Mainframes are high-capacity computers used for large-scale processing, and they're used by businesses, universities and the government. But there's a looming shortage of IT workers who specialize in mainframes. Kristine Harper with NEON Enterprise Software says mainframes might be in the background, but they're important in our daily lives.
"Well, for example if you ever use an ATM, a mainframe is in the background doing all the work. You know, if you ever think about actually what goes on beyond behind the scenes of getting your money out of ATM, you know, where, how does the bank know that you can get that money? How can it handle people all around the world going to ATMs at the same time at the same data bases? If you think of large scale in terms of millions of users—a bank or your credit card bill or even eBay—the mainframe's in the background doing all that work."
Mainframes are in the background, working as you book flights. They help shipping companies like FedEx, DHL and UPS. But college graduates are more interested in other computer fields.
"There's a huge stigma around the mainframe for people of my generation that believe the mainframe is dead, it's just an old dinosaur machine, nobody uses it anymore. They all want to be, grow up and be java game programmers and you know, that's, that's great, but we can only use so many of those. And the mainframe, it's been around for so many years because it is reliable, it is stable, it's sturdy, it's you know, it's not going to going to go away because of all the customers that it's racked up over the 50, 60 years it's been around."
Now there's the IBM Academic Initiative to interest more students on this crucial segment of the IT workforce.
"They have a goal in 2010 to train 20,000 IT professionals on the mainframe. And they're going out, they're working with the universities trying to convince professors to teach the mainframe. They're offering courses that they have set up so that professors don't have to do any of that preparation work and they have people working full-time on this, trying to get schools to sign up and participate and offer these courses at the universities."
Harper says NEON Enterprises is interested in developing future mainframe operators.
"We're starting locally here in Houston. We currently have worked with Houston Community College and the University of Houston to try to get mainframe courses up, and we, this past August Houston Community Colleges have offered mainframe courses and they're continuing to do so."
Harper says graduates of mainframe courses have jobs waiting for them. Harper manages a Web blog atÎ¾http://www.neonesoft.com/blog/blogs/kharper/default.aspx as a forum for discussions about mainframes.
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