Change is good

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen “The Day The Earth Stood Still“, but I always thought this scene holds a universal truth…..

“Technology is not your problem. The problem is you, you lack the will to change”

So why do we need to change?

It’s my firm belief that technology, by itself, is never the solution to a problem. There is just no way a slick and sexy looking ‘appliance’ by itself will magically fix your technology problems. Sooner or later the ‘real’ issue will pop up and cause the same problem over and over again.

Take for example a company facing severe challenges to keep their ‘backup window’ within the allotted time frame. Just getting faster drives and faster networks might solve the ‘short term’ issue, but as long as they don’t ‘take a step back’ and review what it really is they’re backing up and compare that to what they really need to be backed up, this ‘gain’ might only be marginal and most likely temporary of nature.

Taking that step back to reevaluate past decisions and configuration should always be the first course of action when facing ‘problems’ (for me this holds true beyond the technology domain). Just like how the car would have never be invented if we had just kept searching for ‘better and faster horses,’ I believe we will make the biggest progress in (Enterprise) IT once we allow change across the whole playing field.

But why don’t we?

This means we should be willing to change our infrastructure, our operating systems, our applications and middleware our procedures and maybe even our job descriptions….

And for a lot of us, change is not something we like.

I’ve always done it this way” and “But that would take a lot of effort” are frequently heard excuses for not changing. Whenever these “arguments” are given I cannot help but think about these demotivational posters.

When your basement is getting too packed with ‘stuff’ you keep storing down there would your solution be to move to house with a bigger basement? Or would it maybe seem smarter (and more efficient) to reevaluate your procedures regarding what to store there?

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” 

Looking forward to your reactions in the comments section……


Kevin Dooley - Beat the Bashers!

Being the Mainframe Junkie that I am, I’ve been in a lot of situations where my platform has been under severe attack.

No, I’m not talking DDoS-attacks, but more of an ideological attack rooted in the (false) belief that the mainframe sucks, is old and will not continue to be among us for very much longer.

I have been working on The Mainframe (yes double capitals) since 1998 and have always heard them say my precious Mainframe will be made redundant within the next 5 years.

As of today, The Mainframe is still here and it’s getting bigger and bigger, not smaller and smaller. The Mainframe is still the dominant architecture in most of the Fortune-500 companies, a lot of governmental institutes and as of lately is growing out to be the number one platform when it comes to Large Linux Infrastructures.

Seeing as I’ve been invited to join the (ever growing ranks) of The Millennial Mainframer I’d deemed it fit to share some of my experiences where the unknowing started bashing The Mainframe and how I have ‘retorted’ to these blasphemies.

For my first post I will rant about Cost and Legacy……

Cost: “It’s too expensive

Expensive is a relative term to start with. Yes you have to dish out large amounts of money to acquire a machine packed to the rim with all the awesomeness that makes up a Mainframe. But when you take a step backwards and realize this is one machine to host a multitude of workloads, with the capability of being managed with a small amount of FTE’s ( Full-Time Equivalents) it’s a whole different ball game all of a sudden!

There’s no ‘let’s buy another server for this application’-approach. There’s no linear growth in the ‘workloads-to-manpower’-graph and due to the sheer fact utilization rates on Mainframes are a multitude of the rates on platforms of a lesser order there’s a much more economically viable picture to be drawn.

Set aside from plain acquirement and personnel costs there is the ‘software licensing cost’. My advice : get down to the bottom of the figures when it comes to cost.  For one I am pretty sure the PVU Pricing Model for WebSphere will turn out to be cheaper on a Mainframe Platform.

  [EDITOR ~ Paul Gamble:  If any readers could comment and walk me through this I would be eternally grateful…and smarter!!!] .

The Mainframe can host a variety of different workloads it’s a dead give away that it will be cheaper to bring extra workload to The Mainframe than to offload workload elsewhere…..

Legacy: “It’s Dinosaur stuff

This must be the biggest frustrations on my end. The similarity between Dino’s and The Mainframe is only true when you look at their awesomeness. For the rest the comparison goes completely bust.

I shall be the last to disagree with the fact that Mainframes date back from ‘ancient times’ (much like dinosaurs). But where at one stage T-Rex and his friends became extinct (possibly due to changing environments) The Mainframe has shown us that it is capable of continuing it’s evolution to keep sustainable.

The Mainframe has been virtualizing since like forever. From before I was born it was capable of running multiple workloads, in multiple ‘ADDRESS SPACES’ (images they say) on hardware less powerful than the CPU’s today. 

But my …….. (insert any X86 argument) has a gazillion virtualization instructions.

Yeah I know, sorry for ya, we’ve got one on The Mainframe, it’s called SIE (Start Interpretive Execution) and we don’t pronounce it ‘sigh’ for nothing 🙂

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Henri KuiperAbout Henri:

I’m a level 76 Fire Mage.
Oh noes, born in 1976, computer junkie since I was like 7 (BBC Micro) and moved up from Commodore to MSX then Amiga then Linux. Been a Mainframe Junkie since 1998 and consider myself a full-fledged systems programmer. I understand (and work on) the mainframe from the IO drawerr all the way up to the end-user application.

Proud member of the Millennial Mainframer 🙂

Greetings fellow Mainframers! My name is Dontrell Harris, a Senior Information Technology Major at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, NC and successful applicant of the Master the Mainframe contest.  I first would like to thank both old and new visitors for visiting the blog, and would like to extend a special thanks to Sean McBride for inviting me to participate in blogging with such an exclusive group of individuals. It is more than an honor to be able to share my experience, ideas, and opinions with you all.


For those unfamiliar with “Master the Mainframe”, it is an annual contest hosted by IBM Academic Initiative System z.  It comprises of 3 separate parts, Easy, Medium, and Hard if you will, with each part consisting of challenges that gain in difficulty and complexity as you progress.  It is typically scheduled to run from early October to late December. The contest is intended to provide students, high school and college, the opportunity to work with mainframes, an opportunity that many are not able to experience. The contest is designed for participants who are both familiar with mainframe technologies and also for those who have never seen or heard about a mainframe at all. This is where my story begins.

My Story

In the Fall of 2012, I began my junior year at North Carolina A&T State University with a goal of obtaining my first internship after starting my collegiate career very shaky. I had GPA issues that I knew I could not and WOULD NOT let define my true character and knowledge level.

That semester, I enrolled into the Intro to Mainframe Operations course, a newly offered course to the program. The course was being offered for only the second time when I took it. My school is very fortunate to have a mainframe, System z9 to be exact, on campus, which was supposed to host much of the curriculum for the course. Unfortunately, the coursework did not start because of network complications until the middle of October, a couple of weeks after I started my “Quest” with the Master the Mainframe (MtM) contest.

On October 1, 2012, IBM opened the contest up to the 4700+ registrants, including myself, and I was immediately HOOKED! 

Part 1 gave the participants an initial walk-through of how to navigate through the mainframe and the ISPF panels with the use of a terminal emulator client. It was all so new to me, but I thought it was extremely COOL from the start.

Part 1 was given the completion time of 1 hour… I did it in 15 minutes. From that point, I spent countless hours working on the contest, despite how difficult some parts were. There were some nights where I would stay up to 5:00 am in the clubhouse of my apartment (I had no internet in my apartment) just to complete as many challenges as possible.

When I arrived to Part 3, most of my sleepless nights were result of me trying to overcome just one individual challenge. By the way, Part 3 of the contest is equivalent to a Real World experience that someone with an actual career would face. There was a particular challenge in Part 3 that had me stumped for over 5 days. Needless to say though, I defeated that pesky challenge. As matter of fact, after all those sleepless nights and countless hours of working on the contest, I finished the contest in its entirety in exactly One Month and a Day (November 2, 2012).

Finishing the contest helped me establish a confidence within myself and abilities that was never there before. I felt proud of my accomplishments, but did not understand the importance or significance of achievement.

Of the 4700+ participants in the contest, I was only 1 of 28 to complete the contest in the entire Nation, and the ONLY and FIRST participant in North Carolina to complete the contest as well.

Those accomplishments helped me grasp my career choices and also began to open major doors for me.  Since then, I have had the opportunity to intern with IBM in RTP, NC as part of the z/OS Communications Server team as a software/network tester and also become a recipient of a System z scholarship.  Though I was not a Top 5 winner this year in the contest, I truly feel that I am still a winner with all of the available opportunities and awards that have been presented to me. It has truly changed my life in many aspects.

Master the Mainframe Tips

Even though no Mainframe experience is necessary for the Master the Mainframe contest, some skills will be needed in order to complete the contest in its entirety.  You will have to have some programming knowledge and maybe even a few networking skills, but nothing too major.

The biggest tip that I can offer is just to have the willingness to DOPatience, and that “DON’T QUIT” attitude! There were plenty of times where I felt that I just could not go on in the contest because something became very hard, but I just kept pushing myself and working towards solving whatever problem it was that I was facing, and surely I defeated the obstacle.

Just like with any problem, there is a solution… you just have to figure it out!

Seize the Opportunity…

 MtM Contest is the perfect opportunity for students who are still searching for their “niche” or just someone who loves technology, but just unsure what direction they want to go with it.  I truly believe that it is more than worthwhile for college students to learn this technology.  The demand for students with mainframe-related knowledge has never been higher and the opportunities for challenging and fulfilling careers have not either.  The beauty of it all, in my opinion, is that no matter what technology based skill-set one may possess, it can be utilized within the mainframe environment.

For those students who love programming or building databases, guess what… There is a Career for YOU within the Mainframe environment!

I personally aspire to one day become a Technical Consultant, particularly in mainframe technologies.  I am fascinated with the endless solutions that the technology is able to provide to business clients…a lot solutions that clients will never realize that they need. I am just grateful that with Master the Mainframe, I am able to NOW have career aspiration to work towards.

(*** Please follow me at mainframemindedaggie ****)
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