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Eliminating the Skill-Set Silos in the Data Center

Last year, 61 percent of Interop attendees polled said they had deployed virtualized servers in their data centers—and 90 percent who had opted to do so report that those efforts included mission-critical workloads.

Companies are continuing to reform their data centers for an increased emphasis on virtualized workloads by developing applications that cross mainframe, UNIX and x86 platforms—with many of these platforms being represented by virtualized images on enterprise-class servers. This kind of agility and transparency is paying off in reduced equipment footprints in data centers that require less floor space, less energy and fewer software licenses. It’s also breaking down hardware silos.

However, CIOs and managers are still wrestling another, more persistent kind of silo. These are the skill-set silos that exist between mainframe and distributed systems staff, and they are not nearly as transparent or easy to solve as hardware silos.

The Challenge

The challenge is to reinvent staff in the same manner that technical infrastructure has been reinvented. In other words, if it’s easy to virtualize system images for any platform and for applications that invoke data and resources from an assortment of platforms in a way that’s transparent to end users, it follows that IT teams must also work across platforms in a collaborative manner to ensure new applications are built with economy and excellence of design—and that these applications can be supported with the best quality of service.

The catch is that IT professionals are used to performing in specific enclaves of technical expertise. They’re accustomed to creating and trouble-shooting technical topics with seasoned sets of tools and other staff they’ve worked with for years, and they’re only called into design and problem-resolution meetings when necessary.

The other layer of this comes down to human nature. Highly skilled technicians have years invested in their areas of expertise, for which they are recognized and compensated. The natural tendency is to be loyal to the platform in which these skills are invested —and understandably, there’s also enormous pride in the skills these individuals have cultivated. Accordingly, it can be an uphill challenge when managers are asked to get their top performers to share skills and best practices with less-experienced persons who are just starting their IT careers. It adds up to a skills quandary for the business—and how it will run its IT.

Mary Shacklett is president and CEO of Transworld Data.

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