IT Management

When cooking, good ingredients are critical to the recipe; no matter how good your recipe is, bad ingredients will wreck it. However, by the same token, no matter how good your ingredients are, they’re useless without the right recipe.

Over the past 45 years, the mainframe ecosystem has provided the ideal ingredients for successful enterprise computing. That’s something to be proud of, and not to forget. But the time has come to “cook up” the next generation for the mainframe—because the challenges facing IT continue to change at a rapid pace.

This was a central theme at SHARE in Denver this past August. SHARE attendees were clearly looking for a recipe for a game-changing, business-empowering future for the mainframe. Everyone seemed to have the same hunger and awareness of a need to build on the ingredients that have served so many so well for so long in order to better fulfill the evolving demands of the information-driven enterprise.

This theme was captured in the keynote by Chris O’Malley, EVP and general manager of CA’s Mainframe Business Unit. O’Malley focused on the future of the mainframe. He also offered his own recipe for next-generation success—which included ingredients such as the aggressive mentoring of young IT professionals by experienced mainframe veterans, graphical tools that make the mainframe a friendlier platform for those young IT professionals, and other solutions that enable IT to fully exploit the mainframe’s superior performance, reliability, security, and energy- efficiency.

The three other keynotes also showed the importance of leveraging ongoing advances in mainframe technology to evolve the platform in ways that address constantly changing IT and business requirements.

Given this theme, it was especially encouraging to see so many young mainframers at the show. In fact, zNextGen—a SHARE project dedicated to the development of a new generation of mainframers—announced it had grown to more than 550 members. By the time SHARE was over, they had added three new, young project officers.

Indeed, SHARE seemed to be going through a process of renewal in many ways. There was a heightened level of engagement among those who attended, and the number of registrants, which had been moderating at previous conferences, looked to be turning a corner. There was much discussion and planning of how to improve the value of future conferences. Some specific changes were announced for the Seattle conference in March 2010 that will bring value to member organizations and attendees while ensuring SHARE’s continuing role at the heart of the mainframe ecosystem. These included optimizing the schedule and taking steps to ensure that sessions are well-attended and appreciated based on previous attendance and feedback.

And this spirit of renewal isn’t limited to SHARE. It seems as if the global financial crisis and the imminent retirement of so many senior mainframe professionals had a positive effect by putting pressure on IT decision-makers to rethink how they manage and staff their mainframe environments. Necessity, as it so often does, has mothered invention. And that inventiveness is driving a fresh, new round of innovation in the mainframe space—motivating the industry to build on what already works to create a bright future for the platform that runs the world economy and the people who support it.

However, as O’Malley cautioned in his keynote, this future isn’t guaranteed. Innovation doesn’t succeed just because someone cooks up a new software solution. Those on the front lines of IT also must have the vision to embrace those solutions and use them to optimum effect. So, it’s up to the mainframe market as a whole to forge the next generation of the platform in ways that satisfy the ravenous appetite of the business for more services, better performance, and greater efficiency.

And that’s a recipe for success!