How Kyndryl’s IBM i Customer Base Benefits from the Big Blue Split
March 30, 2022 Alex Woodie
Now that IBM is done with the spin-out of its Global Technology Services (GTS) business, the company that resulted from that spin-out, Kyndryl, is free to pursue its own strategy. For Kyndryl’s considerable IBM i installed base, that freedom will result in a much broader array of technological options and services engagements becoming available to them.
With 500 employees dedicated to supporting its IBM i customers, Kyndryl has one of the biggest IBM i services practices in the world, says Nicolas Le Van Dé, Kyndryl’s IBM i global offering manager.
“I think we are the leader in terms of IBM i resource,” Le Van Dé tells IT Jungle in a recent interview. “I don’t know if there is a company that has so much IBM i skills.”
When it split from IBM and formed Kyndryl, the GTS group had about 300 IBM i customers. According to Le Van Dé, that managed services provider (MSP) business now manages about 2,500 logical partitions (LPARs) of IBM i clients around the world, spanning industries like retail, banking, and logistics.
Some of these managed Power environments run on-prem in customers’ own data centers or data closets, while others rent space on shared multi-tenant Power servers located in one of Kyndryl’s data centers around the world, Le Van Dé says. That gives customers more options and flexibility compared to what they can get from IBM in the IBM Cloud, he says.
“IBM Cloud only offers the infrastructure, but they don’t provide any managed services on top,” the global offering manager says from France, where he is based. “IBM Cloud provides the IBM i partition, but they don’t provide any backup management, they don’t apply any PTFs to your logical partition, they don’t manage your MIMIX.”
Now that the split from IBM is done, Kyndryl is free to pursue technological partnerships without a Big Blue banner weighing it down. Last month, Kyndryl announced a partnership with Microsoft Azure that will see Kyndryl customers leveraging data storage and processing capacities at Azure. Similar partnerships will be in place for the other two cloud hyperscalers, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, he says.
“This is a big change because when we were IBM, we didn’t work with all the hyperscalers,” Le Van Dé says. “It was close to IBM, so we didn’t work with GCP, AWS, and Azure. And we didn’t work at the application level, because it was part of the IBM Global Business Services (GBS) division. So this is a major change and it’s changing [Kyndryl’s business] in terms of serving client requests, because now we can propose all the solutions.”
As Le Van Dé mentions, Kyndryl is also going up the stack and involving itself with their applications, which is something that GTS avoided. Chief among the new offerings will be application modernization to move beyond traditional 5250 applications, and the introduction of DevOps techniques, which will help manage technological change as Kyndryl customers embark on projects to adopt new applications and frameworks running on the public cloud.
Going up the stack will be beneficial to the cause of keeping the IBM i platform in customer locations, Le Van Dé says.
“They say ‘OK, I want to move away from IBM i because I have no one to support the application,’ or ‘I will stay on IBM i but I don’t [want to] change anything,’” he says. “So the way that Kyndryl is thinking now is more about keeping IBM i first for its strengths toward the application, but integrate IBM i to AWS or Azure for managing the application, for implementing DevOps solutions. So this is a big change, and this is what client are asking [for right now].”
It also gives Kyndryl’s professionals and its customers a chance to use a newer development stack, which is an important element for maintaining the livelihood of folks in the IBM i ballgame.
“Using the modern, smarter tools to [get the] improvement they need, to update” applications, he says. “Just to be sure we make the transition between the old RPG 5250 world with the green screen and the new world with the Web interface.”
Kyndryl’s IBM i business is growing, and that’s putting pressure on the company’s human resources. Le Van Dé faces the same situation facing his clients: a difficulty in finding people with the necessary skills. “We need to renew our resources, and some people are retiring,” he says.
Kyndryl runs an academy to train its employees on the ins and outs of the IBM i platform. “We take them six months to do some education on RPG, and also the managed services part,” Le Van Dé says. “They are working for us, so this model is working well.”
As the dust settles from the spin-out, the IBM i community will begin to realize that Kyndryl runs one of the larger tech consulting businesses that targets the platform. And now that it has the freedom to work with cloud vendors and work higher up the application stack, customers ultimately will be the beneficiaries.