As mainframe operators dwindle in numbers -- and become more discriminating about their hours -- it’s getting harder to find people to work the graveyard shift.
Maintec is happy to help. The Indian firm now offers outsourcing services with its new Graveyard Shift operation that provides mainframe operators from its Bangalore network operations center.
“Third shifts have always been painful, even IBM had trouble,” said Sonny Gupta, Maintec founder and president. Smaller shops, in particular, are hard pressed to find resources to operate their machines, he said.
Working over a simple VPN connection or a leased line, Maintec-trained operators ensure that all-important nightly batch processing completes on time, and they also oversee other online services, he said.
Launched this spring, this is the company’s first foray into mainframe operations, although it has plenty of experience with mainframe systems programming, data center management and training personnel. Its Bangalore location also gives it a leg up, Gupta said.
“The graveyard shift in the U.S. is the first shift for us, which is a tremendous advantage,” Gupta said. “If we were trying to staff [U.S.] first shift, we would face the same challenges.”
Bangalore is in the Indian Standard Time (IST) time zone, or GMT + 5:30. So if it is 1 a.m. East Coast time in New York, it’s 11:30 a.m. in Bangalore.
All or nothing outsourcing services?
In truth, most mainframe shops probably won’t go for piecemeal outsourcing services, said Art Louise, director of information services at EmblemHealth, an insurance provider in New York city.
Prior to being merged into EmblemHealth in 2006, Group Health Incorporated (GHI) was fully outsourced, Louise said. That was a suitable solution, he said, “but they would never have entertained single-shift outsourcing.” While he said the idea of outsourcing services for the graveyard shift is interesting, “it would never work here.”
Indeed, Maintec’s graveyard shift service will probably only appeal to the smallest of shops, predicted Mark Combs, a vice president in CA’s mainframe customer solutions group who started his career as a mainframe operator working the graveyard shift in 1974.
“For most large customers, the graveyard is when a lot of their key processing takes place, and they like to have their hands on it,” he said.
And while it’s hard to find people to work the graveyard shift, “it’s not impossible,” he added. “You can always find students or other people who prefer to work nights, for whatever reason.”
Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, said mainframe shops are very resourceful when it comes to finding new talent. “They will take the best and the brightest Windows and Unix guys and entice them into the mainframe,” he said.
If growing from within is not an option, mainframe shops can seek to hire from the 800 or so organizations that teach mainframe skills, or take advantage of useability initiatives that are making the platform easier to manage, he added.
EmblemHealth’s Louise concurred. “We have been able to find people through specialized agencies or through friends,” he said. You never really know where you’ll find them. “We just hired one guy–his dad was a systems programmer.”
Still, Maintec’s Gupta is optimistic. “We’ve been getting a lot of opportunities for the graveyard shift as a packaged service,” he said. If successful, Maintec is looking to offer a second shift service, “and eventually take over.”