Orignal article here : Compuware’s Chris O’Malley Shares His Vision of “Mainframe’s Next 50 Years”Compuware recently named Chris O’Malley as its new president of Mainframe Operations and has charged him with guiding the spin-off of that unit as a fully independent business. Enterprise Executive met with O’Malley—who led the transformation of CA’s mainframe business and most recently was CEO of VelociData, a start-up delivering data transformation solutions for connecting mainframes to Hadoop environments—to discuss his vision for the mainframe’s future and his plan for growing Compuware’s mainframe business as an independent company.
Enterprise Executive: Why would you take on leadership of a mainframe company when the hotter market opportunities are apparently elsewhere?
Chris O’Malley: People who dismiss the opportunities in the mainframe market are unfamiliar with the facts. Mainframe MIPS are on the rise worldwide and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. There’s not a single shop over 100K MIPS that’s even remotely considering retiring its mainframe. It takes a certain almost intentional kind of denial to ignore these market realities.
It also takes a certain denial to ignore the fact that the mainframe’s reliability, security, scalability and performance are unmatched. There’s a reason the mainframe remains the workhorse of most Fortune 1000 enterprises and much of the public sector—and it’s not just inertia. The cloud is a very attractive platform if you want to spin up a sales automation app or a development bed with nothing but your credit card and crossed fingers. But when it comes to the transactional workloads on which the world actually depends, the mainframe remains the only viable platform in the universe. That’s not going to change. And those workloads are only going to grow.
So, I’m a little less interested in whatever technologies-of-the-month are attracting hype and VC money at the moment than I am about investing my time and effort as wisely as possible. And, for me, that’s clearly in a platform that has been around for 50 years— and is certain to be around for 50 more.
EE: You sound pretty passionate.
O’Malley: I am—and I think with good reason. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the mainframe’s role in an increasingly technology-dependent world. Some of that misunderstanding is on the part of outsiders who don’t have a good grasp of the mainframe’s value proposition or capabilities. But some of it is also on the part of mainframe owners themselves, who have for understandable reasons become a bit territorial over the years. So, part of my mission is to help Compuware’s mainframe customers make better strategic decisions about how to optimize the value they deliver to the business.
One point I think a lot of senior IT leaders may want to consider if they haven’t already is the impact of decentralization on their resource allocation strategies. The cloud is allowing LOB decision-makers to acquire more of the technology capabilities they need directly from vendors, without IT’s involvement—at least upfront. In fact, I believe Gartner is predicting that 90 percent of all technology spending will occur outside of IT by 2020.
But the mainframe is the one resource that can’t be distributed to LOBs. So, logically, as cloud-related tech spending gets pushed out to LOBs, the mainframe will increasingly dominate what’s left of the centralized assets under IT’s direct care. This long-term trend has a variety of significant implications when it comes to structuring the allocation of IT resources.
EE: What would those implications be?
O’Malley: One major implication is that, contrary to what many people are saying, this is the worst possible time to start excessively consolidating vendors. A lot of people are just sort of instinctively consolidating their mainframe vendors as a cost-cutting tactic. But you don’t want to think tactically and cut yourself off from potential sources of innovation when what you really need to do is think strategically about the platform and expand your access to mainframe innovation.
Plus, with the extremely critical mainframe-related issues facing IT at the moment, it doesn’t make much sense to expend your limited resources on a migration from best-in-class tools that are really working for you to some lesser products that just got thrown into a deal—and that will wind up eroding the value you get from your mainframe for decades to come.
EE: But isn’t cost control a primary issue with mainframe ownership?
O’Malley: Cost control is absolutely a nontrivial issue. But business functions don’t exist to reduce costs. They exist to generate value. And, over the long term, you’re not going to generate more value by simply re-trenching and becoming complacent about innovation. On the contrary, the winners in the mainframe world will be those who get more aggressive about innovation when it comes to net new workloads, empowering a new generation of mainframe operators, connecting the mainframe to the Big Data world, etc.
Also, excellence in mainframe operations pretty much requires the use of best-in-class solutions—as opposed to simply what the vendor with the broadest toolkit at the moment brings to the table in each functional category.
There are certainly smarter ways to control mainframe costs than opting for functional mediocrity. We have customers reducing their MIPS as much as 20 percent in transitioning workloads to COBOL 5.1. And many of them have found that by doing some good, deep application performance analysis, they can even further reduce their MIPS while actually improving their service levels. I would suggest that this more constructive approach to mainframe cost reduction makes a lot more sense than sacrificing the long-term future of the platform.
EE: So, then, let’s shift the discussion to adding value. How do we do that?
O’Malley: That’s the central question facing mainframe owners. I would assert that mainframe owners could best tackle the overall value challenge by breaking it down into its constituent components. These include the platform itself, the workloads running on the platform, the data residing on the platform, how the platform is managed, how the platform integrates with and complements the broader IT environment, etc. You may not be able to move the needle on all of those components all at once—especially given all the other challenges competing for your attention. But if you tackle those issues in some kind of reasonable sequence, you’re going to find that a couple of years down the road your mainframe environment will have evolved significantly in terms of value delivered to the business.
EE: Can you give us a specific example of a shop that you think is successfully taking this approach?
O’Malley: Sure, there are lots of examples. Royal Bank of Canada is a customer of ours that’s done a great job of extending several of their applications to mobile. And they’ve been able to facilitate this extension by using tools that make it easy for developers who may be unfamiliar with certain applications to readily understand the various data relationships and concepts that any given source file is using.
Another customer, Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance, has done a great job of analyzing code performance issues and quickly fixing the low-hanging fruit. This saved them about $2 million in costs. Just as important, it cut their overnight batch processing times—so they could make sure all batches completed well before their people started logging on in the morning, even as their batch workloads continue to rise.
EE: Would you say these are typical examples?
O’Malley: I think these are good examples of companies that have significantly moved the needle in terms of net present value returned by their mainframe investments. I could cite many other examples of customers doing other things to drive greater value. Each one is somewhat a unique story, because every company has its own challenges and objectives. Sometimes the issue is performance vs. cost. Sometimes it’s shortening batch cycles—which can be tremendously important in a digital marketplace where speed is often a key competitive differentiator. Sometimes it’s maintaining compliance as development is moved offshore or regulations get stricter. Sometimes it’s the extension of applications to web and mobile users.
That’s one of the things that make this market so interesting. Every organization presents a unique opportunity to do something significant for the bottom line.
EE: What do you envision Compuware’s role as being in this long-term effort to optimize the business value of the mainframe?
O’Malley: Compuware is a fantastic company with a long history of innovating on both the mainframe and the broader IT environment. By creating an independent company that is fully focused on addressing the mainframe value challenge, we will be able to be more aggressive about both evolving our existing solutions and expanding our solution portfolio to touch other aspects of the challenge.
We already have obvious strengths in areas such as developer productivity, application performance management and data management. Those are extremely important areas for the mainframe’s long-term value proposition. You have to effectively empower your next generation of developers to succeed if you’re going to build the net new workloads that will make the mainframe deliver increasing returns to the business. And you have to be able to quickly discover and resolve service performance issues across the end-to-end delivery path—including both mainframe and distributed/web infrastructure and code—given the fact that those net new workloads will almost inevitably be driving some kind of application to a potentially mobile end user.
I am very excited about building on these strengths to give our customers even more reasons to engage with Compuware as their mainframe partner for the next 50 years. I’m especially looking forward to surveying our current customers and prospects to find out where they think we can make the greatest contribution to their efforts. I have a lot of ideas myself—but it’s important to align those ideas with what customers actually have on the drawing board. Of course, I’d also like to have the opportunity to influence what’s on those drawing boards.
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