Evangelizing Mainframe
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IBM Academic Initiative Helps Fill the Skills Gap

The growing need for mainframe skills in the computing market has been evident over the years. Justifying this statement is the mere fact that the following rely on these enterprise systems to do business:

• The top 25 worldwide banks
• 23 of the top 25 U.S. retailers
• Nine of the top 10 global insurance providers
• 64 percent of U.S. Fortune 500 companies, and
• 71 percent of global Fortune 500 companies

Who maintains these systems? The system programmers, many of whom will soon retire, leaving a huge gap in the skillset required for maintaining these complex systems. This should not only concern the big companies using mainframes but also vendors like IBM.

The solution is pretty simple: To prepare new graduates with the necessary skills, the technology must be taught in schools and universities. To bridge the gap, the IBM Academic Initiative System z was formed. The Academic Initiative team, I must say, have done a great job over the years in attracting new students to learn the mainframe. The industry has equally supported the move. One of the most successful achievements is the annual Master the Mainframe Contest.

Through the contest, participating students solve real-time business problems using mainframe systems. The competition has been well-received by the younger generation. It’s not all about winning. It’s also about the feeling of tackling complex problems, doing it quickly to get recognized, and earning exciting prizes at the same time. This has definitely helped reduce the obscurity of learning mainframe skills at the school level.

As a result, mainframe education has now been promoted and introduced to the different schools at various levels. The industry and educators have advocated the need for enterprise systems. Companies are seeking and nurturing students with mainframe skills through job and internships opportunities. Scholarships have been made available to deserving students who are willing to further their mainframe education. All of this has been done to address the skills gap. Soon, there will be an army of mainframers, a new generation ready to tackle and control the business operations.

Niranjan Sharma recently graduated with a master’s degree in information systems from Illinois State University with specialization in enterprise systems. As a research assistant and z/VM infrastructure administrator at ISU, he led and managed projects on virtualization using z/VM and VMware. With diverse experience in operating systems and networks, he looks forward to base his career in cloud computing and virtualization.

Posted: 10/25/2011 9:34:55 AM by Niranjan Sharma | with 2 comments

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The IBM Academic Initiative System z is proud of the work that thousands of educators and students have done over the past decade to address the skills needs of today’s enterprise data centers. From 23 schools working with our program in 2003 to over 900 worldwide today, we’re helping to provide schools with the resources they need to prepare students for jobs in the tech industry. For students who go to work at large companies, there’s a good chance they’ll be working with mainframes either directly or indirectly, and having mainframe skills can only improve their career prospects.

There is a real demand from IBM customers for students with mainframe skills. You can peruse some of the 1,600 jobs listed on Systemzjobs.com to see some good examples. Looking to the future, here’s a nice article on Destination z that addresses the long-term outlook: http://www.destinationz.org/Mainframe-Solution/Trends/Reports-of-Its-Death-Are-Greatly-Exaggerated.aspx

If you’re having trouble locating a mainframe program close to home, several schools offer traditional and on-line courses. For a fine example, you can check out the Spring 2012 schedule for the Marist College online z/OS certificate program: http://idcp.org/enterprisesystemseducation/spring2012registrationenterprisesystems.html

The IBM Academic Initiative System z program offers no-cost, worldwide access to System z hardware and software at no charge to professors and students, with full-time support staff dedicated to assisting academia. Thousands of students log into these academic hub systems every semester to perform hands-on labs.

In North America, over 3,800 students are currently competing in our Master the Mainframe Contest (ibm.com/university/contest). In 2011, the contest is running in 22 countries, with over 11,000 registered students to date.

As for all the students learning Linux, fantastic! Their Linux skills will serve them well in a mainframe environment: http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Linux-and-Open-Source/10th-Anniversary-of-Linux-for-the-Mainframe-Beginning-to-Today/

We continue to prioritize our activities and investments based on extensive collaboration with IBM System z clients around the world, and we're always looking for new schools to assist. If there’s anything the IBM Academic Initiative team can do to assist you (or anyone else interested in discussing enterprise computing skills issues), we can always be reached at our System z Skills Help Desk, zskills@us.ibm.com.
Posted: 11/2/2011 3:35:46 PM by Mike Todd
“Soon, there will be an army of mainframers, a new generation ready to tackle and control the business operations.”
If only that was where the trend was pointing. Using your own numbers:
• 23 of the top 25 U.S. retailers
• Nine of the top 10 global insurance providers
• 64 percent of U.S. Fortune 500 companies, and
• 71 percent of global Fortune 500 companies
Ten years ago how many of the top 25 retailers were using mainframes? Twenty years ago?
Same question for the others as well. How many of those that still have mainframes have announced that they are ‘transitioning’ off the mainframe?
I live and work in NE Florida, not across the street from Marist or Syracuse so maybe my perspective is not the same as other who are closer to IBM Academic Initiative institutions but this is what I see. When I check the IBM Academic Initiative web site the closest school listed is a six hour drive in good weather and timing when I leave to avoid rush hour on both ends. When I check that schools online course catalog I cannot find ANYTHING in it that even remotely sounds like a mainframe based class or that mentions ‘z’ anything in its’ description. When I check the next two closest schools I am told that no, they do not actually have any mainframe hardware, and no, they do not offer these courses every semester and no, they do not offer them at night or on the weekend.
When I check the Linux Academic Initiative web site (joke) I find the closest school listed is six blocks away (not a joke) and I can take a bus there for $0.50 if the weather is bad door to door every 10 minutes but as I said above, this is NE Florida so most of the time I can walk there in 10 minutes for free. When I check that schools online course catalog I find that I can take Linux classes morning, afternoon, or night and I even have my choice of whether I prefer M-W or Tu-Th.
You mention scholarships for students to further their mainframe education, well over at Linux U they not only have scholarships but they have these other programs that will PAY ME to attend classes and PAY FOR my child care when I am attending classes if I am a full time student.
All this and they have several lab rooms full of Dell and Cisco equipment open to students 14 hours a day (only 8 hours on Sat and Sun) and these are not the class room systems, these are extras. Dell and Cisco do sell some of the equipment to them, but I was told they also GIVE the school over half the lab systems and for those that they are paying for the school gets a substantial discount on both the purchase and maintenance.
Meanwhile, back here in the working world, in my industry every one of the major companies uses mainframes extensively, today. As for the future, in my industry, all but one of the major companies has announced plans to completely move off the mainframe (z/OS) and the one other has, I am told, said that they are ‘evaluating’ the option.
So, I hope that army of yours shows up soon and we turn this tide or they are going to find that the war is over and nobody is looking to hire any (z/OS) mainframe soldiers because nobody is running (z/OS) mainframes.
IBM let itself get out maneuvered by DEC many years ago with its’ Unix initiative to the schools and now the bill to be paid for that mistake is coming due. The IBM Academic Initiative (in its’ current form) is a step in the right direction but it is not even remotely close to the level of effort (both marketing time and $$$ for physical hardware) that will be required to turn the ‘off the mainframe (z/OS) and on to Linux’ trend around.
Posted: 11/2/2011 9:13:43 AM by Gene

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