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Bubbling To The Top — Champagne time for NonStop!

Bubbling To The Top — Champagne time for NonStop!
February 9, 2016 ATM Pacific

The highlight of any year for those running payment solutions on Hewlett Packard Enterprise NonStop systems has become the company’s community event, the NonStop Technical Boot Camp.

Although the term “boot camp” is a bit of a misnomer, as participants are almost universally well versed in all things NonStop, there’s still plenty of opportunity to hear something new from HPE and its vendor ecosystem for middleware, tools and solutions.

When it comes to today’s networks of ATMs, and indeed POS devices, there are few instances where a NonStop isn’t involved. I am expecting a large turnout from the banking and retail industries for this event in San Jose, California, Nov. 15–18.

Major American banks? Check!  All of the big three run NonStop systems as do some of the largest banks in Canada. Throw into this mix the likes of MasterCard, Visa Debit, and most recently Discover Card and you will find a NonStop system — or two or five and sometimes even more — in many Northern American financial institutions.

Retailers? Yes! Whether it’s a pharmacy operation such as Walgreen’s or CVS/Caremark, or big boxes such as Target and JCPenney, there’s an abundance of NonStop presence.

All of these names are familiar to anyone in the NonStop community who has participated in regional user group gatherings, and I have had the opportunity to talk with nearly all of the above over the course of the past 12 months.

In today’s business world, it’s difficult to determine who is actually using which system in support of what solution, but astute observers can spot the name tags reasonably easily and it has become my pastime of late. None of the above are my clients, although a couple of my clients have a presence in their data centers.

And so, come the middle of November, we will all be rubbing shoulders at the premier gathering of all NonStop users. Apart from the question I oftentimes have to address — are enterprises still running NonStop systems? — these gatherings are more of an awareness update, as the speed with which NonStop has been transformed is remarkable, even by today’s standards, with new approaches to system packages surfacing regularly.

For years, the big gripe over NonStop has been about price, but now this has been addressed more or less. The new NonStop X systems — all built around the Intel x86 architecture and with the adoption of InfiniBand for the fabric interconnect that the fault tolerance operations depend upon — match pricing models for x86 clusters of equivalent performance.

Throw into the mix an SQL database and there are situations where NonStop is less costly in both initial price and overall people costs — a topic I addressed in a recent post to the NonStop community blog, Real Time View, “How many DBAs does it take to change a light-bulb should it not be NonStop?

Financial institutions everywhere are conscious of the tradeoffs between the cost of a payments solution and the viability of the platform required when it comes to scalability, and indeed reliability. On both counts NonStop has few peers.

But what recent user events are highlighting, I think, is that much of what we consider “new technology” is now available on NonStop, whether it be integrated SQL capability, language support such as Java (and more recently, Server Side JavaScript), or even integrated HTTP servers with a breadth of security offerings that are now part of the OS.

In other words, there are no hoops to jump through or unnatural acts to be performed. It’s a regular x86 cluster with very special capabilities that all other servers wish they had as standard — or even as options.

Not to be outdone by other user events HPE has planned for the rest of the year, this upcoming TBC has attracted a very special speaker to deliver the keynote address Monday, Nov. 16.

Martin Fink, EVP and CTO of the just-split-from-HP HPE, is the presenter all attendees will look forward to hearing from. HPE recently identified its systems going forward under the classification Transformational Advancement, with just Linux, Windows and NonStop listed — no more UNIX and no more OpenVMS as frontline systems offerings — something I highlighted in the post Still talking; still writing; most importantly, still here!

Unix and OpenVMS will still be around, with HPE continuing to support existing customers, but the best days are now squarely behind these platforms. In all my time in the industry, I never expected the demise of Unix to occur as rapidly as it did over the past couple of years, nor would I have guessed that so many in the industry would chafe at Unix being just one more proprietary platform offering.

If you are planning on attending TBC, you will find when you pick up the agenda that I am a co-presenter for two sessions — one on secure, managed, file transfer fabrics and the other on IoT.

Even as I shuffle through my slide decks to come up with something unique and a little offbeat, as I like to do, it seems worth celebrating that after four decades, there are still gatherings of the NonStop community that attract the most senior of HPE executives.

There will be more than one champagne cork pulled at this gathering, that’s for sure. After all, back when it was Tandem Computers, the company was famous for its Friday afternoon beer busts (and hijinks around a swimming pool since filled in by the stolid folks at Apple).

ATMs and POS devices provide an all-important service. And while pundits pour scorn on all those needing cash, communities everywhere continue to depend upon it daily.

Networked as they are and dependent even more so on systems to oversee every transaction, it is encouraging that one of the very first systems to support these devices is still thriving.

Look for me, should you be on site, and for sure, I will be only too happy to pull one more cork and toast to NonStop one more time!

Nov. 9, 2015 | by Richard Buckle