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

COBOL – fuelling the FinTech explosion

How – and why – is COBOL, a decades-old technology, fuelling explosive growth in a new area? Our new blogger, Henning Luebberding, shares his thoughts….

FinTech investments more than doubled in 2015 and there are currently around 5000 to 6000 FinTech companies competing for market share – and billions of venture capital funding. Financial Technology is also a hypercompetitive, B2C marketplace set in a difficult, highly-regulated landscape with zero room for error.

Sensibly, most start-ups delegate managing the complex IT back-end to a more experienced partner in the banking sector. They concentrate on finding customers – and funding – while utilizing the power of their partner’s COBOL applications for the ‘heavy lifting’ of back-end IT.

Examples include Number26, who partner with Wirecard, while Fairr.de rely on Sutor Bank for IT support. So what’s in it for the more established banks? Plenty. Because unlike the unruly intrusion of challenger banks, this partnership enables older banks to become stakeholders in the disruptive innovation sweeping their marketplace.

But to meet their end of the bargain – to deliver the services FinTech start-ups need – banks must up their IT game. Arguably the definition of ‘fit for purpose’ banking technology must now include modern functionality, such as APIs for mobile and web applications, as standard.

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The challenge

This article predicts bank spending on new technologies in North America to reach $19.9 billion in 2017. Current IT must evolve. But ‘older’ COBOL is ubiquitous in this sector; the simple ‘00’ syntax was created for number crunching and COBOL has been the language of banking for 50 years.

COBOL is here for good. As recently as February of last year, COBOL’s durability, prevalence and reliability established it in the top 20 of the TIOBE Index and it continues to grow. But banks and other FS clients don’t need graphs. They want real-world answers to the business challenges their customers are giving them.

Some currently host their COBOL applications on mainframes, a technology never created for this level of flexibility. Others use distributed platforms. Few have a great appetite for the risks of rewrite or replacement. So how can the behemoths of banking offer the innovation that the more nimble FinTech start-ups demand?

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The solutions

Micro Focus enabling technologies regularly achieve modern flexibility for our financial services (FS) customers and other owners of mature COBOL and PL/I applications.

Mainframe clients exploit the contemporary Eclipse or Visual Studio technology of Enterprise Developer, a powerful integrated development environment (IDE) while Visual COBOL offers the same benefits on distributed platforms.

Visual COBOL, Enterprise Developer – and the Micro Focus Enterprise suite of application modernization tools – enable FS customers to realise a corporate FinTech strategy. They protect their IT infrastructure investments while improving application development to create the products their end-users – the bank customers – and partners demand.

Because as we noted in our recent blog on challenger banks. “Customers are trusting banks who possess good technology. And IT could well be the next major battlefield between established and challenger banks in a rapidly changing market.”

So whether banks are start-ups or just looking to keep going, a failure to innovate means being left behind…….

Share your thoughts in the comment section below

PL/I – 50 years young….

Relying on PL/I-based applications to tackle today’s challenges doesn’t have to be challenging. Amie Johnson checks out how the Micro Focus approach to modernization enables PL/I shops to get the most out of the rich and valuable business logic embedded in PL/I applications and support innovation.

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Did you know IBM shipped the first Pl/I compiler in 1966? Contemplating PL/I’s fifty-year anniversary made me wonder what fifty computer years feels like. Turning fifty in human years usually induces fear and anxiety because we’re forced to reckon with the fact that, according to today’s calculated life expectancy, we’ve lived more than half of our life. That’s intense. But, turning fifty in computer years seems dramatically more intense. Especially imagining if I were the CIO of a business relying on fifty year-old PL/I applications to compete in today’s world where the speed at which you can deliver services matters in fractions of a percentage point. Cue some uncertainty…..

As you can imagine, a fifty year old IT estate is an unwieldy array of disparate, heterogeneous systems, often woven together by a delicate fabric of dependencies and relationships. But the Intellectual Property captured within these estates contains nuggets of genuine gold. For example PL/I has boasting rights to some pretty remarkable accomplishments – from space travel to laying the foundation for the instant-price-quote economy that drives fierce competition in industries like insurance and travel.

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The truth is, there is still a sizable group of industry leading businesses using the differentiators delivered by their PL/I-based systems to compete and win today. And IBM has shipped new enhancements every year since 1999 including providing modernization capabilities that enable business-critical applications to interoperate with Java, process inbound and outbound XML documents, and work with Web services and the latest middleware.

Micro Focus too continues to invest in helping our PL/I customers by continuing to cultivate a team of PL/I talent that is unrivaled in the industry. Additionally, the latest update to the Enterprise Product Suite boasts an array of PL/I enhancements geared toward making the work of the PL/I teams more integrated.

Enterprise Developer support for PL/I now enables users to create projects on remote UNIX/Linux machines from the Eclipse IDE so developers can remotely edit, compile and debug their PL/I applications on the target machine from within the IDE running on Windows. This makes the use of development tools more consistent and the results from testing more relevant as the applications are running on the target environment.

Visual Studio-specific improvements include support for squiggles, IntelliSense, margins and error checking when editing, which improves developer productivity by making code development and problem determination easier.

And for organizations that need to consider a multi-platform environment or want to modernize their applications to take advantage of 64-bit server architecture, Enterprise Server offers improved functionality and greater language compatibility, making it easier to deploy PL/I workloads wherever the business needs them to be.

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CIOs today have to contend with plenty of challenges, like addressing the IT Backlog and meeting tough compliance targets while delivering new web, mobile and cloud-based services quickly. Relying on PL/I-based applications to tackle these challenges doesn’t have to be be challenging. Check out how our approach to modernization enables you to get the most from the rich and valuable business logic embedded in your PL/I applications, so you can support the business as it looks to innovate.

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