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Blog > May 2020 > The World of IBM z According to a Gen Z Programmer

The World of IBM z According to a Gen Z Programmer

As a Gen Z programmer in the world of IBM z, if I wanted to tell you something, what would It be?

My goal here is to share my views on the mainframe ecosystem through the eyes of an unseasoned code-developer and hopefully clear up some common misconceptions related to the mainframe world.

Is the mainframe dead?

As would any other mainframe-using programmer, I want to start my article addressing the familiar public opinion that the mainframe is dying. I personally feel that these negative connotations mainly arise from the confusion between trend-shifting and inefficacy. Just because the trend has moved in another direction away from an entity, doesn’t mean that it will be replaced entirely.

“…the development of mobile devices did not kill the PC, but each suited themselves to different workloads.”

I’ll point you to a similar example in personal computing – the development of mobile devices did not kill the PC, but each suited themselves to different workloads. I can relate the same to enterprise computing. In-fact, “z” betters the distributed sector in many factors. Maybe mainframes aren’t king of the jungle anymore –but we need them

Jeez, I know dude. But what’s it like to work as a mainframe-using programmer?

To get a better understanding, we must first accept that there indeed has been a trend shift. Just as any popular service-provider would face problems when there is a new craze in the industry, IBM also lost customers – in some domains at least. Having said that, let’s look at how the mainframe evolved to overcome the fall, in the perspective of two types of customers: end-users and software makers.

For the end-users on the mainframe, IBM has quietly adapted System z to the recent trends in technology – notably the cloud services model and open-source software. This along with its crazy computing power makes it unbeatable as an infrastructure provider for transactional requirements. Some people may not agree on a similar smooth ride for a software development process on the mainframe. I can throw some light on this based on my experience in working with these computers.

The Dino looking at the green screen



Last week, I came across this Dilbert comic that talks to the widely held notion that mainframe programmers are almost extinct—it’s true in a way! One of the things that happens during a trend shift is that the new talent in the industry choose career options to comply with the trend. Mainframes certainly did not provide the impressive and easy-to-use development platforms provided by newer technologies. That has changed now, but is it too late? Not really.

IBM has opened its doors to application developers by providing mainframe-support for many modern technologies and cooler interfaces. At the same time, the core development continues to happen on IBM’s platforms – traditional but reliable

Mainframe for All

I was recruited by ASG as a part of a training-cum-deployment program a couple of years ago. Being used to highly-simulated coding environments until then, learning the mainframe-way of doing things was a rare experience – but it taught me the system design and activity like nothing else could. Our products on the mainframe run a unique blend of the old and the new. On one side, modernized development happens with open-standard technologies, on the other – critical applications are still built on the z/OS assembly language with a hold on the underlying operating system. The development process on the mainframe does not always have to be arduous as some claim it to be – there is always something for everyone!

If you haven’t already, check out this trendy new ad for the latest mainframe the IBM z15.