Sunday 21 April 2024

Happy birthday mainframe

7 April marked the 60th anniversary of the mainframe. It was on that day in 1964 that the System/360 was announced and the modern mainframe was born. IBM’s Big Iron, as it came to be called, took a big step ahead of the rest of the BUNCH (Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR, Control Data Corporation, and Honeywell). The big leap of imagination was to have software that was architecturally compatible across the entire System/360 line.

It was called System/360 to indicate that this new system would handle every need of every user in the business and scientific worlds because it covered all 360 degrees of the compass. That was a triumph for the marketing team because it would have otherwise been called the rather dull System 500. System/360 could emulate IBM’s older 1401 machines, which encouraged customers to upgrade. Famous names among its designers are Gene Amdahl, Bob Evans, Fred Brooks, and Gerrit Blaauw. Gene Amdahl later created a plug-compatible mainframe manufacturing company – Amdahl.

IBM received plenty of orders and the first mainframe was delivered to Globe Exploration Co. in April 1965. Launching and producing the System/360 cost more than $5 billion, making it the largest privately-financed commercial project up to that time. It was a risky enterprise, but one that worked. From 1965 to 1970, IBM’s revenues went up from $3.6 billion to $7.5 billion; and the number of IBM computer systems installed anywhere tripled from 11,000 to 35,000.

The Model 145 was the first IBM computer to have its main memory made entirely of monolithic circuits. It used silicon memory chips, rather than the older magnetic core technology.

In 1970, the System/370 was introduced. The marketing said that the System/360 was for the 1960s; for the 1970s you needed a System/370. All thoughts of compass points had gone by then. IBM’s revenues went up to $75 billion and employee numbers grew from 120,000 to 269,000, and, at times, customers had a two-year wait to get their hands on a new mainframe.

1979 saw the introduction of the 4341, which was 26 times faster than the System/360 Model 30. The 1980s didn’t have a System/380. But in 1990, the System/390 Model 190 was introduced. This was 353 times faster than the System/360 Model 30.

1985 saw the introduction of the Enterprise System/3090, which had over one-million-bit memory chips and came with Thermal Conduction Modules to speed chip-to-chip communication times. Some machines had a Vector Facility, which made them faster. It replaced the ES/3080.

The 1990s weren’t a good time for mainframes. For example, in March 1991, Stewart Alsop stated: “I predict that the last mainframe will be unplugged on March 15, 1996”. Not the most successful prediction, but definitely catching the zeitgeist of the time. As mentioned above, it was the decade of the System/390. We saw the introduction of high-speed fibre optic mainframe channel architecture Enterprise System Connection (ESCON).

The System/360 gave us 24-bit addressing (32-bit architecture) and virtual storage. The System/370 gave us multi-processor support and then extended storage 24-bit/31-bit addressing. With System/390 we got the OS/390 operating system. As we moved into the 2000s, we got zSeries (zArchitecture) and z operating systems giving us 24, 31, and 64-bit addressing. In 2003, the z990 was described as, “the world’s most sophisticated server”. In 2005 we got the zIIP specialty engine. In 2008 it was the z10 EC with high capacity/performance (quad core CPU chip). In 2012, the zEC12 was described as an integrated platform for cloud computing, with integrated OLTP and data warehousing. In 2000 IBM said it would support Linux on the mainframe, and, by 2009, 70 of IBM’s top 100 mainframe customers were estimated to be running Linux. A zEnterprise mainframe could run 100,000 virtual Linux servers.

In terms of operating systems, OS/360 was replaced by MVT, which became OS/VS2 SVS, and then OS/VS2 MVS. That became MVS/SE, which became MVS/SP, which became MVS/XA and then MVS/ESA before becoming OS/390 and finally z/OS.

Mainframes were once islands of technology excellence. Now they are no longer islands, but integrated in so many way. They work happily with cloud environments to ensure the best of cloud can be integrated with the best of mainframes. They run applications that previously were thought of as only found on distributed systems, such as Java and C++. Open-source software, like Zowe, makes it easier for non-mainframers to be able to successfully work on mainframes. The growth of AI on the mainframe makes them even more capable. There’s no problem connecting parts of mainframe applications to parts of applications running on almost any other platform using APIs to create a new and better application program for users.

The z16 and z16 rack-mounted variant mainframes with their Telum chips have on-chip AI accelerators, which delivers latency-optimized inferencing, ideal for mission-critical workloads such as credit card, healthcare, and financial transactions. The z16s are also specifically designed to help protect against near-future threats that might be used to crack today’s encryption technologies.

Mainframes may be misunderstood by people who don’t know them. They may be perceived as antiquated because they are 60 years old. But just like cars and planes over the last 60 years, mainframes have hugely improved over time. And, although they will still run applications written in the 1960s, they can do so much more now. And mainframes are constantly being updated to meet the needs of the time.

I predict that we will be celebrating the mainframe’s 70th birthday and its 80th birthdays, though we may not be able to imagine how compact it will be by then and what new capabilities it will have.

Happy (belated) birthday mainframe.


Sunday 14 April 2024

IBM and disruptive technology

The term disruptive technology was coined in 1995 by Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School to refer to any innovation that significantly alters the way that consumers, industries, or businesses operate. Examples might be the arrival of the PC or the smartphone. People and businesses just do things differently now from how they used to.

Currently, there are two technologies that look like they are going to be disruptive. The first is quantum computing, and the second is artificial intelligence (AI). Quantum computing’s disruptive effects are still a little way in the future, but AI is already here, and many people have already used ChatGPT or Gemini (Bard).

Humans are somewhat strange in that most people would like some things in their life and in the world to be different, while at the same time most people are very reluctant to change themselves and their way of doing things! And like any disruptive technology, people can predict that the changes caused by AI being used for good – AI is great at reading medical scans and identifying potential cancerous growths etc – and for evil – something along the lines of the Terminator movies.

Every now and again, you’re perhaps looking through the channels available on your TV and you come across a programme that you used to enjoy many years ago. Looking at it now, perhaps 30 or more years later, you find yourself amazed that no-one has a laptop or tablet, they don’t google anything, no-one has a Satnav to find where they’re going, and, strangest of all, no-one has a phone in their pocket to contact anyone, or browse social media, or pay for anything. Well, I predict that’s what current TV programmes are going to look like twenty years from now – no-one has a personal AI to give them information, to write reports, to do a million other things that it’s impossible to predict until someone invents them and lots of people use them.

However, anything that can be used for good can also be used by bad actors. How many movies have mobile phones being used to trigger explosives that could kill people and damage buildings etc. And that’s kind of where we are with AI. It could be used to hack mainframes. It could be used to take control of the electricity grid by a hostile nation. It could be used to attack hospitals, financial institutions, security services, etc etc. And it could do some people’s jobs, and that means there will be big changes in the workforce.

It’s that last reason that has led to the formation of a consortium focused on upskilling and reskilling roles most likely to be impacted by AI. The AI-Enabled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Workforce Consortium includes IBM as well as Accenture, Cisco, Eightfold, Google, Indeed, Intel, Microsoft, and SAP. There are also six advisors.

The consortium has a goal of exploring AI’s impact on IT job roles, enabling workers to find and access relevant training programs, and connecting businesses to skilled and job-ready workers. It is evaluating how AI is changing the jobs and skills workers need to be successful. The first phase of work will produce a report with actionable insights for business leaders and workers. These should offer practical insights and recommendations to employers looking for ways to reskill and upskill their workers in preparation for AI-enabled environments.

The Consortium’s work is inspired by the US-EU Trade and Technology Council’s (TTC’s) Talent for Growth Task Force and Cisco Chair and CEO Chuck Robbins’ leadership of its skills training workstream, and input from the US Department of Commerce.

Looking at that first phase of work in more detail, the Consortium will evaluate the impact of AI on 56 IT job roles and provide training recommendations for impacted jobs. These job roles include 80% of the top 45 IT job titles that had the highest volume of job postings for the period February 2023-2024 in the USA and five of the largest European countries by IT workforce numbers (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands) according to Indeed Hiring Lab. Collectively, these countries account for a significant segment of the IT sector, with a combined total of 10 million IT workers.

Consortium member goals include:

  • Cisco to train 25 million people with cybersecurity and digital skills by 2032.
  • IBM to skill 30 million individuals by 2030 in digital skills, including 2 million in AI.
  • Intel to empower more than 30 million people with AI skills for current and future jobs by 2030.
  • Microsoft to train and certify 10 million people from underserved communities with in-demand digital skills for jobs and livelihood opportunities in the digital economy by 2025.
  •   SAP to upskill two million people worldwide by 2025.
  • Google has recently announced €25 million in funding to support AI training and skills for people across Europe.

As I said earlier, the world in twenty years’ time will look completely different in many ways from now. It’s refreshing to see some of the higher profile companies taking steps to prepare the workforce for the changes taking place.

Sunday 7 April 2024

What kind of mainframer are you?

I’m thinking in terms of personality when I ask that question. So, how would you describe your personality?

The trouble with personality inventories like Cattell’s 16 PF test and similar is that they only allow for a small number of personality traits. The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is much loved by HR departments, but generally derided by the scientific community. Even Wikipedia describes it as. “a pseudoscientific self-report questionnaire that claims to indicate differing personality types. The test attempts to assign a binary value to each of four categories: introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. One letter from each category is taken to produce a four-letter test result representing one of sixteen possible personalities, such as ‘INFP’ or ‘ESTJ’”. Other personality descriptions often include opposites like, “you are generally an outgoing person, but at times you like to take a backseat”. And, I guess, the truth is that people change their behaviour to suit their mood. However, let’s assume that there is some kind of personality that each person has that simply gets expressed differently in different situations.

That brings me to the Merrill-Reid method, which allows you to profile yourself or your mainframe colleagues. The Merrill-Reid model identifies four key personality types, which are analytical, driver, amiable, and expressive. The idea is that you can change your style of behaving to match that of your colleagues (particularly non-mainframers), and so they can understand what you’re trying to tell them because you have used an appropriate personality style.

The truth is that the technique is often used in selling so the vendor changes their style to match the client’s personality style. But that doesn’t matter.

David Merrill and Roger Reid were psychologists, who used factor analysis to identify two scales: assertiveness and responsiveness:

  • Assertiveness is a measure of how outwardly people try to influence others. People who are high on assertiveness tend to reveal their opinions, try to persuade others, and have things their own way. People who are low on assertiveness tend to keep their views to themselves, fit in with others, and avoid conflict.
  • Responsiveness is more about how outwardly emotional people appear to be. People who are high on responsiveness are more socially engaged, aware of the needs of others, and how they feel about things depends on interpersonal relationships. People who are low on responsiveness tend to be more socially distant, and primarily think about work.

This can be used to create a 2x2 matrix, with four personality types – see the Figure below:


If you or your colleagues are analytical, they will ask ‘why’ questions, which means whoever they are dealing with needs to have all the facts and be ready to answer their questions. They like objective information and have a low tolerance for ambiguity. They like organization and structure, and will be more concerned with work than people. They will also be reserved and logical in their behaviour. They will show little or no emotion, and make decisions slowly because they need time to think. They like to be right and can seem very critical.

If you or your colleagues are a driver personality type, they will display assertive and direct behaviour. Their focus is on results and achieving their goals. They very much like to feel that they are in control. Working with this personality type, get straight to the point. Explain how their level of satisfaction will rise – they don’t care about other people. They may appear to be arrogant and standoffish. They are action people who like results, but aren’t great listeners.

If you or your colleagues are an amiable personality type, they will display friendly and cooperative behaviour. Their focus is on harmony and maintaining relationships, and they have a low need for control. It’s important to ask them questions to make sure they are with you, and talk about the successes of similar projects you’ve worked on. They like to go along with whatever is happening. Explain how a project will help them to achieve their goals and will have a positive impact on their team. They like to feel safe and aren’t good at taking action on their own, which means that they can seem obstinate or apathetic.

If you or your colleagues are an expressive personality type, they will display outgoing and enthusiastic behaviour. They are competitive, their focus is on being creative and optimistic, and they will have a need for self-expression. With colleagues like this, rather than focusing on the facts, be empathic, be their friend while they are working with you. Don’t be surprised if they arrive late for a meeting because they have lots of commitments and a rushed lifestyle. They like to be the centre of attention. They are quite animated when they speak and don’t like to be bored. The prefer spontaneity and can be impulsive, but they do like approval.

If you want to find out what personality style you have, there are questionnaires on the Internet, for example at How accurate the questionnaires are, I can’t say. Obviously, you can’t ask a new colleague to take a personality test, but, knowing the characteristics of each type, you can probably identify which category they principally belong in. If that doesn’t match your style of presentation during a project meeting, then it will be useful for you to modify the way you present information and the type of information you lead with. That way, let’s hope, you can achieve the outcomes you want and help them to understand the power of the mainframe and the benefits to your organization of utilizing it.

You can always practice, at first, on your friends and family to see which of the four domains you think they are in, and then check with their assessment of their own personality.


Sunday 17 March 2024

Making life easier for new mainframers

The big news is that IBM has launched the Mainframe Skills Council, and they did it at the SHARE conference in Orlando. So, I hear you ask, what’s a skills council? The idea is to provide a forum where global organizations will foster a skilled, diverse, sustainable workforce for the mainframe platform. The council includes organizations that are IBM clients, IBM partners, academia, user groups, non-profits, and open communities. They will collaborate to implement mainframe skills development solutions. The initial membership includes: Academic Mainframe Consortium, Albany State University, Broadcom, DNB Bank, HOGENT, M&T Bank, Northern Illinois University, Rocket Software, SHARE, and 21CS.

Meredith Stowell, Vice President, IBM Z Ecosystem, is quoted as saying: “The mainframe community has been working to close the mainframe generational skills gap and we’ve seen substantial progress. The Mainframe Skills Council represents an exciting opportunity to build on these advancements and ignite the community to share experiences and create mainframe talent solutions that can grow with the platform.”

In addition to IBM offering training, industry-recognized digital badging, academic community support, and non-traditional pathway programs, the broader IBM Z global community of universities, clients, user groups, and partners also provide mainframe skills solutions and insights. The Mainframe Skills Council brings together organizations to share experiences and collaboratively implement solutions to build a strong global workforce for the mainframe platform. Importantly, the council will include working groups focused on career awareness, competency frameworks, learning paths, as well as professional development. Council goals include:

·        Showcase a vibrant mainframe talent pool.

·        Align on common industry competency frameworks.

·        Share ideas and practices to enhance professional development.

·        Share education, training tools, and related resources to optimize overall mainframe career experience for professionals and leaders.

·        Increase mainframe employer adoption of proven skill initiatives and practices.

IBM is also introducing the IBM Z Mainframe Skills Depot, which is a comprehensive platform for accessing mainframe skills training. Learners can choose from specialized tracks tailored to roles such as System Administrator, Application Developer, or Modernization Architect, and access over a thousand hours of self-paced, no-charge, hands-on learning to earn industry-recognized digital badges.

IBM currently offers the IBM Z Global Skills Accelerator and Apprenticeship program. With over 300 hours of learning, success coaching, on the job training, and mentorship, this program has enabled 83 global employers to skill up over 440 mainframe system administrators and application developers across 13 countries. In addition, the IBM Z Student Ambassador program provides leadership opportunities for students and supports mainframe student clubs on campuses at more than 95 universities worldwide.

In order for those talented newcomers to the world of mainframes to get jobs, IBM sponsors IBM Z Virtual Career Fairs around the world to bring together IBM clients, partners, and badged mainframe talent.

With the increasing concern about experienced mainframers retiring and the huge skills gap this will leave for so many organizations, this initiative from IBM and its collaborators is an important step in filling that gap and ensuring a steady stream of newcomers to the wonderful world of mainframe working. And it really will make life easier for those potential new mainframers.

Sunday 18 February 2024

Small, cheap, and powerful!

The birth of a new baby is always exciting, and on 6 February, IBM announced a new mainframe. It’s the IBM LinuxOne 4 Express, so it’s using Linux as its operating system rather than z/OS, and inside the pre-configured rack system is a 5.2GHz Telum processor – the same as runs in the Z16 mainframes.

All those sites that are running multiple Linux servers with multiple staff looking after them, might want to think again about what they are doing because, as I said, the new mainframe isn’t some massive box that needs lots of floor space to house, it’s rack-mounted. And the cost of one of these small but powerful boxes starts at $135,000, which is a very reasonable price in the world of mainframes.

And for those sites that are currently running multiple Linux boxes, IBM is suggesting that moving their Linux workloads from x86 servers to an IBM LinuxONE 4 Express box can save them over 52% on their total cost of ownership over five years. Consolidating the workloads on the new mainframe and off distributed systems gives users the benefits of a highly reliable environment with very small amounts of downtime. It also helps customers to simplify their IT environments. Customers also gain the ability to process large amounts of data using the two levels of physical and two levels of virtual cache, and it does that in an energy-efficient way.

The new mainframe can support hybrid cloud working and sites ramping up their AI usage. It also comes with mainframe-level security. It comes with up to 16 Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) cores, and supports up to 864GB of memory. Of course, the Telum chips provide on-chip AI acceleration, which provides in-transaction inferencing needed for fraud detection, medical imaging, and insurance claims processing. For example, health insurance companies could analyse large volumes of medical records in near real time to validate process claims, increasing the speed of business decision making.

In terms of security, the IBM LinuxOne 4 Express comes with the IBM Secure Execution for Linux capability – a hardware-based security technology that is now built into IBM LinuxONE 4 Express. This scalable isolation protects workload data within virtual machine guests from unauthorized access or modification. In multi-workload environments where data in use could be vulnerable to insider attacks or credential compromise, this is definitely a must-have. And, obviously the workloads are protected from external attacks.

In these days when costs and security can mean the difference between a company staying in business or disappearing from the marketplace, the new IBM LinuxOne 4 Express gives small and medium-sized organizations a good option to choose. Hybrid cloud working is what most companies are doing or working towards, the new machine can handle that. Making greater use of generative and other AI modes of working is similarly on everyone’s radar these days. The new box can do that too. And it has mainframe security levels at its core. So, that means choosing the new box offers future facilities and security. In terms of cost, moving from any number of Linux boxes to a single centralized box will, as mentioned above, realize cost savings for a company. It will also give them better insight into what exactly is going on. Although the cost may seem steep to people unused to mainframe environments, taking a slightly longer look at the accounts should definitely lead to cost savings for any organization.

The IBM LinuxOne 4 Express is an exciting and interesting step for IBM to bring in new customers that previously might have ignored the mainframe world completely and believed the old myths about dinosaurs etc. It's small, it's cheap (relatively), and it's powerful, and I wish it every success.

The new IBM LinuxONE 4 Express will be generally available from IBM and certified business partners on 20 February.

Sunday 4 February 2024

20 years of iTech-Ed Ltd

2024 is a bit of a special year here at iTech-Ed Ltd. It was our 20th anniversary on 1 February. I thought you might be interested in some of the changes that have taken place in that time.

Before we set up iTech-Ed Ltd, I had worked for Xephon for 18 years. Xephon ran briefings on mainframe topics, ran surveys on mainframe topics, and created user guides to things like databases. In 1986, they decided to try a small publication by CICS professionals for CICS professionals. They called it CICS Update. It sold very well – remember there was no Google or Internet in those days, and it was difficult to easily get your hands on working bits of code and alternative solutions to common problems. VM Update followed in 1987, and then a whole range of mainframe-based publications. I was there at the very beginning and over the next 18 years edited most of them.

In 2004, Xephon sold the name and the publications to TCI publications. We set up iTech-Ed Ltd, and we got the contract to edit around five or six of these Updates each month. My first activity, at one minute after midnight on 1 February 2004, was to upload the new issues to the Web site.

Over the next three and half years, iTech-Ed was responsible for encouraging technical people to write articles, editing and checking them to produce each edition every month, paying contributors, and sending the publications to the printers and putting them on the Web site. A small team of experts checked the text for punctuation and grammar as well as technical accuracy.

At the same time, iTech-Ed was carrying out consultancy work and producing technical documentation that was used in-house by a number of well-known companies. And we also started blogging at Mainframe Update using Blogger and Mainframe World on IT Toolbox.

Towards the end of 2007, the Updates ceased publication, and the very first Virtual IMS user group meeting was held using Webex. The user group was immediately very popular and was sponsored by NEON Enterprise Software. That year also saw a growth in number of companies using our Web design and development services.

In 2008 the company took its first steps in offering advice on social media and how organizations could use it both to get their message out there and also to interact with customers in a positive way. I also qualified as a Microsoft Office Specialist Master Instructor – MOS MI – and ran a number of on-site training courses. And in 2010 I attended Microsoft SharePoint Administrator and Developer training.

iTech-Ed Ltd also started publishing the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook – the de facto reference work for mainframers. In 2024, Planet Mainframe took over the production and publication of the Yearbook, and the current edition is available here.

I was first made an IBM Champion in 2009 and have been a champion every year since. I have had numerous articles published in a variety of Web-based and printed publications, such as Enterprise Tech Journal, zJournal, Mainframe Executive, Technical Support, and others. I started blogging regularly on Destination z in July 2011, and now writes for TechChannel. He has also been a regular writer Planet Mainframe.

In 2011, Fundi Software took over as sponsor of the Virtual IMS user group and we then launched the Virtual CICS user group. Both of them enjoy regular meetings and newsletters and have over 600 members. In 2023, the Virtual Db2 user group was launched. I chaired and organized all three of these user groups until Planet Mainframe took over most of the heavy lifting.

Over recent years, we’ve published guest blogs, I’ve ghost written blogs for many other blog sites, and I’ve written articles for other sites including Experfy and the AIOps on IBM Z site. I also wrote for Spiceworks (which was Toolbox) for a number of years. And I’ve created podcasts for a number of different companies.

I’ve spoken at the Guide Share Europe (GSE) UK conference for a number of years, speaking about mainframe security and, more recently, artificial intelligence (AI). I’ve been awarded the IBM Z and LinuxOne Influencer badge over the past few years.

So, here we are – 2024. 20 years in business. If you want to get in contact with us, our website is or you can email You can Like us on Facebook at, follow me on Twitter at @t_eddolls or Instagram at @t_eddolls, and Threads @t_eddolls. You can also connect on LinkedIn at