We Built This City on…DevOps

With a history that is more industrial than inspirational, a few eyebrows were raised when Hull won the bid to become the UK’s city of culture for 2017. While unlikely, it is now true, and the jewel of East Riding is boasting further transformation as it settles in to its new role as the cultural pioneer for the continent.  Why not? After all, cultures change, attitudes change. People’s behaviour, no matter what you tell them to do, will ultimately decide outcomes. Or, as Peter Drucker put it, Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.

As we look ahead to other cultural changes in 2017, the seemingly ubiquitous DevOps approach looks like a change that has already made it to the mainstream.

But there remains an open question about whether implementing DevOps is really a culture shift in IT, or whether it’s more of a strategic direction. Or, indeed, whether it’s a bit of both. I took a look at some recent industry commentary to try to unravel whether a pot of DevOps culture would indeed munch away on a strategic breakfast.

A mainstream culture?

Recently, I reported that Gartner predicted about 45% of the enterprise IT world were on a DevOps trajectory. 2017 could be, statistically at least, the year when DevOps goes mainstream. That’s upheaval for a lot of organizations.

We’ve spoken before about the cultural aspects of DevOps transformation: in a recent blog I outlined three fundamental tenets of embracing the necessary cultural tectonic shift required for larger IT organizations to embrace DevOps:

  • Stakeholder Management

Agree the “end game” of superior new services and customer satisfaction with key sponsors, and outline that DevOps is a vehicle to achieve that. Articulated  in today’s digital age it is imperative that the IT team (the supplier) seeks to engage more frequently with their users.

  • Working around Internal Barriers

Hierarchies are hard to break down, and a more nimble approach is often to establish cross-functional teams to take on specific projects that are valuable to the business, but relatively finite in scope, such that the benefits of working in a team-oriented approach become self-evident quickly. Add to this the use of internal DevOps champions to espouse and explain the overall approach.

  • Being Smart with Technology

There are a variety of technical solutions available to improving development, testing and efficiency of collaboration for mainframe teams. Hitherto deal-breaking delays and bottlenecks caused by older procedures and even older tooling can be removed simply by being smart about what goes into the DevOps tool-chain. Take a look at David Lawrence’s excellent review of the new Micro Focus technology to support better configuration and delivery management of mainframe applications.

In a recent blog, John Gentry talked about the “Culture Shift” foundational to a successful DevOps adoption. The SHARE EXECUForum 2016 show held a round-table discussion specifically about the cultural changes required for DevOps. Culture clearly matters. However, these and Drucker’s pronouncements notwithstanding, culture is only half the story.

Strategic Value?

The strategic benefit of DevOps is critical. CIO.com recently talked about how DevOps can help “redefine IT strategy”. After all, why spend all that time on cultural upheaval without a clear view of the resultant value?

In another recent article, the key benefits of DevOps adoption were outlined as

  • Fostering Genuine Collaboration inside and outside IT
  • Establishing End-to-End automation
  • Delivering Faster
  • Establishing closer ties with the user

Elsewhere, an overtly positive piece by Automic gave no fewer than 10 good reasons to embrace DevOps, including fostering agility, saving costs, turning failure into continuous improvement, removing silos, find issues more quickly and building a more collaborative environment.

How such goals become measurable metrics isn’t made clear by the authors, but the fact remains that most commentators see significant strategic value in DevOps. Little wonder that this year’s session agenda at SHARE includes a track called DevOps in the Enterprise, while the events calendar for 2017 looks just as busy again with DevOps shows.

Make It Real

So far that’s a lot of talk and not a lot of specific detail. Changing organizational culture is so nebulous as to be almost indefinable – shifting IT culture toward a DevOps oriented approach covers a multitude of factors in terms of behaviour, structure, teamwork, communication and technology it’s worthy of studies in its own right.  Strategically, transforming IT to be a DevOps shop requires significant changes in flexibility, efficiency and collaboration between teams, as well as an inevitable refresh in the underlying tool chain, as it is often referred.

To truly succeed at DevOps, one has to look and the specific requirements and desired outcomes:  being able to work out specifically, tangibly and measurably what is needed, and how it can be achieved, is critical. Without this you have a lot of change and little clarity on whether it does any good.

Micro Focus’ recent white paper “From Theory to Reality” (download here) discusses the joint issues of cultural and operational change as enterprise-scale IT shops look to gain benefits from adopting a DevOps model. It cites three real customer situations where each has tackled a specific situation in its own way, and the results of doing so.

Learn More

Each organization’s DevOps journey will be different, and must meet specific internal needs. Why not join Micro Focus at the upcoming SHARE, DevDay or #MFSummit2017 shows to hear for how major IT organizations are transforming how they deliver value through DevOps, with the help of Micro Focus technology.

If you want to build an IT service citadel of the future, it had better be on something concrete. Talk to Micro Focus to find out how.

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.

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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.

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#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!

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.

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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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The choice is yours – #DevDay drivers

The Micro Focus DevDay roadshow continues to attract large crowds. David Lawrence attended our latest shows to learn why it remains the must-see event for the COBOL community

#DevDay draws in the crowds

With hundreds of attendees over the past 12 months, Micro Focus DevDays continue to pack them in. Last  week’s events in New York and Toronto were no exception. This blog uncovers why so many of the global COBOL community attend our event.

We spoke with application developers from institutions, large and small, looking for solutions to build on, maintain, extend and adapt their inventory of business-critical COBOL applications to meet new business needs or opportunities. These customers view COBOL as fundamental to their respective business strategy and operations, not just for today, but into the future. These clients have, by and large, seen how extending and adapting their current proven and reliable COBOL solutions delivers more value faster, and with less risk than other strategies.

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Skilling up

One attendee we spoke with came to DevDays because of increasing new business demands on his application portfolio. This person has been looking to increase his COBOL staff to meet them. He had advertised for COBOL programmers, but it seemed there were none to be found in his market. So, he is changing his approach, and has now decided to bring in a skilled C# or Java developer and train them in-house on COBOL.

We suggested the expediency of putting these new staff members in front of a modern IDE for COBOL, one which looks and feels like the modern IDEs available for Java or C#, and is supported for both Eclipse and Visual Studio environments. Micro Focus Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer fit the bill nicely. These modern IDE’s offer advanced automation features, such as configurable, panel-based layouts, wizards, and a context sensitive editor, and, a seamless interaction with modern managed code environments (Java and/or .NET). They will be entirely familiar to those from a Java or .NET background.

Coincidentally, that topic was covered in the afternoon session which showed Micro Focus’ solutions for mainframe developers:  Enterprise Analyzer and Enterprise Developer. We heard from C# programmers who found that by using Enterprise Developer as their IDE they were productive in COBOL in less than a week.

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Go OO – ­and fast

In response to a question about working with object-oriented solutions, the audience was treated to a live demo by Micro Focus’s own Mike Bleistein. Using the standard capabilities of our development tools, Mike built an interface to a traditional relational database, using an older COBOL application. Mike used our object oriented COBOL classes to create a simple mortgage rate query application with a modern user interface, which made it more accessible and more easily used than the ‘green screen’, text-based implementation it would replace.  Such a transformation takes an hour for a simple application, a fraction of the time it would take to take to do this by hand.

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Banking on the latest capabilities

Another attendee, a major international banking client, uses our mainframe development technology. They wanted to identify a path towards implementing the latest release of our Enterprise Developer product. This release offers a more efficient Eclipse-based environment which will integrate into their existing Eclipse environment. In addition, this customer is also seeking ways to establish a more available and easily managed mainframe test environment, which is another of the Micro Focus enterprise technology offerings.

Opening up Open Systems

A developer whose organization builds and operates core COBOL systems under UNIX, said their reason for attending DevDay was driven by market demand. Their challenge is simple – how can their core business service be made available across new internet and mobile interfaces? Establishing a modern, digital interface for their clients is vital. Our experts showed the Micro Focus Visual COBOL technology, which does just that, providing insight in to how that challenge can be met, fast, at low risk.

Technology choices

We spoke with an independent software developer. Devising a new application, the developer has been exploring a range of modern development technologies for building the right ‘front end’. But when we asked them about the core business processing, they confessed “That’s a no brainer – it has to be COBOL – it’s the best tool for the job”. DevDay showed them live examples of how COBOL and newer technologies can integrate and co-exist in today’s platforms.

Micro Focus – the COBOL guys

So, what are we saying here? Simple – a great many organizations, all facing unique challenges, keep turning and returning to COBOL, and Micro Focus technology, to resolve their issues.

Micro Focus continues to invest over $60 million annually to support just about any COBOL environment our customers have run in the past and present, or will run in the future. It was great to meet many of them this week in New York and Toronto. Here’s to many more #DevDay events.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

DLblog

#DevDay Report – so what does COBOL look like now?

David Lawrence reports back from the latest Micro Focus #DevDays and what COBOL looks like these days. With Partners like Astadia it seems like anything’s possible…..including Mobile Augmented Reality! Read on.

To most people, COBOL applications probably look like this:

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and are thought to do nothing more than this:

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These applications are likely to be COBOL-based. After all, COBOL is the application language for business. With over 240 billion (with a b) lines of code still in production, the fact is that COBOL is used in thousands, if not millions, of applications that have nothing to do with finance.

It’s called the COmmon Business Oriented Language for a reason. The reason is that it was designed to automate the processing of any business transaction, regardless of the nature of the business.

Did you realize that COBOL is also widely used by municipalities, utilities and transportation companies?

At our Nashville Micro Focus DevDay event on June 21, the audience was treated to a very interesting presentation by a major American railroad organization, where they showed us how their COBOL application inventory runs their daily operations (scheduling, rolling stock management, crews, train make up and dispatch).

Earlier in the month we heard from a client who was using COBOL applications to capture, monitor and analyze game and player statistics in the world of major league baseball.

Many attendees of our COBOL and mainframe app dev community events, DevDay, are managing crucial COBOL applications as the lifeblood of their business. From managing retailers’ stock control systems, to haulage and logistics organziations’ shipments and deliveries, from healthcare, pharma and food production organizations, to major financial service, insurance and wealth management systems.

Those applications contain decades of valuable business rules and logic. Imagine if there was a way to make use of all that knowledge, by say using it to more accurately render a street diagram.

You say “Yes, that’s nice, but I already have Google Maps.” All very well and good. But what if you are a utility company trying to locate a troublesome underground asset, such as a leaking valve or short circuited, overheating power cable?

Astadia has come up with a very interesting solution that combines wealth of intelligence built into the COBOL applications that are invariably the heart and brains of most large utilities or municipalities with modern GPS-enabled devices

DevDay Boston

I had a chance to see this first hand at DevDay Boston. DevDay is a traveling exposition that features the newest offerings from Micro Focus combined with real life experiences from customers.

Astadia, a Micro Focus partner and application modernization consultancy, visted our Boston DevDays and showed us their mobile augmented reality application which enhances street view data with additional information needed by field crews.

Steve Steuart, one of Astadia’s Senior Directors, visted our Boston DevDays, and introduced the attendees to ARGIS, their augmented reality solution that helps field engineers locate underground or otherwise hidden physical infrastructure asset such as power and water distribution equipment.

I watched as Steve explained and demonstrated ARGIS overlaying, in real time, the locations of manhole covers and drains in the vicinity of the Marriott onto a Google Maps image of the area surrounding the Marriott Hotel . .. Steve explained that ARGIS was using the GPS in the tablet and mining the intelligence from the COBOL application used by the Boston Department of Public works department to track the locations in real time, superimposed over the street view, the precise location of the network of pipes and valves supplying water to the area

Here’s a picture .. certainly worth a thousand words, wouldn’t you say?

Below you see how the Astadia‘s ARGIS Augmented Reality system sources the data of the local utility company’s COBOL application inventory to give clear visual indications of the locations of key field infrastructure components (e.g. pipes, valves, transformers) over a view of what the field engineer is actually seeing. Nice to have when you’re trying to work out where to dig, isn’t it?

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Very imaginative indeed, but at the heart of this new innovation, the important data and logic comes from, guess where? . . yes, it comes from a COBOL application. Micro Focus solutions help mine and reuse those crucial business rules locked up in our customers’ portfolio of proven, reliable COBOL applications. This will prolong their longevity and flow of value to the business. Why take all that risk and spend millions to replicate intelligence that already exists, but which has been hard to utilize effectively?

Afterwards, I spoke with Steve – Astadia’s senior director who remarked: “As long as Micro Focus continues to invest in COBOL, COBOL will continue to be relevant.”

Speaking afterwards with Micro Focus’ Director of COBOL Solutions, Ed Airey, he commented

“We are always thrilled to see how our partners and customers are taking advantage of the innovation possible in our COBOL technology to build applications that meet their needs in the digital age. Astadia’s ARGIS product is great. I’m not surprised to see how far they’ve been able to extend their application set in this way – Visual COBOL was designed with exactly that sort of innovation in mind. The only constant in IT is change, and with Micro Focus COBOL in their corner our customers are able to modernize much faster and more effectively than they realize”.

See real world applications and how they can be modernized at a Micro Focus DevDay near you. For more information on our COBOL Delivery and Mainframe Solutions, go here.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

DLblog

DevOps – a faster voyage of discovery

Tackling IT change is adversely affected by the complexity of the application landscape. Yet, problems getting up to speed in enterprise IT systems might be a thing of the past, as David Lawrence learns in his first Micro Focus blog

Accelerating delivery starts with automating understanding

Anyone been asked to do less this year? Thought not.

Anyone been able to simplify their IT systems recently? Figured as much…

As IT teams continue their turnover, and the rate of change required to keep decades-old portfolios productive increases, the ability to mobilize and plan for change is coming into sharp relief.

Yet, as the article from CIO magazine describes, the impending shortage of COBOL programmers will complicate efforts to keep these assets productive. Moreover, the increasing IT backlog (referred to by others as “IT Debt,” for example in this 2010 Gartner report) illustrates the urgency of improving the productivity of new developers as quickly as possible. A team that has been in place for decades, and has probably created a significant proportion of the portfolio they are now maintaining, will have an easier time keeping up with the backlog than will a team of individuals who are unfamiliar with the code.

Application discovery is a necessary part of the work of a developer, or programmer, who is new to a project or to a part of the application portfolio they are unfamiliar with. Traditionally, it is a trial and error process consisting of searching through tens or hundreds of source files, deciphering cryptic comments and locating references to significant data elements. And the language of these core systems? More often than not, COBOL.

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A DevOps Approach?

The benefits of replacing error-prone manual tasks with automated tools are well understood and form the bedrock of the rationale for the DevOps initiative.

Understanding of an application is crucial not just to get the new programmer up to speed. It’s also necessary for performing due diligence and following good practice. Compliance and oversight rules in organizations I speak with mandate that the impact of a proposed change to an application in production must be thoroughly understood, and usually documented in the form of an impact analysis, before the change can be deployed to the production environment.

DevOps is about automating as much of the application lifecycle as is feasible, to shorten time to production and reduce errors and resulting delays. This includes the early stages of discovery, analysis, requirements gathering, and so on.

The traditional means of discovery and analysis  of mainframe applications is a manual, and usually unbounded task, difficult to schedule and plan.

Automating the Discovery process

If we take the DevOps perspective of seeing what could be done to eliminate application discovery – usually a laborious, manual effort – it holds that this is an activity that is ripe for automation. What if, instead of chasing through one file after another, the programmer had at his disposal, a means to quickly and accurately visualize the structure and flow of the application? Such a solution could be used to not only reduce the effort of discovery, it could also automate another crucial task: Complete and accurate impact analysis. Application updates have been known to fail in production due to an inadequate understanding of the impact of the update.

Application Discovery Benefits

Solutions from Micro Focus and other vendors help automate discovery by automatically creating a visual representation of the application. By revealing artifacts like control flow and data references in an IDE instead of through the ISPF editor, the new programmer’s task of familiarizing himself with a new application is simplified. At the same time, the capability to automatically create impact analysis reports helps move your organization further along the path to DevOps.

Better yet, the same analysis information can be provided not only at the stage of initial examination (potentially scoping out a task for others), but also at the point of change, when the developer needs to know what to change, where and why, and what impacts this will have.

Figure 1Automated analysis at the point of change
Figure 1Automated analysis at the point of change

Conclusion – Automating the Journey

The demographic trends in the IT world are helping to exacerbate the IT backlog issue. People who know these systems may have moved on. Or the task of maintenance has been sub-contracted out to a team of staff who have no familiarity with the system. The increasing velocity of business and new models of customer interaction are additional factors in adding to the workload of COBOL programmers. A solution that speeds up development activities and reduces the risk through elimination or reduction of manual steps, makes a lot of sense. Moving the organization closer to their own DevOps objectives involves automating as much as possible – starting with knowing the systems being changed, using technology such as Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer, should be seriously considered.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

DLblog

 

3-2-1: The #DevDay Countdown has begun

With dozens of cities and thousands of delegates in the past four years – our #DevDay event is more popular than ever. Jackie Anglin previews this year’s exciting updates to the COBOL community’s must-attend show.

Introduction

It’s spring. And to mark the season of renewal and growth, we’re announcing the latest incarnation of our highly popular event series, Micro Focus #DevDay!  Now in its fourth year, #DevDay offers an out-of-this-world lineup of technical information, case studies and networking opportunities for you.  What’s new and different about this year? Let’s take a closer look….

The only constant is change

This year’s #DevDay is all about embracing change and let’s face it – change within IT is constant.  Platforms, architectures, applications, and delivery processes are continually adapting to meet new business requirements and market pressures.  But in order to achieve successful, lasting change, IT skills must also evolve and that’s what Micro Focus #DevDay is all about – technical education, building new skills and stronger community engagement. #DevDay delivers on this promise with a rocket booster of innovative content just for the enterprise application development community.

Today’s need: skill and speed

According to a recent Accenture survey, 91% believe organizational success is linked to the ability to adapt and evolve workforce skills. For starters, the business needs to respond to new competitive pressures, keep existing customers, retain market share and capitalize on new business opportunity, and these are just a few reasons. What makes this change proposition more challenging today is the plethora of new innovations in areas like mobile, cloud or IoT technologies including the connected devices we wear, drive or use to secure our homes. This requires an unprecedented technological prowess in IT.

But being smart won’t be enough on its own. This surge in the digital marketplace requires IT shops adapt faster than ever in order to keep pace with this unprecedented consumer demand for instant, accurate and elegantly designed content. Anywhere on the spectrum of status quo is no longer acceptable.  Delivering services in this new era requires tight business and IT alignment, better application delivery processes, greater efficiency and of course – speed.  For organizations, large and small, IT capability is the new competitive differentiator and as your responsive IT partner, Micro Focus, will help you meet these challenges.  Which brings us back to this year’s #DevDay lineup.

There is space for you at #DevDay

For organizations with IBM mainframe and other enterprise COBOL applications that need to move faster (without breaking things), #DevDay is for you.  Whether you manage COBOL apps in a distributed environment, or work with critical systems on the mainframe, or whether you work with those who do, here’s a list of reasons you should attend: latest tech content, real-world case studies, hands-on experience, a peer networking reception and our famously difficult ‘stump a Micro Focus expert’ contest.

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A universe of technology

This year’s #DevDay series is packed with new technology topics including platform portability, app development using Visual Studio and Eclipse IDEs, mainframe DevOps, .NET, Java integration and much more.

Here are just a few of today’s highly relevant topics on the agenda:

  • REST assured with COBOL: API-enable your business systems
  • Dealing with Data: COBOL and RDBMS integration made simple
  • The modern mainframe: Deliver applications faster. Get better results

You – at the controls

#DevDay now offers a brand new opportunity to build hands on experience with our latest COBOL products.  Led by our experts, you can test drive for yourself some of the powerful new capabilities available to the enterprise application developer. You must pre-register to participate.  To do so, click here.

#DevDay: Future AppDev takes off

#DevDay is focused on you – the enterprise COBOL development community.  This is a perfect chance to learn best practices and experiences, connect with like-minded professionals, as well as build new technical skills.  Don’t miss this opportunity. Join us for a truly intergalactic #DevDay experience.  Seating is limited, so register now before the space-time continuum distorts!

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Touching Down Near You Soon

United States

Canada

Brazil

See what happens at a #DevDay and find us on social media.

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.

SHARE

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.

SanAntonio

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…..

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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

COBOL: The original language for business – and a continued chart success!

This month’s TIOBE.COM index ranks COBOL – the pioneering and continually pacesetting programming language – at number 20 in terms of global computing language activity. But why is a 50-year-old language climbing the charts? Derek Britton investigates.

It’s official: COBOL is a new chart success. The new ratings prove it. The TIOBE index shows COBOL up 6 places year to year number 20 in the charts in December 2015. The TIOBE Programming Community index is an indicator of the popularity of programming languages. It bases these ratings on a number of key criteria, including the number of skilled software engineers using each language world-wide. It uses all the popular search engines to calculate the ratings with a newly improved algorithm.

We have mentioned before – as far back as 2012 and as recently as February of this year – that COBOL’s durability, prevalence and reliability are finally being reflected in the right places. This graph indicates just how well COBOL has done in the last few years. This represents a continued growth in the popularity of COBOL, having climbed from a steady decline towards obscurity a few years back to cementing a place in the top 20.

But this is a language conceived in 1959. It has a reputation in some quarters as being a little outdated. So how is this possible revival possible? TIOBE itself cites the growing popularity of Visual Studio 2015– Microsoft’s development framework and IDE – as a prime mover. But what else might be affecting this continued improvement?

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Visual Studio – the ratings booster

First things first, let’s look at what TIOBE said. Perhaps an adjustment in ratings, based on an increase in Visual Studio activity, may be in order. It has certainly boosted the fortunes of other Visual Studio and .NET-friendly languages that seen improved chart placings this month, including Visual Basic .NET and C#.

As an equal citizen in the .NET framework and a major player in the field of managed code, this would improve ratings for COBOL, as would an uptick in Eclipse usage – COBOL equally supports this IDE as well as the JVM managed code environment. COBOL’s portability across all major platforms ensures it will benefit from a surge in popularity of any such environment.

A new blue

Of course, managed code environments aren’t the whole story. The overwhelming majority of COBOL systems are mainframe-based, particularly the IBM mainframe – another unfairly maligned and reliable piece of tech. The continued relevance of Big Iron is no surprise to the Micro Focus team and we’ve long been singing the praises of big blue, not least the new z13 environment. Our attendance at SHARE and continued partnership with IBM means are enabling organizations to continue to extract value from the mainframe and their COBOL applications to support innovative IT projects.

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Skills – the new challenge?

Core systems based on COBOL have – in many cases – over-delivered and outlived any original prediction of their proposed value. Unsurprisingly, IT leaders need to examine resource plans to support those systems in the future. However, much of the current narrative is around ‘skills gaps’ and looming crises. Assessing IT skills and determining strategy based on available talent could easily be the result of pragmatic IT leaders recognising that COBOL’s reliability makes it worth planning around, rather than dispensing with. This would explain why COBOL continues to improve climb the charts, and echoes our view, shared recently with IBM Systems Magazine, that the skills question is a relatively straightforward future activity for IT leadership.

Interestingly, despite our explanation, much of the press remains ostensibly negative towards skills issues. However, many clients, academic partners and vendors are helping to support our academic program, which represents very smart thinking and a new way to support the next batch of COBOL developers with modern tools. So perhaps Micro Focus’s answer to these skills questions is another factor here. (Check back soon for more observations on COBOL skills).

Go to work with COBOL

And a related issue is quite a simple one – jobs. If demand for staff continues, the jobs are out there. If the supply wanes, more organizations and more recruiters need to be more visible to get the remaining talent. It certainly represents a win-win for COBOL developers who find their skills in such demand. On the flipside, would-be joiners must differentiate themselves.

COBOL saw the highest growth in available jobs in one survey, and is often cited as a differentiating skill in landing a well-paid job. A buoyant COBOL jobs market with renewed interest from applications could easily have helped tip the scales.

So, we can conclude that many contributory factors could all be supporting the ongoing popularity of COBOL. And Micro Focus are confident that we’re backing a winner – our ongoing R&D investments will help to ensure key attributes such as portability, future-proofing and innovation help ensure COBOL can support the business needs of 2016 and beyond.

What’s your view?

Of course, these are just a personal view. And, after five decades, who can say why COBOL is soaring up the TIOBE charts right now? Why not share a comment here or tweet to @microfocus on why #COBOLrocks? Better still, find out for yourselves at an upcoming #DevDay event near you.