The great mainframe resource drain: Threat or opportunity?
Mainframe has been a key part of the technology landscape since the 1960s. It was the first enterprise-class IT platform and since then, has powered the growth and success of businesses across all sectors.
In recent years, the emergence of digital technologies, virtualization and cloud have caused mainframe skills and experience to become scarcer. Mainframe training and employment strategies have been put on the back burner. Many mainframe experts are now nearing retirement – and with them will go years of invaluable knowledge and experience.
Yet, mainframe still has an important role to play. Its reliability, security and efficiency remain compelling. If your enterprise depends on mainframe, there’s a burning platform in terms of resources. Research by Deloitte found that 79% of business and IT leaders said their top mainframe-related challenge is acquiring the right resources and skills to get work done. So what can organizations now do? How can they turn this threat into an opportunity?
Nurturing new mainframe talent
One way to address the challenge is to nurture and attract new talent into mainframe strategy and operations. For enterprises that are at a crossroads with mainframe, it is of great importance to face the threat that this human resource drain represents.
As a heritage system, mainframe may have fallen out of fashion among some younger IT students, graduates and trainees. Yet mainframe can be a great platform to start any IT learning or employment journey.
Processing millions of critical transactions daily, mainframe is the heartbeat of the global economy. A mainframe can manage 30 billion transactions daily, so it’s no wonder that it’s used by 92 of the top 100 banks.
Despite a history dating back to the 1960s, mainframe is here to stay. Smart companies can address talent shortages while modernizing mainframe as part of an integrated technology environment.
Mainframes process data so efficiently that nearly 70% of the Fortune 500 companies rely on it.
Mainframe is also a green technology that can make a major contribution to decarbonization. As our own employee engagement surveys have shown, this is important to employee attraction – especially among younger professionals. By rationalizing a Linux estate of, say, 100 servers into a modern mainframe environment, we can reduce power consumption by around 75%.
At Atos, our approach is to transform risk into opportunity by training younger IT experts in new methodologies that require a digital mindset — while pioneering new ways to utilize mainframe in the most efficient and technically advanced way.
Opening up mainframe
In the Digital Age, any mainframe computing capability is part of a broader IT landscape. A range of modern technology tools have emerged to address the mainframe resourcing challenge while also modernizing mainframe within an integrated technology and data environment. Using these tools, mainframe can operate seamlessly with other systems and methodologies.
For example, mainframe APIs (application programming interfaces) can facilitate interoperability, enabling organizations to leverage the strengths of their mainframe systems while integrating them with cloud technologies and web-based applications. They allow mainframe to be used as a back-end server to process data quickly and efficiently, with an app running in the cloud to provide a rich and intuitive user interface.
Another tool to simplify these interactions is Mainframe Zowe, an open-source technology and framework that provides a modern, interoperable interface for mainframe systems. Designed to be agile and flexible, it enables developers, system administrators and end users to interact with mainframe platforms in a more intuitive way — one that reflects today’s cloud-based methodologies and mindsets.
Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, such as Watson AI, mean we can use machine learning to resolve mainframe user support problems and incidents. This provides a faster, easier user experience while freeing-up IT talent for more strategic or higher-value activities.
Key to future-proofing mainframe is to develop a broad capability base in stable mainframe operations and innovation. Tools such as these promote innovation, flexibility and agility by bridging the gap between traditional mainframe environments and today's evolving digital ecosystems. They also open up mainframe to a whole new generation of digital natives.
That’s the idea behind the Atos Mainframe Academy, which develops mainframe expertise in an academic context along with mentoring from leaders and experts with real-world mainframe experience. As mainframe tools and methodologies advance, we take an agnostic approach in collaboration with our clients and partners.
Although technology and business are constantly evolving, it’s clear that mainframe is here to stay. And as always, people are the power. Both the challenge and the opportunity hinge on how you balance resource optimization with innovation. For the customers we work with across industries, it’s vital to mitigate any risk related to mainframe. This means embracing a hybrid IT strategy and roadmap, and accessing cloud-native skills and best-of-breed toolsets for mainframe modernization and innovation.