Search /
Docfinder:
Advanced search  |  Help  |  Site map
RESEARCH CENTERS
SITE RESOURCES
Click for Layer 8! No, really, click NOW!
Networking for Small Business
TODAY'S NEWS
FCC defends new net neutrality proposal
New iPad rumor rollup for week ending April 23
Dell adds Big Switch to its SDN mix
Google Plus now minus chief Vic Gundotra
Heartbleed prompts joint vendor effort to boost OpenSSL, security
Microsoft Surface Mini seems likely to ship soon
China working on Linux replacement for Windows XP
FCC adds $9 billion to broadband subsidy fund
Raspberry Pi alternatives emerge to fill need for speed
It's now possible to wirelessly charge 40 smartphones from 16 feet away
Ex-FCC commissioner to head CTIA in latest Washington shuffle
Go time traveling with Google Maps
While Heartbleed distracts, hackers hit US universities
Survey respondents shun much-hyped mobile shopping technologies
7 Ways to Advance Your Project Management Career
How Apple's billion dollar sapphire bet will pay off
US to vote on sharp increase in broadband subsidies
iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending April 18
NSA spying revelations have tired out China's Huawei
Arista co-founder may have switch maker by its jewels
Open source pitfalls – and how to avoid them
AT&T's expanded 1 Gbps fiber rollout could go head to head with Google
Verizon: Web apps are the security punching bag of the Internet
/

Mainframe skill shortage

IT staffers are coming to the job without any mainframe experience.

Related linksToday's breaking news
Send to a friendFeedback

Last July, the Boscov's department store chain took a big step to cut ties to the green-screen interface and reduce a 90% dependence on mainframe skills.

The company replaced its IBM mainframe and OS/390 operating system with an IBM zSeries 900 mainframe that runs z/OS and Linux.

Three-quarters of Boscov's data is processed on the mainframe today, but Boscov's will be moving much of it over to Linux by 2007. The first application was moved over last month, says Harry Roberts, CIO.

The switch lets the Reading, Pa., chain continue to use traditional mainframe COBOL and CICS languages on the z/OS side of the box, together with technologies such as Java running on Linux. With Java-based applications, IT will benefit from real-time browser-based reports in place of static data outputs.

Eventually, nearly all mainframe programming will be done on Java. Roberts says phasing out COBOL programming will transform his department's skills base to 50% client/server, 25% mainframe and 25% a hybrid mix.

With 10% of its legacy IT pros heading for retirement through 2005, Boscov's is facing a wake-up call. "We have to identify and understand that there is a change in the technology curve, that COBOL staff aren't being trained any longer," Roberts says. "Today's graduates understand Java, Linux, C++, HTML and XML, and these are the languages of the future."

Indeed, there's no new mainframe blood on the way. Donald Carr, professor of Computer Information Systems for Eastern Kentucky University, estimates that 90,000 COBOL programmers maintain legacy systems today. Meta Group reports that more than half of today's mainframe pros are at least 50 years old and nearing retirement.

However, 60% of hosted applications will continue to reside on mainframes through the next decade and require support from legacy staff. Meta recommends that companies cross-train IT staff in a blend of mainframe and open systems skills.

Migrating off the mainframe to a distributed architecture can provide an opportunity for younger workers to be exposed to mainframe skills. Legacy staff can develop a career path by learning new skills and automation tools for adapting mainframe applications to other systems.

Formal training is in place for Boscov's IT professionals to learn the shared aspects between the mainframe, Linux and client/server architectures, and in the next 24 months developers will focus on the finer points of Linux and Java. COBOL programmers already are using IBM VisualAge Generator to minimize staff's need to understand Java to do their job. "We have to take steps to ensure that our workforce can cope with the new architecture, and take advantage of it," Roberts says.

Like Boscov's, Volkswagen of America is planning to move to an IBM zSeries mainframe running Linux when the firm's R24 lease expires in October. Scott Aschenbach, computing services manager for gedas, Volkswagen's IT business unit in Auburn Hills, Mich., expects that 10% of the company's 50 legacy IT pros could retire in the next decade.

Aschenbach says it's difficult to find staffers who know mainframes. COBOL programmers are especially rare, despite availability from layoffs, he says.

Fewer schools teach about COBOL and the OS/390 or how to use a 3270 terminal, but instead teach editing on a Windows or a Unix box, Aschenbach says. "They don't have the skills to create a file on my systems, and lack experience with a whole host of specialty tools that are used in the mainframe environment such as CA-7 scheduling application and CA-Easytrieve."

It will take Volkswagen several years to perform the full migration while adding functionality to applications. During that time, Aschenbach will need lots of support staff. So, he's involving them in the transition and motivating them to upgrade their skills and stay on after the mainframe expires.

People need to accept that there's going to be a shortage of mainframe skills and a need to migrate off the mainframe, he says. "It's one of those things where everyone knows that there is a problem but no one talks about it. They know that it's going to go at some point and it's just a matter of when and where."

RELATED LINKS

Contact Feature Writer Suzanne Gaspar

Other recent articles by Gaspar

Mainframe skills head for the Jurassic age
Experts are predicting a mainframe skills shortage in five years' time as aging IT professionals begin retiring in large numbers. IT World.com, 05/06/02.

Microsoft's newest nemesis - the Linux mainframe?
Microsoft largely has focused on trying to gain market share in the high-end server space from Sun. Now with the release of the new IBM zSeries 800 e.server (aka z800), Microsoft and Sun may have a lot to worry about. Network World, 03/04/02.

IBM unveils Linux-only mainframe
IBM plans to trim the prices of its mainframe computers in March when the company unveils a new Linux-only system that will cost about half the price of its current products. IDG News Service, 01/25/02.


NWFusion offers more than 40 FREE technology-specific email newsletters in key network technology areas such as NSM, VPNs, Convergence, Security and more.
Click here to sign up!
New Event - WANs: Optimizing Your Network Now.
Hear from the experts about the innovations that are already starting to shake up the WAN world. Free Network World Technology Tour and Expo in Dallas, San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York.
Attend FREE
Your FREE Network World subscription will also include breaking news and information on wireless, storage, infrastructure, carriers and SPs, enterprise applications, videoconferencing, plus product reviews, technology insiders, management surveys and technology updates - GET IT NOW.