Kyndryl Exec: We Are ‘Speeding Ahead’ On Mainframe Modernization

‘For all of us, the world of technology is moving fast. For us it will have to be to think about the customer in a workload-by-workload approach and not one or the other,’ says Petra Goude, global practice leader of Core Enterprise and zCloud at Kyndryl.

When it comes to mainframe modernization, Petra Goude said Kyndryl is all in.

“It‘s all about how we generate value for the customers,” said Goude, who is the global practice leader of Core Enterprise and zCloud at New York City-based solutions provider Kyndryl. “It’s not about how we optimize a certain technology, it is if you do right by customers, every one of us will have a good growth opportunity.”

Kyndryl, which spun off from IBM in 2021, provides a forward-thinking approach to application and workload placement when it comes to modernizing applications and data on the mainframe. And in the ever-evolving landscape of technology, many large enterprises are challenged with staying on, or jumping off, the mainframe, Goude said.
“For me, my job is to drive innovation for customers using mainframe and every which way they want to go,” she told CRN. “That’s the core where we really want to be the leader and help customers be the best in this platform.”

With the ability to build a strategy that focuses on applications and data, Kyndryl, which is No. 6 on CRN’s 2022 Solution Provider 500 list, is integrating customer data into a hybrid cloud model including mainframe and public cloud.

But modernizing the mainframe is a workload-by-workload decision, Goude said.

“Our goal as an independent open provider is to use the best technologies in the best place,” she said. “We‘re working very closely with all the supporting providers and technology, vendors. Our job as service professionals is to help customer ensure that they understand the risks and to become even better.”

CRN spoke with Goude about how customers are wrestling with mainframe modernization, how Kyndryl is helping with that and why she thinks 2023 will be the year the mainframe undergoes a transformation.

Why do customers wrestle with mainframe modernization?

It’s a stellar platform if you have high-transaction volume. That’s why they’ve used it over decades, because it’s really helping their business. When you think about what’s happening out there in the wider context of things, and customers wanting to move to a hybrid environment to get agility, speed or a change of pace, they come and say, ‘What am I going to do with my mainframe? What is modernization?’ What we’ve found very clearly is there’s three ways for a customer to think about it.

When you do want to become even better on a mainframe, you modernize on the platform faster and integrate more into the rest of the environment. How can you utilize the speed better so you get a reduced cost or how do you integrate with hyper scalers? For customers where the workload maybe shouldn‘t be in the mainframe, how do we help them move off? If you think about those three, and then to your question, and why do they struggle, there’s a couple of things that I see. It really is a mission critical workload. It‘s the heart and core. It’s the bloodline of any company that runs mainframe, so it is always a risk to start pulling that. [Customers ask], ‘If I move it to cloud, will it perform in the same way? If I modernize it, do I have the skills for both skill sets, on the mainframe and the cloud world?’

Those are inhibitors for why this is a complex task. By and large, it‘s driven by risk, risk mitigation and regulatory demands.

Do you think that 2023 will be the year where the mainframe undergoes a makeover?

I do, because of the speed of the market that is happening. Other technologies surrounding the mainframe, the cloud technologies, the hyper scalers and the skills that people like us have are putting it to the forefront. It‘s helping make sure that we can both modernize on the platform with better tools and automation and improve the ability of it. The hardware itself also has become more proficient and runs faster at higher volumes. This is really the heart and bloodline of payment systems and systems of record. The ability we’ve crafted of opening the data and putting that together with cloud is a massive value driver because then you can unlock the value of the mainframe without having to code in the mainframe. We‘re using the low-code, no-code ability to access the data and still keep it secure, because security is really key here. We also now have the toolset to help them do that in a risk-controlled manner.

We see that the market is really moving fast and modernizing in one of those three buckets. I do not think 2023 is the year of the change, but the one bubbler is what will happen to the economy. Up until now it’s been a huge driver in the economy, to do lots of changes. Now with the economy kind of slowing a little bit, the question is will that hold back companies from doing more or less on the mainframe. That’s still to be determined.

So how is Kyndryl assisting with that?

This is one of the biggest parts of our business. We run about 6.2 million MIPS (million instructions per second), or more than 50 percent of the entire managed market out there. We really see customers wanting to take this workload in the right platform approach. It‘s really about helping customers look at workload by workload, because if you run the mainframe there may be workloads that actually shouldn’t be there. We help them move that off. There might be another workload that‘s perfect to say on the mainframe, and we help them modernize it on the platform. Then we integrate all of it with the hyper scalers. We’re really doubling down on the services lens and then we leverage these three levers: modernize on, integrate with and move off. We do that using our 8,000-plus brilliant people in this space.

What is the economic impact for clients when they move to mainframe modernization?

You want to be more agile, you want to utilize your system in a better way and you also want to have a cost improvement. That‘s what customers want to gain to pay less with what they have so they can invest more in other things. Whichever one of the three we use, it should all aim to help customers lower their current cost of running so they free up funds to do more value add. It’s how do you empower using the data so that you can build new applications and solutions for the business to get more revenue, modernize on it to become better and faster, reduce your operational costs and become more capable, stronger and more secure.

Do you think that large organizations like banks or retailers would ever move off the mainframe?

The short answer is, it depends. I don‘t think there’s going to be a short-term tomorrow where everything is moved off. That pendulum of moving off and staying on has been going back and forth. I think every customer, large or small, will assess what workload should be there and at what time should it or should it not move. We see a bit of a difference in industries. Industries that do not run regulated workloads, like a retailer, have a higher propensity to think about moving workloads. I think it‘s going to vary as customers look at it in a very holistic way.

What do you want to see more of from your vendors?

For all of us, the world of technology is moving fast. For us it will have to be to think about the customer in a workload-by-workload approach and not one or the other. Depending on the vendor, they have different views of what they want to achieve whether it‘s on the mainframe or off the mainframe. For us, it’s so key that we have our partners not think about one or the other, because that‘s not what we believe is the best for customers. So I encourage, and I think it would be my one continued ask of them, is to think about how we help customers on their journey, because at the end of the day it’s all about the customer outcome. It‘s all about how we generate value for the customers. It’s not about how we optimize a certain technology, it is if you do right by customers, every one of us will have a good growth opportunity.

What is your biggest challenge and keeps you up at night?

It’s how do I continue to accelerate this as fast as possible. How do I ensure I build on the brilliant skillsset that we have in our team but continue to develop that. At the same time, my biggest goal always will be how do I ensure I keep my customers running with no issues. For us, customers trust us to manage and run their most critical crown jewels, so I have to keep it running. That is always my number one goal, coupled with how do I continue to build a skill so I can help customers on the journey in the way they want to want to go.

What’s the biggest ask from clients and how is Kyndryl helping with that?

The biggest ask, both true from my area of mainframe but also a general one, is, ‘How can we help transform our business using technology to drive an even bigger, better and faster outcome.’ Customers have to become even more competitive every single day because if they‘re not they’re getting knocked from the side. In terms of business outcome, leveraging technology to drive those new types of services and capabilities and making themselves even more efficient so that they can reduce operational cost was driving their company, that is the top of the agenda for our customers. We are getting challenged and asked how can Kyndryl help with that.

What can we see from Kyndryl this year regarding mainframe?

We are speeding ahead. Last year we were doubling down on crafting out our strategy and how we can help customers, this year you’ll see much more around how we help customers both in the data area and in the entire suite of modernization. We’ll keep bringing that value to customers and we are very determined to be the spearhead in this field and help customers really challenge the world.