Rocket Rides Modernization, DevOps for Hybrid Cloud Adoption
October 26, 2022 Alex Woodie
Puneet Kohli, Rocket Software’s new IBM i portfolio manager, is under no illusion about how easy it will be to boost IBM i software sales. “This is not a space where you wake up one morning and your CIO says ‘I’m going to go buy a product on the i,’” Kohli says. But a well-thought-out strategy around enabling DevOps and application modernization in a hybrid cloud setting? Now that just might move the needle.
It’s been almost a year since Rocket Software founder Andy Youniss stepped down from the day-to-day management of the company he led for 31 years, paving the way for his lieutenant, Milan Shetti, to take over as CEO.
Since then, the company has rejiggered its three business units. Gone are the Power Systems, the Z Systems, and the Database and Connectivity business units. In their place are the Application Modernization, the Infrastructure Modernization, and Data Modernization business units. As the head of the IBM i portfolio within the Application Modernization division under general manager P. Gary Gregory, Kohli’s job is to figure out how to map Rocket’s existing product set, which is extensive, against the ever-shifting goals of the IBM i user base.
Kohli, who has been with Rocket for four-and-a-half years, says the three big customers goals he detected during conversations with customers on his recent trip to COMMON’s NAViGATE conference in St. Louis, Missouri, seem to revolve around DevOps, application modernization, and hybrid cloud.
“There are customers out there who are saying look, I need to modernize my applications, and I need to figure out where I can get the biggest bang for the buck for modernizing our application, where I don’t have to go find a DevOps solution and a modernization solution,” Kohli says. “That’s sort of the shift we’re seeing in the market, where the customer [says] I need a vendor who can help me both from the modernization perspective, but also from the DevOps perspective, because that’s where I’m going to eventually be, be it two years, be it five years.”
That’s one shift Kohli has detected. The other shift involves a change in focus from purely the on-premise deployments that have dominated the last four decades of enterprise IT to customers who are looking to start moving some assets into cloud environments.
Rocket understands the move to cloud will not be easy for IBM i shops. IBM i shops can’t just move their applications to the public cloud as easily as customers who run their core applications on Windows and Linux can, for the sole reason that X86 infrastructure is plentiful, reliable, and affordable on AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud (among other cloud provider) while IBM Power runtimes – including IBM i and AIX – are practically non-existent.
However, by working around the edges with IBM i shops and being strategic about moving some IBM i workloads to private cloud providers with IBM i runtimes, such as Skytap, Kohli is finding the cloud story is starting to resonate.
“They are saying, hey I have to get to cloud,” he tells IT Jungle. “The CIO has showed up saying look, we need to have a cloud strategy or a hybrid cloud strategy. Let’s figure out how we’re going to move the workload to the cloud.”
As Kohli tells it, the cloud is being positioned as a vehicle to maximize the IBM i skills and expertise that remain at IBM i shops. Many of these organizations are understaffed relative to their X86 brethren, and the folks who remain at these organizations who have IBM i expertise are being promoted into development roles, leaving the operations side wanting.
“I was at NAViGATE this last week,” says Kohli, who officially is vice president of engineering, “and a lot of the people who are systems administrators or the operations people, they have been promoted to be the application developers because the application developers moved on. Now you have this legacy application. You don’t know how to manage it. The operations person has the best knowledge at least to manage the applications.”
Asking someone to be both the developer and the administrator may be kosher in some smaller organizations. But it’s a big no-no among public companies that are subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the requirement for a separation of duties between the Dev and the Ops. This is one of the factors playing into the current personnel crunch – and a potential opportunity for vendors like Rocket that are hoping to sell software, as well as help their customers at the end of the day.
Rocket has a Git-based DevOps solution that supports the full lifecycle of IBM i development, called Aldon DevOps. It has one of the midrange marketplaces most long-lived and accomplished application modernization solutions with LegaSuite (acquired from Seagull Software). Add to that a well-regarded software-based high availability and disaster recovery solution, iCluster, and the company has a trio of products that can address a range of related development, management, and application protection needs for IBM i shops.
“If you’re a customer and you’re planning to move your workload to the cloud or even just start to refactor them, you need to start thinking about, okay, how am I going to manage all the dependencies? I don’t even know where my dependencies are, the things that I need to compile the source with, and then deploy to the endpoint. That’s where our DevOps solution kind of starts helping,” he says.
“And then LegaSuite for application modernization allows you to almost scan your applications and create a blueprint to say which code paths you’re using the most often,” Kohli continues. “And then you can generate APIs from it that you can then connect into your ERP system or other frontends that you might have. That’s how they all play together. On the backend side, mange the source, manage the dependencies. On the front-end side, build the APIs and enable you to connect.”
The company is finding some traction with this approach. A product called Rocket Process Insights, which it launched a year ago, can also help in identifying the areas of the monolithic IBM i application that are used the most and are therefore the best candidates for modernization via LegaSuite.
For companies with HA and DR managed by iCluster, the ability to move backup systems to IBM i systems running in a private cloud (or even moving IBM i data to an X86-based cloud storage repositor) can be a good first step in bringing the cloud.
While application modernization, DevOps management, and hybrid cloud don’t necessarily go together, Rocket is finding this approach is resonating with clients and prospects. The key component is the cloud, which is proving to be a necessary ingredient for engaging with customers.
“Absolutely everybody is thinking about it,” Kohli says of the cloud. “I think it’s inevitable. Everybody has kind of agreed to the model that yes, that’s the direction we’re going to head. Is that journey a three-year journey or a five-year journey? That depends on how critical your application is, how unrooted your application is, how much skills you have of knowing what the application and the business logic does for you.
“Our strategy is very much around we believe the hybrid cloud is the way to go,” he continues. “Not everybody is going to be able to move their i systems or Z systems into the cloud. But they will move workloads. There’s going to be a segment of workloads, and Rocket want to be there to help them do that.”