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The 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp
I have just returned from the 2015 NonStop Technical Boot Camp that was held from November 15th through 18th in San Jose, California. It was a wonderfully successful gathering of HP developers and executives, customers, and partners. The four days of sessions included almost one-hundred breakout sessions, many of them given by HP. The vendor pavilion was well-populated with 34 partners, and the use of the pavilion area for breaks and meals ensured that there was plenty of opportunity to visit their booths.
I gave two presentations at the Boot Camp - one on Fraud Detection and one on the real availability provided by active/backup systems and the need to go to active/active if availabilities of over five 9s are required. My slides will be posted on the Connect website along with the slides from the other presentations.
Following the Boot Camp, my wife and I took a little vacation and visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. I was surprised to find a piece of my work there - one of the early DataPhones that I developed at Bell Labs for data transmission over the telephone network. See the article in this issue entitled "Modem Memories" for my reminiscences on this bit of computing history.
Please contact us if you have any articles you would like written or if you would like to take advantage of one of our seminars on achieving high availability.
- Bill Highleyman, Managing Editor
In the middle of October 2015, hundreds of thousands of Americans were left without cash for more than ten days. They were not able to buy food or medicine, to pay rents, or to put gas into their cars. How could this happen? They all depended upon RushCards for their money.
RushCards are prepaid debit cards used by people who typically do not have bank accounts. The debit cards are periodically loaded with payroll money and government benefits. A technical glitch prevented access to the funds by the cardholders. Without bank accounts or other financial resources to which they could turn, members of the unbanked or underbanked class faced significant financial stress.
Prepaid debit cards are the only financial means that hundreds of thousands of the unbanked and underbanked have to finance their livelihoods. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has realized, these cards should come under the same protective regulations by which normal debit cards and credit cards must abide. This is still a process in progress, but it is important to protect the interests of the poor who depend upon such cards.
Big Data has changed the landscape of data storage. A company’s data is always precious, and the loss of any of it can be devastating to the IT functions upon which the company depends. With Big Data being stored on hundreds or even thousands of disks, how does one protect that data from loss? Erasure codes are the answer.
RAID systems can provide sufficient protection for hundreds of terabytes of storage. However, with the advent of Big Data, the amount of storage required now far exceeds that possible with even the largest RAID systems. In many cases, the amount of Big Data storage required is measured in exabytes – a million times greater than the capabilities of the largest RAID systems. In a storage system so large, even with the most reliable disks industry has to offer, there will almost always be several disks in failure.
Erasure coding adds to the data disks a set of coding disks that can be used to reconstruct data from downed disks. Extremely high reliabilities can be obtained at a moderate cost. Erasure coding provides reliabilities that are orders of magnitude greater than more traditional methods such as mirroring or RAID.
VMS Software, Inc. (VSI) was licensed by HP to develop and support the OpenVMS operating system in mid-2014. Of major interest to OpenVMS users is VSI’s plan to port OpenVMS to x86-64 servers. This will create a whole new set of opportunities to make economical and powerful use of the OpenVMS operating system.
At the OpenVMS Boot Camp 2015, held in Nashua, New Hampshire, U.S.A. in September 2015, VSI laid out its plans for porting OpenVMS to x86-64. VSI’s roadmap shows it delivering OpenVMS on x86-64 servers by 2018. There is a massive amount of work to do to accomplish this, and many of the features in the new operating system are still being determined. Features under consideration include supported languages, memory protection, virtualization, cloud interfaces, encryption, and databases. VSI initially plans to support HP and Dell x86 servers and possibly HPE x86 blades.
VSI’s planned port of OpenVMS to the x86-64 microprocessor will open a broad market for OpenVMS. With HPE’s port of its NonStop fault-tolerant operating system to its x86 blades (now the NonStop X), VSI’s port will give mission-critical applications another hardened operating system to run on commodity servers.
Data communication has come a long way since AT&T first introduced it in the late 1950s. I was recently taken on a nostalgic trip back to those early days while touring the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. You see, I supervised the development group at Bell Telephone Laboratories that designed one of the very first modems (modulator/demodulator) for the transmission of data over telephone lines – the DataPhone 103. I was amazed to see a DataPhone 103 in a display case in the Museum, and the memories returned.
The DataPhone 103 was one of the first data communication devices offered by AT&T. It provided full-duplex communication at a blazing speed of 300 baud. It took only about four decades for data-communication speeds to progress from a few hundred bits per second to multimillion bits per second. Today’s Internet would not be very useful at DataPhone speeds, though I can remember having to live with those speeds to get my email in the late 1990s. However, every technology must have a beginning, and I am excited to have been part of that beginning.
A challenge every issue for the Availability Digest is to determine which of the many availability topics out there win coveted status as Digest articles. We always regret not focusing our attention on the topics we bypass.
Now with our Twitter presence, we don’t have to feel guilty. This article highlights some of the @availabilitydig tweets that made headlines in recent days.
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© 2015 Sombers Associates, Inc., and W. H. Highleyman