The debate over COBOL’s continued relevance and indeed its future continues to persist in the developer community and IT world in general. But while every business has its language preferences, there is no denying that even though COBOL is 60 years old, it continues to play a vital role for enterprise business applications. COBOL still runs over 70% of the world’s business and more transactions are still processed daily by COBOL than there are Google searches made.
While many also debate the status of Java in relation to COBOL for business applications, COBOL remains the preferred choice for systems where application quality and operating cost remain important considerations, so often the case when addressing the ever-present issue of IT debt. When many businesses are facing mounting IT debt, the average cost per line of code for COBOL was projected to be £0.80 whereas the cost to address Java quality issues per line of code was £3.47, according to a recent IT study.
The benefits of COBOL, however, are not found in its exclusivity, but also in its ability to comfortably co-exist with other programming languages- such as Java – that are typically used to build new front-ends for new platforms and devices.
COBOL can function efficiently for vital business applications as a reliable language while also liaising with languages such as Java and C#, typically used in the construction of new interfaces; these languages combine forces in helping businesses deliver the services to support new requirements such as BYOD and other mobile initiatives through renewed, composite enterprise applications. While some in the industry may doubt COBOL’s relevance for today’s business applications – mainly due to its considerable age as a programming language – the fact that it has been vetted and proven over several decades actually stands in its favour: much of the required “new” functionality already exists, written in COBOL. It is merely a question of how it is made available to the user.
Add to this the flexibility of the language to be adapted for future needs, and its ability to liaise with other front-end technologies, and COBOL remains a lower-risk option for businesses because of its prevalence over the past half a century, and not in spite of it. It is a myth that IT organizations must choose between one language and another – they can in fact work with whichever language(s) make most sense according to their business requirements. And ageless COBOL continues to meet those needs.