June 10, 2013 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Providing Information Security Services Relating to Mainframe Legacy Systems for Fortune 500 Companies and Government Institutions, EKC, Inc. is Uniquely Positioned with a Suite of Software Products Developed by Experts
About EKC, Inc.
EKC is uniquely positioned
to solve tough Information Security issues as they relate to mainframe
legacy systems, with particular focus on e-Business applications. Our suite
of software products has been developed by a team of experts with a broad
range of experience. We recognize that although our mission has remained the
same over the years, security technology and practices have changed
dramatically and we continue to grow to meet these challenges.
Mainframe Legacy Systems
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – June 10, 2013
CEOCFO: Mr. Klemens, would you tell us about EKC?
Mr. Klemens: We provide information security services for Fortune 500 and government in terms of mainframe security. We have products that augment that and services that work around that.
CEOCFO: What do your solutions provide that is different than others?
Mr. Klemens: While we do have overlap with other solutions, our solutions are point solutions for problems. These are for IBM mainframes, “Big iron” as we used to call them. Those are our customers; the big banks and the Fortune 500 people who run Big iron. They run 1 out of 3 mainframe security systems; IBM has one called RACF and Computer Associates, or CA, has 2 called ACF2 and Top Secret. When there was a company called SKK we wrote ACF2. We got acquired by UCELL, UCELL got acquired by Computer Associates, I became VP of development at CA and left there around 1990 and went back to EKC. I started this as a consulting business on the side. This company had been incorporated in 1985 and I went back and started this up again in terms of providing services around ACF2 because I felt like the proud parent of the product.
CEOCFO: Are mainframes here to stay?
Mr. Klemens: Absolutely, but not the way people think. Customers we deal with will have a $300 million or half a billion IT budget so we are not dealing with small entities. If you do not have a mega budget for IT, you are not going to be running a mainframe in the classical sense. IBM has their servers that they are positioning as Linux servers and other such functions that also happen to run legacy code, but that is not what I am talking about here. Talking about mainframes in my sense means Big iron. They are not going to go away because as much as we talk about Cloud computing and all of the other server capabilities we have out there, nothing is going to beat a mainframe for what they need to do. They will have all kinds of Cloud or network hardware and they will use the Cloud, for instance for Internet banking. However, at the end of the day, the backend processing is going to be on a mainframe. Those are our customers.
CEOCFO: Is there much competition?
Mr. Klemens: Not really. The “hot action” is all around the Cloud based, network based interfaces because that is where people are going. You see all the mobile devices and different ways people interface with the Internet and for a large corporation that has a face to the world, the action is how you deal with wireless interfaces. There are encryption, detection, privacy and HIPAA issues and that is what large corporations are worried about. They feel that the backend is secure. In reality, it is as secure as you want to make it. Just like anything else, security is about building walls—you build them high enough and someone will build one higher if they really want to get in. If I am another government and I have infinite funds and for whatever reason I want to get in to one of our banks, I am sure eventually I could. It is a question of who catches it first and who builds the wall faster than the one who builds the ladder.
CEOCFO: Do you look for new customers or do people routinely come to you?
Mr. Klemens: We are pretty much a word of mouth kind of organization. We tend to have repeat customers because they are the big Fortune 500 people who have Big iron and they need our services. We are occasionally involved with companies when there are some breaches. In general, it is a very small, stable market that we are in. We are in a niche.
CEOCFO: In your mission statement, it mentions core values of fairness, integrity, honesty and honor. What does that mean day to day for the company?
Mr. Klemens: In simple terms it means we give you an honest job for an honest day’s pay. When we provide services, we are there to do what is right for customer. For instance, we do not bill hourly. We go and do a job and sometimes we work 8 hours, sometimes 16, whatever it takes to get the job done that day. The whole idea is that we are not trying to rack up hours; we want to make sure we give you the value you deserve when you contract us. This is the same with our software products. In that sense, we also have good working relationships with the other vendors and we can get access to things and information that other people normally cannot.
CEOCFO: Is it difficult to find the technical people who you need to service clients?
Mr. Klemens: Yes, definitely. The newer generation of people who are in this profession tend to be more interested in the Cloud or server aspect and not so much in the classical legacy mainframe discipline. For instance, trying to find people who truly know basic assembly language for the mainframe is hard. It is not taught anywhere anymore and people do not learn it. Trying to find what we used to call system programmers is hard. Today, people learn some of the protocols and utilities so that they can support a system in terms of putting on maintenance, but they do not learn how a system works. It is a whole different world. The people who have experience and education are slowly retiring or coming back as consultants for the industry.
CEOCFO: How do you circumvent that challenge?
Mr. Klemens: It is an issue we have; my people have gray hair here, too. In the past we have tried looking for interns—sometimes that has worked, sometimes it has not. We used to work with Northern Illinois University but they do not have that program anymore. It is a challenge. Every once in a while we find someone who is really interested in mainframes. We do not recruit from our customers and clients but sometimes they point us in the right direction because they also have a problem and they train their own people if they are large.
CEOCFO: How is business?
Mr. Klemens: It has been better, to be honest. Even very large corporations are only buying solutions when they have a problem. Before they might have been more proactive; nowadays, everyone sees the mainframe as a big safe box and as long as there is not a problem, they are not looking for solutions. They are trying to spend their budget on dealing with the ever changing new technologies.
CEOCFO: Does it surprise you that people who should know and understand the need to protect their mainframes do not?
Mr. Klemens: Yes, to a degree. Part of what is happening in the industry is that they are looking more at dollar signs rather than the technology. The newer people do not have that kind of grasp on what mainframe legacy technology is. It is a combination of watching the dollars and not having that 40 years of IT experience that some of us have to understand some of the issues.
CEOCFO: Why should investors and people in the business community pay attention to EKC?
Mr. Klemens: Eventually, at the end of the day, those legacy systems are going to stay. There are very few vendors that can handle it right now and we are the only vendor with niche products for some of those security solutions. Most of them have and are running our software and nothing will change unless there is a merger or acquisition. They know we are here, they have a need and they talk to us. It is not a growing industry in terms of adding more mainframes but we are going to see the big ones getting bigger and they are still going to need these services.
CEOCFO: Final thoughts?
They once said that the mainframes were dead when the minis came out and we
are still going strong. Do not take mainframes for granted; they require
care, feeding and attention just like the other systems do. Now mainframes
are much more secure and have more proven capabilities because of the legacy
and all the hard work people have put in over the last 40 years.
“At the end of the day, those legacy systems are going to stay.”- Eberhard R. Klemens
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