Word up – Micro Focus and Project Read

Being able to read this blog isn’t a given. The ProLiteracy group believe up to 29% of all US adults over 16 only read at an eighth grade level. Digital Marketing Director Emily Evangelista talks about a fulfilling CSR give-back day. Read on:

Being able to read this blog isn’t a given. The ProLiteracy group believe up to 29% of all US adults over 16 only read at an eighth grade level.

Let’s read right

As with many national problems, help lies at a local level and there’s some great grassroots work out there. Perhaps that’s why Micro Focus Project Manager Stephanie Leavitt, a long-time volunteer with Project Read nominated them to benefit from the Micro Focus Corporate Social Responsibility program. We align our charitable giving with local projects – and this was a great example.

This Utah-based initiative focuses exclusively on adult literacy and numeracy, two skills most of us take for granted. Literacy is writing a résumé and communicating online, pre-requisites of getting a job and supporting families. Adult literacy issues cost the US economy around $225bn every year.

It’s also a simple pleasure that the 36 million adults who read like the average 3rd grader all miss out on. No Catcher in the Rye, or any of my fave books, such as The Anarchist Cookbook. Insert your favorite.


We helped!

So our Provo office was happy to swing in behind Project Read by donating books and school supplies. More than 50 people helped to collect more than 148 books, lots of supplies as well as a cash donation of more than $2700, which Micro Focus happily matched.


Great work, guys!

Emily Evangelista

Director of Digital Marketing





Change – the only constant in IT?

Change is a constant in our lives. Organizations have altered beyond recognition in just a decade, and IT is struggling to keep pace. Managing change efficiently is therefore critical. To help us, Derek Britton set off to find that rarest of IT treasures: technology that just keeps on going.


A recent survey of IT leaders reported their backlog had increased by a third in 18 months. IT’s mountain to climb had just received fresh snowfall. While a lot is reported about digital and disruptive technologies causing the change, even the mundane needs attention. The basics, such as desktop platforms, server rooms, are staples of IT on a frequent release cadence from the vendors.

Platform Change: It’s the Law

Moore’s Law suggests an ongoing, dramatic improvement processor performance, and the manufacturers continue to innovate to provide more and more power to the platform and operating system vendors, as well as the technology vendor and end user communities at large. And the law of competition suggests that as one vendor releases a new variant of operating system, chock full of new capability and uniqueness, their rivals will aim to leapfrog them in their subsequent launch. Such is the tidal flow of the distributed computing world. Indeed, major vendors are even competing with themselves (for example Oracle promotes both Solaris and Linux, IBM AIX and Linux, even Windows will ship with Unbuntu pre-loaded now).


Keep the Frequency Clear

Looking at some of the recent history of operating system releases, support lifespans and retirements, across Windows, UNIX and Linux operating systems, a drumbeat of updates exists. While some specifics may vary, it becomes quite clear quite quickly that major releases are running at a pulse rate of once every 3 to 5 years. Perhaps interspersed by point releases, service packs or other patch or fix mechanisms, the major launches – often accompanied by fanfares and marketing effort – hit the streets twice or more each decade[1]. (Support for any given release will commonly run for longer).

Why does that matter?

This matters for one simple reason: Applications Mean Business. It means those platforms that need to be swapped out regularly house the most important IT assets the organization has, namely the core systems and data that run the business. These are the applications that must not fail, and which must continue into the future – and survive any underlying hardware change.

Failing to keep up with the pace of change has the potential of putting an organization at a competitive disadvantage, or potentially failing internal or regulatory audits. For example, Windows XP was retired as a mainstream product in 2009. Extended support was dropped in 2014. Yet it has 11% market share in 2016 source, according to netmarketshare.com (add the link). Therefore, business applications running on XP are, by definition, out of support, and may be in breach of internal or regulatory stipulations.

Time for a Change?

There is at least some merit in considering whether the old machinery being decommissioned would be a smart time to look at replacing the old systems which ran on those moribund servers. After all, those applications been around a while, and no-one typically has much kind to say about them except they never seem to break.

This is one view, but taking a broader perspective might illustrate the frailties of that approach –

  • First, swapping out applications is time-consuming and expensive. Rewriting or buying packages costs serious money and will take a long time to implement. Years rather than months, they will be an all-consuming and major IT project.
  • Questionable return is the next issue – by which we mean we are swapping out a perfectly good application set, for one which might do what is needed (the success rate of such replacement projects is notoriously low, failure rates of between 40 and 70% have been reported in the industry) And the new system? It is potentially the same system being used by a competitor.
  • Perhaps the most worrying issue of all is that this major undertaking is a single point in time, but as we have already stated, is that it is a cyclical activity. Platforms change frequently, so this isn’t a one-time situation, this is a repeated task. Which means it needs to be done cost-efficiently, without undue cost or risk.


Keep on Running

And here’s the funny thing, while there are very few constants in the IT world (operating systems, platforms, even people change over time), there are one or two technologies that have stood the test of time. COBOL as a language environment is the bedrock of business systems and is one of the very few technologies offering forward compatibility to ensure the same system can work from the past on today’s – and tomorrow’s – platforms.

Using the latest Micro Focus solutions, customers can use their old COBOL-based systems, unchanged, in today’s platform mix. And tomorrow too, whatever the platform strategy, those applications will run. In terms of cost and risk, taking what already works and moving it – unchanged – to a new environment, is about as low risk as it can get.

Very few technologies that have a decades-old heritage can get anywhere close to claiming that level of forwards-compatibility. Added to which no other technology is supported yesterday, today and tomorrow on such a comprehensive array of platforms.

The only constant is change. Except the other one: Micro Focus’ COBOL.

Platform3[1] Source: Micro Focus research

For those about to code – we salute you!

The #COBOLrocks TechCasts are good to go. But what are they, why should you care – and do they rock? Our #COBOLrock journalist, #Rockin’ Mel Burns, has the skinny….

I think the word ‘rocking’ is used too often and in the wrong places. Rocking could mean anything and don’t bother asking Google. But the #COBOLrocks TechCasts rock. And this blog explains why.

So what makes something rock? Adding hashtags to random words doesn’t make them rock. #FlatTire. #Toothache. #MichaelBolton. Does application development rock? Maybe not. So – can COBOL really rock? Hmm. ‘Alright! A 40-year-old COBOL banking application! Lemme hear you say yeah!’ Hmm again.

But suppose you used that same code to create something really ‘out there’ that performed way beyond what the original programmers imagined? How would you feel if you could show the world what innovation really looks like – and all you needed to know was how to do it?

It’s not about the app

The #COBOLrocks TechCasts are six, weekly, technical webinars that last for 30 minutes each. That’s not especially rocking. But it’s not what they are. It’s what they help you do.  You could…

  • Open the door to application modernization. (That kind of rocks.)
  • Take a decades-old application to mobile.
  • Reuse COBOL code to create a fresh new UI. (Closer to rocking.)
  • Boost efficiency with an integrated development toolset. (Ooh. Rocky.)
  • Enhance the COBOL developer experience with a modern IDE.
  • Free you to do the innovative stuff you actually like doing. (Boom! We have rock.)


What rocks?

So, for COBOL application developers it’s not the TechCasts themselves that kick you-know-what.  It’s the doors they open and the opportunities they offer.

This rocks

The bottom line is that for devs, rocking is all about bringing new functionality to the old but gold. It’s about showing what you can do and achieving way more than the original coders could have imagined.

Because for all their great riffs, Deep Purple were no help in modernizing COBOL applications and Keef can’t make your life easier by enabling you to do things better and faster.

So sign up for the #COBOLrocks TechCasts, post your questions on Twitter using @MicroFocus and the #COBOLasks hashtag, or ask the Micro Focus community and let’s get your COBOL applications rocking like Saturday night, every day of the week.

#MFSummit2016: product roadmaps and Tube maps

In the digital economy, our customers are contending with unprecedented user demand and an explosion of information to supply. We’re helping them build, operate and secure core IT services by building bridges between what works today and what is needed tomorrow. Here’s a personal reflection of my time at #MFSummit2016 in London.

To reach Prince Philip House, the venue for the inaugural Micro Focus customer conference, I had the choice of six different Tube lines. No wonder frequent users talk about the ‘complexity, cost and confusion’ of the London Underground.

Those problems end for most commuters when they get to work. For many of our customers, that is when they begin. As I explained in my keynote speech, innovation is both the culprit and the solution.

Recent disruptive technologies, including web, Cloud and mobile, are increasing opportunity and complexity in equal measure. Streamlining a process or delivering a new IT service, expanding core platforms, embracing new application technology, overhauling user interfaces, implementing new security controls … they all improve the customer experience while confusing the picture for the organisations.

Harry Beck knew how to express complicated systems in an attractive, linear way. So we drew inspiration from his finest work to map the scale of the complexity, cost and confusion facing our customers.


Platform alteration?

But these are only the known knowns. Like the London Underground, new lines are inevitable. So our first post-merger, cross-portfolio conference was a good opportunity to assess the challenges and set out our strategy to scale them. It was, after all, a summit.

Much of today’s business innovation is driven by consumer demand for the rapidly-evolving supply of information. These days we are all IT consumers with heightened expectations around access to refined information wherever we are, from our preferred device.

Meeting that demand adds to the complexity of already convoluted processes and the creation of confusing, disparate, heterogeneous systems. The cost is a given. These elements makes delivering effective innovation increasingly difficult just as demand is increasing.

But it can be done. Micro Focus enables its customers to innovate faster with lower risk by enabling them to embrace new technology while building on what already works, in essence bridging the old and the new.

So what does that mean for our customers? Put simply, we have assembled a portfolio focused on three primary capabilities; to build, operate and secure business-critical systems of applications and infrastructure.


Our promise to customers is that they can innovate faster with lower risk. That means building the applications that meet the needs of the business today and tomorrow, operating data centers and business services with the best balance of cost, speed and risk and securing their data against the latest threats.

In summary

In his pre-conference blog, Andy King’s promise to delegates is that a visit to #MFSummit2016 would put them in a better position to navigate the challenges of business and IT change. The message seems to have resonated.

“As an application modernization consultant, I fully agree with the Micro Focus “bridging the old and the new” vision. Their Build technology is especially impressive and helps us deliver greater value, more quickly, to our customers”, Mike Madden, Director, Legacy IT.


What does a good IT Skills strategy look like?

Jackie Anglin from Micro Focus reflects on a recent SHARE.org IT Skills webinar. In part 2 of this series Lonnie Emard – IT-ology President and David Rhoderick, Manager of IBM z Systems Competitive Project Office share their thoughts on what they heard.

My last blog recapped a Micro Focus IT Skills webinar, during which invited industry experts joined the Micro Focus team to debate the IT Skills issue. Here, Lonnie EmardIT-ology President and David Rhoderick, Manager of IBM z Systems Competitive Project Office, offer their thoughts on the discussion.

So, David and Lonnie, how does an organization build an appropriately skilled workforce?

David“Look for people who can really make a long-term difference to the company – and think about who’s leaving in the next five years. That equates to about 10,000 hours, or the amount of time it takes to become expert in a particular skill. Also, look at the way tools are evolving. We don’t need green-screen programmers – we need people who can understand which tools to use for the right job and then use them effectively.”

LonnieAt Blue Cross – BCBS of South Carolina is a big partner of IBM and Micro Focus – we realized that an organization who would do the right things to create talent acquisition development and retention programs around COBOL and around mainframe, around enterprise systems, is that in the future we couldn’t solve this problem by ourselves. 

The Blue Cross model is about creating the strategy that Derek mentioned, understanding what you’re about and appreciating your skills and talents. Certainly, most of the large companies still running enterprise systems and IBM servers must pass down a set of knowledge and skills for repurposing as a ‘master and apprentice’ model. That worked tremendously well for us. At the same time, what we do internally has to be complemented with greater external access and reach.”

To the second question: “How does technology play its part in the IT skills challenge?”

David“The mainframe is evolving in parallel with the wider business picture: mobile technology, Internet of Things, new workloads that mesh with the mainframe. We at IBM are active in connecting new technologies to the backend. People find new technologies like JSON easy to do. We’ve had web services, we’ve had XML, all of these newer, open standard capabilities. It should be easy for someone familiar with this style of programming to work with a mainframe. And clearly there are very strong, sophisticated DevOps tools.” 

LonnieWhen technology is this expansive it can become confusing and complex. Everybody wants a ‘one size fits all’ answer to every technology solution in every industry and that’s just not realistic. So part of what we’re doing is to change the message out in the community.  An example is cutting a COBOL video to prove young people are not thinking, “Hey, [I] don’t want to work in that environment!”

“I understand what we’re trying to accomplish with IT. That’s our goal. I’s not about having a computer science degree, but being applied in all facets of the business. Now you’ve got somebody who’s legitimately impactful in their work. That’s the kind of skills challenge I think we’re seeing. The answer is to put that interdisciplinary piece together.” 


The last question focused on the long term solution. Derek asked “Doesn’t the skills issue highlight the gap between skills being taught in schools and those demanded in the commercial world?”

David“Well I think, first of all, the solution is a long-term view of your IT strategy. Clearly a long-term mainframe strategy is crucial for any company – – banks, insurance companies, whoever – still anticipating huge, growing volumes of transactions and queries with the need to be increasingly responsive and agile. 

My advice is to have a long-term strategy for hiring, and to work with universities.  As Lonnie said, it is crucial that the people consuming the skills are brokering and collaborating with the sector producing them, along with parties like IBM who try to make it all happen.”

Lonnie“That has been the magic behind the collaboration of ITology – companies must understand where they’re headed and what that means in terms of an alignment of skills.  We’ve found a resonance that almost every job has a technology underpinning. The messages we talked about earlier are key to this whole thing in terms of a long-term solution.”


In summary

It was a terrific to get such valuable insights from industry experts. Do you agree with their comments?  To listen to the full webinar, go here.  For more information on the Enterprise skills question, visit our page.

Achieve peak performance at #MFSummit2016

The inaugural Micro Focus cross-portfolio summit opens this week. Andy King, General Manager for UK and Ireland offers his insights as to what to expect from the program.

This is a big week for myself and Micro Focus. On Wednesday, I raise the curtain on the future of our new company and our products for the customers who want us to take them into tomorrow.

Since the 2014 merger with the Attachmate Group, we have become one company operating two product portfolios across six solution areas. The single aim is to meet our customers’ mission-critical IT infrastructure needs with enterprise-grade, proprietary or open source solutions.

But what does that mean in reality? We are all about to find out.

#MFSummit2016: Current challenge, future success is our first cross-portfolio conference. The format mixes formal sessions and face-to-face opportunities, informative overviews with deep-dive, issue-specific questioning. It is a first chance to check out the roadmaps, and share experiences with our experts.

The focus is firmly on interaction; product specialists and fellow customers will be there to discuss your business and IT change issues. Set your itinerary to get maximum value from the day. The 12 sessions are split into three broad themes.


Build. Operate. Secure.

Whether your IT issues span every area of build, operate and secure, or are confined to one or two, Micro Focus has it covered with a diverse range of products and solutions that will help to meet the challenges of change. I’ve selected three sessions to illustrate the point.


Dave Mount, UK Solutions Consulting Director presents an Introduction to Identity, Access and Security. Dave’s view is that understanding and managing identity enables better control of internal and external threats. He illustrates how our solutions can help our customers better understand and manage these threats. Find out how from 11 to 11.30pm.


From 1.30 to 2.20 pm David Shepherd, Solutions Consultant, Micro Focus and Stephen Mogg, Solutions Consultant SUSE discuss how Micro Focus and SUSE could help customers meet escalating storage requirements and costs with secure, scalable, highly-available and cost-effective file storage that works with your current infrastructure. If that would help you, then check out The Race for Space: File Storage Challenges and Solutions.


Immediately after that, our COBOL guys, Scot Nielsen, Snr Product Manager and Alwyn Royall, Solutions Consultant, present Innovation and the Next Generation of COBOL Apps. It’s a demo-led look at the future that show the way forward for modernising COBOL application development and deployment in new architectures. So if you are ready for new innovation from older applications, get along to see that between  2.20 to 3.10 pm.

Networking opportunities?

Of course. Whether you are enjoying refreshments, post-event drinks – or your complementary lunch – alongside industry representatives, product experts and customers, visiting the pods for demos or roadmap walkthroughs, then the whole day is a refreshingly informal way to resolve your technical questions or business challenges. Alternatively, ask your question of the expert panel at the Q & A session at 3.45 to 4.15 pm.

PH House

In summary

Our promise to delegates is that after a visit to #MFSummit2016 they will be in a better position to navigate the challenges of business and IT change.

Wherever you are in your IT strategy, Micro Focus solutions enable our customers to innovate faster with less risk and embrace new business models. #MFSummit2016 is our opportunity to show you which solutions will work for you, where – and how.

Sounds attractive? You’ll really like our stylish venue, Prince Philip House. It is handy for Piccadilly, Charing Cross and St James’s Park Tube stations. Attendance is free, but book here first.

I’ll be speaking from 9.30. See you there?

SHARE-ing is caring

SHARE began as the first-ever enterprise IT community user group back in 1955 and is still going strong. The upcoming San Antonio event looks certain to be another great success. Here’s a sneak preview of the event and agenda.


Since 1955 SHARE has provided education, networking opportunities and influence for the Enterprise Information Technology Community. It’s still voluntary and for 61 years its mission has remained steadfast; at its core it’s all about professional networking, Mainframe technology, education, professional growth and growing a strong community of like-minded technologists. And just like Mainframe technology, it’s moved with the times – check out the cool new look website complete with Social Media integration and you’ll see what I mean.

SHARE new look

The Dev is in the detail. Mainframe and COBOL AppDev

As proud members of the Mainframe and COBOL community Micro Focus has maintained a steady presence at SHARE events over the years. We’re now a bigger company that boasts SUSE Linux in our portfolio but does that make the event any less important for us? Absolutely not –both Micro Focus and SUSE will be at upcoming San Antonio event in March.


We’ve spoken a lot recently about the digital age and how (and often contrary to popular perception) this is underpinned by so-called ‘legacy’ technology. SHARE provides a great opportunity to explore modern Enterprise computing challenges and how the mainframe world continues to meet them head on. This year SHARE has its own dedicated DevOps track, signalling the importance of this discipline as a topic in the ongoing Mainframe debate.  My colleague Ed Airey is looking forward to hosting his DevOps session ‘The Dev is in the detail: Appdev, DevOps and the IBM Mainframe’ and hopes to see many delegates join in to discuss how that discipline is shaping up. In his own words Ed explains: “We always look forward to the SHARE event as a highlight in the mainframe calendar. We are delighted not only to participate in the sessions and the exhibition hall, but also to present our mainframe solution to the SHARE community. Our focus this year on DevOps is in step with growing interest in this topic from the SHARE delegates”

Skills, Education, Rockhopper and Emperor

IT Skills too will be high on the agenda, after all Skills and Education is a core SHARE mission that we jointly spoke about on an IT skills webinar recently.  This year as a bigger Micro Focus we are particularly excited to be going as the value of Linux for enterprise workloads and new app innovation is sure to be the talk of the town.

Linux, at SHARE, has become a consistent topic of interest for its delegates.  IBM’s recent LinuxOne announcement and continued investment in Linux systems will certainly capture attention as well.  The SUSE team will be highlighting their recent capabilities including expanded enterprise grade scalability for core applications. For Enterprise IT shops interested in understanding how to implement Linux for new Mainframe app innovation, SHARE San Antonio won’t disappoint.

mainframe techies

Is it just for the Mainframe and COBOL Developer community?

Absolutely not.  The increasingly popular EXECUforum takes place for industry and commercial executives to come together, discuss key challenges and solutions, and share experiences too. IT Decision makers, Analysts and visionaries will all be there discussing challenges like Big Data, Analytics, Mobile, Skills, Productivity and the highly relevant DevOps methodology.  Micro Focus panellist Derek Britton comments; We are delighted to join the EXECUforum discussion panel this year. Our clients are driving towards DevOps as a means for improved application delivery, and we are helping them in a variety of ways to accelerate their implementation. We are only too pleased to be part of the discussion at SHARE”

San Antonio here we come…

We’re hoping many of our Mainframe and COBOL friends will be going too. Our brilliant #DevDay events are an ongoing testament to the value that face-to-face events bring to the Enterprise Tech community. Please stop by our booths to say hello to the Micro Focus and SUSE team who will be very keen to hear about your experiences. We’d also be honoured to see you at our sessions:

Our SUSE specific sessions:

What’s New with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for z Systems (see session details and add to your agenda here)

SUSE Manager at Large Scale (see session details and add to your agenda here)

DevOps specific sessions:

The Dev is in the detail: Appdev, DevOps and the IBM Mainframe (see session details and add to your agenda here)

DevOps:  Cultural Mindset (see the EXECUForum agenda here)

See you there, whether you’re planning to attend for a day, or the whole week…..

CVuJ_79UkAA1OOO.jpg large

10 ways to boost COBOL application development

What would really make a difference to your working life as a developer? Faster coding? Better productivity? Easier ways for new developers to work with unfamiliar languages? Perhaps all of these. Here are 10 ways that Micro Focus Visual COBOL application development tool can really help make your job easier and faster, with fewer errors and much higher productivity.

What do COBOL developers want?

1.    Faster coding

If you want the job done quicker, you need the right appdev tools to make it happen. You can’t go wrong if your toolset is designed specifically to give the best COBOL experience. Combine them with Visual Studio and Eclipse to maintain, develop and modernize your COBOL apps. These two IDEs set the benchmark for software development. You’ll be more productive than you’ve ever known.

Editing code in Visual Studio, with Visual COBOL 2015 Editor
Editing code in Visual Studio, with Visual COBOL 2015 Editor

2.    Fewer coding errors

Compile errors often happen because of missing or incorrect punctuation, and misspellings. These kind of mistakes are far too easy to make, aren’t they? Background compilation makes it easier to avoid typos, as it immediately picks up on them so you can correct as you compile. Goodbye to hundreds of errors, hello to cleaner code.

Eclipse enhanced error markers and copybook dependency view
Eclipse enhanced error markers and copybook dependency

3.    Create modern user interfaces

Need to build an attractive, modern UI? It’s easy with COBOL. You can develop a .NET WPF or Java Swing application, and use the speedy design tools in Visual Studio and Eclipse. You can quickly deliver a new mobile application user interface using existing COBOL code, by working with HTML-5 design tools. Create your own here.

Create your own mobile service with our AirMiles Calculator demo
Create your own mobile service with our AirMiles Calculator demo

4.    Easier Object Oriented development

COBOL now has a rich set of Object Oriented (OO) extensions that are ideal for OO development and interfacing to your current procedural code. This means you can work in .NET or the Java Virtual Machine without having to write all your OO code in Java or C#. Learn more about OO programming with this infographic.

5.    Faster codebase search

Finding where to make a change in code can sometimes take ages. Developers get more done if they can search the codebase faster. As well as quick find and a regular expression search across your source files, you can benefit from context sensitive search, which tells you where a field is referenced or modified – all at the click of button. See how easy it is. Take our interactive screen test now to see COBOL development before and after, in Windows or Unix. Take screen test now

COBOL Source Information output from Visual Studio showing all occurrences of file IO usage within a program
COBOL Source Information output from Visual Studio showing all occurrences of file IO usage within a program

6.    Speedier number crunching

You can now use COBOL inside the same popular toolset that so many developers use. This means Java or .NET developers will have a much easier time picking up COBOL. It can take just a matter of hours. After that, you’re likely to create some converts as others see how good the COBOL engine is at crunching reams of data.

7.    Predicts what you’re typing

When you’re dealing with many lines of code in your COBOL apps, it’s sometimes difficult to remember field names and sections – you could have hundreds to choose from. With an easy to use tool which predicts what you’ve started typing, it doesn’t matter if you can only remember part of a data name.

8.    Shorter lines of code

.NET and Java already include vast frameworks of code you can reuse in your own app, saving you time and trouble. Need to display a message box, perform date arithmetic or display a localized message? What might have taken pages of code before, you can now do in just a few lines.

9.    Evolves to keep up with the latest

COBOL is still around for a very good reason. Application development teams must bring apps bang up to date with industry standards and this can be done easily with the right application development tools. With rich OO extensions, and XML, SQL and Unicode features, your team will be able to adhere with minimal effort.

Modern COBOL development in Eclipse
Modern COBOL development in Eclipse

10.    Works with other languages

Visual Studio and Eclipse support dozens of different languages from open source to mainstays like C++, Java, VB.NET and C#. When you’re working in .NET or the JVM, you can debug COBOL and any other language simultaneously.

Boost your productivity today with a free trial

Can’t wait to make your life easier and boost COBOL application development? Take your free 30-day Micro Focus Visual COBOL trial. All you need to do is click the link below and complete the form. You can choose from 4 Visual COBOL product trials:

  • Visual COBOL for Visual Studio
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – Windows®
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – SUSE
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – Red Hat

Download now and discover Visual COBOL’s easy-to-use developer toolset. Try now.

Hungry for more? See Reveal a more youthful side to your COBOL code – 12 ways to make it happen here

How many passwords do you have?

Mark Conway, Director of Product Development at Micro Focus, takes a look into Multi-factor Authentication, password security and what it all means for the developer community.

Password Proliferation….

Either they are simple and easy to crack. Or difficult to remember and get written down. They are surprisingly easy to steal. If a Windows authentication dialog pops up, how many of us would just type our password into it without thinking? Are we sure it’s not a web page displaying something that looks like a legitimate prompt but is secretly capturing input?

This isn’t news. Organizations like the Federal Government and PCI (Payment Card Industry) Security Standards Council have mandated what’s call Multi-Factor Authentication. This is often expressed as:

  • Something you know (e.g. a password).
  • Something you have (e.g. a smartcard or phone).
  • Something you are (e.g a fingerprint, or other biometric).

Passwords alone are no longer enough. We’re getting used to multi-factor through consumer sites like Google and Facebook – sometime they SMS us a PIN to use. This is multi-factor. It means that a bad guy must have intercepted your phone as well as obtained your password to get into the application ‘as you’. It’s a lot more secure. There are even some organizations which have removed passwords altogether and just rely on strong authentication.

IAS blog 2

What does this mean for Applications Developers?

Many applications over a few years old used their own user login screens. It’s pretty simple – display a dialog with username and password; look up the username in LDAP, etc. but in the Multi-Factor world it’s not so simple. Every application has to handle the myriad of different inputs and requests required – from finger prints to one-time passwords, from smart cards to image gestures. It’s just not practical, and it definitely wouldn’t be consistent from each application.

Authentication methods are evolving fast. One of the many vendors Micro Focus is working with is Nymi (nymi.com).  Their wristband device uses an ECG to authenticate (and in future it could double as fitness band).

One thing for sure is that “logging in” is going to become more involved for users which will annoy the hell out of them! Biometrics may look like a great solution, but so far nothing is 100% reliable, and a back-up is always needed. We want the burden on normal users to be as small as possible.


Some things that help:

Single Single On (SSO).

Once Authenticated, user should stay authenticated for their “session” – long enough to accomplish their tasks. Other applications should not ask the user to log in again. This means real SSO, not just synchronizing your CRM application logins with your LDAP server and sharing passwords.

Risk-based authentication.

Not all log ins are equal. Do all these scenarios carry the same risk?

  • User was logged in an hour ago, and wants to log in now to the same application, from the same location.
  • A user is logging in at 2am to an application they’ve never used before, and previously they’ve only worked office hours.
  • A user is logging on from a device (e.g. a phone), which they’ve never used before.
  • User is logging in from China, and they are already logged in from Brazil.

What we’re really talking about here is abstracting the notion of authentication & authorization from the application itself. We’ve known this is good practice for years, but just not always done it. With multi-factor it’s no longer an option.  This is a win-win situation: our applications become more secure for users and as Developers, we no longer have to care. That means I’ll never need to implement another login screen again…….

Don’t forget to find out more about the leading Internet Access and Security solutions from Micro Focus by visiting the NetIQ website

In the mainframe world, 13 into 16 does go

2015 was a busy year for big blue. Derek Britton ruminates over the last 12 months’ major events and industry chatter in the mainframe world, as we look forward to 2016 being another exciting year.

I’ve enjoyed the recent spate of articles and blogs from the team at Compuware, talking about the mainframe in an entertainingly assertive way (see here for examples). Many of us in the mainframe community share the passion and belief in the mainframe as the enterprise class IT server of choice. Indeed the positioning of the IBM z13 as the enterprise class server at the heart of the digital economy has considerable merit.

Elsewhere in the press, studies from a variety of sources (including BMC, Compuware, Syncsort and Delphix) reveal ongoing support for and usage of the mainframe environment.


While the mainframe environment is derided by some, not least those that would benefit from clients moving to an alternative environment, not all industry commentators follow that line.

The fanfare greeting the z13 last year was remarkably positive (an example from Motley Fool here) – IBM’s mainframe revenue results have followed that positive direction. Later in the year we were treated to more excitement with the release of the LinuxOne range of IBM mainframe-based Linux servers, and the recommitment to the Open Mainframe Project (with the help of SUSE).


In recent months the mainframe has recieved some upbeat and well-considered press. SD Times ran an excellent review of the mainframe world – “Are mainframes still road worthy” which talked about a buoyant, positive market (though not without its challenges). More recently still was the Forbes article, penned by Adrian Bridgwater. In this article, the premise that the mainframe is in some way outmoded (the title calls this out immediately – “How to rescue a dead mainframe programmer”) is explored and debunked. Citing some recent software announcements, the article explores two of the key focus areas for the mainframe community right now. Notably Skills and DevOps.

On skills, the challenges were clearly identified – “all the older guys who knew … mainframe systems … are retiring”. This creates an issue when, as it goes on “existing mainframe server systems are … well suited to large-scale datacentre … environments”, and therefore need to be sustained and evolved.

The article then infers that resolving the reliance on older tooling may play its part. Micro Focus agrees wholeheartedly, such that this is less of an issue than IT leaders might fear. Antiquated technology is hard to find staff to use, yet needn’t be a problem. Modern mainframe development technology is readily available which provides the same environment for mainframe teams as is being used by other developers. This unified approach provides potential cross-pollination between various development teams and has been successfully adopted by Micro Focus customers looking to extend their supply of skilled mainframe talent. One organization now has an average mainframe developer age of 26 as a result of their Micro Focus investment.

Micro Focus’ overall approach to the Mainframe and COBOL skills question is outlined here.


The other subject of the Forbes article and topic du jour: DevOps. You can’t move for DevOps discussions right now. At the next SHARE event in March 2016 –a barometer for the psyche of the mainframe world – the event now has its own DevOps track: “DevOps in the Enterprise”. As you would expect Micro Focus will be there and presenting our own DevOps session).

Vendors have arrived at the DevOps party at various times. Compuware are mentioned in the Forbes article as “empowering”, according to CEO Chris O’Malley, “Agile DevOps teams to master the mainframe”. Such facilities – in a genuine agile environment – present integration needs across a variety of 3rd party tools (not just those mentioned in the article). However any steps forward in integration and support between mainframe-centric tooling and DevOps technology is a step in the right direction. Micro Focus’ support, within its Enterprise product set, a range of agile tools, including its own Borland range (Atlas, Silk, AccuRev, StarTeam), plus Jenkins, Sonar Source etc. Integration with Endevor, SCLM or Changeman on the mainframe, takes that mantra further. Our customers are using such facilities today as the central hub for their DevOps-based mainframe delivery processes.

What this means, in simple terms, is that the challenges facing mainframers in the move to an agile process – poor interoperability, lack of productivity, inflexible testing capability, insufficient collaboration, low overall delivery velocity, inefficiency – stand a real chance of being fixed to create a meaningful improvement in throughput and flexibility. Learn more about how that happens here.


Bridgwater concludes with the forward-thinking label, “Agile mainframes”. And with the right skills and technology available, which they most certainly can be; he’s right. You can see it for yourself at SHARE or join us at a DevDay this year to witness the power of agile COBOL app development from Micro Focus.

In Sync: new survey re-assesses mainframe popularity

To succeed in a market, an organization must understand it. Micro Focus is no different. A recent Syncsort mainframe market survey made interesting reading for Derek Britton.


It’s always good to get a new market perspective. Partners, vendors and analysts all see the same entity from different angles and Micro Focus believes that clarity lies in commissioning a professional view. Within the last two years, for example, we have asked Vanson Bourne to take look at the mainframe user experience and report on the broader, general mainframe market.

Now, technology vendors Syncsort have completed their own mainframe market study and followed BMC in publishing their survey findings. It’s required reading for anyone in the mainframe market. While the Syncsort survey, Mainframe’s Role in the Big Data Ecosystem, detours slightly by looking at Big Data, it still keeps mainframe popularity and usage on the radar.



Anyone seeking clarity about the continued importance of the mainframe to big business will head straight to the survey’s key questions and answers. They will, for example, be interested to know that 69% of respondents voted the mainframe as ‘very important‘ for large-scale transaction processing while 70% ranked it even more highly for hosting mission-critical applications.

This echoes our view – and that of the BMC survey – that the mainframe remains the enterprise server of choice for the business-critical systems of large organizations.  But is it fit for the future?


Well, if a technology’s adaptability in working with more contemporary IT is a good indicator, then the answers made good reading. When assessing the mainframe’s ability to integrate with other standalone computing platforms such as Linux, UNIX or Windows, more than two-thirds – 67.4% – thought this was “important” or “very important”.

This will not surprise seasoned market analysts and those of us who regard understanding the market as part of our job descriptions. This is a connected digital world and IBM would not have invested so heavily in putting the z13 mainframe at the centre of the fully integrated hub of digital operations unless they thought this represented a safe, long-term bet.

Indeed, IBM’s recent LinuxONE announcement – the unveiling of a portfolio of hardware, software and services solutions to support an enterprise-grade Linux environment – is further evidence that Big Blue is among other notable observers in believing that the mainframe infrastructure can support growing market demand across a range of environments well into the future.


The winning trick for any analyst, either professional or casual, is to accurately predict the future. For example, the digitally-empowered world of 2015 would have been impossible to imagine only a decade ago. So will the mainframe remain relevant in 2025? Clearly, that point concerned Syncsort enough to pose the question “how long is your company planning to continue using a mainframe?” The response indicated – as Micro Focus has long predicted – a very, very distant horizon: 57.8% had “no plans to discontinue”, while those seeking to retire the mainframe within two years was less than a rounding error at 0.1%. This is consistent with overwhelming data from BMC, IBM, Micro Focus and others, where mainframe loyalty and future usage seems undiminished. The evidence for the defence makes for a strong case.


The survey went on to look at the broader question of mainframe application delivery. More than half of the respondents classified their status as “continuing to build new applications for the mainframe” or adding the qualifier that “but most are being placed on other platforms”.

What does this mean? Well, from my perspective, this represents a continued reliance on big iron systems, but with an emerging trend towards a more heterogeneous platform mix living alongside the mainframe. The immovable truth – and the key takeaway – is that additional mainframe workload is being developed by a significant proportion of clients.

So far, so good – but having removed the ‘if’ from the equation, the survey addresses the vexed issue of building these core systems.  Whether it concerns mainframe DevOps adoption or improving time to value in other ways, with different options available to facilitate the build the challenge moves on to establishing the best way of “continuing to build applications”.


Successfully managing the mainframe environment is not easy. It requires that the investment in technology is matched by the supply of skilled mainframers; in other words, resolving the widely-perceived skills crisis. The skills question was provocatively phrased, “describe your mainframe staffing needs” and the response was illuminating, with 38.5% “Anticipating a requirement for new mainframe staff in the near future”.

This was the highest single score. It was a higher percentage than those who were confident they could meet this need or without a requirement at all. Skills shortfall, issue or challenge, the IT skills question remains an open topic on the CIO agenda, albeit with – Micro Focus believes – a relatively straightforward resolution. Join us for a live skills discussion soon.


And to summarise …

Syncsort’s findings can be divided into two fundamental truths. Firstly, that the value of the mainframe environment is not in question. The second point – and a good reason for making sure the survey lands in the CIOs in tray – is that the challenges facing those tasked with continuing to deliver greater and greater business value, are real and need resolution if the key findings are to be reconciled.

But each challenge can be faced and maximum value achieved. This way, this technology will have not just a future of supporting core systems, but it can evolve to provide the innovation that every mainframe organisation needs to extract maximum value from their biggest business asset.