Mainframe Propeller Head

Jul 26 2010   3:19PM GMT

Share President Al Williams on the mainframe and member survey findings

Ryan Arsenault Ryan Arsenault Profile: Ryan Arsenault

IT information group Share recently announced results of its survey to members, and later on next week will be holding its bi-annual conference in Boston.  Share sent out the survey to 160 of its members, asking for their feedback on the current state of enterprise IT, and the participants’ top 5 concerns in the area.   I spoke with Al Williams, Share president, on some of the major issues making up the survey, and on how they relate to the mainframe.


Are older mainframe programmers actually paying attention to the “new” technologies like cloud computing and virtualization? Are IT admins “cloudy” or weary on cloud computing in general and how their mainframes factor into the equation?

End users may not even know they are using a mainframe.  Programmers on the mainframe are typically using Java or other web-focused languages to deliver applications as web services. So to them, there may not be a difference between programming for the mainframe and programming for a different server platform.  We have lots of sessions at Share in Boston about these topics, and many of them will also be webcast on the Share Online from Boston site.  We also have a complete series of sessions, our Architecture Summit, which will be webcast live on Share Online from Boston.  Cloud can be a confusing topic.  Technology-wise, you will hear people saying that we have had that technology since 1980 (or before).  The cloud paradigm is not really about technology – it’s about a new service delivery paradigm. It’s about delivering virtualized servers on demand, as needed, for example.  There will be over 20 sessions on the cloud at Share in Boston.


Can you talk a little bit about the survey to Share members, and what some of the major findings were?

It was administered by Share for its members who also tend to be IBM customers.  Of the 20 choices offered, the top five concerns were:

1. Cost management: Reduction and/or avoidance

2. Virtualization: Of those ranking virtualization as a top issue, the server is their primary focus in this area, followed by storage and networks

3. Improving value of IT to the business and/or deriving competitive advantage from IT

4. Enterprise security

5. Aging/demographics of current IT staff


Share identifies “managing and deriving a competitive advantage from social media” as one of the issues mentioned on the survey – from a marketing standpoint this makes sense, but why should IT admins/professionals be interested in Twitter or Facebook?

Actually, that key topic did not score highly.  It came in 18th out of 20 choices.  So maybe they don’t care – yet.


Is the mainframe fading away based on the results? Do you see IBM’s new mainframe adding a boost to the market?

I do not think the mainframe is fading away.  That was supposed to happen in the early 1990s, but still hasn’t.


What will be the emerging trend coming out of the Boston Share conference that mainframe programmers should be looking at?

As you can see from the survey results, the heat is on for managing IT cost and for making sure that IT is relevant to our home business.  IT/the bottom line is one of the two main themes of Share in Boston.  The other is enterprise virtualization/cloud computing.  The point of IT/the bottom line is that IT is not about technology.  It’s about delivering services that are relevant to the business strategy of your employer.  If you fail to do that, you are merely an overhead expense to your employer.  This isn’t just a mainframe issue – it really applies to all IT service providers, or employees.

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