Futurum Live! From the Show Floor with BMC’s Mark Wilson at SHARE Dallas 2022
by Steven Dickens | March 29, 2022

Futurum Research Senior Analyst and VP of Sales Steven Dickens talks with Mark Wilson, Director, Consulting Services for BMC about Mark’s role in the company, what they’re seeing from a mainframe security point of view, and how they’re meeting the evolving needs of their customers.

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Steven Dickens: Hello, and welcome. Thank you for joining us. We’re here at SHARE in Dallas for a Future of Life from the show floor. And I’m joined by a dear friend of mine, Mark Wilson. Hey Mark. Welcome to the show.

Mark Wilson: Hi, Steve. Good to be here. Thank you.

Steven Dickens: It’s amazing where two people with this accent can go, right? We can go all the way from the black country back in the UK to Dallas.

Mark Wilson: All the way to Dallas. Yeah.

Steven Dickens: So for the listeners out there, Mark and I grew up about 10 miles away from each other.

Mark Wilson: Yeah, absolutely.

Steven Dickens: So Mark, tell the people watching, tell us a little bit about what you do for BMC.

Mark Wilson: So my official job title these days is Senior Director Consulting Services. So I lead a team, my global mainframe technical team, and basically we go out there and fix things for our clients. It might be a transformation, might be modernization, might be performance, might be security. So we are there, hands on the keyboards, helping our clients improve their mainframes, make them faster, quicker, more secure.

Steven Dickens: And Mark’s too humble to say that you are one of the world’s experts on security.

Mark Wilson: I have a reputation for knowing a little bit about mainframe security. Yes.

Steven Dickens: Obviously a ridiculous backstory and geopolitical landscape at the moment. What are you seeing from a mainframe security point of view? I think you’ve got a unique perspective that’s really interesting. Love to share that with the people watching.

Mark Wilson: I think the thing that’s most interesting about what’s going on at the minute is the amount of change that we see in people’s attitudes and perceptions when it comes to mainframe security. They’re starting to take it more seriously now. When we talk to them about security, you get interest. People are there talking to us, constantly asking us questions. And the engagement level now with the C level execs, when we start talking about this stuff is much better because the mainframe’s not going away. It’s the system of record. It’s where the crown jewels are. And if somebody wants to hurt somebody, technically that’s where you go. Go and get-

Steven Dickens: That’s place to do it.

Mark Wilson: Go and get the mainframe data. Yeah.

Steven Dickens: So as you are engaging with these customers, what’s the requirements? What do they need? What’s the needs? What are we seeing?

Mark Wilson: I mean, we’ve really been driven by two things at the moment. One is skills. So constantly, constantly, how do we train the next wave of techies? You can see people training application developers, but training the hardcore techies… And we’re doing a lot and you see IBM, and BMC, and Broadcom, and all of those automated and making things much easier to do. But you still need people who understand how to fix it when it breaks.

Steven Dickens: And is BMC investing in that? The soft skills, the people side?

Mark Wilson: Absolutely. Yeah. We run a Mainframer in Training program, and basically it’s where we take rural graduates, 16 year olds, 18 year olds, 21, 22 year olds, and we, over a three year period, grow them into mainframe technicians. For our next financial year, we are launching the BMC university. So it’s an internal program where we’re going to bring in graduates, we’re going to bring in what we call the MITs, Mainframer in Training, bring them all together, and over that two, three year period grow the next wave of techies that we need.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. And you mentioned another dynamic. What else are you seeing in the industry?

Mark Wilson: Security’s a big thing. We’re seeing people realize now that the mainframe, to the bad actor, is just another platform. So, we never spoke about ransomware on the mainframe. And it’s a real, real threat. So you now start to see the hardware vendors, your Dells, your IBMs, coming out with hardware solutions. What we’ve now got to do is start wrapping around that the software and the services, to be able to allow us to exploit that hardware. Great technology, but we just don’t know how to use it properly yet. And talking to the CIOs and the CEOs is, “You’ve invested millions of dollars in the hardware, but how are we going to actually use it?”

Steven Dickens: And I always know you have a packed schedule at this event, lots of speaking engagements. What are you talking about specifically over the next couple of days?

Mark Wilson: So, my first session, and it’s at seven o’clock in the morning. So that-

Steven Dickens: What did you do to get that session tomorrow morning?

Mark Wilson: I obviously upset somebody.

Steven Dickens: Monday night, we’re out for a few beers late and you’ve got seven o’clock tomorrow morning.

Mark Wilson: I’ve got seven o’clock in the morning. So the first session I’m actually doing on ransomware. So what would happen to an organization if they suffered a ransomware attack on their mainframe? What would it look like? How would you recover and what are the tools that you need to try and prevent? So, that’s the first one. I’m also doing one on, which probably put a smile on your face, integrity what it means to a mainframer. So that’s an interesting one.

Steven Dickens: Was it a short list and knew that they’d run through it and they still needed somebody?

Mark Wilson: So I got invited to do that one. And then I’m also doing one on data leakage because the view of the mainframe has changed. It used to be the isolated, nobody connects to it kind of platform. Now in ’22 and going forward, it’s ultra, ultra-connected. APIs everywhere, connectors everywhere. I was with Dave Jeffreys yesterday from IBM and he was talking about some of the stuff they’re doing. He said, “Look, we’ve got a connector for everything. This one, this one, this one, and this one.” We’ve got to make sure it’s secure and we’ve got to make sure when we are moving data around, we know where it’s going and there’s other technology to help us, support us and do that.

Steven Dickens: I think that’s a key theme that we’re seeing from all of the conversations that I’m certainly having at the show, and you’re echoing it there. The mainframes are a more connected part of the digital transformation landscape, but you can’t ignore the security and data that’s on that platform.

Mark Wilson: I mean, it’s got to be an open and connected platform. It has to be. You go back to, I’m going to give away my age here, 1980 trainee operator and somebody started in the business. You put a physical terminal on the desk and you ran a cable up to a controller and run the cable from the controller to the mainframe. That’s how they were connected. Not anymore. Yeah. It’s just-

Steven Dickens: It’s somebody’s laptop in a Starbucks connected to a system of record.

Mark Wilson: Yeah. And that’s where you’ve got to start thinking about different forms of technology and where is the person at the time that they’re going to access the mainframe. Well, is at home, or is in his office, or actually nobody’s in Dallas? Is that the right thing to be doing? We started to see technology emerge now to allow us to do that, because security’s not just one solution. It’s a number of solutions all put together, tightly integrated, and the layers of the onion as they call it. And that’s what we have to do.

Steven Dickens: Mark, great summary. Lots going on in the mainframe space. Thanks very much. Thanks for joining us for this episode of Future of Life from the show floor. We’ll see you next time. Thanks so much for listening.

About the Author

Steven Dickens is Vice President of Growth and Business Development and Senior Analyst at Futurum Research. Operating at the crossroads of technology and disruption, Steven engages with the world’s largest technology brands exploring new operating models and how they drive innovation and competitive edge for the enterprise.  Read Full Bio.