Are we witnessing changing of the guard? Is it possible that NonStop systems are about to take on a greater openness? Will we be shortly seeing NonStop systems being a more widely accepted component of enterprise IT? This past month I have participated in user events and the early signs of NonStop breaking out from hiding deep inside the data center are apparent – no more can NonStop be considered the “best kept secret” within IT.
It’s easy to write such commentary and easier still to provide opinions about great things to come – but what’s really going on? After a period of steady decline – in the number of NonStop customers, not to mention actual number of systems, I am coming away from my recent travels with an appreciation that this decline has flattened out and that, with the work being done by HP NonStop sales and marketing, as we dive into 2015 we will see renewed enthusiasm for NonStop. And a lot of this has to do with how easy it’s becoming to plug NonStop into modern architectures and how straight forward it is to port applications to it.
There are still many homegrown applications running on NonStop, of course, and it would be remiss for any of us to discount the impact that they have on the marketplace presence of NonStop. In bygone times, there were many enterprise users who simply licensed NET24 (XPNET) from ACI and nothing more – building their own solutions in-house, anchored to the transaction processing support provided as part of NET24. However, today it’s an open world with a myriad number of open source and commercial frameworks that any user can opt to deploy and this greatly reduces the time needed to introduce a new solution.
However, even with such recognition of enterprise users continuing to write their own solutions, for many within the NonStop community it’s all about support of a selected solution – particularly in healthcare, telco and finance. The tailoring to meet specific requirements often follows and in some cases to such an extent that the original solution may be buried deep behind a façade of custom code that truly does bury what lies beneath! It would be naïve for anyone to believe that there exists any NonStop user who hasn’t touched any part of a purchased off-the-shelf solution, as no solution is an island and even if it’s just tailoring communications paths to other solutions or opening access to external databases, changes do happen.
And here’s where the NonStop community cannot afford to be complacent – today’s spiffy interface, high-productivity programming language, and even database deployment needs constant attention. Production systems can become obsolete overnight even as young CIOs roll-out “short lists” of strategic platforms that omit NonStop and its solutions simply because the solutions “owners” within the business failed to get on the offensive. My own observations on this matter are that HP NonStop folks are only too happy to step in and help, but they at the very least need to know what’s going on and where help should be directed.
In a recent email exchange with comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, it would be fair to describe the language that followed as passionate. Both Thomas and I share a love for the NonStop that’s evolved over many decades of working closely with the community. “We are well known for our security offerings and this is perhaps our best known product area,” said Burg. “We do have two products (PANfinder and SecurData) which we expect to become ‘hot’ in the next two to five years. However, from our roots in terminal emulation and our desire to freshen the user experience, I think the opportunity for comForte supporting modernization is about as large as the market for security. We do have plenty of material in this area – as of late, the NonStop for Dummies book as well as the modernization white paper.”
What followed from Burg however, was something many of us can relate to. “What really concerns me most is that, out of how many NonStop accounts, there are those that are running a grave risk of being displaced and all because they refuse to invest in easy-to-achieve-and-finance-and-to-show-ROI modernization projects,” Burg explained. In a description of the thinking that takes place in many data centers, “I think the management are either too risk-averse (dwelling too much in the past), too cautious as they ponder retirement (something many of us can appreciate), or simply too busy to spare resources in what could be deemed non-essential and all rather risky. Ultimately – and yes, it’s unfortunate but still a realistic observation - with no modernization effort undertaken, even the most recently deployed application will be gone in as little as five years and with their demise, the explanation will likely include references to NonStop simply being an old (dare we say, legacy) system and that today, makes my blood boil.”
Security and modernization will be both featured highly in the latest NonStop Technical Boot Camp 2014, to be held in San Jose from November 16th to 19th, 2014, and it’s no coincidence comForte is paying as much attention as they do to these topic as they will feature prominently in pre-conference workshops, as follows:
Sunday pre-conference workshop:
- Sunday Nov 16, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
The Ins and Outs of Application Modernization – From the Ground Up and From the User In (Brad Poole, comForte / Johanne Corbeil, CarrScott)
- Sunday Nov 16, 3:00 – 5:00 pm
PCI Compliance through tokenization on NonStop – We show you how it’s done (Chris Riffe, comForte)
These will be followed by numerous presentations during the conference proper, and will provide further coverage of both security and modernization, as follows:
- Monday Nov 17, 1:30 – 2:20 pm
NonStop Application Modernization – From the ground up and user in (Harry Scott, Carr Scott)
- Tuesday Nov 18, 8:00 – 9:00 am
General Session: Wendy Bartlett, HP Thomas Burg, comForte, Andrew Price, XYPRO
- Tuesday Nov 18, 10:30 – 11:20 am
SSL and SSH hardening and certificate management (Henning Horst, comForte)
- Tuesday Nov 18, 11:30 – 12:20 am
Data-at-rest protection for BASE24 in production: lessons learned (Thomas Burg, comForte)
- Tuesday Nov 18, 3:00 – 3:50 pm
Tokenization of databases (Eduardo Roloff, GetNet, Brazil)
The passion for NonStop is something very dear to my own heart, having spent more than a third of my professional life working with NonStop. It simply gets into your blood even as you rarely stop thinking of better use-case scenarios for NonStop. Looking ahead, it’s clear NonStop will continue to become a more open system and in so doing, attract greater attention than in the past and with the attention, additional opportunities and that’s something that will generate even more passion in the community. comForte’s Burg expressed such passion perhaps more eloquently when he wrapped up our email exchange by noting how, “I think the true value of comForte is to deliver actual value to basically all existing ‘legacy’ NonStop customers – legacy or otherwise – and across a wide area of topics. THAT is the message we would like to convey and I think in this enterprise business market comForte can still grow significantly.”
Delivering an unmistakable exclamation point at the very end of his comments, Burg then declared, “comForte solves ANY NonStop problem you have on the infrastructure or application level”. The NonStop community would be the poorer without those community members with a high degree of passion, and like Burg, my own musings fall into this same category. Many former, historical, product lines are no more and I have to wonder whether that was so much about lack of modernization, security, portability or whatever topic ruled the day as much as it was about the lack of passion from those systems’ leaders.
Thomas and I, together with many others from the comForte team including senior executives and solutions architects, look forward to seeing you at Boot Camp so come on by and look for us – and by all means, let us know what your plans for modernization and security are and don’t be reticent in letting us know how we can help you better communicate this to your own management – after all, as it’s so often explained to me after the event, let’s be sure we don’t hear any more about “my CIO just didn’t know!”