19 June 2009
Mainframe maintenance skills at dangerously low levels
There is a startling shortfall in mainframe skills among the UK workforce, according to the findings of a survey by CA.
Entitled 'The Mainframe: Surviving and Thriving in a Turbulent World', CA's study reveals 83% of IT professionals in the UK believing that mainframe users are suffering, or will suffer, the effects of a shrinking workforce holding the relevant skills. That compares with 66% of respondents across the rest of Europe.
That said, there is a ray of hope: 35% agreed that a web-orientated GUI (graphical user interface) would help less-experienced IT staff, thus narrowing the skills gap.
Almost half (43%) of UK respondents reported a current focus on mainframe skills training specifically to address the shortfall – compared with 33% of their European counterparts. Meanwhile, a quarter say that their organisations are outsourcing these activities.
James O'Malley, CA's mainframe sales vice president for the UK and Ireland, reckons the findings are indicative of just how much value UK firms place on using mainframes as a connected resource within a distributed, web-enabled enterprise, compared with their European counterparts.
In the UK, he says, the survey shows that, where the mainframe acts as a fully-connected resource, 81% say "disaster recovery and emergency management are extremely efficient", compared with a European average of 45%.
Similarly, 78% reckon performance levels are "excellent", compared with a European average of 63%. Also, 78% in the UK say "centralised management is relatively easy," compared with a European average of just 45%.
Says O'Malley: "For many organisations, the mainframe remains the strategic platform of choice for the next generation of enterprise computing. It is apparent that organisations using the mainframe as a fully-connected resource as part of a web-enabled enterprise, experience significantly greater benefits than those with a disconnected, comparatively isolated mainframe environment."
It's hard to argue with the point – particularly when CA's survey also shows only 23% in the UK agreeing that "the mainframe is too much of a standalone device", while the European average is 54%.
What's more, UK users are spending very little on maintenance for their mainframes, compared with the rest of Europe. The percentage of annual IT budget spent on mainframe maintenance in the UK is 13%, compared with Germany's 24%, the Nordics 22%, Benelux 20%, France 18% and Italy 15%.
Additionally, on the security front, the survey reveals that 71% of organisations in the UK believe a mainframe-centric infrastructure to be more secure than the server-centric equivalent.
"Organisations recommitting to the mainframe are finding a unique mixture of manageability, reliability, scalability and security – not to mention low per-transaction costs," comments O'Malley. "They are realising that the mainframe is the asset best equipped to handle these challenges, while providing ample flexibility for growth and business innovation."
Computer Associates plc
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