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Speaking at Tor Vergata Rome University about IBM Z and Zowe

By | May 7, 2024May 8th, 2024

Written by Domenico D’Alterio, an Open Mainframe Project Ambassador, leader in the Zowe technical community and a Principal Product Manager, IBM Z

On April 9, I had the pleasure to deliver a speech at Rome University Tor Vergata about IBM Z, my experience as a mainframer and Zowe as a modern way to interact with z/OS resources. It was really an engaging experience –  sharing my experience, getting questions from students about mainframe history as well future directions and talking about Zowe’s history and adoption.

Background: IBM Z Federated Advocate program

Some time ago, I joined the IBM Z Federated Advocates program that has the mission to bring together passionate technical and non-technical IBMers to participate in our external outreach program. IBM Z Federated Advocates share their knowledge and expertise to benefit the larger community and inspire students, learners, educators, developers, New to IBM Z and more!
One way to engage is to coach an IBM Z Student Ambassador. IBM Z Student Ambassadors are out there learning all about the world of IBM Z and sharing it with their peers on campus.

I found all of this interesting and decided to propose myself as coach for an IBM Z Student in Rome Tor Vergata University, which is where I live, and I was put in contact with Sanket Nawale.

“Unlock the power of enterprise computing” event 

Collaboration with Sanket resulted in my participation to the 2-days event at Tor Vergata University “Unlock the power of enterprise computingorganized by Sanket himself. Day 1 was focused on the fundamentals of mainframe technology and day 2 proposed a hands-on workshop.

Sanket was very good setting the stage giving highlights on the IBM Z technology, key concept and how much it is pervasive in today world. Not many people realize that mainframe is the backbone of many daily activities like use a credit card, book a flight or a hotel stay and so on.

How many technologies do you know that has 60 years of history and is still so pervasive and innovative? Indeed. April 7, 2024 was the anniversary of IBM Mainframe, celebrating the memorable milestone of 60 years of existence. It was officially launched on April 7, 1964, under the name IBM System/360 (S/360), aimed at being a multipurpose platform, with a 360° view of companies and being able to meet all their computing needs, serving all industries.

My speech at the Tor Vergata event

As I mentioned, my speech was about my experience as mainframer. I joined IBM 25 years ago and I soon started as developer on z/OS. The Project was part of the first z/OS release, the internal code name was “T-Rex”, because at that time there were detractor saying that the mainframe was dead…

… after 25 years I am sure they were quite wrong if it is used by:

  • 92 of the top 100 worldwide banks.
  • 23 of the top 25 US retailers.
  • 23 out of 25 top world’s largest airlines.
  • 10 out of 10 of the world’s largest insures.

All the above somehow surprised the students attending the event, especially in how many of daily activities the mainframe is the underlying technology.

So, what’s the challenge?

If you ask to mainframe customer, main challenge is the wave of retiring talent with mainframe expertise and the possibly long learning curve for new talents. Indeed, I had the same problem 25 years ago when I was put in front of the classical z/OS interface.

A good way to improve the learning curve, making the mainframe interaction more simple, open and familiar for new talents is Zowe, an open source project under Open Mainframe Project, which celebrated its 5th birthday last year.

I am involved in this project since some time now, I am an Open Mainframe Project Ambassador, so I decided to show the value and the power of it to the students attending the event and it was very well received. As per Sanket comment “Attendees were fascinated by the practical demonstration, showcasing the real-world applications of Zowe in enhancing Mainframe accessibility and productivity.”

Especially appreciated was Zowe Explorer, the Visual Studio Code extension, that is a “familiar” environment in which today’s developers can start learning more about z/OS.


Overall, it was a great experience. I travel a lot around the world joining conferences or talking with specific customers of the products I manage in IBM, so I am used to the “public speaking”. This event was different because of the enthusiasm I saw in the faces of the attendees and their willingness to learn more about mainframe. I sincerely appreciated the collaboration with Sanket, I am sure there will be follow-up, stay tuned.