Rocket: We’re More Than the Sum of Our (IBM i) Parts
October 7, 2015 Alex Woodie
Over the years, Rocket Software has bought some well-known properties in the IBM i space: Aldon, Seagull, BlueZone, iCluster. But now the Massachusetts company wants the IBM i community to think of it as a wider source of innovation for the platform, and a one-stop shop for IBM i products–including the new Rocket Mobile for i it launched at this week’s COMMON conference in Florida.
“If you look throughout our portfolio,” Rocket CEO Andy Youniss says, “we have this wide variety and spectrum of products. We’ve done a really bad job of telling that story to the i world because the i world knows us as iCluster or Aldon or LegaSuite or BlueZone. And they’re not aware of these capabilities. So what we decided to do is tell the end-to-end story to the customers.”
Part of that initiative involves changing the marketing. Instead of using the individual product names, Rocket is putting a heavy focus on the Rocket brand. But it goes beyond words and marketing; the company is putting its money where its mouth is and investing in R&D on the platform.
“We have more going on in the i world today than ever before,” Youniss tells IT Jungle. “We want to have a bigger and more prominent name in that space. I think we’re the biggest software company that’s focusing on i, and we just haven’t gone out and told that story. This is the first step of this bigger story we want to go out and tell.”
Part of that new focus on IBM i involves promoting longtime Aldon executive Dan Magid to a new title and position–chief technologist for IBM i solutions-that emphasizes Rocket’s commitment to IBM i and gives IBM i a more prominent role in the company. “We’ve been investing in a few different IBM communities–one being the mainframe and one being i,” Youniss says. “Our CTO Brian Smith has responsibility for the mainframe community, the zSystems community, and Dan now is our solutions leader for the i community.”
Rocket backed up its talk about commitment to IBM i by launching Rocket Mobile for i, a new product aimed at helping IBM i shops build and run new systems of engagement that run on mobile devices and access IBM i code and data. The software allows the customer to create new “mobile experience” for the IBM i customers, Magid says.
“Basically what it does is map micro flows inside the application . . . then generates services for that,” he says. A developer uses an Eclipse plug-in to lay out how the new app should work, he adds, and that plug-in guides the developer through the process of exposing those services as mobile user interfaces (either an HTML5 screen or as a native iOS or Android app via Cordova) or as a REST API.
Rocket Mobile for i is, ostensibly, a modernization tool, but it goes beyond what a typical screen-scraper might provide, by delivering insights into how employees or customers are using the software.
“The mobile platform actually creates analytics around how people are using the app, so you can very easily go in and see exactly who’s doing what within the app,” Magid says. “You can create charts and graphics about how people are using the mobile apps, which ones are being used, and which ones aren’t being used.”
Youniss says: “We’ve been working on this [Rocket Mobile for IBM i] for quite a while. It’s brand new code so it’s not re-branding of something we built. It’s a brand new platform to help you design, develop, and deploy the apps, and measure and monitor them as they’re executing, so it’s an end-to-end platform. We really wanted to launch it to the i community because we feel it’s a bit of an underserved community, one that we love and that we’ve been investing in for many years.”
This approach meshes with Rocket’s new theme of delivering more value to its customers by delivering solutions that solve multiple problems by touching multiple disciplines. That also involves deeper integration among the various products in the Rocket stack, which will have the side-effect of opening up cross-sell and up-sell opportunities for the Rocket sales teams.
“Modernization is a continual process where you’re continuing to move things forward,” says Magid, who has change management in his blood after many years at Aldon. “The market is constantly moving forward. The technology is constantly changing. What we want to provide for our customers is the infrastructure that will allow them to continuously take advantage of the technology as it changes.”
Rocket has several projects in the works to bring new products and capabilities to the IBM i community, Youniss says, including additional analytic capabilities. You can expect to hear more IBM i announcements from Rocket in the coming months.