iModernize - The Profound Logic Software Blog

iModernize Episode 1: Innovation through Code Transformation

Posted by Miranda VanHorn on Jul 21, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Amanda Blackburn:
Hello and welcome to the iModernize podcast. My name is Amanda Blackburn and I am the Director of Marketing at Profound Logic. This our first podcast and we are very excited to share a little more about our company, as well as our solutions and stories from our customers and partners. Thanks for joining us I hope you enjoy the ride and want to come back to learn more about us.

So, as you know, Profound Logic has been the leader in the IBM i modernization software space for over twenty years, but you may not know that we do a lot more than software. We also offer services that are truly transformative and help business on IBM i be more disruptive and innovated. Today I’m joined by three people who are leading this effort, Jordan Antonoff, Michael Killian and Mike Pavlak. Gentlemen will you please introduce yourself and tell us briefly what your role is at Profound Logic?

Jordan Antonoff:
Absolutely thanks Amanda, my name is Jordan Antonoff. I am the Chief Revenue Officer at Profound Logic. My focus at Profound is to align all of our departments to help generate revenue by providing our customers with a host of solutions to help the address a variety of challenges that we know customers on the IBM i platform are facing.

Ok great, Michael?

Michael Killian:
Hey thanks Amanda and team. My name is Michael Killian and I am VP of Strategic accounts at Profound, and I work with our team to have conversations with clients to help them bring business and IT together. To help understand the challenges they might be having to supporting some of those corporate objectives. And to really help the team put together a plan to achieve their vision through the execution of our services and software technologies.

Ok thanks, up next, we have Mike. Can you introduce yourself?

Mike Pavlak:
Absolutely my name is Mike Pavlak, and I am a Solutions Architect with Profound. I have been in the IBM i space for almost thirty year. RPG, IT management, kind of the whole gambit. I have been a huge advocate for Open Source on the IBM i. In addition to being an IBM champion; I have also been teaching Open Source classes and modern technology topics over at a local community college for the last ten year. I am a big fan of moving the ball forward and helping companies advance.

Let’s kick it over to you first Jordan. You have been working together at
Profound for quite a long time and we have seen a lot, especially regarding product
offerings. But now you are leading the effort to expand our offerings with these
services. Can you tell us more about that? One of the newest things we are starting
is flexible code transformations, and it would be exciting to share that with

Yeah absolutely. When you look at the IBM market, especially over the last
several years, we see companies spending a lot of money trying to move away from
RPG. They are doing so for one primary reason: the pool of developers getting
closer and closer to retirement and it is becoming harder for companies to find RPG
developers. When your system is built on RPG, it is important to have developers
who understand the core of your system. If you cannot find those people, it is
natural for you to look for a way to replace the language. We see companies take on
expensive, highly complicated, and risky rewrites where they spend years manually
rewriting the RPG system into typically Java and/or .NET.

Over the years we have heard from a lot of customers that these projects were
spec’ed out to be 3-4 years and cost 3-4 million dollars. We have heard a shocking
number of customers say it took 7-8 years to see projects that are only 10-20%
rewritten. Some have spent tens, to sometimes 100s, of millions of dollars with
being even close to finishing. In any business, if you look at a success rate like that,
you start to wonder what has gone wrong. Customers have this challenge that they
must solve, and we see the problems with the way have with trying to manually
rewrite everything.

What if we could build something to automate some of that process to transform
RPG to a truly modern language, something that is not becoming legacy like Java and .NET. So we chose Node.js serve-side JavaScript, a language with a very bright future. The focus was us to build a highly automated way to convert RPG to Node with very little human error. We are very pleased to see, based on what we have heard from our customers, this technology is extremely superior to anything else they have seen on the market. Thanks to our professional services team, we can deliver highly complex, highly risky projects with a fraction of the complexity and
risk because at every step possible we are automating so much and removing the
chances for human error.

Well that sounds exciting, and something that is new for us at Profound. What excites you most about this offering and taking this to the IBM i userbase?

Great question Amanda. In addition to what I was taking about before with
automation, what excites me the most is that we can deliver this in a truly staged
approach. What I mean by that is we can come into a customer and select a focus
of the transformation. Maybe it is a certain business unit or a set of programs, we
can transform those from RPG into Node and put that into production without having
a disparate system that is not properly integrated with the core system still using
RPG and DB2. The reason we can do this in a truly staged approach is because of
technology that we have developed that allows Node.js and RPG to merge
seamlessly. This is exciting for a lot of reasons, one being that this is a big
differentiator for us. If you look at the market right now, for example customers
going through a manual rewrite, you typically are waiting to the end of the rewrite
before deploying anything. That can cause a number of business issues. What we
will sometimes see in the market is a company gets tired of an entire system being
rewritten, so they go live too soon without the pieces of the system working
together. This can cause problems across the whole company as the pieces do not
work together.

Our approach avoids that completely. You can transform a small portion, put it in
production and the integration between the old system and the new system is
already there. This allows our customers to move from RPG to Node with less risk
and less human error, while using the new language as soon as possible. The
biggest question we get from companies is “how long will I have to wait to leverage
this technology?” And with our approach it is not long.

That makes sense and sounds very exciting. I am going to pass things
over to Michael. You have joined us recently at Profound and have a long history,
and don’t take that as me calling you old, of working with businesses on IBM i. You
previously worked with ASNA and Fresche, and now you are joining us. You have helped guide business on their transformation journey for over 25 years. How do you think our services stack up against all the other offerings in the market for this type of solution?

Thanks for asking that. I think there are a lot of companies out there in the modernization market, some with automation capabilities of sorts and some not, so thanks for asking about how Profound stands out. I think that Profound’s services
offerings are uniquely positioned in the IBM i market for a few reasons. First, I think
on time and on budget is our service teams middle name. it is probably the thing I
hear from clients the most. We know that is how we are going to be judged at the
end of the day, and they are literally part of our DNA and we deliver all projects with
those things in mind.

Secondly, we have an amazing group of caring and experienced people, combined
with the suite of integrated and automated tools and that is where the superpower
of our team comes together. The tools and the people working in tandem to deliver
the company visions.

Thirdly, I think we have more acknowledged IBM i experts on our team than any
other company in the industry. The books that have written, the articles that have
been written, the speaking sessions over the decades of time with the experts we
have on staff all came from these people. The depth and the strength of the
expertise that we have in that space. It is so crucial when you are choosing a
partner and a services team to assist with your transformation and modernization

It is always important to acknowledge that one size does not fit all. We really do
customize all our development, and everything is done to fit the client’s specific
needs. We pull from a large ecosystem of partners to deliver a customized package
that fits the client’s needs. Lastly, the diversity of the team is such a key strength.
Our team has a rare mix of experiences, backgrounds and skillsets and it is that
combination that brings this unique insight to the modernization projects that we
are doing. It results in a thoroughly vett3ed, almost perfectly defined and amazing
architected and skillfully delivered result. It is amazing to bring together this diverse
group to create a unified product. Really happy to have joined the team and be able
to bring these experiences to clients.

Yeah, absolutely. In my time at Profound Logic, going on nine years, I
have never worked for a technology company that has people who stay there as
long as we do. We literally have people who have been here 15, almost 20, years.
These are people who have a deep caring about not just our products, but also
working with customers and helping them be successful. It is something I am very
proud of

As a new guy coming in, it is an amazing thing to see that and I applaud
you guys for that.

Absolutely. Speaking of being face- to-face and working with customers,
what conversations do you looking forward to having with companies in regard to
transforming their code with this new offering.

That is a loaded question, I have so many things that pop into my mind. I
would love to talk about the technology and solutions that Jordan spoke about
earlier, but I think before that I would like to chat about really getting to know the
business. Doing some research and getting to know them. We know that
transformation is a huge change for companies, and that change goes outside of
just IT. We really need to get to know the company, the people, their culture, their
competitive pressures and most importantly their vision. All these pieces are
important to orchestrate an aligned plan to move the project forward. That is why it
is so important get to know people person-to-person, maybe not face-to-face right
now, and have conversations to understand the organization and what they are
looking to do.

From there, there are a lot of organizations that don’t understand everything that IT
has brought to the business. I get that IT and business are not aligned, and I get
that maybe IT is not a responsive as the business needs, and maybe the current IT
environment is somewhat old. But the development teams that have brought the
business where it is today, have so much more to give. Their knowledge of their
business and the systems is critically to the past success, as well as the future
success. For me there are conversations that I really want to have to allow those
teams and people to contribute and evolve with the organization. One of the main
things they can bring is reducing the risk because of their deep knowledge of the
systems in place.

Lastly, I would like to conversations to share what I have been doing for the last 25
years, and what they have taught me. I would like to share how organizations
measure the value that digital transformation projects bring to the business. What
are some of the pitfalls to avoid?

What questions should companies ask their vendors and partners? When to do
things on your own and when to partner? What are some budget traps that might
present themselves? What guarantees success of these projects that are key to
delivering their vision?

You brought up a really good point that every project and company is
different. We talk to people who are looking to modernize and transform their IBM i
applications for lots of different reasons. Different industries have different divers
for why they are wanting to explore this.

One of the challenges is bridging that gap between the technical side and the
business side. The IT people who are really getting their hands dirty in the trenches
and the executives who may not understand that this is a scalable and flexible
platform to help them accomplish their business goals such as moving to the cloud
and having integrated systems, IoT, AI, etc. I think those conversations you’re going
to have are going to be really interesting.


Now I am going to kick it over to Mike. You’re legitimately a legend in the
IBM i space and we are so happy to have you on board. You and I have worked
together peripherally over the years. The passion you have for talking about IBM i and Open Source really makes you an expert in Open Source solutions. What would you say to a company who wants to modernize, but they’re held back by their legacy code?

First of all, you are not alone. There are a lot of IBM i shops that are running
code that are 5, 10 even 30 years old. You can get started with this change at any
time. The challenge is: do you want to be disruptive? Do you want to evoke a
change in your industry? Those are key points that we look for because otherwise
why do you want to get there? Usually this is why customers are knocking on our
door. We like to talk them about what their application doing today and what do you
want it to do tomorrow? In a lot of cases the opportunities with Open Source bring a lot of existing pre-built solutions to the table so the customer doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel.

One of the nice things about our flexible transformation offerings is it can be a much
or as little as the customer is looking for. I have worked with a lot of customers who
want to do something like microservices, a buzzword right now, but does your
accounting department really need infinite scalability? probably not, but there may
be a handful of applications that you do need in that particulate target architecture.
Or maybe you just need to move the whole application set, over time, and start
modernize bits and pieces. The neat thing is that we can go down the road as slowly
or quickly as the customer wants.

Why would you say that Node is an excellent option for business innovation? Why is that a choice they would want to make over .NET or Java, which are typically popular options for people to modernize their code?

That is a fair point. First, you have to realize that there are Java and .NET
applications that are going on double-digit lives at this point. It is not unusual for a
customer to have applications that have been in place for 20 years with Java. Why is Node attractive? There are so many reasons. The reality is that Node has been around in the enterprise space for a while, but the underlining foundation is JavaScript. Which has been around for a long time and is very mature. The Node infrastructure is new compared to RPG, but it has been adopted by big business such as Netflix and Amazon. It has established credibility. These are organizations that run their day to day applications with Node. When you click through a Netflix interface you are using a Node application. The folks at these places are leveraging Node because of the enterprise-like capabilities.

One of the advantages of working with Open Source is being able to work with other people’s code, with pre-bult projects and modules. Node has an absolutely off the hook amount of pre-built modules out there. It is really a matter of googling and seeing what else is already built. It is not longer of matter of having these long development cycles, it is a matter of integrating and plugging things in to decide whether or not we are going to go forward with a particular technology.

Lastly, one of the things I love about Node is that it runs on IBM i. Customers who want to stay on IBM i, but are having RPG folks, this is great. Because Node runs right there on the IBM i. we can just take advantage of that and that transition as they move as much or as little as they want from RPG to Node, it is really smooth and virtually seamless. But, for the handful of applications where they might need the infinite scalability because they are expecting the application to explode on
Black Friday, pieces can still be deployed on an Amazon architecture, or an Azure
architecture, to take advantage of the infinite scalability and not brutalize that IBM i
infrastructure. There are a lot of advantages to Node because of its flexibility and
how easy it is to run.

You brought up a lot of good points. Every year we have done an industry
survey of the IBM i market and users. Without a doubt, every year, near the top is
the concern that all their developers are getting ready to retire. That is a big
concern that they are going to have this brain drain and who is going to maintain
this system. I think that is one of the really cool things about Node, it is a full stack
tool, but it is also basically JavaScript. Which is something that basically every
developer knows or can learn very easily. Node can be a way to extend the life of
IBM i and business don’t have to do extensive and expensive risky migrations to a
different platform just because they are losing their current developer pool.

You bring up a good point that we have not talked about much yet: risk. Risk
is a huge reason why these folks are on the IBM i. This platform is not great for
making video games. You are not going to be running a Minecraft server off of IBM i,
even though you could. IBM i is a business machine. They like it because of the
stability, and it scales.

So how do you manage that risk? By leveraging the skillset of these younger
developers and bringing them in the door so they can seamlessly transition into the
applications, that become attractive. The other thing is transformation the
application, by leveraging the automated tooling that we have, our first step is
really a like-for-like transformation. By not relying heavily on people rewriting
everything, the business logic can move from to the target infrastructure more
reliably. Now the organization doesn’t have to take on the huge risk that would be
associated with a rewrite or, heaven forbid, a package implementation where you
are being forced into another person’s way of business. A lot of these IBM i shops
have highly customized their applications, and these applications are their
competitive advantages. We want to leverage these applications moving forward
and take that into the target architecture because if they lose that competitive
advantage they tend to lose that uniqueness.

100% agree. We are getting close to the end here, so I want to kick it
back over to Jordan. There are a lot of people who still only know Profound Logic as
an ISV for modernization products, what would you say to those people to let them
know they can trust us and work with us on our services projects as well?

We don’t want to just help our customers with one short project. We want
to establish a long-standing partnership and help them through the entire lifecycle
of their applications. Throughout the past twenty years we have been a software-
lend business, but we have had experience in the services department. We have
also conducted a lot of larger services projects for our customers, such as
modernizing an entire green screen environment, sometimes thousands of screens,
or we have helped customers build core business applications from scratch for
internal or e commerce platforms.

I could sit here and go on and on, like every vendor out there does, about how you
can trust us, and we are here to partner with you, and you would have to take my
word for it. But what you can do it reach out to us and engage with us on a small
project and proof of concept to see how our transformation technology works. That
is another one of our key differentiators: if you look at a manual rewrite, or moving
from your customized system to a package, you can’t really do a proof of concept.
With the nature of our technology, we can take a portion of your system and have
our services team conduct a proof of concept and show you this code running on
your system.

Trust is a very important part of our business.

Over the years we have talked to so many customers who are trying to
accomplish so many great things on the platform, but they can’t find the right tools or the tools are very expensive. This is something we are trying to address with our solutions to try and meet the needs of our customers.

Jordan, Michael and Mike it has been really great talking to you, especially in this
quarantine. Thanks for taking the time to take part in this, it was fun.

For everyone else who joined us: thanks so much and stay safe and stay healthy.
Stay tuned for more of the iModernization podcast where we will explore the world
of transformation and IBM i modernization by talking with our experts, customers
and partners.

Until then, goodbye for now!

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