IBM helps bolster capabilities in enterprise computing

"Master the Mainframe" Contest extended to South Africa to support next-generation innovators

Johannesburg, 28 Feb 2014
Read time 3min 50sec

As part of its Academic Initiative, IBM has extended the IBM Master the Mainframe Contest to South African universities to support and build skills in next-generation innovations on the mainframe.

The competition lets students use IBM's world-class zEnterprise computing platforms to showcase their talents, while learning sought-after enterprise-level computing skills. Winners of the South Africa competition will have the opportunity to compete in the world championships being held in New York later this year.

As a three-part contest which has now expanded to over 30 countries worldwide, the IBM Master the Mainframe Contest is an introduction to programming and application development, where students require no initial mainframe experience to participate. Through the contest, students learn everything from how to log onto the mainframe to developing code and problem-solving. The competition is open to students from all South African universities and has already attracted over 100 entries from students at local universities.

"Mainframes are essentially the backbone of the global economy as well as the life support of most cities infrastructures. As technology evolves, demanding more open, scalable and secure solutions and platforms for cloud, mobile and big data analytics, mainframes are growing in popularity," said Maurice Blackwood, executive for systems, IBM South Africa.

The fact that 90% of the world's data has been developed over the past few years will mean advanced systems such as the mainframe continue to be critical tools of success for businesses, especially for those in developing markets such as South Africa.

The mainframe has been responsible for powering several key advances in technology and business across Africa. In South Africa, the lion's share of the large banks are powered by mainframes, with the first mainframe being installed in 1967. In Senegal, the Ministry of Finance in Senegal brought all of its import and export processes from across the country online with System z and is now recovering 30% of its gross national product, which amounts to two billion Senegalese francs in customs revenue every day. Through the process, the ministry increased the performance of its systems by 70%, reduced power consumption by 20% and cut operating costs by 30%.

"This competition is an incredible opportunity for students to get practical hands-on experience with the latest mainframe technologies," said Prof Alta van der Merwe, head of department at the University of Pretoria, Department of Informatics in the School of Information Technology, and president of the South African Institute of Computer Scientists and Information Technologists. "It's also an opportunity for students to begin to see how critical mainframes are in running modern applications, and supporting big data and cloud environments."

Grant Pentelow, training manager at FNB, says: "The current reality in the corporate environment is that we experience a consistent lack of mainframe skills which have lost momentum to the more favoured Web- and PC-based languages over the last five years or more. The IBM competition not only builds skill with those who are not competent with the mainframe but also builds confidence in those who want to extend their skills and gain experience with integrating various languages."

Contestants in the IBM Master the Mainframe competition will gain experience with an array of mainframe technologies, including REXX, Java and Linux on System z, among many others. As students complete each part of the contest, judges evaluate their results and reward those who move on to the next, more difficult phase. The goal of IBM's Master the Mainframe Contest is to provide students with the mainframe skills necessary to find those unique and exciting jobs.

Students and teachers can register by 1 March 2014 for the IBM Master the Mainframe Contest by clicking on

Students who enter the competition also have the opportunity to identify job opportunities supporting mainframe environments. To help in this process, IBM has created The job board is a resource to link IBM System z clients and partners with students and professionals seeking System z job opportunities and regularly features over 1 000 mainframe-related jobs.

Since 2005, over 68 000 students have registered to compete in Master the Mainframe Contests around the world.

Editorial contacts
IBM Lisa Rautenbach (+27) 11 302 9255
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