Meanwhile, IBM is making its own efforts to mobilize new talent. In 2000, IBM made a commitment to train 20,000 college students on the mainframe as part of its Academic Initiative on System z. The company already has surpassed that number with 23,000 students trained and nearly 300 colleges involved in the initiative. Adding to this effort, IBM last year launched a five-year, $100 million drive to dramatically simplify the platform. Click here to read more about IBM spending $100 million over the next five years to make the mainframe easier to use.With that in mind, at last weeks Share conference IBM announced a series of enhancements to software that are designed to enable professionals to more easily program, manage and administer a mainframe systemas well as to increasingly automate the development and deployment of applications for the mainframe environment. The enhancements covered security, systems and data management, and virtualization.In a statement on the announcement, Jim Stallings, general manager for IBM System z, said, "These new software upgrades and enhancements to the System z software stack represent real progress toward the goal of making the mainframe easier to use and administer." IBM announced DB2 9 for z/OS, a new version of the software that enables high-volume transaction processing for the next wave of Web applications and SOA (service-oriented architecture) environments. IBM also announced z/VM Version 5.3, which adds expanded scalability enhancements to IBMs z/VM virtualization technology. The new WebSphere Developer for System z V7.0 has new features for rapidly developing and deploying applications and for integrating existing applications with Web services and SOA. Other enhancements include WebSphere Service Registry and Repository for z/OS, V6.0; Consul zSecure Suite Version 1.8; and enhancements to IBM Tivoli Monitoring family of products. Martin Timmerman, president of Share, said last weeks conference was geared to look at two main themes: IT 2010 and business resilience. The IT 2010 sessions focused on "preparing the business and the IT professional for three years hence," Timmerman said. "One of the highlights was SOA." On the issue of business resilience, the conference offered sessions on keeping an enterprise going in the face of adversity. The sessions were set up to show that "you cant just recover from a disaster, you have to think of how you keep your business up and going" despite the disaster, Timmerman said. Jim Michael, treasurer of Share, reiterated that SOA was a key thrust of the Share conference, in that there were more than 80 SOA-related sessions targeting application developers and systems engineers. "A major attraction of SOA is the promise of reuse that it offers," Michael said. And the mainframe is a solid citizen in a SOA environment, he said. "Thats where the data lives," Michael said. "And SOA is giving businesses another way to leverage that resource." Meanwhile, IBM is trying out other ways to attract developers to the mainframe. At the end of January, IBM released PHP for Z/OS on its alphaWorks site. PHP, the popular scripting language employed by Web developers throughout the world, features syntax that is similar to that of C and Perl, which makes it easy to learn for anyone with basic programming skills, according to IBM. PHP for z/OS is a port of the PHP scripting language to the z/OS platform. Specifically, it ports PHP 5.1.2 to the z/OS platform. More information on the port can be found at here. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.