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Interview: Preparing for the longevity of mainframes

T.C. Seow | Sept. 26, 2012
Q&A with James Russell, Area Vice President, MSM Sales, Asia Pacific at BMC Software, on what businesses should look out for when considering and looking ahead into the future of mainframes.

As mainframes cover a variety of operations from security to hosting multiple operating systems, one of the ways to coax younger IT professionals to the mainframe industry is to continually up-skill themselves on top of foundational skills to provide the flexibility as the mainframe evolves with new technology.

In addition, the BMC mainframe survey revealed that the top three channels in Asia Pacific to address the mainframe skills needs/shortages include training internally (58 percent); hiring experienced staff (50 percent); and outsourcing (46 percent). Interestingly, the top three channels to address mainframe skills shortage globally are an exact match to Asia Pacific. The key difference between the global and Asia Pacific findings is that Asia Pacific respondents ranked at least 5 percent more for each of these three hiring channels.

Table: Addressing skills shortage
Table: Addressing mainframe skills shortage.

Q: Are there really no true modern replacements for mainframes? If so, should we go back to the computing schools of yesteryears when people were trained to operate them well?

The mainframe remains the most trusted platform for managing large scale, transaction processing intensive business applications. Key to this is the security, stability and transaction processing efficiency of the mainframe architecture. It is one of the primary reasons mainframes have been retained in industries such as banking and health, where data security and stability combined with transaction volume is paramount.

It is this combination of the security inherent within the mainframe's architecture and the ability to manage large volumes of transactions that helps minimise the risk of data loss, compromise and system intrusion that are more prevalent on systems with less robust architecture. It is the reason why, despite today's changing business landscape, the mainframe's growth is holding steady.

This begs the question of whether businesses should be concerned about staffing. From a systems management perspective, the survey found 35 percent of respondents were very concerned about skills shortages and 36 percent were somewhat concerned. If this statistic were to be read independently, it would be a clear indicator that there is a growing concern in this area of skills shortage. However, the survey also asked Asia Pacific businesses what their top IT priority for 2012 would be and reducing the cost of IT ranked first (75 percent) up 12 percent from two years ago.

While hiring skilled personnel would be one way to ensure cost efficiency, BMC believes that utilising workload automation could be another effective solution to lowering IT spend. A recent BMC workload automation survey found key trends that would impact businesses:

End-user self service
Self-service has traditionally been leveraged by IT organisations, but business users are increasingly harnessing its benefits to execute tasks without requiring IT personnel resources. Fifty-five percent of respondents globally viewed end user self-service to be an important or critically important workload automation feature. BMC's Control-M Workload Automation solution will empower end users to have more control of their jobs while maintaining complete records for compliance and reporting.


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