Senior technical analyst and team lead, xwave

As some of its senior database administrators (DBAs) contemplate retirement, xwave Solutions Inc. is taking a proactive approach to ward off a potential mainframe skills shortage within its data centre.

The St. John’s-based IT integrator announced last week that it is using SmartDBA, an automated solution from BMC Software Inc. to consolidate its DBA staff. [SmartDBA software] allows us to do as much or more with the same amount of people.Craig Piercy>Text

Xwave recently completed several mergers and initiated an IT consolidation project to bring its systems programmers and DBAs together in a single data centre. To this end, the firm is harnessing Houston-based BMC’s SmartDBA tool to manage databases across both distributed and mainframe environments through a common-look-and-feel interface.

According to Craig Piercy, senior technical analyst and team lead for xwave, the IT environment includes IBM Corp.’s DB2 and IMS, as well as Oracle Corp. databases.

Xwave, Piercy said, is streamlining its data management process to stave off a potential shortage of its senior mainframe DBAs, many of whom are expected to retire soon.

The average age of xwave’s mainframe group is 40, Piercy noted. Replacing them with fresh talent is a challenge as there are relatively few mainframe DBAs entering the workforce. Locating highly skilled DBAs or programmers is not easy, especially in Atlantic Canada, he said.

The SmartDBA software allows xwave to automate and proactively monitor the day-to-day tasks of its intermediate DBAs. “That frees up those manual tasks and allows our DBAs to do more [complex] work such as analyzing, tuning and performance,” Piercy said. “It allows us to do as much or more with the same amount of people.”

SmartDBA presents the same look and feel across multiple logical partitions (Lpar) on the mainframe and in different environments, be it midrange, distributed or mainframe, Piercy said.

Finding skilled mainframe talent is a challenge, said Marsha Robinson, database administrator at xwave. The firm still relies heavily on mainframes and anticipates they will play a major role within the IT environment for a long time, she said.

Before looking at tools, xwave cross-trained staff and implemented processes and policies to share mainframe skill sets. By going to a common toolset, xwave can train staff on a single interface, Robinson said. The SmartDBA solution frees up DBAs to focus on other technical proficiencies, she said, adding that xwave has achieved increased productivity and has in place a consistent process across databases.

John Albee, director, mainframe product management for Houston-based BMC, said SmartDBA is designed to cross-train DBAs and IT staff on the administration of diverse database platforms.

“As you go up the organizational ladder in IT you see…a focus on the fact that the mainframe folks are aging,” Albee said. While SmartDBA won’t turn DBA staff into instant mainframe experts, Albee noted that by automating repeatable tasks, the solution reduces complexities traditionally associated with managing the mainframe.

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