Modernizing without Disruption with Rocket Software – The Six Five In the Booth

Modernizing without Disruption with Rocket Software - The Six Five In the Booth

On this episode of The Six Five – In the Booth, we are joined by Rocket Software’s Phil Buckellew, President of Infrastructure Modernization, for a conversation on harnessing hybrid cloud strategies, enhancing security, and ensuring compliance within mainframe environments.

Our discussion covers:

  • Rocket Software’s approach to aiding customers in adopting a hybrid cloud strategy inclusive of mainframes.
  • Strategies for customers to leverage their mainframe and enterprise data effectively with cloud technologies.
  • Enhancements in security measures by Rocket for securing mainframes and other systems in hybrid cloud IT landscapes.
  • Preparatory measures for compliance with emerging regulations such as DORA.
  • Rocket Software’s solutions to overcoming the hurdles of skills gap, agility, and automation in managing mainframe systems.

Learn more at Rocket Software.

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Steven Dickens: Hello and welcome. You are joining us for a Six Five live In the Booth. Coming to you from Orlando, the SHARE Conference. I’m joined by Phil Buckellew from Rocket. Hey Phil, welcome to the show.

Phil Buckellew: Hey Steve, how are you?

Steven Dickens: Yeah, good. Good to be back at SHARE.

Phil Buckellew: Indeed.

Steven Dickens: They get us around the country. It’s nice to be having some warm weather in Orlando this week. So, good to see the buzz down there on the Expo Hall last night. I thought there was a real vibe to the place.

Phil Buckellew: Yeah, absolutely. It’s great to be here. These conferences are always good. Get to see a lot of folks in the industry and a lot of clients. Good dinner last night. A lot of fun.

Steven Dickens: So, we know each other well, but maybe just before we dive straight in here, just position your role and then we’ll get going.

Phil Buckellew: Sure. I lead the infrastructure modernization team for Rocket Software. This is the team that does a lot of core mainframe assets for us. I’ve been there for a couple years and really excited to be a part of a big, growing company.

Steven Dickens: So, 2024 is a big year for you guys, lots of things going on. We’ve spoken already this year about some of the inorganic growth strategy, but I think we’re focusing in today. There’s some announcements, we’ll come to those, but maybe just provide a bit of structural insight into where and how Rocket’s going to market.

Phil Buckellew: Right, so we’ve been talking to clients and our clients are facing tons of challenges in the marketplace today. Most of the demand for newer solutions revolves around three areas. There’s a lot of focus around hybrid cloud. Clients want to be able to have their mainframe be a part of a broader ecosystem that includes different distributed and public cloud capabilities. Hybrid cloud’s been a big focus, a bunch of asks from clients. We got a bunch of new products and asks and announcements in that space.

Then, there’s a big uptick in security and governance and so that’s an area that we’re focused on. Obviously, a lot of new regulations are in place there and that’s something that’s driving our clients to look for some new solutions. Then, finally there continues to be pressure on expense and needing to improve the performance, lower the MIPS usage of certain applications, but also to address skills challenges. That’s where a lot of our core portfolio has been for a long time and we’ve made some improvements and added some capabilities to really address some of those challenges that our clients are facing as well.

Steven Dickens: So, maybe let’s use that as a structure for the next few minutes. Maybe talk to me a little bit about the hybrid cloud. Some announcements coming out this week. Where do you see that? Because I agree with the strategy. I’m seeing the conversation change. One of my sayings I use all the time is cloud is not a destination, it’s an operating model. I think people have gone from the we’re moving from on-premises to the cloud. That sort of messaging has changed and people now are saying, “I’ve got to maybe connect this thing to other…” You guys do a lot around open. I’ve got to open the platform up, I’ve got to connect it. I’m going to be maybe running more microservices on the platform. All that’s changing. So, where do you see that from a hybrid cloud perspective?

Phil Buckellew: This is probably the hottest space and where we’ve got one of our hottest products, honestly. So many clients value the capabilities that their mainframe has at processing all of those transactional workloads and the data that comes off of those transactions is gold. It’s needed for a lot of real-time analytics. It’s needed for model training, all of these things. Often, those types of workloads are somewhat elastic in nature and so they fit well in that cloud type operating model. Increasingly clients have said, “Can you help us to be able to have the data live in both places sometimes, or to be able to access the data easily from the outside?” We’ve long had assets in the data virtualization space so that clients can have calls from the cloud, come back and pull data back from the mainframe somewhat on an ad hoc or a bulk basis.

What we’ve just started to announce is a new product, Rocket Data Replicate and Sync, which allows you to take those bulk moves but then do the change data capture or to keep that data in sync in near real-time. It’s somewhat differentiated in that you can do bidirectional synchronization. It covers many more sources on the mainframe than most of the competitive set does. It can go many to many and you really have tons of targets. So, a lot of clients need to have that data land in AWS or Azure or Snowflake or in a Postgres database in a distributed environment. Being able to cover that landscape is really making it easy for those clients to have those hybrid workloads so they keep their transactions safe and sound with all the reliability and availability on the mainframe, but then they’re able to benefit from using cloud services for new generative AI or other types of approaches. It’s been really beneficial.

Steven Dickens: That’s where we see the trend. I don’t think it… We’re trying to take down some of those silos, make the platform more open, do a lot of work with APIs, benefit from some of that core transactional data into things like AI, and some of those services that may well live, as you say, on the public cloud. Having the mainframe be able to operate in that type of landscape and there not be the barriers and the friction that maybe there was maybe seven, eight, maybe even longer ago, I think is just key. That’s certainly what I’m hearing.

Phil Buckellew: There are tons of examples of how clients are benefiting from both of those worlds. Our content management portfolio, the Mobius product, allows you to have repos on the mainframe like you’ve had forever, but now you can increasingly have and run those repos on public clouds. That’s beneficial for clients that need to have that data to be able to access to new ways. We’ve got a lot of innovations happening in the storage space, so that instead of having your archive data sent to more expensive DASD or VTL environment, right next to the mainframe, you can pump it off to cheap object storage, which is running a 10th of a cent per gig per month.

Steven Dickens: Put it in the cloud and get the-

Phil Buckellew: And have it, yeah. You get some resiliency benefits out of that too. Those are all areas that are contributing to hybrid cloud, and then we also see a lot of innovations happening in the DevOps space. We’ve been a founding member of the Zowe product with Broadcom and IBM as a part of the Open Mainframe Project. That’s something that we continue to invest in, and so that’s important to be able to have new people, to be able to access information on the mainframe, but to be able to build and have the next generation use things in new ways. We’ve also ported a bunch of open source capabilities over to the mainframe so that you can run those and build new tool chains and pipelines that string together things that are happening on your mainframe with things that are happening in other parts of your environment.

Steven Dickens: I think people don’t give the Open Mainframe Project that credit. What are we coming up now on? Almost 10 years with that. Next year it’ll be 10 years old as an open source project. It’s gone from strength to strength, you guys with Zowe. If we’d have said, what was it, five or six years ago, that people are going to have open source as part of their z/OS environment, I think people were sort of… Are you guys serious? Are you really going to do that? But now that’s part of the normal conversation and those platforms have opened up and you guys have been involved in that from the get-go.

Phil Buckellew: It is, it is. It’s really good to see that continuing to take hold with the clients. We continue to invest. We and the other players in the project continue to upstream changes into those components and it continues to get traction. We’re really encouraged. We’re building a lot of our user interfaces on that code that we’re shipping to clients as well. That allows us to benefit from some of the investments as well.

Steven Dickens: It’s good news all around.

Phil Buckellew: It is.

Steven Dickens: So, you talked about it and I’ll take you back there. We talked about regulation. I’ve seen tracking, what’s happening with DORA over in Europe. I think I was chatting to somebody who’d spent some time in Europe chatting to some of the US banks and they’re also having to be dragged along by that regulatory framework. I think that’s a good regulation in general, but it started to have a real impact on how particularly some of the mainframe shops are having to operate. Are you starting to see that come through?

Phil Buckellew: Absolutely. It seems like the regulators sometimes tend to follow each other as well, so as soon as one has an idea-

Steven Dickens: They share notes. I’m sure they share notes.

Phil Buckellew: Absolutely, and you even start to see some of the same things in DORA that are showing up in the new PCI 4.0 policies. Then, there’s other things that are happening in the NIST definitions which are always precursors to everything else, and so that is turning into a groundswell. I think the thematic point there is that the regulators and the people that are running the mainframe environments can no longer live with the security through obscurity approach that has honestly benefited the industry for decades. Now it’s important to start doing some of the newer types of hygiene that you see on other types of platforms and other environments and embracing that.

For example, one of our hottest products, another one of our hottest products, is a vulnerability scanner that looks at the authorized program facility and all of the different things that are running. The mainframe has some differences on how privileges can be elevated and so forth in the distributed environment. You need different tools than the traditional antivirus stuff that you’ve seen in the distributed world, and so by being able to bring out some capability in that space so that clients can look to make sure that there’s not code that can escalate privileges and have bad guys do things, because the downside of that happening is really, really incredible.

The other area that we’re seeing in that security and governance space is clients are increasingly running open source on their mainframe, things like Git and Make and curl and Bash and all these open source programs. As you do that, that’s obviously very beneficial from having better DevOps pipelines and being able to build and run code and better CICD tools and so forth, but that also means you have to have vendors and other capabilities to get secure acquisition of those packages from secure repos and have a company-

Steven Dickens: There’s work to do, right?

Phil Buckellew: … have a company you can call if there’s a bug, like a log for J type issue in one of those instances that you can fix it quickly. The regulators have picked up on all of that usage of open source, which a surprising number of our clients when asked to go check if they’re running any of those things on the mainframe find that they already are. So, being able to help them by supporting. We ported a bunch of those packages ourselves and being able to support them.

Steven Dickens: You guys have done a great job of that, I think. I think people want to access those tools. They want to get the innovation, they want to harness that and bring it to their mainframe platform, but it’s also where the crown jewels of the data is, so it’s got to be supported, it’s got to be working. You’ve got to know if something goes wrong in the middle of the night that you’ve got to a person that you can call.

Phil Buckellew: Absolutely. It’s not just a security blanket for our clients, but increasingly DORA and these other regulations require you. They require you now to scan your mainframe at least annually and increase. We really believe the best practice is every time you do an install where you’re changing some componentry, you would need to scan it, just like they do in every other part of the ecosystem.

Steven Dickens: It’s moving beyond the regulation and some of the mandated things you have to do and just making it part of your operational processes for good hygiene and the platform. So, the one final area you talked about in that sort of new three-pronged go-to market was around continuing to focus on skills and continuing to focus on cost optimization. Maybe if you could double-click on that for us, Phil, that’d be great.

Phil Buckellew: Sure. So, obviously in the mainframe space, since we’ve been around for 60 years, there’s a varying degree of skills at our clients. There are a lot of late tenure administrators in many of our clients. Being able to lower the skills threshold to do certain activities is really important to our clients.

Steven Dickens: Democratize access to the platform, basically.

Phil Buckellew: Exactly, to make it easier for people that haven’t spent 20 years behind an ISPF green screen to be able to do things that are beneficial for the platform. So, one example is in the CIC space. We built a product called CProf, and it’s a CICS profiler. The gist of it is that it allows someone that’s much more junior in their career to find the problem with your CICS region or your CICS transactions and circle it. You still may need your more experienced CICS admin to come in and fix the problem, but you’re not spending all of their time trying to find and debug and put the red circle around where the issue is. If you can lower that skills threshold and provide tools like that to clients, then that can be really beneficial as people have started to retire out or they’ve seen attrition among that skillset.

Steven Dickens: It gives those more junior CICS programmers and the CICS team a gateway to get in. They can start to add value within the team and build their skills and add value at the same time. So, it’s not that they’re in a three-year skills-gathering exercise. They’re adding value early and starting to grow from there.

Phil Buckellew: Absolutely, and the other area where we see a lot of the benefit is obviously… Well, with that product in particular, you can find performance problems and lower your costs, which is also extremely important. But in other parts of the traditional approach to managing mainframe, workload management or monitoring, that’s where we’re increasingly using AI tools to be able to help diagnose, understand problems, help you find information. We just added some AI capabilities to our dock portal. That’s getting rave reviews from our clients and partners, because they’re able to find things more easily, and so bringing those types of tools, doing predictive AI to be able to see where you’re going to be out of tolerance on a particular transaction that might eat up a ton of MIPS, that’s another example where we’re able to bring value to clients. So, really our investment thesis and what we’ve been listening to clients on is help me find ways to find those problems with less expertise in such a way that can help me to be more efficient.

Steven Dickens: So, we’re here at SHARE. I spent some time on the Rocket booth last night. What would be those key three or four things that… Let’s keep it nice and tight, but what would be those maybe three things that people should be taking away from Rocket’s attendance at SHARE this week?

Phil Buckellew: Well, first of all, the big picture is that Rocket is a company that’s focused on helping you to modernize your environment. We are supporters. We are avid supporters of the mainframe environment, and we’re also working to help you modernize your business with everything that’s touching and interacting with that mainframe. So, if you’ve got problems or challenges in that area, we want to talk to you, because we really think the solutions that we’ve brought to market and that we’re bringing to market and that we will continue to acquire and bring to market are the kinds of solutions that are going to really help there.

The second key piece is, look, the world, especially the regulatory environment around us, is very dynamic. It’s changing and you’re no longer going to be able to let the mainframe slide in some regards to some aspects of the security and compliance frameworks. So, helping to shore up with the tooling, the processes, the procedures that you have to make sure that environment is safe and secure, that’s another big core area where we can help.

Then, finally, if you’ve got challenges with needing to optimize batch workloads or CICS programs or other parts of your stack, we’d love to talk to you as well because those are areas where we think we can help to find problems. Also, lowering skills thresholds and any of that investment money that’s freed up can usually be spent to help on some of those other challenging areas that are tending to eat up budgets as well.

Steven Dickens: Well, that’s three great reasons to stop by the booth and really enjoyed the conversation. 2024 is going to be a big year for Rocket, some good things planned. Really great to spend some time and get a view into how you are structuring the go to market. Thanks as always, Phil.

Phil Buckellew: Thanks, Steven.

Steven Dickens: You’ve been watching us here at SHARE in Orlando. Please click and subscribe and do all those things and we’ll see you on the next episode. Thanks very much for watching.

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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