Come on Developers – make something super!

Visual COBOL just won big at the Tech Hero Awards – and no dodgy FIFA-style brown envelopes were required. Because this is a product that speaks for itself (and our customers help out, too…)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Or a modern development environment for re-energizing enterprise COBOL applications on distributed platforms? Actually, make that an award-winning development environment. Because as of Tuesday 19 May, the waiting was over.

Click on our Visual COBOL page. You’re looking at the winner of ‘Best Developer Tool’ at the inaugural Tech Hero Awards, hosted by UK tech publication The Inquirer. We saw off stiff competition, with the likes of Raspberry Pi, Canonical Juju, Imagination Technologies and Progress Software all adopting a fixed grin as we galloped up the steps to pick up our gong.

TechHero

 

But as we said in our gushing acceptance speech, it’s also thanks to our customers and partners who use Visual COBOL every day, the social soldiers who spread the word among the dev community and Inquirer readers who all voted for Visual COBOL. Mwah! Mwah!

So why the award?

Simply because while other companies use the word ‘innovative’ as a marketing buzzword, we build it in to Visual COBOL as a feature. The integration with Eclipse and Visual Studio gives development teams the means to re-invigorate decades-old COBOL applications with modern features and functionality. It’s innovation in action.

Every day, hundreds of organizations across the verticals use Visual COBOL to realise their new business requirements. Integrating long-established COBOL systems with funky new Java and .NET technology, our customers take their applications to new heights, using cloud and mobile computing to unlock new value. Visual COBOL is the phone box that turns a mild-mannered newspaper reporter into the man of steel.

ZAP! Acciona Trasmediterranea felt the superhero effect, slashing costs and boosting uptime by taking their ticketing system into Azure. POW! Zucchetti reused a two decade investment in COBOL systems to deliver the application codebase onto both .NET and the JVM platforms.

INQUIRER Editor Madeline Bennett said: “Micro Focus was up against tough competition in the Best Developer Tool category at The INQUIRER Tech Hero awards, going up against organisations such as Canonical and Raspberry Pi. The fact that Visual COBOL got the award is testament to the firm’s calibre in the developer environment space. And as the awards are voted for by The INQUIRER readership, with 5,000 casting their votes overall, it shows that Micro Focus customers, developers and IT professionals highly rate the firm’s products.”

 

val

But COBOL?

That’s right – COBOL. The decades-old language just picked up the 2015 award for best development tool. But COBOL is everywhere – busy running more than 85% of the world’s business transactions, $2 trillion worth of mainframe enterprise applications and supporting almost all the Fortune 100 companies’ core systems. Pretty damned super, I’d say.

And it is COBOL’s ability to not just keep the wheels of industry turning, but also to adapt and evolve over the decades that has caught the eye of the voters in Tech Hero awards. Businesses like the reliability of COBOL and developers love what they can do with Visual COBOL.

It is this new-found flexibility that is helping to reinvigorate COBOL in the eyes of the dev community; COBOL has reached the dizzy heights of 16 in the TIOBE index – yet another indicator of COBOL’s stickability and versatility. Thanks to Visual COBOL, companies with older applications can see a pathway to the future.

We’re certainly pretty heroic as far as Michael Purser, the President of Canadian application development specialists Bedford Systems, is concerned. “With our new Visual COBOL environment we can see how easy it will be to move our application onto future platforms such as mobile – a great advantage for our clients.”

underneath the mango tree

Another one for the mantelpiece

Micro Focus understands what our clients need and deliver products that meet those needs. Our customers and partners already know this – that’s why we have more than 20,000 customers across the globe. But every so often the industry recognises it too. Perhaps that is why a Micro Focus product was the first software to win the Queen’s Award for Industry. That was a COBOL product and our faith in is reflected in our continued R&D investment – currently $55m – mostly in COBOL. So anyone realising the potential of Visual COBOL today will be still seeing benefits long into the future.

We’ll be previewing the latest enhancements and success stories at our upcoming #DevDay events. Over 700 people around the globe have already attended one – so book your place if you’re interested in shaping the future of COBOL.  Not making the trip? Join the community or download a free copy of Visual COBOL integrated with Eclipse or Visual Studio here.

Lissa

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Burns

Senior Marketing Programs Manager

Why I’m running for their lives

‘Micro Focus takes Corporate Social Responsibility and charity work extremely seriously from the grass roots right up to Senior Management’ says Gemma Cuff. ‘It’s fantastic to support amazing trailblazing women doing amazing things for the world. Grace Hopper would be very proud that we embrace her mantra ‘If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission’.

When is a run, not a run? When it’s a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of women’s empowerment where it is in dangerously short supply. That’s the principle behind Run Across Congo, a vehicle for shining light, attention and focus on the region.

Why run?

I will be running on behalf of OTG, a community-based non-profit organisation. They may be small but their projects have a global reach – they certainly touched me!

We are taking an all women’s running team to Congo to support gender equality and women’s empowerment. The participants are runners, rather than athletes; they come from all over the area and are driven by their own motivations.

I was keen to support Fair Trade, go beyond the brand to address some of the issues that underpin the charity and make their work necessary. There’s more on this HERE. 

Why here?

This is an area in need of good news as much as a gesture. The region is recovering from a civil war that claimed over five million lives. The reported statistics – and ‘reported’ is the key word, here – for rape victims are around 70%, with many repeat victims.

If truth is the first casualty of war then in this conflict, women must be a pretty close second. War tactics and guerilla warfare techniques have reduced them to objects. Many, if not every mother, sister, daughter or wife has been the victim of sexual violence. It’s not easy for anyone – the average annual income is $400 p.a. and the majority of the population falls at or below the poverty level.

Meryl Marsh 2

Fighting back

But it is the personal stories that are most illustrative of the impact of the conflict. Every single person has lost at least one close family member. Despite this – or perhaps because of this – these communities are showing obduracy and this resilience is driving a significant resurgence in the coffee farming sector. This can all be built upon. It may not be much but in a country that has nothing, it represents a something.

Our efforts are addressing three key priorities:

  • Immediate medical care and reconstructive surgery for sexual violence victims
  • Monthly support for the widowed families of murdered rangers in Virunga National Park and
  • Gender Action Learning System (GALS), a community and family-focused scheme that develops the long-term business and family planning that retains sustainable farming practices and deliver reliable income.

We’re all self-funding; every dollar we raise directly supports the program work to ensure maximum impact. We all have individual campaigns and targets – check out mine HERE.

You can help

And you don’t have to run a step. Make your donations at runacrosscongo.org. We started raising funds last year and will continue up to, during and after the run. The program work will be ongoing for years. Once OTG starts a project, they remain committed to it for long-term development.

For me, I will keep running to the end. It’s not much, but as the proud people of the DRC will tell you, when you have nothing, a something is a great start.

Meryl Marsh 3

What does COBOL sound like?

On the #mainframedebate recently, people began suggesting potential theme songs for the mainframe. Jackie Anglin from Micro Focus investigates some potential theme songs for COBOL.

COBOL theme song

On the #mainframedebate recently, people began suggesting potential theme songs for the mainframe. The suggestions are all on this Spotify playlist which, sadly, doesn’t include one of the most obvious candidates.

This got me thinking that, surely, COBOL deserves a dedicated playlist as well.  After all, like music itself, this language has spanned generations and genres. And not only is it still going, it is highly relevant, in daily use and constantly being reinvented to reflect the world around it.

To extend the metaphor, some bands or artists reinvent themselves and extend their shelf lives by many decades. U2, the Stones, and Tom Jones have all managed to hang around for years and evolve with their audiences. Some bands disappear altogether and re-appear many years later for big-buck reunion gigs – the Eagles and Pink Floyd are great examples of this. Some artists demand a residual affinity that seems timeless – witness Dolly Parton wowing Glastonbury last year.

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Elvis has left the building

But COBOL first entered the public consciousness in 1959. Here are the top 10 US singles for that year.  It’s difficult to find anyone on the list with a pulse, let alone still living in the public consciousness.  Sure, Elvis is immortal – and possibly isn’t dead anyway, depending on who you believe – but Carl Dobkins Jr? Toni Fisher? Wilbert Harrison? I doubt that they are household names in their own homes.

That’s not to dismiss their contribution to popular culture, any more than I would diss Turbo Pascal, Fortran  or even FACT, the precursor to COBOL. Fortran and FACT were big in 1959 too and yet neither have survived and thrived in the way that COBOL has. But then, if the Crests  had invested $50-60m every year just as Micro Focus supports COBOL, perhaps they would still be playing 16 Candles to crammed stadiums every year.

Interstellar Overdrive

We have blogged before about how the careers of COBOL and Pink Floyd have almost run in parallel. But COBOL is even older than Piper at the Gates of Dawn. So, how can we express all the core values of COBOL – longevity, flexibility, future-proofing – as a single song?

We had a quick straw poll at the office while building our #COBOLrocks playlist – yes, it’s A Thing now – and while there were some promising suggestions, we never really nailed it. Stayin’ Alive – sure, but COBOL isn’t just surviving, it’s evolving; see also Alive – surely, Pearl Jam’s finest moment.

It’s Not Unusual, the song keeping Tom Jones’ bank manager happy, works a little better. Because there are around 200bn lines of COBOL in regular use across the globe today in government agencies, finance houses, banking, insurance and other mainframe owners. So that’s a good one.

Under Pressure was another suggestion, but that’s not so good. COBOL is future-proofed and COBOL transactions currently outnumber Google searches by 200 to one. Our business is built on COBOL and that won’t change. So, under pressure? Not from us, or our customers.

Can you do better?

When I work, I like to listen to music, and I know plenty of developers put their beats on to code to the rhythm.  Why not take a minute to download our #COBOLrocks playlist (you’ll have to create a Spotify account if you don’t have one already).What tunes best describe COBOL? Tell us and we’ll add them in.

Sign up for an upcoming Developer Day  and if you hear one of your submissions, there’s a prize with your name on it.

My own favorite? Easy: Don’t Stop Believing. I recently saw Journey in concert, with a new lead singer of course, and probably a different crowd than what they performed to 30 years ago. But their music was still great.  Like Journey, COBOL may look different these days, but there’s no harm in being reliable, dependable and giving the people what they want.  Rock on, COBOL.

cobolrocks

Selling ‘legacy’ COBOL applications in today and tomorrow’s market

Alexa Rutledge blogs about how Micro Focus helps our application provider partners maximize the lifetime value to the market with Modern COBOL.

It isn’t news to hear that a CIO’s daily challenge is to balance increasing demand from customers, while meeting boardroom expectations to control costs.  As an Independent Software Vendor (ISV), you get it—the task is becoming tougher.

The reality is that your business is to market and sell an application that is written in ‘legacy’ COBOL.   A dependable language known for its strengths of performance, accuracy, reliability and the speed in which it can be learned. Or, let’s be honest, you simply use it because you always have.

Either way, that doesn’t have to change.  Because this older, dependable language is also the ideal platform to take you – and your customers – forward.

The scene for an ISV

As an application provider, you are working in a fiercely competitive industry that offers your customers a growing range of alternative solutions. Technology changes have enabled your rivals to threaten your share of the market. But equally, the design and development advancements in COBOL provide you with enormous opportunity to surpass your competitor.

Modern COBOL is that genuine game changer.  It also happens to be more than 50 years old. So as an ISV, how can you be confident in the future of your application? And how much value does your invested IP really have? Consider this—

  1. The age and language is a non-issue. What counts are the platform and the delivery method. It’s the look and feel of the user interface and the competitive edge it creates. Consider also the cost base, legal compliance, efficiency and the ability to meet the needs and aspirations of your customers – and your ability to lead the market with innovation and agility – that count.
  2. Your IP is that of the highest quality code being able to handle 50-year old applications.  Integrating that longevity with new languages in modern development environments, such as Visual Studio, amounts to extreme value.
  3. COBOL continues to match today’s business needs and is one of the most portable languages around.  A program developed on one machine can, if no machine specific-instructions are included in the code, be run on a Windows, Unix or Linux platform.
  4. There are plenty of positive examples out there to make the case for COBOL. Both Aquilon Software and Spears boosted developer productivity to achieve faster application deployment.
  5. Opening up the channels of two-way communication through initiatives like Developer Days. These UK and US based events represent a great opportunity for us to truly see where your challenges are – an important first step towards refining the tools that will address them.

The vision for your application

Micro Focus has a clear plan for – and proven investment in – our ISVs.  We believe that we are partners united in delivering the right technology for the end user. If we are to help you realize your business goals, it is crucial that we focus on the following areas together:

Effective and Productive Development

  • Modern Integrated Development Environments (IDE) Visual Studio, Eclipse and  the Cloud
  • Cross-language, simple and efficient use of whatever languages the target application currently encompasses or should encompass going forward
  • Achieving the highest productivity levels for developers
  • The availability of a full range of application analysis and understanding tools
  • Creating the highest quality code, both ours and yours, through the growing range of tools in our portfolio
  • Industrializing the development processes to achieve efficiency and quality
  • It takes the highest level of application understanding to enable quick and agile development
  • Remote development, enables the full cycle of development, testing and deployment without the need to travel
  • Ensuring our tools offer a fast learning curve to enable quick results
  • Delivering portability: develop once, deploy anywhere

Godfrey

Supported and Reliable Deployment

We believe that you should be able to run your application on whatever platform the market demands and achieve the same levels of performance, accuracy and reliability whatever platform you choose. In addition, creating compelling new GUIs are important in winning new sales and increasing end-user satisfaction. Achieving mobile access is a key addition to your application and that Cloud and SaaS solutions will enable you to enter new geographies and markets.

Next Steps

Micro Focus can help our application provider partners maximize the lifetime value of their distinctive differentiation to the market. Your client base, requirement s and technological profile will be different to your rivals so engaging with us to discuss your specific requirements is key. And remember – your journey with COBOL is nowhere near over—it’s just about to take off.

Check out our screentest and Visual COBOL trial. We’ll be publishing a new, downloadable asset very soon. It considers COBOL from an ISV viewpoint, assesses its standing today and suitability for tomorrow, both from a marketplace and developer perspective. Finally, we take a look at our vision for COBOL through its next decade.

Can’t wait? Sign up for our value profile service. It’s where we take a look under the hood, check out what you have and see how we can help you get more value from your COBOL applications.

Alexa Rutledge

Account Manager, NA Channel Sales

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Agile Methodology Today (is mostly not very Agile)

This is not a personal judgement, but is symptomatic of being selective in how change is done in most companies. Most companies understand there to be many benefits with the adoption of agile methods in a company, but equally many would struggle to clearly state how those benefits are delivered. Without that understanding, the headlines become the detail, and initiatives are started with the headlines in mind, not the practices themselves. I hear things like this a lot:

Many companies I meet are going, or have gone, agile – but almost all of them are not.

This is not a personal judgement, but is symptomatic of being selective in how change is done in most companies. Most companies understand there to be many benefits with the adoption of agile methods in a company, but equally many would struggle to clearly state how those benefits are delivered. Without that understanding, the headlines become the detail, and initiatives are started with the headlines in mind, not the practices themselves. I hear things like this a lot:

  • “we incorporate many of the agile practices here”
  • “we do agile project management
  • “the 3-month iteration”
  • “Agile PMO”
  • “agile does away with writing down requirements

In reality, transitioning a team or whole company to agile is to immerse in it completely, but the trend is more to dip a toe in the water, or extract the elements of it which seem less disruptive to the existing methods and approaches. While it’s clear that this is a way to balance the risk and disruption of change, one of the most rewarding outcomes of the transition to agile is the thinking that is forced on people to consider which of the things they do are truly worthwhile, and which are a result only of the way they work. As Jack Welch of GE famously stated, “Willingness to change is a strength even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while”. For most organisations, transitioning to agile methodology will create this “total confusion” since it should affect almost everything they do, including not just their internal processes but right through to the way they manage their customer relationships and partnerships.

Agile is not a passing trend, or at least should not be, since its value is robust and is sustained on much more than the way an organisation sees itself – much more importantly its sustained on the way that it affects the organisation’s ability to deliver better products and services, faster, at optimal cost. The caution is that going “Selectively Agile” will not probably affect very much at all, and may result in a company resorting to other approaches or solutions having decided that agile is not for them. This would be a missed opportunity – since agile offers substantive change more than any of its predecessors have over the last 20 years, and if we refer to the market evaluations such as the Chaos manifesto, the evidence is that all of that effort, invention and innovation has not really improved the capability of the industry at all.

So while we celebrate many new ideas, achievements and innovative solutions in these awards, we should not lose sight of the truly important things that we must strategically pursue as an industry that will provide real, sustainable improvement. Continual effort to make traditional waterfall, PMO-driven or command-and-control approaches workable in today’s marketplace will surely only become harder and harder.

Chris Livesey

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Do I really need to learn Javascript?

Javascript has gone from a mechanism for adding tweaks to web-pages to a key implementation technology for building web applications, and even server back-ends via technology such as node.js.

Javascript has gone from a mechanism for adding tweaks to web-pages to a key implementation technology for building web applications, and even server back-ends via technology such as node.js.

Javascript still divides the programming community. Many C++, Java, & C# programmers find it a very uncomfortable experience: lack of type safety, a single numeric type (floating point), no real classes (it has a different inheritance model). There a various tricks to make things look like real classes, but they don’t feel natural.

Traditional programmers look with horror as experts like Douglas Crockford explain why

 return

 {

 status: true

 };

is not the same as:

 return {

 status: true

 };

 

The new generation don’t seem to have a problem with it though. But aren’t they just creating a mountain of unmaintainable code that will get quickly thrown away and re-written?

Experts around the world acknowledge Javascript has many short-comings, yet still it blunders on, unstoppable…

So what does Javascript have going for it?

Firstly, it’s the most cross-platform language – and it’s always platforms that drive languages: the mainframe drove Cobol, Unix drove C, the iPhone drives Objective-C. As devices get more powerful, more can be done locally on the device. Code that was previously on the server might now be on the device. How many languages can we genuinely get code re-use from across such diversity?

There’s a low barrier to entry – you just need a browser and a text editor. It’s also fun. Within minutes you can be playing with map controls and other cool stuff. Almost everything has a JS library.

The language is also well suited to it’s environment: e.g. manipulating the HTML DOM, and asynchronous call backs, especially for REST services returning JSON

There are ways to tame Javascript. JSLint catches many errors. Google’s JSDoc annotations, and Microsoft’s Typescript augment some type safety. Typescript is more compact, and Visual Studio has good Intellisense support, but as a product of the “evil empire” I suspect adoption may be artificially limited. Frameworks like JQuery and EXT-JS try to standardize browser behaviour.

The only way to be sure is to run it.

However, fundamentally Javascript is a run-time language. Everything is dynamic. Further, its run-time environment is a browser, or an application containing a browser, and these can behave differently. The only way you’ll know for sure if something works is to run it, and run it on lots of different browsers & devices, and keep running it even when you code doesn’t change, because something else might.

Which means the burden on testing changes completely. It cannot be an after-thought. This is where tools like Silk are extremely useful.

Atlas provides a very fluid UI. It’s a Javascript application, interoperating with the server via REST services. We test it using Silk’s State Driven Testing feature, which means we can build the tests are we build the Javascript, and then test it automatically on Chrome, IE and Firefox (various different versions).

So do you need to learn Javascript?

Yes, I think you need to take a look at it, and flawed as it is, you may get hooked. Refreshing to see that Doug Crockford has grey hair, and seems to be coping just fine.

But be prepared to get a lot more serious about testing as well…

Mark Conway

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HTML5 – A blessing for developers, a curse for quality teams

When I started tinkering around with mobile development, I found myself in a whole new world. A world that, frankly, I started to really like. Both the iOS and Android SDK environments contain controls and reusable elements that made me look like I actually knew what I was doing. Within a few hours, with the help of the good people at treehouse, I had built both an iOS and Android app that I was able to further hack and customize.

When I started tinkering around with mobile development, I found myself in a whole new world.  A world that, frankly, I started to really like.  Both the iOS and Android SDK environments contain controls and reusable elements that made me look like I actually knew what I was doing.  Within a few hours, with the help of the good people at treehouse, I had built both an iOS and Android app that I was able to further hack and customize.

As I dove further into this new mobile world, as with most development learning curves, I found myself realizing how much more I needed to learn to truly master these new platforms.  Quickly my dreams of the next great app making me billions were crushed by reality.

I then realized something, if I were to start a small company, I would need to hire experts on all the major platforms I would support.  Most likely I would need Web developers, Android developers, and iOS developers with separate code bases and specific skills that, outside of the overall flow and design, couldn’t be shared.  Sounds like a recipe for delayed products and increased costs over time.

I meet with many customers who are all across the mobile adoption spectrum ranging from “we’re thinking about this” to “we’ve got 9,000,000 users on our app.”  These customers are now starting to realize this same issue and are, or shall I say, were, struggling to fix the issue.

Enter HTML5

While the usage of HTML5 in Web based applications isn’t a new concept, what is relatively new is the usage of HTML5/Hybrid mobile applications.  To those who haven’t heard of this, HTML5/Hybrid applications have the native application container wrapped around a UI/Logic layer that is reusable HTML5 with javascript and CSS.  The thought behind this is that most of the HTML5 will be reused across all devices and browsers.  One of the better examples of an HTML5/Hybrid mobile application would be Netflix.  According to Netflix, they chose HTML5 because, “HTML5 also means that our world class UI engineers can seamlessly move between working on our website, our mobile experience, and our television-based applications.”

With HTML5, developers can support more applications with native functionality and work on the same codebase with shared skills.  According to Gartner, by 2015, 50% of the applications that would have been native in 2011 will be HTML5 applications.  To respond to the demand, HTML5/hybrid frameworks have emerged such as Phone Gap, jQuery Mobile, appMobi, and many others.  A good site to see which might be right for you is located here.

While HTML5/Hybrid applications give developers a fast track to sharing skills and delivering better products on more devices and browsers, the burden now shifts to the quality teams.

Native applications with native code targeted at the device can be individually unit tested and recorded and replayed with automation.  The UI layer was an important aspect but only used to verify functionality.

With HTML5/Hybrid applications, the shared codebase evolves itself based on the container of the client using the HTML5.  Not only do QA teams have to test the functionality as usual, but now they have to visually verify that the app looks, responds, feels, acts, and performs as it should on devices and browsers.

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As if QA teams didn’t have enough to do!

This is where Silk’s ability to do both cross-browser and cross-device testing eliminates the burden to QA teams.  Cross browser testing ensures applications look and function correctly across the major browser spectrum.  One test script that challenges the HTML5 applications and displays any anomalies visually so the QA tester and quickly isolate and identify issues.  With Mobile testing, Silk brings the same concept but instead of testing across browsers, it tests across devices.

Both these technologies give QA teams the ability to quickly create a visual test scripts, replay those tests across all supported platforms, and visually see what the end user would see ensuring that HTML5/Hybrid applications have the highest levels of quality.

Just as HTML5/Hybrid applications help customers do more with less resources in development, Silk helps QA teams respond to the increasing challenges presented by the usage of HTML5/Hybrid applications.