Richard Buckle
March 23, 2015 · 4 minute read

The general availability of the new NonStop X family of servers is only weeks, perhaps days, away and already there’s every indication that some of HP’s blue ribbon customers are well on their way to putting these new servers into production. Based on the Intel x86 architecture, this latest addition to the HP NonStop product line serve notice that systems and infrastructure price / performance costs are about to be given a big dose of cost of ownership reductions which customers have been anticipating for some time. Price / performance is always a two-edged sword – are there really cost savings or is the formula skewed more towards performance – but this time, with the roll-out of a complete family of NonStop X systems, there will be value for the entry-level market as well as the top end.

One market well-served by NonStop, for all of the forty plus years NonStop systems have been shipping, is retail and it is a great marketplace for Big Data to deliver on its promise of greater insight into customer behavior. However, after numerous well-documented lapses in security, are these retailers going to prove reluctant supporters of Big Data or will they double-down on technology? In other words, will they be falling in line with everyone else marching to the beat of Big Data or will they follow a different beat?

Mission-critical Big Data Analytics with NonStop X

On the web site of Multi-Channel Merchant the results of a recent survey were published in the post of March 14, 2015, Retailers Are Marching Toward the Big Data Analytics Cloud. “Retail’s biggest drivers of Big Data analytics in public cloud adoption are cost reduction and agility,” said former Netezza executive and blogger Prat Moghe. “The industry’s thin margins mean retailers typically work with limited resources, including IT staff. There is a strong need for cost efficiency, and committing millions of dollars to support a quickly aging Big Data infrastructure with costly hardware and software goes against that.” Quickly aging Big Data infrastructure? Perhaps a bit preemptive but a fair point all the same – but there’s infrastructure to store the data and there’s infrastructure to analyze the data and with NonStop X, will we see retailers turning to NonStop X to run mission-critical analytics in realtime?

Margins have been rice-paper thin for retailers since the first apples were sold. Turning to the cloud seems logical but is it wise? “There will be some retailers with experience as well as highly qualified staff where reliance on public clouds will not prove all that attractive,” suggested WebAction EVP and Cofounder, Sami Akbay. “I am yet to be convinced that retailers like Target, Home Depot, or Niemen Marcus, will go down this path any time soon given their experiences of late and the hit taken by their CIOs and CEOs. I could see some resource augmentation with clouds, but Big Data analytics is shifting to realtime simply because, unlike any other business model we know of, retailers just have that one chance to sell something extra when the customer is right in front of them!”

A Realtime World for Mission-critical Transactional Systems

This is proving to be the sweet spot for the WebAction platform where correlation of numerous data inputs can be analyzed according to a retailers needs and where their criteria is met, fed back into transactional systems typically found on NonStop systems today. It’s very much a realtime world and for mission-critical transactional systems, access to such data is crucial for ensuring better margins can be realized.

“Like everyone else in the NonStop community, we will be watching how HP handles a renewed interest as well as the possible challenges that will come with the release of NonStop X,” said Akbay, and “an open platform, standard commodity hardware along with the traditional availability, scalability and more so today, security, will certainly attract retailers who haven’t previously had NonStop on their roadmaps.”

“Security is a key barrier to adopting the cloud for Big Data workloads for all industries,” wrote Moghe. “However, retail is less concerned about it. Only 44 percent of retail respondents said the potential for security breaches is a key blocker, compared to a 66 percent average from other industries (finance, tech, healthcare and manufacturing). Retailers have been sharply criticized for being behind the curve when it comes to consumers’ rapidly changing expectations in the age of smartphones and tablets. However, if this data is any indication, the industry is working hard to embrace the cloud and push itself ahead of other industries.”

NonStop X will not only be better positioned in terms of price / performance it will also be a processing staple inside the data centers of many retailers. Pushing everything to the cloud may be just another way of saying they need more of everything for a lot less money but the reality is, what retailers need is digestible information on all who pass by their registers. Safely and securely! And this is something not just playing into HP NonStop’s hands but WebAction’s as well and while there will be those marching to a different beat, the ongoing march towards Big Data will continue unabated.