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I am a Mainframer: Bryan Foley

By | December 22, 2022

In this episode of the “I Am a Mainframer” podcast, Steven Dickens is joined by Bryan Foley, Worldwide Sales Director for IBM Cloud. His team helps define the major approaches to help clients meet their toughest challenges in a hybrid multicloud world. Bryan has served in numerous technical, management, strategy, and product management positions during his career at IBM, much of which was spent in IBM Systems and IBM Z. This included leading the initiative to bring the LinuxONE system to market.

During this inspirational and informative conversation, Bryan shares his career arc with IBM, his long-standing commitment to the military and recent retirement from the U.S. Army, and a fun look at how Linux’s Tux the penguin came to be. This is one conversation you won’t want to miss!

Connect with Bryan on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Announcer: This is the “I am a Mainframer” podcast, brought to you by the Linux Foundation’s Open Mainframe Project. Episodes explore the careers of mainframe professionals and offer insights into the industry and technology. Now your host, senior analyst and vice president of sales and business development at Futurum Research, Steven Dickens.

Steven Dickens: Hello and welcome. My name’s Steven Dickens and you’re listening to the “I am a Mainframer” podcast. I’m looking forward to today’s episode. I’m joined by my dear friend and former colleague, Bryan Foley. Welcome to the show, Bryan.

Bryan Foley: Hey, Steven. Yeah, it’s great to be with you. I’ve been looking forward to this and it should be a good discussion.

Steven Dickens: Looking forward to this one. This one’s going to be an interesting 46-minute discussion, I think.

Bryan Foley: At minimum, yes.

Steven Dickens: So, Bryan, we’ve obviously known each other for the last decade, but let’s get the listeners and viewers here orientated. Just position your role, do some introductions, explain where you fit.

Bryan Foley: Sure. I’ve been an IBMer since I got out of college quite a long time ago. But right now, today, I actually am working on IBM Cloud, and it does intersect with our discussion here, really, from a mainframe perspective. I am, right now, the worldwide sales leader for IBM Cloud and with that, I work with the geos, the markets, and really figuring out not to do everything from a cloud perspective. It’s what our clients need, our clients, and where they’re struggling and how we help them really modernize their environments, leveraging the best that IBM has to deliver. So that’s my role today but had been in the mainframe organization quite a bit of my career.

Steven Dickens: So, there’s loads to go onto and talk about IBM Cloud and where that intersects with the mainframe, but we’ll do that in a few minutes time. Let’s maybe go all the way back. I know from sort of our interactions over the last decade, you’ve got a really fantastic history at IBM, done some really interesting things. There’s been a couple of tours of service in the Army that we’ll also maybe spend a couple of seconds on. But take us all the way back. You’re finishing college, you’re joining IBM. Talk to us about the early parts of that journey.

Bryan Foley: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think back on that time often as far as coming out of college and you’re the first kid, you don’t know what to expect. I was obviously a comp sci major. Also got my degree in applied mathematics at the time. And so coming out you don’t know what you want to do, there’s so much going on and I talked with a couple parts of IBM. I also talked with another company that were doing some defense contracting for the government, which I was interested in because I had just joined the military. And I was waiting on a contract from the government and it may or may not happen. I’m like, that’s not what I want.

But when I talked to a group within IBM, the work they were doing was so cutting edge and so aligned with what I was doing for projects in school that it was just a perfect match. And that group was TPF, transaction processing facility, and they underpinned a lot of the world’s highest transaction volume speed customers in the world. And the way they structured the technology was just amazing how they were doing multiprocessor, multi box, multi-system to really aggregate as much core transaction processing as they possibly could. And the challenges were just amazing and that’s what I focused on.

So I joined that group and then I figured, “Hey, three years, IBM, good to get on the resume, move on, go to another company, maybe a small company.” And I loved what I was doing so much and I was learning so much. I was working with some of the smartest people that I delayed that. I’ll move at some point in the future once I get to where I’m getting bored. Well, I’m sitting here today years later and not bored at all. Just the roles, the technology, the people, it just kept changing, and the opportunities just kept evolving. And it was almost like you could join another company within IBM and have a whole new career within IBM without leaving. So the early days were focused on software engineering and really building out, I worked on an operating system at TPF, building out that operating system and really learning, just keep growing my career and really my education.

Steven Dickens: So, you spend some early time in TPF. Those are some of the biggest mainframe customers, the most transaction hungry kind of speed and performance customers. What was next? What did you get onto after that period in TPF? Was it always the same role from a software engineering point of view in TPF or did you move around within the TPF organization?

Bryan Foley: No, I definitely moved. So I was also interested in the bigger picture. So after a number of projects in TPF, became an architect where you’re looking at more of where the system’s going and really being able to provide architectural designs, what we called design at that point, but not design thinking as we know it today. So architectural design on how to build the system properly, drill some patents, some more patents that we should have had but just didn’t have time to really codify them. Again, leading edge technology that nobody else had in the world after the architecture really stepped into management.

That’s something I wanted to try. I knew I could always step back into the technical realm and so I for years kept that technical and that management roles intertwined and stepped in and out of management but wanted to make sure that I stayed in the technical realm. So camp manager in TPF and actually took over the group that I was in. So it was interesting, right, become your own manager with your friends that I grew up with. And then moved on to a benchmark center where I got to work closely with customers and vendors, software vendors. And that was eye-opening as far as what they needed and problems we were really trying to help them with and things that we thought were important that they didn’t think were so important and vice versa. So got a lot of experience there. Became a second line in the test organization, z/OS, so on the mainframe, and also with some of the hardware releases, getting to experience that.

And then that’s the point where I stepped out for a little bit when overseas, did my thing, and then came back. And then once I came back, this is the interesting part I think in my career probably just as I was looking back, the strategy part. And it was where led the technical strategy group and then the overall strategy group actually working for Jose Castano at that point and working with guys like Jeff Fry. Their brains are just so big and the way they view the system and the business was just so insightful. I learned a ton. But I did view Linux as a diamond in the rough for us and on the mainframe it really could excel and there wasn’t necessarily that appetite at that point like we have it today. But after a while I said, I stepped out of management. I said, this is crazy. I was trying to get somebody to actually drive Linux. I’m like, I will do it.

Steven Dickens: We’re going to get back to Linux. You’re going too fast. I’ve known you for these 10 years, Bryan, and you’re such a humble down to earth guy. You’ve just covered a career arc that can fill an entire career for some other people. So I’m going to take you back, I’m going to pause you. So test and set a west second line. I think there’s some fantastic things and some nuggets. Maybe talk a little bit about your time in the test organization because I don’t know whether a lot of people know how you test a mainframe. If you’ve never had the opportunity to go to the Poughkeepsie test floor and look at tens of mainframes all gathered in one place, it’s a pretty special place to go and see. I think also getting a view of how operating systems are developed, you’ve got an inside track there. So as I say, I’m going to drag you back. We’re going to spend some time on Linux, that’s where our shared history comes from. But maybe spend a bit of time on test and a bit of time on Set OS before we go there.

Bryan Foley: Sure, absolutely. So I actually skipped one part. Right before that second line test, I had the technical strategy teams and these are some of the best minds and that’s how it was really structured was within each area, bring the best minds into this team and let them shape the role and the future of z/OS, right? The operating system as it goes forward. And so working with those, they were just amazing people to work with and they were set in the future. And so that’s where I learned a lot. And I remember guys like Bob Rogers. I would tell my wife, if I came home late for dinner, the old excuse was it was Bob Rogers, right? Bob came into my office and we got on a whiteboard and two hours later I lost track of time and we just went through either a history of something or redesigning what the future can be.

He with me listening and kind of redesigned that future. So leaving there, going into test, one of the things that I tried to bring into that was really understand the customer need. So if you’re testing this, you got to test it with the view of the customer where it doesn’t just work, it works in a way that the customer wants. And making sure that our testers understood not only what the developers were doing but what the customer wanted. And the test cases really had to be aligned to that, to work fast and it didn’t go down. That wasn’t sufficient. Did it meet what the clients need? Could they easily navigate what they needed to get to the insights, get to the tuning that they needed to do easily versus it just worked? So we kind of instilled that in the organization, really brought innovation into that to bring the guys up a level as far as thinking of how they can change the world in a way in this area and make it better.

Like you said, Steven, there’s acres. I wish everybody could see the test floor, right? I mean there are acres and acres of systems, not only the mainframes but all the systems required to drive those mainframes. When we did some of these large tests where we’d coupled together multiple mainframes into one workload, you needed racks and racks and racks of X86 boxes and power boxes to drive workload in. You needed acres of storage devices to hold all the data in the core transactional systems and so forth. So, it’s just eye-opening to see what went behind that. And then the integration across the hardware teams, the software teams. Z is such an integrated stack.

When you look at the middleware above that, when you go from the chip all the way up to the middleware and what happens there, that integration is what makes Z great, I think, right? As opposed to some other architectures where you might have a great hardware platform and then the operating system’s developed over in another company and these pieces are another and it’s just all over. Our core stack is owned, designed, tested, all together to deliver the value the customer wants versus the peace points.

Steven Dickens: So, I think some fantastic perspectives there. I’m going to take you for a few moments to expand. You just mentioned I went overseas and did my stuff. I know a little bit about your military history and I think we’ll talk about it in the context of what it means for what you’ve been able to bring back from some of the leadership roles. But I’m going to have to push you because I know you’re such a humble guy about your service. Tell us a little bit about your time in the military.

Bryan Foley: Oh yeah. So that is one of my loves, right? I do love the military. I did it while I was going to college and then I just officially got out last year. Turned in all my gear, my basement was full of all this just gear, right? You couldn’t even imagine how much gear we had downstairs. So yeah, I joined while I was in college. I was an artillery guy so it was quite the contrast to walk out on a Friday, go train over the weekend or for a few weeks or whatever and just blow stuff up. And it’s such a stress relief. So it was kind of like a ying to the yang on IBM, right? And just it’s raw, it’s just raw doing and being out in the field with the guys really training for a very serious mission. But it’s some of the most fun that I’ve had in my life with these guys.

No holds barred. You could imagine the fun we had with each other in the military. But I learned a lot. People think that I’m very, because of the military, very hierarchical and do this right and I’m the boss and go. I try to bring more of a collaborative style into the military and then bring some of the leadership lessons I learned from military into IBM. And there’s stuff that each does better than the other, right? In artillery, always part of a combat team, combat arms. We did, as Desert Storm started ramping up, I was just new, the guy still in college, and started, we were going to go over at that point and got kind of shut down or one of the rotations through Desert Storm with some of the post ones. Then with Enduring Freedom, the action over in Afghanistan, we got stood up and had to step out of IBM for a little bit and actually created a new unit and trained them.

So I stepped out for about 18 months from IBM about six months to build and train up a new unit and I think I was a major at that point. And then we spent two months down at Fort Bragg training up and then about 10 months in country in Afghanistan. And again doing what we did and helping the Afghans right against the threat in their country and helping secure our country as well. Working with a bunch of forces, I think I told you I worked with the Brits quite a bit. Awesome guys and great at the craft that they did, but all other countries as well were on my fob. And then as we interacted across NATO and ISAF and those kind of groups. So interesting times and then came back, took off my Army persona, put it up on the shelf, put back on my Bryan civilian persona and went back to work.

Steven Dickens: So, thank you for your service, first off, Bryan. You just throw away in there, oh, I was a major at that point. Obviously a distinguished career in the military and on behalf of the listeners, just want to thank you for your service and everything you’ve done. A couple of tours in the Middle East is certainly something to be respectful of so thank you for that.

Bryan Foley: My pleasure. Yeah, it’s a once in a lifetime, I’m out and I get to grow this like you and yeah, no that was a great time.

Steven Dickens: Maybe let’s talk, you mentioned it at the end of the conversation there but putting those two different personas on and off. Maybe not talk about the service but talk about the experience and the learning of being able to obviously talk from an environment where you could bark orders and people would have to obey and do as you say, bringing some of those contrasts and some of the leadership styles between IBM and the military, kind of maybe just talk us through a little bit of some of the life lessons and leadership lessons that you’ve had.

Bryan Foley: Absolutely. I think one of the great things that our military does compared to what we would call the Soviet Bloc or the Eastern Bloc at that time was we are more of a decentralized army. We are kind of tops down planning and bottoms up refinement and execution. So you may be a private, I started out as a private, went through basic training, went through through officer candidate school, got my commission and so forth. So I went through the ranks as a private and a specialist, Sergeant specialist. But if you are the senior private in that group, you take charge. So you are always either ready to take charge or you’re ready to follow. And then there are times where it is hierarchical, it is here’s the order, go execute, period, end of story. And we get trained that way. Me as a follower will also learn that unless it’s unethical or moral or against the constitution, if it’s an illegal order, we just are not going to follow it.

Anything short of that, I may think it’s not the best order, but look, I mean, that’s my boss and we’re going to go execute to the best of our ability. I’ll try to highlight why I think it is, but when he or she says go, I go. There are times for that, right? There are times where because the time pressure, I mean round’s coming in, it is direction and distance and go. No questions asked. You just go. Same for us. If building’s on fire, you don’t start debating, well, maybe we should do this or plan A, plan B. It is let’s go out this exit, get it reoriented and then figure out how we’re going to address it. So I think the military helped me kind of focus on that there’s times for let’s go and there’s time for a debate and learning the two.

I think the planning that we do in the military, believe it or not, is actually very good. And I’ve tried to use that here. We at IBM sometimes jump to, and I think in the IT industry in general, is like problem answer, right? In the military, in the planning organization at least, we really try to focus on what are the assumptions that we all have, what are the facts that material impact the problem? What is the mission we’re being asked to do? And kind of restate that mission with the assumptions and facts listed. That’s all good, we’ll go on to what are the options for, so what are the criteria for solving? So if I say Steven, what’s the best car in the world? You may answer one way or the other, but what do you mean by best? What do you mean by better?

What are the criteria we’re going to use to judge the possible options? And we go through that. And you hear war gaming, we’ll lay out the options, we’ll use the criteria, and we’ll war game against those. We’ll come out with answers and we’ll come out with option view as best. We don’t do that necessarily in the civilian world as well. It’s kind of like, oh you got this? I think A is the answer. And you kind of debate around A, but you don’t really look at multiple options. So I think the planning there was also one of the things that I took away that was amazing. And then the open and honesty. I mean, there are times where we are brutally, brutally, brutally honest in the military. And look, if we want to survive together, you have to be that frank and open. You can’t swallow your views. There’s a time for that, but there’s a time where you got to be just open and say, look, I think this is going to get people killed.

Steven Dickens: I think there’s some fantastic lessons there. And I know you and I have spoken about it multiple times, the kind of different scenarios and having to snap back. You’ve done it multiple times\ having to go away on a weekend, come back on a Monday, and some of the senior leadership roles you’ve had, it’s kind of been real polar sort of opposites. So I think there’s some good feedback there. So you were going to take us to the period of time when we met in IBM, which was around Linux. I think we’ve got some shared history there. You were positioning sort of your story arc and your career arc and you’ve ended up in Jose Castano’s team. We’ve had Jose on the show before, fantastic individual that we both worked for. You end up in the product management organization looking at some of the strategy of what to do around Linux. You’ve got the pleasure of working with one of the smartest and best looking guys you’ve ever met in your career. So maybe just talk us through a little bit about the Linux part of your job.

Bryan Foley: Yes. And that was a fun time working with that guy, whoever that guy you are talking about.

Steven Dickens: I can’t think of who I’m talking about. Maybe I’m thinking about Dale. Maybe that’s who I’m thinking about.

Bryan Foley: Or Jeff. Yeah, we’ll figure that one out over drinks one day. So yeah, I mean I saw Linux as, again, from an architectural standpoint, what Z can bring to the table. And I’m amazed just how they built it years ago. I mean, we’re probably on year 58 if you go back to the initial launch of the S360. And you think about the architecture that you lay and changes that you make to that over time. So I kind of think of Jenga where it’s a game where you take blocks and you have a solid block, you take a piece from the bottom, put it up top and you keep doing that and eventually you get holes on the bottom and it gets very shaky and the last person take it out and it falls, they lose.

It’s kind of like that when you’re building a system. You’re constantly putting new features on, you’re putting bandaids, you expand it this way, you expand it that way, and over time it kind of almost fails based on its own weight. And it gets very hard to put these bandaids on over time and it’s just so much bandaid more than system. It just falls apart. The architecture that they laid out 50, 60 years ago, not only to be backwards compatible with previous generations is one thing. But our ability to keep maintaining that and that foundation held and is still strong today is just, it’s mind boggling to me as far as how well they did that back in the day.

And the architecture group, guys like Jeff Fry who looked at new things being added and say we can’t do it that way. That’s silly. That won’t hold up over time. We need to look at this and this and this. And it came out to be better solutions. So when you look at that base, you look at what Linux is and what it needs for certain workloads, our type customers, the enterprise customers, and I think Jim Zemlin said it once at the launch at Linux World is Linux has definitely found its place in the enterprise. I think what we were looking at is some of our largest customers that we tended to work with in a z/OS environment, what did they need from a Linux system in those type of environments?

And they needed something different, something strong or something more enterprise based. And if you look at what we delivered from the system itself with its IO capabilities, its transaction capabilities, its scale, its security, all that. And oftentimes next to z/OS processing, the integration of Linux workloads maybe at the tier two at the middle layer with the tier three into z/OS, that intersection was natural, right? And that’s what we looked at. And I felt strongly about that. Jeff felt strongly about it. And so we’re going to bring somebody in to actually do that work. Like I said, I stepped out and said I will take that and I’ll run with it because I really think we can make something of it.

I think you were in a different role at that point, but that’s when we linked up and you said, hey, from a go-to-market standpoint, yeah, I believe in this, we can make something of it. Dale Hoffman, same thing. We could build out the system and Mike Dixon from a marketing standpoint, a small core of guys that really believed in what this could be and let’s make it, let’s do it, right? And we kind of put everything else aside and let’s just figure out how far we could take this. That was the genesis of our Linux journey.

Steven Dickens: And I mean, I look back on that sort of probably nine-month period as probably my best time of my 10 years at IBM. I think you probably do the same. The rooms we were locked in, just hashing a product strategy, marketing strategy, go to market strategy, really looking to launch what we thought at the time had the potential to be a separate brand within IBM. The great work that somebody like a Dion Newman did to champion that as a brand within IBM. And you look back on the last sort of seven years and the success that business has had, it started in some rooms without windows in Poughkeepsie with some pretty brutal and frank conversations between a real small group of maybe at times there was three or four of us in the room hashing out what we could launch. So I tell my version of the story but I’d love to hear your version of the story of that LinuxONE launch.

Bryan Foley: And just I think recognizing just some of the guys that made that possible, guys like Boz Besler and some of the guys in the Germany lab that actually brought Linux against wishes sometimes onto the mainframe and just to prove that can be done and how that got accepted and grew, right? Guys like Lynn Setuachia and the work that he did to make this real on the platform in the early days and others that really kind of built this out. So I’d want to recognize them. So this was figuring out, and I remember the session with you on the pain points. So if we really took a client need, because we could do a lot with Linux, we could do a lot with this system and be very cool stuff and technology-wise pat ourselves on the back, but what do customers need? What pain points are we trying to solve for them?

And so locking ourselves in one of those windowless rooms and you said, hey, let’s just list out all the pain points. Everybody shut up and grab a marker, get up on a board and let’s start drawing that out. And we spent probably two, three hours working through that and then prioritizing and getting down to a collapsed list of here’s I think we got down to here’s the five top problems that we’re trying to help them solve. And then internally also, what are some of the inhibitors internally that we have to overcome to make this real for clients. And that list then became our Bible of we’re working to address these problems, we prioritize within those and that became what we were going to drive to. We were going to solve this. And again, it’s not this, it’s this for the clients and then we could build out from there, but this is the core.

And then it became not only Linux running on mainframe, but it really became like you said, how do we make this a separate brand for clients that just want a kickass Linux server that is a beast that is going to meet their enterprise needs. It’s going to augment what you can do on X86 boxes, whatever, your personal servers or racks of servers, but it’s going to be unique and solve unique problems with this higher end enterprise server called LinuxONE. And it’s one of the few times at IBM that I know of that you could actually create a new brand and really take it from kicking around an idea in a meeting to hey we got something real here to briefing the general manager Ross Mauri who had just started really at that time.

And then that really got carried into, I think into spring plan up to our CEO, right? And Ross being super supportive would not have happened without Ross and Linux and his history with Linux. And understanding of the value of it would not have happened without Ross. And then guys like Newman and Mike Dixon, like you said, I just got to talk to Dion actually last night and the marketing side of this and make it a new brand in the market is not an easy thing in a short period of time. And they did amazing work.

Steven Dickens: And there were some cool penguins involved. I think you may be wearing a t-shirt.

Bryan Foley: I showed it before. This is the one of the t-shirts that we had, the IBM LinuxONE. Do you remember what kind this is?

Steven Dickens: That’s a Rock Hopper.

Bryan Foley: That’s a Rock Hopper penguin. And you might be able to just give some insight on the naming convention. So this is something that we laugh about that I don’t think has ever been done previously nor since in IBM. And I don’t know how we got through, but if you could tell a story on how we got the name.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, yeah. So turn the table. So this is with Mike Dixon and Susan Battenfield in Mike Dixon’s office. And we’re coming up with ideas of what we can call this thing. And the previous kind of version was called the Enterprise Linux server. In typical IBM fashion, it’s been shortened to ELS. So Mike and I and Susan are sort of bouncing around, got to come up with something different, got to come up with something that can’t be shortened and it’s got to be cool and fun. So we start bouncing ideas around and I think the operating system on the Mac at the time was snow leopard or some sort of animal. I think it was snow leopards. So then we start talking about animals and mythical creatures and we’re bouncing around. And this meeting’s like, I think 5:30, 6 o’clock at night. We’re just bouncing off the walls coming up with ideas. And I think I’m going to take credit but I think I threw out, hey Linux, the mascot of Linux is Tux the Penguin.

So then we start bouncing, oh penguins, maybe we can call these boxes penguins. So literally we are finished about 6:30, 7 o’clock that night. I go home not knowing anything about penguins, go and have a chat with my sort of daughter who’s nature obsessed and say, “Hey, can you go do me some research on the internet? You’re allowed to cut and paste, this is an assignment, of the types of penguins?” And I think there’s 19 varieties of penguins. And basically we were trying to research it to get back in the room and sort of narrow in on the names. And obviously you don’t want to name a product after a penguin that’s going to be extinct or that eats its young or does something crazy. I don’t know about penguins. So we managed to navigate and avoid penguin names called the Chin Strap.

Bryan Foley: Yeah.

Steven Dickens: We’re very glad that, and I’m sure IBM marketing would’ve screened those names out, but we managed to drop in on, I think it was Gentoo, Adélie, Emperor and Rock Hopper. Gentoo was actually a Linux distribution. Adélie is an interesting one because that’s also known as the little blue. So that one kind of made it into the list for a while. And then we sort of focused in on Rock Hopper and Emperor and then Mike Dixon goes and does what Mike Dixon does and manages to navigate that through IBM. We managed to navigate the LinuxONE. That was an interesting process, naming a brand within IBM and probably the 30 options that we had navigating through the global dynamics of something like Emperor for countries that have had Emperors in history.

Would that be an issue? Was there a historical significance we needed to be aware of? So great to be along for the ride with Mike Dixon who was responsible for naming the branding back then in the brand. But we managed to get Emperor, Rock Hopper and LinuxONE through. Managed to have those names for a couple of generations of the box. They went away in the third generation but I am so glad to know that they came back and Ross Mauri and the team were able to get their penguins back.

Bryan Foley: Yeah.

Steven Dickens: Great story.

Bryan Foley: I remember the day that we found out that whatever naming board, I don’t even know where they are in IBM, but some naming board came back and approved it and we’re all jumping around high fiving. We thought for, I mean it would come out to the Enterprise server model 372-1 or something like that and they’re like, nope, that Emperor Rock Hopper’s fine. We’re like, wow, that’s awesome. And just kudos to whoever signed off on that. And then I remember Mike Dixon going through, we were in some meeting talking about how we got the end of job. And he brought in a color palette I think of different colors and mix and match. And being a technical guy, I was kind of like, I don’t know, I’m not working on colors, but he brought the pallet and then the little snowflakes are on the side and all the branding that had to go with it, the color of the doors, all that.

Steven Dickens: I remember that door meeting vividly.

Bryan Foley: Yep.

Steven Dickens: John Bertels doing a fantastic job laying out the problem statement, we’ve got to change the doors, that means we’ve got to do some material science work, we’ve got to do some testing. You have to look at flame retardants. Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of things of just regulatory work you’ve got to do, testing, putting the panels on the side of a mainframe is no small feat. And I just remember John did a really good job of completely dispassionately. He didn’t genuinely mind either way, but he did a fantastic job of presenting the problem and then Ross looking down the room going, make it happen John. And that was the reason why. And if there’s still on John’s door and a few of us in Poughkeepsie there was those orange stripes put on the doors of our offices because it was that significant a meeting.

Bryan Foley: Yeah. I remember those meetings. Definitely.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, so John did a great job and he got it done, which I mean, to get that done in the speed. So that’s the genesis story if anybody’s interested of why LinuxONE has orange doors rather than the blue doors that you get on the Z box.

Bryan Foley: Well, I think if I remember correctly, again it’s been a while, but I think there were 17 major programs, major events that we had to hit from a engineering standpoint but also the ecosystem which Dale led of having some software vendors really kind of join onto the platform, support it and be on stage with us at the launch. All the marketing work that had to be done there. Somebody created this open mainframe project thing that I’ve heard about and that’s the genesis of that as well.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I’m just thinking back to another classic meeting.

Bryan Foley: Yes. I know that.

Steven Dickens: You’re doing a fantastic job as always being super organized. You had the 17 programs and 17 sort of major milestones. And I think we’re in a meeting with Ross Mauri, the GM, going through progress. It had originally been scheduled as a two hour meeting. You’ve been trying to keep it on track doing what you do best. And I think we’re sort of 20 minutes from the end of this meeting and I think we’ve covered three topics. So you sort of time, we come to the end of the third topic or whatever it was and you said, “Ross, time check. We’ve got 14 more topics to go, we’ve got 20 minutes, what do you want me to do?” And I’ll remember this comment to my dying day from Ross. I don’t know whether he remembers it, I’ve not mentioned it to him.” We’re not here for a good time, we’re here for a long time. Keep going Bryan.” And I’ve never seen so many executives and IBMers cancel meetings. I think we got out of that office about 7:30 that night and we’d started at about two.

Bryan Foley: Everybody was just reaching out to their assistants and being like, “Cancel.” And it was one of the more productive sessions. And again, kudos to Ross. I mean, he was just in there and fully engaged and again, as he uniquely does, listening, understanding, probing, giving guidance, giving guidance.

Steven Dickens: Knowing when it’s time to let people go and do their things and when it’s time for that meeting specifically of we just got to keep going. This is important. We need to stay in the room. Everybody’s just got to stay in the room. And maybe bring in some of that military piece of this is a time from a command and control. This is a time to just lock everybody in a room and get it done. Not to be empowering and let people leave the room and go and figure it out. No, we’ve got to make some decisions and move.

Bryan Foley: That brings up one of the lessons I did learn in the military, which is, you can go days and days without sleep. You can go a week without food and the hardship that they put you through that almost makes the rest of life easier. And so I don’t get too upset by too many things and I think that’s the reason why. It doesn’t reach that level of hardship where people die and you’re walking for miles with 100 pound pack on your back, right? So yeah, but I remember that day where he said, we’re here for a long time.

Steven Dickens:

So, let’s wind us forward. You and I can carry on talking for hours and we have done, but I’m conscious we’re starting to even get 10 minutes out from our allotted time here. So you move on from the Linux side, you go and leave the mainframe business unit after a little bit of time working for Mike Herrera, you go and leave the mainframe business unit and you go to the public cloud part of IBM, probably as different a part of IBM as you could go to from the systems. There’s a little bit of the LinuxONE and the hyper protect in there, but maybe just frame that yet another career move up and describe that a little.

Bryan Foley: Yeah, so I think it was a somewhat natural transition after working for Mike Herrera who I loved working for. Starting up more of the public cloud business within IBM Z and our protect portfolio and so forth, so working with Elaney and John and the guys as far as building that business and just leveraging unique capabilities of LinuxONE, of Z architecture, the best of IBM that we can bring in to bring into public cloud. And then after that, a short assignment, then move into public cloud. And being able to see the advantages that we’re bringing, again, the best of IBM to include, right? Pieces of LinuxONE, pieces of the Z technology, especially around security. I mean we have best of breed security on the mainframe. You think about the encryption capabilities, you think about the work done underneath some of the digital asset, blockchain, so forth work, just amazing.

So how do we leverage that for our clients that need that, right? That’ll look into move some of the workload. We say 80% of the workload, enterprise workload hasn’t moved to the cloud yet. They would like to but they can’t, right? Whether from a security standpoint, a transaction rate standpoint or regulations standpoint, how do I bring this forward? And I think that’s one of the great things that we are doing and Howard Beauville, our senior vice president, the work, the focus that he’s given us, which is we are great at really bringing that security, that compliance to the cloud.

We do a couple really things great. We don’t need to be everything to everybody. We need to be one thing and be great in that or two things or three things. So if you look at our focus on IBM cloud for financial services and what we’re solving the problem there for, and you know a lot of the clients we worked with them in Z, a lot of the large clients that are part of our financial services councils that are giving us guidance on what they need. How we deal with regulations, how we make their lives easier.

Howard actually came from a bank, he was CTO there, and he said 60% of their budget was focused on compliance. Every time you rolled in a new piece of hardware, software or whatever, at some point you got to go through compliance and prove that you’re still compliant, that you haven’t opened up a security hole and so forth. And so how do we help them with that problem? We have some unique capabilities. So that’s the part I love about it is again, not trying to be a me too with everybody. We solve unique problems for those type of clients that they’re really trying to get to and they’re struggling with getting there. But again, I’m working with a Z team and the mainframe team on how do we bring some of those capabilities to the cloud?

Steven Dickens: And that gives me, we’ve got to start to bring this home here. That probably leads into one of the questions that I ask of all of the guests. You’ve got the opportunity to have a crystal ball. You can look ahead. You can see that sort of three to five year time horizon. Not Z 17, but what’s kind of maybe one or two boxes past that? Maybe there’s a cloud dynamic to it, but what does that sort of future look like for the platform do you think?

Bryan Foley: Yeah, again, going back to the strategic view that IBM and specifically Z has of what the future’s going to be. So they have a great crystal ball there too, right? With the developments they’ve had around cloud, around AI and so forth, security. They are solving problems that clients need. We are not trying to do anything different. They have those same needs. They might just have it in a hybrid multi-cloud world and really leveraging where they could deploy workloads, whether it’s OnPrem, in our cloud, in another cloud, at the edge, wherever they want to deploy workloads that’s right for them. We’re going to help them do that. So I can definitely see, we’re a hybrid and AI company, right? I’m sure the Z team is doing no different than that, right? Focused on hybrid cloud and AI and the role that the mainframe could bring and augment everything else that’s going on.

So from a public cloud standpoint, we’re doing the same and we’re going to leverage some of those capabilities going forward. So I think if you look at some of the strengths of the mainframe, backend, high core, enterprise core transaction systems, if you look at security, I’m sure they’re going to continue to beat that out. They’ve talked about quantum safe and their delivery in that. And as you know, we get to quantum in the cloud. What kind of intersection is there as we look at AI and their new Z 16 system and their new chip set, how do we leverage that to provide AI capabilities in the cloud? Beyond that, I think you’re going to see some of the workload challenges that are coming out in the intersection of workloads and new workloads that are being developed but still need to intersect with their core transactional systems. How do they enable that kind of data, AI machine learning and so forth to come about and that’s what we’re going to leverage in cloud too, right?

Steven Dickens: So fantastic description. Tend to agree with all of that. I think the folks that often are driving around sort of hybrid cloud and AI is going to give the organization a really strong direction. One of the other questions I always ask, and I think given your dual career in the IBM and all the things you’ve done and your time in the military, what advice would you give to the 22 year old Bryan Foley? I’m conscious that’s only a couple of years ago and you’ve packed a lot in, but joking aside, what would you give as advice to that sort of 22 year old self as you are embarking on your career? What would that advice be to some of our younger listeners who are maybe at that inflection point?

Bryan Foley: Yeah, so first I would say invest in Bitcoin at the very beginning and sell at 60K. But beyond that, and invest in some of the stock companies that we know are coming. So first of all, everybody’s different. So I don’t know what my 22 year old self would be different than I am today, but everybody’s different. I did tend to move around quite a bit because I like that challenge. I like learning something new. Just as I became maybe competent, maybe a little below competent, I want to learn something new. In fact, my wife will sometimes say, I’ll come home and say, “Hey, I’m taking a new role.” She’s like, “You just moved into this other role. Can’t you keep a job?” And she’s kind of scared of the future. “Are you going to stay employed?”

But I do like being able to move on. And I think for me, that ability to take different parts and kind of blend them together into that next role. I hadn’t been in the cloud unit, I hadn’t been in certain roles, but I’m able to bring that together from the technology, the business, the client interactions, the strategy and all that and bringing that together to a whole. I would say probably some of the things I’ve learned, one is, you really, really, really, people talk about this, have to enjoy what you do and don’t chase the almighty dollar.

Because this is a long time, 30 years, 40 years, whatever. How ever long you’re going to be in business. Don’t chase the dollar. And people say, do what you love and great things will come of it. Even if you’re never going to make a ton of money, you’re going to have fun and that’s 30, 40 years out of your life you have to enjoy. Two is, I got this advice actually from Greg Glock who was, A, my boss at one point, but also a mentor, was every once in a while, pick up your head, look around, is this the exact thing that you want to be doing right now?

And if it isn’t, go find something else and stop complaining about it. And if it is what you want to do, then put your head down, work hard at it and stop complaining about it. So really thinking about do I want to do this and making your own choices to go forward on that. And enjoy. Find people that you like of like mind. Don’t be afraid of being a fool, right? And I’m using fool in the old sense of not knowing and be able to ask questions and look like you don’t know what you’re doing until you finally do, right? And learning. Don’t hide the fact that you don’t know. Ask questions, learn quick. Continue learning, right? That would be what I tell my old self.

Steven Dickens: I think there’s some fantastic takeaways there. So we’re 46 minutes and 52 seconds in. We set ourselves the objective of going 46 minutes. As always, military precision, Mr. Foley, you get us to exactly the point. The one minute and four seconds we are over is obviously all me listeners. Bryan would never have got us to the point where we over spoke. But no, Bryan, really enjoyed this discussion. Fantastic to have you on the show. Always good to speak to you and thank you very much for listening to us and joining us here today.

Bryan Foley: Thanks, Steven. Great to be with you. Fantastic conversation. I can talk with you for hours and I’m sure I will at some point.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. Thank you very much for listening. You’ve joined us here on the I’m a Mainframer podcast. Please click and subscribe. We love that. It helps the metrics. And we’ll see you next time. Thanks very much.

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