What does COBOL sound like?

On the #mainframedebate recently, people began suggesting potential theme songs for the mainframe. Jackie Anglin from Micro Focus investigates some potential theme songs for COBOL.

COBOL theme song

On the #mainframedebate recently, people began suggesting potential theme songs for the mainframe. The suggestions are all on this Spotify playlist which, sadly, doesn’t include one of the most obvious candidates.

This got me thinking that, surely, COBOL deserves a dedicated playlist as well.  After all, like music itself, this language has spanned generations and genres. And not only is it still going, it is highly relevant, in daily use and constantly being reinvented to reflect the world around it.

To extend the metaphor, some bands or artists reinvent themselves and extend their shelf lives by many decades. U2, the Stones, and Tom Jones have all managed to hang around for years and evolve with their audiences. Some bands disappear altogether and re-appear many years later for big-buck reunion gigs – the Eagles and Pink Floyd are great examples of this. Some artists demand a residual affinity that seems timeless – witness Dolly Parton wowing Glastonbury last year.


Elvis has left the building

But COBOL first entered the public consciousness in 1959. Here are the top 10 US singles for that year.  It’s difficult to find anyone on the list with a pulse, let alone still living in the public consciousness.  Sure, Elvis is immortal – and possibly isn’t dead anyway, depending on who you believe – but Carl Dobkins Jr? Toni Fisher? Wilbert Harrison? I doubt that they are household names in their own homes.

That’s not to dismiss their contribution to popular culture, any more than I would diss Turbo Pascal, Fortran  or even FACT, the precursor to COBOL. Fortran and FACT were big in 1959 too and yet neither have survived and thrived in the way that COBOL has. But then, if the Crests  had invested $50-60m every year just as Micro Focus supports COBOL, perhaps they would still be playing 16 Candles to crammed stadiums every year.

Interstellar Overdrive

We have blogged before about how the careers of COBOL and Pink Floyd have almost run in parallel. But COBOL is even older than Piper at the Gates of Dawn. So, how can we express all the core values of COBOL – longevity, flexibility, future-proofing – as a single song?

We had a quick straw poll at the office while building our #COBOLrocks playlist – yes, it’s A Thing now – and while there were some promising suggestions, we never really nailed it. Stayin’ Alive – sure, but COBOL isn’t just surviving, it’s evolving; see also Alive – surely, Pearl Jam’s finest moment.

It’s Not Unusual, the song keeping Tom Jones’ bank manager happy, works a little better. Because there are around 200bn lines of COBOL in regular use across the globe today in government agencies, finance houses, banking, insurance and other mainframe owners. So that’s a good one.

Under Pressure was another suggestion, but that’s not so good. COBOL is future-proofed and COBOL transactions currently outnumber Google searches by 200 to one. Our business is built on COBOL and that won’t change. So, under pressure? Not from us, or our customers.

Can you do better?

When I work, I like to listen to music, and I know plenty of developers put their beats on to code to the rhythm.  Why not take a minute to download our #COBOLrocks playlist (you’ll have to create a Spotify account if you don’t have one already).What tunes best describe COBOL? Tell us and we’ll add them in.

Sign up for an upcoming Developer Day  and if you hear one of your submissions, there’s a prize with your name on it.

My own favorite? Easy: Don’t Stop Believing. I recently saw Journey in concert, with a new lead singer of course, and probably a different crowd than what they performed to 30 years ago. But their music was still great.  Like Journey, COBOL may look different these days, but there’s no harm in being reliable, dependable and giving the people what they want.  Rock on, COBOL.


#MME15 – Viva Las Vegas!

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there! Mark Plant from Micro Focus reports back from Oracle’s Modern Marketing Experience event in Las Vegas 2015. What did he learn and what should you take away from the event?

Bright light city gonna set my soul….

Being totally honest, Las Vegas doesn’t really set my soul on fire (presumably because unlike Elvis’ Lucky Jackson character I’ve never had a whole lot of money to burn). Vegas played host to Oracle’s Modern Marketing Experience between March 31st and April 2nd this year and I’ll always remember that I had a swingin’ time. Over 3000 Modern Marketing & Sales professionals gathered, talked technology, celebrated success, educated themselves and had some fun in the Social Media Lounge and bars…

So what happened in Vegas?

Should of course stay there but surely I am allowed to spill the beans on why I was there, what I was doing, who I was with and some of things I took away? Here goes.


An extended Micro Focus Field and Corporate Marketing and Sales team attended the event with me to take advantage of the superb technical education available. We’ve been an Oracle Marketing Cloud customer for a little over 4 years and it’s been a real honour to talk at this (and previous Modern Marketing Experience Events) about digital marketing, the growing importance of Social Media, digital data and how web performance powers Modern Marketing success.


On the subject of success, it’s well worth mentioning that Micro Focus has made Markies finalist in twice in the past two years. Despite not scooping the big prize on either occasion, seeing Micro Focus in the Markies Hall of Fame for ‘Best Social Campaign’ fills us with pride which is a reward in itself.  Our 2 Markie Finalist plaques are now proudly displayed in our Newbury HQ reception.


This year too I was both delighted and a little surprised to scoop a personal Oracle MVP award during the Advocates Party.  Many thanks to the Oracle Customer Success team (namely Adrian Chang and Jenny Berthiaume) for presenting me with this considerable honour.


Looking forward optimistically to next year’s event I am sure Micro Focus will be a Best Social Campaign finalist again (and get recognition in some additional categories too). Micro Focus’ mainframe tribute to big iron, namely IBM Mainframe’s 50th Birthday in 2014 and #COBOLRocks 2015 campaign are pretty tough acts to follow. Maybe it’s finally time for the mighty Frank Borland to pull on his cowboy boots, Stetson and get busy backing himself in 2016? We’ll have to wait and see….


My colleagues and I attended quality education, talked the talk, walked the miles of Vegas walk between sessions, learned heaps about lots and rode a mechanical bull for a few manic-inner-thigh-bruising seconds each.  I also discovered it’s a really bad idea to present at exactly the same time the band OneRepublic are warming up next door. No amount of A/V wizardry can overcome that volume. Everyone present was counting stars.

Cashing Out – so what did I take away with me?

Summarising all the amazing content and sessions is extremely tough but here are the key things I took away from this year’s extravanganza. Let me know if I’ve missed anything.

  1. Data is the lifeblood of digital marketing. Lots of fresh accurate data is required and the humble web form is still the best bet. Content needs to be good enough to encourage people to exchange their email address for it – a rapidly rising bar.
  2. That’s why Content is king. Without amazing content someone is prepared to exchange an email address for there’s a gaping hole below the water-line. If the content on the CMS isn’t up to scratch invest in it now and ensure it covers a buyer journey.  Remember that without gated content unknown web visitors can’t convert into known ones to nurture.
  3. If no one can find the great content it can’t be generating much return. This makes digital Reach the Queen for your content King. To improve reach a decent SEO strategy is required. It’s not just keyword and content, don’t forget SEO has a technical side that can’t be ignored.
  4. As soon as influential people find your content and like it then you’re cooking with gas. The more your content is shared and linked to the higher it’s ranked by the search engines – each link to it counts exactly like a vote. The greater someone’s online Influence the weightier their ‘vote’ becomes. A decent investment in Social Media is the only way to make this happen effectively.
  5. Working on Content, Reach and Influence is hard. Prepare to invest lots of time and keep an eye on meaningful metrics! That way you’ll know what works and more importantly – what doesn’t! That’s how you’ll earn enough Data to oil your digital revenue engine and transform Google and Bing into a front line sales team for your business.

Does anyone apart from Lucky Jackson have a whole lot of money to burn?

I certainly don’t. I suspect most Marketing departments the world over don’t either. Marketing budgets are under significant pressure and increasingly tasked with pipeline delivery. Investing in content, reach and influence without a weapons-grade digital infrastructure is a sure fire way of piling bundles of budget dollars straight onto the proverbial fire. Everything I’ve mentioned in this blog is underpinned by a website that’s up and performing 365 days a year 24 hours a day.

That’s where some of the Micro Focus / Borland products help. Best-in-class tools that monitor websites, test the applications and functions your website serves for performance and load and ultimately help you avoid any embarrassing hiccups. How do websites and apps look on different devices and browsers? Silk Central Connect enables you to test this out so you can ensure the major bases are covered.

Modern Marketing is digital in nature, a perfect blend of art and technical science. A scientific approach to website performance is the only way to ensure your digital revenue engine is firing on all cylinders.

Please feel free to visit www.borland.com/blog or find me on Twitter to talk further. See you at MME16!