Mainframe staffing dilemma bedevils CIO dependents

Prospective skills shortage is biggest issue to hit mainframes since Y2K

More than half a century after its birth, the mainframe poses conundrum for hundreds of CIOs.

Mainframes are firmly ensconced as a critical piece of the IT infrastructure underpinning their business – just ask any of the traditional banks. The fear is that as those maintaining them retire or get outsourced, nobody will be left to run them.

A Compuware survey of 350 enterprise CIOs claimed that 88 per cent rate the mainframe as a “key business asset” for at least the next 10 years.

Mainframes are running new and different workloads in 81 per cent of cases – Big Data was highlighted. Further, 78 per cent catergorised these dinosaurs as a “key enabler” of innovation.

Yet 70 per cent expressed concern about “knowledge transfer and risk” – the lack of documentation on how to run and manage their systems was called out. “Distributed application developers have little understanding of the mainframe,” BMC said.

Worse, 39 per cent reckoned they have no plans for addressing the shortage in developer skills needed to continue using the mainframe for that next decade.

Compuware chief executive Chris O’Malley called the gap in skills and need for funding a problem on a par with the Millennium Bug around the turn of the century.

“Our survey reveals that CIOs are aware of this, but are struggling to respond. Not since Y2K has the mainframe required as much CIO attention and direct involvement. Hope is never a good mainframe strategy,” O’Malley said in a statement. ®

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