Posts Tagged ‘Academic Initiative’

Goodbye Itanium, zEnterprise Continues to Grow

November 8, 2013

The HP announcement earlier this week wasn’t specifically the death knell for Itanium-based systems, but it just as well might have been. Rather, HP disclosed plans to extend the HP NonStop architecture to the Intel x86 platform.  With NonStop to be available on x86 servers, why would anyone even consider the Itanium platform?

Meanwhile, at an IBM analyst briefing at Enterprise 2013 and again this week, IBM rattled off growth figures for the zEnterprise: 56% MIPS growth and 6% revenue growth year-to-year, over 230 new z accounts since the introduction of the hybrid zEnterprise, and over 290 hybrid computing devices shipped including over 200 zBX cabinets.  Linux on z continues to penetrate the mainframe world with 80% of the top 100 mainframe enterprises having IFLs installed. But maybe the best sign of the vitality of the zEnterprise was the news that 33 new ISVs brought product to the z platform in 3Q2013.

Another sign of zEnterprise vitality: over 65,000 students entered the Master the Mainframe competition in the last 8 years.  In addition, over 1000 universities are teaching curriculum related to mainframe topics. Are you worried that you will not be able to find mainframe talent going forward? You probably never thought that the mainframe would be cool.

Recruiters from Cigna, Fidelity, JP Morgan Chase, Baldor, Dillars, Wal-mart, and more have been actively recruiting at schools participating in the Academic Initiative. For example, a senior business leader for switching systems at Visa described the Academic Initiative as a critical success factor and a lifeline for the company’s future.

With regard to the Itanium platform, HP’s announcement is more about trying to salvage the NonStop operating system than to save the Itanium server business.  “Extending HP NonStop to an x86 server platform shows a deep level of investment in maintaining the NonStop technology for mission-critical workloads in financial markets, telecommunications and other industries. At the same time, it brings new levels of availability to the x86-based standardized data center infrastructure,” said Jean Bozman, IDC research VP in the HP announcement.

Certainly for those organizations that require continuous operations on x86 the HP move will be a boon. Otherwise, high availability on x86 has always been something of a kluge. But don’t expect HP  to get anything running overnight.  This is just the latest step in a multi-year HP effort underway since 2011, and it will probably be another two years before everything gets ported and fully tested. HP promises to help customers with migration.

DancingDinosaur’s advice to NonStop customers that are frustrated by the underwhelming performance of Itanium systems today: Jump to the zEnterprise, either zEC12 or zBC12. You are almost certain to qualify for one of the deeply discounted System z Solution Edition deals (includes hardware, software, middleware, and 3 years of maintenance).  And something like IBM’s Migration Factory can help you get there. If it has taken HP two years to get this far, you can probably be up and running on z long before they get the first lines of NonStop code ported to x86.

Meanwhile, the System z team hasn’t been twiddling their collective thumbs.  In addition to introducing the zBC12 in July (shipped in Sept.) and absorbing the CSL International acquisition, which should prove quite valuable in z cloud initiatives, there has been a new IBM Entry Cloud Configuration for SAP Solutions on zEnterprise, a version of IBM Cognos TM1 for financial planning, and improved enterprise key management capabilities based on the Crypto Analytics Tool and the Advanced Crypto Services Provider.

System z growth led the enterprise server pack in the Gartner and IDC quarterly tabulations. Ironically, HP did well too with worldwide server shipments growing by more than 5% in the third quarter, halting a slump of eight consecutive quarters of shipment declines, according to preliminary market data from Gartner. Still, DancingDinosaur doesn’t think anyone will miss Itanium.

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Academic Initiative Addresses zEnterprise Skills

November 7, 2011

Is there a mainframe skills shortage? Before the recession there certainly was talk of it although it never quite materialized as predicted. Sure, data center managers openly wondered how they would replace the skilled mainframers nearing retirement age, but the market meltdown that wiped out a big chunk of 401k retirement savings and the subsequent recession seemed to delay a lot of retirement plans.

IT analyst Joe Clabby questioned the notion of a skills shortage in a TechTarget piece here. And if there is still a looming a mainframe skills shortage IBM’s System z Academic Initiative seems to be making great progress in heading it off.

IBM’s Academic Initiative for System z, now in its eight year, has enlisted over 1000 educational institutions, which it is equipping with the tools and materials to teach enterprise systems thinking and mainframe skills. Over 43,000 students have taken courses or otherwise gained mainframe exposure through the program. Most importantly, these students are landing mainframe jobs at leading companies like Bank of Montreal, Bank of America, and Citigroup.

While the national unemployment rate in general remains unacceptably high, stubbornly stuck at 9%, the mainframe unemployment rate, based on non-scientific anecdotal evidence, seems much lower. Messages to DancingDinosaur complaining about the lack of mainframe jobs, frequent a year ago have stopped completely. And mainframe job postings appear regularly on LinkedIn’s numerous mainframe interest groups.

A recent briefing on the Academic Initiative for System z made the point that most System z organizations do NOT face a general skills issue. Almost two-thirds of the shops responding to an IBM question on the subject noted that they have the skills they need. If there was any problem, it is among midsize shops (500-1499 MIPS) where 20% complained that they have openings but cannot attract people with z skills. Among the largest shops, 17% reported openings but couldn’t get management approval to fill them. If this is where the biggest percentage of complaints is then clearly there is no mainframe skills problem.

Still, if you need a mainframe job, IBM, through the System z Academic Initiative, has made a mainframe jobs bulletin board ( available free to job seekers. A recent visit showed over 1500 mainframe jobs posted. You can access the jobs board here or post a job.

Many of the schools participating in the Academic Initiative for System z do not have their own mainframe. Instead they remotely access a mainframe IBM has made available elsewhere to give students and faculty access to a System z.

Syracuse University has its own z10 and has been using it to cultivate enterprise systems thinking among its students. Most students, according to David Dischiave, the faculty member heading the Academic Initiative at Syracuse, arrive at school with “false technology awareness.” Sure they know how to swipe smartphones and run apps, but they lack fundamental technology skills and, especially, they lack enterprise systems thinking, which is central to the role of the mainframe.

Dischiave has been pleased to see increased student interest in the school’s reinvigorated enterprise systems curriculum. But what caught him by surprise was the pushback from the faculty, which wasn’t prepared. They better get prepared. Going forward, they can expect enterprise systems thinking to become even more critical on all platforms as the zEnterprise and virtualized and hybrid computing gain traction.

IBM Boosts System z Job Hunting

June 12, 2011

People looking for a mainframe job got a big boost from IBM this month with the introduction of a new System z job website called the System z Job Board. After registering for the site you get to review job postings or post one.

A quick glance at the first few pages of job posts show a range of mainframe jobs from entry-level to advanced. Companies listing System z job openings included: IBM, EMC, state of Colorado, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Colorado, Tata, Unum, Fidelity, Humana, GT Software, state of Minnesota, CVS, and more. Even Apple was there, looking, it appeared, to fill an education and marketing position.

The zEnterprise, what amounts to a hybrid cross-platform, cross-OS enterprise server (z/OS, z/VM, Linux on z, Power, AIX, Linux, x, and soon, Windows), promises to mix up the demand curve for mainframe people and, hopefully, open new opportunities. This comes alongside the purported wave of job vacancies expected from a surge of retirement among aging mainframe veterans. That this massive wave of retirements, seemingly in defiance of demographics, has yet to materialize is puzzling. DancingDinosaur suspects the big hits many 401k plans took in recent years dampened any rosy dreams of retirement and led many to delay plans.

Momentum for the System z mainframe also continues, IBM reports, mainly in emerging markets with shops in Brazil, Mexico, Russia, China, Africa, and India having selected IBM mainframe servers in the past year, but also in North America. Payment Solution Providers (PSP), Toronto, consolidated its entire IT infrastructure on the System z after the 11-year-old company determined that an HP and Oracle infrastructure lacked the security PSP required,

 The jobs website is an extension of IBM’s Academic Initiative for System z program, a global project by IBM to align with colleges, universities and businesses across the globe to develop mainframe and large enterprise skills among college students with an eye toward future employment with Fortune 500 companies worldwide. The Academic Initiative for System z program currently involves 814 colleges and universities across the globe.

The question of mainframe skills demand has been an ongoing debate among various LinkedIn mainframe groups for years. The tenor of the debate has turned generally more positive in recent months. You can follow it here. Or join LinkedIn for free here and subscribe to any or all of the various mainframe groups.

Finally, for job hunters a number of independent mainframe people have begun to compile a worldwide registry of mainframe shops as a Wiki. When DancingDinosaur last checked nearly 500 companies were listed. You can find the list here; you will need to register if you want to submit the names of any mainframe shops not currently listed. Granted the list is incomplete; there probably are several thousand active mainframe shops in the world. Even DancingDinosaur noticed several it had covered that weren’t listed. Still, it is a terrific start; as a Wiki you can bet it will evolve, especially if you contribute.

Among unemployed mainframers looking for work, the hardest hit judging from comments posted on LinkedIn are the 50-somethings. Their problems probably have more to do with the current job market in general and attitudes toward middle-aged workers than with anything specifically to do with the mainframe.

The new zEnterprise mainframe career path

August 4, 2010

There has been a lot of angst on various mainframe discussion forums about the career prospects of mainframe professionals. Between the recession and, at best, a limp recovery combined with the offshore outsourcing of traditional mainframe jobs, these haven’t been happy discussions for the most part. You can sample one here at LinkedIn.

Several moves by IBM in regard to the mainframe over the past few years, such as support for Linux on z, and with the recent introduction of the new zEnterprise suggest what the new career path for mainframe professionals will look like. This doesn’t look like the traditional COBOL/Assembler career that sustained earlier generations of mainframers, although COBOL and Assembler and the like will continue to be part of it.

A better picture of the new mainframe career path was on display at SHARE this week in Boston when a dozen university participants in IBM’s seven-year-old mainframe academic initiative touted their programs, including a variety of certificate and online (distance learning) programs that may fit older mainframers who want to reinvigorate their careers with new skills. Here is some background on the initiative.

Sure COBOL, Assembler, JCL, IMS, ISPF, and other traditional mainframe technologies are part of almost every curriculum, but it is the new offerings that will fuel mainframe careers going forward. The truth is that mainframe jobs revolving around hardcore coding have been shipped offshore, and even when the economy eventually recovers don’t count on those jobs coming back. Mainframe careers in North America and Western Europe in the future will require a wider set of skills.

DancingDinosaur has referenced a number of those skills over the past few months. According to the academics participating in IBM’s System z Academic Initiative they include WebSphere and Linux on z, SOA, Web 2.0, SOA/XML/CICS, Java, virtualization through z/VM, and even Hadoop for massive data sets and RD/z to build the latest mobile phone apps for the mainframe.

Of course the z will continue to do what it has always done well–high volume, high performance, and highly secure and reliable transaction processing. But, according to the academics speaking at SHARE it will take on more business-related, as opposed to transaction-oriented, work. These workloads will involve the data as information, business intelligence, and new types of user interaction.

Even the term for what the z does has changed, which, not surprisingly, is reflected in the name of the new mainframe, the zEnterprise. Increasingly companies will want people who can deliver enterprise computing or large-scale computing (think cloud). Mainframers—that’s you.

The zEnterprise, with its ability to take on diverse and non-traditional mainframe workloads and interoperate with POWER7 and x86 platforms, was designed for this new mainframe role. It can scale and perform as never before, and it is more versatile than any previous mainframe.

So, how can traditional mainframers get involved in this new enterprise computing? Here are the first three steps:

  1. Sharpen your z/VM skills since virtualization is quickly becoming pervasive throughout enterprise computing and the cloud
  2. Develop Linux skills, both on and off the z
  3. Get familiar with business-oriented workloads like business intelligence and computing approaches like SOA, web services, and cloud

OK, maybe it isn’t exactly the career you signed up for as a mainframer. But, unless you somehow manage to cling to a traditional mainframe job, it is the most likely career path you’ll find going forward. And you will get to play with all the sexy new technologies from Hadoop to cloud computing. Plus there are things like the latest mobile phones. Want to build a mainframe iPhone app using RDz/Eclipse plug-ins? It’s possible. Go for it.

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