Mainframe Propeller Head

Nov 22 2010   4:56PM GMT

The mainframe: The “red-haired stepchild” of IT

Ryan Arsenault Ryan Arsenault Profile: Ryan Arsenault

In a roundtable discussion on the future of the mainframe, a group of IT pros found that a little more mainframe lovin’ will go a long way in ushering in the next generation of IT.

Last week, CA Technologies hosted the virtual seminar “From Here to Eternity: The Mainframe as a Mainstay of the Enterprise.” Moderator and former IBM mainframe programmer Michael Krieger went on to call the mainframe the “red-haired stepchild of IT” – a totally unwarranted public notion according to one expert – the platform is a dime a dozen among Fortune 500 companies.

“This is, in fact, the platform that’s powering the global economy,” said Dayton Semerjian, general manager, Mainframe, CA Technologies. The two most important IT developments as of late have “been the mainframe and Apple Computer. Everyone knows about Apple and no one knows about the mainframe. It’s important to remind everyone just how important the mainframe is.”

If the global economy is on to something, then why is the general public out of the loop on the efficiencies of the mainframe? For one, the platform isn’t tabloid fodder.

“It doesn’t run into trouble,” said Semerjian in a follow-up call. “So that doesn’t make it interesting to write about. No one can hack into it. There’s no bad news about a mainframe.”

In addition, and most importantly, notes Semerjian, the mainframe is not widely communicated because it manages just a small piece of the data center puzzle – albeit an important one.

To top it off, a CA Technologies survey of 200 senior-level mainframe execs showed that while 76% of respondents will maintain or increase their investment in mainframe software during the next 12-18 months, 61% percent of respondents don’t believe the IT industry does enough to promote mainframe career opportunities to recent graduates. In other words, this mainframe momentum will be a moot point if there aren’t any from the next IT generation that know about the platform and develop it.

“Folks are beginning to move into retirement. You’ve got to attract people who want to build a career on this,” said Semerjian.

One industry exec also agreed that it’s time to promote, promote, promote, and change the perception of, or lack thereof, the mainframe to recent grads.

“We have to define what the mainframe is to the potential workforce,” said Trevor Eddolls, CEO, iTech-Ed Ltd. “There aren’t many green screens left…the mainframe’s role is changing – it can now scale across different types of hardware.”

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