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Visual COBOL is an agent of change. Both flexible and robust, it bridges the gap between ongoing application maintenance and the innovation needed for future efficiencies.

Visual COBOL is an agent of change. Both flexible and robust, it bridges the gap between ongoing application maintenance and the innovation needed for future efficiencies.

More clients than ever, from independent software vendors through to major logistics companies are reaping the benefits.  Visual COBOL takes business-critical enterprise applications to new platforms, such as cloud and mobile, without rewrites, with minimal risk and with significant cost savings and development efficiencies.

Catch up

Hosted by the Micro Focus Visual COBOL product team (Scot Nielsen , Product Manager and Ed Airey, Product Marketing) – the Visual COBOL webinar series is a collection of helpful, 45-minute tutorials beneficial for anyone working on COBOL application development.

The sessions cover everything from the basic ‘understanding Visual COBOL’ and ‘getting started with Visual COBOL’ through to more technical sessions including ‘reusing COBOL business logic with Java’ and ‘.NET’.

Over 1000 attendees came away from the live webinars with the valuable insight and practical knowledge they need to make more of what they have by moving to more contemporary platforms without risking the intellectual property and data built up over time.

The live events are now available as a series of recorded sessions you can watch at your own pace.

Have your say

We’re keen to bring you more educational sessions and we’d like your help. If you have feedback that will help us ‘fine tune’ the existing format or you’d like to nominate a particular topic of interest – then we’d appreciate your opinion.

Complete the short survey here. Thanks!

And the winner is…

Lucky attendee Mike Slicker – who tuned in to every live webinar – also came away with a Kindle Fire as a reward for his 100% record. But it’s not too late for everyone to feel the benefit of this accessible and informative series.

Putting a price on your working mainframe applications

Serious value

We all have access to desktop or mobile apps that are useful to us personally but, if they stopped working – and let’s face it, they do – it doesn’t really matter as relatively, they have little value. But if your application is doing something serious and useful for your organization, then it has a great deal of value. What if it went wrong? What if you needed to ensure that other people could run it – quickly – without any disruption? What if you also needed it to run elsewhere? What value would you put on that and what would happen to the organization if you couldn’t do those things?

This blog explores how valuable the deployed application environment – often called the ‘runtime’ – is to the organization.

Why free might not be that cheap

So, your organization has built a valuable application. You realize that the technology you use to build the “app” is valuable. You happily pay for that. You realize there is technology involved in deploying and running the app too. But here, you are faced with two choices: you could either pay for the running of the app, or pay nothing.

Wouldn’t you just choose the free option?

A fee for deployment seems strange: other vendors offer it for free. After all, it’s only ‘running’ an application you’ve already built. Plus you’ve already paid once for the development technology, right?

But when you look into why it’s free, you discover that your vendor does not offer a strong support service. In fact, the agreement says that you’re pretty much on your own if anything goes wrong1.

Your business priority is to have a robust application, where you can dial the helpline as soon as something goes wrong.

So why are some runtime environments ‘free’?

If something is free, there may be less “service” than you had hoped for. First, customer support is likely to be thin on the ground, because there is no funding to pay a team of experts to provide maintenance, support and emergency assistance. Informing the vendor that your applications have crashed doesn’t mean they have the staff and resources to sort it out before your customers start complaining.

A vendor offering you deployment for free typically offers no commercial responsibility if something goes wrong. By choosing this “sold as seen” approach, you must be prepared to run the risk of your applications not working, or find an alternative means of insuring against that risk.

Furthermore, the choice of platform may be limited due to the lack of revenue created from not charging for deployment. In order to have freedom of choice, an additional charge may be incurred. And without being able to choose whichever platform you need, will the product hold as much value? The applications should work around your business needs – not the other way around. Applications are likely to have a shorter life expectancy if there are limitations holding you back from what you really need them to do.

The story of Linux

In a time when UNIX was a collection of vendor-specific variants, all tied to machinery (AIX, Solaris, HP/UX, Uniware/SCO), there was no true “open” version for UNIX. The stage was set for someone to break the mould. Linus Torvalds undertook a personal project to create a new, open source operating system kernel. Free to the world, many different people have contributed to it, from techies to college students, winning him much admiration, and numerous community forums and websites offering help have emerged. But – it saw few takers among commercial organizations – except the odd research department.

That was until someone bravely said, “We will offer professional support services for Linux (that version only) for a small fee”. Without the support service offered by Red Hat, Novell, and several others, Linux would not have had a commercial future.

Today, major companies including Google, Amazon, IBM and Virgin America use Linux for servers, desktops and database systems. Linux now outsells many other UNIX variants by some distance. Why? Not just because it was free or open source, but because the valuable service it provided organizations with was good value. But people opt to pay for additional support because their organizations must be able to rectify any problems, which is where organizations such as Red Hat come in. Linus was the father of the idea, but Red Hat (and their competitors) made it a viable commercial technology.

Genuine return

Some of the concerns mentioned may be unthinkable for your organization – there is a way to obtain genuine deployment value which more than covers your investment.

Access to a dedicated team of experts to resolve and prioritize any issues your applications encounter could save you from paying a much greater price if things do go wrong. It also means that there will be a better chance of products staying up-and-running, making them a successful investment.

Choice of platform is important to your company. You need to be able to run applications wherever you want. What’s more, your business needs its applications to actually work. Paying for runtime enables you to choose your desired platform.

Robust and resilient applications are the lifeblood of your organization. With 35 years of experience and 15,000 customers, Micro Focus provides an award-winning 24/7 support service. We invest $58M in R&D (research and development). You won’t find a more robust deployment environment for COBOL anywhere. Your application runtime environment is in safe hands.

Micro Focus – supporting the value of your business applications
Micro Focus invests in the future of your applications so you don’t have to. Paying for deployment licenses can ensure that when something goes wrong, the industry leader is just a mouse click away from getting your application back on track.

1 Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has put aside £125m to pay compensation to customers affected by the recent breakdown in its computer systems.

Top 10 Reasons to Learn COBOL

What is the first thing which springs to mind when you think of COBOL? Did you know that 200 times more transactions are processed daily by COBOL business applications than there are Google and You Tube searches made? COBOL is not about to drop dead – it still dominates the business language world. Here are our top ten reasons for learning COBOL.

A legendary language

What is the first thing which springs to mind when you think of COBOL? Did you know that 200 times more transactions are processed daily by COBOL business applications than there are Google and You Tube searches made? COBOL is not about to drop dead – it still dominates the business language world. Here are our top ten reasons for learning COBOL.

1. COBOL is easy!

Learning COBOL isn’t like learning a completely new language: it’s English! It consists of English-like structural components such as verbs, clauses and sentences. Its readability means that you can understand what a program is doing without having to learn a whole new syntax.

To demonstrate how straightforward it is, here is an example of the “Hello world” program in COBOL:

Yes, that really is all you need to write to run this program. Did I hear someone say COBOL is verbose?

2. You can run it anywhere you like

COBOL has been ported to virtually every hardware platform. Programs written in this “write once, run anywhere” language enables businesses to reuse COBOL applications that were written decades ago on new platforms like .NET or JVM. The language itself is portable with data types and structures which enable developers to write applications that can be ported to new platforms with minimal or no change. COBOL has been able to adapt to change: each new enterprise platform which emerges has had COBOL applications deployed there.

3. It will work tomorrow as well as it does today

Businesses already using COBOL are likely to continue to use COBOL rather than replace it. Replacing COBOL would be expensive – due to its enormous scale, time-consuming and risky, as well as being completely unnecessary. The year 2000 problem demonstrated that COBOL applications are cheaper to fix than applications written in more recent languages.

4. It gets the numbers right!

It is no surprise that the financial sector is underpinned by COBOL systems: banking, insurance, fund management, pension systems, payroll and credit cards, all depend on COBOL. COBOL’s numeric processing functions make it the perfect choice for applications where the tiniest fractional rounding error can make a crucial difference. It delivers arithmetic accuracy to 31 digits, making it the favourable choice for financial software.

5. You can use it with your favourite IDE

There’s no need to worry about learning a new toolset. You can develop COBOL applications using Visual Studio or Eclipse. These IDEs bring all the great productivity aids you use today

such as IntelliSense and content assist, snippets, UI design tools and more, so coding in COBOL isn’t a chore.

6. You can get to your data fast

Whilst COBOL can process data from a variety of sources including just about any Relational Database Management System (RDBMS), it also provides direct language support for data files, outperforming database processing by miles. COBOL systems use indexed data files which maintain internal B-tree structures (meaning that speed and efficiency are two important features), providing rapid access to data even when data stores run into terabytes.

7. You don’t need to spend hours on documentation

COBOL is self-documenting. The readability of COBOL code and its rigid hierarchical structure make COBOL easy to read and maintain. When was the last time you read a comment, found that it had no relation to the code and spent the next half an hour trying to make sense of the code and the comment? This happens all too frequently as a result of general application maintenance. Code changes but comments are sometimes forgotten.

With a language that doesn’t need the same level of commenting as others, maintaining someone else’s COBOL code shouldn’t leave you tearing your hair out in frustration.

8. It’s fast!

COBOL has 50 years of optimizations under its belt, so it knows what it’s doing when it comes to data processing. Micro Focus’s COBOL “code generator” uses target platform technology to deliver maximum performance, as well as enabling the creation of fully portable and executable code.

But it’s not just the generator that maximizes performance. Most COBOL code is also procedural, not object-oriented, so its old-school straight line performance can give it a real edge over other languages.

9. It integrates with everything

COBOL systems have retained business value by integrating with new technology. For example, COBOL programs can be called by most other computer languages, deployed in Java application servers, provide backend Service-oriented Architecture (SOA) logic, read or write XML directly, or work with Unicode strings. By combining your new found COBOL skills with systems you know today, you can enhance existing COBOL applications in the web, mobile and Cloud.

10. COBOL is everywhere!

We are surrounded by COBOL: it runs over 70% of the world’s business transactions. On codinghorror.com, Jeff Atwood comments, “the vast majority of us will use COBOL in one form or another as part of our daily existence.” As senior programmers retire, they must be replaced with a new generation of COBOL programmers, or the business world is likely to collapse completely. It makes sense to replenish the supply of COBOL programmers by training new ones.


Bridging skills gap with Visual COBOL

As the COBOL developer cooking pot boils dry due to retiring veterans, there is likely to be an increase in demand for COBOL developers. Learning COBOL could therefore make you highly desirable.

Micro Focus Visual COBOL enables COBOL teams to work on the same projects as the Java or C# developers, by working alongside each other. It also provides an immediately-available learning environment to enable other programmers to pick up sparse COBOL skills.

Micro Focus Visual COBOL Personal Edition enables developers and aspiring developers to learn and use COBOL for free. See for yourself how far COBOL has advanced: experience its robust features and innovate with the latest technologies: http://www.microfocus.com/product-trials/visual-cobol/personal-edition-trial/vcpe-trial.aspx

If you think this has inspired you, check out how much it inspired Dave the developer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEGm0-H6ma0