By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-08-21 Print this article Print

Indeed, todays mainframe professionals, particularly COBOL programmers, "have a wealth of best practices and implementation skills that remain applicable to new development environments," said Pamela Taylor, a director and vice president-elect of Share and a solutions architect at a subsidiary of a Fortune 50 company, in an interview here.

Taylor said she believes part of the reason new graduates are reluctant to join the mainframe ranks is that there is a stigma attached to mainframes as being "not cool."

College professors attending Share suggested a change in terminology, Taylor said. The professors said that "mainframe" still has a ring of "old and out-of-date" but that "large-scale computing" or "large-systems computing" are accurate descriptions of the environment as well as more appealing to young professionals looking for good career opportunities, she said.

Meanwhile, for people already in the work force, IBM offers a z/OS Basic Skills Information Center to help retrain workers on mainframe technology, Smith said.

But IBM is not stopping at education and training. The company also is working on building a set of new tools to empower developers on the mainframe and to help programmers in older technologies such as COBOL move to more modern architectures.

Laurence England, manager of application tooling for IBM, in Santa Teresa, Calif., said his goal is to help enhance IBMs mainframe tools and help build a community in which third parties can participate and extend the capabilities of the tools.

This tool set must be all-encompassing, covering run-times, testing tools, building tools, debugging, SOA (service-oriented architecture), modeling, and execution and scripting languages, among other functions, England said.

IBM currently offers WebSphere Developer for zSeries, an Eclipse-based IDE (integrated development environment) for mainframe applications. However, England said the new tools IBM is working on will need to "amplify the skill set" that new developers are coming out of school with—including open-source and Web technologies.

Michael Connor, IBMs product line manager for zSeries languages and developer tools, said COBOL programmers need to develop skills in modern application architectures such as Java, XML and SOA.

Taylor said the next generation of developers not only will need to know a variety of languages but also be able to develop for a platform-neutral world, as SOA and Web services become more prevalent. COBOL programmers also have ongoing opportunities to support and enhance existing applications and to integrate them with new user input devices, newly developed applications, packaged applications, Web services and so forth, she said.

"The next generation of application developer is simply not your fathers application programmer," Taylor said.

Wayne Duquaine, director of software development at Grandview Systems, in Sebastopol, Calif., and a longtime Share member, said he sees a future in PHP for mainframe developers because it is popular and easy to learn, has a quick development time and good performance, and easily integrates database processing with HTML and XML processing.

Moreover, Duquaine said he believes that "if PHP can prove that it will scale nearly as well as Java on a mainframe, then absolutely it will be a hit—because it is faster and easier to learn and use than the J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition] stack."

Through a partnership with Zend Technologies, a PHP distributor, IBM has committed to making PHP available on its zSeries computers.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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