Thought Leadership: 10 to 60 - Numbers Tell the Tale of What's Next with zNextGen®

Reg HarbeckBy Reg Harbeck, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist at Mainframe Analytics Ltd.

Eighteen years! That’s how old the IBM mainframe was in 1982 when TIME Magazine declared the personal computer “Man of the Year.” For the next 33 years, the world of IT has been trying to figure out if that meant the end of the mainframe. At SHARE, we already knew the truth: It was barely the beginning.

Y2K. Can you believe it’s been 15 years since the world of “legacy” computing was supposed to come to an end? All the platforms that were supposed to supplant the mainframe back then are more than 18 years old today.

At SHARE in Anaheim in winter of 2005, I gave a presentation and wrote a white paper about the need to get a new generation on the mainframe. The following conference, SHARE in Boston, I gave the same presentation again as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of SHARE. That year, zNextGen® was founded in response to the growing awareness of the need to form and support a new generation. That’s right. It’s been 10 years since zNextGen was founded. And what a great journey it’s been.

Back at SHARE in Boston in 2005, Kristine Harper and Iris Rivera met at an IBM-sponsored get-together for young mainframers and decided that there was a need for a way for newbies to get together and have sessions of interest and relevance to their mainframe education. By SHARE in Seattle in 2006, they already had their first meetings.

As this nascent project for newbies grew, many great SHARE people contributed to the project and encouraged it, offering insights and guidance and participating in various sessions and events. And the list of the project’s organizers grew and changed, with notable additions, including Justin Bastin, who eventually became the project manager when Harper stepped aside to join the SHARE Board.

Five years later, again in Boston, zNextGen celebrated its fifth anniversary, and watched as the new generation began to arrive at more than a trickle.

As time passed, it became clear that one of zNextGen’s important roles is as a gateway into the rest of SHARE, as project members and officers moved on to other projects at SHARE and even to the Board. In fact not only did Harper and Bastin both go from being project managers for zNextGen to joining the SHARE Board, but they even got engaged and married — another unexpected benefit of having such a meeting of minds.

The place of zNextGen in SHARE also changed organizationally over time. Originally fostered as a multiple virtual storage (MVS) program, it became clear that it was necessary for other programs to feel included in this important aspect of SHARE as well. So, it was eventually moved to the SHARE-wide program to reflect its universal relevance. However, close ties with MVS meant that zNextGen members continued to be invited to various MVS program activities.

So we arrive at today, with a 51-year-old mainframe that runs the world’s economy, slowly being inherited by outstanding millennials as they join zNextGen on time for its 10th anniversary. Warren Harper and Vit Gottwald are the co-managers of the project, Troy Crutcher has inherited the IBM liaison role from Iris Rivera, Regina Robbins is our newest project officer, and I’m an officer for the SHARE-wide program that includes zNextGen, which is managed by Jim Erdahl.

During the last decade, zNextGen has put on several sessions at each SHARE. In fact, we’re offering up to nine sessions in Orlando. We’ve also had many more sessions from other projects be designated as zNextGen for their relevance to new mainframers. We’ve had more than 1,000 people from around the world sign up to be members of zNextGen. We’ve held monthly conference calls with news updates, introductions of our executives and an educational presentation at each. And we’re looking forward to more in the next decade and beyond.

That’s where you come in.

Are you new to the mainframe and looking to meet others  like you? Are you looking to build your technical, business and cultural knowledge of all things mainframe from a good introductory foundation? Or, maybe you’re an experienced mainframer who would like to contribute and be a mentor to all these newcomers.

Then join us! Come to our opening session and keynote on Monday, Aug. 9 at 10 a.m., and our sessions throughout the week. Come to our anniversary celebration Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 4:30 p.m. and stay for our zNextGen networking session that evening. And sign up to be a member at

As we look to the future, we look forward to your input, including any presentations you’d like to give or suggest and any mentoring you can offer based on your growing experience as a mainframer.

We look forward to seeing you in Orlando!

Reg Harbeck is a self-described “mainframe nerd,” who has been working in IT and mainframes for more than 25 years. During that time, he has worked with operating systems, networks, computing security, middleware, applications and platforms ranging from Apple ][+ and MS-DOS PCs to leading edge IBM System z Mainframes. Harbeck has written, presented and consulted on mainframe-related matters around the world, visiting every continent but Antarctica (so far…) and is very involved in the mainframe culture and ecosystem, particularly with the SHARE Board, zNextGen and SECurity projects. In 2011, he also co-founded Mainframe Analytics Ltd., where he is the chief strategist.

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