IT Management

Mainframe Executive recently visited with Dayton Semerjian, corporate senior vice president and general manager of CA’s mainframe business unit, and discussed CA’s Mainframe 2.0 initiative and the future of mainframe management.

Mainframe Executive: You’ve garnered a lot of visibility for your Mainframe 2.0 initiative. What market realities are driving your strategy?

Dayton Semerjian: There’s a lingering perception that the mainframe is dead. The truth is, the mainframe has undergone a renaissance that isn’t well-understood by IT professionals outside mainframe circles. This renaissance started after Y2K, and has extended into the first decade of the new century. If we look back at the Year 2000, the market share for mainframes was at 17 percent. In 2009, mainframe market share had grown to 30 percent. During that same time, the mainframe processing capacity measured in MIPS grew more than 300 percent. Why is that? First, the number of online transactions grew exponentially with the Internet and transaction processing right in the mainframe power alley. Second, IBM and its continued innovation on the mainframe platform with a new System z architecture that included lower pricing with the addition of zIIP [System z Integrated Information Processor] and zAAP [System z Application Assist Processor] engines and Linux on System z. Lastly, the virtues of the mainframe. Thirty years ago distributed computing came on the scene and broke the mainframe computing model into pieces, and it seems that, for the past 30 years, it has been trying to put it back together, but the truth is, the core virtues of the mainframe remain unmatched. The mainframe offers high utilization, superb virtualization capability for green computing, and unsurpassed reliability. It scores very well in IT Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) computations because, with virtualization, the mainframe can save labor, power, and data center real estate. The mainframe is the “gold standard” when it comes to security. Because of all this, the reality is that the mainframe remains a mission-critical platform for the global economy.

ME: What challenges do mainframe sites currently face?

DS: Corporate IT is under constant pressure to reduce both capital and operating costs, which have been exacerbated by the recession. The focus for vendors is on reducing costs and increasing value in this environment, which begins by helping customers do more with what they already own. In addition, our customers have told us that the “real Y2K” crisis we’re likely to face with the mainframe is the looming skills shortage for the platform. Five years ago, the average age of the mainframe workforce was between 50 and 55. Now, that figure is at 55 to 60 years of age, and these people are starting to retire. These workers were the pioneers of the mainframe, and are arguably the “greatest IT generation,” but it’s a daunting challenge to replace 30 to 40 years of knowledge. The majority of mainframe IT shops need technical education programs and innovative ways to transfer knowledge, but it’s hard to transfer 30 to 40 years of knowledge in five years.

ME: What strategies are needed to address the future mainframe skills shortage?

DS: Strategically, there’s a need for IT on the mainframe to be simpler and nimbler. Accordingly, we’ve developed a strategy we call Mainframe 2.0, which we believe will change the way the mainframe is managed forever. The goal of Mainframe 2.0 is to simplify the management of the mainframe platform while also addressing the challenge of the mainframe skills shortage. We’re accomplishing this by delivering an innovative product named Mainframe Software Manager (MSM), which employs a Web-based model that streamlines the acquisition, installation, and deployment of mainframe products while dramatically reducing operator errors for both experts and novices.

ME: How have you addressed these current mainframe needs?

DS: We currently have 200 customers who have adopted MSM, which is a deliverable of the Mainframe 2.0 initiative. MSM supported the installation of 50 mainframe products in 2009, and will support 120 products in 2010. Our goal is to adopt the entire mainframe software portfolio to run on MSM. All of these products are being aggregated into a single software stack, which is tested in a high-quality environment and is then released annually. In time studies we’ve performed, software install times for mainframe experts have gone from 30 to 60 minutes to three to five minutes, a 75 to 90 percent reduction in time. For novices using MSM, software install time on the mainframe has gone from one to four hours to five to 10 minutes, a 90 percent time reduction. We’ve also worked diligently to assist our customers with optimizing the value of the software they currently own. Initially, we send skilled mainframe staff onsite to assess the alignment between business goals and software already owned. These experts then recommend ways to use existing software to achieve new business goals that allow customers to maximize value. We’ve done a couple hundred of these programs with strong results.

ME: How do CA’s Mainframe 2.0 products compare with those of your competition?

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