In my March/April column, I mentioned the high-profile research from Vanson Bourne, reporting CIOs’ concerns about the impending mainframe skills shortage. While I think these fears are often overstated, mainframe education and consultancy will likely become significant revenue streams for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) in the months and years ahead.
ISVs have been particularly hard hit during the recession, as IBM and the larger vendors have successfully persuaded many users to consolidate their tools and focus on a smaller number of suppliers to save money and resources without migrating away from the mainframe. Some ISVs have also shown inflexibility over pricing, and as a result, their customer base has slowly eroded. What many ISVs have in large supply, however, is technical expertise—knowledge not just about the z/OS environment and its subsystems but about the niche technologies where users feel most exposed when their in-house specialists approach retirement.
Vanguard’s recently publicized zSecurity University is a good example of a software specialist focusing on education, helping users build on their existing skills pool. In this case, Vanguard is building a range of courses around its core competency, the RACF security environment, and the numerous areas where mainframe security specialists need to keep up-to-date with compliance issues.
Most software vendors provide at least some training and consultancy around their products, but increasingly the ISVs will find an important revenue opportunity in supplementing the range of courses provided by the traditional educational institutions.
Meanwhile, Marist College and the Institute for Data Center Professionals have announced a range of online z/OS Certificate offerings. Online training is a popular way of reaching students for whom classroom courses are impractical. And as universities focusing on mainframe courses are geographically widespread, these courses should appeal to many System z users. The Marist repertoire includes DB2 fundamentals and application programming, Assembler programming, z/OS basics, networking, and security.
IBM Invites Users to Try Before They Buy
The recently unveiled try-before-you-buy edition of CICS TS 4.2 shows that IBM is reaching outside its traditional customer base to parts of the developer community where the product is less well-understood. If the Web-enabled mainframe is to play a significant role in cloud computing and the hybrid environments of the future, it will rely heavily on CICS, DB2, and other mainframe stalwarts that have also been widely exploited in the distributed environment. CICS TS Developer Trial V4.2 is freely available, and has been launched alongside the CICSdev online community for CICS users to “discuss, share, and learn.” IBM positions this as a unique opportunity for developers to learn from IBM and its partners, but IBM will be equally keen to tap into the views and requirements of users for whom CICS is a relatively new experience.
Further Expansion for BMC
BMC Software recently added to its burgeoning collection of service and systems management products. In January, it acquired I/O Concepts, with its line of mainframe console security, automation, and consolidation solutions. The acquisition, says the vendor, expands BMC’s MainView monitoring and automation suite and reflects the company’s commitment to best-in-class solutions for managing any IBM System z console environment.
BMC also announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Numara Software, a leading global provider of integrated IT management solutions for the mid-market. Numara, well-regarded for its service and asset management products, adds 13,000 customers to the BMC community and boosts BMC’s standing in the Software as a Service (SaaS) sector.
CA Technologies Addresses Application Performance in Complex Environments
Much of the current IBM and ISV rhetoric in mainframe announcements focuses on using the maturity of System z management tools to monitor systems and applications across increasingly complex configurations. This is definitely the message behind the latest release of CA Technologies’ Cross-Enterprise Application Performance Management (CA CE APM), which extends mainframe monitoring capabilities to provide richer information about the health and performance of key IT services and applications. Catering to the growing need to provide more detailed performance metrics across centralized, distributed and cloud environments, it offers what the vendor describes as “application triage” to diagnose and fix problems that can impact critical business services and affect key service-level agreements.