Mainframe > Tips & Techniques > Application Development

Attract New Skill‘z’


Application development in the modern enterprise environment is increasingly complex. Gone are the days when your entire application runs on a single language on a homogenous platform and developers work exclusively on one or two applications. And as many experienced programmers begin retiring, expertise and know-how on maintaining and modernizing these applications could possibly fade over time.

To thrive in this environment, enterprises need employees with the right skill set. More importantly, they must equip staff with the right tools so that productivity and impact can be maximized.

The IBM Academic Initiative for System z has the mission to help industries address the skill needs. By partnering with academic institutions worldwide, it has built a pipeline of talented students who are equally skilled at writing z/OS applications as they are capable of churning out mobile applications running over iOS or Android. Such attributes are highly desirable to many enterprises due to the growing complexity of new applications. However, to maximize the ability and impact of these new hires, organizations need to equip new hires with the right tools to work smarter, collaborate more efficiently, and develop across any platforms with ease. Rational Developer for System z (RDz) is one of these tools.

A Contest Winner

Among their many activities, the Academic Initiative for System z team runs an annual mainframe contest that further generates student interest in enterprise systems. In 2010, RDz was offered as an optional development tool for students to use in the advanced part of the contest. More than 25 students jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of it.

In a post-contest survey, that included13 respondents, we learned 10 chose to use RDz because they already used at least one integrated development environment (IDE) in their course work, and they perceived an IDE allows them to be more productive. Further, 10 students said they found RDz let them be “much more” productive in the contest challenges than doing the same task using the commonplace text-based 3270 interface, while the other three said they felt “somewhat more productive.” As one student told us:

“I like the ability to have multiple files open at one time and having more real estate to work in. The TN3270 interface is very small in comparison.” —Christian McArthur, Texas State University, San Marcos

Aside from the productivity gain, we asked students to rate their experience using RDz in this contest, and found—out of a total score of 10—they rated RDz to be an “8” or higher, in its capability, usability, efficiency and reliability. The ratings are complemented by the equally enthusiastic comments we received, such as:

“I hope that RDz will be used a lot more when I start my career. From what I’ve heard, the green screen is what most companies use, but having grown up using visual studios or similar IDEs, I find it a lot easier to work with RDz.” —Ryan Coulter, Georgian College

“Thanks for making it available and for allowing us to use RDz. I would not have wanted to try to complete Part 3 without it.”—James True, University of Arkansas

These sentiments are very encouraging, but does that resonate with customers and practitioners of RDz in the real world? The answer is a resounding yes!


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