Observability and Automation for Your Mainframe Transformation with BMC Software

Observability and Automation for Your Mainframe Transformation with BMC Software

On this episode of Futurum Live! From the Show Floor, The Futurum Group’s Steven Dickens talks with BMC Software’s Principal Product Managers, Paul Spicer and Susan Rice, during the SHARE Conference in New Orleans. Their conversation covered observability and automation for Mainframe transformation, the Mainframe ecosystem and modernization. It’s a great conversation you don’t want to miss.

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Steven Dickens: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Futurum Live From the Show Floor. We’re coming to you from Share in New Orleans, and I’m joined by Paul and Susan from BMC. Welcome to the show.

Susan Rice: Thank you.

Paul Spicer: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Steven Dickens: So, before we get started, let’s just get the listeners and viewers orientated. Tell us a little bit about your roles. We’ve had you on the show before, but maybe let’s start with you, Susan.

Susan Rice: My name’s Susan Rice. I am a Principal Product Manager for the monitoring portfolio at BMC.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. And you, Paul?

Paul Spicer: Yeah. So, I’m also a Principal Product Manager at BMC, and my area is mostly around automation aspects of systems management.

Steven Dickens: So, lots going on in this space. I think we’re pivoting from… Monitoring is probably where we knew it previously to observability. Susan, we’ll go to you first. What are you hearing from customers as you are talking to people out there in the mainframe space?

Susan Rice: More and more it’s the level of data that you have and available to whatever they’re going to use for their observability platforms. They like to be able to have access to anything, and the more you can make it informative, instead of just a bunch of raw data, the better off you are.

Steven Dickens: That data explosion, I can imagine, that’s number of devices, number of processes, number of systems. There’s the hybrid nature to that. Is that what you are hearing from your customers?

Susan Rice: Yeah. More and more, there’s so much information, there’s so much data really that to be able to solve the problems that cause business outages, you have to be able to easily access, not only the high level to point you in the right direction, but to be able to get down into the bits and bites of the situation.

Steven Dickens: You’ve got to be able to go see the business processes right down to the sub-processes within these systems.

Susan Rice: Right.

Steven Dickens: And what are you seeing from an automation point of view? If we’re looking at this kind of whole AI operations portfolio automation… We talked about the volume of data here. The teams are being asked to do more with less. How’s that manifesting in some of the automation space?

Paul Spicer: I think… Well, automation is even more important now than it ever probably has been for all those kinds of reasons. There’s a lot more stuff going on. There’s more complexity. There’s more moving parts. We keep hearing about everyone’s retiring, there’s less experienced people. So, the more of those gaps you can plug with automation, obviously the easier and more effective you can be with the resources you’ve got, given all of the growing workloads.

So, automation needs to be easy to build. It needs to be created. It needs to be some kind of expert that needs to know Rex or some other kind of scripting language. You can’t be writing thousands of lines of code, all this kind of stuff. Automation’s got to be available. It’s got to be easy and simple to use and maintain. That’s a key thing.

Steven Dickens: And you hit the key point there. We’re talking about skills, maybe Susan, we see that from sort of the observability point of view, the sheer breadth and depth of the data. How’s that maybe coming through from a skills point of view, from an observability perspective?

Susan Rice: A lot of times the customers don’t really know what they don’t know. And so, by being able to really put monitoring and automation together in an integrated way, we can point them in the right direction so that we can collect the data they actually have to have for diagnostics and things like that.

Steven Dickens: And you’ve seen the same from an automation point of view, you brought the subject up around skills. I see that as key. How do we get that team to be able to do more? We’re not maybe adding to the team, maybe there’s skills. Some of those skills are aging out. What are you seeing, Paul?

Paul Spicer: Well, as I said, this comes back to… Obviously, automation is making their lives easier by doing things that they’d otherwise have to do manually, but automation can be a burden in and of itself in terms of creating it. So, I think some of the ways you can address that is using tools where you can just fill in the blanks and check boxes, as opposed to having to go and write loads of REX execs, that kind of thing. So, really making it so much easier that there’s no excuse not to automate kind of thing.

Steven Dickens: And having the tools carry the burden, rather putting that burden on people to do that, coding and creating the REX script.

Paul Spicer: Exactly. Exactly.

Steven Dickens: It makes perfect sense.

Paul Spicer: Yeah. Yeah.

Susan Rice: There’s much more important things for people to be able to do than write REX execs.

Paul Spicer: Yeah. For sure. For sure.

Steven Dickens: Gone are those days.

Paul Spicer: Or worse is for someone that’s just joined the team to be trying to diagnose a problem in REX execs that were written 20 years ago by someone that’s sort of long since gone.

Steven Dickens: We joke about it here, and we’re laughing about it, but those newer people to the platform, there’s some of them walking around the trade show. We’ve seen them. Those people have got to come onto the platform and be able to be productive really quickly, be able to add value. Maybe there’s people aging out of the team and they’ve got 6, 9, 12 months to get fully up to speed through shadowing those people. Those are crucial tools that you guys are providing.

Paul Spicer: Yeah, absolutely.

Steven Dickens: So, what other things should we be looking for? Well, let’s maybe talk about some of the operations and observability piece. What other things are you hearing from customers?

Susan Rice: So, more and more there’s a lot of open source discussion, so anything that’s on the mainframe now has to be more open to some of these other platforms. So, either through APIs or… So, that they can easily, with languages they understand like Python, or JavaScript, or whatever, that they can get what they need to be able to create enterprise dashboards or executive dashboards, and be able to get that data always be available and simply, where they can use something they learned in school to be able to access it.

Steven Dickens: Yeah. It’s gone now that the mainframe’s an island. It’s got to be connected to a hybrid cloud, multi-cloud landscape. You’ve got to be able to access it from multiple places, and it puts a lot more stress on these operations teams. You’ve seen the same from an automation perspective.

Paul Spicer: Absolutely. And even tying into the more observability space, as you said, the mainframe isn’t just a silo on its own. It’s connected to all these other components, because the applications are connected. So, you’ve got these multiple levels of hybrid cloud applications, systems management, observability, automation needs to have the same kind of approach. It needs to span those things. So, you need to have visibility and observability into the components that make up applications that span different platforms in one kind of view, and then, say, tying so automation and the metrics side of it together as well.

Steven Dickens: You can’t be having this as an island of technology. It’s got to be part of an overall strategy.

Paul Spicer: You’re only seeing that small, well, the large part of it, but you’re not seeing the other stuff over here.

Steven Dickens: Yeah. There may be a big part of it… Yeah.

Paul Spicer: Yeah, exactly.

Susan Rice: But there’s also… Some of these new technologies that are being moved onto the mainframe like Java and things like that, to the mainframe persona they’re sort of a black box, and if you don’t have the right tools, you’ll never be able to figure out what’s going on within those types of environments because they’re complicated. They’re not native to the mainframe, so even the people who have 30 or 40 years experience don’t know how to look at those things. So, you have to have tooling to help you with that.

Paul Spicer: So, we’ve got innovation happening on the mainframe, but also innovation of how the mainframe’s being connected to that hybrid cloud.

Susan Rice: Right.

Steven Dickens: So, if we were to think of a couple of key takeaways… I’ll come to you first, Susan. What would be a key takeaway from the BMC portfolio in the observability space?

Susan Rice: Our data is easily accessible into multiple platforms with simple API calls, and our monitoring and automation is tightly integrated with out of the box solutions, so that you don’t have to necessarily be an expert to actually get value.

Steven Dickens: Did you practice that answer? That was fantastic.

Susan Rice: No.

Steven Dickens: Same for you, Paul. What would be your one key takeaway?

Paul Spicer: Yeah, much the same kind of thing really. In terms of tools, you need to have the connectivity across all of the different pieces, the open borders kind of approach, which obviously now we have that sort of capability. But also again, going back to the automation again, we have the sort of ability to let you fill in the form, check the boxes, create automation, policy-based kind of things to make it easier to do that kind of thing. So, that’s the message. You need that sort of capability.

Steven Dickens: Well, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground really quickly, but thank you very much for being on the show.

Susan Rice: Thank you for having us.

Paul Spicer: You’re welcome. Yeah. Thank you.

Steven Dickens: You’ve been watching The Futurum Live From the Show Floor here at Share. Please click and subscribe and we’ll see you on the next episode.

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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