Posts Tagged CA Technologies

Winning the Coming Talent War Mainframe Style

The next frontier in the ongoing talent war, according to McKinsey, will be deep analytics, a critical weapon required to probe big data in the competition underpinning new waves of productivity, growth, and innovation. Are you ready to compete and win in this technical talent war?

Similarly, Information Week contends that data expertise is called for to take advantage of data mining, text mining, forecasting, and machine learning techniques. As it turns out the mainframe is ideally is ideally positioned to win if you can attract the right talent.

Finding, hiring, and keeping good talent within the technology realm is the number one concern cited by 41% of senior executives, hiring managers, and team leaders responding to the latest Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey. Retention of existing talent was the next biggest concern, cited by 19.1%.

This past fall, CA published the results of its latest mainframe survey that came to similar conclusions. It found three major trends on the current and future role of the mainframe:

  1. The mainframe is playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise
  2. The mainframe as an enabler of innovation as big data and cloud computing transform the face of enterprise IT
  3. Demand for tech talent with cross-disciplinary skills to fill critical mainframe workforce needs in this new view of enterprise IT

Among the respondents to the CA survey, 76% of global respondents believe their organizations will face a shortage of mainframe skills in the future, yet almost all respondents, 98%, felt their organizations were moderately or highly prepared to ensure the continuity of their mainframe workforce. In contrast, only 8% indicated having great difficulty finding qualified mainframe talent while 61% reported having some difficulty in doing so.

The Harris survey was conducted in September and October 2012. Its message is clear: Don’t be fooled by the national unemployment figures, currently hovering above 8%.  “In the technology space in particular, concerns over the ability to attract game-changing talent has become institutional and are keeping all levels of management awake at night,” notes Harris Allied Managing Director Kathy Harris.

The reason, as suggested in recent IBM studies, is that success with critical new technologies around big data, analytics, cloud computing, social business, virtualization, and mobile increasingly are giving top performing organizations their competitive advantage. The lingering recession, however, has taken its toll; unless your data center has been charged to proactively keep up, it probably is saddled with 5-year old skills at best; 10-year old skills more likely.

The Harris study picked up on this. When asking respondents the primary reason they thought people left their organization, 20% said people left for more exciting job opportunities or the chance to get their hands on some hot new technology.

Some companies recognize the problem and belatedly are trying to get back into the tech talent race. As Harris found when asking about what companies are doing to attract this kind of top talent 38% said they now were offering great opportunities for career growth. Others, 28%, were offering opportunities for professional development to recruit top tech pros. A fewer number, 24.5%, were offering competitive compensation packages while fewer still, 9%, offering competitive benefits packages.

To retain the top tech talent they already had 33.6% were offering opportunities for professional development, the single most important strategy they leveraged to retain employees. Others, 24.5%, offered opportunities for career advancement while 23.6% offered competitive salaries. Still a few hoped a telecommuting option or competitive bonuses would do the trick.

Clearly mainframe shops, like IT in general, are facing a transition as Linux, Java, SOA, cloud computing, analytics, big data, mobile, and social play increasing roles in the organization and the mainframe gains the capabilities to play in all these arenas. Advanced mainframe skills like CICS are great but it’s just a start. You also need Rest, Hadoop, and a slew of mobile, cloud, and data management skill sets.  At the same time, hybrid systems and expert integrated systems like IBM PureSystems and zEnterprise/zBX give shops the ability to tap a broader array of tech talent while baking in much of the expertise required.

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Ways to Lower IT Costs

With the end of NEON’s zPrime, mainframe users lost an effective way to lower costs. And make no mistake about it; zPrime was effective in lowering costs. A data center manager in France told BottomlineIT that zPrime saved his company almost 1 billion Euros each year.

There was no magic to how zPrime achieved these savings. Mainframe software licensing costs and various other charges are reduced when the processing is handled by a special CPU that is treated differently when calculating licensing costs than if it was the general processor. The zPrime trick simply expanded the range of workloads that could be run on special processors far beyond what IBM approved. No surprise that IBM shut it down.

Every IT shop wants to reduce costs, especially these days. There are a number of ways to do so. Again, no magic. They involve reviving well known practices that many organizations have gotten away from in recent years.

Start by negotiating better software licensing deals. Many IT managers believe they already negotiate the best prices from software vendors. Repeated studies by Minneapolis-based ISAM, however, show that not to be the case.  When looking at the software tactics of best-in-class IT shops ISAM found considerable variation in software vendor pricing, and many shops simply don’t get the best deals.

When shopping for best software pricing, make sure to consider open source options too. Open source software, even with the various fees involved, costs less than conventional software licensing.

While you’re at it, check out the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options. Particularly for small and midsize organizations, SaaS may offer substantial savings over on-premise software licensing. The savings come from the economies of scale and from being a shared service.

Another option for reducing software costs is application performance management (APM). Where software is licensed based on the processor, anything that minimizes CPU consumption can save money. For these situations, APM revolves around proven best practices to minimize CPU resource consumption, especially during peak times. It involves both rescheduling when applications run and optimizing the code to run more efficiently.

“APM starts with profiling and understanding the way your applications use mainframe resources as they run—especially CPU. It helps determine whether they really need all the resources they are using and with this information you can then make focused tuning efforts in specific areas of software code within the applications and especially the database calls, which tend to use a lot of resources. It can reduce the CPU requirements to run your applications by an enormous percentage,” explains Philip Mann, a principal consultant at Macro 4, an APM consulting firm and tool provider.

Using the Macro 4 approach and tools, British retailer Tesco was able to reduce MIPS consumption 10-15% in one project, which allowed it to avoid purchasing extra CPU capacity. The Macro 4 tool enabled Tesco to identify opportunities where changes to databases, systems software, and applications could generate CPU savings.

Finally, organizations are trying to reduce IT costs through consolidation based on server virtualization. Some recent studies, however, suggest that many organizations are not getting the savings they expected from virtualization.  Although the potential for serious savings is still there it just may take a little more effort to realize them.

A recent survey by CA Technologies on the state of IT automation shows that 60% of managers at midsize and large enterprises are disappointed in virtualization’s ability to deliver savings. The survey quotes one respondent: “Virtualization is a bean counter’s dream, but it can be an operational nightmare.” The respondent, a senior IT manager, continued: “Change management is a huge overhead, as any changes need to be accepted by all applications and users sharing the same virtualization kit. While many organizations are seeing benefits from virtualization, such as reduced hardware spending and improved server utilization, these benefits often get overshadowed by the lack of productivity improvements in data center staffing and operations.”

The key to achieving virtualization savings is automation. The CA survey shows a direct correlation between IT service automation in a virtualized environment and cost-savings. For example, 44% of survey respondents who said most of their server provisioning processes are automated report they have significantly reduced costs through virtualization. Conversely, 48% of those who said the complexities of virtualization have introduced new costs also said, not surprisingly, most of their server provisioning processes still are manual.

OK, none of these techniques, except maybe the virtualization/automation combination, will likely save you $1 billion a year. But, when budgets are tight any savings will help.

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The Key to Virtualization and Cloud Success

From all the hype it seems cloud computing is driving everything having to do with IT and business success. But actually it is virtualization that both provides the foundation for cloud computing and drives it forward.

BottomlineIT has taken up virtualization before here. But virtualization is neither simple nor straightforward. Gartner late last year put out its virtualization hype cycle. Not sure much has substantively changed since then. As recently as this past spring, IT media were reporting Gartner saying: Virtualization is the #1 trend in IT, and will be through 2012.

A recent survey by CA Technologies on the state of IT automation, however, might dampen some of the virtualization enthusiasm.   The survey suggests that virtualization is not delivering the benefits managers were led to expect. The survey of 460 decision-makers from midsize and large enterprises found more than 60% are disappointed in virtualization’s ability to deliver savings. But the survey also hinted at the solution.

A large majority cited reducing costs (85%) and increasing server utilization (84%) as the primary reasons to deploy virtualization. Of the respondents, 63% noted they have not experienced as much savings as expected, and 5% said the complexities of virtualization had actually introduced new costs.

Increased complexity, indeed, may be virtualization’s dirty little secret. Virtualization adds, at the least, another layer to the multi-layer IT infrastructure that exists in many organizations today. At a minimum, virtualization requires new skills on the part of IT and new tools, both of which require new investments. Organizations not prepared to invest in new tools and new training will find it difficult to capture the virtualization benefits they expected.

The CA survey quotes one respondent: “Virtualization is a bean counter’s dream, but it can be an operational nightmare.” The respondent, a senior IT manager, continued: “Change management is a huge overhead, as any changes need to be accepted by all applications and users sharing the same virtualization kit. While many organizations are seeing benefits from virtualization, such as reduced hardware spending and improved server utilization, these benefits often get overshadowed by the lack of productivity improvements in data center staffing and operations.”

The key to solving these problems is management automation. The survey shows a direct correlation between IT service automation in a virtualized environment and cost-savings. For example, 44% of survey respondents who said most of their server provisioning processes are automated report they have significantly reduced costs through virtualization. Conversely, 48% of those who said the complexities of virtualization have introduced new costs also said—don’t be shocked—most of their server provisioning processes still are manual.

The complexity of IT infrastructures today combined with the volumes of disparate workloads and data running through them are so great that humans cannot possibly keep up. They need automated tools to find and correct problems before they impact the workloads. For organizations hoping to capitalize on self-service provisioning—where the big virtualization and cloud payoff lies—automation is a given from the start.

To realize the full benefits from virtualization and cloud computing, CA points out, IT organizations need to automate and integrate the physical and virtual server configuration, provisioning, monitoring, security, software patching, and more across the typical heterogeneous IT infrastructure. This will involve a new investment in automation tools, which don’t come cheaply.

CA offers tools to do this here.  IBM offers Tivoli Service Manager for cloud automation here.  HP also provides cloud service management automation here. So do others. But without automation from some vendor or another your virtualization efforts  mostly will be wasted.

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