COBOL at 60: What’s next?

COBOL at 60: What’s next?

My previous post reflected that COBOL has turned 60. This unique programming language has endured all the changes of the last 60 years, and I predict it will survive all the innovation and change of the next 60. But how will you keep up with change? How can COBOL meet your current and future needs? COBOL modernization and digital transformation can take COBOL into the future, while retaining its stability.

Digital Transformation and COBOL

Monumental marketplace changes impact most organizations – often entire industries. Fortune 500 companies are not immune, with 88% dropping off the list in the last 50 years, replaced by those who can adapt to change.

Unsurprisingly, industry studies highlight digital readiness as a top risk concern for 2019. More worryingly, as few as 21% of organizations have a comprehensive digital strategy.

To prevent your organization from failing, it must adapt, it must be able to change. However, that does not mean a complete reset. The best strategy, as outlined in “Digital Transformation: Bridging Now and Next” is to balance leveraging current, and emerging technologies. This enables organizations to adopt technology that provides the flexibility to maximize the value and IP they already have while implementing new capabilities. COBOL is part of that strategy. COBOL can bridge that gap.

Bob England, from England Technical Services put it best in his blog; “COBOL has had a remarkable impact over the past six decades, but I believe we are only now realizing its full potential – and that its future impact will be even greater.

Thanks to Micro Focus, COBOL is now a modern language, portable and fully object-oriented with an ability to integrate with both Java and .NET frameworks. This revolutionary language, now reborn through Visual COBOL, enables a new era of innovation for developers supporting existing business applications, process and data. In my view, nothing else compares to this remarkable language designed for today’s business needs and built to last.”


Your Modernization Plan

Begin planning today. Your organization must implement a digital transformation (DX) strategy. Each organization has different needs, so modernization will look different to every organization. However, there are many commonalities when it comes to DX. These include the infrastructure – perhaps supporting a Hybrid IT approach; the delivery process – taking into account an evolution towards Enterprise DevOps; as well as considerations around Security; and potentially managing and exploiting the data analysis opportunity on the back of this digital change.

While digital transformation seems overwhelming, modernization offers a pragmatic, incremental and managed approach to leverage the skills, investments and business value inherent in IT, offering a springboard for future success. Some of the world’s largest enterprises are building on their competitive advantage built into their current IT systems to embark on their next, digital, chapter.

Leverage what you currently have to move into the future. Hal Peters from Pinebrook Consulting summarizes how this is possible. “COBOL not only offers the most flexible, multi-platform, auditable language on the market but also now delivers new integration with modern technologies including Visual Studio, Eclipse, agile tools and DevOps practices; ensuring a promising career path for new programmers and a bright future for the mission-critical business applications it supports globally”.

Use COBOL to Bridge the Gap

“We’ve used COBOL extensively during the whole development cycle of our product. Modern COBOL has allowed us to re-use and modernize our existing code base, which is really exciting for our developers. We’ve been able to move to the Cloud and take advantage of improved IDE as well as Agile and DevOps practices. COBOL and application modernization are a fundamental part of our company’s future and we’re very proud to be part of that journey.” Russell Hollick, Chief Software Architect, SYSPRO Corporate.

Organizations are using COBOL to modernize. The main ways COBOL helps, as the quote above suggests, is the move to the cloud, COBOL applications, containers, and DevOps practices. Micro Focus solutions can help.

Micro Focus and COBOL

Micro Focus has invested heavily to keep COBOL current and collaborative with cloud, containers, devops, APIs, and micro services. In fact, IDCi has stated that Micro Focus’ modernization product portfolio aims to provide support across the application delivery life cycle, and while it can very much be deployed as a holistic solution, it comprises products designed specifically for the key technical phases involved.

· Analyzer technology is an automated solution that provides the ability to abstract business rules and understand application design and logic to simplify, introduce modularity, increase agility in response to application change requests, and improve production CPU efficiency. The products are COBOL Analyzer (for distributed applications) and Enterprise Analyzer for the mainframe.

· Development technology is for new user interfaces or for re-architecting with web services or cutting code in a modern IDE; Eclipse and Visual Studio developers can cut COBOL and PL/I code alongside Java, C#, or any other code. The flagship products for core application development and delivery is Visual COBOL (for distributed applications) and Enterprise Developer for the mainframe.

· Micro Focus deployment technology supports COBOL environments for application execution and deployment across a range of supported platforms, including cloud instances, Linux, Unix, Windows, or z/OS on the mainframe. Our Flagship products are COBOL Server (for distributed COBOL application execution — supports native and all managed code interfaces [.NET and JVM]), and Enterprise Server for mainframe application redeployment.

The following aspects of the Micro Focus COBOL technology are worth noting:

· The Micro Focus compiler and execution environment design ensures COBOL can be portable (it can move unchanged) across a significant number of platforms.

· Micro Focus supports dozens of variants of the market-leading environments (eg Windows, Unix, Linux, Docker, AWS, Azure, Linux on IBM Z) and over the decades has supported more than 500 such environments, insulating customers’ application assets from their platform decisions.

· Micro Focus has a strong presence in the distributed space, serving large numbers of customers on Unix, Linux, and Windows.

· Micro Focus has been a historic contributor to the relevant committees and standards bodies responsible for updating the COBOL standard. Major implementations such as 1985, 2002, and 2013 were presided over by committees that included Micro Focus. Micro Focus remains an important proponent of skills renewal in the COBOL skills market. With contemporary COBOL IDE technology accessible to a new generation of Visual Studio and Eclipse developers, application knowledge tools, plus a program in partnership with academia and recruiters.

In addition to IDC, Gary Cowell, a solution architect at Advanced, added; “Our choice for Micro Focus COBOL more than 25 years ago is still paying dividends for us. We have enjoyed continued wide platform and OS support, and have now made the move to the cloud, leveraging Visual COBOL and its Docker support.”

Micro Focus and COBOL go hand in hand. Learn more about what Micro Focus is doing in the COBOL space in this video “Enterprise Application Modernization for Today’s Digital Economy”.


Your COBOL investment will help you modernize and look to the future. Sixty years from now, someone will look back at COBOL at 120, and you will be part of the story. Your innovation, modernization, and digital transformation with COBOL will make history. As you use this powerful, flexible and agile language, you will continue to be competitive and you will not fall, like others who have failed to innovate. COBOL is the future!

Next Steps

Learn more about COBOL
For more reading on digital transformation, review these blogs: Digital Transformation: Bridging Now and Next
And to learn more about COBOL at 60, check out this white paper: COBOL at 60: The Legend Continues

And as we’ve been in this game for a few decades now you will no doubt enjoy some of our previous outings on the blog:

View the blog post, COBOL: The original language for business – and a continued chart success!
View the blog post, COBOL: The Pink Floyd of programming languages?
View the blog post, Do COBOL Applications have a future?
View the blog post, Micro Focus: COBOL to the core
View the blog post, How COBOL Persists: People, Process, and Technology
View the blog post, A Lasting Legacy – COBOL and Modernization, The Consultant’s Tale
View the blog post, COBOL- still standing the test of time

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Director of Product Marketing

Micro Focus

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