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Mainframe group to focus on project management skills for '07

Robert Rosen, immediate past president of the mainframe user group Share, addresses the mainframe job market, the IT energy crisis and hot skills for next year.

Robert Rosen, immediate past president of the mainframe user group Share, addressed the mainframe job market, the IT energy crisis and hot skills for next year in a recent interview with
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Mainframe revenues have grown steadily over the past year, what do you attribute the growth to?

Robert Rosen: I think it's a combination of things. One is the new lower priced machines. Two, I think IBM has made so much progress in the software that you don't need a whole army of white-coat technicians to take care of these things. Three, the reliability of the mainframe just stands out. People who are really dependent on their IT infrastructure are saying that this is a no-brainer.

What do you think about the recent push from Hewlett-Packard [Co.], Intel [Inc.] and Oracle to get people to move off the mainframe?

Rosen: I had to chuckle. What is this, the fourth, fifth time people have tried this kind of thing? People say it's going to be so hard to hire mainframe workers. It's not easy to hire good people for any platform. Also, many people from an Intel background don't understand the industrial computing environment. If a company buys into this argument, they're going to be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

We did a recent interview with an analyst that said that there isn't a huge demand for COBOL skills out there. What is your response to that?

Rosen: I haven't looked at -- but we've been doing some hiring. We get lots of applications, but trying to find people who are really good, it's a much smaller number. If you're really good in this field, there are people looking for you. A lot of people got into IT in the late 90s for the money. But you've got to be in the field because you really like what you're doing, stay up to date and continue your education.

IBM recently began touting the mainframe as an energy saver. Is that an effective selling point for the platform?

Rosen: I think anything that has to do with energy savings is going to be really appealing to IT shops right now. Energy costs have started landing on the CFO's [chief financial officer] desk. Well who's using all this electricity?

What would be nice is a good way to measure this. What you really want to know is: What is the power per unit of performance, watts per MIPS -- so you can do a meaningful comparison.

What does Share have planned for next year?

Rosen: We're focusing on business issues. We have some new themes -- IT 2010, are you going to be ready for it? What are the skills you're going to need? I think project management is going to be a huge skill requirement in the coming years. We're long past the day of the one person programming job.

We're also focusing on business resilience. And there's a big track on SOA [service-oriented architecture] -- it's not just about the technology but about the entire business modernization.

I'm pretty excited about this business focus. It's nice to be able to go to your boss with this information. Those arguments will help get you to the conference. We want to make sure you're getting your money's worth.

We have been reporting on a mainframe insourcing trend recently. Is this something you've noticed?

Rosen: Yes. In fact, one of our people in Share works for a financial institution that had completely outsourced its operations. They recently turned around and started insourcing. IT is a critical component of many businesses, and you don't outsource critical functions.

Insourcing is a lot more difficult than outsourcing. Once you've outsourced, it's really hard to bring it back in.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, Site Editor

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