Within an organisation, the Systems Programmer plays a central role installing, customising and maintaining the operating system, while also installing or upgrading products that run on the system. This means the System Programmer may be required to update existing systems to the latest version of an operating system, or the installation may be as simple as upgrading a single program, such as a sort application.
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The System Programmer must be skilled at debugging problems discovered with system software. These problems are often found in a copy of the computer’s memory contents called a dump. The system produces this dump in response to a failing software product, transaction or user job. With this dump and the debugging tools, the System Programmer can determine where certain components have failed. When the error has occurred in a software product, the System Programmer works together with the software vendor’s representatives to identify whether the problem’s caused is known, and if so, if a patch is available.
System Programmers will also need to install and maintain the middleware on the mainframe. Middleware is the layer between the operating system and the end user or end user application which supplies functions that are not provided by the operating system. This may include online transaction processing systems, web servers and database management systems.