Deploying NonStop interconnect fabrics over barbed wire?
There is a reason why Margo and I travel to events by car. Those that know us well and see us walking to the registration desk will often ask what car we drove to the venue this time? However, in our most recent outing and having just returned from driving to and from Mississauga, Ontario, for CTUG there simply wasn’t enough time to drive to Dallas, Texas for N2TUG. Then again, it was a close call with the airline coming out the winner. Unfortunately, the return trip first encountered a security false alarm that emptied the Dallas terminal and when we finally reached the gate Denver announced a weather-related ground stop.
Being faced with this situation however, comes at a time when the NonStop community is returning to in-person events with a level of enthusiasm not seen for many years. The number of times we have seen an almost full take-up of registration badges marks year 2023 as exceptional in this regard and the support from the NonStop vendor community is outstanding; when N2TUG opened for sponsorship opportunities, they were all taken up in less than 24 hours. Meals were sponsored as have been the many networking occasions with cocktails or beer a top of the hat to Tandem traditions. More importantly is that the mix of NonStop vendors versus NonStop users has shown a marked improvement over that of past years.
NonStop is on the move and it would appear that no one wants to miss out. HPE has mapped a course for NonStop that is taking it deep into software-only territory and this course of action isn’t lost on any of the NonStop community members to whom Margo and I talked. Whether to continue to invest in NonStop Integrated Solutions (formerly, Converged Systems), put a tentative toe in the water with Virtual NonStop (VNS), or commit wholeheartedly to NonStop in the clouds dominates many conversations. As HPE steps up to ensure that the NonStop fundamentals remain whether traditional or virtual paths are selected, it now becomes a question of comfort levels. Does VNS make sense to your enterprise?
There was a time when such a consideration was not a part of the conversation. Thinking in terms of NonStop disconnected from the hardware seemed like nonsense. Weren’t all the truly unique properties of NonStop addressed in the hardware with patents awarded for almost every innovative turn of the screw performed by the NonStop developers? It now seems that through a series of abstractions,
NonStop can run on whatever happens to be the flavor of the month when it comes to servers. There was a time when IBM’s SNA was considered so robust that it could probably run over barbed wire, but now, something similar seems to be the case for NonStop.
Standards win over time. Even as there are new standards appearing all the time, some of them have legs and will carry over as other elements change. The Intel x86 Architecture has proved to have been a wise choice as a starting point, likewise the choice of VMware. InfiniBand to RoCE? Another good move. Eventually though this can only take NonStop so far. With as many enterprises looking to leverage public cloud service platforms, as good as these transitions to more widely accepted standards made sense, there was a need to do more in support of greater flexibility. Adding one more level of abstraction so that Ethernet can be supported (even as speeds gradually approach that of the original InfiniBand) brings with it the potential to pursue a greater cloud presence for NonStop.
Will the NonStop interconnect fabric, like SNA of old, be able to run over barbed wire? Maybe somewhere there is such a need but the reality is that this analogy can only go so far. What might also lessen as a need is to run all NonStop applications in the cloud. Mission Critical applications running 24 x 7 will prove financially challenging for some enterprises given their true 24 x 7 nature. Swapping hardware inhouse for hardware off-prem always comes with a cost. Even as the reduction in staffing levels appears an attractive option (to training replacements for the technical staff heading into retirement), staffing is unlikely ever to drop to zero. Who will be monitoring the performance of the cloud services providers and who will stay on top of security?
When it comes to supporting NonStop developers there certainly is merit to think in terms of establishing a development and perhaps even a deployment (for testing) platform within a cloud. Resources utilization will be as sporadic as it is unpredictable. Using the same development tools as are in use across the rest of the enterprise is a tantalizing prospect and one that for the NonStop developer is almost in within the reach. Solutions running full time in the cloud? Perhaps not! But empowering NonStop developers with all that can be supported by cloud services providers is a very attractive proposition.
HPE has truly pulled off a minor miracle as it has lessened the NonStop focus on hardware and transitioned NonStop to being a software offering. It may not support primitive forms of interconnect but then again, with the steps being taken by the NonStop team there are no longer any apparent absolutes. It is with this in mind and the continued inquisitive nature of the NonStop community when it comes to the future of NonStop that has led to the increased attendance at NonStop events worldwide.
With the biggest NonStop conference of the year almost upon us, will you become part of the conversation? Will we see you adding momentum to the move to all-software, NonStop? And to think, we don’t have to fly as Denver is an easy drive for us and we treat as the highlight of the year. It would be a shame to miss out on hearing the latest on NonStop so yes, Margo and I will be present; will we see you?