Volume 17, Number 23 -- June 9, 2008

Enterprise Computing Opens Students' Eyes to i and z at FDU

Published: June 9, 2008

by Dan Burger

Science and technology are recognized as drivers of economic growth, and undoubtedly both will have an increasing role in the future. Certainly individuals will prosper in proportion to their scientific, technological, and engineering talents and we would expect those with computer science and information systems degrees to have excellent career opportunities. How does IBM's Power Systems machinery running the i platform fit into this view of the future?

"I talk to people with all different types of systems, and the impression I have is that people expect the System i and the System z to hold their own or even increase their presence," says Dr. Harvey Lowy a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) in Teaneck, New Jersey. "Companies are realizing hardware costs, software licenses, power consumption, and staffing is greater when there are a lot of local area networks."

Among the classes Lowy teaches at FDU is a masters degree course in enterprise computing. FDU received a $20,000 grant from IBM that was used to develop a training course that combines System i and System z platforms. It was first offered throughout the 2007 school year and was repeated in the spring of 2008.

The class has been limited to 15 students, but Lowy says the class size will grow to 20 students next semester. Students come from a variety of disciplines--computer science, management information systems, electrical engineering, and computer engineering. The class is also open to undergraduates, but graduate students outnumber undergraduates in this program.

Lowy describes the class as a combination of reading materials and hands-on labs. IBM provides free access to System i and System z computers over the Internet. He considers it a "first course" or an introduction to enterprise systems that is designed to familiarize students with real enterprise computing and let them do some basic work. His vision is to expand it from running through menus and learning to create files to writing some simple programs and accessing the database. Due to the popularity of the class, he sees an opportunity to increase class size, add a second class, or possibly to split the System i and System z curriculum into separate classes.

As it is now, combining the two systems makes sense to Lowry because in the real world of enterprise computing many companies have both systems and there are many software similarities between them.

"For these students, the IBM world is totally foreign," Lowy says. "They know nothing about IBM System i or System z. Just getting away from the PC is something new to them. An education in enterprise systems broadens the aperture of students and opens their eyes to something entirely different than the PC-based computing environment they typically see in the classroom."

Will one introductory-level class in enterprise computing open any doors for graduate students after leaving FDU?

"So far, there have been a lot of job opportunities," Lowy says. "People have contacted me for graduating students to fill jobs. Sometimes the jobs are in other parts of the country and students don't want to go there, but many times students have landed jobs with IBM customers and it's based on this single course."

Lowy believes enterprise computing is being overlooked at most of the major universities that have computer science and MIS departments and four-year degree programs.

"My impression is that the bigger universities look down upon IBM technology like it's a dinosaur--like it's extinct or on its way out. They don't realize it's been around and is going to stay around and possibly get larger than it has been. Most students have the same impression and that it is not in demand. I find it's the opposite. It is a basic demand and I don't think it fluctuates as much as the demand in the PC world. In the next 15 years, there will be a lot of job openings."

FDU is affiliated with the IBM Academic Initiative program, which has benefited professor Lowy through its IBM training opportunities on the System i and System z. At the dawn of Lowy's career, he was a programmer on an IBM mainframe, by the way.


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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Brian Kelly, Shannon O'Donnell,
Mary Lou Roberts, Victor Rozek, Kevin Vandever, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
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