Digital Transformation Mar-Apr2019 TheConnection

Using HPE NonStop to Modernize and Compete in the Digital Age

I have to confess as a technology geek, I am fascinated by how we got to now. What came before has clearly laid the groundwork for today’s tech-driven business solutions. Decades of breakthroughs have enabled the speed, accuracy and reliability of today’s business processes that we often take for granted. These transformations have enabled companies to serve customers in new and exciting ways.

HPE NonStop is one of those technologies that has helped companies keep pace with a new set of business requirements. Increased demand for computing power and reliability driven by Big Data, increased mobility, the 24/7 workplace, AI, social media and the cloud – not to mention evolving regulatory policies – all require speed, transparency and flexibility. All of these challenges are being addressed by a decades old technology that is more relevant today than ever.

 

Back Story

Just for perspective, the NonStop solution that we all know was originally introduced way back in 1976, by Tandem Computers Inc. The line was later owned by Compaq (from 1997) and has been part of the Hewlett-Packard portfolio for over 15 years – since 2003. In 2005, the current product line of HP Integrity NonStop servers, based on Intel Itanium microprocessors (TNS/E), was introduced. Then in 2014, the first systems “NonStop X” (or TNS/X) running on the Intel X86 chip were introduced. Simply put, there has been a lot of focus and attention on developing, supporting, modifying, enhancing and deploying NonStop. As a result, it has been helping organizations address business challenges for a pretty long time, especially given the life-span of most technology solutions.

Rocket Software also has a long history helping customers be market leaders by leveraging technology solutions. Founded in 1990, Rocket is a different kind of software company — one where software engineers can shape company strategy and product roadmaps, and where customers are treated as partners and not numbers. Over the years, the Rocket family has grown to include more than 1,400 Rocketeers and nearly 10 million customers that span the globe.

 

 

Much has changed, but Rocket remains committed to helping companies around the world solve their most challenging business problems across a range of industries. Today, Rocket solutions help companies run their critical infrastructure, business processes, and data, as well as extend the value of these assets to create new digital user experiences and efficiencies.

 

Point in time view

The “big picture” reasons why NonStop is still such a powerful solution today are many. Many Fortune 1000 companies have invested decades in capturing and storing data and creating business logic to run on their large systems. They can’t move off of them easily for several reasons. These include the risk of errors or the potential of unexpected downtime associated with touching the source code. Not to mention the fact that these systems are the heartbeat of many of today’s large global Enterprise IT solutions. At the risk of sounding like an economist or even a philosopher, these are the systems that underpin Western civilization. As we all know, they are used to run major banks, insurance companies, government agencies, retailers, transportation and logistics companies, utilities, etc.

Typically, CIOs, CTOs and IT departments avoid any situation that looks expensive, risky or disruptive. And understandably so. The possibility of messing up an existing mission-critical business process always looms large. Not to mention needing to execute any change with zero downtime and on the fly. The very concept strikes fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned system administrators.

 

Today’s demands

But the exciting news is that today, companies have many options for taking advantage of the power of NonStop and other large systems to address the new requirements today’s users are demanding. They want to be able to quickly and easily capture and process the ridiculous amounts of information being generated by the Big Data tsunami. They are getting information from actuators and sensors in everything from robots on the manufacturing floor to workers clothing to supply chain partners – basically across every business process and then some.

Companies want to be able to program new applications in modern languages like Python and Java. Users want to be able to access and manage their NonStop instance from a wherever they are – using whatever device they have handy. Today’s sys admin wants to be able to check the status of their NonStop instance on their smartphone while sipping a mochaccino at Starbucks.

 

Cool kids vs legacy

There is always the challenge of deciding whether to retrofit or go for new. The trade press too often touts the need for a “fresh face” to modernize your back-end systems. Gartner has divided IT organizations broadly into two categories: the “cool kids” group running new technologies, and the legacy group running more traditional large systems.

But the good news for all of us NonStop devotees is that you don’t have to re-platform to modernize. Now, you can leverage decades of investment in highly customized business logic and years of customer-related data because NonStop supports noninvasive approaches that let you extend your investment. At Rocket, we have deep experience helping customers running legacy systems to modernize them – in order to get new value from their trusted platforms and applications.

 

Modern interface design

NonStop customers face many of the same issues that any green screen user faces: user experience. Today, lots of new options exist for efficient and intuitive user experiences that can dramatically improve productivity. Providing mobile access for employees lets them more easily interact with customers as well as address issues which translates directly to a positive impact on both employee as well as increased customer satisfaction.

Another benefit of deploying an updated UX is that it simplifies training needs, which reduces costs and accelerates time to productivity. And from an HR perspective, reducing employee frustration lowers the attrition rate which reduces recruiting and onboarding costs.

Ultimately, use of NonStop-based solutions deliver a range of benefits, not just ones that are tied specifically to the technology. Improvements to broader challenges like training and retention translate into competitive advantage in the marketplace.

 

The power of APIs

Another way to modernize your NonStop solution is to take a different or parallel approach when creating APIs since these can be called like any other RESTful APIs/Services. By focusing on the most critical customer needs, you can build APIs for the most commonly needed functions, saving precious seconds when executing many common use cases. Using the tools you know to create new applications, or more likely create applications that use functionality from multiple applications (inside and out) can provide an entirely new user experience. You keep the up-time and functionality of your NonStop systems, and deliver customers and users new capabilities that meet their needs as they exist today.

 

Leveraging current skills

In May of last year, IBM Systems Magazine in collaboration with SHARE conducted a survey of more than 1,400 IT professionals centered around systems analyst/programmers, IT management, database administrators and other management staff. The results were quite conclusive—a whopping 85 percent of respondents agreed that a large systems skills gap exists and it’s in fact growing wider by the day.

Today, developers working on NonStop instances have the ability to use a drag-and-drop development platform or program in virtually any language while still accessing rock-solid host application code.

One clear advantage to this approach is that it enables companies to capitalize on modern programming languages like Node.js, Python, and Ruby – as well as providing access to the vast market of developers who have these skills and experience.

 

Delivering a mobile, intuitive user experience

A key challenge we are seeing is that more and more customers are looking to move to a Web architecture. Some simple integration between browsers and desktop applications is already possible, like having a browser automatically open a PDF in Acrobat or a spreadsheet in Excel. But the challenge is deeper integration, like connecting with a contact center application to retrieve customer details or running a mail merge process with Microsoft Word. Rocket is excited to be introducing a very lightweight desktop application that hosts a browser session and provides integration with the desktop. You can run your Web app in the client and leverage the APIs for desktop integration with JavaScript. This allows you to maintain the user experience independently from the underlying NonStop applications, and on different schedules.

 

New models for maintenance

And last in the process but certainly not least is the ability to transform maintenance. Using agile delivery on the app side is certainly the typical approach, but evolution of the back-end systems generally follows a traditional waterfall approach. Analysts talk about bimodal development or multi-speed IT – there are multiple names for it – but the main point is that you need a system that will help you evolve both the new front end and the back end in synch. And key to this is a system that helps keep your APIs in synch with any back-end changes you make. Rocket’s strong change management capabilities expand on NonStop’s capabilities, enabling users to evolve their business processes at their own pace so they don’t automatically break any new screens.

 

Closing thoughts

I was recently involved in a project with a large international bank who needed to make a decision about whether to modernize or replace their existing large system solution. They did a market wide analysis to determine what was available to modernize their HPE NonStop platform. There was a group IT conversation about whether to buy a new off the shelf Retail Banking System or modernize the HPE NonStop instance. To satisfy the company’s needs, our team at Rocket carried out an extended pilot that addressed every issue the company had identified. We provided a statement of work with the understanding that if we met all of their criteria, they would purchase the solution. They indeed kept to their word and so did we.

The bank now has a modern, optimized large system that was deployed without any negative impact to their ongoing business processes. They are ready to rock NonStop for decades to come.

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