Futurum Live! From the Show Floor with Kyndryl at the SHARE Conference Columbus 2022
by Steven Dickens | September 7, 2022

Futurum Research Senior Analyst and VP of Sales Steven Dickens talks with Kyndryl’s Richard Baird, VP, CTO and Engineering Lead, Core Enterprise and zCloud, and Jonathan P. Dietz, VP, Core Enterprise and zCloud U.S. Practice Leader, during the SHARE Conference in Columbus. Their conversation explored Kyndryl’s growth trajectory over the last year, their focus on building alliances, and what they are doing to modernize the mainframe platform.

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Steven Dickens: Hello, and welcome to the Futurum Tech Webcast, brought to you live from the show floor here at SHARE Columbus. I’m joined by the team from Kyndryl. Let’s introduce ourselves, who have we got on the show?

Richard Baird: Hi, my name’s Richard Baird. I’m the CTO in Kyndryl for anything to do with mainframes.

Jonathan Dietz: And I’m Jonathan Dietz. I am the US practice leader for all things mainframe and zCloud.

Steven Dickens: Excellent. So Kyndral, I like to think of it as the largest startup. You guys are still relatively new to the market. Tell us a little bit about Kyndryl first before we dive in here.

Richard Baird: All right. For those of you who didn’t know, Kyndryl was the spin out from IBM, back end of last year. We are the largest managed service provider, about 19 billion worth of IPO. And although we were part of IBM in the past, we are now very different. We’re not a little IBM, we are completely spun out. We do our own thing. We cut our own alliances. We build relationships with whoever we want.

Steven Dickens: And that’s been the key takeaway. I’ve been tracking you guys, we’ve been looking at the Kyndryl business for a while now. We wrote a market insight report pretty much as the spin happened. We’ve been covering the partnerships.

I think if I look at the last sort of 12 months of the Kyndryl history, that’s been a key theme, that transition away from being part of IBM, cementing those relationships with new vendors and new go-to-market partners. What’s that meant in the mainframe space, maybe give us some?

Jonathan Dietz: Well, I mean, for me, when we look at everything that we’re trying to do with the mainframes and all of this separating from IBM, the key things are three A’s. We’re trying to get to the alliances, we’ve just been talking about that and how we’re able to go and do things with partners and create these alliances that we couldn’t do before. So that’s the real exciting part for us.

And then working with our accounts, account focus, how can we make those accounts better. Better for the clients, better for Kyndryl, better overall. And then advanced delivery, how do we drive automation, drive education and free ups, so that we can get people into careers that they want to do, which makes it better for our clients.

Steven Dickens: Let’s maybe drill down on those three A’s, ask you some questions there. So those alliances, there’s obviously IBM in the software space and the hardware space from a mainframe point of view. But you’ve got the likes of Broadcom, you’ve got the likes of Rocket Software. You’ve got all the different vendors, BMC, in that space.

How are you interacting with those new software partnerships that’s maybe different to what it was once when you were part of IBM?

Richard Baird: For us it’s not just the mainframe software players that we deal with, we’ve got our alliances with the likes of Microsoft and Google and AWS, as well as other software vendors that play in this space. Because Kyndryl, as we said last time we were here, we have a view that says we put the right workload on the right platform.

And so yes, it does mean obviously we still do a ton of stuff on the mainframe and we’ll continue to do it because the mainframe is still key to so many businesses, but the world of hybrid cloud, where you’ve got any of the hyperscalers coming to play, we have to do integration with them. We do modernization with them. We do modernization on the platform, so you can use and exploit all the new fancy features that are coming from IBM or Broadcom or BMC or whoever. As well as integrate and use the features and functions from any of the hyperscalers or anybody on a distributed platform. Mainframe is a key part of anybody’s hybrid cloud, and we can make it happen with the partnerships we got.

Steven Dickens: Couple of things there that you mentioned that are really interesting for me. You talked about hybrid cloud, you talked about modernization. What are you hearing from clients as they talked about those terms? I think they’re broad terms and I think they’re getting discussed a lot in the industry right now. Modernization, I think if I was to ask 10 mainframers I think I’d get 11 different examples of what that means. What are you hearing from clients, what’s the feedback?

Jonathan Dietz: Well, I mean, I think that the clients are trying to … One, they want the right platforms. And they’re a little nervous as what’s going on within the different parts of the industry. The key thing is for us to be able to get them to they can look at what is the business problem they’re trying to solve. And then we have now the capability, because of these alliances and the work that we’ve been able to do to train our employees, we can bring them people that are not just a mainframe expert, but they’ve also studied and they worked on Google, they worked on Azure, they worked on these platforms.

We can bring that singular person to the table to help the client make a business decision that’s best for them. And that’s the whole thing, is they get everybody to calm down and solve the business problem, versus reacting to what’s going on in the press.

Steven Dickens: And I think you mentioned it perfectly with what’s the right platform for the right workload. I think certainly that’s our perspective here at Futurum Research, if we can decouple from the hype and the noise and engage your client in a thought process around, “What are some of your nonfunctional requirements? What’s that line of business asking for? What is the business requirements that you spoke about and how do they align?” And then let’s make some platform choices. Is that what you are seeing?

Richard Baird: That’s what we see. And the other thing is, the industry has overloaded the word “modernization,” as you alluded to. And so with a customer, we tend to step back and say, “What do you actually really want to do to solve your business problem?”

So modernization for us can be one of actually three very simple words, it’s on, with, and off. Modernization on the platform, you can be taking some of your existing applications, bringing them up to latest level, exploiting new feature function on the platform, whatever. Integration with, so any of the hyperscalers or your own private on on-premise cloud solution that you’ve got. Or customers that are moving workload or data off of the mainframe to a hyperscaler or somewhere. All of those can mean modernization.

So we try and make it a little bit simpler in saying, “Are you doing it on, with, or off, or some combination of,” and then we can bring the right technology and the right business practices into play to achieve what the customer wants to do.

Steven Dickens: And I think that puts you in a unique position. You’ve got those alliances with those hyperscalers. We’ve seen a lot in the press of you forging those relationships. I think we’ve covered them from a Futurum perspective, but also that deep mainframe heritage. Wherever a client wants to go, you can take them there.

What are you seeing? What are some of those examples? Maybe don’t talk about specific client names, but what are some of those themes that you’re seeing as customers are looking to do that transition, through the lens you just described?

Richard Baird: If we just think about modernization on, it can be people who are wanting to exploit containerization. Anywhere on the platform, it can be-

Steven Dickens: Is that zCX you’re see in the container extension stuff here?

Richard Baird: It can be zCX. It can be containerization on a Z Linux, wherever they want to do it. We’re seeing people want to do that. We’re seeing people want to exploit the new capabilities on z16, so the AI engine, that kind of stuff. The new security features for encryption in Quantum Safe, all that kind of stuff for modernization, that would be an on.

The with, we’re seeing people who are taking their older applications, opening them up, wanting to integrate them. Not necessarily change the business logic, but actually open them up so they can be called from any of the hyperscalers.

Steven Dickens: APIs.

Richard Baird: API enablement.

Steven Dickens: API economy, open it up.

Richard Baird: And it’s actually both ways, it’s mainframe out to a hyperscaler and it’s a hyperscaler back into a mainframe. They’re just wanting to treat the mainframe as part of a hybrid cloud solution.

Steven Dickens: Unlock that data that sits on the platform and make it available to systems of engagement basically.

Richard Baird: Exactly. And then the off, people turn around and say, “This application really doesn’t need to be on the mainframe anymore. We may not want to change it.” So even when they move it off, some of them are going to the full extreme of doing a rewrite. Others are just taking the assets, lifting it and recompiling it for an x86 platform.

Steven Dickens: So it could be a refactor, it could be a replatform, whatever’s the right case for-

Richard Baird: Yeah.

Jonathan Dietz: And the other good thing we get to do though is also … Because we got our ability to use our zCloud too. So if you’ve got a client that wants to get out of a certain data center that they might have, they can take that mainframe, we can put it into our zCloud. And then we can start to work with them on the modernization and peel that off, and they get that variableness.

Steven Dickens: I think the zCloud capability from Kyndryl is something that maybe not a lot of people know that much about. I think you’re in a unique position with that multi-tenant capability. Tell us a little bit more about zCloud. I think that might be new to some of the people.

Jonathan Dietz: And this is a key thing for us, and it is a differentiator that it brings to the table, and it allows that dynamic capacity for the client. And it’s variable too, so they could own their own storage. They can get the storage from us. They could share a platform, multiple tenants in a single frame. We can do all of that. And the key thing is that you have the ability to go up and down as you need to, and that variable’s your costs. And then as you-

Steven Dickens: The true infrastructures or services, the way I think about it.

Jonathan Dietz: Exactly. And then you have the ability then, as you peel off certain applications that don’t belong on the mainframe, maybe should have never been put there, we peel those off. Then their MIPS can go down and then their bill can go down and they see the benefit right away.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, as opposed to stranded capacity-

Jonathan Dietz: Exactly. Exactly.

Steven Dickens: … if they stay on premise effectively. So what are you seeing as some of those dynamics? I think you guys, as a player in this space, have got a unique lens into the mainframe space. What are you seeing as some of those challenges coming down? What you just described is a ridiculously complex set of … And you guys must be so smart to be able to handle that with your clients, but-

Richard Baird: [inaudible 00:10:23].

Steven Dickens: This is where I’m nice to you guys. But now, I mean, all joking aside, that’s a huge lens for some of the most mission critical applications. What are you seeing people wrestling with?

Richard Baird: A lot of it is actually dealing with the age of some of the applications, and the software currency and the hardware currency that they have in dealing with that.

Steven Dickens: They’ve got themselves in a hole and they’ve got to dig themselves out first.

Richard Baird: They’ve got to dig them … And they need roadmaps on how to dig themselves out. And what’s the right methodical approach to take to dig themselves out, whilst achieving the business aim that they want to get to.

Jonathan Dietz: And then skills.

Richard Baird: Yeah.

Jonathan Dietz: Having the skills. And that’s the thing that we bring to the table, is we have those skills that are commodity skills in the marketplace today, those mainframe skills. And we bring that to the table so we can help them through that process. They can utilize our skills as their skills might be retiring or whatever. And we can bring that to them so they don’t have to worry about that. They can go focus on their business and their applications, which is more the key to how they make their money, and let us focus on the other stuff.

Richard Baird: And what Jonathan was saying there, you have to remember that we deal with everything from zOS, which is the predominant focus on the conference here. But we deal with zOS, z/VSE, zVM, TPF, Z Linux.

Steven Dickens: Whichever of the operating systems.

Richard Baird: Whichever they’ve got. And it’s the ability to bring the depth of skill, I’m going to say this maybe the wrong way, with the history, in terms of the levels of software going back years. We can bring people to play to actually say, “Okay, you are on this version of CICS. Here’s how we can get you to the latest version of CICS, or whatever you want to do.”

Steven Dickens: We’re hearing a lot about skills at this conference. Lots of people talking about the workforce dynamics, we’ve got hybrid work going on. I know you guys are really active in that space and got a lot going on. What’s going on with skills?

Jonathan Dietz: Skills is a great area for us. I mean, because one of the things that we’re trying to really drive into is certifications. We talked about the hyperscalers, the non mainframe skills we’re trying to work on, but we’re also really deep.

I’m actually really impressed with the way the team has got a roadmap for just about everything, with badges that they can earn. And not just earning badges and things like that, but actually putting it into practical use. Because it’s one thing to take and pass a test, it’s another thing to now go and do it. And some of the certifications and badges that we produce, you actually have to prove that you did the work, not just-

Steven Dickens: It’s a practitioner, it’s not a theoretical.

Jonathan Dietz: Exactly. So those are cool. And then also working with the schools and the universities. We just completed an amazing internship program here in the US, which is really good. And get people doing research papers, trying to really just apply it and learn it and take it back to the schools. So that’s good stuff too.

We also work with early professional hires, really trying to drive the passion into the platform with these young people coming in and figuring out what a mainframe is. They might not have ever touched one, but they giving them the entire education path to just drive it. And then working with all the universities. I’ve been to a number of countries and we’ve gone through and worked with the university teams to really drive into the universities all over the world, to make sure that we’ve got that pathway to energize people into what they can learn and what they can do with the mainframe. It’s been real exciting.

Steven Dickens: I think that’s not just good for Kyndryl, it’s not just good for your customers. I think that’s good for the mainframe ecosystem as a whole.

Richard Baird: It debunks the myth that doing mainframe stuff isn’t cool. And it’s been said in the conference here and in earlier conversations we’ve had, all of the technologies that you have exist on the mainframe and they exist in the distributed world. And it’s just a question of picking up the skills as to how you use them on each of the different platforms. And we do have that focus to say, “Here’s what you need to know in order to be able to deploy technology X on the mainframe.”

Steven Dickens: What should people be taking away from chatting to Kyndryl here at SHARE? Great to be back in person. I know you guys have got a huge presence. Booths open up, I think, think in 10, 15 minutes time so it’s going to be crazy on the show floor. What are the key takeaways?

Richard Baird: From a technology standpoint, we’ve talked a lot here about the production side, the runtime side. The other side, which we can also work with them on as part of their integration story, is the DevOps story. A lot of these older applications are sitting in old repositories, they might be floating around on people’s private discs, et cetera.

How do you integrate a DevOps story with the mainframe as part of your overall business? So we can talk to them about that, as well as the production side of the story. And I think the message from Kyndryl is, no matter where you are in the life cycle of your mainframe utilization, and whether it’s production or development of those applications, we can bring the talents, the skills, the experience, and the longevity of that in order to get them to where they want to be.

Jonathan Dietz: Yeah, for me it’s the trusted partnership, and making sure they understand that they’ve got somebody who is here to get them to focus on their business. And let us focus on the things that they don’t need to necessarily worry about. And we can help them with their applications, prioritize those things so that they can work on the right things first. And then again, get that to the position where they don’t have to worry about it, because they know that they’ve got somebody there that’s just trying to help them be better at their business.

Steven Dickens: Well, I think that’s a fantastic way to wrap. You’ve been listening to the Futurum Tech Podcast and Webcast, brought to you live from SHARE in Columbus. My name’s Steven Dickens. We’ll see you next time. Thank you very much for listening.

About the Author

Steven Dickens is Vice President of Sales 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.