By the same token, it’s not enough to merely have application performance monitoring (APM) tools that find and characterize problems. That’s just the first step. Integrations among APM and developer productivity tools are necessary to help bridge the skills and knowledge gap between development, test and operations teams so problems can be solved quickly and accurately.
This growing complexity, which shows no signs of tapering off, has big implications for the fourth dimension of the New Normal: a transitioning mainframe workforce.
The Retiring Workforce Offers a Silver Lining
Most large enterprise IT organizations have software developers skilled in various disciplines (e.g., mainframe, distributed, middleware, web, mobile, etc.) who know very little to nothing about the each others’ roles. More concerning, they don’t understand how their work impacts the individual components of the application delivery chain. This is the case even when the organization as a whole is focused on developing high-performing, customer-facing applications that involve mainframe and distributed systems. Because of the way many organizations are structured, even individual roles are siloed, where staff are firmly focused on their responsibility areas and do not have a strong grasp of what others on their team do.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of experienced baby boomer IT professionals are expected to retire in the next 10 years. Within the mainframe sphere, IBM is projecting a (worst-case) 84,000-person shortfall. Mainframe skills shortage isn’t news. Warning bells about their impending departure—and the fact that relatively few professionals are qualified to fill their ranks— have been sounding for years. However, this exodus provides enterprises with an opportunity to begin to re-shape their cultures. IT organizations that begin to break the pattern of role-specialization and become more cross-functional and business-centric will be better positioned to continue leveraging the mainframe as a revenue generator and drive growth.
One way to do this is to grow and foster enterprise developers from within. Hybrid software developers understand how disparate platforms seamlessly work together as one cohesive system. These individuals can see the challenges (and opportunities) of both mainframe and distributed systems and can navigate emerging architectures, as well as new and traditional application platforms.
In all likelihood, it’s going to take considerable time for most organizations to build a strong pool of resources that have deep, end-to-end knowledge. That’s where tooling helps.
Modernized, Integrated Tools Are a Must in the New Normal
There is certain tooling that IT professionals need in order to navigate the New Normal of Mainframe. At minimum, this should include a modernized point-and-click mainframe integrated development environment with access to a large portfolio of first-in-class mainframe developer productivity tools. In addition, teams need a modern, cross-platform APM solution that reduces the finger-pointing between mainframe and distributed teams when cross-platform problems crop up and reduces mean-time-to-resolution.
In addition, there should be integrations among these products, enabling the simplification and automation of key processes that normally require a degree of proficiency. Modernized and integrated solutions bridge knowledge gaps and elevate staff to higher levels of productivity.
The key is to increase mainframe agility—and by embracing key concepts of DevOps, mainframe organizations can become more agile.
A Harris Interactive poll asked, “If you could live forever in good health at a particular age, what age would you like to be?” The answer was 50. And the mainframe recently turned 50, too. It is not surprising that the mainframe has grown stronger with every decade and embraced each new challenge the IT industry has introduced. It is well positioned to continue providing enterprises exceptional transaction processing capabilities into its sixth decade.
The mainframe environment is neither dead nor dying. It is alive and well as the system of record providing transaction processing for the next generation of mobile-enabled users. The mainframe continues to prove its relevance as a mainstream platform for the past, present and future. This is a history worth repeating!