In this episode, Walter speaks with Andrew Wickett, VP Application Modernization to Cloud at Micro Focus. They discuss cloud options, mainframe migration approaches, factors that determine a project’s risk and duration, and how to prepare for a mainframe migration journey.
Walter Sweat - CTO Astadia
Good afternoon everyone! my name is Walter Sweat and I would like to welcome you to the latest edition of Walter's World podcast series from Astadia.
For those of you who have attended before you know that this is a podcast series related to mainframe migration and modernization where we bring in some of the industry heavy weights to help describe their experiences and their company's experiences to help people who might be considering alternatives to the mainframe.
And today I'm especially excited to have Andrew Wickett who's the Vice President for application modernization to the cloud at Micro Focus joining us.
Andrew is one of the icons in the industry and well known by everyone. So Andrew, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today, based on your very busy schedule.
Andrew Wickett - VP Application Modernization to Cloud, Micro Focus
My pleasure, Walter.
Walter Sweat - CTO Astadia
Thanks so much Andrew, for those of the audience who may not know you yet, could you tell us a little bit about you know your time at Micro Focus and what your current role is and what you do there.
Andrew Wickett - VP Application Modernization to Cloud, Micro Focus
Yeah, thanks Walter/ I've been with Micro Focus next as of next week 15 years. I am now responsible for a new adventure where we've split off our our teams into a an area called application modernization to cloud where we're focused on talking to primarily mainframe mid range customers so basically anybody who's on a hardware platform about moving that workload specifically to the cloud.
So I run the North American team and i've been given the privilege of this new venture and let's just say that we're very, very busy talking to a lot of different people partnering with people like a stadium on multiple projects.
So you know I think there's a renewed interest and I was a partner and reseller just like Astadia let's just say we competed maybe 15 years ago occasionally.
I did that for about 10 years so but 25 years experience in moving workloads to both a distributed platform and a cloud platform more lately.
Walter Sweat - CTO Astadia
Thank you Andrew I just know that throughout the years I've been told, and recognize you as a mentor and one of the icons someone who truly knows what it takes to be successful and helping people move to these new platforms and now to the cloud and interest speaking of the cloud I'd be interested to know if your experiences are like mine.
Do you find today, people who, as they consider alternatives look for moving to on Prem or to the public cloud or to hybrid cloud has that changed over time?
Andrew Wickett - VP Application Modernization to Cloud, Micro Focus
I think that the vast majority of our clients that we're talking to new clients existing clients want to be in a position to be cloud-ready, cloud-enabled. They may or may not take the journey directly to the cloud and may move on Prem or they're just not comfortable with moving their business and some of the data, due to the sensitivity, or the nature of that to a more public cloud, even though they're very, very secure.
And they have all the certifications, you know as an organization and I'll say they're not there yet, but they want to be able and enabled to do that when the organization is done it but I'd say 80%, maybe a little bit higher are actually seriously moving workloads to the cloud as a first step off a mainframe mid range, whatever that is so, still a good platform for a good option for both.
We are seeing the cloud enabled or readiness and we are also seeing people that want to be on a cloud on on Prem cloud, you know, either a private cloud or let's say and as your stack or you know, an AWS you know, in-house version of the cloud, as opposed to being part of you know, the more public cloud, even though it's not really public.
Walter Sweat - CTO Astadia
That makes us, I know, for, for me it was funny eight years ago 10 years ago when we were first working with people if they were ready to do it, the answer was invariably oh heck no I don't want to be first today there's very few conversations, where we have with new potential clients where they're not talking about the cloud in the first couple of sentences so. That can be a big big difference, I think it has been evolutionary.
Andrew for the critical workloads for organizations I'd like to ask your opinion about what you think the best strategy is for moving those critical workloads to the cloud.
I mean, we strongly advocate doing a very detailed assessment up front, you know, look at it application by application from a technology perspective from a business strategy perspective. You know, is this a you know, a core function what's the strategy around that line of business that that application is supporting or.
You know that might be multiple amount of shared data doing a really good understanding of the footprint and the company's desire to say modernize and we strongly believe in what we call them mainframe maturity model where it's a journey some and and having a multiple options strategy is not a bad thing you know we've done assessments some for some very, very large companies.
And application by application - is this something that you want to re host Is this something that there's a package?
Is this something that should be you know modernized completely to say a job or something like that using technology from Astadia using technology from AWS whatever that is sort of application by application so getting understanding that company strategy what technology there is involved, I can you know, Walter, as you know, some of these mainframes running some technologies are not supported or they don't want to maintain it, they can't find the people to maintain it so that also plays a factor in the technology roadmap and that technology roadmap might be let's get rid of this stuff and let's modernize it completely you know.
Absolutely, and as people consider alternatives I'd be interested to know what what you feel the lowest risk and the fastest path is for moving to the cloud based on your experiences.
Again, I obviously I worked for Micro Focus and we've seen clients use multiple strategies, you know the Micro Focus approache is more of a replatform: let's get you in a last PIC environment let's get you in a scalable environment.
Better give you some better development agile development tools, but leave the majority, if not all of the application, as is so since it's more of a lift and shift or a re compile and and re platform only.
The less changes less risk and less testing and less everything so that you know a lot of clients they let's get it over there, take advantage of that savings take advantage of the new environment and then start to go down that modernization journey.
And you know, sometimes that's not an option, but I I believe it's the lowest risk to starting your journey.
And you know i've got clients did this 10 years ago and are still running oOn Prem on Micro Focus and have no desire to do anything, others have said, you know, some of them have eliminated, a lot of their batch some of them have created a whole bunch of web services.
We had one insurance company that didn't have an online presence from a self serve, but once they replied form they introduced a self serve you know where you could get a copy of your policy and get a copy of all the information that customers were calling into the call Center is now more self serve because the the tools in the environment allowed them to do that so.
I think the the less change the less risk, the less time less effort you know re hosting using something like micro focus or any other type of lift and shift is usually the fastest.
It makes sense, you struck on something that I think is really important, sometimes up feel that people want to change for the change sake. But they may have applications they haven't read compiled in the last 20 years and they were working wonderfully.
So yeah maybe it's better to just let them continue to do that and to strategically pick the things that they do want to change. And partners like Astadia ]they give you multiple options, rehost with Micro Focus, re-engineer, you know that's what that's the kind of thing we'd like to do, have multiple vendors, we can work with a partner that strategic and had can help with those multiple options, so that that helps.
I mean, I was with a client who's major organization, you know $8 billion annual sales organization and was in love with Java and was going to convert everything to Java, but then, when he realized that he was going to have to retrain his 2000 customer service centers about a new front end. And they said ok, wait a minute, maybe I'll get there, but maybe we should take a journey as opposed to you know that that he says, I can't present that to the business, you know the cto was like I ain't going there because I ain't gonna you know i'm not gonna be happy they're not gonna be happy with me so.
Those are the things that people have to consider aren't they that you've got to look at the whole picture, not just trying to get somewhere quickly.
Talking about that industry, are there any particular industries or types of customers that you're finding who are more interested today and moving to the cloud.
I'd say it it's evolving, you know we were talking to a lot of insurance companies that had books of business, they acquired and they just wanted to run it on a lower cost platform, we've done some manufacturing major steel company moved everything from the systems that are running the plants, all the way through the invoicing and delivery of the final product. Major supplier of car manufacturers we're starting to see more government, the government Federal Government uptick you know we did a very successful project with you guys at Air Force, and you know we're starting to see a little more of you know, the Godvoverment is getting involved and so we're starting to see a little more federal stuff, so I think that's the uptick but you know it's it's a industry agnostic solution that that we are offering.
More financial services are opening they were the ones that were probably the most reluctant to talk about cloud and they're starting to come to the table, more and more now.
One of the things i'm glad you mentioned, and one of the things we've seen with financial services. A lot of the brick and mortar type financial services organizations who are using technology that's been around for 30 or 40 years as new companies have come in, where they're not tied to that brick and mortar solution, they perhaps been able to be more responsive so leveraging some of the technologies that you talk about where you can pick and choose where you can address the competition more quickly has been really important for the financial tech customers that that we had a stadium work with as well, so it sounds like we have similar experiences there.
Definitely Walter, I mean there are people out there now competing with startups or newer companies that are 100% cloud based, and you know they're you know companies running 20,000 25,000 MIPS of mainframe workloads very happy, very successful, but their competitions running it something that costs 20 cents, you know.
I mean you know 80% lower cost base it's hard to compete.
It truly is, I'm glad you mentioned that to one of the things I wanted to talk about is do you find Andrew that there's a, and I hate to use this word "typical" because we all know how hard that word is to define, but are there any typical savings or return on investment for the companies with whom you work after they've gone through these kinds of projects?
We do I'd say you know conservatively it's at least 60% we've seen clients save up to 90% annually on their on their spend of their IT. The ROI is easily under 18 months, sometimes it's under 12 months that major steel company, you know they've been live for about a year now and we were the sales REP and I went out to meet with them and we said all right, so when we presented the ROI you kind of smiled. Now that you've been live for a year, what you're saying and the guy says it's better you know so he you know in our presentation and ROI in our sales pitch, we were comfortable they were uncomfortable, and now it was actually better so it's like you know we got a ton of case studies, as you do, that that clearly say that you know plan on 75% and it might be better, but it ain't going to be much worse.
That's what we always try to say somewhere 60 to 80% and it can even be better than 80%. Isn't it rewarding though that proof when you go back a year later, and you get to see people actually see that benefit and be able to handle their business in different ways than they ever were able to before just because of being able to utilize this technology like what Micro Focus brings.
I get asked this question a lot as I'm sure you do, and I know it's a tough one, but I'll throw it out there, because I think it's important for our audience, to be able to kind of use your experiences to see what what they could encounter. How long do these projects take, I mean I know that's a wide ranging question, and what are some of the key factors that come into play that help determine the duration of the projects.
Big question. I'd say that people have to understand that it is you know, given a decent sized workload a certain amount of code, you know, obviously, the amount of code, the amount of data, and if there are older technologies that need to be dealt with, like say Assembler, our if somebody wants to get off of Natural & Adabas.
We got a recent project, where the customer says, I have an a master agreement with Oracle I want all my database is going to Oracle so that's more work because they're they're not an Oracle shop today in this application so I think it's it's good to say 10 months is it is maybe a minimum, it could be smaller if it's just a one off application.
You know we've had projects that have taken 18 months some maybe a little bit longer you know we work together at a large auto parts distributor, and that was over a year, but they had a pretty complex environment.
I think it's fair to say that if you if your mainframe contracts expiring in six months, we're probably not gonna be able to help you, but if you know you can extend it a year we could roll up our sleeves and probably get something done.
I agree, and our experiences have been the same, I think the quickest project I ever saw was about six months.To me it's always the different types of technologies as you talk about converting COBOL and Db2 and we are all great at that but it's all the odd things that people put in there over the years that you've got to test and you've got to account for.
And then, ensuring the other components everything else that runs on the mainframe the job schedulers the custom print handling all of the security it all comes into the package of being able to do that mapping is important.
Yeah, it usually comes down to more testing integration testing, making sure all that third party software integration like schedulers security print, whatever they're using that I mean it's not the COBOL and the VSAM and the JCL that are slowing down the timeline, that's usually more on the testing side.
Talking about the time when we were kind of competitors, at one point in time for years, I worked for companies that we chased Micro Focus. And I was always envious because of the ways your products they just worked so well, I mean you get to that core sweet spot and it's it's amazing how easily that transitions from the mainframe to this new cloud environment where you get that same level of performance and consistency and accuracy and what you've got y'all do a a they'll do a fantastic job.
It has evolved a lot, I mean it's been 25 years where we've been moving at least development off the mainframe at micro focus probably more like 30 years now right.
Absolutely. We talked about some of the the ancillary areas, what are some of the other biggest risk areas that you would always talk to people about you need to think about this, you know. For me, a lot of times I talked to someone who's never done a mainframe migration, and I think back to my first one in 1994 when I didn't have a clue what I was doing. And boy did I make all kinds of mistakes, back then, but hopefully I've learned over the years, as we all have, what are the things that you talk to people about about risks that they need to consider.
That assessment up front discovers a lot about the technology, you know, sometimes, as you know, we get in there and they can't find stuff you know they don't have the source code or whatever that is. If there's acquisitions that need to be happen from environment, you need to sign your contract with the cloud provider, you can eat them sign up for say job schedulers. Starting that as soon as possible so we're not the development or delivery teams not waiting for environments.
Start thinking about test strategy, early planning for your test strategy, what do you want to test, where do you want to focus your testing you don't necessarily need to test any everything because you're not changing everything, but what are the key things that we should be looking out for.
Understanding that people have a day job, but this will impact, you know their day to day stuff and they will have to be you know subject matter experts will be needed.
So you know planning for subject matter expertise involvement, make sure your operations teams involved early so that they know you know what's going to change from a day to day running the application get your application developers involved early because their current have a new tool set, and you know you don't want to like throw it over the wall to them you won't get them involved.
There will be a degree of change managing the change is is is a big part of it and understanding what that is and communicating that. We did a large insurance company and they actually assign somebody as a change manager and they put up newsletters they inform the business they kept people have a great set of the timeline. You know they thought they basically went across the whole organization and said here's what we're doing and here's the potential impact to you and where we need your help, so it was a really good way to make sure that the rest of the company, besides the guy who made a big decision and signed all the contracts was aware.
You know it, I think the communication and making sure everybody understands the roles and responsibilities - Oh, I thought you were going to do that, I thought you were going to do that, you know.
We both been in this a long time, you know both Astadia and Micro Focus and we've got a lot of expertise and you know we we refine it every time we do a project, because we always learn something. I think what's key is you know, listen to the experts, hire an expert, you're going to need if you if you already have a partner that's doing your application development and support they're like me they understand what you're doing.
They may not know how to do every host bring in an expert to do a re host and utilize them for there's me and they're going to be the ones who are there at the end of the day when the project stover and you're running in the cloud not me.
And so they have a role to play and it's a big role to play, so just making sure that everybody who's going to be impacted or could help out is aware.
That's probably the key to success, I absolutely agree with you on that.
If you don't mind talking about the cloud providers today from your perspective, are there any benefits or differentiators that you feel between the major cloud providers that y'all work with?
I think you're trying to get me in trouble. We have a great relationship with the three major ones, we meet with them on a regular basis they're different go to market strategies. We are actually even seeing a bit of Oracle cloud pop up we've actually had a client asked us about Alibaba.
So I'd say if you're familiar with the cloud you utilize a cloud provider today, I'll say stick with it, I mean we've got a client that we're both working at that's got a diversified strategy some workloads going to one cloud provider some workloads going to another cloud provider.
I don't know if there's any real differentiators as some of it comes down to you know, some people say that google's better if your data centric some people say that you know if you got teams and you got Office and you're a Microsoft shop, maybe you should look at Azure.
A lot of people have a lot of workload in AWS. I know some people that say you know AWS is some you know, could be a competitor, so I can't really move my workload there because you know that they could they could be a competitor to my different lines of business, I think they're all very, very good.
It's a very it's a very close race and a lot of customer driven we don't get often asked that question by customer said what cloud should I pick.
So it's more they've already have a strategy and they already have contracts, I mean we've even seen clients that said i've already committed 10,000 mainframe ips to this cloud provider now help me get there.
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