In this episode, Walter discusses mainframe modernization benefits and trends, GenAI, automation, testing and more with Mark Reef, Head of Service Delivery at Amdocs
Hi everyone, Welcome to the latest edition of Walter's World, the podcast series from Astadia. My name is Walter Sweat. I'm the CTO here at Astadia and I appreciate y'all joining us once again.
As those of you who have attended some of these before, you know that Astadia has been the industry's largest, fastest growing independent software led services company, helping people move from the mainframe.
We actually just had a change.
We were just recently acquired by Amdocs.
And why I think that's important and why we wanted to have this session today is that today all of our podcast episodes have been about how do you get off of the mainframe, What are the things that you have to think about.
But the things that we haven't been able to talk about really are once you're off the mainframe, what's the art of the possible?
What are the things that might be important to you?
So today, I'm delighted to have Mark Reef, who's the service partner for financial services leader for Amdocs, join us.
Mark has been in this industry for a long time and knows the way that Amdocs has been able to help customers after mainframe migration.
And I'm looking forward to him being able to share his thoughts and experiences with us today.
Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to join us.
My pleasure, Walter.
Good afternoon to you, Sir.
Mark, for those members of our audience who haven't had a chance to meet you yet, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Sure, I'd be happy to.
So as you said, my name is Mark Reef.
I've been with Amdocs.
This is year 25.
I'll be celebrating 25 years with Amdocs in October.
I started my journey in Amdocs back in Israel as a as a testing specialist.
And you know, slowly moved up the ranks.
I moved to the US, to the great state of Texas in 2001, and served at Amdocs at SBMS at the time, which transformed into Cingular, transformed into AT&T.
20 years later I moved out of the telco space into financial services.
We established the Financial Services division and I lead the services service delivery for the financial services division across the Americas.
Thank you, Mark.
And that's a beautiful office you're in by the way, I really enjoyed getting to come visit you not too long ago, Mark, we talked about Amdocs.
Obviously something of interest for our audience is who is Amdocs?
What exactly does Amdocs do?
Well, Amdocs is a is a large company that does multiple things.
Predominantly Amdocs is a software and services provider in the telco and media domain.
But like I said, we are growing our portfolio and we're now in in the financial services domain.
And Amdocs has multiple different layers of services across our portfolio from like I said, the product development and delivery, managed services, cloud implementation and support, customer experience design and implementation and testing and a large multitude of additional SI services capabilities that we have great.
I know Amdocs has grown significantly sometimes through acquisition with this acquisition of Astadia, how is that integration going from your perspective, you know how's it managed, what is your involvement in it?
So Astadia's acquisition is pretty recent then, the integration is an ongoing process.
You know we've had the pleasure of meeting you and your great team and finding the value adds that we can add as Amdocs to the Astadia deliverables.
We think that it's a great, you know we have a great complimentary offering to add on top of what the Astadia does that can bring a lot of value to our customers regardless of if they take just one piece of our offering or the whole package.
You know we have built what we believe is a winning solution for our customers with a library of services that they can pick from.
And so you know our customers get to look at the offering, compare it to the others and then see that in a one stop shop they will get more value, more bang for their buck if they just go with one provider rather than splitting it between multiple different vendors.
I think that's a great point Mark.
I'd mentioned before that one of the things that we at a stadium were excited about this new relationship with Amdocs is that being able to provide customers more options we think is critical and to recognize that a move from the mainframe is one step toward where they want to be.
It isn't the final step.
So being able to help companies who are now approaching a mainframe migration understand all of the different things that can be done, whether it's Astadia, Amdocs or anyone in the industry where companies can rely on people who take them from beginning to end all the way through is really, really exciting.
And that's why for myself,I'm so excited to be a part of Amdocs.
Now to that point, Mark, you know we talk about digital engineering and the things that people can do in ways that perhaps they haven't been able to do for40 years prior to that.
What are some of the things that you feel organization should be on the lookout for in ways to take advantage of digital engineering where they're not just doing things the same way they've always done them before?
Well, I think as you said, you know, being on mainframe prohibits you from certain things that you can achieve, whereas in the modern world of micro services.
And decomposing your code and opening it up in APIs allows you a lot more flexibility with software that you actually produce.
Once you've got off of Mainframe.
When you decompose into micro services, you can add functionality easily.
You can open up APIs and integrate with other applications and other systems that may have been more difficult for you while you were on the mainframe.
Now your data is more accessible, so you can now offer your data to other units in the company or even externally.
You can build, you know, you can expand the offering to your customers by having more, by having better accessibility to your data, analyzing your data you know, and then providing recommendations to your customer based on this data that was once hidden away in the DB2 database.
With, you know, very limited access.
So as you know if you want to you know reduce costs, move to the cloud, there's multiple different things that you can do post the migration with digital engineering and just the modern technologies that we have today.
I'm so glad that you mentioned data.
I'll tell you just my opinion, the freeing of data, being able to get to the new environments where you can work with data in ways that you couldn't before.
Something as simple as moving non-relational data to relational, taking old VSAM and moving it to a relational model.
Is that something that you have seen within Amdocs for your large customers who've started to make that migration that they are actually able to work with their data in different ways than they have before.
And we'll see the positive impact of that.
Definitely we see the customers that have moved their data into more than data lakes or data stores gives them more flexibility to expand their offering to see what their customer pain points are and how to address them in a better way.
And we'll and I think we'll also touch about how Gen.
AI fits into this as well because it also has a significant play on the data, right.
When the data is locked away then Gen.
AI is harder to implement, it's harder to help you, but we'll you know we'll talk about that a little bit later in our discussion.
Thank you, Mark.
I know that Astadia had a managed services presence, as does Amdocs.
One of the things that I've always felt, and I'd love to hear your opinion on it.
If an organization today has someone else running their mainframe and they look to move from the mainframe, obviously they have to be aware and make sure that they find someone who can recognize the environment and support it.
Is it an advantage if people who are doing this migration assistance also have the ability then to run that environment for these companies moving forward?
Without a doubt.
I think that it's very beneficial when we do the migration, we learn the application, the insurance and outs the issues that the application may have.
We understand the new environment that it's going to run on so that we can setup the right parameters to monitor and alert on the system.
And so it goes you know as the learning process is advancing and as we're going through the migration, we learn more about the application and then we are able to address issues that may come up in the post migration in the support much faster than somebody that you know wasn't part of this process has to go back and look at run books or other you know, historical data to try and figure out.
And there isn't much history because it's now running on a new platform.
So when you're doing the migration you have the ability to look at all of these steps as you're running the process you'll pre identify what may become issues in the new production environment and address them in advance something that if you just turn this over to another third party would struggle significantly in that in that part of the process.
I absolutely agree with that, Mark, you mentioned something earlier and it triggered a thought for me.
You mentioned taking these monolithic applications that have been running the same way for twenty 30-40 years and converting them to micro services or whatever the environment is that makes the most sense for customers moving forward.
Is that something that's actually viable?
And you know, is it a goal that companies should look for not to just to be able to save money by perhaps moving off the mainframe, but to really alter the way that they work with their applications and data?
Listen it would.
It would definitely vary from customer to customer, but to me, these old monolithic large systems are very inefficient.
Their code was written a long time ago by people that were very talented at the time.
But technology is advanced and coding is advanced and you want to utilize resources more efficiently.
And there's a lot of pieces of code that you don't need any more in these monoliths that you know you're wasting resources on for no real reason.
When you break it down and you break it into micro services or you containerize it, you can take out a lot of the inefficiencies in the code and so but advancing it and breaking it down is in many cases very it's very beneficial from a performance perspective and also financially, especially if you're going to the cloud, if you can take out pieces that you don't need any more than you'll save cloud resources, you will end up paying less, which is obviously a very important thought for someone to have.
I often use the phrase that the mainframe, as wonderful as it is, it's a complicated beast.
There's so much more that goes into successfully running a mainframe and letting it give you the benefits that you want than just the code and the data.
Things like security.
I'm curious about your thoughts, Mark, on the way people have security set on the mainframe when they obviously need to match that, whether it's from an application point of view or from a systems point of view.
But do they have the ability to extend what they're doing in security on the mainframe in their new landing zone security environment?
Are there things that they could take advantage of to open up the way that they look at security?
I think that security on the mainframe, you know, is pretty good.
I think that in in today's world, there are more and more elements of security that are being added during the coding process and then during the implementation process and also in runtime.
You know, obviously when you're running on the cloud, there's a lot more concern for your data and your code security.
But I think that all of the large providers are provide a lot of tools to improve the security of the applications and the data.
So there's like in all other elements that we've discussed, there's a lot of advancement in technology and it's continuing to grow and continuing to evolve to where you're we.
There's always room to progress and improve the security and the other elements of the application.
I think that in the migration of the code to, to micro services and to all to containerization on the cloud, security is, you know in ACI if we move, especially if we move to a desktop model, security is part of the development process.
We do this, we do the scanning at, you know, at the build time and runtime.
So there's always elements of security that we're adding and improve the process so we take care of vulnerabilities before they get pushed to production.
I love that you mentioned the availability of just in the industry whether it's the cloud providers, the tools that exist are so much more advanced in my opinion today, you know whether it's RACF or top secret or ACF two.
I've seen people do some very creative things with that with those on the mainframe and really maximize the capability of what they do.
The challenge to me has been those people retire and often times there's no one left who understands how to adjust that moving forward, leveraging the security capabilities of the cloud providers in more standard ways where that capability just exists and it's generally well known and it's available and it's extensible.
That's something to me that that I think everyone who's considering alternatives to the mainframe can look at as perhaps a real benefit for themselves.
I definitely agree with that again that that everything is accessible these days.
Everything is almost self-explanatory.
A lot of these things are automated.
A lot of these, you know have self learning to a certain degree where they can identify your code.
They can read your code, find the find the areas of weakness and recommend what you need to be corrected.
And you don't need to have a mainframe, you know developer or you know a COBOL developer or DB2 expert to fix those vulnerabilities anymore because you're on,you're on new technology.
And so you can take a Java developer or you know, C#, whatever it may be, and just address those vulnerabilities.
And then you can rescan.
And if you're not sure, you can rescan again.
It's so much more accessible today to where you shouldn't.
You shouldn't be in a position where you're taking risks before you deploy code to production, Exactly.
I'd like to go back to something that you mentioned earlier and you said we will come back to it.
You knew this was going to come up because it's one of the hottest topics we talk about often and that's about AI.
What's your opinion about Amdocs thought about AI and what it really can mean for organizations?
Well, I you know, like you said, Gen AI is the hottest topic in the industry these days.
Every company is coming out with their version of Gen AI and how it can be used in the industry.
Amdocs has come out with a platform of its own.
It's named the amAIz, a Gen AI platform that is mostly running on open source technology in partnership with Microsoft.
And you know we have a lot of predefined use cases that can benefit our customers.
Like I said, you know predominantly in the telco space, the, you know the initial use cases, but we are developing use cases for other industries.
And you know this is a something that Amdocs is investing a lot in to ensure that you know we are at the forefront of technology and that our customers get the best benefit of what it is that we have to offer in this space.
I think we are at the tip of the iceberg in terms of all that Gen AI can do inthis space of it's one of the most exciting topics that I've seen come along and gosh forever.
So it's going to truly be interesting to see all that, all that can be leveraged there.
Yeah, I think like you said, you know, this is just the beginning and you know, by the time that we retire, you know, you're a little younger than me.
But when we both retire, you know, I'm not sure that there'll be a lot of need for a lot of developers, you know, with hands on, right.
It may be, you know, technology is going to go, you know, far beyond where we are today.
And you know, the Sky's the limit.
We'll just have to wait and see.
But it is definitely going to be an interesting ride.
It absolutely will be.
I'm looking forward to it.
As I know you are talking about Gen AI.
One of the areas that I personally am really excited about in terms of Gen AI's testing because I I'm a big proponent in that you there's no such thing as testing too much adequate testing to ensure that you know things work the way that they need to, that they performed the way that they need to is critical.
I feel and I think that Gen AI has a great deal of opportunity to assist not just us together but this industry in that arena.
I'm curious to know, Mark, do you think that the testing plan that people put in place, if they're doing a migration, are those the kinds of things that when they go to the cloud world, can they can they expect to continue to leverage that transition so that testing becomes a part of the automated process?
Can that work moving forward?
So when they're off the mainframe, they're in a containerized environment with this non monolithic application, can in fact they still leverage some of the testing work that theyput in during that conversion process?
Not only can they, they have to it.
It's mandatory, right?
Testing is the key in ensuring our security and production right.
Not just security from a security perspective, but the safety of our code in production.
The fact that it will run smooth and you know endlessly And so the automation piece that we implement during the migration has to be embedded into the dev SEC OPS process that we will you know that we implement as we onboard these modernized applications onto a dev SEC OPS pipeline and we integrate automated testing for performance stability and the code itself throughout the process.
It is something that is it can't be skipped.
You know and anybody that thinks that investing less in testing is a good idea, you know they'll pay for it in production.
So the more you invest upfront in testing and automation will help you later on as you as you progress with the lifestyle modernization of this application.
Absolutely I agree with you.
I had mentioned earlier that be Astadia when we were alone, you know, we'd like to think that we really helped our customers get to the point of moving off the mainframe.
But we kind of stopped there.
You know, we weren't able to help them with topics like analytics and machine learning and all of the other things that that go along with what you can do afterwards.
What I keep calling the art of the possible, but I know Amdocs has had the experience of, you know, doing migrations and being able to do all those other things as well.
I'm curious for your perspective on should companies be looking at having one company, one organization that does that all the way through or does the classic model of using a particular tool set but having a different integrator, you know, work with that one time you use this integrator, the next time you use another integrator, the third time you use a third integrator even.
Does it make sense?
Is there benefit in having one company drive that entire process for someone?
Well, I can give you multiple different answers on this one.
You know I'll give you the politically correct in the in the one that the company would like me to provide, which is definitely working with one vendor is the right solution and there's multiple different reasons for it.
It's first of all and foremost is accountability.
When you work with one vendor from start to finish, then you have one throat to choke.
You have some you know who you're working with.
You know that this person is responsible this this company or entity that's responsible to deliver your outcome from beginning to end.
They will drive the program, they will monitor it, they will govern it, and you'll have SLAs with them and you don't have to deal with multiple different integrators.
If you bring in additional integrators into the picture now you start to split accountability and responsibility, and now you have to figure out where the fault is.
If there's an issue between the two, now you need somebody to arbitrate between the two.
It starts to make things more complicated if you add a third, you know, good luck.
It's to a point where when you work with a single vendor that has the expertise of delivering complex integrated programs from end to end with a very high success rate.
You know you have somebody to trust a company that stands behind its delivery and does deliver on time and on budget.
So that is the that's the correct answer.
It sometimes would make sense for adding another integrator.
If there were a specific niche need that you know said prime vendor cannot provide, then definitely can bring in a partner.
Still, the accountability should reside with the prime and they will ensure that the part that they bring in delivers on the promises that were made during the negotiations.
That makes sense.
It absolutely does.
Mark, I'd like to ask this question not from the perspective of Amdocs, but in general.
When you would think to talk to a client, what recommendations would you give them to look for about what kind of commitment a company offers to deliver and how should a company demand that there's a successful application of the project milestones?
What are, what are the things that they should actually be looking for there?
That's a great question and again you know it would differ from engagement to engagement.
But I would like if you were asking me to go out and look for a company to partner with, I would say I'd like to see skin in the game.
What are you giving what are your what are you giving back to me to ensure that you will deliver on your promises, right.
How am I going to, you know, we we're in this project together.
It's not you and I, you know it's not two separate entities.
It's now one entity with one goal of delivering outcome.
So what are those?
What are those KPIs going to look like?
How are you going to be measured against them?
And what are the, you know, the, the, the incentives?
I won't call it penalties, but what are the incentives for you to actually deliver on time, right.
Those are the elements that I would go and look for and having skin in the game.
You know, showing that, you know if there are in the incidents where we fall behind, how are we going to make up for that lost time?
How are we going to, you know, because we still want to finish the program on time regardless of how far behind we fall.
So how are you going to make it up to me, right?
What is it without compromising quality?
That's a key, right.
If you're going to make some something up, you have to make it up and still stand behind the quality measurements that we agree on.
So those would be the main things that I would look at if I, you know if you asked me to engage somebody on a delivery program, fantastic.
And Mark, it looks like we have unfortunately reached the end of our time.
I wanted to thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy day.
As I said before, I'm so excited to be a part of Amdocs now and the fact that we can hopefully help our customers do more than we could help them do before.
I'm really looking forward to the chance to get to work with you for a longtime and see what we can do to make real progress in this space.
Walter, it was my pleasure and like you said, I'm also looking forward to this.
I believe that this is a great combination of two great companies which will provide a lot of value to our customers moving forward and you know we will show them what it is to make things amazing.
Great way to say it.
Thank you so much and to the audience, thank you for joining us.
We at Astadia and Amdocs company continue to really enjoy providing these podcasts and I hope you will join us again in the future for the next one.
Thank you all so much and have a great rest of your day.
In this episode, our CTO Walter Sweat speaks with Richard Baird - VP and CTO, Core Enterprise and zCloud – Kyndryl. They discuss typical challenges and needs of mainframe-reliant organizations, the role of the mainframe in the years to come, and how IT leaders can drive value out of previous investments in their legacy systems.
In this episode, Walter meets with Steve Steuart, WW GTM Mainframe at AWS. They discuss main challenges facing CIOs today, key questions when deciding the mainframe modernization journey, the benefits of migrating workloads to AWS, and they foresee the future of the mainframe in a rapidly changing business landscape.
In this episode, Walter speaks with Lance Knowlton, VP Platform Migrations at Oracle. They discuss best practices and lessons learned from working with clients with various modernization needs and objectives. They also explore available legacy modernization options, use cases and critical aspects of business and IT strategies to stay relevant in the market.
Get in touch with our experts and find out how Astadia's range of tools and experience can support your team.contact us now
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