Standing the test of time Part 1

Why does COBOL remain the smart choice for application providers and development teams? Portability is the key.

‘Choice’ is a defining characteristic of the IT industry. Whatever the question – there are multiple answers. Whatever the challenge – there are multiple options. This is especially true for platforms.  Most enterprises sport disparate, heterogeneous platform environments.

Application vendors can have to support upwards of 40 platforms, with the appearance of new variants each year adding to the complexity.

IT organizations face internal pressures from tactical investment programmes, a need to lower total cost of ownership (TCO), and a demand not to be locked into a single platform vendor. For most, the important measure is the TCO; both the initial investment charges and recurring annual hardware and software maintenance.  The pressure is on to maximize ongoing value, while removing cost and platform complexity.

Increased commoditization puts portability center stage

Increases in processor power and hardware commoditization present IT buyers with choices when it comes to platform selection: Windows, Linux, Unix, PC or Mac, Desktops or VMs, Mainframe or non-Mainframe, iSeries, Data Center or Cloud. Exploiting this choice lowers TCO.

The blurring of demarcation between platform choices now means that software vendors must make their applications available on a wider range of platforms. Customers will, of course, choose an application based on its functionality, but the decision will also consider the breadth of platforms supported, relative ownership costs, user requirements, skills profiles, supply-chain policy, etc.

Market dynamics of key vertical industries throw even more challenges into the mix. Telecoms service providers, for example, need to lower their cost base and leverage more ROI from their existing IT investment, as well as preserve the differentiation their systems give them. Delivering this cost-effectively, regardless of platform selection, is a major driving force. In financial services, competitive advantage is also deeply entrenched in application code, so it’s important to be able to re-use and harness this value.

Business dynamics of end-user requirements also have a direct impact on the application supplier as the application must work consistently and deliver a uniform process and user interface across the platforms their customers deploy on. This has a knock-on effect in terms of increased support and development costs, and slower development cycles as they get to grips with different tools to build systems on different platforms.

The priority for application providers and corporate development teams is to focus efforts on developing and enhancing their own products, rather than ensuring that they work on an idiosyncratic platform choice. Using different development paradigms to support different deployment options only deflects that focus.

Knowing that the end-user just wants correct business functionality deployed to his chosen list of deployment environments, the application provider or development team needs to ask:

  1. Can we provide business functionality needed on our new platform(s) of choice?
  2. How can we streamline the process of building this functionality to improve time-to-release, reduce our internal costs, and remain flexible for the next set of user requirements?

The ideal solution would be to tackle both issues using a single, efficient method of building functionality, ideally re-using functionality that already exists, and replicating this unchanged across the list of deployment platforms.

Micro Focus’ commitment to COBOL portability leads the way

To deploy business functionality across multiple platforms, Micro Focus tools are designed to help enterprise application providers build systems that are truly portable. Applications created for one platform can be re-used on a new platform essentially without change. These “applications” are the same tried-and-trusted applications that having been running for decades in COBOL.

Thirty years of industry leadership and investment in technology enables Micro Focus to shape both the COBOL language standard and COBOL’s implementation in a variety of products across a vast array of platforms. The Micro Focus approach maintains the portability of the COBOL language, irrespective of product or platform attributes.

The mainframe environment is subtly different. While the COBOL is very similar, the interdependency on transaction systems, mainframe databases, job control systems and other mainframe systems, make the portability of such systems a more substantial task. The mainframe offloading and rehosting tooling offered by Micro Focus has helped both ISVs and enterprises successfully move mainframe applications to a distributed world. Over 600 successful rehosting projects have been achieved through this approach.

Application development tools enhance portability

In terms of the development method and process, Micro Focus provides consistent and class-leading application development technology that enables today’s developer to analyze, develop, debug, test and deploy their applications across an array of platforms. The integrated development environments from Micro Focus allows for instantaneous edit/debug cycles, feature-rich developer tooling, running under new industry-leading frameworks such as .NET and Eclipse. Onward development from Micro Focus puts COBOL in the cloud and on Android.

This focus on developing and enhancing COBOL for both distributed and mainframe environments enables Micro Focus to offer an unrivalled level of portability in the enterprise application marketplace. It is one of the main reasons why COBOL continues to be the smart choice for application providers and development teams across the industry.

Next time you do a platform review and your application provider cannot support your new choice – ask them why they are not using portable technology that puts you at the centre of their strategy.

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