Data centers have rarely existed as homogeneous entities because since the first phone lines were dragged into the data center, “foreign equipment” showed up and those responsible for installing and servicing of the equipment often spoke a language completely alien to those already operating “the mainframe.” Ever since, the data center has never been a homogeneous place and elements could be found that have been bought from a variety of manufacturers. Even as considerable savings were realized by those enterprises carefully weighing their options at every turn, a degree of complexity seeped into the data center that wasn’t entirely anticipated by data center management and exists to this day. This mix of systems may be optimal from a financial perspective but it always comes with associated challenges for all involved.From its early beginnings as a consulting company, DataExpress saw firsthand the challenges created from such mixed environments and simply moving a file from one system to another wasn’t as straightforward as it appeared. When it came to mission critical, transaction processing NonStop systems, there was an accumulation of data required internally and externally – other applications needed to access audit trails and logs, even as government agencies mandated specific information be provided as files. Working with NonStop systems as we were at the time it became an easy transition for DataExpress to move into providing products, with our first product providing secure, managed, file transfer. However, with major inroads by open platforms into the data center, we soon saw advantages of providing a solution for open platforms right alongside NonStop, giving us today secure, managed, file transfer support for both platforms – DataExpress NonStop (DXNS) and DataExpress Open Platform (DXOP). And the sweet spot for both products continues to be with Financial Institutions (FIs).
“DXOP is strong in the financial vertical because the products previous owners moved in those circles” said DataExpress CEO, Billy Whittington. “We do have customers outside of finance but many of our customers were inherited, which means they have been on our software for longer than the 13 years we have owned it. They continue to make use of all of the DXOP features to better support and evolve with the complex mix of systems they have in place in their data centers.” Even as they support different systems with completely different architectures and middleware they are both still called upon to move files internally as well as externally. “The thing about DXOP usage is that it isn’t limited to either internal or external usage. Once installed, it can face either or both ways,” added Whittington. “Obviously when facing externally we would prescribe a Secure Gateway module to sit in the DMZ to protect the core.”
Perhaps, more importantly today, is that both products continue to influence each other as DataExpress works with its customers to add value to both products. “We learned a lot from NonStop’s redundancy to drive developing a more resilient DXOP over the past few years. We can provide configurations now where instances of DXOP cooperate in a way that in many ways mirrors NonStop’s model of primary and backup processes. This has helped immensely with the resilience of DXOP.” Both the NonStop and Open Platform markets will continue to be addressed independently and that is just a basic business decision on our part. It also reflects the reality that today, there are rarely any homogeneous data centers and this will not change in the near term, particularly within the FIs we deal with where funds available for IT are always stretched.
“Another advantage that DXOP continues to enjoy is that when we find a customer with a low budget, we install a basic system providing automation, scheduling and exception notification,” said Whittington. “However, as needs or funding surface from other departments wanting to leverage the services of DXOP, we increase the products footprint, providing additional features license. And of course, we often find ourselves then licensing them a second copy of DXOP as they want redundancy and this is when we turn on cooperating servers giving them something that begins to look like NonStop lite, at least in their file transfer environment!”
When it comes to what DXOP is contributing to DXNS, “The biggest benefit to the Open Platform is the speed with which we can make changes, allowing us to fit customers’ needs faster. This is more because of the technologies used in DXOP vs DXNS. The contribution DXOP offers over our DXNS is that hopefully, when the market is ready, we can plug a DXOP on an open platform such as Linux in front of a NonStop X system and gain benefits both products offer because we know that in many of our customer sites, they are feeding their NonStop platforms with files that sent in via a mix of legacy mechanisms and disparate solutions out in the field – standardizing would make for a much more streamlined process for all parties!” All of which is highlighting that, with the advent of virtualized NonStop and the potential to deploy NonStop applications within a cloud, the likelihood of finding adjacent virtual machines running an open platform will be very high. For this, we are very well prepared and anticipate our customers taking some baby-steps down this path in the very near future.
There is still much that is reminiscent of the mainframe mindset very noticeable within NonStop data centers we visit. Unlike those working with open platforms this mainframe mindset tends to dictate caution and a conservative approach when it comes to embracing anything new which is a reflection of just how seriously all involved with the systems take their responsibilities. However, transformation to hybrid IT – and an even more complex mix of technologies as it brings with it containers and virtual machines – is inevitable from all that we have witnessed of late and being able to provide DataExpress any way you may want to deploy and run your secure, managed file transfers, is a path down which all of our customers will travel. NonStop or Open Platform, you will see DataExpress fully engaged, in the mix, moving the files you absolutely need at the time you just have to have them.