August 05, 2010, 10:10 PM — IBM's new mainframe is on display at this week's SHARE conference in Boston, a testament to the relevancy of the big iron in today's enterprise IT environments. Amid the excitement over IBM's mainframe makeover, however, IT pros are concerned about the availability of skilled professionals who know how to run it.
In a survey released at this year's conference, SHARE's member organizations named the aging of the enterprise IT profession as one of the top five issues they're facing.
Statistics about the graying of mainframe experts and a shortage of new talent to fill their shoes are nothing new. Last year, the AFCOM Data Center Institute reported that more than 60% of IT workers with mainframe experience are now at least 50 years old. (Are you an IT geezer?)
Businesses need to have succession plans in place, certainly, but there are reasons to be optimistic, says Al Williams, president of SHARE, an independent, volunteer-run association of IBM users founded in 1955. "Many of us are approaching the age when we can retire," he says. "That sounds like a land of opportunity for young employees."
SHARE is using this year's conference to emphasize how important is it for IT to demonstrate its value to the business. At a show that's known for diving into the technical details, it's a significant message. "We have a very technical set of people who come here, and yet we're dragging them through some keynote sessions that might make their heads hurt a little bit," Williams jokes.
Like many IT professionals, mainframe specialists have had to take on broader responsibilities as budgets tightened and IT departments shrank. "While all of us [at SHARE] probably have a mainframe of some sort, we've also wound up in an enterprise data center environment, being responsible for everything else," Williams says. "Everyone knows we do mainframe, but the reality is we do mainframes and more."
That scenario dovetails with IBM's newly announced zEnterprise system.