Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Congrats to the 2014 ASE graduates

CA's ASE_Grads 2014

As I enter the last decade of my career, it’s nice to know that I’m helping pave the way for the next-gen mainframers.

LittleBlogAuthorGraphic  David Hodgson, August 26, 2014

“You’re off to great places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

Dr. SeussOh, the Places You’ll Go!

The above book by children’s author Dr. Seuss is one that often comes to mind when congratulating someone who has recently graduated. But maybe in this case, I’d say, “Your mainframe is waiting…”

Last week I was the speaker for the Class of 2014, Associate Software Engineer (ASE) graduation event at the CA Technologies office in Pittsburgh. Encountering the drive and passion of people launching their careers was an amazingly inspiring way to end a week.

The ASE program at CA Technologies just completed its eighth year and we have on-boarded over 500 graduate engineers onto our teams through this mechanism.

Investing in next-gen mainframers

With many of the veterans of IT in our ranks retiring as baby boomers, we know the investment is critical to providing a replacement workforce on our mainframe products.

By actively recruiting and training graduates ourselves, we not only ensure a strong a next-gen group of thinkers in terms of demographics, but also ideology and culture.

“Breeding” lost comp sci skills

Within the mainframe development organization we code in Java, C and other high-level languages as much as possible now, but there is still a need for IBM assembler programmers to maintain and evolve critical parts of our broad portfolio of management products.

These skills are no longer being taught within university computer science departments, so it is necessary to ensure we “breed” them ourselves. We recruit at major universities near our six main US development centers: Ewing, Framingham, Islandia, Lisle, Pittsburgh and Plano.

We also find candidates at career fairs, including West Texas A&M, Penn State, Arkansas and Northern Illinois. We run a similar program for our development center in Hyderabad, India too.

Putting them through their paces

The students worked hard, boot-camp style for seven weeks learning z/OS essentials and the specifics of IBM assembler. A highlight was attending the SHARE summer event, where they could see more broadly what the mainframe means to the industry. The group of 31 ASEs also had time for purely social events that helped them relax and enabled them to bond together as a class.

The main host of the class, Jim Kokoszynski, a former Marine and VP for the Pittsburgh development center, made it his mission to ensure the students had fun.

He invited the gang over to his house for a BBQ and dodge ball event as well as arranged the Ducky Tour (a river cruise on amphibious vehicles), a visit to Kennywood amusement park and, of course, they went to a Pirates game. He also brought in local guest speakers: Bronze Star and Purple Heart Veteran as well as Super Bowl Steeler Rocky Bleier and Carnegie STEM director Linda Ortenzo.

What I taught them

My talk centered on CA Technologies strategy of enabling the mainframe as part of the mainstream IT trends today, including the requirements of the emerging application economy. This means addressing technologies like mobile device access, big data analytics, hybrid cloud and devops.

And, of course, I emphasized the opportunities I saw for the class both to develop their careers and contribute directly to setting the directions we took in some of these areas. We emphasize teamwork at CA Technologies and are always looking for ways to flatten the organization and enable everyone to be involved and contribute to our overall success.

What they taught me

The students followed me by each summing up their experiences of the time together. With energy and enthusiasm they expressed common themes of hard work, challenges and becoming totally committed to the amazing world of today’s mainframe computing environment.

But what struck me most were the camaraderie, team spirit and obvious deep friendships that the whole group had experienced and forged. What an incredibly empowering way to start a career and your first job. This bunch of people will now probably be lifelong friends and will support each other during the transition from university life to a job inside a large corporation like CA Technologies.

As I begin to enter the last stages of my career, which I started as an assembler programmer too, it is with some satisfaction that I can view my job as participating in helping pave the way for many successful careers that get launched through the ASE program each year.  Best of luck to the Class of 2014!

Infrastructure is your advantage, legacy systems your secret weapon


To succeed in the app economy you don’t need to start again. Instead, leverage and integrate existing assets with new platforms and resources.

LittleBlogAuthorGraphic  David Hodgson, August 18, 2014

In today’s competitive landscape your infrastructure can work for or against you. To get the speed and agility you want, you must have the tools in place to help you truly understand, plan, manage and control your physical, virtual, on-premise and cloud infrastructure to deliver business services through software and applications. In my work, we refer to the infrastructure and processes that enable the application economy as the the Dynamic Data Center (DDC).

I recently started a four-part series on to how to best navigate on your journey into the application economy drawing allusions with my daily walk to work and back. In the first part of this series I introduced four principles and here I expand on the second – your infrastructure is your greatest advantage and your legacy systems are your secret weapon.

Like any successful journey, to get good velocity you must have a well-defined destination, route and an idea of the obstacles you may meet on the way. On my daily walk to work I know its best to walk on the outside of the sidewalk for speed, and if I want to stay dry when it is raining, it’s best to hug the storefronts for cover.

Borderless realm

Of course it is not that simple for your IT organization. The DDC means that the realm IT now has to manage is borderless. It is no longer the static, “glass-house” data center of a by-gone era. It stretches from mobile device to the mainframe and includes SaaS applications, mobile devices and on-premise CICS transactions.

Applications for larger companies nearly always have a multi-tier, cross-platform architecture. The key to success is leveraging the assets you currently have and integrating them with the new platforms and resources. You can start with the business requirements for the application or business service, and decide on the right infrastructure to achieve the goals.

Agile DDC

You also must understand that in today’s DDC, yesterday’s solution may be different from today’s (and tomorrow’s) solution. Let me share a couple of the things that come to my mind when I think about this.

The CA Cloud Storage for System z allows businesses to seamlessly take advantage of Amazon’s storage of archived data on physical mainframe tapes or a Virtual Tape System (VTS). The change is transparent to the application — the kind of agility you need in the DDC.

By leveraging new cloud services on a public cloud like Amazon or a private cloud like NetApp and DataDomain, we can “normalize” the mainframe. In operational terms, this means making a core asset more useful by extending its life and making it easier to manage. In fiscal terms, this means normalizing the cost of running the mainframe to increase the asset’s ROI.

System z can also run Linux as a server consolidation play. Many companies have under-used capacity on their Integrated Facilities for Linux (IFLs). Workloads can run there inexpensively and efficiently with all the usual savings of a server consolidation exercise, but with greater security and Reliability, Availability, and Service (RAS) benefits. Although adoption has been slow, it continues to increase – I am constantly talking with companies that are considering Linux on the mainframe or expanding their capability there.

Out of the box

On your walk through the application economy be prepared to think out of the box, but allow for the idea that you may need to leverage what you have already where you can. Have the agility needed to make tomorrow’s solution different from the past, but don’t assume that means starting fresh.

Also, ensure your infrastructure serves the needs of your business and adapt it by recombining, reconnecting and reimagining with the parts you have, even as you add others. The DDC will work for you when you know clearly where you are going, what your destination is and how you might achieve it by various routes.

Once again, I’ve successfully arrived at 53rd Street. Time to get some work done. After reading this, I hope that you are equipped for the journey to your destination.

In the meantime, if you’ve been thinking about how apps affect your business or rolling them out across your org, leave me a comment below. This is a brave new world of IT and we can all learn together.