Academics, Analysts and Anchormen: Saluting the Admiral

Introduction

In 1987 I sat my first semester (we call them terms in the UK) at university, studying a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. One of my first assignments was to pick up and learn one of a broad range of computer languages. COBOL was picked first because it was a “good place to start as it’s easy to learn[1]”. Originally designed for business users with instructions that were straightforward to learn. They were right, it was a great place to start and my relationship with COBOL is a long way from over 30 years later.

A Great New Idea?

Little did I know I was using a technology that had been conceived 30 years beforehand. In 2019, one of the greatest technology inventions of the last century, the COBOL computer programming language, will celebrate its ruby anniversary. While not as widely known or anywhere near as popular as in its in 1960s and 70s heyday, it remains the stalwart of a vast amount of vital commercial IT systems globally. Anecdotal evidence suggests the majority of the world’s key business transactions still use a COBOL back-end process.

However, the celebrated, windswept technology pioneers of Jobs, Turing, Bernars-Lee and Torvalds were not even in the room when this idea first germinated. Indeed, a committee of US Government and industry experts had assembled to discuss the matter of computer programming for the masses, a concept they felt without which would halt the progress of technological advancement. Step forward the precocious talent of Grace Murray. With her present on the Codasyl committee, the notion of a programming language that was “English-like” and which “anyone could read” was devised and added to the requirements. The original aim of the language being cross platform was achieved later, but the ideas still stood as the blueprint.

Soon enough, as scientists too, the inevitable acronym-based name arrived –

  • Everyone can do it? Common.
  • Designed with commerce in mind? Business Oriented.
  • A way of operating the computer? Language.

This was about 1959. To provide some context that was the year during which rationing was still in force in the UK, and 5 years before the mainframe computer had been first released. Bill Haley was still rockin’ ‘til broad daylight, or so the contemporary tune said.

Grace Hopper (then Murray) was already the embodiment of dedication. She wasn’t tall enough to meet the entrance criteria for the US Navy, yet managed to get in on merit in 1944. And while her stature was diminutive, her intellect knew no bounds. She was credited for a range of accolades during an illustrious career, as wide and varied as –

  1. Coining the term ‘debug’ to refer to taking errors out of programming language code. The term was a literal reference to a bug (a moth) which had short-circuited the electrical supply to a computer her team was using
  2. Hopper’s later work on language standards, where she was instrumental in defining the relevant test cases to prove language compliance, ensured longer-term portability could be planned for and verified. Anyone from a testing background can thank Hopper for furthering the concept of test cases in computing
  3. Coining the phrase, which I will paraphrase rather than misquote, that it is sometimes easier to seek forgiveness than permission. I can only speculate that the inventors of “seize the day” and “just do it” would have been impressed with the notion. Her pioneering spirit and organizational skills ensured she delivered on many of her ideas.
  4. Characterising time using a visual aid: she invited people to conceptualize the speed of sound by how far electricity would travel in a nanosecond. She offered people a small stick, which she labelled a “nanosecond” – across the internet people still boast about receiving a Nanosecond from Hopper
  5. Cutting the TV chat-show host David Letterman down to size . A formidable and sometimes brusque lady, her appearance on the Letterman Show in 1980s is still hilarious.

A lasting legacy

Later rising to the rank of rear Admiral, and employed by the Navy until she was 79, Hopper is however best known for being the guiding hand behind COBOL, a project that eventually concluded in 1959 and found commercial breakthroughs a few years later. Within a decade, the world’s largest (and richest) organisations had invested in mainframe-hosted COBOL Data Processing systems. Many of them have kept the concept today, though most of the systems themselves (machinery, language usage, storage, interfaces etc.) have changed almost beyond recognition. However, mainframes and COBOL are still running most of the world’s biggest banks, insurers, government departments, plus significant numbers of healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and even retail systems.

Hopper died in 1992 at the age of 85. In 2016 Hopper posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. In February 2017, Yale University announced it would rename one of its colleges in Hopper’s honour.

Grace Hopper remains inspirational for scientists, for academics, for women in technology, biographers, film-makers, COBOL and computing enthusiasts and pioneers, and for anyone who has been in business computing in the last five decades. We also happen to think she’d like our new COBOL product too. The legacy of technological innovation she embodied lives on.

[1] The environment provided was something called COBOL/2, a PC-based COBOL development system. The vendor was Micro Focus.

Digital transformation – buzzword or business opportunity?

Digital transformation is what analysts, tech vendors and IT professionals call the latest move towards business innovation.

As this blog explains, organizations are finding that their digital strategy is increasingly being driven by changing market events – digital disruption – and the desire to improve the customer experience (CX) by better understanding how they engage with their products and services.

There will be no turning back. As Accenture research discovered, more than 65% of consumers rely on digital channels for product and service selection, speed and information accuracy, with the same percentage judging companies primarily on the quality of their customer experience. And expectations have never been higher.

Keep the (digital) customer satisfied

Digital technologies such as web, mobile, Cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) have changed the way we live our personal lives and how we engage with businesses. Gartner predicts that this year will see more than half of the world’s population become digital subscribers and fuel expectations of easily consumed, tailor-made content, to be available on-demand and accessible from their device of choice.

It’s not something companies can get wrong. Organizations will probably be aware that more than 80% of the customers who switched to more digitally-savvy competitors could have been retained with a better digital experience. So who is best prepared for the new world of digital natural selection?

Smaller IT shops, born of new technology and running flexible processes, have a clear advantage. Better prepared to leverage consumer feedback in creating and delivering more focused products, faster, they can use disruption to challenge established incumbents. Across the sectors, from medical to manufacturing, entrenched enterprises are being left behind by the pace of change.

COBOL in the digital world?

In the new, shiny world of digitalization, systems of record written in COBOL are viewed as obstacles to progress, to faster delivery and new innovation. So what are the options for businesses with decades of IT investment and a new CIO directive to suddenly shift to a digital-first strategy?

When transforming any aspect of a business, whether it’s a single application or process, or the wider culture, business leaders must begin with a clear understanding of what ‘digital’ success looks like to that organization. CIOs, IT Managers, and dev teams have different definitions – some are strategic, others more tactical – and some are more concerned with the purely practical. However the imperative to improve the customer experience is paramount. Intuitive, content-rich, adaptive to new technologies and easily accessed, the CX should modify business behavior towards a customer-first approach.

Digital – the new frontier for business

The customer experience underpins digital transformation and improves business productivity. New hires with access to a better, faster, more intuitive application experience need less training and have more time for customers. In this world, every business is a software organization that creates a USP – a clear differentiator – using unique, software-generated ‘experiences’ for the end user. In this definition, success is building enduring customer loyalty and using it to access new markets.

But what about longer-established enterprise shops running COBOL? Where can their products take them? There’s good news. Micro Focus remains committed to a strong technology roadmap, supported by millions of R&D dollars, focused on innovation and customer success. Creating and refreshing technology solutions that enable the enterprise to reinvent their IT assets for the new reality remains a core tenet and guiding principle. And here’s the proof.

Drum roll, please

Say hello to a new UI transformation solution for ACUCOBOL customers—AcuToWeb®. With the latest version of extend® (v10.1) and AcuToWeb, organizations can instantly transform their COBOL applications by enabling browser access across multiple platforms.

SHARE 2017: Do you know the way to San Jose?

Introduction

While we’re no strangers to SHARE, our customers are entering unfamiliar territories in many ways so it’s fitting we should all pitch up somewhere new for this year’s event. And if this song gets stuck in your head for days and days – then welcome to my world.

It’s the first SHARE event of 2017 and a great platform for meeting the mainframe community. It’s also a classic 1960s song, so I thought I’d reference it to look ahead to what SHAREgoers can expect this year.

Our best people are there with good news on digital transformation. Here’s what it all means. Just imagine Dionne Warwick singing it.

“I’m going back to find some peace of mind in San Jose”

Peace of mind. Important for every IT organization, business-critical for the enterprise mainframe world. Risk-averse, security conscious, presiding over their must-not-fail core systems. Oh – and they must also find the bandwidth and resources to support innovation. Peace of mind? Good luck with that.

A few things, there. First up, we’ll be demonstrating how we’ve added greater security provision to the mainframe and terminal emulation environments to ensure the critical data remains protected, secured.

Second, peace of mind is about knowing what the future has in store. And that’s digital transformation. Transformation is essential for remaining competitive in a digital world. The ‘new speed of business’ shifts up a gear every year. Enterprise software innovation on the mainframe can improve speed, efficiency, collaboration, and customer engagement. You just need to know how to do it.

For many of our customers, enterprise IT and the mainframe are almost synonymous. Connecting the two to create the forward-thinking innovation needed to compete in the digitally-enabled marketplace is why people are coming to SHARE.

SHARE is where you taste the Micro Focus flavor of innovation. New is good, but realizing extra value through increased efficiency, agility and cost savings from the data and business logic you already own is even better. If you’re looking to make some smart IT investments this year, then SHARE participation could realize a pretty good return.

I spoke to Ed Airey, Solutions Marketing Director here at Micro Focus, about finding this peace of mind. “As we hear often, keeping pace with change remains a challenge for most mainframe shops. In this digital age, expectations for the enterprise couldn’t be higher. Transforming the business to move faster, improve efficiency and security while modernizing core applications are key. Success requires a new strategy that delivers on that digital promise to delight the customer. Our Micro Focus solutions supporting the IBM Mainframe, make that happen – helping customers innovate faster and with lower risk …and peace of mind.”

 “I’ve got lots of friends in San Jose”

This one is as simple as it is literal. Lots of our mainframe friends will be in San Jose, so share a space with seasoned enterprise IT professionals, hear their successes and lessons learned.

The full lineup includes more than 500 technical sessions. Check out these highlights:

It’s good to see the EXECUForum back for San Jose. This two-day, on-site event unites enterprise IT leaders and executives for strategic business discussions on technology topics. We address key business challenges and share corporate strategies around business direction with industry peers. Micro Focus will participate, having put the topic of ‘new workload’ on the agenda – the growth opportunities for z systems remain impressive, as we recently mentioned.  Check out the agenda of EXECUForum here.

 “You can really breathe in San Jose”

The final lyrical metaphor for me is about taking time to understand, to witness all that the technology has to offer. To really breathe in the possibilities. To think about what digital transformation might look like for your mainframe organization – and how Micro Focus might deliver that vision.

We all want to use resources wisely, so save time and money and decrease the chance of error by talking to the product experts at the user- and vendor-led sessions, workshops and hands-on labs. Our booth will be full of mainframe experts ready to talk enterprise IT security, DevOps, AppDev, modernization and more. Stop by the SHARE Technology Exchange Expo, take a breather, maybe even play a game of Plinko.

We’re ready when you are.

Twin peaks: #MFSummit2017

Like scaling a mountain, sometimes it makes sense to stop and see how far you have come, and what lies ahead. #MFSummit2017 is your opportunity to check progress and assess the future challenges.

We called the first #MFSummit ‘meeting the challenges of change’ and it’s been another demanding 12 months for Micro Focus customers. Maintaining, or achieving, a competitive advantage in the IT marketplace isn’t getting any easier.

The technology of two recent acquisitions, the development, DevOps and IT management gurus Serena Software and multi-platform unified archive ninjas GWAVA puts exciting, achievable innovation within reach of all our customers. These diverse portfolios are also perfectly in tune with the theme of #MFSummit2017.

Build, Operate, and Secure (BOS)

BOS is the theme of #MFSummit2017 and our overarching ethos. Micro Focus products and solutions help our customers build, operate, and secure IT systems that unite current business logic and applications with emerging technologies to meet increasingly complex business demands and cost pressures.

Delegates to #MFSummit2017 can either focus on the most relevant specialism, the possibilities the other two may offer – or sample all three. This first blog of two focuses on Build.

DevOps – realise the potential

Following keynote addresses from Micro Focus CEO Stephen Murdoch and General Manager, Andy King, Director of Enterprise Solutions Gary Evans presents The Micro Focus Approach to DevOps.

Everyone knows what DevOps is, but what does it mean for those managing enterprise applications?

Gary’s 40-minute slot looks at the potential of DevOps to dramatically increase the delivery rate of new software updates. He explains the Micro Focus approach to DevOps, how it supports Continuous Delivery – and what it means to our customers.

Interested?

Want to know more about this session, or check out the line-up for the Operate and Secure modules – the subject of our next blog? Check out the full agenda here.

Use the same page to reserve your place at #MFSummit2017, a full day of formal presentations and face-to-face sessions, overviews and deep-dive Q&As, all dedicated to helping you understand the full potential of Micro Focus solutions to resolve your business challenges.

Our stylish venue is within easy reach of at least four Tube stations and three major rail stations. Attendance and lunch are free.

If you don’t go, you’ll never know.

Data: Challenge & Opportunity

Data Challenges

Researchers claim that the average smartphone user glances at their device roughly every seven seconds. Do you? It’s an impulse that each of us experiences within our daily lives, whether at the airport, the bank or the shopping mail, but also in workplace. Why is this so? Well, mobile technology has unleashed the power and desire for instant information that’s readily available to all using our device of choice. The mobile economy is underpinned by data. This quest for information, engagement or even entertainment requires instant, readily accessible access to this valuable resource and without it that same mobile experience would be well, not nearly that exciting. But the demand for data is not isolated to those searching for the latest sports scores or for that needed holiday recipe.  Business organizations have the same need to unlock the value of their business data and leverage that information to make smarter decisions leading to new market opportunity. But for many businesses, it’s not quite so simple.  There are a number of challenges that must be addressed.

Many core business systems are written in the COBOL language.  In fact, over 70% of business transaction processing is supported by COBOL technology.  It continues to be the lifeblood of core business applications in the airline, insurance, banking, manufacturing and retail industries as well as a prominent piece of public services IT infrastructure. But unlocking COBOL data is not easy.  Traditional COBOL systems utilize COBOL data files for information access and storage. Retrieving data from these systems requires a knowledge of the COBOL language but also an understanding of the application itself. This creates challenge for an organization that desires to gain real time access to data for business intelligence, analytics or reporting needs. COBOL data is not relational which makes the use of modern tools difficult for analysts and developers, alike.  Applications underpinned by COBOL data files also experience application reliability and serviceability issues. COBOL data files can and often do become corrupted which compromises business continuity and reduces application up-time. Also, even during scheduled application maintenance, application recoverability can be slower than desired. So, how can you overcome these challenges and what are the options?

Options

In an effort to gain easier access to COBOL business applications, some will utilize tools to extract, transform and load data into a new repository. Other options include mirroring the data or creating copies for analytics and data warehousing purposes. The challenge with these options is that the data, itself, is not relational nor available in real-time which means the data is immediately out-of-date. Re-writing these COBOL applications is often considered an option too in order to achieve the benefits of SQL and RDBMS.  Doing so, however, can be risky and costly to the business.  Additionally, the size of the average COBOL application codebase is large and is often measured in millions of lines of code (MLOC) which means the prospect of changing or re-writing these systems to accommodate RDBMS or SQL integration is almost unobtainable for many.  So where do we go from here?

A Better Bridge – For the Old and the New

There’s a better path to achieve the benefits of SQL and RDBMS without application code change. For business analysts and end users seeking to gain real-time access to relational data or create custom reports without the assistance of the development team, a new data modernization toolset enables you to utilize modern, off-the-shelf reporting tools such as Excel or Crystal Reports to access existing COBOL application data with ease. And for developers and technical teams seeking to utilize the power of SQL alongside modern RDBMS platforms to improve application uptime or reliability, a supplemental toolset is available to bridge existing COBOL business applications to relational database management platforms, including SQLServer, Oracle IBM DB2 and PostgreSQL.  With these solutions, organizations can unlock the power of business data, enabling all to make smarter decisions that drive opportunity and new digital business.

New Solutions

Today, Micro Focus is delighted to announce a new innovation- a set of data modernization solutions to enable analysts, developers and management teams to better align their core systems of record with modern relational database management technology. With Relativity and Database Connectors, you’ll have the ability to unlock the value of business application data and leverage the power of SQL and RDMBS to gain access to business information, improve application reliability and better manage RDMBS costs while expanding application usage. To learn more about these new and exciting tools and how to get started on your own journey to data modernization, we encourage you schedule a complimentary value profile meeting with us. During this consultation, we’ll examine your business and technical goals and help align your data modernization needs to solutions that meet your objectives. As the demand for data only continues to rise, fueled by digital business and the mobile economy, we must find new and innovative ways to leverage core business systems to unlock both the power of data and the competitive advantage that it delivers.  Click here to learn more and get started with this complimentary service offering.

Building a Stronger Mainframe Community

Community brings individuals and groups together – united in a common practice, belief or behavior. We see positive examples of community in many aspects of our daily lives whether it is our local neighborhood, family settings or common interest groups. Good examples are also found in the software industry. Following on from a recent Mainframe Virtual User Group event, Ed Airey explores the importance of community and how this proven principle can yield lasting value for new and existing members.

What is the Mainframe Virtual User Group?

On November 17th, Micro Focus held the November edition of its Mainframe Virtual User Group (VUG). This fall meeting saw Micro Focus Enterprise users and Mainframe enthusiasts across the former Serena business, come together –united under one flag and one common theme – the future and growing importance of the Mainframe. The Mainframe VUG serves as a quarterly update offering company news, product roadmap updates, recent event highlights as well as a spotlight technology and educational demonstration.  November’s theme focused on the importance of DevOps and the increasing role that the Mainframe plays in enabling that practice across the enterprise.

Highlights from the September iChange event in Chicago were also covered in this briefing as well as a reference to valued technical resources* for community members. Al Slovacek, Product Manager for the ChangeMan ZMF solution provided several product roadmap updates including a review of ChangeMan 8.1.2 and 8.1.3 and a forward view into version 8.2.  Eddie Houghton, Enterprise product director, provided a similar technology overview and roadmap update for the Micro Focus Enterprise solution set, including the most recent version-Enterprise 2.3.2.

MainframeCommunity

DevOps takes center stage…

Perhaps the highlight of the November Mainframe VUG, however, was a live End-to-End Mainframe DevOps demonstration performed by Gary Evans, Technical Services Director at Micro Focus.  Gary showcased the development efficiency and test automation capabilities available within this continuous integration toolset designed for the Mainframe—a powerful solution to accelerate and streamline application delivery. Gary explained how organizations can get started quickly on their incremental path to DevOps and his demo was a great technology overview for DevOps newbies and seasoned practicioners alike.

These are exactly the reasons community matters. Sharing best practices, product knowledge and building a sense of shared engagement. Underpinned by a commitment to education, the Mainframe VUG seeks to share subject matter expertise across the Mainframe community.  Why not come along to the next community event and see for yourself?  Join us on Thursday, February 9, 2017 for our winter edition of the Mainframe VUG.  Watch the Micro Focus website for more information – registration begins in January.

spaceman2

#DevDay is coming too

And for those local to the Chicago area this week, why not stop by another great community event-a Micro Focus #DevDay?  It’s your opportunity to see our technology in action, get your questions answered and connect with subject matter experts and industry peers.  You’ll even get a chance to try the tech yourself and it doesn’t cost a penny.

To learn more and register for #DevDay events, visit www.microfocus.com/devday  I look forward to seeing your there and at the next Mainframe VUG event in February!

Are We There Yet?

Digital transformation demands that every IT shop find new ways to move faster and reach their customers with new innovative solutions. Getting new code to market quicker than the competition requires smart tools and intuitive integration to enable faster delivery. Ed Airey explores the new Micro Focus COBOL Analyzer product offering and its capacity to help developers and analysts deliver on this promise.

Every Journey Needs a Map

‘Are we there yet?’ 

A familiar family question heard on most long distance car trips.  A question that’s also difficult to answer, particularly when some drivers, despite better guidance, go off the beaten track.  The increasing mobile use and popularity of satellite navigation (or GPS) technology, has made answering this question a bit easier in recent years. Assuming you listen to the little voice in the box. For those that wait on every wise word and detailed direction, it’s hard to imagine life without GPS. Once you’re used to reliable directions that get you there, every time, why would you take a different path or use a different tool?  The same can be said for application analysis when the right tooling is used.

Actionable Insight
Actionable Insight

The Code Analysis Challenge

Less than 10% of developers use application analysis tools on a daily basis, according to a recent analyst study.   As many as 44% use analysis tools on a project-by-project basis, yet we see a continual need in IT to drive greater efficiency, faster time to market and reduce code re-work.  And that’s exactly how these tools can help—to get you to your destination, quickly and reliably, every time – without getting lost!

It’s Time to Take on Digital Transformation

If you, as a developer, could help your team better understand its core business systems, determine where code change need to occur and reduce the amount of re-work that delays code from going live, wouldn’t you jump at that chance? Or as a business analyst or IT manager, if you could easily onboard new talent to your team, improve collaboration between dev and operations teams or improve IT productivity, would you not take that opportunity?  These are the promises of application analysis tools—helping you better understand your business application and manage code change with confidence.

Impact Analysis made simple
Impact Analysis made simple

Introducing COBOL Analyzer

Today, Micro Focus announces a new offering for its COBOL customers—COBOL Analyzer.  The solution enables developers, analysts and IT management better understand the impact of application change.  Using familiar tools, IT teams can gain immediate insight to where changes need to occur, understand how and where those code change should be made and do so with an understanding of their impact across the entire codebase.

Finally, COBOL Analyzer delivers the integrated toolset to accelerate that change with confidence. Only COBOL Analyzer can help you visualize, understand and act on application code change.  Unlike other offerings, COBOL Analyzer is a solution designed for Micro Focus COBOL applications.  For development teams wondering if the last code package passed QA or made it to production. For teams that are pushed to deliver better code, faster, but are unsure if ‘they’re there yet, code analysis tools are your GPS and trusted toolset to help you reach your destination with greater confidence.

Search your code easily
Search your code easily

Give it a Try

And there’s good news.  You can try this new solution for nothing.  To register for your personal copy, visit the COBOL Analyzer product page.  Also, for those that would like to get started quickly, take a look at the community page for more great materials including a 5-part video playlist, code samples and a getting started tutorial. For organizations with Micro Focus COBOL applications, this is your unique opportunity to gain better insight into your business applications, accelerate code change and reach that digital destination.

Ed

Linux – the new workload workhorse

Linux continues to gain in popularity, and there are more deployments each year, even in the mainframe world. What’s driving all the interest and, frankly, all the workload? We deployed Derek Britton to find out.

Reports suggest that there continues to be a significant uptick in the number of deployments on to Linux servers worldwide. In November 16’s IBM Systems Magazine article “Why more z Systems customer are running Linux”, for example, we are told that “nearly 50 percent of z Systems clients are using Linux”. We also know that Linux overtook other UNIX systems in terms of market share as far back as 2013 (source: Linux Foundation).

Meanwhile, the 11th annual BMC Mainframe Market survey (source: BMC) reports that 67% of mainframe organizations have witnessed increasing capacity this year, with the percentage respondents using Linux in production rising to 52%.

Now, across the broader market, what incarnation of Linux might be chosen is a topic all of its own. Data centers running Enterprise versions of RedHat, SUSE or Oracle variants is an option, as is using a Linux-based Cloud deployment, as would be the ground-breaking LinuxONE technology or the new Linux on Power platform from IBM, or indeed running a Linux partition on their mainframe. The flexibility, choice and power is certainly there to leverage.

SUSELinuxOne

Why Now?

One of the obvious questions this throws up is what sort of workload is being deployed on to Linux? Or, put another way, what is driving organizations and their IT teams to choose Linux (or any other modern environment for that matter) as a production environment? The aforementioned IBM Systems Magazine article confirmed that IBM has (Linux) clients “doing payments, payroll, mobile banking … critical applications”. It goes without saying that some production workload is much more at home on z/OS, but IBM sensibly provides the options the market is clearly looking for in the digital age.

And tempting as it might be to talk about all the benefits of Linux, open source and other recent innovations from the vendors, this isn’t what drives change. Businesses drive IT innovation – changes in circumstances are behind many of the smartest IT decisions. Necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case innovation. So what are those needs?

Accelerating Market Footprint

One of our clients looked at branching out into new territories. Their core systems needed to be replicated across new data centers in each country, a fairly typical situation. However, the uniqueness and scale of the operation made matters difficult for provisioning IT operations as quickly as the business plan wanted. They were looking for a faster way to have tried-and-trusted IT systems up and running, supporting their new regional centers.

Smart Data Compliance

A financial services client was also looking at international expansion. However, due to data privacy laws in the new region, they were unable to manage the new operation from their head office. Instead, they needed to establish the right – low-scale, yet compatible – IT footprint in the new region. The question therefore was what viable options could replicate existing mainframe business functionality at a lower scale?

klasse2

Reaching New Clients

A very successful mainframe applications provider with an aggressive growth strategy was looking for further market opportunity. They identified that their market penetration and growth plans precluded them from establishing sufficient growth with their existing model. One important option to them was to investigate reaching clients in their market who were currently not using their prescribed deployment platform. Simply put, they needed to explore more platform options to support market growth.

Getting Fit for Purpose

New demands of fresh, critical workload create questions about priority and bandwidth. Some clients we know have adopted a headlong approach into big data and in-line analytics. Their view is there is no place better than z/OS to run these core operations. The question this creates is how to provision the necessary headroom without incurring unplanned increases. Of course, there’s always a commercial answer, but oftentimes the capacity available on Linux is simply waiting to be leveraged. Sometimes, some traditional z/OS workload might not all be equally important – some of it might be a historical circumstance. It then becomes a question of choices. Moving standalone priority B workload around might be viable and support higher priority z/OS projects.

Flexibility is Key…

The above scenarios represent real situations faced by large enterprises. What do all these drivers have in common? Probably the simplest way to label it is the issue of flexibility. Responding to change, rapidly, is driving IT innovation. Finding smart ways to deliver bomb-proof systems – core applications that already add value, already support the business – into new channels to support, quickly, going into a new territory, splitting data centers, reaching new clients, sometimes where the traditional platform isn’t appropriate for the model, is the demand. Linux makes sense as a viable, enterprise-scale solution in a growing range of cases.

…and so is the application!

For so many of the world’s largest IT organizations applications literally mean business. They keep the operations ticking over, and without them the organization would be unable to function. Many of those systems have been relied upon over years, built on the solid foundation of the COBOL language. COBOL’s continued evolution in its 6th decade, and Micro Focus unrivalled support of COBOL across dozens of leading platforms mean when bullet-proof core systems need contemporary levels of flexibility, COBOL and Linux are the natural, low-risk option. It’s no wonder that Micro Focus sees more and more Linux deployments of COBOL applications than ever.

Conclusion

Is Linux alone here? Not at all. One could easily argue that other UNIX variants and Windows are viable production systems for many application workloads. That’s not the argument here – platform viability is the choice of the customer. What’s important is that organizations need to be able to make smart decisions to support rapid business change. Advancements in technology such as Linux, alongside the power and portability of COBOL, help them do just that.

Micro Focus #DevDay doubles-down in Dallas

The #COBOL community roadshow continued recently as Micro Focus #DevDay landed in Dallas, TX. But this time was special – there were two events instead of one. Derek Britton went along to find out more.

A numbers game

Just as COBOL processes some of the most important numeric transactions globally, we learned of some telling statistics at the most recent #DevDay – held this month in Dallas.

Very interestingly, the show started with an award for Dallas – host of the most frequent #DevDay events. This was Micro Focus’ 4th time in Dallas in as many years hosting a COBOL community meeting. Over 200 delegates have attended our Dallas-hosted events in the last few years. Of course, Dallas is only part of a major global program – Micro Focus has hosted nearly forty #DevDay customer meetings since the program was started a few years ago.

DD1

But these numbers are dwarfed by the next: thousands of customers use Micro Focus’ COBOL technology today. What do they have in common? They are all committed to using the right tools to build the next generation core business applications, to run wherever they need to be run. This community also includes over one thousand Independent Software Vendors who have chosen COBOL as their language platform for the scalability, performance and portability their commercial packages need.

Last year we asked that global community their thoughts of the language. An overwhelming 85% said COBOL remains strategic in their organization. However, two-thirds of the same group said they were looking to improve the efficiency of how they delivered those applications.

We also heard that this global COBOL community is supported by Micro Focus’ $60M investment each year, which it makes across a range of COBOL and related technology products. This week, we also saw where some of that investment is made. One way of explaining how is by product area, where our technology is split across two communities. It was those two communities who held separate #DevDay meetings in the same location.

Micro Focus #DevDay

The Micro Focus #DevDay event is no stranger to our blog site. It is designed with the Micro Focus customer community in mind – showcasing latest products such as Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer to the traditional Micro Focus user base.

Highlights of the Dallas session included a major focus on key new technical innovations. The first of these explored building REST-based services in a managed-code world using COBOL. Our experts demonstrated the simple steps to build, for example, mobile payment systems, using trusted COBOL routines and a simple RESTful integration layer. They later demonstrated a newly available support for advanced CICS Web Services, connecting trusted mainframe systems with new digital devices with a seamless, modern interface.

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We also heard news of the latest product releases – with versions 2.3.2 of Enterprise Developer and Visual COBOL, which are newly available, including a range of major enhancements plus support for new environments such as Linux on IBM Power Systems and Windows 10. Some delegates got a chance to test drive the new version themselves in the hands-on lab.

The #DevDay event continues to be hugely successful and touches down next in December, in Chicago.

Acu #DevDay

The ACU COBOL technology is an established product line, acquired originally from AcuCorp, which joined the Micro Focus family just a little over a decade ago. The Acu range, known now as extend, boasts thousands of users.

Arguably the highlight of the day was the announcement of the brand-new Acu2Web capability.  Available to participating clients as part of the extend 10.1 product Beta program, Acu2Web demonstrates Micro Focus commitment to a digital future in its Acu COBOL technology, and solves a genuine market need. The challenge was a real one – a community one: access to the same core COBOL application system, from any device, with any interface, on any system, to behave the same way, using the same setup. In yesteryear, a limited albeit complex engineering task, the problem has been exacerbated beyond all recognition by the proliferation of new devices and platforms, all of which need to access trusted back-end systems.

This was the challenge we set ourselves – and that’s what we’ve built into our latest Acu extend technology – a seamless, transparent access mechanism to core Acu-built COBOL apps from any device.  The Acu2Web facility builds the wiring and plumbing for any access point, no matter where, as the access diagram below outlines.

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Acu2Web is one of the new exciting capabilities being made available in extend 10.1. The Beta program is underway to qualifying clients. The roadmap milestones outlined during the event give a 10.1 release date in early 2017.

A global community… supported globally

The focused customer technology event is an important community touch-point for Micro Focus – but it certainly isn’t the only one. The same community thrives online, not least at Community.microfocus.com. Available to all, this forum provides tips and tricks for technology usage including suggestions from technical staff, consultants and customers alike. Importantly, product areas such as Acu have their own dedicated pages (see below).

 

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Through the community, our social media site, and our academic program, Micro Focus continues to fly the flag for COBOL skills. Just shy of 400 higher education establishments are training their students to learn COBOL with Micro Focus COBOL products, building the next generation of COBOL talent.

In Summary

#DevDays are the perfect opportunity to witness the significant new product capabilities now available to our clients. Both product sets have undergone transformational updates to directly address real market demand.

I caught up with the host of the Micro Focus Developer Days, Ed Airey, who summarised Micro Focus’ approach “We are proud to host events that bring our entire COBOL development community together, to exchange ideas, learn new capabilities, and explore how to embrace future needs using modern technology. We remain committed to our community and look forward to more events of this nature in the future”.

Two product lines; one global COBOL community.

Find more about how our products can support you at www.microfocus.com

Latest updates to Micro Focus COBOL Development and Mainframe Solutions now available

Building a stronger sense of community–It’s a topic often discussed across many industries and technical professions and coincidentally, also a favorite topic at Micro Focus #DevDay events. Amie Johnson, Solutions Marketing strategist at Micro Focus digs deeper into this topic and uncovers some core reasons why community matters while also sharing some exciting product news for COBOL and Mainframe enthusiasts.

If you haven’t attended a Micro Focus #DevDay event in the past few months, let me recap that typical attendee experience for you.  It’s a day jam-packed will technology demonstrations, interactive Q&A sessions, hands on labs and much more.  Its eight hours of technology focused discussions designed for the COBOL and Mainframe developer. If you look closely though, you’ll also see something else, beyond the tech – community development.  I’m always pleased to see attending delegates in engaging conversation with other peers often sharing their ‘COBOL’ stories.  This sense of community both educates, and builds best practices while establishing long term relationships for all involved.  It also removes any perceived isolation that could occur if such conversations did not occur.  You’ll also see many of these experienced professionals talk shop, exchange stories from the past and seek answers to needed problems and questions. In many ways, #DevDay is the place where enterprise developers belong and where everyone knows your name.

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This week’s events in Dallas didn’t disappoint with a strong focus on COBOL application modernization, and performance, along with a desire to ‘sell that strategy’ upwards in the organization.  With thousands upon thousands of COBOL applications supporting everyday activities including banking, insurance, air travel, equities trading, government services and more; it’s no surprise that (for many attending) COBOL remains a solid choice for core business. Most acknowledge though that there are external pressures, though, to consider new solutions, perhaps even re-write or re-place those applications with new technologies. Underlying complexity and cost, however, often sideline those projects in favor of less risky approaches to modernization.  After all, these (COBOL) applications are essential to business success and the tolerance for business is often very low.  But there’s pressure to modernize with an eye to embracing new models, new tech and the future.

Micro Focus Continued Investment in COBOL and Mainframe Technologies

The goal of course, through event discussions is to ensure that all guest leave the event feeling it was valuable and delivered some practical skills which they could use when back at the office.  Yes, many attending are interested in the Micro Focus investment strategy for COBOL and Mainframe tech.  We cover that with ample detail and discussion ensuring all understand that COBOL is just as modern as the thousands of new programming languages available today—and they see it too through many demo examples.

This future proof strategy for COBOL ensures that applications, many of which support global enterprise, continue to function and support the business. Supporting this strategy are the following key data-points discussed while in Dallas:

  • 85% of surveyed customers believe their COBOL applications are strategic to the business
  • 2/3 of the survey respondents that maintain these COBOL applications are seeking new ways to improve efficiency and the software delivery process  while modernizing their applications to work with next gen technology including relational database management systems, Web services, APIs and integrate with Java and .Net code environments

These drivers underpin the continued Micro Focus commitment to support the widest variety of enterprise platforms.  Today, over 50+ application platforms are supported providing maximum choice, freedom and flexibility for anyone using COBOL. This capability coupled with a continued annual R&D investment of $60M reaffirms that COBOL is ready for innovation whether it be .NET, Java, mobile, cloud, or the Internet of Things. And this week brings even more exciting news as we released the latest updates to our COBOL Development and Mainframe technologies.

Mainframe Development Solution Updates

Versions 2.3.2 of Enterprise Developer, Enterprise Test Server, Enterprise Server, and Enterprise Server for .NET are now available.  The Micro Focus Enterprise product suite helps organizations build, test, and deploy business critical mainframe workloads with an eye toward future innovation and market change.

Highlights in this latest update include:

  • Latest platform support – including Linux on IBM Power Systems and Windows 10 – future-proofs applications.
  • Ability to extract COBOL and PL/I business rules to copybooks makes code re-use easier so developers can work smarter and faster.
  • Enhanced CICS Web Services support helps customers more easily meet the demand for web and mobile application interoperability.
  • Improved mainframe compatibility simplifies re-hosting and extends modernization options for customers deploying to .NET and Azure.

Examples of customers using these solutions include, B+S Banksysteme, City of Fort Worth, and City of Inglewood.

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COBOL Development Solution Updates

In COBOL development, the latest version of Visual COBOL 2.3 Update 2 includes the latest updates that helps you organize and manage core IT systems developed in COBOL, providing a pathway to new IT architecture and access to modern tools for enterprise application development.  This release includes over 100 customer requested enhancements and support for the latest enterprise platform updates and 3rd party software.

Highlights in this latest update include:

  • New support for the JBoss EAP platform
  • Updates for the latest releases of supported operating systems
  • Over 100 customer requested fixes and enhancements

Examples of customers using these solutions include Dexia Crediop, Heinsohn Business Technology, and The County of San Luis Obispo..

For Micro Focus customers on maintenance the latest updates can be downloaded via the Supportline portal

So check out these latest COBOL and Mainframe solutions.  Read how these customers are embracing next gen technology alongside their existing core business systems.  And for those interested in joining the COBOL community at the next Micro Focus #DevDay, check out our events calendar here.  Save your seat and join the conversation.

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A classic never goes out of style

Die digitale Transformation von Geschäftsprozessen sowie die Modernisierung und Optimierung der IT- Infrastruktur lassen die Rufe nach der Ablösung des Mainframe lauter werden. Zudem haftet dem “Dino” der IT ein zunehmend negatives Image an: zu teuer, zu unmodern, zu unflexibel. Doch Fakt ist auch, dass Cobol Anwendungen immer noch großen Einfluss auf unser tägliches Leben haben. Die Flugbuchung, die Sitzplatzreservierung im ICE, das Bezahlen bei Zalando, Amazon & Co. -am Ende ist es fast immer COBOL-Code, der involviert ist. Es stellt sich also die zentrale Frage: Wie kann man bestehende Geschäftsmodelle samt vorhandenen Geschäftsregeln und Applikationen in neue Systeme einbringen, die flexibel, dynamisch und web-orientiert sind? Martin Reusch liefert Antworten…

Vor fast 125 Jahren wurde das Unternehmen Coca Cola in Atlanta gegründet. Trotz des auch für ein Unternehmen stattlichen Alters, ist die Coca Cola alles andere als angestaubt und unmodern. Für Coca Cola, dem Getränk in der unverwechselbaren, bauchigen Kontur-Glasflasche oder der rot-weißen Dose  gelten anscheinend nicht die Regeln des Alterns. Sprachforschern zufolge ist Coca-Cola heute das zweitbekannteste Wort der Welt nach „Okay“, es ist die wertvollste Marke der Welt, denn  Coca Cola ist das auch heute noch das Erfrischungs-Getränk Nummer 1 und das trotz  immer neuer Brausegetränke. Anderes Beispiel – Mythos Porsche 911, seit über 50 Jahren das Herzstück der Marke Porsche. Der erste 911 wurde 1963 auf der IAA in Frankfurt vorgestellt und ist seitdem einfach geblieben, auch wenn das heutige Modell längst nicht mehr mit dem ursprünglichen Original zu vergleichen ist. Denn Porsche hat es stets verstanden, dieses einzigartige Modell durch intelligente Ideen und Technologien, welche Performance, Alltagstauglichkeit, Sicherheit und Nachhaltigkeit verknüpften, immer weiter zu modifizieren.

Auch in der IT gibt es vergleichbare Klassiker. Großrechner, besser als Mainframe bekannt, oder COBOL die Programmiersprache für viele Businessanwendungen, existieren ebenfalls seit Anfang der 60er Jahre. Doch die während ein Klassiker wie der Porsche 911 heute ein Mythos ist und mit positiven Charakteristika wie Wertbeständigkeit, Stilistik und Dynamik verbunden wird, haftet dem Mainframe und seiner beherrschenden Programmiersprache COBOL in der Öffentlichkeit ein zunehmend negatives Image an: die Systeme und Applikationen gelten als veraltet, unmodern, unsicher und deswegen als zu risikoreich, sie aufrechtzuerhalten. Diese eher abwertende Sichtweise wird zudem begünstigt durch neue Technologieansätze wie Big Data, Cloud Computing, Mobile- und Sozial Business Technologien. Trotz des vermeintlichen negativen Stigma verwenden aber nach einer aktuellen Schätzung von IBM immer noch rund 55 Prozent aller weltweiten Enterprise-Anwendungen bei Banken und Versicherungen in der einen oder anderen Weise einen COBOL-Code. Geld am Automaten abheben oder überweisen, bei Amazon, Zalando oder eBay einkaufen – am Ende ist es fast immer COBOL-Code, der die Kontostände ausgleicht. Die Flugbuchung, die Sitzplatzreservierung im ICE etc. – ohne dass wir es merken, haben der Mainframe und seine COBOL-Anwendungen immer noch großen Einfluss auf unser tägliches Leben.

Wachsende Probleme durch Digitale Transformation

Nicht zu leugnen ist aber auch, dass die IT-Industrie gegenwärtig einen rasanten Wandel durchläuft, bei dem gerade die digitale Transformation von Geschäftsprozessen sowie die Modernisierung und Optimierung der IT- Infrastruktur bezogen auf neue Technologietrends wie Mobility, Social Business und BYOD eine zentrale Rolle spielen. Auch wenn die Mainframe-Umgebung als operationskritische Plattform hierbei nach wie eine Rolle spielen kann, stellt die Einführung agiler Entwicklungsmodelle und steigende Anforderungen an die Flexibilität der Hardware bestehende Konzepte vor Probleme, denn an der der stetigen Wartung, Aktualisierung und Weiterentwicklung von systemrelevanten Mainframe-Applikationen führt auch sowohl aus technischer als auch fachlicher Sicht kein Weg vorbei.

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Viele der Themen sowie der damit verbundenen Herausforderungen sind nicht neu, schließlich beschäftigen sich die IT-Branche  seit der Entwicklung des Internets vor 20 Jahren bereits mit dem Prozess der Digitalisierung und den Folgen, die sie hervorruft. Neu ist hingegen ist die Geschwindigkeit, mit der die teils disruptiven neuen Technologien wie Mobility und Connectivity, Cloud Computing, Sozial Media und Big Data Analytics, neue Geschäftsmodelle, Prozesse und Wertschöpfungsketten entstehen lassen. Bedenkt man dann noch, dass ehemalige Start-ups wie Amazon, Google, Spotify, ebay oder booking.com, die ohne die Zwänge historisch gewachsener Unternehmenskulturen und Strukturen agil neue Geschäftsmodelle in einem etablierten Markt platzieren und als branchenfremde Unternehmen in die Märkte der etablierten Platzhirsche eindringen, wird schnell klar, dass die Letztgenannten und ihre IT-Abteilungen unter starkem Zwang stehen, ihr unternehmerisches Handeln zu überdenken, und ihre bestehenden Geschäftsmodelle den sich verändernden Erwartungen, Bedürfnissen und Verhaltensschema der Kunden anzupassen und weiterzuentwickeln.

Zwangsläufig stellt sich dabei dann immer wieder die zentrale Frage: Wie kann man bestehende Geschäftsmodelle samt vorhandenen Geschäftsregeln und Applikationen in neue Systeme einbringen, die flexibel, dynamisch und web-orientiert sind?

Die Unternehmensführung erwartet von der IT, dass die Business Applikationen nicht mehr isoliert voneinander ablaufen, sondern das Produktion, betriebliche Abläufe und Kunden in einer einzelnen, integrierten Lösung in die Wertschöpfungskette eingebunden werden. Die Fertigung möchte spezifisch auf den Kundenwunsch abgestimmt produzieren, das Marketing will personalisierte Produktempfehlungen abgeben und viele Unternehmen bereiten sich zudem auf die Herausforderungen durch die Industrie 4.0 vor, die beispielsweise vorausschauende Wartung ermöglicht. Dazu müssen allerdings die unterschiedlichen Backend-Systeme wie die Kundendatenbank und das Enterprise Resource Planning, die Analyse-Tools im Marketing und das SAP miteinander verknüpft sein.

In vielen Unternehmen hingegen ist die IT ist im Laufe der Jahre zu einer technologisch heterogenen Applikationslandschaft herangewachsen, die zwar immer wieder aktualisiert, ergänzt und erweitert – mit den unterschiedlichsten Technologien – von COBOL, Microsoft VB, Java oder C# bis hin zu Standardpaketen wie SAP. Doch eben diese verschiedenen Technologien verhindern oftmals den Aufbau eines integrierten Systems. Es existiert ein Mosaik an Applikationen mit einer Vielzahl von Anwendungen, Datenbanken und komplexen Schnittstellen, die Prozessstörungen verursachen können.

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Revolution vs. Evolution – welcher Ansatz ist der Richtige?

Wie modernisiert man nun also seine Applikationslandschaft – verfolgt man den revolutionären Ansatz mit einer kompletten Neuentwicklung oder der Einführung von Standardapplikationen, oder ist eine evolutionäre Anwendungsmodernisierung der eigenen Individualsoftware der bessere Weg?

Die radikale Lösung mit einer kompletten Neuentwicklung einer über Jahrzehnte gewachsenen Kernapplikation, die einen Millionenwert an fachlicher Businesslogik darstellt? Dazu fehlen selbst Banken die Zeit und die Ressourcen, außerdem sind mit einem solchen Vorgehen viele Risiken und immense Kosten verbunden. Der Umstieg z.B. auf ein neues Core-Banking System im Bankenbereich kann ohne weiteres Kosten im zweistelligen Millionenbereich Bereich nach sich ziehen, angesichts immer knapper werdender IT-Budgets und wachsendem Zeitdruck keine wirkliche Alternative.

Eine wesentlich kostengünstigerer und auch sicherer Weg ist die Anwendungsmodernisierung unternehmenskritischer Applikationen, bei dem dank einer evolutionären Vorgehensweise nicht nur der Wert der Anwendung erhalten wird, sondern diese kontinuierlich mit der geforderten Flexibilität und Agilität weiter entwickelt und optimiert wird.

Aufgrund unterschiedlicher Modernisierungsansätze, sollten zunächst die Ziele, die man erreichen will, genau formuliert werden:

  • Kosteneinsparungen

Durch einen Umstieg auf kostengünstigere Plattformen und den Einsatz von Open-Source-Technologien lassen sich Betriebskosten signifikant reduzieren – in der Spitze um über 70 Prozent.

  • Produktivität & Time-to-Market

Mithilfe moderner Entwicklungsumgebungen und entsprechender Tools (bspw. Versions- Test- und Releasemanagement) kann die Produktivität gesteigert und gleichzeitig das Risiko minimiert werden. Das fördert eine schnellere Umsetzung neuer Ideen und stellt die Akzeptanz der Nutzer sicher.

  • Wiederverwendbarkeit & Zukunftsfähigkeit vorhandener COBOL Anwendungen

Operative Betriebsrisiken minimieren sich z.B. in Bezug auf Know-how, Technologie, Sicherheitslücken und Kosten. Aktuelle technologische Standards schaffen darüber hinaus die Basis für eine schnelle Reaktion auf neue Anforderungen (z.B. Regulatorik).

Entscheidet man sich für die Modernisierung der Infrastruktur, ist im Falle von auf dem Host betriebenen Anwendungen oft ein Rehosting der Applikationen sinnvoll. Beim Rehosting verlagert man die Anwendung(en) auf eine andere kostengünstere Plattform in der dezentralen Welt (UNIX, Linux oder Windows), ohne Änderung der Funktionalität. Der Kern der Enterprise-Applikationen bleibt grundsätzlich erhalten, also die Business-Logik, wie sie beispielsweise in COBOL- oder PL/1-Code implementiert ist.

Möchte man einen ganzheitlichen Ansatz realisieren, um eine bessere Zusammenarbeit der einzelnen Bereiche (Entwicklung, Qualitätssicherung, Operating) zu erreichen und so die Qualität, die Effizienz und den Software-Entwicklungszyklus für den Mainframe verbessern, so ist die Realisierung einer DevOps Strategie für MainframeUmgebungen der richtige Ansatz. Eine solche Strategie hilft, die Fehlerquote bei neuen Produktversionen zu verringern, die Bereitstellung neuer Anwendungen zu beschleunigen und den Zeitraum für das Beheben kurzzeitiger Störungen zu minimieren.

Ist die Wiederverwendung der bestehenden Geschäftsregeln und Anwendungen in neuen Systemumgebungen der dezentralen Welt, die flexibel, dynamisch und web-orientiert sind, das Ziel, muss die COBOL-Softwareentwicklung vom Komfort aktueller integrierter Entwicklungsoberflächen (IDEs) wie Visual Studio oder Eclipse profitieren. Der größte Vorteil liegt aber wahrscheinlich in der Möglichkeit, innerhalb einer einzigen IDE COBOL-Legacy-Code mit neueren, etwa in Java geschriebenen Projekten zusammenzubringen. So werden hybride Lösungen möglich, bei denen beispielsweise das COBOL-Backend mit einem Java-, RCP- oder Web-Frontend kombiniert werden.

In den kommenden Wochen werden wir hierzu verschiedene Szenarien der Anwendungsmodernisierung und ihre Vorteile näher erläutern.