Mainframe Beats Cloud with a Roll of DICE

It is taking me awhile to scan all the big IT vendors to determine the types of R&D projects that seem to be in vogue these days, but along the path I’ve wondered what the “D” side of R&D is developing in these days.  If you want a full treatise on developer technology preferences and trends you really should look to Evans Data Corporation (“EDC”) who has been the niche research provider extraordinaire for everything having to do with development for as long as I can remember.  Even when I was a development tools analyst for IDC in the mid-1990s I looked with envy at EDC’s in-depth research.

But I didn’t have the time or money to work with EDC, so I cheated instead:  The other constant at least here in the USA in terms of metrics for the developer community is DICE – which has been the most prolific job site for IT types since, well, also as long as I can remember.  In a fit of curiosity I developed a long list of IT related keywords around technologies, applications and roles mainly, and put them up into the DICE jobs search in mid-December, 2009.

The results showed a huge gap between hype and reality in the realm of common, everyday IT job demand:  Job counts were quite high for Java, SQL/databases, C-variant languages, Windows, Unix particularly Linux, .NET, Web development, enterprise applications, testing/QA and security.  Mobile and “Cloud?” job demand, however, is not anywhere in the same ballpark as the more ensconced technologies.  Maybe DICE isn’t the best place to post or look for mobile-related or Cloud jobs, but I am guessing it offers a pretty good pulse for the industry.

That doesn’t mean that eventually the hype won’t catch up and change reality, after all in terms of DICE jobs “mainframe” is now about the same as “mobile,” though COBOL still eclipses Cloud and roughly ties SaaS in my set of searches.  Between meet-ups, tweet-ups and analyst firms offering services to help analyst relations teams deal with the analysts (talk about the fox in the hen-house phenomena), well, I just like to throw some harsh light of reality into the miasma of IT silliness.  I figured an analysis of job counts from DICE would suffice on that front for now.

What types of IT personnel, mainly in North America, are being hired?  During that day in December DICE had 51,897 jobs listed, a healthy sample.  Note that DICE has jobs for all kinds of IT, corporate, SMB, consultancies and supply-side.

I used 38 technology oriented search works plus 15 role/lifecycle search words, and I limited the search to job postings over the past 30 days.  Note that I used the raw search, and did not depend on the tags associated with the jobs because the tags were woefully inconsistent.  I know that this “research” is not scientific and that there are all kinds of IT-oriented jobs sites out there, including many focusing on a particular locale, technology or ecosystem.  Still, DICE does have a strong cross-representation of IT-related job postings, the best I could find.

Below I offer a synopsis of findings based of the searches in various IT job categories, and if you really are interested I’ve included many of the actual job count lists at the bottom of this post.  Finally please note that in some cases where the job counts were very low I simply left the technology off the list.


Languages:  Java and the C-variant languages continue to the development languages/environments of primary demand.  In terms of “authoring” (not exactly “programming” but certainly counts as “development”) HTML and JavaScript remain pre-eminent with other scripting languages like PHP and Python filling out the roster.  There is still a reasonable smattering of demand for legacy language skills like Visual Basic and even COBOL.

Platforms/OS:  Windows still wins but barely against Unix, and in terms of Unixes Linux is by far the most popular variant.  Solaris of the proprietary Unixes shows up on the most job descriptions, and at the other end of the proprietary scale HP-UX has the lowest demand for DICE hosted jobs.  In terms of middleware .NET holds sway with more than twice the jobs listed than WebShere with WebLogic not too far behind in 3rd; WebSphere + WebLogic almost balance the middleware job battle between J2EE and .NET therefore. Way below those behemoth platform categories, (’s Cloud platform) showed rather well, but hasn’t quite caught up to the Mainframe for job demand.  Tibco followed, and the “Cloud,” Oracle’s Fusion, NetWeaver, Amazon (a Cloud entry) and LAMP were at the back of the pack.

Data:  Microsoft’s SQL Server, XML and Oracle’s database as a triumvirate, in that order, dominates this space for jobs at DICE.  It looks like there is still tons of demand for SQL skills out there.  DB2, mySQL and Sybase were seated next to each other in the second tier of job demand on DICE in the database arena.  There were other databases in the job pool but the numbers were quite low.  Similarly, while I didn’t include the various BI and data integration tools out there, that list was too long, fragmented and the numbers quite low, Informatica showed well with slightly over 1,000 jobs, and Business Objects and Cognos made the loudest showing in the BI space with both around 1,000 jobs posted.  At the low end of the database/BI scale was Ingres with 13 jobs listed, so in this case the first shall be last.

Applications:  While the general term “web application” beat any individual application brand, when you add it all up there was still more interest in “enterprise” applications than web apps per se.  We know that SAP leads in enterprise applications in EMEA, but that Oracle with its many acquisitions leads here in North America, and that showed up in the job counts.  In fact Microsoft Dynamics had more jobs showing up that SAP.  But regardless, IT looks for people with Oracle, SAP and Microsoft application skills in large numbers.  Perhaps shocking was the low demand in mobile related applications – the general “mobile” category landed well behind the “enterprise” and “web” categories, and Blackberry and iPhone barely made a dent in this IT job pool.  Guess all those purported iPhone developers are bootstrapping in Silicon Valley apartments.

Roles/Lifecycle:  Though the term “programmer” has fallen nearly entirely out of vogue, “engineer” and “developer” are roles that run strong on DICE.  However, “test/testing” and “quality/QA” weren’t far behind in aggregate.  Out of the over 50,000 jobs on DICE, ‘engineer’ or ‘developer’ showed up in aggregate over 33,000 times.  But those testing/QA types showed up over 30,000 times.  If there is one other surprising conclusion to reach from this exercise besides the fact that Cloud and mobile seem relatively stuck in the hype phase its that that quality-oriented jobs are very important to IT these days. In the next grouping comes “network” and “database” and “security” all accounting for slightly over 10,000 jobs using those keywords.  “Analyst” and “business analyst” are not far behind, not far below 10,000 jobs.  “Architect” and “Administrator” fall around the 5,000 job mark.  If your specialty is UI (user interface) design or development, there isn’t a raging demand for you relatively to these other role/lifecycle categories.

Job Counts

Development Languages/Environments (number of jobs – language or environement; note that a job can list more than one language).

  1. 9,737 – Java
  2. 4,797 – HTML
  3. 4,682 – C#
  4. 4,289 – C++
  5. 4,289 – Javascript (actually tied for 4th with C++)
  6. 2,510 – AJAX
  7. 1,638 – PHP
  8. 1,298 – Python
  9. 1,001 – Visual Basic
  10. 831 – Eclipse
  11. 478 – COBOL
  12. Note:  Could not perform a legit search for “C” – it turned up too many other jobs that were not development oriented

Platforms/Operating Systems

  1. 7,932 – Windows
  2. 7,583 – Unix
  3. 6,192 – Linux
  4. 5,589 – .NET
  5. 2,048 – WebSphere
  6. 2,005 – Solaris
  7. 1,400 – WebLogic
  8. 1,176 – Mainframe
  9. 968 – AIX
  10. 803 – Force/
  11. 601 – TIBCO
  12. 387 – Cloud
  13. 385 – Fusion (includes 184 Cold Fusion jobs, so Fusion alone would be 201 maybe)
  14. 380 – LAMP
  15. 280 – NetWeaver
  16. 275 – HP-UX


  1. 8,216 – SQL Server (Microsoft)
  2. 6,061 – XML
  3. 4,983 – Oracle database
  4. 1,744 – DB2 (IBM)
  5. 1,666 – mySQL
  6. 1,148 – Sybase
  7. A too long list of other databases and BI tools with generally low numbers, though Informatica, Business Objects and Cognos were above 1,000 jobs each


  1. 9,817 – Web application
  2. 6,613- Oracle Applications
  3. 4,163 – Dynamics (Microsoft)
  4. 3,709 – SAP Applications
  5. 1,453 – Mobile
  6. 1,184 – PeopleSoft
  7. 423 – Blackberry
  8. 267 – iPhone


  1. 25,168 – Application
  2. 19,438 – Test/testing
  3. 18,850 – Engineer
  4. 15,862 – Developer
  5. 12,342 – Database
  6. 11,564 – Network
  7. 11,345 – Quality
  8. 9,459 – Analyst
  9. 7,054 – Business Analyst
  10. 5,417 – Architect
  11. 4,225 – Administrator
  12. 2,682 – Programmer
  13. 1,622 – UI/GUI
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