Rocket at 25: Helping customers solve business problems for 40 years with Rocket AS
As we celebrate Rocket’s 25th anniversary we’ve been looking at some of the great innovations that the company has made since 1990. This week, however, we’re going all the way back to 1975, when men wore bellbottoms with no apparent sense of irony. That’s because this week the Rocket AS (Analytics Server) product celebrates its 40th anniversary. AS, developed by the ASTRAC Lab, provides sophisticated business analytics and related application development on both mainframe and multiplatform systems.
How the product started is a simple story of listening to customer needs and challenges and then building a solution to solve them – which is just how Rocket started 25 years ago.
As with many Rocket products, the story of AS involves IBM. It began in the early 1970’s in the heart of London, a few hundred yards from St Paul’s Cathedral. IBM had a bureau service, which today would be known as Software as a Service. This service ran on a System/360 mainframe and included software to help solve various business problems such as data selection, statistics, forecasting, and financial modelling. The problem was that each of these programs had different user interfaces and held its data in different formats, meaning that users needed to wait for a programmer to write a data conversion program before they could take the results from one program and use it in the next.
In 1974 IBMer Tony Temple started a project to create an integrated suite of business tools around a common data management and reporting system. The solution needed to allow users to solve business problems by themselves, and importantly without needing dedicated programmers. Nine months later, on April 1st 1975, a new product was released – IBM AS.
As a footnote, only a few days before the announcement the product was going to have a different name – IBM Mantis. At the last minute, someone in IBM management said this was unsuitable. Tony suggested Application System and “AS” was born.
From the beginning, the AS team realized the key to success for the product was “service to the customer” – listening to the users and quickly providing solutions for their problems. With these values the AS product quickly grew in popularity, and within a couple of years there were customers in 18 different countries. The AS team also grew and in 1978 moved from London to a new IBM site being built in Warwick, at the center of England on a former pig farm.
The innovation continued in Warwick with support for the latest “visual display units,” an integrated email client, and in 1981 a remote meeting capability with screen sharing was added…15 years before WebEx!
As you would expect, the AS product has significantly evolved since 1975, especially since ASTRAC took over development and support from IBM in 1997 and continued with the acquisition of ASTRAC by Rocket in 2005. AS now also includes multiplatform servers, desktop and web browser clients, and a Windows/Linux IDE built on Eclipse.
AS is still one of most powerful analytics suites for z/OS and z/VM, and parts of it are now being reused in other Rocket and IBM products. Forty years on AS continues to help businesses around the world solve problems, using the same Rocket values today that kickstarted the products success all those years ago.