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Opinion – Is the NonStop community growing?



Pyalla Oct 19

If there is one question that arises whenever the NonStop vendor community meets for any reason it has to do with whether the presence of NonStop within enterprises is growing or not. It’s all well and good to share tales from the road whenever events attract such gatherings of vendors and sitting around a venue, “shooting the breeze” as it were, there are many stories being told. However, what is the real scoop? After as many changes as HPE has been through the last couple of years and the problems that HPE has had with the management of the company, at least with current HPE CEO, Antonio Neri, at the helm it all looks promising for HPE, but really, are enterprises still buying the story of NonStop?

For as long as I have been a part of the NonStop community (and it dates back many decades), I haven’t seen as viable and indeed as valuable a NonStop product portfolio as it exists today. Clearly, the move to support the Intel x86 architecture was a smart move, but then again, throwing the spotlight on a NonStop becoming a software solution surprised a lot of people and this was well before the advent of virtualized NonStop – yes, another master stroke, according to many in the industry. Even today, there are major industry participants who simply haven’t caught on to what this really means, but with NonStop now a collection of virtual machines, the game has changed significantly. And of course, there are the different financing models available from HPE’s Greenlake, where consumption pricing options are available.

If you happened to be an attendee at any number of major user events this year, starting with last year’s NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC), you would have heard positive messages coming from the NonStop business unit’s leadership. As Q4, 2018 came to an end, it was reported that the NonStop team hit all its numbers and then as 2019 quarters came and went, there was an extra step in managements walk – yes, they were continuing to beat their quarterly goals with NonStop. After years of hearing anecdotal evidence that the NonStop community was shrinking – first with the loss of stock exchanges, then the loss of healthcare and even 911 and emergency services, let alone that no one in the newspaper industry runs NonStop. Today, there is even caution over NonStop’s presence among Telcos – a marketplace that I really did think drove the move to virtualized NonStop. However, here’s the good news: NonStop by all accounts has stabilized the base and is experiencing significant growth as many more enterprises begin their migration to NonStop X systems.

As an independent industry analyst who watches HPE’s financial results, pours over the published transcripts released after each quarterly analysts’ briefing by Neri and his team and sits through public presentations given by HPE executives I see clearly a trend. I continue to be an invited guest of the HPE Influencers program and belong to the invite-only VIP community. All of which is to say that I get to hear a lot of presentations and yes, even get to ask HPE executives questions. It’s a known fact that HPE doesn’t break down the numbers by product line, but even so, it’s not too difficult to extrapolate and come up with numbers. As for supporting evidence all you have to look at is the uptick in numbers of NonStop customers attending regional and major user group meetings – yes, it’s stabilized, but yes, there is more energy today that’s noticeable and cannot be ignored whenever there are gatherings of the NonStop community.

There are three things to consider before going any further. First, there is the sizable financial commitment to the NonStop program being made by HPE and it shows no signs of slowing down – the commitment to the Intel x86 architecture also meant riding the Intel x86 roadmap and there are some exciting developments taking place that will prove beneficial to NonStop as it continues to ride the Intel roadmaps.  Secondly, NonStop was never part of the non-core split; it didn’t join other significant product lines that were divested, but rather, clearly identified as core (to HPE), is supported by its own product roadmaps that continue on well into the future. Thirdly, and not to be underestimated, is the new dependence of HPE’s own IT on NonStop and the valuable role NonStop and NonStop SQL played in reducing the dependency on Oracle, including Oracle RAC.

But wait, there is even more good news concerning NonStop – have you seen the PowerPoint slides NonStop executives are using to describe the size and coverage of their field sales forces? Still reflected in updates from each of the three geos (even as the concept of geos has been replaced by regions), these numbers are impressive. And the quality and experience are noticeable as well. But wait, there is more. Two words; Greenlake and yes, Channels! Up until now (and I am still looking for guidance from HPE on this item), Channel partners have not been able to sell NonStop but I am hearing that this could change, with perhaps two or three of the very biggest traditional HPE channel partners getting the go ahead to sell NonStop. And then there are the messages surrounding “everything as a service” or, as some within HPE have begun writing about it, XaaS – not forgetting PaaS / IaaS and yes, DBaaS – there are regions around the world where Greenlake is already stepping in to sell and then support NonStop as a Service whether from systems installed within an enterprises’ data center or in centers they and their partners set up for the purposes. Exciting? You better believe it …

There is one big point of clarification; when HPE makes announcement, such as everything in the data center will be available for the edge and yes, every product delivered today will become available as a service – this is not binary. It is not a case of a new model replacing an older model – it’s all about coexistence as HPE steps up to support a changing of the guard within IT across the globe. Enterprises are being given options unlike anything previously coming from HPE. You want out of IT and want to run everything virtualized, cloud-like, but secured, supported and operated by HPE? You got it! You want your new NonStop X delivered dockside of your data center? You got that as well! And then there is the new mantra concerning embedded technology – in an always connected, always communicating world, technology will be embedded in new products, many of which are still on the drawing boards.

What does this all then have to do with the NonStop marketplace? We acknowledge that the NonStop base has stabilized – there are still some latent actions being taken by a handful of enterprises that really did make premature decisions concerning NonStop before they fully understood the NonStop products’ roadmaps and for some of these enterprises their announced way forward is high risk, so who knows. It may still happen; it may not! Point is the information coming to the NonStop community of late over the “new logos” being added suggest it’s just a trickle (adding 12 or so doesn’t sound like all that much, but it’s non-trivial when you see the applications that are involved), but with just a little more stimulus coming NonStop’s way, this trickle could easily grow to be a full-fledged stream. Ultimately though, more has to be done to see this eventuality. And here’s the good news. NonStop is still the only viable fully scale-out fault tolerant system delivered today, out of the box, or more appropriately perhaps, out of the cloud. Nobody I have talked to over the past year really wants to bring in a system that from day one they know will fail and seriously, are you still not counting planned outages – I am talking to you, Mr. IBM!

Should NonStop be sold through channel partners; should NonStop make a statement from within private clouds; should NonStop become embedded in edge products and yes, should NonStop find a home in Synergy, then the gloves really come off. And the rest of HPE will sit up and take notice – for HPE, NonStop is the only still functioning product line remaining from the Compaq acquisition. Are you surprised? Where do I see growth coming from – in time, the fintechs will be embolden to take on NonStop given its new age, collection of virtual machines, consumption based pricing. They like these models. But wait once again; I see the whole ecommerce world opening where everything from distribution, warehousing, transportation, even order entry being prime targets for new deployments of NonStop!

At the upcoming NonStop TBC there will be much said about all that is new with NonStop even as there will be much talk about all the modernization that has taken place. But perhaps, the news we all want to hear is what markets are being penetrated by the new NonStop and yes, what solutions are finding their way on to NonStop? As for me, I have a sense that we may all be pleasantly surprised with what has been happening for NonStop – will you be there to hear it all firsthand? You should be going, as after all, this is our community and we really are accountable for any future success NonStop may enjoy in the markets now forming!