Three years until mainframe staff retirements cause serious issues
A massive 93 percent of respondents to a recent global survey on attitudes to mainframes expressed “serious concerns” about their mainframe environment, according to Zurich-based LzLabs, which tasked Vanson Bourne with a survey of 650 “IT decision makers” across a range of industry verticals.
While it is always hard to take such surveys particularly seriously – they’re a standard PR ploy – and LzLabs specialises in migrating applications off mainframes (“he who pays the piper…”) the figure is nonetheless strikingly high.
Respondents bewailed mainframe skills shortages in the report, saying the average time until retiring staff will significantly impact respondents’ organizations’ mainframe workforce is down to just three years. They cited the allure of being able to leverage cloud elasticity (52 percent) and improve development agility (also 52 percent) as “pull” factors behind efforts to migrate applications off mainframes.
The survey results showed that a skills crisis is expected to have far reaching impacts, with almost two thirds of respondents reporting that the loss of mainframe skills in their organization presents a big risk to the entire business.(A skills shortage means even entry level mainframe jobs pay well: the average mainframe job pays out £62,500.)
“Our findings in last year’s survey highlighted the frustration IT leaders have with the cost and inflexibility of their mainframe applications” said Thilo Rockmann, Chairman and COO of LzLabs. “What we are seeing in this year’s is a realization that the loss of mainframe skills poses a significant threat in the coming years, and piecemeal approaches will not be enough to solve this” he continued.
(Studies show that removing dependency on mainframe-based tools can improve the amount of work achieved by between 25 percent and 40 percent. With mainframe applications lacking modularity, development processes can be “painfully slow”. As Deloitte notes, “even small code changes can be risky.”
Mainframe vendor IBM has tried to tackle anti-mainframe momentum with new “tailored fit” pricing, which includes the option to run its mainframes using cloud-like usage-based licensing model under which compute is measured on the basis of MSUs consumed, which removes the need for manual or automated capping.
It has also, via an industry effort called Zowe, opened up the platform via a web user interface (UI) that provides a virtual desktop containing a number of apps allowing access to z/OS function, and an API gateway that acts as a reverse proxy for z/OS services, together with a catalogue of REST APIs.
LzLabs, meanwhile, says it has helped Swisscom – Switzerland’s answer to BT – cut IT costs by 60 percent after moving business-critical applications off its mainframe. These weighed in at 2,500 installed MIPS (million instructions per second) and managed billing, geography and address information and line administration for the provider’s entire fixed line network. This workload now runs on Swisscom’s own private cloud, Which is built on ESX vdirector running on EMC/Cisco x86 hardware and storage.