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Systems and Platforms: the lines in the sand

Richard Buckle, Cofounder and CEO, Pyalla Technologies, LLC.


RB Apr 21 -1

The editors of The Connection magazine called for articles for inclusion in the March – April 2021 issue on the topic of New HPE NonStop Platform Updates for 2021 and struck me that the reference to platforms might be worth investigating. In conversations with members of the NonStop vendor community there were some difference of opinion as to what was meant by “platform”.

For as long as I can recall, it’s always been the NonStop System, but with virtualization and to some extent, portability then perhaps the NonStop software stack from the OS on up can be better described as a platform. Then again, as I observed, this may be a moot point after all, so long as we see more NonStop being deployed in any way the NonStop user community sees as appropriate to meeting their business needs.

In his update News from NonStop, Senior WW Product Manager HPE NonStop, Mark Pollans, concluded with his own observation of my article with the observation:

“And then we have a bit of a thought-provoking piece where my Ooh’s and Aah’s were coincidently quoted and also encapsulates the HPE NonStop strategy, past, present, and future, as observed by Richard Buckle in his article ‘Systems and Platforms: the lines in the sand.’”

What follows below is the article that found its way into the March / April  2021 issue of The Connection and it is being republished here with the consent of the editor of The Connection. While it is a summary of the major points made in the article, make sure you read the article in full – Systems and Platforms: the lines in the sand.
RB Apr 21- 2

Whenever there is a presentation given by a major IT vendor it is as if they need to provide a glossary of terms once they leave their title page. I cannot recount the number of times that I have seen system, platform and just as often, framework used to describe new functionality. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see this as each IT vendor jostles to better differentiate their product offerings. But seriously? Can’t we all agree on where the differences lie?

When discussing this topic among members of the NonStop community, clarity was not there to begin with: does a term NonStop platform includes the actual hardware?

On the other hand, one prominent software vendor that many members of the NonStop community are familiar with, Hubspot, has come up with this explanation:

“Enter the platform. A platform is a set of software and a surrounding ecosystem of resources that helps you to grow your business. A platform enables growth through connection: its value comes not only from its own features, but from its ability to connect external tools, teams, data, and processes.

“With a platform as the foundation of your business ecosystem, you don’t have to limit yourself to one suite of products – you can add and subtract new applications and tools as your business grows and changes, without having to start from scratch again or deal with messy migrations.”

The conclusion I happen to have reached is that there has been a decoupling of the platform from the underlying hardware. The computer, the I/O and associated subsystems on which we rely for storage and networking (a NonStop System as we know it), comes in only one or two flavors. When it comes to what we find running the core of enterprise systems, IBM may continue with its Power-chip based systems but for much of the rest of the industry, they tend to favor the Intel x86 architecture.

When it comes to NonStop then the hardware indeed is going through a serious upgrade in 2021 as we welcome the arrival of the NonStop NS8 X4 and the NonStop NS4 X4. As much as HPE NonStop Senior WW Product Manager Mark Pollans would encourage us all to express our “Ooohs and Aaahs” each time he changed PowerPoint slides, what is really happening is that the NonStop hardware undertakings are simply following the Intel roadmaps.

If HPE is to be congratulated then for embracing industry-standard technology they should be just as readily congratulated for enhancing the lowest levels of the OS to further decouple the NonStop platform from the underlying hardware to better support virtualization. While very much in its infancy finding an audience among early adopters within the NonStop user community, it is very much a big part of the future for NonStop.

Ultimately, discussing the merits of what constitutes a platform versus a system may be a moot point worth little more than a casual conversation during networking opportunities at an event or symposium. What really matters most of all is that NonStop continues to evolve and in so doing, clearly demonstrates that it is more than just a hardware company. There is a lot more to it than a clever integrated stack or framework provider – with SQL DBS it can claim legitimacy as a solutions provider capable of enhancing any application looking for an answer to its data requirements and for that, yet again, HPE has to be thanked. Forty years on and NonStop continues to deliver and perhaps that’s the best platform update that we will read about all year.

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