Attract Young Techies to the Z

A decade ago DancingDinosaur was at a major IBM mainframe event and looked around at the analysts milling about and noticed all the gray hair and balding heads and very few women, and, worse, few appeared to be under 40, not exactly a crowd that would excite young male computer geeks. At the IBM introduction of the Z it had become even worse; more gray or balding heads, mine included, and none of the few Z professional female analysts that I knew under 40 were there at all.

millions of young eager to join the workforce (Image by © Reuters/CORBIS)

An IBM analyst relations person agreed, noting that she was under pressure from IBM to get some young techies at Z events.  Sounded like Mission Impossible to me. But my thinking has changed in the last couple of weeks. A couple of discussions with 20-something techies suggested that Zowe has the potential to be a game changer as far as young techies are concerned.

DancingDinosaur covered Zowe two weeks ago here. It represents the first open source framework for z/OS. As such it provides solutions for development and operations teams to securely manage, control, script, and develop on the mainframe like any other cloud platform.

Or, to put it another way, with Zowe IBM and partners CA Technologies and Rocket Software are enabling users to access z/OS using a new open-source framework. Zowe, more than anything before, brings together generations of systems that were not designed to handle global networks of sensors and devices. Now, decades since IBM brought Linux to the mainframe IBM, CA, and Rocket Software are introducing Zowe, as a new open-source software framework that bridges the divide between modern challenges like IoT and the mainframe.

Says Sean Grady, a young (under 30) software engineer at Rocket Software: Zowe to me is really cool, the first time I could have a sustained mainframe conversation with my peers. Their first reactions were really cynical, he recalls. Zowe changed that. “My peers know Linux tools really well,” he notes.

The mainframe is perceived as separate thing, something my peers couldn’t touch, he added. But Linux is something his peers know really well so through Zowe it has tools they know and like. Suddenly, the mainframe is no longer a separate, alien world but a familiar place. They can do the kind of work they like to do, in a way they like to do it by using familiar tools.

And they are well paid, much better than they can get coding here-and-gone mobile apps for some startup. Grady reports his starting offers ran up to $85k, not bad for a guy just out of college. And with a few years of experience now you can bet he’s doing a lot better than that.

The point of Zowe is to enable any developer, but especially new developers who don’t know or care about the mainframe, to manage, control, script, and develop on the mainframe like any other cloud platform. Additionally, Zowe allows teams to use the same familiar, industry-standard, open-source tools they already know to access mainframe resources and services.

The mainframe is older than many of the programmers IBM hopes Zowe will attract. But it opens new possibilities for next generation applications for mainframe shops desperately needing new mission-critical applications for which customers are clamoring. Already it appears ready to radically reduce the learning curve for the next generation.

Initial open source Zowe modules will include an extensible z/OS framework that provides new APIs and z/OS REST services to transform enterprise tools and DevOps processes that can incorporate new technology, languages, and workflows. It also will include a unifying workspace providing a browser-based desktop app container that can host both traditional and modern user experiences and is extensible via the latest web toolkits. The framework will also incorporate an interactive and scriptable command-line interface that enables new ways to integrate z/OS in cloud and distributed environments.

These modules represent just the start. More will be developed over time, enabling development teams to manage and develop on the mainframe like any other cloud platform. Additionally, the modules reduce risk and cost by allowing teams to use familiar, industry-standard, open source tools that can accelerate mainframe integration into their enterprise DevOps initiatives. Just use Zowe to entice new mainframe talent.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at technologywriter.com.

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