Defining the future of enterprise applications

It’s nearly that time of year again. Yes, the holidays and colder weather (for those of us in the Boston area) are both fast approaching, but it’s also nearly time to attend one of the most electric and engaging events in the open software community – SUSECon 2016. Ed Airey takes a closer look at this upcoming event, its touchpoints with the enterprise community and the continued interest in Linux as a platform for future innovation – all ahead of next week’s activities in Washington, D.C.

Lead with Linux

If you’re a developer, you’re always watching out for the latest technology that delivers new tools, new features and that innovative capability that’s sure to ‘wow’ your customers.  Linux has increasingly become that target technology and platform of choice for new software development, pilot projects and company innovation. Why Linux?  Simply put, it offers the choice and open flexibility that developer demand along with the cost savings that the business desires.

With countless Linux distribution choices on the market, this platform provides vendor variety for both development and operations teams alike. Built on an open-source base, Linux also delivers unmatched compatibility with leading software packages and needed integration tasks. Last, but not least, Linux vendors (in most cases) offer a subscription licensing alternative to that of traditional software packages—providing an opportunity for business to leverage OPEX rather than CAPEX budgets.  All of these reasons also align nicely with a recent Micro Focus survey where Linux was selected as a strategic platform for future growth.

SUSE Linux & App Modernization

But for the enterprise, where critical business workloads reside, are all Linux offerings really created equal?  For organizations with trusted business applications, it’s important to understand the distro difference to ensure existing core systems continue to run without costly interruption.  Some Linux providers pride themselves on enterprise-grade Linux offerings—offerings designed for scalability, performance and security. One such example is SUSE—and that brings us back to next week and a key SUSECon session topic.  Whether you are a software developer, an operations manager or an IT director, this year’s event is an opportunity to define your Linux future and the future of your enterprise applications. For those with legacy application workloads running on (let’s say) less than current hardware, this is also your chance to move to the future.

SUSE Linux delivers a launch pad for established enterprise apps. For legacy (COBOL) applications, this powerful combination of SUSE Linux, Visual COBOL and LinuxOne take existing business systems to new architectures including the Java Virtual Machine and the Cloud. Taking that step is easier than you may think.

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Join us in Washington, D.C.

Join Steffen Thoss from IBM Research Labs and Ed Airey from Micro Focus to hear how enterprises are moving core business workloads to SUSE Linux, underpinned by the latest in high performant, hardware and software innovation—LinuxONE and Visual COBOL.  Learn how with modern tools, industry expertise and proven platform technology, core business systems can be protected and extended well into the future. Discover how digital transformation is enabling new delivery models and why a ‘Lead with Linux’ strategy can enable enterprise application portability, flexibility and choice. Define your Linux application strategy and future proof your proven business systems at SUSECon on Tuesday, November 8th at 11:30am US Eastern time.  We’ll see you there.

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

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

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

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

Micro Focus Continued Investment in COBOL and Mainframe Technologies

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

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

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

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

Mainframe Development Solution Updates

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

Highlights in this latest update include:

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

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

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COBOL Development Solution Updates

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

Highlights in this latest update include:

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

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

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

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

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A classic never goes out of style

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

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

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

Wachsende Probleme durch Digitale Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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Revolution vs. Evolution – welcher Ansatz ist der Richtige?

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

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

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

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

  • Kosteneinsparungen

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

  • Produktivität & Time-to-Market

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

  • Wiederverwendbarkeit & Zukunftsfähigkeit vorhandener COBOL Anwendungen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We’re heading to Oracle Open World

This Ed Airey blog explains how the modern enterprise can harness technology and technique to outpace and counter the changing face of completion and achieve sustainable business agility. Ed will be at Oracle Open World discussing this further at his session: Destination Java: Take enterprise apps to JVM and the Cloud so if you’re attending don’t hesitate to find him and chat more…

Into the Future: new tools for the agile enterprise

What is the agile enterprise? Is it an organization ready to respond to new demands or business opportunity, rapid changes in the market or changes in consumer demand?  To survive-it must achieve all these goals and more. This is the new norm for 21st century business – ever increasing flexibility. But how does business obtain and keep that nimble responsiveness to change? Is there a secret ingredient to the recipe of organizations that have done so already?  To be agile is to be adaptable—to flex and shift to meet the challenges of one’s environment. Just as the chameleon adapts to his surroundings shielding itself from predators a business organization must adjust its strategy and approach to counter its competition.  For most enterprise shops this is not an easy feat. Mired in technical debt, most IT leaders struggle to manage their IT backlog alongside new business initiatives.  Addressing both requires new thinking, new tech and a new approach to enterprise modernization.

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The Case for Modernization

For organizations struggling to cope with increasing IT debt and an older enterprise application portfolio, consider the innovative path taken by a very well-known European auto-manufacturer.  For years, this organization maintained a sterling reputation for quality, performance and service.  Its aging IT infrastructure, however, now plagued with stability problems threatened its ability to both service its customers and maintain its industry prestige.

The manufacturer considered a complete replacement of its core application infrastructure but quickly realized this would be both costly and risky to business operations.  In a fiercely competitive auto market, competitive advantage was paramount and this organization couldn’t afford to lose a step to the competition by disregarding its precious intellectual property.

Modern tools and new technology was employed to modernize its core enterprise applications. Using the power of Eclipse, new and existing IT teams could quickly integrate existing enterprise applications with Java, web services and other solutions. Enterprise application deployment to the Java virtual machine (JVM) enabled future flexibility and scale to meet new business requirements and opportunity. Modern tools and a new mindset delivered fast results—all without rewriting valued application code.

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Oracle Open World #OOW16

The key to this strategy—unlock the value of IT investments. This year in San Francisco at the Oracle Open World event come and see the future of enterprise application modernization for yourself.  Explore how to easily take existing enterprise systems to new platforms including Java, the JVM, and Linux.  We’ll examine how this European car manufacturer and other businesses took their enterprise applications to modern environments using new tools, new thinking and Micro Focus’ game changing solution Visual COBOL

If you’re attending please don’t hestitate to come and visit us at our booth at the Networking Station @ Oracle Linux, Virtualization and OpenStack Showcase and please attend my sessionTake Enterprise Apps to Java Virtual Machine and the Cloud’ on Tuesday, Sep 20 at 16:00 -16:20 in the Moscone South Exhibition Hall to discuss modernization options further….

Ed

#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

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The Cloud: small step not quantum leap

Ed Airey, Solutions Marketing Director for our COBOL and mainframe products, looks at how the right technology can take the enterprise into the Cloud – and how one customer is already getting great results.

We have often used the Micro Focus blog to consider the next wave of disruptive technology; what it is and what it means for the enterprise.

We have looked at mobile technology and the far-reaching aspects of phenomena such as BYOD. Enterprise customers running mature, well-established tech have managed all of these with varying degrees of success.

The key to linking older, COBOL applications with more contemporary customer must-haves, such as web, mobile and Internet of Things apps, is using an enabling technology to help make that transition.

The Cloud is often thought of as synonymous with new companies running modern infrastructures. The default target profile would be a recent start-up using contemporary tech and delivery processes. They can set up in the Cloud and harness the power of on-demand infrastructure from the get-go.

But what about…

The enterprise, however, looks very different. Its business-critical business systems run on traditional, on-premise hardware and software environments – how can it adapt to Cloud computing? And what of business leaders concerned about cost, speed to market, or maximizing the benefits of SaaS? Where can developers looking to support business-critical applications alongside modern tech make the incremental step to virtual or Cloud environments?

Micro Focus technology can make this quantum leap a small step and help organizations running business-critical COBOL applications maximize the opportunity to improve flexibility and scale without adding cost.

Visual COBOL is the enabler

With the support of the right technology, COBOL applications can do more than the original developers ever thought possible. The advent of the mobile banking app proves that COBOL apps can adapt to new environments.

Visual COBOL is that technology and application virtualization is the first step for organizations making the move to the Cloud. A virtually-deployed application can help the enterprise take the step into the Cloud, improve flexibility and increase responsiveness to future demand. It can help even the most complex application profiles.

Modernization in action

Trasmediterranea Acciona is a leading Spanish corporation and operates in many verticals, including infrastructures, energy, water, and services, in more than 30 countries.

Their mainframe underpinned their ticketing and boarding application services, including COBOL batch processes and CICS transactions. Although efficient, increasing costs and wider economic concerns in Spain made the mainframe a costly option that prevented further investment in the applications and the adoption of new technologies.

Virtualization enables enterprises to prepare their applications for off-site hosted infrastructure environments, such as Microsoft Azure. It is a simple first stage of a modernization strategy that will harness smart technology, enabling organizations to leverage COBOL applications without rewriting current code.

Using the Micro Focus Visual COBOL solution certainly helped Acconia, who worked with Micro Focus technology partner Microsoft Consulting Services to port their core COBOL applications and business rules to .NET and Azure without having to rewrite their code.

As Acconia later commented, “We can reuse our critical COBOL application … [this was] the lowest risk route in taking this application to the Cloud. Making our core logistics application available under Microsoft Azure … has not only dramatically reduced our costs, but it also helps position our applications in a more agile, modern architecture for the future”.

And as the evidence grows that more enterprises than ever are looking at the Cloud, it is important that their ‘first steps’ do not leave you behind.

Find out more here www.microfocus.com/cloud

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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.

For those about to code – we salute you!

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

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

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

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

It’s not about the app

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

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

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What rocks?

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

This rocks

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

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

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

Achieve peak performance at #MFSummit2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Build. Operate. Secure.

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

Secure

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

Operate

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

Build

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

Networking opportunities?

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

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In summary

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

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

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

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

Federal IT Modernization doesn’t have to be taxing

Ed Airey examines the recent and untimely IRS systems outage, the speedy recovery and the agency’s future aspirations of modernization– all just in time for tax season.

IRS Offline?

Did you catch the big IRS announcement? On 2 February and less than 12 weeks before the US tax filing deadline, a temporary but comprehensive computer systems outage took out many of its tax processing platforms. No 2015 tax returns could be filed electronically, a problem potentially impacting 27 million taxpayers. Additionally, refunds from 2015 returns would be delayed.

IRS tax payment processing systems are now back online and the agency has promised that the US taxpayer will feel minimal impact when they e-file their 2015 tax returns. While the delays amounted to no more than 24 hours, everyone is keen to find out what happened – and why?

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Who’s to blame?

The agency blamed an underlying hardware failure preventing the processing of electronically submitted, e-file returns. IRS commissioner John Koskinen indicated that all ‘other IRS services’ were available and most taxpayers would receive their refunds within the usual 21 day period after electronic submission.  Helpful comments for sure – less useful was the Where’s My Refund’ web inquiry feature that went offline when most needed.

But the outage still leaves many questions unanswered. Was this event preventable? Are older IT systems truly to blame?  How does the IRS avoid a similar event in the future?

Fact and Fiction

Fact: Hardware failures occur in every sector.  In many cases, mitigation rather than prevention is the watchword. So, did the IRS have no disaster recovery or failover systems? Not according to IRS officials; these systems continue run on isolated, older computing platforms running application programming languages such as COBOL. Funding cuts have delayed most application modernization projects and some media outlets and a few IRS officials have blamed the agency’s continued use of ‘older’ and ‘outdated’ technologies such as COBOL.

Unfortunately, their fact is mostly fiction. Take online or mobile banking. Most of us want to interact with our bank when we want on our preferred device.  But have normal banking practibces significantly changed your banking providers’ processes just because you’re interacting with them digitally?  Not really. Core banking processes are regulated and rarely change. While your bank has provided a new way for you to interact with their services, the backend processes are generally the same.

The same is true of booking an airline ticket.  Behind the mobile interfaces of Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak is a core airline booking system that manages ticketing across the various airline carriers.  We experience the colourful overlay of a core system which has been in place for decades.

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And what do banking apps and airline booking systems have in common?  They both leverage core business applications written in that multi-decades old programming language, COBOL.

Yes, COBOL – the original programming language remains one of the most portable, flexible and scalable languages in the industry, particularly where high volume transaction and data processing is required at rapid speed. There are few viable alternatives. Perhaps this why the IRS continues to rely on its COBOL applications – they work, and work very well.

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The Move to Modernize

So, could COBOL, really be a contributing factor to the IRS’ system availability issues?  No. Blaming the programming language is as convenient as it is unhelpful What’s needed is a comprehensive modernization strategy that blends core strength, namely the current business rules and application logic, with next gen technology and platforms. This enables faster innovation with less risk. The IRS has a successful application portfolio – a suite of feature-rich, high performant transaction processing applications built for scale, speed and precision – to move into the future.

They could easily be ported to new platforms including distributed environments, .NET, the Java Virtual Machine or even the Cloud. This would provide new channels and enable a greater elasticity to meet increased future demand or negate unexpected IT failures. The IRS’ application investment could be extended for decades to come.

It’s been done before

Check out the COBOL modernization initiative at the US Small Business Administration, an agency now well positioned for future growth and leverage next gen technology. Or how about the City of Miami or Marin County, CA who have also undertaken similar COBOL application modernization projects? Modernizing core business systems is can be straightforward and almost risk-free and it all begins with a strategy geared towards leveraging past success and unique attributes.

Innovation Awaits

So, what’s next for the IRS?  With all systems now back online, its busy processing returns and issuing tax refund payments. But is the agency prepared for its next outage?  Will they have the modernization plan needed to mitigate foreseen and unexpected challenges?  There are many paths to modernization, but only one approach will truly enable the IRS and others to modernize core business systems while preparing for the future.

It’s time to turn yesterday’s investment into tomorrow’s new innovation.