firmware, operating system, networking, database, business continuity products, backup solutions, system management products, webservers to Java/middleware products. Another advantage this center has is the colocation of all functions, development, QA, product build and release, RVU release management, Product Management, publication, System management, Quality managers, and this tremendously helps in greater collaboration and faster execution.

Working on the global organization and supporting worldwide customers implies that a big part of the work-life is with phone talking to other parts of the development group, support organization, field, pre-sales and advanced technology team members, and customers. Most of us have a hotline with other parts of the organization, the NonStop Development group in San Jose, CA. One such person who spends most of his time with the phone is Suveer, Master Technologist, who is the chief architect for many of the Java Middleware products on the NonStop such as NSASJ, NSJSP, Ansible manageability framework, etc. He interacts with HPE field/pre-sales teams in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, HPE technologists in GreenLake, Edgeline solution teams, product managers, and hotline with other NonStop technologists such as Marcelo De Azevedo, Systems Architect in the USA, to discuss and design NonStop products for the next decade.

“Innovation makes or breaks the business”, and we have a strong culture that supports and encourages meaningful innovation. We have many patents and innovation disclosures from our people in the organization, and several innovative ideas and features became NonStop products from this group. One of the celebrated events in a year is “Innovation Day”, a day to demonstrate various innovations, interesting new ideas to solve customer challenges, demonstrate proof of concepts, and seek feedback from the larger organization. Some of the recent topics/ideas that were showcased are RESTful NonStop Server Management, Machine Learning Based Performance analysis, Dev SecOps, Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) and Persistent Memory integration with NonStop, NS Container, In-memory cache and Hybrid transactional/analytical processing (HTAP) with SQL/MX.

Jeff Kyle, Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Systems reviewing the idea presented in the 2019 Innovation Day

We do know that not all new ideas may make it into a final product for customers, but we believe in the long run, this innovation focus will produce new products and features that will advance NonStop to next S-curve.

“This is my first step into the corporate world, and I am thoroughly enjoying my work, the culture here, the people and the fun”, an engineering student who is doing GUI prototype for a yet to be released product as Internship in the NonStop group, and expected to become an employee after her college degree is completed next month. While the NonStop India group has an outstanding track record of 94%-96% talent retention (significantly higher than India industry average and rest of HPE India average), every year we do bring in 5-8% engineering graduates from diverse backgrounds and ethnicity.

India has a rich set of diverse culture, people come from various backgrounds with a variety of talents, and we don’t miss celebrating the diverse talents and that is part of our “fun at work”. Throughout the year we often have events happening, ranging from a NonStop’s Got Talent show, inter-group Cricket matches, Sports Day, Independence Day celebrations, to Fire-less cooking at work. We also have an inhouse music teacher, Nitin Chandna, who manages TMF and Middleware products and who can play 12 musical instruments. During lunchtime he conducts guitar and music keyboard classes for NonStop people, 13th year running.

Indian Classical Dance by Ananya and Kavitha, at NonStop’s Got Talent Show

And, many special interest groups in NonStop also undertake various experiential trips around India and abroad. One such last year trip was 7-day trek in the Himalayas. Trekking in high altitude brought many new experiences to all of us, morning yoga breathing sessions, finding ways to avoid touching chilled water and still washing the utensils after a meal, surviving avalanches, trekking in the middle of a hailstorm, grown-ups playing an Uno game, dancing to folk songs, … an awesome adventure trip. In 1993, Tandem Computers released the NonStop K-series servers code-named ‘NonStop Himalayas Servers’. Even today, product binaries from those products written at that time still run on the latest NonStop servers, and incidentally, those NonStop infrastructure components are currently worked on and managed by our Himalayas trekking captain, Roopa.

7 days trekking in high altitude Himalayas Rupin pass by NonStop India team

The most awaited fun event for the year is the PotLuck Lunch. Imagine 300+ people bringing their home-cooked food to share and eat together, and these are HPE NonStop people from north to south, east to west of India. In last year’s event, we had 140+ unique items for our lunch. As usual, loads of food to digest, and certainly some items steal the show, and one of most sought after items was ‘Caramel Custard Pudding’ by Soumya, who is otherwise a specialist in NonStop Performance Engineering and Testing, and her group report is waited on by the whole organization for every RVU release to customers.

An organization is driven and inspired by its leaders. People do extraordinary things for their leaders and because of their leaders. All the senior managers in the organizations are long-term veterans in HP/HPE, having more than 20+ years working within HPE and/or working for NonStop. Sreeja, who worked on various HP enterprise products in the systems area is currently responsible for the NonStop Kernel, Filesystem, and other system development work in NonStop India. Ashok Viswanathan, currently responsible for database product development, was a long compiler technology expert and in the past managed networking products. Vidyadhar Keshatti, currently responsible for networking product development, performance test engineering, and system tests, worked on NonStop networking products for many years since the Compaq days. Gopi Muthusamy, completed 25 years in HPE this month, worked on the HP3000 platform before moving into NonStop development and is currently responsible for NonStop Java/Middleware products.

Finding good in people, challenging them to take up higher objectives, pushing the boundaries, enabling global teamwork, and relentless obsession with customers are some of the things NonStop India Development Organization Leader, RS Raghunandan, strives in the organization and imbibes in people. Raghu’s leadership team has been working for several years to transform the organization for the long-term success of NonStop customers, the NonStop business and the people who are proud to work on this unique system.

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About Gopalakrishnan Muthusamy 1 Article

Gopalakrishnan (Gopi) Muthusamy is the HPE Senior Manager responsible for NonStop Java and Middleware products development. He has over 30 years of experience as developer and engineering manager in the software industry, mainly in Mission Critical OS. Gopi has Masters degree in Software Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology (India) and Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration, from Symbiosis, India.

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