The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2008 user survey has recently closed. At the very end of the survey was a box that gave respondents and opportunity to add any comments they wanted. This has made very interesting reading. And, without giving away any of the survey results before publication, I would like to draw your attention to some of the comments.
Now bear in mind that everyone who completed the survey works with IBM mainframes, so the comments are from died-in-the-wool, Big Blue, true believers – not Microsofties or secret Unix enthusiasts. And, of course, not everyone left a comment, and there were comments on other topics as well.
Cost was a definite concern for many respondents and two highlighted IBM support – or the lack of it. I don’t know whether other people have been dissatisfied with IBM support recently, but I’d be interested to hear. Both these respondents were reluctantly moving off the mainframe – which must make sad reading for Sam Palmisano and IBM shareholders.
Other respondents commented about the age of mainframe staff, with one giving details of the forthcoming 60th birthdays of the individuals who look after the mainframe. The word “grey” was used a lot. Age itself is not so much the issue as the fact that CICS, IMS, DB2, and z/OS itself need to be supported, and the experts who can do that are approaching retirement age. How can an organization plan ahead when the very software that the business runs on may not have experienced people to run it in the medium-term future?
Another respondent likened experienced mainframe support staff to hen’s teeth – ie pretty rare.
These respondents indicated that the thinking at their sites was to migrate off the mainframe while they still had people who understood the mainframe, and run the business on hardware and software that was less effective than mainframes, but which had plenty of support staff and experts that could be employed as necessary for the foreseeable future.
Although these are not necessarily new concerns, it must be a worry to IBM that they could be losing business while at the same time having the best hardware and software in town simply because of an ageing and shrinking population of mainframe experts. Let’s hope they already have a recovery plan and its coming to fruition in 2008.
And, as I said last week, I am currently one mainframe “expert” that is available for consultancy, writing work, etc. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.