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Mainframer going to JAVA

Wasim Ahmed
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 31, 2001
Posts: 90
Folks, I have been doing mainframe programming for last 6 years (Cobol, JCL, Assembler), now resource are drying up in mainframe and I want to switch to client/server tech. I thought learning Java is a good point. I took couple of classes and taking SCJP next month. My Q's Is it the right time to switch? and what are job possiblity? I am in Midwest and permenant resident.
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Wasim Ahmed:
If you are at a company that has offices around the USA and is a major player in the game - let's say (5,000+ employees). The company should have some sort of internal jobs available bulletin board (available to both Human Resources as well as to the employees of the company). I know that both EDS and Lucent had such systems.
You may be able to find some more junior level type projects within the same company. It's a heck of a lot easier to move within the same company than to come in from the outside.
You may have to be open to relocation - but the same situation exists in the outside world - especially with the way things are going in the IT market these days.
I would say talk with your Human Resources Dept. Also, talk with other people in the comapny (friends / etc.) They may know of upcomming client-server Java projects. It's amazing how isolated different departments within the same company seem to be. Reminds me of the old saying, "The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing" In some cases, one finger does not know what he next finger is doing.
Also, see if you company has internal training classes - get all the training you can. Especially if the company is paying for it.
I can't imagine a mainframe shop not doing any Java work these days. I personally see this as the one of the next stops for Java. Where companies finally convert their COBOL code over to Java based code. Especially with large batch cycle systems - such as we see in the financial industry - where code readability & maintenance (rather than speed) are the major issues.
You will have a major advantage in that you already know how these systems work. So you can jump right in and be up to speed on the conversion process.
John Coxey

John Coxey
Evansville, Indiana, USA
Desai Sandeep
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 02, 2001
Posts: 1157
You said it John.
Yes the Mainframe Programmer is bound to be in demand in the future.Recently, I read an article from Sun which said that about 70% of the business applications still run on COBOL.The consultancy firms has begun to undertake projects which help the se firms to migrate their legacy system to the newer web technologies - "legacy to web" business is what they call it.
I am hearing about this for more than 2 years now.But still there are not enough projects in the market.But once it starts catching up, I think the Mainframe programmer (who know Java, like me ) are going to have a jolly good time.
I had done some research on this sometime back.Realised that this integration business is not going to be easy at all.I had worked on a legacy credit-card application in COBOL which had about 8 million lines of code.Most of it is not documented.The clients are pretty scared to touch working COBOL code - what to talk about migration.Ofcourse, every one likes the idea about migration, but no one has the guts to delve into it - primarily due to the fact there are not enough combined skills in the market.Note Java is no longer normal cushy Java (like developing web sites) in this context - we start talking in terms of MQ-Series, CICS Transaction Gateway,etc. - the integration aspect of it makes it a tough thing to master!
I am still working in this direction.It is still a dream for me to work on such a project.
- Sandeep
Akram Reja

Joined: Mar 13, 2001
Posts: 17
I am in a similar position. I have experince in both Java and mainframes. Now, I am learning C++, but working in one of the projects you mentioned is my dream too. And I am glad you brought up MQ-series, CICS txns. Could you tell me where I can find more stuff about this?(integrating Java with Mainframe). Also, can you suggest me how to hone my skills to suit the requirements? I am looking for your help. Thanks.
Mark Howard
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 14, 2001
Posts: 285
Good topic, and one that is pretty close to my heart as well. I have been in large application system development (primarily mainframe, CICS, DB2, etc) for the past 18 years, and with the current IT market trend to move to small or mid-range computers, platform-independant operating systems and the like, I am also left wondering whether it's time to jump ship and surf the newer technologies.
Only it's not that easy. I have been told by various companies and agencies that a year's worth of commercial Java experience will put me in better stead to enter this market than 18 years of IT and "older technology" skills and experience, and you will quite likely be placed 2nd in line after a varsity graduate who passed their exams with half-decent grades. While I feel this is a sad reflection on the foresight of many recruitment folk out there, it is nonetheless a fact that we oldies have to face.
Your best bet is to try and find a company who will value your current experience and be willing to train and use you in the newer technologies. But don't give up entirely on your mainframe skills - they may not be as flash as the web technologies out there, but we're talking about skills that have been in demand for quite a few decades now (and aren't likely to vanish just yet).
Now if only someone could convince those recruiters out their that our years of full-lifecycle system development and implementation experience really is worth a whole lot more than learning a new language or development platform, and that our experience in bringing in sucessful and reliable systems in time and on budget can be quite easily applied to any prioject we work on.
I, too, like to dream
Acid Burn

Joined: Jun 18, 2001
Posts: 4
My story.. I was a Unisys mainframe programmer working with a company in bombay (SEEPZ for those out there) and came to the US on a H1. I had also tinkered a lot with Java/Servlets/JSP when they were released.
I was placed at this bank to support their financial applications in COBOL. Then after a few months, I joined the bank on a full-time basis.
At this point, the bank was looking to offer on-line banking. So I moved within the IT dept based on my knowledge of the back-end (COBOL system) and Java. And we had developed a on-line banking front end using Solaris/Websphere/MQSeries/Encina and the likes.
The management liked it so much that we were also tasked with moving out PB based customer service GUI to a webbased GUI. And its been a ball.. We are also playing around with MQSI now to support some new products that the bank is purchasing.
So yes.. its possible to migrate and as someone pointed out, if you know the back end (mainframe) its easy to move into a web-integration project.
Tony Alicea

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 3226
I am also an older programmer that switched to OOP and Java two years ago. Although my past experience was not with COBOL, DB2 nor CICS, it was instead in (scientific) FORTRAN apps, then real-time assembly language and then C/UNIX; NO C++.
And then I decided to learn full-time HTML/CSS/JavaScript and finally <drum roll...> JAVA!
I kept a log of developments here in JavaRanch.

Tony Alicea
Senior Java Web Application Developer, SCPJ2, SCWCD
Desai Sandeep
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 02, 2001
Posts: 1157
I am so happy someone shares my dream of "legacy to web".Tony, anything that is not of the present trend is legacy.So, it is not restricted to COBOL or FORTRAN; tommorow, it might be applications running on Windows 2000 as well..who knows?
But can persons of such profile manage to get a break on such stuff.Perhaps, Acid Burn has managed to find a path as to how to go ahead fulfilling this dream.Acid, could you help others out spotting such job opportunities.BTW, I am also based in Mumbai (Dadar).
-- Sandeep

Monty Ireland
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 03, 2000
Posts: 161
I am an old mainframe programmer: mvs db2 cics cobol and assembler. 3yrs ago i started woring with unix perl and java.
not alot of billable hours but the knowledge did open up some door's. for that past year i have been developing with oracle & c on a unix box. an now after a year of not working on a mainframe... i find in a flat job market my non-microsoft skills are in big demand...
As of today i am working two clients at the same time...
Client a: unix shell scripting c oracle sqlplus pl/sql etc...
Client b: mvs tso jcl cobol assembler perl ( yes perl ) db2 etc..
Not one client require ms product knowledge that i could not learn from one of those "learn how to ... in 10 minute tpe of books"
Still looking for my 1st java gig... but being billable is #1
FYI, J2ME sounds interesting...

Multi-Platform Database Developer ( on E.S.T. )

Multi Platform Database Developer & DBA on E.S.T.
Ken Lai
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 06, 2000
Posts: 30
Having done 1.5 years of SAS/JCL/SQL stuff, I recently moved from the mainframe environment to a java based architecture within the same firm.
Although it's not exactly what I thought it'd be (it's more like web site customization & debugging rather than app development). it's heck of a lot more stuff to learn from, with more docs on problems/solutions, which I enjoy most.
Bottom line, if your company is/will be moving from mainframe to to web/client server based architecture ask around and see if they will be needing more people. Networking works wonders I tell you (though I didn't get the job with this).
I agree. Here's the link:
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