z/Journal recently visited with CA Distinguished Engineer and mainframe Chief Architect, Scott Fagen. We asked Scott about the evolution of mainframe tools and the changes he’s seeing in the way they address the needs of users.
z/Journal: Historically, IBM defined distinct roles in a mainframe shop. Have you seen changes in that structure?
Scott Fagen: Over the years, role changes have occurred as a result of the evolution in computing technology, software, and data centers. In the early years, each platform’s workforce largely specialized in performing their duties around a specific computing system. As a platform grew in use, the workforce associated with that platform also grew. As the workforce for a platform grew, job roles became more specific with individuals or teams working only on systems, storage, performance, security, database, or other disciplines.
When the client/server era entered the computing world in the ’90s, greater emphasis was placed on the newer, distributed platforms. Many Information Systems [IS] professionals were reassigned from the mainframe staff or hired to work on the new client/server initiatives. Suddenly, mainframe staff found themselves having to perform multiple job roles.
At the same time the client/server movement caused dramatic changes in staff, there was plenty of hardware and software mainframe platform innovation. IBM introduced new mainframes with increased processing capability and continued to evolve the software used on them. Independent Software Vendors [ISVs] also introduced new software and enhancements to current products. Together, IBM and the ISVs brought solutions to market that allowed mainframe IS professionals to easily manage more resources while at the same time process more workload.
The evolution of mainframe hardware and software has never stopped. Today, IS professionals are able to process 10 times more workload and do three to four times the amount of work as compared to only 10 years ago due to the efficiencies gained through hardware, increased expertise, and the use of software solutions.
z/J: From your perspective as the leading, independent, mainframe software vendor, how are mainframe tools the same and yet different from five years ago?
Fagen: The tools are like the mainframe itself. IBM and the ISVs have really pledged a commitment to ensuring that the customer’s investment on the platforms continues forward year-to-year. We have plenty of customers that have run some of our solutions virtually unchanged for 30 years.
What’s interesting about our products as well as most mainframe vendor tools is that the same features and functions that were designed in the tools 30 years ago are still there. Many of our tools still have the same functionality they had in the beginning and are still useful today. However, as the mainframe system has changed over the years, the software has been adapted to those changes. Improvements were made over time to do things easier or better, thereby permitting an individual to manage more or to allow the software to automatically do much more on its own.
The newest challenge for continuing to evolve the use of the mainframe is adapting it to meet the needs of two diverse groups of IS professionals. The widespread use of distributed computing over the years has made it possible for new generations of IS professionals to have more choices in their career vs. only being able to apply their skills in a mainframe world. Furthermore, there’s fierce competition for the best and brightest IS graduates. Our customers are telling us that it’s increasingly difficult to find graduates willing to look at the mainframe as a primary career choice.