Firms still unprepared for mainframe skills shortage

A lack of focus on the mainframe is hindering development and productivity and putting potential recruits off, a study has found.

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Businesses remain unprepared for an impending shortage in mainframe skills and risk stifling innovation and crippling enterprise productivity and efficiency levels, according to research.

The mainframe in many ways is simply a victim of its own success.

Perhaps just as worrying is the fact the lack of focus on such infrastructure is putting the next-generation of developers off gaining mainframe skills.

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More than half (56 per cent) of CIOs believe their IT departments are struggling to keep pace with mainframe demands linked to business needs. High acquisition costs (60 per cent), integration complexity (54 per cent) and the amount of money and resources (45 per cent) needed to modernise mainframe development were cited as key barriers by those surveyed by Vanson Bourne in the study commissioned by Compuware.

And the situation shows no signs of improving any time soon, with 46 per cent of CIOs saying such obstacles mean they have no immediate plans to address the impending skills shortage. Furthermore, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of respondents believe a dull and archaic mainframe environment is deterring graduates and potential developer recruits.

While mainframes are still at the centre of big businesses in recent years, the market has been moving away from the powerful computers. In February 2012, NASA reportedly powered down its last mainframe - an IBM system z9.

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But Neil Richards, European mainframe director at Compuware, doesn't feel that the end is nigh for the aged technology.

"The mainframe in many ways is simply a victim of its own success. It performs well, is reliable and available for users," he said.

"Most customers don't upgrade their mainframe, because they perceive it to be a high cost factor"

Richards added that customers could get more out of their mainframes "if they automated processes and cut down on manual approaches."

Kris Manery, senior vice president and general manager at Compuware's mainframe solutions division is also determined that the day of the mainframe is not over.

"IT efficiency is about making better use of what you already have" he said.

"Any moves to update the mainframe environment must happen with a minimal investment of time and cost."

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