Industry Leader Q&A with Brian Peterson, President of SHARE

At the recent SHARE conference in Pittsburgh, Brian Peterson, who has been president of SHARE for the past two years, spoke about the challenges facing companies today as they deal with emerging IT requirements and the successful approaches for dealing with the mainframe skills shortage.  With SHARE’s 60th anniversary coming up, Peterson also reflected on the role SHARE has played in the world economy by supporting technology that is critical to industries such as banking, transportation, and manufacturing.

5 Minute Briefing: This year’s summer SHARE conference placed heavy emphasis on big data and analytics, cloud, mobile and social networking, and virtualization. What are the challenges you see SHARE members grappling with around these discrete topics and how are you helping members deal with them?

Peterson: SHARE’s members are some of the largest organizations in the U.S. in verticals such as finance, manufacturing, insurance, banking, transportation, as well as government and education. The explosion of unstructured data with the images, the videos, the social media comments - these things are not presented or stored in a way that traditional data processing systems ever anticipated, and as a result, these large enterprises are working on ways to leverage this data, apply analytics, and gain actionable knowledge based on new big data sources.

Cloud is bringing an explosion of compute capacity on demand. Mobile is becoming a new paradigm. It is the way of transacting business; today people are walking around with devices which are powerful computers in their pockets. How do cloud and mobile fit in an enterprise context? That is what we are able to address with our long history. SHARE was founded in 1955 and next year will be our 60th year. We have been operating continuously as a forum for our member companies to come together and share information and share knowledge. We have the ability to influence the industry that surrounds the enterprise platform - the mainframe and the infrastructure. That is what is really unique about SHARE and  how SHARE really helps our member organizations.

The initial reason for members to come together was to solve shared problems and to try to understand how to adopt and consume this brand new technology - the computer which in 1950s and 1960s was centralized. This is SHARE’s sweet spot, real world experience shared to help address real world problems.  Our members continue to turn to SHARE for unbiased, experience-based insights. SHARE delivers education opportunities, as well fostering networking amongst our participants, and we drive the industry to help us solve business problems efficiently and effectively using technology 

An additional theme we are working on this year and next is security, which touches on all of these other topics. Our members are very interested in applying the best skills and the best ideas to address the security concerns of today and tomorrow. For example, our conference keynote presentation on Tuesday was given by Robert Andrews, co-founder of Mainstream, an international security consulting company. Our members are very interested in information that helps  raise their awareness and helps them prepare to protect their environments from security threats.

5MB: Where do you think newer technologies such as Hadoop fit with the mainframe?

Peterson: Since the very beginning, there has been the concept of offloading processing to additional equipment to help the core processor do its job. An early example was the concept of an offload engine (channel) for I/O for interacting with tape or disk devices. A more recent example is IDAA (IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator), which is essentially an assist for DB2 on z/OS that enables SQL commands, which can often take hours or even days to complete, to come back in minutes or seconds, providing incredible amounts of improvement. A classic use for this type of technology is for banking and credit card authorization where fast analytics for operations like fraud detection is critical. Our keynote presentation on Monday, by Dr. Bernie Meyerson, IBM Fellow, vice president and IBM’s chief innovation officer, dealt with the impact of the end of Moore’s Law and described how IBM is applying many of these techniques to bring further innovation to enterprise computing.

5MB: The skills shortage has been one of the most talked about issues regarding the mainframe. Institutions of higher learning are increasingly placing emphasis on the mainframe in their curricula while at the same time IT companies are trying to make it easier for DBAs and managers who don’t have specific mainframe training to manage the environment – through things like alerting and simple intuitive interfaces. Is the skills shortage abating, and what is SHARE doing to interest younger employees in becoming mainframers?

Peterson: There are a couple of aspects to that. The so-called skills shortage strikes me as a little bit self-inflicted. We have a generation of people in the field that is now approaching retirement age. Companies have been hoping to find employees who were “ready-to-work” rather than having to invest in training. Recently, the number of these “ready-to-work” technicians seems to have diminished. We believe that this is an issue that can be addressed. We have had several of our member organizations present their strategies for bringing in new people out of college or cross training people from other areas, and we will continue to present and discuss these concepts at future SHARE events.

The mainframe environment as a place to work is actually a whole lot of fun.  In addition, there are all sorts of new technologies that apply to the mainframe - things like IDAA and a half dozen more just around the mainframe. 

What does SHARE have planned for the year ahead?

Earlier this year, we marked 50 years since IBM announced the first upgradable computer family - the System 360, which was transformative.  Today, the successor to the System 360 is pervasive in many industry sectors.

Next summer’s SHARE conference will mark our organization’s 60th anniversary. I have been a volunteer at SHARE for over 20 years in a variety of roles and I have come to recognize the impact of SHARE on history.  Our members move the industry forward in many unique ways.

The technologies and enterprises that SHARE participants support are the very foundation of today’s global economy. Industries such as banking, transportation, and manufacturing would look nothing like they do today without the technology that SHARE influenced and molded. 

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