Recent articles and commentaries have been focusing on where servers are headed. The question resonating with each story is whether or not servers as we know them are losing popularity. Traditional servers, anchoring many applications and highly visible on the floors of data centers, have been central to the daily operations of enterprises around the world. However, increasingly their reputations are being tarnished and their agility denigrated.
Chip manufacturers are seeing a slowdown in enterprise server uptake. That is, those servers packed with peripherals and communications support that up until a short time ago proudly wore a vendor's badge as if it were a car or a kitchen appliance. You bought a Chevy car? You installed a Viking range? But now, rack upon rack of ubiquitous blades, operating in cavernous darkened "warehouses," seems to be how our processing needs are being addressed.
Much of this is a response to the shift to microservices together with enormous amounts of data being generated about which we want to be informed. Enterprises may have to sift through mountains of data to pinpoint a single business opportunity, but increasingly, this is all that is separating successful business from those that flounder and die. Matching these needs with traditional enterprise servers isn't an option that many enterprises are enthused about pursuing even as they acknowledge the wealth of business logic that they have invested in and that is still of value to the enterprise.
We are watching a sea-change under way and I as I write this post I am about to head to Las Vegas for HPE Discover 2016. The opportunity to participate in this event has come about thanks to the generosity of IR who stepped in and paid for my registration and already I have lined up several meetings with key HPE executives and managers. More about this I will leave to a later post to this blog but there's no escaping just how pivotal I believe the HPE Discover 2016 event may prove to be – Big Data, Clouds along with hybrids, virtualization and open source are heavily represented in the program (now available online).
Analytics and particularly the all-important capability to do data streaming analytics in real time even as the data remains in flight together with the ability to provision resources dynamically whenever the need to process more arises, all in an environment that flexes to accommodate, responding as we want it to do according to priorities it determines over time. Thinking of applications running inside a box no longer is a solution, although there are instances where some markets see their Chevy car or Viking range as providing a degree of normality that they can live with. But normal is not the safe choice any longer, and the requirements placed on system managers are escalating right along with the demise of the traditional server.
Servers are not going away. They are simply morphing and like we saw in the 1990s and earlier, the separation between logical and physical worlds is simply moving up to a whole new level. The application silos of the past, created out of a desire to pursue acquisition of "best of breed" and without any clear vision about integration other than perhaps moving a few files around, simply won't cut it anymore. It would be too expensive to maintain and with far too much redundancy! Investments in human capital now outweigh any value that once was anticipated from pursuing best of breed.
Servers are becoming "clouds in a box." More often than not when I walk past a server, whether it is part of an exhibit at an event or deep within a data center, there are already discrete processors performing specialized functions that in turn are indistinguishable from the processors running applications, microservices or not. The Intel x86 is evident everywhere you look but now we have security running on a processor alongside another that is controlling disk access alongside yet another processor supporting web access, next to even more processors running the database.
Whether we accept the obvious quite yet or not, we do have access to clouds in a box and for those who embrace them, the physical world will likely become less important – processors, whether application, database, controller or web and security perimeter-ware, will simply exist as logical entities deployed across an environment that will be fully virtualized. For those businesses that leverage clouds in a box as a stepping-stone to public clouds, this lessening of importance (of the hardware) will be replaced with a greater need for oversight. To the system managers and operators, life will become a whole lot different as the runtime platform will become a lot more complex to monitor even as the skill sets these folks possess today will need to be augmented with new skills.
With a history of multiplatform support, Prognosis can bring the pieces together in a manner that will be a great help to those charged with monitoring applications. Depicting what is in flight and what may be "outside parameters," will continue to look very much as it does today with traditional servers. However, look a little deeper into the visualization and you will begin to see further interactions between layers that have a major influence on the performance, and indeed availability, of the application.
And this is of particular importance to the NonStop users as left unassisted, the application may be at risk of not having the resources it needs at the time it needs them. Bringing down a virtual machine suddenly has ramifications many system managers and operators may not comprehend at first – SLA achievement will be a challenge without application performance monitoring solutions like Prognosis.
Keeping the application "ball" squarely inside the operational "box" as pilots landing on the flight deck of a modern aircraft carrier were taught to do, is not amiss when we leave it to system managers and operators to monitor applications. With so many new variables to consider, simply keeping any application up and running will prove challenging without the right solutions, and fortunately for the NonStop community, there is Prognosis!