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Wanted: 20,000 IBM Mainframe Specialists

A crisis is looming for IBM's mainframe computing environment and for once it's not a technical challenge:The mainframe community is beginning to run out of people to run the machines.

In an effort to meet the challenge, IBM and the Share user community are launching a program aimed at filling the 20,000 mainframe positions that are expected to become available as the long-serving operators of the machines retire. The program is called "zNextGen" and it will make resources available to IT students and young professionals interested in building careers in IBM mainframe computing.

"There's going to be a big hole to fill," said Share president Robert Rosen in an interview. "If you look at the requirements, we'll need 20,000 people."

The problem can be traced to the professional IT cadre that cut its MIS teeth on the IBM 360, announced in the 1960s. They are beginning to retire, Rosen said, noting that the retirements will accelerate in coming years. In particular demand now are Java, Linux, and SOA (service-oriented architecture) skills.

Rosen said expertise in SOA is a growing need in IT as more mainframe-based configurations are needed to share increased data and networking loads. SOA is also a hallmark of the growing need for the IT professional who has a combination of technical and business skills. "SOA is the hot new buzz word," said Rosen.

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