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Digital: Disrupted: Unleashing Business Application Innovation with the Hybrid Cloud

Rocket Software

November 17, 2023

In this week’s episode, Paul sits down with Phil Buckellew to discuss the benefits of hybrid cloud data management and why the mainframe remains essential to business operations. Phil also shares his thoughts on whether businesses open themselves up to increased risk when integrating with the cloud.

Digital: Disrupted is a weekly podcast sponsored by Rocket Software, in which Paul Muller dives into the unique angles of digital transformation—the human side, the industry specifics, the pros and cons, and the unknown future. Paul asks tech/business experts today’s biggest questions, from “how do you go from disrupted to disruptor?” to “how does this matter to humanity?” Subscribe to gain foresight into what’s coming and insight on how to navigate it.

About This Week’s Guest: 

Phil is the President of Infrastructure Modernization at Rocket Software, a global technology leader that develops enterprise software for some of the world’s largest companies. Phil has extensive experience in transforming organizations to deliver value to clients in financial services, telecommunications, transportation, healthcare, and government. 

Listen to the full episode here or check out some highlights below.

Paul Muller: Do you want to talk a little bit about why the mainframe remains so sticky, relevant, and seems to have a robust future with so many businesses around the planet?

Phil Buckellew: Well, I think there's a couple of reasons. One, the technology on the mainframe has come a long way, and so there are a lot of capabilities from the hardware itself that are somewhat unique and very important. Being able to scale up, which is the ability to handle lots and lots of transactions with really low latency, and at the same time, preserving reliability and security. If anybody's looked at a mainframe, there's always this redundancy built in for networking cards, memory, power, cooling, and all these other capabilities. That’s what kind of gives it the reliability characteristics that companies want. On top of that, it's been around for 40 years—or 60 years, I guess, more accurately—but a lot of the applications that are running the world's finances and keeping the planes in the air and the trains moving, were all built on applications.

By maintaining these systems and keeping that code running, these projects evolved over decades. It's not just writing the applications with all this business logic in it, but it's also working with regulators, making sure that change controls are in place, and ensuring the things that are systemically important to our world are able to function. And so, you get all those things coming together, and that's why the mainframe is an irreplaceable part of most IT infrastructures, and that's why it's had the longevity that it's had. It can do these things reliably and securely and with the availability that's needed for that mission-critical kind of workload.

PM: Yet you believe that it's being relegated or misunderstood when it comes to some of these modernization initiatives that I mentioned at the beginning of the show. It's become something of a blind spot I should say. When it comes to getting the most out of projects like say AI and ML, which are incredibly data-hungry, what are your thoughts on some of the practicalities and politics? I think there's something of a balkanization of it where there are certain people who just look at the mainframe and go, “Look, I don't understand it. I've never learned it's all a bit too hard. I'm just going to forget about it,” resulting in this blind spot that I mentioned. What are your thoughts?

PB: Well, I think that along with the strengths of the mainframe, there are also some weaknesses in place in a lot of people who have been around and working in the mainframe. They're more senior in their careers, and some of them have since retired. Some of the people who wrote the applications that are running the world have left the workforce. And so, you have everyone coming out of school trained on cloud and cloud-native technologies and modern DevOps approaches and not the traditional waterfall-type ways that the mainframe and their applications are historically run. Having worked in the cloud for five years, I saw what it was really good at. Some of the things that are best out of the public cloud are not necessarily what you get out of the mainframe.

But the cloud has weaknesses too. We always fought with noisy neighbor problems because if somebody's using that as a thousand VMs, well that might slow down your credit card processing and that's not great either. We’ve evolved to this state where you've got these people in their camps, and they don't really want to talk to or work with people, which is part of the political problem. The cloud people think everything always has to be on the cloud and the mainframe people think you should never let any data off your mainframe the only place that's safe and secure. So, you get these warring factions between the cloud versus the mainframe.