Sebastian Wind on His 2017 Master the Mainframe Victory and His Personal z9 Mainframe
Reg Harbeck talks with Sebastian Wind about his recent victory, his mainframe journey and Jedi—the z9 mainframe he has in his garage.
By Reg Harbeck06/01/2018
Reg Harbeck: Hi. I'm Reg Harbeck and today I'm here with Sebastian Wind who is in Munich in Germany. Sebastian is a winner of the Master the Mainframe contest and he has his own personal mainframe. He is working for a financial company and he is basically an up and coming brand new mainframer. Well Sebastian, why don't I let you introduce yourself? Maybe you could tell us, how did you end up working on and interested in the mainframe?
Sebastian Wind: Yeah, hey so I started working on the mainframe at the university because we are one of the few universities who had one. It was a z9 enterprise class and I happened to work on that the first time. Then I participated in the swap of the mainframe as we got a new one for the university.
Reg: Okay, so you're doing a degree in computer science at university?
Sebastian: Yes. I am doing a master's degree right now.
Reg: Oh, cool. Now what led you to enter the Master the Mainframe contest?
Sebastian: So I was always skeptical if they are teaching us the real stuff and the Master the Mainframe contest promised that we get some real world challenges and I wanted to see whether I am prepared for that or not.
Reg: Cool. Now I understand you entered it twice.
Sebastian: Actually, I participated like four times.
Reg: Oh, wow.
Sebastian: The first time, I didn't have enough time to finish part three or part two. The three other times I always won, like for the German region I got first place two times and this year I am one of the global winners.
Reg: That is absolutely amazing. So clearly you're a very keen mainframer and a natural mainframer. I understand that as I mentioned, you have actually have your own personal mainframe. How did that happen?
Sebastian: Yes, I have the old mainframe of the university right now because in Germany we have the academic mainframe consortium and it's a group of IBM customers like banks or something and a lot of universities who are working together to promote mainframe education. They donated to us a used z114 and I helped to swap out the old z9 with a z114 so I took it home because they wanted to trash it and I couldn't—I just couldn't do it. Yeah, that z9 was a gift from IBM for the university at its 600th anniversary so you don't trash that.
Reg: So it has like a special plaque or commemorative sign on it of some kind?
Reg: Is there some special engraving on it that says it is sort of a gift from IBM?
Sebastian: No. It has its own name.
Sebastian: Its name is Jedi, right. Star Wars.
Reg: Oh cool. That is so cool. So you got a Jedi mainframe. Now where in our house is it? Is it in the garage? Is it in your basement?
Sebastian: No, it was in the garage first and then I took it part-wise to the basement. I also repaired it because one part was broken—a DCA card.
Reg: Oh. Now what software or what operating system are you running on it?
Sebastian: I shouldn't talk about that.
Reg: Okay. That's okay. I don't want you to give away information you're not allowed to talk about. That said, is it connected to the internet?
Sebastian: Connected to the internet? Well, I have a VPN server in my home network so you can reach it over the VPN network.
Reg: Okay, cool. So have you written any software, any programs or done any customizations on it?
Sebastian: Actually I'm working on some kind of a training web site where you have a web emulated ISPF module on one side and the challenges on the other one so you can just open the web site and go on programming it.
Reg: Okay. Good. So you write a little bit of ISPF then, maybe a little bit of REXX as well?
Sebastian: Yeah, yeah. I like REXX the most.
Reg: Oh yeah. Same here. It's my favorite language. I used to say Basic was my favorite language but the more I write REXX, the more I like it. It's just so much fun. Now I gather—
Sebastian: Yeah, the old—
Reg: Go ahead.
Sebastian: The mainframe guys always want to push me in the Assembler—
Reg: You know mainframe—
Sebastian: But I don't feel the love right now for Assembler.
Reg: Ah, and that's okay. You know IBM mainframe Assembler is an amazing language but you're right. You've got to acquire that taste and really learn to love it before you can do well with it and REXX is so easy to love.
Reg: Now I understand you're also working with DB2.
Sebastian: Yes, so right now I'm in Finanz Informatik Technologie Service and I'm doing the z/OS connect stuff with DB2, so REST services. It's fun.
Reg: Okay. Now are you doing any programming? Are you using SQL or COBOL or some other language?
Sebastian: Yeah, I'm doing an example application for z/OS Connect to sell it to customers here to show it and I'm doing a programming stored procedures and the web front end.
Reg: Cool. Now what made you decide to go into mainframe? You said the University was the Leipzig University. Is that right?
Sebastian: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yes.
Reg: What made you decide to go into mainframe in the first place?
Sebastian: Well I love huge computers that you can physically identify as a computer, you know? I always ask myself—so we have the big machine at the university—how can I use it for myself? And it's a tough question.
Sebastian: I found some applications that I can use—like Minecraft is running in z/OS, which is fun.
Reg: Oh. Wow. That's fun. I know when I first started working on mainframes, I had a lot of fun. PCs were just new and I was having fun on PCs. Then I started learning mainframes and it was so serious and business like. There weren't a lot of games on there. I'm really always happy when I hear somebody finding something fun they like doing on the mainframe. You know, as much as it is fun to write REXX, it's also fun to play with it. Now that said I assume you have a career on the mainframe in mind for yourself. What sort of things do you see yourself doing in the future in the mainframe?
Sebastian: I don't know exactly yet but I would like to do a PhD.
Reg: Oh, wow.
Sebastian: And maybe there's something I can do with machine learning on the mainframe but I’m not sure yet.
Reg: Okay. Cool. Now I'm going to guess that you've probably had a bit of exposure to the mainframe culture already. Have you been involved at all with GSE or other mainframe user groups?
Sebastian: Yes of course. I was at the university and GSE in England and Germany. And the mainframe community is awesome.
Reg: Excellent. Now do you know anything about SHARE in North America?
Sebastian: Yeah, I heard of SHARE but I didn't make it America yet—
Sebastian: But I tried. I wanted to win the contest because they would invite some of the winners to the U.S. but unfortunately I wasn't part of that yet.
Reg: Well I like how you say yet. I'm sure we'll find an excuse to get you out to North America. We love our mainframers, that's for sure.
Reg: I'm curious on your thoughts about the future of the mainframe—both the technology, the businesses that use it and maybe the culture. Any thoughts you have about where it is going over the next ten to 100 years?
Sebastian: Well I think it will become much simpler than it is right now like z/OS and that stuff should get. Yeah, I think it has a bright future because security gets more and more important and people will spend whatever it takes to have a secure business.
Reg: That's a good point. That pervasive encryption is—in addition to the other external security—is certainly a powerful part of the mainframe. Any other thoughts you had about the world of mainframe and how it plays—you know, its importance or just what's interesting about it?
Sebastian: Today I'm thinking about doing a YouTube channel about mainframes and showing what I do with my mainframe at home and just break out of the mainframe ecosystem and show it to younger people.
Sebastian: That is really the most high quality computer and they love computers. I mean they're clicking millions of times on general hardware medias, you know. Why wouldn't they look at this one too? Why not do their workloads on it? And their workloads are mostly games and stuff.
Reg: Cool. Well this has been really, really interesting and I really appreciate getting to know you better. If people want to follow you on say, I don't know, Twitter or YouTube, what’s the best way for them to find you?
Sebastian: Well I always use my real name so I have Instagram.
Sebastian: So that's Sebastian.Wind.
Reg: Cool. Well that sounds pretty easy to find. Well Sebastian thank you so much for taking the time for us to get to know you a little bit better. This has been really interesting.
Sebastian: Thank you.
Reg: And have a great day. I'll finish up here. Thank you.
Reg Harbeck is a mainframe enthusiast who has worked IT and mainframes for over three decades. He's the chief strategist at Mainframe Analytics ltd.
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