IBM executive touts mainframe security

Jim Stallings is two months into his job as general manager of IBM's mainframe System z division. In an interview this week with Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau, Stallings mapped out some of his plans, including security, the training of 20,000 mainframe workers by 2010 and the prospect of new specialty processors.

Is the z9's Advanced Encryption Standard capability changing the way customers use mainframes?

The No.1 concern/question that I get from customers is about security -- everything from key management, centralized management of encryption across the enterprise, AES, intrusion detection. They want us to help them manage and exploit the capability for security on a mainframe. Most of our customers tell me it's one of the principal reasons they buy a mainframe -- because it's secure.

IBM has announced a goal to have 20,000 professionals trained in zSeries skills by 2010. Where are you on that plan?

We're ahead of schedule. I had no idea that the market would respond as well as it did. We got a special challenge to get 10,000 [trained] in China. And we are well on the way of doing that. We are ahead of schedule. We will get to the 20,000 by 2010, and the biggest reason is our customers, our business partners [and] the universities are all working on this problem together. We've got a lot of people that are now coming to see the mainframe, know about the mainframe, learn, get a job working on the mainframe.

What I'm finding as I talk to some of the younger employees and younger people around us is they don't have legacy -- they don't have biases [from] the distributed system era, the Unix era. What they are thinking about is security, resiliency, global reach, and they want to work on things that can do that. A lot of these kids grew up in the open world, they are very familiar with Linux and other open-source, and when they learn the mainframe runs five different operating systems, they are thrilled by that. So we think we are going to get the 20,000 easy.

What is the division's next task?

[Customers] want us to exploit every opportunity to make things automatic, to make the security be as intelligent as possible and not have to rely on individuals. The direction is in the area of autonomic and automation around security.

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