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From Chapter one: Data Processing and the IBM Mainframe

This is the 11th excerpt from the second book in the Defen series: BIT: Business Information Technology: Foundations, Infrastructure, and Culture

Note that the section this is taken from, on the evolution of the data processing culture, includes numerous illustrations and note tables omitted here.

Roots (Part Four: Touring a System 360 data center)

--- This is a virtual tour of a data processing center. There are several important things to note about this:

  1. The heavy use of unexplained acronyms as a distancing mechanism between those inside, and those outside, the data center. In this book the important ones are explained elsewhere, for this tour, just do what you'd do in real life: assume they'd mean something if you cared to ask;

  2. The secrecy surrounding costs and performance. IBM does not publish mainframe costs and does not benchmark the mainframe against anything other than its own earlier mainframes; and,

  3. The continuity of both management focus and technology from the mid sixties to today.


The People

The data center employs 552 full time people on permanent staff and about 40 full time equivalent contractors. In addition the company pays for desktop and network services and support via contracts with IBM Global services. At present the corporate human resources group lists openings for mainframe support staff with knowledge and experience in any of the following major toolsets - all in use at the data center.

ADS/O, Abend-Aid, Assembler, BMS-GT, C/C++, CA7/11, CICS/DB2, CICS/IMS, COBOL90, CSP, CULPRIT, DB-DC, DB2, DB2/SQL, DCCS, Endeavor, IDF Workbench, IDMS,n IEF/Composer, IMPROMPTU, IMS, IMS-DB/DC, IMS/DL/I, ISPF, MQ/JCL, MQseries, NetView, PLS/I, QMF, RACF, R EXX, SCLM, SDF II, SDF2, SDSF, SPUFI, Supra, TELON, TSO/ISPF, VSAM, VTAM all for the S/390 or zOS environments.

Typical Programmer/analyst Credentials (Resume abstract)
Over 22 years of applications development and project management experience mostly with COBOL/VSE, COBOL II, CICS, IMS, VSAM, DB2 and JCL.

Substantial project management experience including SAP implementations and all phases of applications development including requirements analysis, bachman diagramming, information engineering, coding, testing, maintenance and operational optimization using BAL.

Business experience is primarily retail insurance, banking, and related financial corporations. Project managed major Y2K remediation effort touching over forty million lines of risk analysis code.

Familiar with:

  • IBM zSeries, ES9000, and multiprise
  • MVS/XA, ESA, VSE, and OS/390
  • COBOL II, COBOL90, CICS, VSAM, BAL, JCL, Ezretrieve Plus, Assembler 370.
  • DB2/SQL, IMS(DB)/DLI, Adabas/Natural
  • Librarian, Panvalet, Endevor
  • Abaid, Intertest, Expeditor, Smart-test
  • Microsoft Windows 2003/XP and XP Server
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0 and IDE
  • Microsoft Office tools for Windows Professional

In addition the company has posted specific openings for the following specialties:

  1. Customer relationship manager ($74,800)

    This role requires external contact. The persons filling this role will meet with business users and manage contact between the systems department and those users to assure user satisfaction with systems services.

  2. Systems and Business Analysts (multiple openings) ($68,450)

    This role requires external contact. Persons filling this role will work with business users to document requirements and gain formal sign-off on specifications and other deliverables. The analyst focusses on the business relationship between the data center and its users.

  3. Network Architect ($79,900)

    This role requires external contact. The incumbent will be required to work with users and contractors to ensure effective network operations.

  4. Budget Analyst ($39,000)

    This role focuses on managing the business of the data center.

  5. Project manager for VM/Linux development ($83,500).

    Example job description - Project Manager
    The project manager will define, develop and implement a financial claims interface linking existing financial applications to leased software. The team will be approximately 16 people. The project manager will need to develop detailed migration plans for each phase of the project and manage the project through to completion.


    • Have a minimum of five (5) years experience in CICS/IMS application conversion to 64bit environments.

    • Have a minimum of ten (10) years of progressively more senior Information Technology experience.

    • Have a minimum of five (5) years IT project management experience.

    • Have managed a minimum of two (2) projects where the project budget was five million dollars ($5,000,000) or more and involved a project team comprised of a minimum of six (6) project resources.

    • Have a minimum of five (5) years experience with project management techniques used in the development of project plans, schedules and timelines, project control and the management and reporting of financial resources including at least three (3) years with MS Project.

    • Have a minimum of five (5) years experience conducting system analysis and planning for the implementation of systems and advanced technologies.

    • Have direct experience in defining and documenting the objectives for the project, determining budgetary requirements, the composition, roles and responsibilities and terms of reference for the project team.

    • Have experience with interfacing, on a routine basis, with other project office members and representatives of stakeholder organizations.

  6. Database analysts and programers for IMS and DB2 in a CICS environment (multiple openings) ($71.500)

    Mandatory skills include:

  7. Systems programmer ($62,400)

    For zOS with emphasis on assembly and de bottle necking. Must have sysplex experience and at least five years in support of MVS/ESA, OS390 and zOS running DB2 in a CICS/VS environment.

  8. Windows/XP dot.net services developers (multiple openings) ($71,200)

  9. Notes Developers - multiple openings ($70,100)

Most of the people who work in the data center are highly qualified within their specialties and bring considerable expertise to bear on their roles. In general their resumes reflect the need for clear role separation and thus technical specialization in the data center. Few lower level staff, for example, will make claims like:

Implemented Nola to S/390 with CICS/DB2 and supported its deployment to 240 users for six months.

What you see instead are claims like:

Successfully developed and tested BAL application component to report value of the ENCODING_SCHEME column for AP_Vendor_Payments table to AP run-time interface link manager using DB2 catalog table SYSIBM.SYSTABLES to access DB2 subsystem parameters SCCSID, MCCSID, and GCCSID.

It is important when reading mainframe (or any other systems related) resumes to bear in mind that over 90% of projects fail to meet performance, budget, or timeliness expectations, but that nearly 100% of the resumes show nothing but steadily increasing responsibility, growing success, and increasingly significant business contributions.

Similarly the resume, the requirements list, and the specialty lists above all contain technical errors - For example, Windows Professional does not exist (almost every Windows variant has a "professional" variant) and neither does COBOL/VSE. In addition, the requirements shown for the project manager position contain technical impossibilities such as those requiring five years of experience with then three year old technology.

This kind of imprecision on resumes and skill requirements is widely considered both normal and acceptable in the industry. ---

Some notes:

  1. These excerpts don't (usually) include footnotes and most illustrations have been dropped as simply too hard to insert correctly. (The wordpress html "editor" as used here enables a limited html subset and is implemented to force frustrations like the CPM line delimiters from MS-DOS).

  2. The feedback I'm looking for is what you guys do best: call me on mistakes, add thoughts/corrections on stuff I've missed or gotten wrong, and generally help make the thing better.

    Notice that getting the facts right is particularly important for BIT - and that the length of the thing plus the complexity of the terminology and ideas introduced suggest that any explanatory anecdotes anyone may want to contribute could be valuable.

  3. When I make changes suggested in the comments, I make those changes only in the original, not in the excerpts reproduced here.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.