NonStop Under 40 – Operation Support – Part 2

Part 2 – Next Generation Training Plan

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In Part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the importance of grooming the next generation of support team for NonStop Operations. As the new work force is younger, it is important to adapt the training to this new group, instead of trying to force feed “legacy concepts” to them. In order to speed up their learning process, we need a new paradigm based on these three tenets: Just-in-time Learning, Learning by Analogies, and Using Modern GUI Tools

Just-in-time Learning

Just-in-time versus Just-in-case

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Most of the traditional courses familiar to us are just-in-case training, including the ones from NonStop Education. For example, an NonStop introductory course may cover many details about Guardian processes or Pathway environment, whether you need to use it now or not, because just in case… you may need it later in the future.  The result is an information overload. Very little is retained until the situation comes up which actually requires the information long forgotten due to lack of use.

In contrast, just-in-time training provides people with vital information they need right now. The approach is to build an iterative learning process based on an incremental road map that an employee can follow as his skill grows. As such, just-in-time online training resources must be quick, convenient, and targeted to the specific goals and needs of the individuals. As an example, let’s say we want to introduce a new Operation Support team member to one of his basic daily tasks of monitoring the application environment. We may want to start with these basic topics for the person to learn:

  • What programs should be monitored?
  • How do I look at the running programs?
  • What does it look like when everything is running normally?
  • What are some common errors?
  • Where should I look for errors?
  • What information should be collected when reporting an error?

Using these topics, a person can be introduced gradually to the NonStop concepts of PROCESS, STATUS, PATHWAY, EMS, VHS and other logs. But just enough practical detail for the person to get his job done for now. The primary benefit of just-in-time online training is that it addresses the immediate benefits in learning. There is a sense of urgency, as the learning is required for the desired outcome, i.e. accomplishing a task. That makes it easier for a person to learn and to retain what was learned.

Learning through analogies

Easier to learn NonStop using examples

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Analogical reasoning is a powerful mechanism for exploiting past experience in planning and problem solving. Similarly, teaching by analogy is especially useful for learning new technologies by helping a person draw on his past experience to understand the new concepts.

Let’s say you are trying to introduce NonStop to a member of the Corporate Windows Help Desk team, who just asked you: “What is NonStop?”

How would you respond?

(A)  ” NonStop is a scalable, high performance system that has built-in nonstop process pairs and mirrored disks that provide fault-tolerance resulting in 99.9999% uptime.”

(B)  “NonStop is a system built on a cluster of servers (like Windows or Linux) connected by an internal super high speed network that can run different applications written in different languages (like Java or C) and services (like SQL Database, Web server, Directory) with a built-in load balancing capability (like F5).”

Which answer do you think would get a better reception?

Granted that the second answer (B) may not completely convey the full value and features of a NonStop system, but it helps a Windows experienced person understand more quickly what it is, in terms that he is already familiar with.

Here are some other helpful analogies to explain NonStop terms to a Windows person:

Windows NonStop
Task Process
Disk Volume
Folder Subvolume
File type File code
Print Manager Spooler
Events EMS
Command.com or Terminal TACL
Task Scheduler  NetBatch

Using Modern GUI Tools
GUI is more productive than green screens

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Asking a person 35 years old or younger to work with green screens is like asking him to use a rotary phone to make a call. We are dealing with a younger generation that grew up using point-and-click with the mouse, now moving over to touch screen for everything they do. Using a green screen will not be productive for them. If we are to bring in younger resources into the NonStop Operation support world, using GUI and other modern tools is a must.

The good news is that is no shortage of GUI tools for the NonStop.

  • TOP – The Operation Pack
  • MOMI
  • Web ViewPoint
  • Prognosis
  • NonStop ASAP
  • HPE ODBC/MX Manager
  • SQL/Xpress, and many others.

Each of these GUI tools access NonStop data for many uses including Operations Support, and may be worth exploring on your own to identify which tool fits your team’s specific needs.

Here is a simple example to illustrate how GUI tools make it easier to train a new person on NonStop.

How do I see what programs are running?

Windows world: Task Manager

TaskMgr

NonStop world using TOP

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How do I look at the files on the system?

Windows world: Windows Explorer

WindowsExp

NonStop world using TOP:

TOPExp

While these are only simple examples, one can see how a new team member could relate to the GUI display more easily than to these green screen TACL equivalents:

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summary

A well prepared Operation Support team is extremely important to managing a mission critical application environment. As the current NonStop Operation team is “maturing”, it is imperative to start recruiting younger staff, and implementing plans to train and prepare them to learn and support the NonStop environment. With the proper support from management and a good training plan, we can prepare a new generation of Operation Team to continue to provide first class support for critical NonStop applications. The best time to do it is now!

Phil LyPhil Ly is the president and founder of TIC Software, a New York-based company specializing in software and services that integrate NonStop with the latest technologies, including Web Services, .NET and Java. Prior to founding TIC in 1983, Phil worked for Tandem Computer in technical support and software development.

NonStop Under 40 – Operation Support – Part 1

Part 1 – Grooming the Next Generation

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There are good news and bad news in the world of NonStop Operation support.

First the good news: NonStop operation support teams have always been known to be one of the most technical and versatile groups in any enterprise environment. The team embodies a wealth of technical knowledge that is just as critical in ensuring the fault tolerance of the applications as the underlying NonStop hardware and Guardian operating system. They can diagnose and fix issues ranging from hardware, system software, application scheduling, database, network and others.

Now the bad news: Many members of that superb NonStop technical team are either retiring or looking to retire soon. What are you going to do to replace that talent pool? Is there a way to bring in new and younger resources to support your NonStop systems and applications to ensure it will continue to run smoothly?

I believe the answer is: “Yes.” But it requires a new set of considerations.

“Set the right expectations”

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Let’s face it: Any new, young person you are hiring to learn the NonStop will never acquire the same level of knowledge as the retiring members. Why? Because most of the existing team members have accumulated their expertise through years (actually decades) of work experience. In fact, they have acquired knowledge for them to do work that usually require multiple people on other platforms like Windows or Unix to perform, e.g. Safeguard security (Security Department), Database and TMF (DBA), Web applications (eCommerce and Network team), Operating Systems (Architects), etc.

So, don’t expect any incoming new hire to be able to step into those big shoes any time soon, if ever. This is an important point because that clarifies the scope of what you are trying to accomplish with this new generation of team members. But that doesn’t mean that the new team member couldn’t be just as productive in many areas. It just requires some proper planning and commitments. First step is…

“Define the tasks that need to be done”

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While some NonStop organizations have “Run Books” for operation, quite often, they are not maintained up to date. Even if they are, they represent only a subset of activities that NonStop Support team performs on a regular basis. Most NonStop shops will tell you that many NonStop operation activities revolve around dealing with things that come up unexpectedly. Ad hoc events like:

“This application seems to be not responding…”

“We got errors coming out on EMS that we don’t understand…”

“That disk is very busy…”
These tasks require a lot of technical experience to address, and usually we take it for granted that the team knows from experience what steps to follow to analyze the problem. If we are to bring in new members to support Operations, it is important that the tasks be defined and procedures be “codified” properly.  

 I am not suggesting that we go back and create volumes and volumes of run time documentation. But, I believe we should at least categorize the level of operation support work that needs to be performed, so that a new comer can learn to grow into that certain technical level incrementally.

As an example of the “Technical Ladder”:

Level 1 – Basic operations to be functional on the system. Start and Stop jobs. Execute job streams.

Level 2 – What to monitor on the system. Look for error messages. Follow standard recovery procedure.

Level 3 – Handling problems. How to trouble shoot. Analyze performance issues, etc.

There is no one size fits all, and every organization needs to define what fits their environment.

“Have a training plan”

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Finally, you need to commit to training the new comer to do those defined tasks.

Hint: Sending the new hire to standard NonStop Education class does not automatically fulfill your commitment to address this need.

In fact, I advocate that training the next generation of support team members on using the NonStop requires a whole new approach to training beyond standard HPE classes. I propose a new training paradigm that includes: Just-in-time training, Learning through analogies and Modern GUI tools. I will discuss these in my next blog (Part 2) installment.

Phil LyPhil Ly is the president and founder of TIC Software, a New York-based company specializing in software and services that integrate NonStop with the latest technologies, including Web Services, .NET and Java. Prior to founding TIC in 1983, Phil worked for Tandem Computer in technical support and software development.

What is REST Web Service?

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Ten or 15 years ago, when people talked about Web Services, you would immediately understand they were referring to SOAP. But these days, if someone says they have a Web Service interface, you need to follow up with the question: “What kind of Web Service – SOAP or REST? ” In fact,  REST is fast becoming the more visible application interface on the Internet.  This blog provides a quick overview of what REST is, and how it compares to SOAP.

Web Services

Firstly, like SOAP, REST is a Web Service, which by definition provides an Application-to-Application interface. So functionally, REST is similar to SOAP in that it enables a Client application to invoke an operation/method in a Server application . Furthermore, REST uses HTTP and HTTPS as the communication protocol, just as SOAP does. Their differences lie in what is underneath the cover.

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SOAP Web Service

One of the key underpinning of SOAP Web Service is the usage of XML in its:

  • Messaging protocol (SOAP)
  • Description of services (WSDL)
  • Actual data representation (payload)

webserver_flowdiaREST Web Service

Proponents of REST view XML as the major reason to move away from SOAP Web Service because of its verbosity: XML encoded data could increase the size of the message enormously.

So instead, REST Web Service embodies the following:

  • No standardized messaging protocol like SOAP
  • No standardized description of services like WSDL
  • Data are encoded in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation)

REST embraces the adoption of utilizing URL and HTTP protocol methods (verbs) to convey methods/operation.  So instead of using WSDL like in SOAP to convey exactly what the operation is, the standard HTTP verb is used “by convention” to convey what is needed.

UniformInterface

The perceived benefits of this approach are:

  • It eliminates the need of an XML Parser
  • JSON messages are smaller than XML messages
  • It eliminates the client application to understand how to handle SOAP protocol or interrupt the web service description

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These are especially important factors in “lightweight” clients like mobile applications. This can be demonstrated by a simple example below, comparing a REST request with a SOAP request.

request

More to come

Does this mean that REST is always better than SOAP? Is REST limited to only mobile applications or JSON data? What is the significance of using REST with NonStop applications?

We will explore these and other questions in our next blogs.

Do you find this tutorial blog helpful? Let us know what you think, and how we can make it even better. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to our blogs (top right-hand corner of the home page) to get automatic email notification when a new blog is available.

Phil LyPhil Ly is the president and founder of TIC Software, a New York-based company specializing in software and services that integrate NonStop with the latest technologies, including Web Services, .NET and Java. Prior to founding TIC in 1983, Phil worked for Tandem Computer in technical support and software development.

NonStop Boot Camp Technical Sessions 2015

One of the many great things about this year’s Boot Camp is the number of outstanding technical sessions. There were so many exciting topics it became difficult to choose just one when there were overlapping sessions.  I managed to break away from my booth duty (Thanks, Gaby!) and attended some of the sessions. I enjoyed all of them and would like to share with you my positive experience. I recommend that you download these presentations when they become available from Connect.

“Monitoring & Management of 100’s of JVM’s” – Larry Ruch, Pulse

One of the topics on many Java practitioners’ mind is “Java Garbage Collection”, which has often caused concern about its unpredictable impact on performance. Larry’s presentation guides us through the tools and methodology that he uses to manage the many, many JVM’s on  his NonStop systems. Very interesting and enlightening!

“OSS architecture overview” – John Zimsky, HPE

Many of us probably had talked to John at one point or another regarding an OS, Java or OSS issue. John is super knowledgeable and always very helpful.  It was great to sit in his session as he provided a quick overview of OSS architecture and some of its internal structures.

“Java Pathway Server Development using Spring”  – David Wiseman, TELUS

David’s Java presentations are always interesting  at Boot Camps. In his presentation this year, David covered not only  how he build his application on Spring, but also his use of the “Decorator Design Pattern”.  It is great to learn about customers like Telus using Java and modern tools to develop their NonStop applications.

“Jenkins: From Continuous Integration to Delivery on the NonStop” – Meg Watson, HPE

It  is always amazing to listen to Meg’s presentations to learn how she and her teammates have achieved extremely high performance with their Java projects on NonStop. This presentation focuses on the practice of “Continuous Integration” (CI) and the use of Jenkins, an open source tool on the NonStop.  The session was highly motivating and encouraged the rest of us to learn more and do more with open source tools on NonStop.

“Real-world Java Application Tuning on NonStop” – Franz Konig – HPE

Performance has always been important to NonStop Users, and  how to tune Java application performance is an especially important topic. Franz offered some practical tips on how to tune the Java environment, but also reminded us to apply some of the tried-and-true NonStop tuning fundamentals.

“Modernization Through Integration” – NuWave
Gabrielle Guerrera, Dave Belliveau – NuWave. Damian Ward-VocaLink

This NuWave presentation focused on their LightWave REST/JSON product on the NonStop. What made it unusual is that the guest speaker Damian Ward from VocaLink demonstrating a Minecraft game interfacing to NonStop using LightWave! It was refreshing to see the creative use of an API from any platform (including from a game platform) to interconnect with NonStp applications. Really thinking outside the box!

Feedback please

Do you find this tutorial blog helpful? Let us know what you think, and how we can make it even better. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to our blogs (top right-hand corner of the home page) to get automatic email notification when a new blog is available.

Phil LyPhil Ly is the president and founder of TIC Software, a New York-based company specializing in software and services that integrate NonStop with the latest technologies, including Web Services, .NET and Java. Prior to founding TIC in 1983, Phil worked for Tandem Computer in technical support and software development.

Disparate Data Sources and Targets?

Bring it all Together with TIC!IMG_002

As a firm grows, they often find themselves with several computing technologies that have been implemented over time – especially if firms merge with another company through acquisition or partnership. This can lead to technological challenges with data archiving, access, delivery, processing and reporting across frequently disparate hardware and software platforms. That’s where highly specialized IT experts like those found here at TIC come in; with our software modernization solutions to address these requirements – we can easily mingle the apples with the oranges.

Aside from comprehensive consulting services to create unique and innovative solutions for our clients, we offer a comprehensive line of products specifically designed to extend NonStop applications and integrate these with new technology. Our product offerings fall into five distinct categories:

  • Data Flow – designed to integrate NonStop data with other platforms to automate and enhance the delivery of reports and information across the enterprise. Products in this line integrate with a wide variety of communication protocols including web, email, fax and FTP.
  • Gateway Development – enables the integration of legacy applications to operate with other hardware and software platforms including Windows, .NET, SOAP, XML and Web services.
  • Business Intelligence – transforms NonStop report data into multi-dimensional views to facilitate interactive reporting that enables dynamic report building and analysis for better business decision making.
  • Application Modernization – innovative model-driven architectural solution for extending Nonstop applications and integrating with new technology – this streamlined method requires no manual coding and provides comprehensive application generation that is tested automatically as it is created, and conforms to accepted code standardization testing norms.

Since 1983, we’ve been providing our clients’ a comprehensive range of consulting services and software products all designed to keep their NonStop systems current with the latest technology – to best address their business and IT requirements. As hardware systems and software applications continue to evolve, so too do we, to strive to keep looking ahead and moving forward to anticipate our clients’ ever-changing needs. One of the things we’re most proud of is that many of our clients’ have been with us since day one – and we continue to work with them to help address, and meet, the challenges of today.

Feedback please

Do you find this tutorial blog helpful? Let us know what you think, and how we can make it even better. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to our blogs (top right-hand corner of the home page) to get automatic email notification when a new blog is available.

Phil LyPhil Ly is the president and founder of TIC Software, a New York-based company specializing in software and services that integrate NonStop with the latest technologies, including Web Services, .NET and Java. Prior to founding TIC in 1983, Phil worked for Tandem Computer in technical support and software development.

Data Flow Product Suite – ‘Tele’ Technology with TIC Software

Automating &Report Delivery  via Email, Web, Fax and File Transfer

TIC_tools

Tele is a prefix that combines the meaning of the phases “reaching over a distance,” “carried out between two remote points,” and “performed or operated through electronic transmissions.” The ‘Tele’ family group technologies of TIC Software – has been designed for application modernization These Data Flow products are designed to seamlessly integrate NonStop systems with other platforms via format conversion and data delivery – enabling automated processing and delivery of reports and information and keeping the applications organizations running smoothly. Continue reading

Modernization – Our Ever-changing Perspective

From the Age of Enlightenment to Scientific Revolution & Legacy Application

ScientificRev_Legacy

It seems that every generation thinks that the methods they employ are so modern, and that generations past were so old school and out of touch. As technology evolves – and more and more computing power is integrated into our everyday lives – the generation gap seems to widen. Today, we read about cars that one day may drive themselves (a frightening thought), refrigerators that will order food to restock themselves (potentially a fattening thought), and smart houses that will adjust environmental and entertainment settings to our every whim (remember when you actually had to get up to change the television channel).

According to Wikipedia, the basic principles of modernization theory began in the late 1800’s in the Age of Enlightenment with the idea that people themselves could develop and change their society. The origins of this theory are based upon the pretexts of technological advancements, economic changes and social development and the effect they have upon moral and social values and how these lead to continuous progress and improvement in human affairs.

So our ideas and practices that technological evolutions will lead to societal advancement are about two hundred years old – not as modern as we thought! The Age of Enlightenment was also known as the Age of Reason, and was a time when traditional ways of thinking (the caste system and going along to get along) were challenged, and people committed to the betterment of society for all began to question and delve deeper into religion and government. Coinciding with this age was the Scientific Revolution spearheaded by Sir Isaac Newton; when modern theories of math, physics, astronomy, biology and chemistry transformed views of society, nature and their interactions.

The digital age of today with all our “modern” technology is progressing and evolving at an ever-quicker pace. So a state-of-the-art smartphone for instance, will be obsolete in a very short period of time – usually as soon as it hits the market! The same thing can apply to legacy applications – programs developed several decades ago with older  technology, but continue to be used productively today. But these original programs may be inefficient and require a great deal of maintenance. So, in order for companies utilizing this technology to retain their competitive edge, leveraging newer technology, or ‘modernizing’ is advised to increase productivity and reduce costs.  That includes modernizing Nonstop applications to integrate recent hardware advancements such as NonStopX, and migrate to modern frameworks such as Java, .NET and Web Services.  That’s what TIC Software provides its customers -solutions and services to help them benefit from modernization.

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Feedback please

Do you find this tutorial blog helpful? Let us know what you think, and how we can make it even better. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to our blogs (top right-hand corner of the home page) to get automatic email notification when a new blog is available.

Log Management- Planning Ahead Saves Time and Resources

Busy person“I am too busy to plan!”

It seems like most IT professionals today are so busy keeping up with day-to-day tasks, not to mention myriad unexpected issues that arise; that project planning and time management often take a back seat., Besides, “planning” sounds like such an “open-ended” thing that is frequently deemed a waste of time and lost in the shuffle.

 

In fact, a little proactive planning could save a lot of time and stress in the future. And it does not have to take up a lot of time, e.g. like planning how to better deal with production issues. Continue reading

Make Application Modernization a 2015 Priority

Happy2015

Help Your Business (& yourself) with Application Modernization

It’s that time of year again – when our thoughts turn to the holidays and year-end business gets wrapped up. As we turn the page on the calendar and begin planning for the forthcoming year – many of us will make New Year’s resolutions – and the majority of us will fail to keep them. So, this year, let’s make one we can keep that will benefit both our business and ourselves by making our jobs a bit (and potentially a lot) easier – Application Modernization.

Continue reading

Do you know your Modernization Project requirements?

You guys start coding, I’ll go find out what they want
You undoubtedly have seen the broadly circulated cartoon with this punch line. It’s funny because for many of us it comes too close to reality of many projects that are done with very poorly defined requirements. You have also probably seen the famous “Tree Swing” cartoon of requirements drift that has floated around for years.  In this cartoon, a collection of improbable variations on a simple tree swing diverge further and further from the client’s desire for an old car tire tied by a rope to a sturdy tree branch.  Here are two of my favorite panels from “Tree Swing”.

treeswing

Does it have to be this way?  Let’s find out. The usual way that requirements are documented begins in a requirements meeting, often the first of so many. Continue reading