More than 10 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment amid the COVID-19 global pandemic and financial crisis. As these numbers continue to grow, a big technology skills gap is starting to emerge as well.
For example, earlier this week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy put out a call for volunteers who have COBOL skills because – like most states – New Jersey depends on mainframes to control, manage and secure citizens’ data. Many states are following with the same call for volunteers. This pandemic underscores the critical nature for public sector mainframe applications to be agile and easily modified to meet fast-changing requirements.
There are estimates that 220 billion lines of COBOL is still in use today. This code is reliable, proven and the foundation of most mission critical banking and financial services applications at the world’s biggest banks which is why it has remained core to these systems. The challenge many cities and states are facing now is changing their COBOL code fast enough to respond to the increased unemployment payment eligibility in a very short timeframe.
Open Mainframe Project is an open source initiative that enables collaboration across the mainframe community to develop shared tool sets and resources. We quickly mobilized across our membership including Broadcom, IBM, Phoenix Software, Rocket Software, SUSE, Vicom Infinity and Zoss Team, for three new resources in response to this urgent need from our public sector officials:
- Calling all COBOL Programmers Forum – an Open Mainframe Project forum where developers and programmers who would like to volunteer or are available for hire can post their profiles. Whether they are actively looking for employment, retired skilled veterans, students who have successfully completed COBOL courses, or professionals wanting to volunteer, they can specify their level of expertise and availability to assist. Employers can then connect with these resources as needed. The forum can be found here: https://community.openmainframeproject.org/c/calling-all-cobol-programmers/15.
- COBOL Technical Forum – a new forum specific to COBOL technical questions which will be monitored by experienced COBOL programmers. This will allow all levels of programmers to quickly learn new techniques and draw from a broad range of experience and expertise to address common questions and challenges arising during this unprecedented time. The technical questions can be asked in this forum: https://community.openmainframeproject.org/c/cobol-technical-questions/16.
- Open Source COBOL Training – Open Source COBOL Training – the Open Mainframe Project Technical Advisory Council has approved hosting a new open source project that will lead collaboration for training materials on COBOL. The courseware was contributed by IBM based on its work with clients and institutes of higher education. These materials will be provided under an open source license and available in the coming days on the Open Mainframe Project GitHub organization.
Open Mainframe Project members are also ready to help with their own COBOL resources:
“We understand the heightened challenge of this moment, and we are addressing it through an open strategy for the mainframe. We continue to invest in opening the platform to a broader set of developers and systems programmers to help meet the need for COBOL skills. The open source Code4z extension pack for Visual Studio Code, which is available for download on the VS Code Marketplace, opens the mainframe to the 8.5M developers using VS Code. That reach is developing the skills and resources that organizations need not just for the immediate crisis, but down the road as well” – Hayden Lindsey, Vice President, WW Mainframe Architecture and Engineering, Mainframe Division for Broadcom.
- Download: Code4z on VS Code Marketplace
- Learn more about free extensions for Microsoft Visual Studio Code tailored for developers on the mainframe platform: Code4z blog
- Watch digital resources: Using Code4z
“IBM is proud to have worked over the past 24 hours with the Open Mainframe Project to mobilize our community to address the resource challenges the public sector is facing in these unprecedented times. Being of service to our world and the systems that power it remain our priority and this new initiative provides an immediate way to connect skilled professionals where needs arise. IBM and our partner ecosystem are also directly engaged in helping clients manage their spikes in demand and our experts are on standby to help in any other way we can.” – Meredith Stowell, Vice President, IBM Z Ecosystem
- COBOL training is offered globally through our ecosystem of partners. For example, Interskill offers a significant number of e-learning courses and approximately 1,000 digital badges have been issued for COBOL.
- Talent Match, a service available to directly connect employers with demonstrated mainframe talent. Employers simply register with the Talent Match service to find ideal candidates by skills, verified IBM digital credentials, or location, and then review and connect with potential candidates after viewing their profiles and social media links.
- Learn more about IBM’s resources: https://newsroom.ibm.com/2020-04-09-IBM-and-Open-Mainframe-Project-Mobilize-to-Connect-States-with-COBOL-Skills
“Modern mainframes represent the most powerful and sophisticated business-oriented computers ever devised and there are orders of magnitude more lines of COBOL code in business applications than any other programming language. Modern COBOL is fast and powerful, supports 64-bit applications, easily interfaces with technologies like XML, JSON, web services and the like, and can be developed using “agile” methodologies. The mainframe provides investment protection unrivaled by other platforms by allowing older applications to continue running unchanged next to modern ones. This is a strength, not a weakness. Phoenix Software International prides itself in focusing on mainframe modernization and supports and applauds any efforts towards that end. In addition to technical strength, the mainframe is surrounded by a passionate community of technology professionals like no other. We are proud to be part of that community, which includes the Open Mainframe Project/Linux Foundation, and that technology, and support all of these initiatives whole-heartedly and with whatever assistance we can offer.” – Ed Jaffe, Chief Technology Officer at Phoenix Software International
- Learn more: https://www.phoenixsoftware.com/newsroom.htm
“Mainframes are the most powerful and reliable computers in use today, and Rocket is proud of our long association with these amazing systems. In light of the current pandemic, we recognize that many mainframe users, including government agencies, need additional technical support to help them provide the services that people so desperately need right now. We are honored to support this effort by working with the OMP and our friends and colleagues in the mainframe world to provide assistance and help affected communities get through the current crisis and prepare for the future.” – Andy Youniss, President and CEO of Rocket Software.
- Download BlueZone Web: https://www.rocketsoftware.com/rocket-bluezone-web-trial
“This call for skills is a great example of how communities, and in particular open source communities, pulling together can quickly and efficiently address critical needs in times of crisis. SUSE is a proud, active member of the openMainframe community with a long record for delivering a rich set of enterprise and community grade Linux services on the mainframe including a variety of COBOL packages. This includes a free subscription program to support today’s developers, as well as programs to help developers learn and refresh their programming skills,” said Alan Clark, Open Mainframe Governing Board Member, SUSE CTO Office.
“We are a long-time IBM Z Mainframe Business Partner and are proactively and aggressively offering our COBOL technical resources and support to the institutions that are requesting help with their recent COBOL application challenges and skill shortages. Vicom Infinity is also working closely with IBM to provide COBOL technical skills and support to bridge any gaps that have been exposed due to the stress on Clients’ Mainframe systems caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.” – Leonard J Santalucia, CTO, Business Development Manager for Vicom Infinity, Inc.
- Anyone needing COBOL skills and support can contact Len Santalucia at LSantalucia@vicominfinity.com or 917-856-4493
- Director of Technical Services Bob Malitz is also available to help at BMalitz@infinite-blue.com or 914-213-2118.
- Learn more: http://vicominfinity.com/services/business-IT-services.php
“Zoss Team is keen to ensure there is a sustainable COBOL community that can help mission critical applications respond to the needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I plan to be an active participant in the Open Mainframe Project forums dedicated to COBOL expertises as a way to contribute to this cause” – Joe Devlin, CEO of Zoss Team LLC
Open Mainframe Project will continue to update this blog as additional resources become available. If you have general questions about mainframes, feel free to connect with us on our Slack Channel. If you have a media request and would like to chat with the Linux Foundation, Open Mainframe Project or any of our members, please email email@example.com.