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Live! From the Show Floor with Rocket Software’s Phil Buckellew at SHARE Atlanta 2023

On this episode of Futurum Live! From the Show Floor, Futurum Research Senior Analyst Steven Dickens talks with Rocket Software’s Phil Buckellew, President of Infrastructure Modernization Business Unit, during the SHARE Conference in Atlanta. Their conversation covered Rocket Software’s hybrid cloud approach to solving modernization challenges, their broad portfolio and deep technical expertise, and what makes them a viable long-term strategic partner.

It’s a great conversation you don’t want to miss.

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Steven Dickens: Hello. Welcome to this Futurum Tech Webcast, brought to you live from the show floor here at SHARE Atlanta. I’m joined from Phil Buckellew from Rocket Software. Welcome to the show.

Phil Buckellew: Thanks, Steve. Great to be here.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, it is. It’s good to be back in person, right? I think SHARE’s back to maybe 2019.

Phil Buckellew: We had a full house this morning at the keynote.

Steven Dickens: Standing room only. I couldn’t get a seat.

Phil Buckellew: It’s been a great show so far.

Steven Dickens: Congrats on the keynote. Went really well, I thought.

Phil Buckellew: Thanks very much. Really appreciate that.

Steven Dickens: So I thought that, my key to… Well first off Phil, let’s maybe get you to introduce your role on what you do for Rocket. I was so keen to get started there, but maybe let’s do some introductions first.

Phil Buckellew: Sure. I’m Phil, Phil Buckellew, and I lead the infrastructure modernization team at Rocket Software. That’s the group that focuses most on all of our mainframe products and other things that we sell to our big enterprise clients.

Steven Dickens: So you did a great job on the show floor, on the keynote stage, today. I was really impressed. I think what came away most from my perspective was Rocket kind of coming out, being a bit more vocal. We were talking about it off-screen, talking about kind of almost coming out to the mainframe community. You guys have got a solid track record. Is that the right takeaway from me?

Phil Buckellew: Well, I mean, Rocket’s been around for three decades and so most of the folks that have been in the industry for a while, they know what Rocket is and they know all of the things that we do. They may not be familiar, though, with as much of the breadth of the things that we offer because it’s not really just our traditional offerings. We expanded our portfolio tremendously in April of 2021 when we acquired ASG. Lot of different offerings that they have across their portfolio that are really useful for many of our clients.

Steven Dickens: And I think that was a key moment, that ASG acquisition, that’s a few months behind us now. Maybe talk about some of the customer reaction to that has been.

Phil Buckellew: Oh, so far it’s been really positive because clients really like what Rocket’s, what our core values and our heritage is, and they were happy to see more portfolio products that are ones that we can help them with. We’re really focused on solving our clients’ most complex IT challenges, and by having more capability and content management like Mobius and some of the storage products, the security offerings, the monitoring that we do with T-Mob, workload management with Zeke, there’s just a much broader portfolio and being able to bring that to market and continue to provide the high quality support that we’re kind of known for in the industry. That’s something that clients have really appreciated.

Steven Dickens: I think against that backdrop, announced today the KRI piece. Another point on the journey for Rocket. Tell me a little bit about what that brings to the portfolio.

Phil Buckellew: Well, we’re super excited about Key Resources Incorporated, or KRI, as most folks know them. We’ve been working with these guys for a while. They really focus, Cynthia and Ray Overby are known very well throughout the industry for their capabilities in the mainframe space and all that they can do from security. They help clients to standardize their enterprise security managers. They’re able to provide penetration tests. And one of the things I’m most excited about is, Ray’s got some capability to do scanners, to find those hard to find security vulnerabilities in the mainframe that are so important to find, to continue to keep up our reputation as an industry and to be able to do it without all the false positives. So it’s something that we’re really excited about, pushing that out more broadly.

Steven Dickens: And couldn’t be more timely. I think making acquisitions in the securities space makes perfect sense to me. The threat landscape’s probably unprecedented. You’ve been in the mainframe space a while, so have I. I think now is the time, so it makes perfect sense. Was that a driver for you in the decision making process?

Phil Buckellew: Yeah, absolutely, and Rocket’s got a number of capabilities in the security space already, but this is really another level. And the expertise that Ray brings to the table, along with the rest of the folks at KRI, that just allows us to provide a lot more services, a lot more consulting and advice to our clients, as well as the products that can just help keep clients secure, which to your point is one of the things we’re known for as an industry, but something we really have to stay vigilant around in order to maintain that reputation.

Steven Dickens: Mark Wilson says it perfectly for me, “It’s not the most secure platform, it’s the most securable platform.” And I think that your further investment in that space speaks volumes to me. Yes, the mainframes are a very secure platform. Yes, it’s got that heritage and that track record, but you’ve got to continue to invest in securing the platform, got to continue to invest there. Is that what you are hearing?

Phil Buckellew: Absolutely, absolutely, and it’s something that’s important to our clients. We work with a lot of regulated clients and being able to show that they’ve got processes and procedures to ensure that compliance and to ensure that vulnerabilities are found and addressed early in the process. Those are the things that are really important.

Steven Dickens: So tell me a little bit, we talked about Rocket and maybe it’s not a coming out party for a company that’s been so established, but I’m seeing a change of tone. I’m seeing you guys be a lot more vocal about the portfolio and the breadth of portfolio. What’s been the client reaction to that?

Phil Buckellew: It’s been fantastic. Really, it’s something that we’ve had a good reputation with our clients for a long time, but they really appreciate the value we can bring in more spaces than they’ve worked with us in historically. And so being able to come in and consult and data virtualization, but also to be able to understand the data with some of the data intelligence capabilities. Those are areas that are really important to our clients, especially clients that are embarking on some of the hybrid cloud journeys, and that’s really something that they like to see a single company like Rocket, with the values and the capabilities that we bring, come and be able to provide more of a solution across that landscape.

Steven Dickens: You’re the perfect guest. You took me to hybrid cloud. That’s where I was going to go next. We hear a lot about mainframe modernization. I’m not a big fan of that particular term, and you talked about it in your keynote. Modernization without disruption. What does that mean from a Rocket perspective?

Phil Buckellew: Well, you’re right. I think modernization is a pretty loaded term, so it helps to kind of describe, with a little more detail, what you mean in that arena. First, I think it’s important to talk about what we’re not doing or what we’re not advocating for our clients to do. These big bang massive migrations where maybe you try to take your programs that are in Cobalt and move them to Java, and rehost them on an emulator somewhere, that really doesn’t usually give the payout that our clients are looking for. Those that have tried to go down that path have not had much success because they’ll have really elongated time periods. Sometimes they have quality problems on the way out, and those things really aren’t conducive to success.

Steven Dickens: Why take on all that risk?

Phil Buckellew: You really don’t need to. When we say modernization, we’re talking about doing the incremental things that you can to tie your mainframe environment into the rest of your processes. Not just being able to do the workload scheduling like we do with Zeke on the mainframe, but being able to tie that throughout the rest of your enterprise. Being able to hook into application development management, our application development environments and DevOps processes, hooking that through. At Rocket, we support over 20 open source packages. And being able to run those packages on the mainframe is exactly the kind of modernization that gets you out of your old waterfall days and allows you to hook into that modern CSID pipeline. Being able to do storage and have storage that you take your secondary storage and not just land on expensive tape or VTLs, but push it out to object storage. Those are all examples of how you can modernize with a lot less effort, but still get massive value in return, without risking the bet your business disruption that some other approaches take.

Steven Dickens: I think that’s the key takeaway for me. It’s, yes, these platforms need to move forward. Yes, they need to be a first party participant in a hybrid cloud strategy. Yes, they need to be moving forward. Yes, they need to be evolving. That doesn’t mean a rip and replace. That doesn’t mean you need to be taking risky actions to do heart and lung transplants on your core systems. This is, how do you make these platforms more connected to your hybrid cloud strategy? How do you make them more modern? How do you improve the interfaces? Bring in things from an AI and ML perspective to the data, but without taking on all that risk.

Phil Buckellew: And that last part you mentioned is really key, honestly, because there are some really good benefits of public clouds. They have great scale out elasticity. There’s a lot of specialized hardware, which can be really good at the training side of AI ML, but at the same time, being able to have data on the mainframe, virtualize, or in some cases, move some of that data out to those clouds, do that training on a periodic basis. It’s fine to rent those servers when you need them and then get your models, but then running those models back on the mainframe with the rest of your core transactions, that’s really valuable. I mean, the mainframe is able to do 300 billion transactions with one millisecond of latency in one day. That’s the kind of inferencing performance of those ML models, that if you combine that with the rest of your transaction processing, you get the solution you need. It’s scale up, but you also benefit from that AI, while you’ve also benefited from the elasticity and the skills and availability and so forth on the cloud side.

Steven Dickens: That’s a really interesting way to look at it fully. It’s not an either or. It’s a both and.

Phil Buckellew: Absolutely. And we think of it really as the best of both worlds and there’s no reason to make the big disruptive trade-off if you don’t need to.

Steven Dickens: And why take on that risk for what’s probably a benefit, if there’s a benefit at all, that’s maybe five years down the pipe?

Phil Buckellew: Absolutely right.

Steven Dickens: So lots going on for Rocket at this show. What are the key takeaways? What should people be looking out for whilst they’re here? Obviously, stop by the booth. You guys have got a great place to catch people, but what else should people be looking for from Rocket this week?

Phil Buckellew: Well, I think it’s just important for us to interact. We’re interacting with tons of clients. We’ve got tons of sessions. They’ve all been standing room only so far, so it’s been really good to communicate all the latest and greatest things that our teams back in the labs are working on. We really value this show because of the deeper conversations we have with some of our clients and the input we get that drives our innovation roadmaps, and really allows us to continue to push out the kind of solutions that are going to make a difference for our clients. I think overall, working with a partner like Rocket, if we can continue to live our values and reinforce them with clients, that’s the kind of thing that really helps the entire ecosystem progress and move forward.

Steven Dickens: Well, I think that’s a fantastic summary. Thank you very much, Phil. My name is Steven Dickens. You’ve been listening to the Futurum Tech Webcast, brought to you live from SHARE. We’ll see you next time. Please click and subscribe if you like this video, and we’ll see you on the other side.

Author Information

Regarded as a luminary at the intersection of technology and business transformation, Steven Dickens is the Vice President and Practice Leader for Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure, and Operations at The Futurum Group. With a distinguished track record as a Forbes contributor and a ranking among the Top 10 Analysts by ARInsights, Steven's unique vantage point enables him to chart the nexus between emergent technologies and disruptive innovation, offering unparalleled insights for global enterprises.

Steven's expertise spans a broad spectrum of technologies that drive modern enterprises. Notable among these are open source, hybrid cloud, mission-critical infrastructure, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and FinTech innovation. His work is foundational in aligning the strategic imperatives of C-suite executives with the practical needs of end users and technology practitioners, serving as a catalyst for optimizing the return on technology investments.

Over the years, Steven has been an integral part of industry behemoths including Broadcom, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and IBM. His exceptional ability to pioneer multi-hundred-million-dollar products and to lead global sales teams with revenues in the same echelon has consistently demonstrated his capability for high-impact leadership.

Steven serves as a thought leader in various technology consortiums. He was a founding board member and former Chairperson of the Open Mainframe Project, under the aegis of the Linux Foundation. His role as a Board Advisor continues to shape the advocacy for open source implementations of mainframe technologies.


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