Forbes: "Kids See a Future in Mainframes"

Forbes has published an interesting article about the educational and career opportunities in mainframe computing. Here's a short excerpt:

Quawan Smith, who took [Professor] Dischiave’s course [on mainframe computing], now works at J.P. Morgan Chase, one of the underwriters of the Syracuse [University] program. Smith sees himself evolving over time into the networking side of things, but he found the course and its related lab a real eye opener. “There’s a perception in the tech industry that the mainframe is being replaced,” he says. “But that’s not the case.”

Smith will be cycled through a two-year training program at J.P. Morgan Chase, get a mainframe certification, and then work as technical staff. He’ll then have opportunities to move to other teams within the company. “You can make a pretty decent living,” he says, noting that he is able to cover the rent on an apartment in New York City. How many other 22-year-olds can say that?

How many 82-year-olds can say that?

by Timothy Sipples January 31, 2012 in People
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Learning z/OS the Cloud(y) Way

Marist College is accepting new students for its z/OS professional courses. You can learn z/OS from the comfort of your own home — the courses are conducted online. The deadline for enrollment for the spring term is February 6, 2012. If you miss this term you can enroll for the next term, but why wait?

by Timothy Sipples January 24, 2012 in Cloud Computing, z/OS
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Class Reunion: "What is a Mainframe?"

Here's an animated video depicting a fictional conversation between two former high school classmates at their reunion. One is now a "genius" bank manager, and the other is a mainframe programmer. One is at least a bit smarter than the other. Enjoy.

by Timothy Sipples January 24, 2012 in Application Development
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IBM Announces 4Q2011 Earnings

Let's get right to the point: the mainframe had what's called a "tough compare" in the last quarter of 2011. A year ago, IBM's System z hardware revenues grew an impressive 69 percent year to year as the zEnterprise 196, with the world's fastest microprocessor, won tremendous favor among existing and new customers alike. That was probably the mainframe's best quarterly hardware revenue growth performance in history, at least when excluding the mathematically infinite growth rate in the long ago quarter when IBM shipped its first mainframe.

Every serious analyst forecasted that IBM's mainframe hardware revenues would be lower in 4Q2011 compared to 4Q2010, and that's what happened. However, there's an interesting and exciting twist. IBM had very nearly the same blockbluster quarter in terms of mainframe hardware capacity shipments that it did last year: MIPS shipments were down only marginally (4 percent). Moreover, the mainframe's gross profit margin was up. Profit is the mother's milk of R&D investment decisions for any corporation, especially a publicly traded one. And, with the application of simple mathematics, it's clear mainframe customers yet again enjoyed substantially lower per-MIPS pricing.

As I always point out when IBM announces earnings — and this time is no exception — mainframe hardware revenues are but a tiny part of IBM's, never mind the industry's, total mainframe-related revenues.

IBM's broader financial results are also quite interesting. While several other technology vendors — including Oracle, HP, and Microsoft — are reporting poor (or at least subpar) financial results, IBM didn't. So far IBM has proven to be remarkably resilient during economic downturns. In fact, there have been many times when IBM has turned recessions and depressions into competitive advantages. In one of the most famous historical cases, IBM's CEO Thomas Watson Sr. refused to reduce the size of his company or cut production during the Great Depression in the 1930s. IBM then was uniquely well positioned to win the new U.S. Social Security Administration's business to solve what was then the world's largest accounting problem. That business strategy was a huge, calculated gamble, but it certainly paid off for the company.

Anyway, this sort of earnings report is exactly what I like to see in a technology company. A company with stable, predictable growth in profits is extremely well positioned to make the long-term investments in research and development to assure a steady stream of exciting, useful technology products at competitive prices, including mainframes and mainframe software. Let's hope IBM keeps up its performance, but to date they're doing well.

by Timothy Sipples January 20, 2012 in Financial
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Sweden's Tieto Needs a Mainframe

Several government departments in Sweden were down hard for days.

by Timothy Sipples January 13, 2012 in Business Continuity
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Strange Happenings in the PC Market

Welcome to 2012, faithful Mainframe Blog readers. The year 2011 is history, and now the results are starting to trickle in. Late last year IBM made some predictions about the next five years. I'd like to spend a little more time analyzing prediction #4 and its relevance to mainframe computing. There are two additional pieces of information available to me after writing that post. One is Gartner's report on 4th quarter PC sales, and the other is some careful observation of my family, particularly my sister, during the Christmas holiday.

First let's consider Gartner's report: PC unit sales fell 1.4% globally in the fourth quarter, and U.S. sales dropped 5.9%. HP's PC sales fell 16.2%. Note that these figures do not include Apple's iPad. If you also take out sales of Apple's Macintosh desktops and laptops, total U.S. PC sales (of Windows PCs) fell by 8.6%. (Apple's Mac sales grew 20.7%.)

Those are startling figures, but they are in perfect agreement with IBM's prediction. If the PC were the only way (or at least the "best" way) to access our increasingly digital world, we would expect the so-called "digital divide" to persist for a generation or more. Instead what's happening is that smartphones and tablets are rapidly becoming the most prominent access devices, while the importance of (and sales of) the PC are diminishing.

And I also observed my sister. She has an iPad and an iPhone. I'm not sure if she has a PC, and I don't think she cares whether she does. And for most of the Christmas holiday period and no doubt beyond she was glued to that iPad. She had everything she needed and more to support both the business and fun aspects of her life. And clearly she found the iPad nearly effortless to operate and worry-free. It's hard to break an iPad, in either software or hardware terms. She, and millions of other people like her, across all countries and social strata, are finding non-PC mobile devices much more suited to their lifestyles and needs. And this change is occurring very quickly.

Thinking as an architect, I was also struck by how much she was able to do in such a short time. The intensity of her iPad use was quite impressive and not, it seemed, a temporary phenomenon. As I mentioned previously, the infrastructure required to support the information delivery and transactional requirements of all these cloud-managed mobile devices is going to be astonishing. And it'll be mainframes of one stripe or another that'll do most of the heavy lifting.

I'm very bullish on the future of the mainframe as we begin this new year and enter the post-PC world. Be sure to keep stopping by in the coming weeks and months as we continue to explore the growing world of mainframe computing.

Happy New Year!

by Timothy Sipples January 13, 2012 in Systems Technology, Web Technology
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