The choice is yours – #DevDay drivers

The Micro Focus DevDay roadshow continues to attract large crowds. David Lawrence attended our latest shows to learn why it remains the must-see event for the COBOL community

#DevDay draws in the crowds

With hundreds of attendees over the past 12 months, Micro Focus DevDays continue to pack them in. Last  week’s events in New York and Toronto were no exception. This blog uncovers why so many of the global COBOL community attend our event.

We spoke with application developers from institutions, large and small, looking for solutions to build on, maintain, extend and adapt their inventory of business-critical COBOL applications to meet new business needs or opportunities. These customers view COBOL as fundamental to their respective business strategy and operations, not just for today, but into the future. These clients have, by and large, seen how extending and adapting their current proven and reliable COBOL solutions delivers more value faster, and with less risk than other strategies.

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Skilling up

One attendee we spoke with came to DevDays because of increasing new business demands on his application portfolio. This person has been looking to increase his COBOL staff to meet them. He had advertised for COBOL programmers, but it seemed there were none to be found in his market. So, he is changing his approach, and has now decided to bring in a skilled C# or Java developer and train them in-house on COBOL.

We suggested the expediency of putting these new staff members in front of a modern IDE for COBOL, one which looks and feels like the modern IDEs available for Java or C#, and is supported for both Eclipse and Visual Studio environments. Micro Focus Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer fit the bill nicely. These modern IDE’s offer advanced automation features, such as configurable, panel-based layouts, wizards, and a context sensitive editor, and, a seamless interaction with modern managed code environments (Java and/or .NET). They will be entirely familiar to those from a Java or .NET background.

Coincidentally, that topic was covered in the afternoon session which showed Micro Focus’ solutions for mainframe developers:  Enterprise Analyzer and Enterprise Developer. We heard from C# programmers who found that by using Enterprise Developer as their IDE they were productive in COBOL in less than a week.

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Go OO – ­and fast

In response to a question about working with object-oriented solutions, the audience was treated to a live demo by Micro Focus’s own Mike Bleistein. Using the standard capabilities of our development tools, Mike built an interface to a traditional relational database, using an older COBOL application. Mike used our object oriented COBOL classes to create a simple mortgage rate query application with a modern user interface, which made it more accessible and more easily used than the ‘green screen’, text-based implementation it would replace.  Such a transformation takes an hour for a simple application, a fraction of the time it would take to take to do this by hand.

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Banking on the latest capabilities

Another attendee, a major international banking client, uses our mainframe development technology. They wanted to identify a path towards implementing the latest release of our Enterprise Developer product. This release offers a more efficient Eclipse-based environment which will integrate into their existing Eclipse environment. In addition, this customer is also seeking ways to establish a more available and easily managed mainframe test environment, which is another of the Micro Focus enterprise technology offerings.

Opening up Open Systems

A developer whose organization builds and operates core COBOL systems under UNIX, said their reason for attending DevDay was driven by market demand. Their challenge is simple – how can their core business service be made available across new internet and mobile interfaces? Establishing a modern, digital interface for their clients is vital. Our experts showed the Micro Focus Visual COBOL technology, which does just that, providing insight in to how that challenge can be met, fast, at low risk.

Technology choices

We spoke with an independent software developer. Devising a new application, the developer has been exploring a range of modern development technologies for building the right ‘front end’. But when we asked them about the core business processing, they confessed “That’s a no brainer – it has to be COBOL – it’s the best tool for the job”. DevDay showed them live examples of how COBOL and newer technologies can integrate and co-exist in today’s platforms.

Micro Focus – the COBOL guys

So, what are we saying here? Simple – a great many organizations, all facing unique challenges, keep turning and returning to COBOL, and Micro Focus technology, to resolve their issues.

Micro Focus continues to invest over $60 million annually to support just about any COBOL environment our customers have run in the past and present, or will run in the future. It was great to meet many of them this week in New York and Toronto. Here’s to many more #DevDay events.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

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DevOps – pressing ahead

In an IT world that seems to be accelerating all the time, the clamour for faster delivery practices continues. Derek Britton takes a quick look at recent press and industry reports.

Introduction

In many customer meetings I tend to notice the wry smiles when the discussion turns to the topic of IT delivery frequency. The truth is, I don’t recall any conversation where the client has been asked to deliver less to the business than last year. No-one told me, “we’re going fast, and it’s fast enough, thanks”.

The ever-changing needs of an increasingly-vocal user community guarantees that IT’s workload continues to be a challenge. And this prevails across new systems of engagement (mobile and web interfaces, new user devices etc.) as well as systems of record (the back-office, data management, number crunching business logic upon which those systems of engagement depend for their core information).

Moving at pace, however, needs to be carefully managed. Less haste, more speed, in fact. Gartner says a quarter of the Global2000 top companies will be using DevOps this year. Let’s look to another deadline-driven entity, the press, for a current view.

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Banking on DevOps

Speaking to a conference of over 400 at a DevOps conference in London, ING Bank global CIO Ron van Kemenade says investment in new skills and a transition to DevOps is critical as the bank adjusts to a mobile and online future through its “Think Forward” digital strategy.

“We wanted to establish a culture and environment where building, testing and releasing software can happen rapidly, frequently and more reliably. When beginning this journey we started with what matters most: people,” van Kemenade says.

Putting the focus on engineering talent and creating multi-disciplinary teams where software developers partner with operations and business staff has led to more automated processes, a sharp reduction of handovers and a “collaborative performance culture”, he adds.

Speaking at the same event, Jonathan Smart, head of development services at Barclays, talked up an eighteen-month push by the bank to incorporate agile processes across the enterprise

Over the past year-and-a-half, the amount of “strategic spend” going into agile practices and processes has risen from four percent to more than 50%, says Smart, and the company now has over 800 teams involved

To accelerate its own transformation, BBVA has adopting a new corporate culture based on agile methodologies. “The Group needs a cultural change in order to accelerate the implementation of transformation projects. It means moving away from rigid organizational structures toward a more collaborative way of working”, explains Antonio Bravo, BBVA’s Head of Strategy & Planning. “The main goal is to increase the speed and quality of execution.”

Worth SHARing

Little wonder that the IBM mainframe community organization, SHARE, is continuing a significant focus on DevOps at the forthcoming August 2016 show in Atlanta. Tuesday’s keynote speech is called z/OS and DevOps: Communication, Culture and Cloud”, given by members of the Walmart mainframe DevOps team.

Meanwhile, an article featured in Datamation, and tweeted by SHARE, provides further evidence and arguments in favour of adopting the practice. It cites a report from “2016 State of DevOps Report” which says, “[Developers using DevOps] spend 22 percent less time on unplanned work and rework, and are able to spend 29 percent more time on new work”

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Time to Focus

Of course, Micro Focus are neither strangers to SHARE nor to DevOps. At a recent SHARE event, we attended the DevOps discussion panel, discussing technical, operational and cultural aspects.

More recently, Micro Focus’s Solution Director Ed Airey penned an informative article published in SDTimes, outlining a smart approach to mainframe DevOps. The rationale, he says, is simple – competitive pressure to do more.

“Competitive differentiation depends on [organizations’] ability to get software capabilities to market quickly, get feedback, and do it again”

Addressing major challenges to make DevOps a reality, in both mainframe and distributed environments, Airey talks about how major question marks facing DevOps teams can be tackled with smart technology, and refined process; questions such as collaboration, development process, culture, skills, internal justification. He concludes with encouraging projected results, “Standardizing on common tooling also enables productivity improvements, sometimes as high as 40%.”

Of course – not everyone is convinced

Modern delivery practices aren’t for everyone. And indeed some issues sound quite daunting. Take Cloud deployment for example.

Sounds daunting? A recent Tech Crunch article certainly thought so.

We are treated to a variety of clichés about the topic such as “ancient realm” and “the archaic programs”. However, the publication failed to notice some important things about the topic.

Central to the piece is whether COBOL based existing systems could be “moved” to another platform. The inference was that this was an unprecedented, risky exercise. What’s perhaps surprising, to the author at least, is that platform change is no stranger to COBOL. Micro Focus’ support of over 500 platforms since its inception 40 years ago is supplemented by the fact that the COBOL language, thanks to our investment, is highly portable and – perhaps most importantly in this case – platforms such as the Cloud or more specifically Red Hat (alongside SUSE, Oracle and many other brands of UNIX too) are fully supported with our Micro Focus range. That is to say, there was never any issue moving COBOL to these new platforms: you just need to know who to ask.

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Moving Ahead

Anyway, I can’t stop for long, we’re moving fast ourselves, continuing the DevOps discussion. Upcoming deadlines? Find us at SHARE in Atlanta in August, or visit us at a DevDay in the near future, or catch up with us on our website where we’ll be talking more about DevOps and smarter mainframe delivery soon.

‘Sur-thrive-al’ guide to attending #Devday

We get asked a lot of questions via Social Media, our website and email about upcoming Micro Focus #DevDays. Jackie Anglin is now a seasoned #DevDay Veteran having presided over 25 of them to date aross North America. We’ve summed up the most common questions and here are Jackie’s answers to help you plan your day!

We get asked a lot of questions via Social Media, our website and email about upcoming Micro Focus #DevDays.  Jackie Anglin is now a seasoned #DevDay Veteran having presided over 25 of them to date aross North America. We’ve summed up the most common questions and here are Jackie’s answers to help you plan your day!

Where do I register and how far in advance should I let you know I will be going?

We do our best to make sure everyone has a great seat and a great view. Registering early is key and the best place to find the schedule is the #DevDay hubpage Plan to arrive before the morning session begins because these events are growing.

You’ll see from the photos there are very few spare seats and a some delegates show up on the door on the day too. Register early to help us find the right space, cater correctly and get the logistics right. If there isn’t a #DevDay scheduled near you then simply fill out the form to at the bottom of the #DevDay hubpage to request one and we’ll see what we can do.

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Are the #DevDay events only aimed at COBOL or Mainframe COBOL Developers?

Think about bringing a COBOL sceptic or two! Your whole development team is welcome, COBOL developers and non-COBOL developers alike! It’s been really interesting to watch developers who haven’t been exposed to COBOL see how easily they can work with the language using modern Visual Studio or eclipse IDEs.  It’s all about taking what works today and ensuring it will still work in years to come – we’ve covered some of this in a previous #DevDay blog. Don’t forget that a #DevDay only costs your time so the business-case of expanding the invitation to a wider team may not be as difficult as you think. Being there together might just lead to a light bulb moment of cross team developer efficiency!

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Do you provide lunch and drinks?

We like to feed our guests well, blame it on my Southern American upbringing, but no one leaves hungry. I highly recommend everyone stay for the networking reception afterwards, and invite your local colleagues (and maybe even your boss or manager) to join us.  Our techies let their hair down (or not, in the case of Mike Bleistein) and like to talk even more about the COBOL community, the old days, the future and answer your tough questions.  A designated driver or public transport might be a good idea! If you are travelling in why not get in the mood by downloading our #COBOLRocks playlist to your Spotify account. bier19

What do you mean by ‘Stump the expert’?

It’s the last and my favourite part of the day!!  It’s your chance to ask our panel of experts your hardest questions specific to your environment or related to your current and future projects and development challenges. I want our know-it-all experts to get stumped.  If you stump them, make sure you boast remorselessly about it on Twitter to let the world know!  As far as I know they’ve never been defeated with any COBOL or Mainframe AppDev challenge……

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Can I find the events online too?

 These events buzz as much online as they do in the room, we’re very passionate about social media if you can’t tell by the hashtag in our event name. We seriously love it and our large developer community talks regularly via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. In fact, I get pretty giddy when I meet a fellow tweeter…so much so that I may have to take a selfie to tweet. If you do tweet about #DevDay you’ll be in line for a reward  and quickly find out how many likeminded Developers there are out there! Details of prizes and awards with will be announced on the day.

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What do I need to bring with me?

While we love the stories about Derek Britton back in the day at past Developer Conferences, I love hearing the stories about the cool applications powered by COBOL out there. Please  bring your real world stories to share. You could also bring a laptop if you’re involved in a Product Trial. There aren’t many opportunities these days to get up close and personal with the Principal Product Architects and Managers so use the opportunity for your own advantage!

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Don’t hesitate to find me on Twitter and point out what I’ve missed from the list if you’re one of our #DevDay alumni. Hopefully see you there in person at a North American #DevDay soon! If you can’t attend one of our North American events, you can find a location near you or request one at the hubpage.

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Micro Focus DevDays: A window into the future of COBOL

Jackie Anglin from Micro Focus invites you to come and see more about what Micro Focus mainframe and COBOL products can do. At a North American #DevDay near you

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So, what could Developer Days do for you?

These sessions  are an opportunity for our North American partners and customers to see for themselves the opportunities that new, enabling technologies could bring to long-established COBOL applications. You’ll have to see it to believe it…

This year our ‘A Team’ of tech guys have a plan (and yes, they do love it when it comes together) to help our customers and partners make more of their mainframes. Because by hitching all that power to Visual COBOL, the rich development environment that delivers true innovation, they can help you make more of your application estate.

With the right approach – and a little insight – your organization’s current mainframe, Windows, Unix and Linux-based COBOL business systems can support tomorrow’s technologies including mobile, cloud, .NET and JVM. And if you want to see innovation in action….

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See for yourself

We’re always pleased and proud to have our partners stand up to explain and demonstrate how Visual COBOL has breathed new life into their COBOL applications and this year will be no different.

In our most recent DevDays we heard from application knowledge experts Transvive, while IBM walked us through the possibilities that the zOS operating system brings to the contemporary mainframe. Sammons Financial and Empire Life insurance have already shown us what their version of the future looks like so want to contribute with a presentation of your own, then let us know.

For the forthcoming shows we can confirm that, among others, technology consultants Select Computing and infotech firm Information Analysis Incorporated will be demonstrating how they have given their COBOL apps a new lease of life, as will Spears Software and marine insurance specialists Boat US.

And this year’s show-and-tell has a main event that proves just how versatile Visual COBOL can be in taking old-school COBOL apps into real world, right-now situations. The demonstration from our partners at Astadia is a walk-through of how insurance claims advisors use Google Glasses connected to COBOL applications when making claim assessment site visits to their clients.

Exciting innovation from trusted applications

So these DevDays are all about taking you into tomorrow with what you have today. About not risking core processes in attempting to create a genuine business advantage through innovation. It’s about supporting good ideas with the COBOL technology that still drives more than 70% of today’s business transaction processing systems.

We created Developer Days to demonstrate how enterprise application developers can quickly and easily modernize their COBOL systems using the very latest in COBOL development technology and with innovations such as the Astadia presentation we have walking, talking proof that it really works.

Book today. Innovate tomorrow

Developer Days are all about seeing the potential. Everyone takes home something different, whether it is a how-to of achieving best practice or the inspiration to try something new. So come along to a Dev Day near you soon (and stay tuned for updates and additions to the schedule available here)

Aside from seeing Micro Focus mainframe development technology at work, you will learn how to:

  • Accelerate time to delivery on mainframes and distributed platforms
  • Enable greater focus on new innovation
  • Leverage modern COBOL development tools to maximize current development resources
  • Attract the next generation of developer talent

While demonstrations and presentations from our tech team will explain the potential, it is the real-world testimonials from Micro Focus’ partner and customer community that bring it to life.

Who else should attend? 

  • Essentially any organization thinking about – or in the process of – modernizing their COBOL applications.
  • Anyone wanting to extend them to the Cloud, mobile and managed code (.NET or JVM) environments
  • Anyone with the inspiration to do more with their application portfolio but without the how-to knowledge.

 

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