System Z Stands for Zombies

zombie479562403We’ve all seen the movies: the lone, ragged survivor of the zombie apocalypse / nuclear disaster / alien attack is forced to confront a decimated landscape, mankind scattered, life as we know it fundamentally changed. While it’s a chilling vision, it’s something that doesn’t repulse or scare us as much as it could, because it just seems so… implausible. You sit in the theater thinking, “Wow, that’s crazy. What would I do in that situation?” Then you get up, get in your car, and drive home, secure in the knowledge that you’ll never need to answer that question. Or will you?

While I’m not claiming knowledge of an impending nuclear war, an alien invasion, or the creation of some new virus that will make the dead rise from their graves hungry for human flesh, I do know that there is a much quieter, underground threat that would be just as devastating to our society as any of those other disasters. And sure, maybe it’s not as exciting or worthy of a TV show as the other threats either, but it’s every bit as scary—scarier even—because this could actually happen.

We could lose all our mainframe employees.

Okay, so yes, that last sentence might not strike fear into the hearts of the masses the way the words “zombie horde” or “nuclear holocaust” do, but stay with me here. Our modern lifestyle is completely dependent on mainframe computing. All of these daily tasks rely on the transaction processing power of the mainframe:

  • Reserving a flight
  • Booking a hotel room
  • Using an ATM
  • Accessing the cloud

You don’t think about all the work that goes into making those transactions so simple that they can be done at your home computer at 5 a.m. while you’re still bleary-eyed and waiting for your first cup of coffee.

There is a lot going on in the background that most people never even know about that enables all of us to live our comfortable, tech-driven lives. What’s going on in the background, essentially, is that a small but dedicated group of mainframe employees is maintaining and improving the systems that make our way of life possible.

And these mainframers are starting to retire.

And there aren’t enough qualified people ready to step in and fill their roles (66% of CIOs fear that the impending retirement of the mainframe workforce will hurt their business).

And this is scary.

Because, if all of a sudden the international banks can’t process any of their financial transactions with the speed, accuracy, and efficiency that they need because they don’t have anyone in their IT departments to make sure that all systems are working correctly, well… we all lose in that situation.

This is literally a “too big to fail” deal. Mainframe is too important to fail. One minute of mainframe outages can cost $14,000 in lost revenue for the average business.

To use another pop culture reference, think about this: do you remember how Tyler Durden and his followers decided to change the world into a more primitive, simple place at the end of Fight Club? They decided that they would blow up the mainframe systems of all the major world banks to wipe out all personal, business, and governmental debt. If we run out of mainframe programmers as they retire, or if they’re all abducted by aliens, or decide en masse to go on strike, then nothing even needs to be physically blown up to cause major problems that will bring the world to a grinding halt.

So if you’re ever in the mood to contemplate what life would be like in a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-style world, try picturing that world created not by a zombie virus, nuclear fallout, or aliens, but by the more realistically frightening threat of no mainframers.

Want to know what Global Knowledge and IBM are doing to help save the world from this disaster? Just sit tight and wait for the next installment of (System) Z Stands for Zombies.

Related Courses
Fundamental System Skills in Z/OS (ES10G)
SMP/E for z/OS Workshop (ES26G)
IBM zEnterprise System: A technical introduction (ESA0G)

In this article

Join the Conversation


  1. Randy Grein Reply

    um, yes. Fewer people in the tech field – because the cost/benefit ratio is bad. Pay has been flat for more than 20 years while real cost of living has gone up, rapid job recycle means no practical retirement benefits. Requirements to keep up on technology (a Red Queen’s Race) but on our own time and dime. Lack of stature in business, after all we’re ‘just’ the technicians. Competition from H1B visas coming in 30% lower than what we can afford to accept.

    The one bright spot here is that mainframe technology doesn’t change as fast as it does in PC networking, so those training classes aren’t obsolete in 3 years.

  2. Swarley Reply

    The zombie apocalypse has already begun. The government is hiding it. You have been warned.

  3. Diane Ligon Reply

    Great article Katherine! And so true! It would be a scary world with no mainframers.