Chalk it up to bad PR that the mainframe community hasn’t publicly proven the worth of the platform despite its importance. While that’s changing—thanks to a renewed outspoken passion from mainframers as well as more confident messaging from vendors like Compuware, BMC and even IBM—Bob says changing mindsets really boils down to making the field of mainframe IT look as prestigious as it truly is.
“People like to have prestige. My one message is ‘Western civilization runs on this platform.’ You want to do something fun, become a video game programmer, and in three years your game will be forgotten.
“But if you want to do something that’s really important, help run western civilization, because the people who run the mainframe, these are the people who are really responsible for holding civilization together.”
Don’t Waste Time on Peanuts
To change the public perception of the mainframe, organizations also must be re-enlightened on the vitality of the platform; they must stop disinvesting and start re-investing in this critical back-end system, Bob says.
“They seem to have forgotten: You use computers to enable your multi-billion-dollar business. Why are you taking risk in the IT area to save a couple of bucks? You should be getting premium IT even if you have to pay premium money for it. Why aren’t you thinking about your real business instead of wasting time and taking risk for peanuts?”
That’s not to say exploring other technologies that would potentially benefit the business is a waste of time. Computing has exploded. Multiple platforms can and should be leveraged strategically to make meaningful advancements.
“The idea that because all this other stuff is running someplace else means the mainframe is going to get squeezed out of what it does is a fallacy. If you’re going to bet against the mainframe, don’t bet a lot,” Bob said.
Bet on "Difference"
In Bob’s eyes, and in ours, there is no corresponding system to the mainframe. It’s different than all others, and in many important ways better.
“When you’re the same, you say, ‘Look we’re the same, we’re open, we’re standard and we’re three percent better than the competition.’ How are you going to maintain the margins that you need to drive research and development by being three percent better?” Bob said.
“On the mainframe, we can say, ‘Look, we’re kind of radically different. We have a different approach. We do things quite a bit differently.’ And those differences can make a big difference.”
It’s no wonder Bob Rogers decided to stay a mainframe programmer rather than jump off to a so-called newer technology. And it’s no wonder he’s still speaking to the power and necessity of the mainframe nearly 50 years after he first had the luck to start working on the platform.