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IBM Master the Mainframe World Championship Exposes Top Students to Analytics and Data Storage

Master the Mainframe, Antonio Alvarez Rodriquez
Antonio Alvarez Rodriguez 2016 Master The Mainframe World Champion-Photo by Leah Fasten

Crutcher notes that the participants have access to “the best of the best,” including new software and hardware. This time, it meant working on an IBM z13* system to use programs and solve problems.

Analyzing the Possibilities

For part one, the 65 participants worked remotely in a two-week scavenger hunt challenge that involved complex z/OS* data sources and storage techniques used in the industry. Through the challenge, “they learned to manage, recognize and see data quickly,” says Paul Newton, consulting IT specialist, IBM, and designer of the World Championship challenges. “z/OS has the most important data in the world. We wanted to introduce the data and its uses on the mainframe so they understood how it’s stored.”

The top 10 finalists were determined by who could explore the data and find the correct answers the quickest. In preparation for part two in September, the finalists spent the summer learning—both through their own innovative research and recommended reading—about Apache Spark analytics on z/OS, applying what they learned from part one to analyze client card transactions.

Because Apache Spark on z/OS has significant promise for industries to provide real-time analytics at the time of business transactions, clients and business partners are looking for people with knowledge of analytics, Spark and z/OS. “It’s a hot section of the industry, so we wanted to make it a part of the competition,” Crutcher explains.

The finalists gathered in San Francisco at the IBM Innovation Space. There, they completed their projects and presented their data analysis results and business recommendations to a panel of judges including Ross Mauri, general manager of z Systems and IBM LinuxONE*; IBM subject matter experts and representatives from contest partner Rocket Software. The top three finalists were then flown to the IBM Edge 2016 conference in Las Vegas, where the champion was announced.

Unique Opportunity

Newton notes that the contestants have expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn and apply technology that’s critical to the enterprise and give them career opportunities.

Second-place finisher Stephen Solis-Reyes of Canada became interested in the mainframe because of its power as a platform for mission-critical, high-availability, large-scale data processing. “Master the Mainframe has given me an opportunity to pick up interesting new skills working with the mainframe,” he says. “I have enjoyed learning about mainframe-specific technologies such as COBOL, REXX and JCL.”

Analytics was already of interest to top 10 finalist Toni Pohl of Germany who hopes to go into cloud and data analytics after earning his Master of Science degree. He had previously used Apache Flink, an open-source platform for distributed stream and batch data. He liked how easy it was to get information out of the data on the mainframe.

Valerie Dennis Craven is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.



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