IBM Works to Cultivate Mainframe Talent

Susan Hall
Slide Show

The Mainframe Rising

IBM's efforts to converge mainframe and distributed computing models remain a work in progress.

IBM has never given up on the mainframe and though that certainly wouldn't be considered the world's sexiest tech job, Big Blue is working hard to boost the ranks of people qualified to work on them.


My colleague Mike Vizard wrote back in September that Big Blue appears to have created some momentum around the z/Enterprise platform. According to IBM:

  • All of the top 25 world banks run their businesses on mainframes.
  • 71 percent of global Fortune 500 companies are System z clients.
  • 9 out of the top 10 global life/health insurance providers process their high-volume transactions on a mainframe.


And in an independent survey of 520 CIOs interviewed on behalf of vendor Compuware, 71 percent were worried about a skills shortage and 80 percent said mainframe outages were a major business risk. It put the cost of a mainframe application outage at $13,931 per minute.


Compuware's Kris Manery is quoted in the survey press release as saying:

Experienced developers are business-critical assets, which is why nearly half (43 percent) of mainframe operational expenses goes toward their salaries. The loss of expertise as they retire will lead to increased costs as inexperienced developers spend more time getting to grips with their mainframe applications. Unfortunately, this steep learning curve also means that there are more chances for error and ultimately loss of revenue through application outages.

IBM reports 1,067 schools in 66 countries are teaching students about mainframe technology through its System z Academic Initiative. Whether using the school's equipment or through remote access to IBM's, the company also provides access to non-IBM software to demonstrate the abilities of System z.


I checked data from job site (full disclosure: I blog there, too) and found that the number of job listings mentioning mainframes has remained pretty stable over the past year and a half at around 1,400 to 1,700. Job aggregators Indeed (more than 12,000 mentions) and Simply Hired (more than 15,000) show considerable demand. IBM, though, has begun its own mainframe job board,, which has about 1,500 listings, more than half in the United States.

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