Mar-Apr2019 TheConnection

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For as long as I can recall the messages developed in support of NonStop systems focused on transaction processing. If the business need of IT was mission critical then it certainly would benefit from being deployed on a fault tolerant line of computers, of which NonStop continues to be the most celebrated. Whether the transactions were sourced from an ATM or POS or were simply text messaged from a smart phone or even the commands given to robots lined up alongside manufacturer’s production lines, they benefitted from solutions running 24×7. In each instance, the cost of downtime was too high to contemplate and, for risk-averse managers, NonStop systems were ideal candidates to carry the burden. And they have done exactly this for more than four decades.

However, the focus of the enterprise has shifted away from traditional systems to where there is a great divide forming. Core / cloud and the edge are emerging at different ends of the processing spectrum and data is being given as much attention as transaction processing. By itself, this doesn’t surprise the NonStop community; the NonStop subsystem TS/MP (formerly Pathway) was joined by the NonStop subsystem SQL/MX some time ago and for good reason – the processing of transactions remains important but the need to capture data is proving to be an even more pressing need. SQL/MX isn’t new and the merits of having an SQL implementation that is every bit as available as any other major NonStop subsystem is as mission critical as the processing of transactions. Expressed another way, the TIME of real time processing is being joined by Data of data base management systems and they have become, in the words of HPE executives, the new currency of business. When HPE describes a digital core for real-time business it talks of time and data becoming the new currency and business continuity is expected.

Recently I wrote of this new currency where I highlighted how HPE is telling today’s enterprises that, when it comes to currency, “Data has become the new gold that backs the value of companies, though it is a gold that companies must locate, mine, and refine before spending. Business has shifted from making things to knowing things, so realizing usable data is the order of the day if a company wants to remain profitable.” Expressed slightly differently, HPE Labs’ Chief Architect Kirk Bresniker expressed it perhaps more succinctly as he explained how, “Data used to be the cost. Now it’s the most interesting potential.” However, in one sense, this has led to a new era of clichés especially for the NonStop community as it wrestles with what exactly this all means, not to mention what will be the ramifications for NonStop.

It was only a short time ago that I talked about this transition to data in an article for a client. IT professionals I noted have begun to enhance the dialogue – “it’s a dataaa world! It’s a dataaa world, after all!” Apologies to Disney for paraphrasing their classic tune from the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, entrenched in every Disney theme park ever since, but the results are similar. There are LinkedIn groups focused on nothing but data – there’s even one small group we know of called Data Driven Apps, for instance. There is Big Data, Data Streams, Data Lakes, perhaps too even Data Puddles (?) and of course, the older more traditional Data Warehouses. There is data analytics and data visualization and a whole lot more – do a search on Google for “data” and you will get more than 10 billion references and that doesn’t even include the Star Trek character, Data. What did they know all those years ago when Star Trek First Generation appeared? And, of course, what spaceship did Data live on? The Enterprise!

However, the elevation in importance of data by itself isn’t telling the whole story. Certainly, our ability to generate data is at an unprecedented levels but it still leaves open the question why all the fuss about collecting and analyzing data. Quite simply, business has asked IT to pivot and to not just tell them what has happened but rather, give them insight into what is about to happen. In a recent Gartner finding, when it came to the subject of the evolution of augmented analytics, what they are calling citizen data scientists (that is, you and me), will use data science as it pertains to being “an emerging set of capabilities and practices. It enables users whose main job is outside the field of statistics and analytics to extract predictive and prescriptive insights from data.”

Predictive and prescriptive insights? Yes, it’s all part of the drive to better understand how data-driven results from working with massive data sets can lead to insights that catapult a business past the capabilities of their competitors. For the NonStop community, this also has the implication of completing the much sought-after feedback loop that let’s business understand more fully the behavior of customers and the trends emerging in the industry. What to build and for whom, a fundamental at any business school now has a way to come down from the whiteboard and into the transaction path where NonStop continues to prevail. Data-driven outcomes is all about having information at hand to back-up otherwise random decision making that in the past was simply referred to as being a “gut feeling!”

Traditional mission critical transaction processors will be benefiting from the analytics being performed on massive data sets in real time and in memory in a manner that is as unprecedented as it is challenging, but is as exciting as it gets. Yes, it all about the data and yes, it’s a data-driven world but miss a key data needle (in the haystack) at a most critical time and that currency you were mining becomes little more than fool’s gold and not that precious gold that has to be continually searched for, dug up and refined before applying to the business. And this is exactly what NonStop systems have been doing for a very long time and the mere fact that NonStop continues to be part of the discussion about the data driven enterprise is simply further confirmation of the value that comes with true 24x7x forever processing and storage capabilities!

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