HPE NonStop Blog • 9 MIN READ

Here comes NonStop X and here's to another decade or two, or four, of NonStop excitement!

Richard Buckle

Written by Richard Buckle

It's been a little over a year since the NonStop community heard the news that HP was adding support for the Intel x86 architecture and now the day has come. It's here with the first model, the HP NonStop X NS7 X1 just announced!

What a whirlwind time these past fifteen months or so have been for the NonStop community. From the time the news broke at the 2013 NonStop Advanced Technical Boot Camp that there were firm plans for NonStop to support the Intel x86 architecture, the NonStop community has been abuzz with interest – first selected vendors were invited into HP's Advanced Technical Center (ATC) to validate their middleware and solutions and then select customers were able to validate their own mix of solutions and middleware such that today, as of just a few hours ago, the veil was finally lifted. Yes, the first member of the NonStop X family – the NonStop X NS7 X1 – is now generally available.

"It's been a long journey to where we see NonStop running entirely on industry-standard hardware," said Martin Fink, executive vice president and chief technology officer, HP. "Thanks to the significant investment HP has made in support of NonStop, customers will realize immediate value from the much improved price / performance that NonStop X now provides."

According to HP, the "HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1 with InfiniBand (IB) delivers more than a 25 times increase in system interconnect capacity for responding to business growth, and up to 50 percent performance capacity increase to handle intensive transaction volumes. In addition, the NS7 X1 can add capacity online, with near-linear scalability and no application outage." Furthermore, these new "HP Integrity NonStop systems scale up to 16 NonStop CPUs within a single system (node), each running its own copy of the NonStop OS, and scale out to 4,080 NonStop CPUs on 255 networked NonStop nodes".

NonStop systems, based on industry-standard processors and interconnects has been long anticipated – in the post of November 4, 2013, The real deal - NonStop supports x86! I wrote of how, with the announcement, HP was demonstrating once again for the NonStop community that NonStop "is a timeless architecture," according to HP VP and GM of Mission Critical Servers, Randy Meyer. I also referenced long-time supporter of NonStop and now Intel Corporation's General Manager, Enterprise Software Strategy, Pauline Nist, who reminded me that whatever transpires with future chip products, the Intel Architecture will prevail! So yes, every cause for celebration across the NonStop community.

"In bringing NonStop to the x86 architecture, HP now offers customers a choice between it and the Itanium architecture. Both architectures can be relied upon to deliver resilient business foundation without compromise" said HP's WW Product Manager responsible for HP NonStop systems, Mark Pollans. "What we are announcing today is just the first member of the NonStop X family, the HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1 and it is first available with a 4 core software license." According to HP, the HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1, built on proven HP ProLiant BL460c server blades, is powered by Intel Xeon E5-2600 v2 series processors and supports up to 192 GB of memory per NonStop CPU, with single system (node) memory capacity greater than 3 TB.

"The partner Beta program that we ran during 2014 proved popular and successful. We had all the major middleware and solutions vendors involved so that when our customers began testing, the process went smoothly for all involved," added Karen Copeland, Manager of HP NonStop WW Product Management. "By adhering to strict design methodologies, very few problems were found and the ones that were discovered were quickly fixed and dispatched to the Beta participants. What became clear to all involved was the performance was really great on the new system, so we are expecting the price / performance offered with the NS7 will be attractive for many of our customers. By the way, for any vendors who still need to test their products on NonStop X, we'll continue to provide compilers for free and access to the systems in the ATC until the end of this year."

When it comes to performance there's no doubting that the NS7 represents a marked improvement over previous NonStop family members. The latest information from HP notes that the NS7 X1 is licensed as a 4-core system with up to 50 percent more performance capacity when compared to the HP Integrity NonStop BladeSystem NB56000c also licensed at 4 cores. The NS7 X1 combines the economies of newly enhanced, standards-based, modular computing with the trusted 24x7 fault-tolerant availability and data integrity of the HP Integrity NonStop architecture. Some of these gains can be attributed to the chip itself but the inclusion of IB also helps considerably.

HP called this out in references it has included in its HP Integrity NonStop X – NS7 X1 data sheet made available with today's announcement. "InfiniBand double-wide switches to create the foundation for the NS7 X1 system interconnect. These switches, based on a switched fabric, provide up to 56 Gbps full bi-directional bandwidth for extreme scalability, fabric flexibility, high throughput, low latency, and quality of service. The use of half-height server blades connected by InfiniBand enables the NS7 X1 to double the NonStop CPU density within a single c7000 enclosure."

"The decision to move to InfiniBand (IB) reflects the industry trend to embrace standards even for technologies that, for the most part, are buried deep within the system," observed Pollans. "Having said this, we are also pleased that our IB system interconnect simplifies hybrid environments featuring NonStop X and we anticipate partners will find this capability attractive. Some coming IB features will allow NonStop to have direct and immediate data transfers between NonStop and systems running Linux and even Windows." If IBM's mainframes today include a mix of zOS and zLinux we shouldn't be surprised to see NonStop OS and Linux hybrids coming from HP.

"The development of NonStop X has been the biggest undertaking during my tenure as VP of NonStop Systems Development, and I'm extremely proud of what the team has accomplished. It was an important program that brings our mission-critical capabilities to the Intel x86 architecture. The result is a family of systems that provide customers with the only flexible approach to a fault- tolerant infrastructure with the choice of Itanium® or x86 architectures," said Sean Mansubi, VP of R&D for HP's NonStop Integrity and x86 family of servers, database, and middleware software and solutions. "I am particularly excited about our opportunities to offer hybrid solutions, which are NonStop servers directly tied to other x86 servers running Linux/Unix/Windows via InfiniBand (IB) to create low latency, high performance heterogeneous solutions. We are planning on delivering a Limited Beta Program for partners and customers later this year."

With respect to hybrids, in the post of January 25, 2015, Floating in space, I need a lifeline … I wrote about this topic and that it was part of the conversation I had with Ric Lewis, HP's VP and General Manager, Enterprise Server Business, where Lewis did acknowledge that early usage of hybrid computers based on the x86 architecture that included NonStop were under way. Clearly I am hoping to hear a lot more about that in the coming months and it will be something I will be pursuing in conversations and meetings at the 2015 HP Discover event in Las Vegas. Whatever is made public will likely showcase the potential for NonStop as part of the evolving hub strategies being promoted by many – Intel with its Data Hub and Gartner with its Payments Services Hub being current examples – and the capabilities of the HP Integrity NonStop X – NS7 X1 will more than likely see many HP customers prompt renewed interest in NonStop.

It was only a few days ago, March 23, 2015, that I posted Can you believe it? "Pragmatism trumps spectacle"! In that post I referenced HP Master Technologist, Justin Simonds, who has been championing the Internet of Things loudly, but his observations on the history of NonStop shine a very positive light on the future of NonStop now that the availability of the HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1 has been officially announced. When it comes to NonStop systems, Simonds explained, everyone involved knows of the "very clear mission – to build a computer that won't fail. All our development is in sync with the mission and every developer hardware and software has to answer the question ‘what happens when this fails?' Not if, but when."

Yes, all those years ago, Simonds notes, "Tandem was the first to have no single point of failure. That has been copied. Tandem was the first to have online repair. That has been copied. But NonStop after 40 years is still rated by IDC as an Availability Level 4 (AL4), a full level higher than any clustered system. NonStop still has the lead but many systems are catching up." And then Simonds added with some delight, "That's why I am very happy that we are relooking at Indestructible, Scalable Computing." The history of NonStop has just opened a new chapter but in doing so, completing the move to commoditization as has been forecast for many years by HP leaders such as Randy Meyer, it's by no means the final chapter.

Forty years is a very long time in technology and, by my reckoning, NonStop has been continuously developed longer than perhaps any other platform apart from IBM's mainframe. Certainly, no analyst predicted Unix to decline as rapidly as it has done and Windows, as we know it today, hasn't enjoyed the longevity of NonStop. Having said this, I truly welcome the new customers and indeed, new partners to NonStop systems that this announcement will clearly create – NonStop X throws open the doors to new opportunities to grow the NonStop community. The doors? Well, for me these doors that are swinging wide are the inclusion of x86 not to mention the imminent arrival of hybrids that are inclusive of NonStop.

The whirlwind times the NonStop community has experienced over the last year and a bit is giving way to a new reality – NonStop X. However, it's good to remember that this latest product from HP, the HP Integrity NonStop X NS7 X1, is but the first member of a new family and as such, will likely be joined by many other system offerings shortly. Exhaling, as we may be doing – perhaps even sighing with relief – will be short-lived as this is the start of a journey for NonStop systems that will ensure we will be celebrating another decade, or four.

This blog post first appeared on Real Time View.

Topics: HPE Nonstop

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