The Mainframe: The movie makers mainstay

Originally posted for IBM’s blog site, Mark Plant from Micro Focus looks into the Mainframe’s relationship with the Silver Screen. Slightly updated with the latest Movie to pay tribute to the Mainframe!

Hollywood can be seriously ahead of its time, delighting in providing us with elusive glimpses of how the future could be. Avid Jetsons fans from the 1950s and 1960s probably can’t believe how accurately internet communications were conceptualised (watch at 2:38) way back then as they’re downloading the latest version of Skype today.

So, in such a future-fixated industry, what is the pervasive fascination with the Mainframe Computer all about? Sure, the new z13 will take the movie-makers favourite IT  straight back to the future with Delorean-style panache and this ever-reliable tech will remain the largely unsung hero in Corporate datacentres for years to come, but we are still talking about technology that’s more than 50 years old!

James Bond, Charlie’s Angels, the Matrix, Iron Man, Kingsman – all these movies use the Mainframe as shorthand for ‘an infinitely powerful computer housing incalculable volumes of data’.  This is where the movie Mainframes usually part company from reality – the Hollywood Mainframe is remarkably easy to ‘hack’ for the average action hero. Ever wondered where the kids in Jurassic Park honed their UNIX skills? I certainly have.


The clichéd movie Mainframe hacker, once in control assumes instant God-like power – the ability to control fearsome weaponry, shut down power grids, overthrow Governments, re-lock the gates of Dinosaur theme parks – the Mainframe remains the go-to resource when things need to be controlled. Is that why the clichéd movie Mainframe remains a staple of the Hollywood formula? Has this legendary technology become synonymous with the innate knowledge that still holds the keys to control in so many aspects of the real world?

Whatever the answers may be, it’s great to see IT playing a more prominent role in Hollywood generally. The life of the late Steve Jobs is celebrated with a movie, Mark Zuckerberg’s story was covered in the 2010 film The Social Network, and who could forget Larry Ellison’s cameo in Iron Man 2? Information Technology as an industry is finally being taken seriously by the Movie industry as a whole and gaining some momentum. About time, then, that amazing Grace Hopper , the undisputed Queen of Code will have her name in lights soon with her very own movieBorn With Curiosity. On that celebratory note I’ll bid you farewell and head off to do more Mainframe in the Movies research. I’ve heard the Transformers movie features a Mainframe too – perhaps I’ll start there. (The fact that Megan Fox plays a role hasn’t featured in my thoughts at all. Honest.)

Megan Fox
Megan Fox

Now, if only there was a computer that could hold huge amounts of readily-accessible information……….

(Orginally published in @StevenDickens3 Mainframedebate blog site on February 26th 2015)

Innuendo Bingo? It’s only the great Belfast Bake-Off!

Micro Focus COBOL Inside Sales Rep Daniel Grant talks us through the latest greatest Belfast Bake Off on Friday 26th June. But can he avoid a double-entendre or two? Read on to find out.

 “Think palmier, think lattice, think pin-wheel. But mainly, think massive horn.”

Summer diets were put on hold for a few hours on Friday June 26th in Belfast as a bakery bonanza took over at the Micro Focus office. Staff from sales, support and maintenance renewals brought in a selection of moreish home-made cakes, buns, biscuits and desserts with the sole aim of raising some much needed money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Anne Marie, Catia, and Tommasso
Anne Marie, Catia, and Tommasso

Host Connectivity Sales Manager Jamie Shilliday was the week’s Star Baker with two scrumptious sponges he whipped up from scratch without any assistance from his girlfriend. Both of his delectable creations were cleared within minutes!

One of Jaimie's cakes! Wow!
One of Jaimie’s cakes! Wow!

There wasn’t a soggy bottom in sight (well… on the cake front…) as everyone donated generously to help others while stuffing their faces with delicious cupcakes and home baked delights.

Julio with cake

“Where’s my custard? Oh no!”

My own batches of lemon, chocolate chip and almond biscuits went down a treat. Most of the office graciously decided that they prefer them a bit more well-done than normal.

The bake sale was a spectacular success and we are already making excuses to have another as part of our ongoing commitment to raise charity funds. Thanks to everyone who helped us raise a splendid £138 for Macmillan Cancer Support. Money that will go a long way to help improve the lives of people living with cancer in the UK.

Jaimie's Lemon Drizzle - moist!
Jaimie’s Lemon Drizzle – moist!

 “On this occasion style and substance may come into play again.”

Daniel Grant



Compuware survey – CIOs make big plans for Big Iron

“You hear about big data, you hear about cloud, you hear about analytics and systems of insight. These are all coming together at a critical point in time.” – Dr. John Kelly, SVP, IBM.

A recent Compuware survey supports a longstanding Micro Focus view. Derek Britton checks out the whitepaper…

So it’s not just us, then? As this press release explains, Compuware recently surveyed 350 CIOs to assess CIOs’ perception of their most valuable IT asset and discovered that the mainframe retains the confidence of those whose success depends on it.

We were pleased, but not the least surprised, at the findings. The results of our own 2014 survey of 590 CIOs, through Vanson Bourne, were in line with Compuware’s findings. Namely that CIOs recognise the value of the IP invested in their mainframe infrastructures – and the risks associated with rewrites and the ‘lift and shift’ approach to application modernization.

The contents of the subsequent Micro Focus whitepaper, The State of Enterprise IT – Re-examining Attitudes to Core IT systems, reads like a CIO to-do list; issues covered included managing enterprise ‘IT Debt’, the burden of compliance and outsourcing. If that sounds like you, then download it here.

Back to Compuware; their whitepaper notes that “It is clear that CIOs fully recognize the power and value of the mainframe … 88% of respondents indicated that they believe it will remain a key business asset for at least the next 10 years”.

Unfortunately, there is an image issue to overcome. Mainframe longevity means that many CIOs are probably subconsciously referencing archaic tech. But to remain relevant, anything or anyone must evolve over time; both mainframes and Minis have been around 50 years – and have you seen these? Mainframes have evolved. The new z13 is the most powerful unit that IBM has ever produced. And they wouldn’t commit all that R&D money to anything not destined to be a massive commercial success. So, it makes sense to work with mainframes rather than booking a skip, clearing out the server room and hoping for the best.


Future proof

This clunking, wheezing machinery – yeah, right – is often omitted from the dialogue around the contemporary issues dominating the CIOs’ inbox. But with the support of the right tooling, pressing issues such as Big Data, the move to Mobile and the Cloud can all be handled by the big beasts of Big Blue.

Some CIOs already see this potential – certainly, 81% of Compuware’s respondents recognise that the mainframe can deliver greater Big Data throughput than commodity hardware alone, with 61% already doing just that. There’s more; 78% see the mainframe as a “key enabler of innovation”. And why shouldn’t they? No CIO wants to be without the customer insight that effective data analysis can deliver, or be able to follow their rivals by taking their applications to the Cloud, Mobile, or their customers’ preferred platform.


Another challenge is losing the development skills required to maintain older mainframe applications in an apparent explosion of retirement parties and ‘We’ll Miss You!’ cards. Compuware summarise their concerns thus: “Unfortunately, a ticking time-bomb seriously threatens the ability of companies to preserve and advance their mainframe IP. The Baby Boomers who created the code … will soon pass the reins to a new generation that lacks mainframe skills and experience. This is not going to be an easy transition.”

CIO Goodbye

Indeed. As this press release explains, 55% of the IT leaders surveyed by Vanson Bourne believe it is “highly likely” or “certain” that the original knowledge of their mainframe applications and supporting data structure has left the organization. Similarly, 73% confirm that their organization’s documentation is incomplete. Innovation isn’t easy when no-one is sure how the thing works.

Back to Compuware; “The mainframe environment is complex and decades-old code often lacks adequate documentation. It behooves [IT leaders] to be more aggressive about successfully transitioning stewardship of [their] mainframe intellectual property to the next generation of IT professionals—who do not currently have the mainframe-related capabilities that companies will require over the next decade.”

There’s a plan for that

A lack of documentation is unhelpful, but may not be the apocalyptic scenario Compuware suggest. Our skills campaign is a battle fought on three fronts – namely increased productivity from COBOL developers, cross-training developers working in other languages and enlisting the help of academic partners – that will enable organisations to maintain their mainframes, take their COBOL applications into the future and enable the future innovation that creates or maintains a market advantage. All it needs is the right strategy and market-leading tooling.

Clearly, there are challenges. But equally there are options to resolve them. Practical suggestions in another Micro Focus whitepaper, Reducing the IT Backlog, One Bottleneck at a Time, include a 40% cost reduction and 25% development efficiency improvement that will make serious inroads into any enterprise IT backlogs.

So, what have we learned? From the CIO perspective, that Big Iron can – and will – play a significant role in their future IT strategy. The Micro Focus view is that our mainframe solution can enable these powerful business machines to handle many current CIO challenges. If ‘doing more with what you already have’ is a maxim that you must now live by, start living – book a value profile service. It is an important first step on the journey to enterprise application modernization.



Dear RBS: invest in better systems. Not adjectives.

Ho hum. Another day, another example of RBS presenting IT system neglect as a ‘glitch’…

Analysts, industry commentators and – most importantly – frustrated RBS, Ulster Bank and NatWest customers took to Twitter, keen to remind RBS that their latest IT-based debacle is by no means their first offence.

Analysts, industry commentators and – most importantly – frustrated RBS, Ulster Bank and NatWest customers took to Twitter, keen to remind RBS that their latest IT-based debacle is by no means their first offence. Their most recent attempt to stretch the definition of the word ‘glitch’ was predictable to those of us familiar with their IT infrastructure and deeply irritating for those trying to access their own cash.

And as wearily familiar as the story itself – a host IT failure inconveniencing customers – were the excuses. Perhaps the RBS public relations machine has seen more investment than the IT running their banking operations, because it seems more than half a million HMRC payments had, apparently, not ‘disappeared’ at all, but were merely “delayed.” And although the problem had been “fixed”, customers would be denied access to their child or working tax credits for at least another 48 hours. Remember – these are benefits payments. Two days is a long time to wait for food.

After the comments, the reality

The footnote of an online story is rarely a repository of reasoned argument. Indeed, if you want sensational journalism and conspiracy theories then the comments section of the Mail Online usually has what you need. But the ‘Related Stories’ section after this Finextra blog is more interesting. Note how every other story relates to a meltdown, or the fine that follows it.

That’s because anyone who understand mainframes and COBOL won’t buy the legacy technology/glitch excuse. With proper investment, older mainframes running COBOL applications run just fine. As this blog points out, the DWP make 2.5m benefit payments every single day without a problem. Indeed, some high-profile organizations are using similar tech to defend whole countries and launch rockets: the US Navy is at the forefront of technological breakthroughs and NASA is helping to push back the boundaries of human understanding. No glitches there.

Our own Andy King didn’t buy the glitch angle when RBS tried it last time. Iain Chidgey of data management company Delphix, points the finger at insufficient testing. A distinctly unimpressed Vince Cable suspected “skimping on large-scale investment” is NATS systems when thousands of airline customers were left grounded by a similar computer schism. There are so many more examples.

More examples - click the image for details
More examples – click the image for details

After RBS let their customers down on – of all times – Cyber Monday, Group Chief Executive Ross McEwan described the failure as “unacceptable” and issued a heartfelt mea culpa: “For decades, RBS failed to invest properly in its systems. It will take time, but we are investing heavily in building IT systems our customers can rely on.” All good, but that was in 2013 and two glitches ago. And despite a £750m improvement programme, we seem to be no further forward. Where exactly is this “heavy investment” going?

To be fair, there has been work. But nothing beyond a low-level and inevitable ‘consolidation’ exercise that any large organisation would do to as a by-the-numbers efficiency drive or cost-cutting exercise. No-one is suggesting that these systems are not old. Clearly they are. But properly supported, older technology helps NASA send probes to Mars. And customers of other banks access their cash.

Mainframes – tomorrow’s tech?

Perhaps the issue is that RBS think they are, like many other mainframe owners, fighting fires on too many fronts to enable the innovation that could help their systems deliver modern performance from an older footprint. Banking is heavily regulated, so meeting compliance targets are a challenge. Every organization with an IT function has an IT Backlog. So there’s another. Perhaps their investment is being swallowed up by these activities that do little more than keep the lights on.

RBS recently announced better than expected financial results with pre-tax profits expected to double to £2.65bn. So the money is there. Well, let’s hope so. Imagine if the funding they had committed to application modernization and innovation was to be “delayed”? In a world where a business reputation can be destroyed in the time it takes to tweet, it makes sense to invest in core systems rather than PR. Micro Focus Mainframe solutions can enable long-established enterprise applications with modern functionality. Find me on Twitter if you want to talk more….

Being ‘skills ready’ – the Development Manager challenge

Phillip Miller, Senior Development Manager at Micro Focus looks at the challenges facing Development Managers as they look to resource the maintenance of core COBOL systems.

Working on the front line of application maintenance and development, Development Managers have a unique perspective on where application development requirements meet the people who must deliver them.

They are also at the interface of the wider business plan and delivery schedule. Development Managers with a responsibility for recruitment must build a resource and skills strategy that aligns to business and technical strategy. But ensuring a consistent supply of development talent is by no means guaranteed.

The mature key applications on many older IBM mainframes are written in COBOL and PL/I. The heartbeat of the organization, these applications must be kept up to date and fully maintained as an operational imperative.

While COBOL remains ubiquitous, COBOL and PL/I are not generally taught today and new graduates often prefer to focus on newer languages such as C# and Java, so there is potential for a future skills shortfall between the outgoing senior programmers and subject matter experts, and the influx of suitable new talent.

Planning for the future

Micro Focus is working to keep the supply line of fresh available talent going. We are helping to maintain a future supply of suitably skilled staff by partnering with academia to ensure COBOL skills are on the syllabus of the local university.

But that is a longer-term view. If the long term prognosis is of an increasingly diminishing pool of skilled COBOL staff, then the logical response is  to enable the current talent pool – and new, joining staff – to do more.

Clearly there must be a drive to ensure the organization can meet future skills requirements sooner rather than later. This can happen in two ways:

  • Get more from what you have

‘Skill up’ your current developer pool to meet your future resource requirements. Technology is the key to expanding the available talent at your disposal. The added flexibility and functionality of Micro Focus tooling can increase productivity without the need to hire additional resources.

  • ‘Skill up’ new hires and outsourced staff

Getting your new people aligned with future skills requirements quickly and easily is the key to ensuring skills readiness – and sidestepping specialist recruitment costs.  How organisations transfer  application knowledge and understanding to  new staff and outsourced staff is a key strand of an organisational application management strategy.

Two issues. One problem

As we called out in our dedicated white paper, Visual COBOL: The Agent of Change, there is a lack of close collaboration between teams of old and new developers – due to different tooling, processes and structures – so development, integration and deployment approaches are not as streamlined as they should be. Applications are not built quickly, testing is more difficult and quality is potentially compromised, causing the business to suffer.

Clearly, deploying the right technology will address both of these issues. The contemporary environments of the Micro Focus Mainframe Solution, deliver the efficiencies Development Managers need today and ensure the availability of skilled staff tomorrow. Essentially, this philosophy of improving software development and delivery through a combination of appropriate technology and attitude is going to be familiar to – and welcomed by – those who want to see DevOps appropriated into their processes.


How does that work?

Enterprise Analyzer  accelerates development and modernization projects by up to 40% and beyond. Current and new staff will benefit from a faster COBOL maintenance knowledge transfer, application analysis and documentation environment.

It is not enough to ensure that developers can make changes with confidence – because only by ensuring that critical business systems are properly documented can Development Managers? be sure that the business knowledge does not leave with the retiring workforce.

Our staff-enabling technologies include a more cost-effective and efficient environment that enable current staff to support key mainframe application maintenance, development and test activities.

Deploying a more inclusive and contemporary mainframe testing environment will enable a new generation of developers to skill up and support core COBOL systems. This, more powerful IDE, also delivers tangible benefits – a 40% productivity boost is just one.

Many successful Development Managers have recognized the benefit of a more cost-effective and efficient testing environment for enabling current staff to support application maintenance and development activities. Many of our customers do.

In summary

Aligning your IT resourcing strategy with Micro Focus technology will ensure consistency, retain vital knowledge and create the future generation of COBOL developers that organizations need.

Learn more here

White paper: The Agent of Change

Check out the videos


Did you know COBOL autocorrects to ‘COOL’?

A retrospective on the recent Micro Focus Developer Day in Washington DC by #DevDay novice Mark Plant. An overview and heap of reasons why today’s enterprise developer should attend in person at a #DevDay soon to see the future of COBOL and Mainframe application development for themselves.

#DevDay #DC begins

Russ smiled at me. Just like me, Russ the videographer was a Micro Focus Developer Day novice, but unlike me he was evidently a COBOL grasshopper too. Everyone I know knew years ago that COBOL autocorrects to COOL! It’s surprising that the English language Microsoft Dictionary left it out, considering COBOL is an award winning 56-year-old technology that underpins much of our world. The legendary enterprise developers in the impressive J W Marriot room had evidently brought an abundance of experience with them, as it was obvious that COBOL’s been in their personal lexicons for ages.


They’d come in considerable numbers (more chairs and tables required) to hear about the latest and greatest updates to the COBOL and Mainframe centric part of our Product portfolio. Micro Focus had promised that the real wizards behind the curtain were going to be there, in the flesh – delivering hands on, no holds barred, technical demos – glimpses of magic. The COBOL playlist rocked, coffee flowed, delicious pastries were munched and the room fizzed with anticipation before Ed Airey took to the microphone to kick the day off and…

Ed kicks DevDay DC off
Ed kicks DevDay DC off

#DevDay #DC more than delivered

I felt like a complete technical lightweight being introduced to this crowd of developers as a social media expert. I reminded myself that I can more than hold my own on the technical side of modern marketing. I had a unique opportunity to prove beyond any doubt that the modern marketing concept of ‘Content is King’ is actually 100% correct.

Without giving the entire game away, the great content fine-tuned for a great audience led to a truly great experience within the room that spread beyond my wildest imagination digitally. The attendees responded as Michael Bleistein showed them how to speed up application development with Visual COBOL.

The agenda
The agenda

Derek Britton introduced the high level portfolio and Micro Focus strategy. ‘Agile Boy’ Renato Quédas from Brazil held court with a passionate demo, showing how COBOL and Enterprise teams can benefit from the latest development methodologies.

Steve Wellman showed off with IBM Mainframe-shop-must-have Enterprise Developer. University of Maryland Professor Cassavant provided a great academic program overview while recognising that not all youngsters raved about COBOL development the way some old-timers did. He drummed home the message that it’s imperative that his students understood the importance of so-called-legacy IT in today’s job market by honing a variety of skills.

The fantastic audience
The fantastic audience

I am done. Must be time for a beer and a take-away?

Ed brought the day to a close on time after a superb expert panel discussion. Everyone melted towards the bar for a well-deserved drink and snack at the post event reception. Friendships formed, business cards changed hands and IT projects were discussed. Birds of a COBOL-feather really do appear to stick together.

In wrapping up I feel truly honoured to have been part of this amazing community event if only for a day. I left the USA with the knowledge that the Micro Focus #DevDay format has a future as bright as COBOL – I only hope I can be part of another one soon!

Yum - Jelly-Beans await!
Yum – Jelly-Beans await!

Enterprise developers, don’t miss a DevDay!

We’ve published some pictures for you to like and tag on Facebook. Thanks for having me DC, I flew home exhausted dreaming about the very British voice-over from the Developer Dave video along with some of the classic songs from the playlist. #COBOLRocks  to this day and I’d strongly advise enterprise developers to attend an upcoming DevDay to see why for themselves, soon. Obviously the Detroit and DC events have passed for the 2015 series but you’ve still got time to catch the Boston and Atlanta shows. If I had my chance again, I’d go!

Find out where your next DevDay is and register now.




‘1.21 gigawatts! 1.21 gigawatts. Great Scott!’

Mark Plant from Micro Focus looks forward to meeting contemporary enterprise developers at the upcoming Micro Focus #DevDay. Read why

Exclaimed a young Doctor Emmet Brown to Marty McFly. That was the electrical power needed via lightning strike to zap the 88-miles-an-hour Delorean Back to the Future. Before you all hang up on me this isn’t another blog about movies or my own personal movie heroes. It’s just that time-travel and time machines can be a convenient way of explaining the Micro Focus technology that bridges the old with the new. Powerful, award winning software products that future proof technological investments from the past for years into the future……


COBOL in 2015 –  56 years young

That’s only 12 or so years older than me! It’s the programming language still running many of the world’s business applications and making our lives more convenient. Having spent the lion’s share of my professional life working in a Big Blue Development Lab outside Winchester I am certainly no stranger to COBOL. But the COBOL & Mainframe Developers?

We all know that the original COBOL and Mainframe technology predates pretty much all modern tech, but it’s a bit too easy to assume that it’s all stuck in the past. IBM just invested a cool $1bn in the new z13 mainframe for a reason and a glance at the post-modernist and highly efficient IDE available to today’s COBOL developers will dispel any thoughts that this stuff is antiquated.  Today’s enterprise developer today has an incredibly powerful set of COBOL development tools that support the earthquake-proof light-speed modern mainframe environment.  Today’s mainframe or COBOL coder is now an average 26 years young according to our customer base. They have categorically cast away the sandals, white socks and beard and are chomping at the bit to embrace the digital age with the support of Micro Focus’ skills program and academic initiative.

Today’s enterprise developer is 30 years younger on average than COBOL!

I am talking about the type of heavyweight coders who’ve made it possible for Trasmediterranea Acciona to reuse core mainframe COBOL apps and re-host some of them to the Cloud to knock out expense and pump up service levels. Just like the team at Eurorealm who improved their own productivity by a third and sped themselves up with our Visual COBOL product in the process. The Steria team who’ve mashed up their mainframe application development with modern IDEs providing better service levels more efficiently. Serious developers who make a serious difference to their employer’s bottom line.

Today’s Information Technology typically functions so well on the high performing foundation from yesteryear that the smarter companies that underpin the world’s stock markets are using it to build out the ‘new’ digital economy upon. The 3 examples I mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg – there are hundreds of case studies demonstrating the amazing difference these technologists make with our software right here and I have a chance to meet some of them because;


Micro Focus #DevDay in Washington DC is coming

Are you going? I am and I’m massively excited about finally getting to experience one for myself. Over the past two years, more than 700 COBOL and mainframe developers from across the globe have come together at our Developer Days to see the latest innovations, connect with like-minded peers and forge a stronger COBOL community. Some highlights of #DevDay that I don’t want to personally miss include the live demos, guest speakers and the chance to listen to questions from the floor to our product experts. I’ll tweet some of these queries along with the answers as the day progresses – watch this space!

I am sure I won’t totally escape the lifting, shifting and admin that comes with being involved in a corporate event, I’ve been reliably informed that I’ll be giving away a few special prizes. I have a feeling that all the heavy lifting will be worth its weight in gold for me professionally. I need to see for myself how our (industry recognised) #COBOLRocks hashtag sets the social Media wires on fire each and every time we run one of these days! During an average #DevDay it’s like hearing teenagers discuss 30 years of COBOL development on Twitter with a buzz that’s frankly amazing. I’m guessing that the content must be pretty special to generate that kind of noise!  I’d like to write more blogs and get the attendees and their IT projects the sort of recognition they deserve. For me it will be like meeting Developer Dave in the flesh which also makes me slightly nervous. I want to be able to talk about all the technological stuff that floats my boat  and I’d like to hear what today’s enterprise developer thinks of the Micro Focus COBOL and Mainframe products too. We’ll also be aiming to get some more footage for our increasingly fabulous YouTube channel.

So how do I ensure this part of the day is a success?

‘Success is where preparation and opportunity meet’

That’s according to Indy 500 legend Bobby Unser. Opportunity’s knocked again for me so I need perfect preparation. Sadly I am no longer 26 so I’ve decided to break the ice by paying homage to the COBOL and Mainframe community of yore. In a personal tribute the 1990’s are coming back to the future, here’s what I’ve managed so far:

1)    1st impressions count so I need to look the part. I know from hanging out with Frank Borland in Newbury that no techie is complete without some serious facial hair so I’ve actually grown a beard. Admittedly not a very good one yet  but it has a few days to go. I’ve also packed my Led Zep United States of America 1977 T-shirt  along with my white socks with sandals printed on (as I still can’t justify the expense of a real pair of Birkenstock sandals). That’s my evening wear sorted right?


2)     I’ve been extremely proactive helping my 8 year old son with his math homework. Like me once upon a time COBOL is highly mathematical. I’ve neglected my math sadly so it’s time to get a refresher – quickly.

3)     I’ve been researching on the Micro Focus Academic site and our COBOL community site. I am not brave enough to post yet – perhaps I’ll find the courage during ‘#DevDay itself.

I’d love to hear anything I’ve missed from my checklist on Twitter before I get there. Will I see you there? If not I’ll hopefully see you all online if you follow @MicroFocus and @Mainframe50 for live updates throughout the day. If the conversation turns too techie too quickly I can always ask for COBOL song suggestions……right?

Come on Developers – make something super!

Visual COBOL just won big at the Tech Hero Awards – and no dodgy FIFA-style brown envelopes were required. Because this is a product that speaks for itself (and our customers help out, too…)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Or a modern development environment for re-energizing enterprise COBOL applications on distributed platforms? Actually, make that an award-winning development environment. Because as of Tuesday 19 May, the waiting was over.

Click on our Visual COBOL page. You’re looking at the winner of ‘Best Developer Tool’ at the inaugural Tech Hero Awards, hosted by UK tech publication The Inquirer. We saw off stiff competition, with the likes of Raspberry Pi, Canonical Juju, Imagination Technologies and Progress Software all adopting a fixed grin as we galloped up the steps to pick up our gong.



But as we said in our gushing acceptance speech, it’s also thanks to our customers and partners who use Visual COBOL every day, the social soldiers who spread the word among the dev community and Inquirer readers who all voted for Visual COBOL. Mwah! Mwah!

So why the award?

Simply because while other companies use the word ‘innovative’ as a marketing buzzword, we build it in to Visual COBOL as a feature. The integration with Eclipse and Visual Studio gives development teams the means to re-invigorate decades-old COBOL applications with modern features and functionality. It’s innovation in action.

Every day, hundreds of organizations across the verticals use Visual COBOL to realise their new business requirements. Integrating long-established COBOL systems with funky new Java and .NET technology, our customers take their applications to new heights, using cloud and mobile computing to unlock new value. Visual COBOL is the phone box that turns a mild-mannered newspaper reporter into the man of steel.

ZAP! Acciona Trasmediterranea felt the superhero effect, slashing costs and boosting uptime by taking their ticketing system into Azure. POW! Zucchetti reused a two decade investment in COBOL systems to deliver the application codebase onto both .NET and the JVM platforms.

INQUIRER Editor Madeline Bennett said: “Micro Focus was up against tough competition in the Best Developer Tool category at The INQUIRER Tech Hero awards, going up against organisations such as Canonical and Raspberry Pi. The fact that Visual COBOL got the award is testament to the firm’s calibre in the developer environment space. And as the awards are voted for by The INQUIRER readership, with 5,000 casting their votes overall, it shows that Micro Focus customers, developers and IT professionals highly rate the firm’s products.”




That’s right – COBOL. The decades-old language just picked up the 2015 award for best development tool. But COBOL is everywhere – busy running more than 85% of the world’s business transactions, $2 trillion worth of mainframe enterprise applications and supporting almost all the Fortune 100 companies’ core systems. Pretty damned super, I’d say.

And it is COBOL’s ability to not just keep the wheels of industry turning, but also to adapt and evolve over the decades that has caught the eye of the voters in Tech Hero awards. Businesses like the reliability of COBOL and developers love what they can do with Visual COBOL.

It is this new-found flexibility that is helping to reinvigorate COBOL in the eyes of the dev community; COBOL has reached the dizzy heights of 16 in the TIOBE index – yet another indicator of COBOL’s stickability and versatility. Thanks to Visual COBOL, companies with older applications can see a pathway to the future.

We’re certainly pretty heroic as far as Michael Purser, the President of Canadian application development specialists Bedford Systems, is concerned. “With our new Visual COBOL environment we can see how easy it will be to move our application onto future platforms such as mobile – a great advantage for our clients.”

underneath the mango tree

Another one for the mantelpiece

Micro Focus understands what our clients need and deliver products that meet those needs. Our customers and partners already know this – that’s why we have more than 20,000 customers across the globe. But every so often the industry recognises it too. Perhaps that is why a Micro Focus product was the first software to win the Queen’s Award for Industry. That was a COBOL product and our faith in is reflected in our continued R&D investment – currently $55m – mostly in COBOL. So anyone realising the potential of Visual COBOL today will be still seeing benefits long into the future.

We’ll be previewing the latest enhancements and success stories at our upcoming #DevDay events. Over 700 people around the globe have already attended one – so book your place if you’re interested in shaping the future of COBOL.  Not making the trip? Join the community or download a free copy of Visual COBOL integrated with Eclipse or Visual Studio here.







Melissa Burns

Senior Marketing Programs Manager