Most of us acknowledge the fact that the mainframe will be around for a very long time.  There are too many companies whose core business relies on the power and resiliency that the mainframe provides for their mission critical applications.  It just makes sense to leverage such an excellent computing platform.  However, the mainframe landscape has been evolving and will continue to evolve into fewer installations with a larger footprint to serve the mainframe customer base.

The primary reason for this evolution….the increasing shortage of qualified personnel required to support the mainframe.

This phenomenon has been unfolding for several years now.  Experienced people leaving via retirement (or worse) with the rate of backfill not keeping up.  The kids coming out of school have no interest in the mainframe, although the smarter ones realize the opportunity and the higher pay that goes along with it.  Even I can do the math on this one.  Eventually things are going to break down badly, many companies will be negatively affected in a serious way and a lot of CIOs will be losing their jobs.

I like to press the hot buttons, for better or worse, and button that I press quite often with folks is “what are you planning to do about the mainframe skill shortage?”  Interestingly, the most common response I receive is “we are planning to move off the mainframe before this happens.”  My thought each time I hear this is the same…while this may sound good to upper management, it is going to take a helluva lot longer than you think, cost you a fortune, you will most likely be in a worse situation once the dust settles and you may even lose your job as a result.

A better answer, in my humble opinion, is “we are going to address this in a smarter manner by embracing the evolution.”

Embracing the evolution does not mean to go ahead and outsource your entire mainframe operation (more often than not, this results in less than desirable results).  Rather, think Cloud and transfer specific applications to a reputable service provider to run in their facility at a predictable cost, keeping your subject matter experts in-house.  You will find that as your applications are transferred, your MLC fees will drop with the savings offsetting the cost of the external service provider…and…over time, actually reduce your overall spend.

There are several excellent mainframe service providers available to choose from (IBM, CSC, HP, etc.) who not only have extensive experience with mainframes but, more importantly, are actively addressing the skills shortage via rigorous training and recruiting the right people.  You also get the benefit of holding someone else responsible for service level agreements, maintaining system / database software, disaster recovery, etc.

Bottom line…keep your mainframe capability, just approach it in a smarter manner by embracing the evolution.  You will be thankful that you did!

Regular Planet Mainframe Blog Contributor
Scott Quillicy is the CEO and founder of SQData, an Addison, Texas based software company that specializes in high-performance data movement and changed data capture (CDC) for IMS, VSAM and relational databases. He has over 30 years of database experience and is considered an expert in database replication strategy and deployment. Prior to founding SQData, Scott was involved in the development of IBM’s DB2PM and other database performance tools.

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