A plan to fail?

Emergency Planning is an increasingly important and sophisticated subject area in our world. As global media awareness and our scientific understanding of disasters improves how we learn to cope with increasingly effective levels of response. Whether they are man-made or natural, the response has often been post factum but now increasingly with an eye on how to cope better in the future.

Emergency Planning is an increasingly important and sophisticated subject area in our world. As global media awareness and our scientific understanding of disasters improves how we learn to cope with increasingly effective levels of response. Whether they are man-made or natural, the response has often been post factum but now increasingly with an eye on how to cope better in the future. We don’t often hear about disasters headed off at the pass – but they are with increasing frequency as our world gets smarter. IT often plays a critical role in what IBM calls a ‘smarter planet’, not only in disseminating information (52% of us have apparently used the web to get emergency help). Collecting data about disasters; understanding and interpreting the statistics; and building computational models to predict disasters better help us prevent them occurring in the future. Machines will only go so far though…they may lead us to water but will we drink? If you’re anything like me you are all good intent but not quite as good on the follow through, and human judgement about what to when a warning is presented, has a pretty dodgy track record.

The Disaster Planning Role and the Dutch Master

Disaster planning is a job I don’t much envy. I am sure my plan to raise a beautiful work of Art in a gallery by 10 feet if the nearby river burst its banks would backfire. I’ve no doubt that I’d discover the correct height should have been 10.5 feet and the Dutch master I was charged with protecting now had soggy feet. If my Dutch master was a water-logged write off the human reaction would no doubt be one of criticism or ridicule. How could that disaster planning guy have been so short-sighted? The National Geographic society was reporting record levels of rainfall so he should have known that something like this would happen.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire

That’s the sad fact. It’s increasingly easy to point fingers and assign blame and guilt. The new 3 horsemen of the apocalypse ‘Should-Have, Would-have and Could-have’ appear so readily when disaster strikes. I am personally starting to think that the MIA 4th horseman is the social media savvy general public who are waiting to judge the individual to blame. Is it fair? Is it heck. But when was anything ever fair? These days the unfairness is unfairly instant and usually digital.

If disaster strikes your websites or applications – what then?

In all honesty Micro Focus Borland Software hasn’t behaved a lot better in that regard. Whenever there’s a web outage we are there, ready to dance around in a told-you-so like way. I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed the wry humour of Frank Borland and the photoshop genius of our Marketing team along the way.

Plan to fail

Benjamin Franklin famously said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” and this appears to hold the keys to successful ‘disaster planning’. Making a disaster recovery plan; testing the plan by running some scenarios; getting the correct teams on board; and making the roles and responsibilities clear, are all elements contributing to a more scientific and industrialised process.

That’s where partnering with a world-class brand like Micro Focus Borland can help. Not in a quick-fix-after-the-horse-bolted type of way. Setting up this discipline needs to find its way into your Company’s AppDev culture. I like to think of Micro Focus as a big enough company that’s small enough to really care. We’ll help you figure out whether your Developers are testing units along the way, or handing it all over to the QA team to inspect, or both. We can help advise which load and performance tests help most in a situation and our thriving community is always on hand to offer valuable advice too.

So when your team is tasked with launching the next application, the new website to sell the line that will make or break your Sales teams’ quarter, or the new e-commerce portal wouldn’t it be reassuring to know that all previous disaster precedents had been covered in the testing process? That the business requirements had been met? And that should your launch go viral you’ll be counting dollars instead of hostile Tweets and headlines?

Think along the lines of the BCP professional and use best in class Testing tools to get confidence in your launches. Recognise your plan is unlikely to be perfect and get the correct team ready for action. Build a culture of ‘preparing for the worst’ and instead of needing to find a scapegoat to throw under the proverbial bus you may just find yourself leaving the office early to celebrate launch success. Wouldn’t that be a worthwhile investment?


It Takes 2 to Tango – and deliver a great solution for COBOL developers

Product Marketing Director Ed Airey from Micro Focus talks about Micro Focus Visual COBOL announcing support for Microsoft’s next generation development platform, Visual Studio 2015 in his latest insightful blog.

A delightful development duo

Whether you’re an avid fan of ABC’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ television program or a novice dance enthusiast, all can appreciate the complexity and intricacy required to deliver a repeated and flawless team dance performance. It’s not easy and requires long hours of practice, constant communication and a shared commitment to perfection. This winning combination is not exclusive to professionals within the dance industry.  It happens all across the software industry too!  Take for example, the latest team collaboration between two industry veterans – Microsoft and Micro Focus.


Perfect harmony: Microsoft and Micro Focus

These software organizations have been on the scene for quite some time – established brands in their own right and each with a very loyal following.  Microsoft of course synonymous with its flagship operating system environment – Windows and its very popular development environment, Visual Studio.  Micro Focus, considered by many, ‘the COBOL company’ and staunch supporters of all things Mainframe.  Perhaps initially considered awkward dance partners by some, but actually the combination couldn’t be better for their shared customers.

This is best evidenced by their most recent performance.  On August 20, Micro Focus announced its latest support for Microsoft’s next generation development platform, Visual Studio 2015.  Through its long standing membership within the Visual Studio Integration Program, Micro Focus worked directly with Microsoft dev teams to streamline its product including code design and dev efforts, delivering a result that will beg an encore performance from the COBOL and .NET development community.


The Mozart of COBOL development tools

Visual COBOL for Visual Studio 2015, puts the power of industry standard development tools directly into the hands of the COBOL developer.  By moving the COBOL language into VS2015, COBOL development has never been faster, more productive or easier than it is right now.  Whether you’re maintaining sixty-year old code or modernizing today’s COBOL applications to embrace Mobile, Cloud, .NET, or Java technologies, Visual COBOL for Visual Studio 2015 equips the dev team to deliver that memorable AppDev performance that the business wants to see.

For those that want to dive into the details of Visual COBOL for Visual Studio 2015, take a look at this short 20-minute video or even the latest features list.  But if you’re looking for key highlights, here’s what to expect from this latest offering:

  • The very latest in COBOL language integration within Visual Studio and .NET
  • Support for both native and managed application code development allowing you to extend your existing COBOL applications
  • A unified toolset for the .NET developer, making COBOL accessible alongside C#, Visual Basic and other modern languages
  • COBOL development and deployment support for Windows 10, .NET 4.6 and Azure platforms.

There’s a wealth of new capability provided in this new Visual COBOL release and it’s all thanks to great development teamwork within Micro Focus and Microsoft.

Whether you’re a COBOL developer that’s searching how to best maintain existing applications or a .NET developer wanting to connect COBOL systems to new technologies, Visual COBOL for Visual Studio 2015 is worth a closer look.

A development collaboration continues to resound into the future

So, will this latest dev collaboration between Micro Focus and Microsoft be the last?  Unlikely.  As organizations (and technology) continue to evolve, new consumer demands will drive the need for new tech requirements and new solutions.  Particularly in support of trusted (everyday) COBOL systems such as banking, insurance and government applications, developers need the right tools to maintain and modernize these apps. I would expect an encore performance in the near future.   Plus, media rumor has it that VSNext development is already underway.

If you’d like to try Visual COBOL out for free then please follow this link, or find out more on the Micro Focus YouTube channel playlist.


Taking COBOL mobile

Organizations without mobile capabilities – or a strategy to achieve them – are standing still. But with the right technology, even older COBOL applications have the potential to go mobile. COBOL has a long, rich history of innovation and is adding to it every day…

Hands up if you have a drawer full of old mobile phones that you will probably never use again? That’s a lot of hands. Sure, we all need a spare, but if you are likely to swap your touch-screen smartphone for your Nokia 6310 then keep your hands up … thought so.

My point is that the increasing consumer adoption of all things mobile, namely phones, devices, apps and services – even our exploration of the Internet of Things – represents an irreversible trend.

The mobile arena is the battleground for today’s digital business. Gartner predicts that by 2017, mobile consumers will download or access mobile apps and services more than 268 billion times. That’s – potentially – a cool $77bn in mobile revenues. The key word is potentially. Any modern business wishing to ride that wave must offer their customers the opportunity to experience their business services digitally or surrender that business to the competitors that can.


Balancing act

That is fine in principle. But any businesses must exercise cost control and maintain a ‘balance’ of new innovations and the BAU, ‘lights-on’ work. Essentially, anything leveraging modern tech must deliver a fast return to the business to pay its way – and that means giving the customer what they want sooner than other players in this marketplace.

Typically, organizations with large customer bases that need to deliver applications and data via consumer friendly services – think banks, insurance companies, airlines – are likely to have substantial investments in COBOL. Clearly, these systems were not built with mobile or the cloud in mind and the original developers will not have built in the requisite flex to create digital experiences through mobile applications. Yet the imperative to deliver them remains, so success depends on access to customer data and the ability to leverage core IP and business logic within these COBOL systems.

As has been noted – replacing time-proven COBOL code for an unknown commodity makes little business sense, particularly as COBOL has the inherent capabilities to deliver what the business – and crucially, the customer – needs.

 Portability: the foundation of COBOL’s legacy

For more than 50 years COBOL has embraced continuous innovation. Remember when ATMs were a novelty? Think about how technology has driven the advancement of logistics, banking, equity trading systems – all thanks to COBOL. Ask the Treasury of the Republic of Cyprus about how they have streamlined efficiency and achieved real savings with the language of the future.

Right now, COBOL is connecting more than 500,000,000 mobile customers. So the potential is there. The challenge for the developer is in bridging the gap between the existing technology and the modern capabilities required to take COBOL companies into the future.

The solution to that challenge could be easier than you think. As our ‘fast path to COBOL’ journey explains, re-use is the new ‘start from scratch’. Take your data and applications – your core business logic and competitive advantage – and create something new and exciting from it. Modern tools, such as the Visual Studio and Eclipse are the launchpad for delivering new mobile services faster and the workspace for folding modern languages such as Java, Objective C and C# into current COBOL systems.COBOLallaround

Micro Focus – taking COBOL mobile

COBOL has been our core business for nearly 40 years and bridging the gap between older and new technologies remains our primary mission. If you’re ready to derive more business value from your business applications, take a look at our COBOL to Mobile solutions.

Developers: Take advantage of these free resources.  Get started today with our handy demo code, video and ‘how to guide.


Back to our original point; those old Nokia mobile phones in your drawer might be old, but they still work. The technology has simply evolved and with our help, so can yours.

But don’t bother swapping your laptop for a ZX Spectrum. With only 16KB of RAM to play with, your chances of reading this blog are pretty slim.