Micro Focus #DevDay doubles-down in Dallas

The #COBOL community roadshow continued recently as Micro Focus #DevDay landed in Dallas, TX. But this time was special – there were two events instead of one. Derek Britton went along to find out more.

A numbers game

Just as COBOL processes some of the most important numeric transactions globally, we learned of some telling statistics at the most recent #DevDay – held this month in Dallas.

Very interestingly, the show started with an award for Dallas – host of the most frequent #DevDay events. This was Micro Focus’ 4th time in Dallas in as many years hosting a COBOL community meeting. Over 200 delegates have attended our Dallas-hosted events in the last few years. Of course, Dallas is only part of a major global program – Micro Focus has hosted nearly forty #DevDay customer meetings since the program was started a few years ago.

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But these numbers are dwarfed by the next: thousands of customers use Micro Focus’ COBOL technology today. What do they have in common? They are all committed to using the right tools to build the next generation core business applications, to run wherever they need to be run. This community also includes over one thousand Independent Software Vendors who have chosen COBOL as their language platform for the scalability, performance and portability their commercial packages need.

Last year we asked that global community their thoughts of the language. An overwhelming 85% said COBOL remains strategic in their organization. However, two-thirds of the same group said they were looking to improve the efficiency of how they delivered those applications.

We also heard that this global COBOL community is supported by Micro Focus’ $60M investment each year, which it makes across a range of COBOL and related technology products. This week, we also saw where some of that investment is made. One way of explaining how is by product area, where our technology is split across two communities. It was those two communities who held separate #DevDay meetings in the same location.

Micro Focus #DevDay

The Micro Focus #DevDay event is no stranger to our blog site. It is designed with the Micro Focus customer community in mind – showcasing latest products such as Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer to the traditional Micro Focus user base.

Highlights of the Dallas session included a major focus on key new technical innovations. The first of these explored building REST-based services in a managed-code world using COBOL. Our experts demonstrated the simple steps to build, for example, mobile payment systems, using trusted COBOL routines and a simple RESTful integration layer. They later demonstrated a newly available support for advanced CICS Web Services, connecting trusted mainframe systems with new digital devices with a seamless, modern interface.

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We also heard news of the latest product releases – with versions 2.3.2 of Enterprise Developer and Visual COBOL, which are newly available, including a range of major enhancements plus support for new environments such as Linux on IBM Power Systems and Windows 10. Some delegates got a chance to test drive the new version themselves in the hands-on lab.

The #DevDay event continues to be hugely successful and touches down next in December, in Chicago.

Acu #DevDay

The ACU COBOL technology is an established product line, acquired originally from AcuCorp, which joined the Micro Focus family just a little over a decade ago. The Acu range, known now as extend, boasts thousands of users.

Arguably the highlight of the day was the announcement of the brand-new Acu2Web capability.  Available to participating clients as part of the extend 10.1 product Beta program, Acu2Web demonstrates Micro Focus commitment to a digital future in its Acu COBOL technology, and solves a genuine market need. The challenge was a real one – a community one: access to the same core COBOL application system, from any device, with any interface, on any system, to behave the same way, using the same setup. In yesteryear, a limited albeit complex engineering task, the problem has been exacerbated beyond all recognition by the proliferation of new devices and platforms, all of which need to access trusted back-end systems.

This was the challenge we set ourselves – and that’s what we’ve built into our latest Acu extend technology – a seamless, transparent access mechanism to core Acu-built COBOL apps from any device.  The Acu2Web facility builds the wiring and plumbing for any access point, no matter where, as the access diagram below outlines.

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Acu2Web is one of the new exciting capabilities being made available in extend 10.1. The Beta program is underway to qualifying clients. The roadmap milestones outlined during the event give a 10.1 release date in early 2017.

A global community… supported globally

The focused customer technology event is an important community touch-point for Micro Focus – but it certainly isn’t the only one. The same community thrives online, not least at Community.microfocus.com. Available to all, this forum provides tips and tricks for technology usage including suggestions from technical staff, consultants and customers alike. Importantly, product areas such as Acu have their own dedicated pages (see below).

 

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Through the community, our social media site, and our academic program, Micro Focus continues to fly the flag for COBOL skills. Just shy of 400 higher education establishments are training their students to learn COBOL with Micro Focus COBOL products, building the next generation of COBOL talent.

In Summary

#DevDays are the perfect opportunity to witness the significant new product capabilities now available to our clients. Both product sets have undergone transformational updates to directly address real market demand.

I caught up with the host of the Micro Focus Developer Days, Ed Airey, who summarised Micro Focus’ approach “We are proud to host events that bring our entire COBOL development community together, to exchange ideas, learn new capabilities, and explore how to embrace future needs using modern technology. We remain committed to our community and look forward to more events of this nature in the future”.

Two product lines; one global COBOL community.

Find more about how our products can support you at www.microfocus.com

Latest updates to Micro Focus COBOL Development and Mainframe Solutions now available

Building a stronger sense of community–It’s a topic often discussed across many industries and technical professions and coincidentally, also a favorite topic at Micro Focus #DevDay events. Amie Johnson, Solutions Marketing strategist at Micro Focus digs deeper into this topic and uncovers some core reasons why community matters while also sharing some exciting product news for COBOL and Mainframe enthusiasts.

If you haven’t attended a Micro Focus #DevDay event in the past few months, let me recap that typical attendee experience for you.  It’s a day jam-packed will technology demonstrations, interactive Q&A sessions, hands on labs and much more.  Its eight hours of technology focused discussions designed for the COBOL and Mainframe developer. If you look closely though, you’ll also see something else, beyond the tech – community development.  I’m always pleased to see attending delegates in engaging conversation with other peers often sharing their ‘COBOL’ stories.  This sense of community both educates, and builds best practices while establishing long term relationships for all involved.  It also removes any perceived isolation that could occur if such conversations did not occur.  You’ll also see many of these experienced professionals talk shop, exchange stories from the past and seek answers to needed problems and questions. In many ways, #DevDay is the place where enterprise developers belong and where everyone knows your name.

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This week’s events in Dallas didn’t disappoint with a strong focus on COBOL application modernization, and performance, along with a desire to ‘sell that strategy’ upwards in the organization.  With thousands upon thousands of COBOL applications supporting everyday activities including banking, insurance, air travel, equities trading, government services and more; it’s no surprise that (for many attending) COBOL remains a solid choice for core business. Most acknowledge though that there are external pressures, though, to consider new solutions, perhaps even re-write or re-place those applications with new technologies. Underlying complexity and cost, however, often sideline those projects in favor of less risky approaches to modernization.  After all, these (COBOL) applications are essential to business success and the tolerance for business is often very low.  But there’s pressure to modernize with an eye to embracing new models, new tech and the future.

Micro Focus Continued Investment in COBOL and Mainframe Technologies

The goal of course, through event discussions is to ensure that all guest leave the event feeling it was valuable and delivered some practical skills which they could use when back at the office.  Yes, many attending are interested in the Micro Focus investment strategy for COBOL and Mainframe tech.  We cover that with ample detail and discussion ensuring all understand that COBOL is just as modern as the thousands of new programming languages available today—and they see it too through many demo examples.

This future proof strategy for COBOL ensures that applications, many of which support global enterprise, continue to function and support the business. Supporting this strategy are the following key data-points discussed while in Dallas:

  • 85% of surveyed customers believe their COBOL applications are strategic to the business
  • 2/3 of the survey respondents that maintain these COBOL applications are seeking new ways to improve efficiency and the software delivery process  while modernizing their applications to work with next gen technology including relational database management systems, Web services, APIs and integrate with Java and .Net code environments

These drivers underpin the continued Micro Focus commitment to support the widest variety of enterprise platforms.  Today, over 50+ application platforms are supported providing maximum choice, freedom and flexibility for anyone using COBOL. This capability coupled with a continued annual R&D investment of $60M reaffirms that COBOL is ready for innovation whether it be .NET, Java, mobile, cloud, or the Internet of Things. And this week brings even more exciting news as we released the latest updates to our COBOL Development and Mainframe technologies.

Mainframe Development Solution Updates

Versions 2.3.2 of Enterprise Developer, Enterprise Test Server, Enterprise Server, and Enterprise Server for .NET are now available.  The Micro Focus Enterprise product suite helps organizations build, test, and deploy business critical mainframe workloads with an eye toward future innovation and market change.

Highlights in this latest update include:

  • Latest platform support – including Linux on IBM Power Systems and Windows 10 – future-proofs applications.
  • Ability to extract COBOL and PL/I business rules to copybooks makes code re-use easier so developers can work smarter and faster.
  • Enhanced CICS Web Services support helps customers more easily meet the demand for web and mobile application interoperability.
  • Improved mainframe compatibility simplifies re-hosting and extends modernization options for customers deploying to .NET and Azure.

Examples of customers using these solutions include, B+S Banksysteme, City of Fort Worth, and City of Inglewood.

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COBOL Development Solution Updates

In COBOL development, the latest version of Visual COBOL 2.3 Update 2 includes the latest updates that helps you organize and manage core IT systems developed in COBOL, providing a pathway to new IT architecture and access to modern tools for enterprise application development.  This release includes over 100 customer requested enhancements and support for the latest enterprise platform updates and 3rd party software.

Highlights in this latest update include:

  • New support for the JBoss EAP platform
  • Updates for the latest releases of supported operating systems
  • Over 100 customer requested fixes and enhancements

Examples of customers using these solutions include Dexia Crediop, Heinsohn Business Technology, and The County of San Luis Obispo..

For Micro Focus customers on maintenance the latest updates can be downloaded via the Supportline portal

So check out these latest COBOL and Mainframe solutions.  Read how these customers are embracing next gen technology alongside their existing core business systems.  And for those interested in joining the COBOL community at the next Micro Focus #DevDay, check out our events calendar here.  Save your seat and join the conversation.

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3-2-1: The #DevDay Countdown has begun

With dozens of cities and thousands of delegates in the past four years – our #DevDay event is more popular than ever. Jackie Anglin previews this year’s exciting updates to the COBOL community’s must-attend show.

Introduction

It’s spring. And to mark the season of renewal and growth, we’re announcing the latest incarnation of our highly popular event series, Micro Focus #DevDay!  Now in its fourth year, #DevDay offers an out-of-this-world lineup of technical information, case studies and networking opportunities for you.  What’s new and different about this year? Let’s take a closer look….

The only constant is change

This year’s #DevDay is all about embracing change and let’s face it – change within IT is constant.  Platforms, architectures, applications, and delivery processes are continually adapting to meet new business requirements and market pressures.  But in order to achieve successful, lasting change, IT skills must also evolve and that’s what Micro Focus #DevDay is all about – technical education, building new skills and stronger community engagement. #DevDay delivers on this promise with a rocket booster of innovative content just for the enterprise application development community.

Today’s need: skill and speed

According to a recent Accenture survey, 91% believe organizational success is linked to the ability to adapt and evolve workforce skills. For starters, the business needs to respond to new competitive pressures, keep existing customers, retain market share and capitalize on new business opportunity, and these are just a few reasons. What makes this change proposition more challenging today is the plethora of new innovations in areas like mobile, cloud or IoT technologies including the connected devices we wear, drive or use to secure our homes. This requires an unprecedented technological prowess in IT.

But being smart won’t be enough on its own. This surge in the digital marketplace requires IT shops adapt faster than ever in order to keep pace with this unprecedented consumer demand for instant, accurate and elegantly designed content. Anywhere on the spectrum of status quo is no longer acceptable.  Delivering services in this new era requires tight business and IT alignment, better application delivery processes, greater efficiency and of course – speed.  For organizations, large and small, IT capability is the new competitive differentiator and as your responsive IT partner, Micro Focus, will help you meet these challenges.  Which brings us back to this year’s #DevDay lineup.

There is space for you at #DevDay

For organizations with IBM mainframe and other enterprise COBOL applications that need to move faster (without breaking things), #DevDay is for you.  Whether you manage COBOL apps in a distributed environment, or work with critical systems on the mainframe, or whether you work with those who do, here’s a list of reasons you should attend: latest tech content, real-world case studies, hands-on experience, a peer networking reception and our famously difficult ‘stump a Micro Focus expert’ contest.

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A universe of technology

This year’s #DevDay series is packed with new technology topics including platform portability, app development using Visual Studio and Eclipse IDEs, mainframe DevOps, .NET, Java integration and much more.

Here are just a few of today’s highly relevant topics on the agenda:

  • REST assured with COBOL: API-enable your business systems
  • Dealing with Data: COBOL and RDBMS integration made simple
  • The modern mainframe: Deliver applications faster. Get better results

You – at the controls

#DevDay now offers a brand new opportunity to build hands on experience with our latest COBOL products.  Led by our experts, you can test drive for yourself some of the powerful new capabilities available to the enterprise application developer. You must pre-register to participate.  To do so, click here.

#DevDay: Future AppDev takes off

#DevDay is focused on you – the enterprise COBOL development community.  This is a perfect chance to learn best practices and experiences, connect with like-minded professionals, as well as build new technical skills.  Don’t miss this opportunity. Join us for a truly intergalactic #DevDay experience.  Seating is limited, so register now before the space-time continuum distorts!

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Touching Down Near You Soon

United States

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See what happens at a #DevDay and find us on social media.

Federal IT Modernization doesn’t have to be taxing

Ed Airey examines the recent and untimely IRS systems outage, the speedy recovery and the agency’s future aspirations of modernization– all just in time for tax season.

IRS Offline?

Did you catch the big IRS announcement? On 2 February and less than 12 weeks before the US tax filing deadline, a temporary but comprehensive computer systems outage took out many of its tax processing platforms. No 2015 tax returns could be filed electronically, a problem potentially impacting 27 million taxpayers. Additionally, refunds from 2015 returns would be delayed.

IRS tax payment processing systems are now back online and the agency has promised that the US taxpayer will feel minimal impact when they e-file their 2015 tax returns. While the delays amounted to no more than 24 hours, everyone is keen to find out what happened – and why?

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Who’s to blame?

The agency blamed an underlying hardware failure preventing the processing of electronically submitted, e-file returns. IRS commissioner John Koskinen indicated that all ‘other IRS services’ were available and most taxpayers would receive their refunds within the usual 21 day period after electronic submission.  Helpful comments for sure – less useful was the Where’s My Refund’ web inquiry feature that went offline when most needed.

But the outage still leaves many questions unanswered. Was this event preventable? Are older IT systems truly to blame?  How does the IRS avoid a similar event in the future?

Fact and Fiction

Fact: Hardware failures occur in every sector.  In many cases, mitigation rather than prevention is the watchword. So, did the IRS have no disaster recovery or failover systems? Not according to IRS officials; these systems continue run on isolated, older computing platforms running application programming languages such as COBOL. Funding cuts have delayed most application modernization projects and some media outlets and a few IRS officials have blamed the agency’s continued use of ‘older’ and ‘outdated’ technologies such as COBOL.

Unfortunately, their fact is mostly fiction. Take online or mobile banking. Most of us want to interact with our bank when we want on our preferred device.  But have normal banking practibces significantly changed your banking providers’ processes just because you’re interacting with them digitally?  Not really. Core banking processes are regulated and rarely change. While your bank has provided a new way for you to interact with their services, the backend processes are generally the same.

The same is true of booking an airline ticket.  Behind the mobile interfaces of Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak is a core airline booking system that manages ticketing across the various airline carriers.  We experience the colourful overlay of a core system which has been in place for decades.

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And what do banking apps and airline booking systems have in common?  They both leverage core business applications written in that multi-decades old programming language, COBOL.

Yes, COBOL – the original programming language remains one of the most portable, flexible and scalable languages in the industry, particularly where high volume transaction and data processing is required at rapid speed. There are few viable alternatives. Perhaps this why the IRS continues to rely on its COBOL applications – they work, and work very well.

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The Move to Modernize

So, could COBOL, really be a contributing factor to the IRS’ system availability issues?  No. Blaming the programming language is as convenient as it is unhelpful What’s needed is a comprehensive modernization strategy that blends core strength, namely the current business rules and application logic, with next gen technology and platforms. This enables faster innovation with less risk. The IRS has a successful application portfolio – a suite of feature-rich, high performant transaction processing applications built for scale, speed and precision – to move into the future.

They could easily be ported to new platforms including distributed environments, .NET, the Java Virtual Machine or even the Cloud. This would provide new channels and enable a greater elasticity to meet increased future demand or negate unexpected IT failures. The IRS’ application investment could be extended for decades to come.

It’s been done before

Check out the COBOL modernization initiative at the US Small Business Administration, an agency now well positioned for future growth and leverage next gen technology. Or how about the City of Miami or Marin County, CA who have also undertaken similar COBOL application modernization projects? Modernizing core business systems is can be straightforward and almost risk-free and it all begins with a strategy geared towards leveraging past success and unique attributes.

Innovation Awaits

So, what’s next for the IRS?  With all systems now back online, its busy processing returns and issuing tax refund payments. But is the agency prepared for its next outage?  Will they have the modernization plan needed to mitigate foreseen and unexpected challenges?  There are many paths to modernization, but only one approach will truly enable the IRS and others to modernize core business systems while preparing for the future.

It’s time to turn yesterday’s investment into tomorrow’s new innovation.

Legacy Systems timebomb. What ‘timebomb’? Re-use and defuse…

A piece on the FCW site, calling out the supposed dangers of legacy IT caught the eye of Ed Airey, our Solutions Director. He responds below.

This article raises some interesting – and some very familiar – points. Many of them I agree with, some of them less so.

I certainly concur that putting the right people in the right places is just good business sense. For any forward-thinking organization, underpinning future business strategy depends on recruiting, retaining and developing the next generation of talent.

This is particularly true for enterprises with significant investment in legacy applications and it’s an area we have addressed ourselves. But this is where our paths diverge slightly.

To recap Mark Rockwell’s concerns, any business that allows IT staff with core business app knowledge to leave the business without being replaced by developers with the right skills is looking at the potential for organization-wide impact. For “legacy IT systems”, I read ‘COBOL applications’. And I disagree with the apocalyptic scenarios he is using.

For sure, a so-called ‘skills gap’ could affect business continuity and compromise future innovation prospects.  It is – or should be – a concern for many organizations, including the federal agencies that Mark calls out. But he quotes a CIO, speaking at the President’s Management Advisory Board who likens the potential, albeit more slow-burning impact to the Y2K bug.  The IT industry knows about the so-called skills crisis just as it knew about the Y2K bug. By preparing in the same diligent and focused fashion it’s highly likely that the crisis will fizzle out leaving the apocalyptic headlines high and dry.

Fewer people, more challenges

Now, safely into 2015, the modern CIO has plenty of other challenges. Addressing the IT Backlog, meeting tough compliance targets and developing a smarter outsourcing strategy all add to the In Tray. Meanwhile, organizations must support the evolving needs of the customer – that means delivering news web, mobile and Cloud-based services quickly and in response to new user requirements.

There always a right way to do things; the key is to distinguish it from the many alternatives. For owners of so-called legacy IT, modern development tooling offers many benefits. Modernization enables easier maintenance of well-established applications, and will support the business as it looks to innovate.

In addition, contemporary development environments (IDEs) make supporting core business systems easier.  With a wider array of development aids at their fingertips to accelerate the build, test and deploy process, more programmers than ever can support organizations in filling these skills shortfalls.

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Why rewrite – just re-use

These game-changing modern tools help organizations proactively develop their own future talent today and extract new value from older business applications, while providing a more contemporary toolset for next gen developers.

How ‘modern’ are these modern tools?  Next generation COBOL and PL/I development can be easily integrated within Visual Studio or Eclipse environments, reducing development complexity and delivery time.  The Visual Studio and Eclipse skillsets acquired through local universities are quickly applied to supporting those ‘archaic’ core business systems that have quietly supported processes for many decades yet are – suddenly – no longer fit for purpose.

But of course, they are perfectly able to support organizations meet future innovation challenges. The key is embracing new technology through modern development tooling. It is this ‘re-use’ policy that helps IT to confidently address skills concerns, build an innovation strategy – and support trusted business applications.

Late in the piece, the writer references the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act. For government agencies facing these multiple compliance challenges, the modern tooling approach offers a low risk, low cost and pragmatic process to delivering value through IT.

This stuff works

Micro Focus can point to a significant body of work and an order book full of happy customers. The Fire and Rescue Department of the City of Miami, for example – their modernization program halved their IT costs.  The Cypriot Ministry of Finance being another example where 25 year old COBOL-based Inland Revenue payment and collection system was given a new lease of life through Micro Focus technology.

So – can you hear a ticking sound? Me neither.

To learn more about modern development tooling in support of core business applications, visit: www.microfocus.com

‘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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Enterprise united – IBM TXSeries and Micro Focus Visual COBOL

Ed Airey from Micro Focus looks at the tighter integration between Micro Focus Visual COBOL and IBM TXSeries. Enterprise developers can now build, test and deploy enterprise COBOL applications using modern IDEs – Visual Studio or Eclipse – that are seamlessly integrated within Micro Focus Visual COBOL.

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Many global organizations rely on application portfolios and core systems written up to half a century ago to serve the needs of the business and support business- critical functions such as payroll, banking, retail services and logistics.

For the modern enterprise, re-using application logic and data technology is good business sense. With the right technology, companies can leverage these applications and create a bridge to new technology such as cloud, mobile and next generation architectures.

This way, companies with heritage IT can still be relevant in the new digital economy. The closer alignment between IBM middleware and our forward-thinking development environment offers new options for companies meeting that profile.

What are the products called and what do they do?

IBM® TXSeries® for Multiplatforms is distributed transaction processing middleware. It supports new and longer-established applications in both cloud environments and traditional data centers. It is a scalable and highly available platform for developing, deploying and hosting mission-critical applications that also integrates with mixed-language, multiplatform and service-oriented architecture (SOA) environments.

Micro Focus Visual COBOL

Visual COBOL is a powerful development environment for COBOL applications. By integrating with Eclipse and Visual Studio, Visual COBOL enables a new age of application innovation, with unrivalled portability and performance for distributed COBOL applications. Smart editing features, multi-platform compilation and advanced debugging tools ensure that modernizing your COBOL applications through Visual COBOL is simple and straightforward. It supports a wide range of the latest environments including Cloud, mobile, .NET and JVM.

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How do they work together?

Modern enterprises deploying these two solutions together will be enabling their application developers to leverage long-established and unique business logic and data while bridging the gap between old and the new.  Business-critical applications written in C, C++, COBOL, Java and PL/I can be deployed across an array of on premise, virtual and cloud platforms. Enterprise organizations will be able to develop mission-critical applications with high scalability, fast performance and 24×7 availability.

What does it all mean?

Because the IBM TXSeries for Multiplatforms V8.2 now supports Micro Focus Visual COBOL, developers can now build, test and deploy enterprise COBOL applications using modern IDEs – Visual Studio or Eclipse – that are seamlessly integrated within Micro Focus Visual COBOL.

The tighter integration between Micro Focus Visual COBOL and IBM TXSeries is highly streamlined and validated through a simple ‘single step command’ within the Install Verification Programs (IVP) process. Adoption is further streamlined by providing CICS and COBOL sample applications ‘out-of-the-box’ for easy reference and integration.

Perhaps more significantly, internal test simulations suggest this tighter alignment will deliver a powerful 40% improvement in COBOL application performance. Application developers are more enabled than ever before to optimize application services for business users.

So, good news, right?

Right. “We’re very excited about this new integration capability between IBM and Micro Focus.  This new solution further demonstrates our shared partner commitment to the ongoing support of enterprise business applications.  Visual COBOL’s certification with IBM TXSeries provides our mutual customers with new development capability, a wide array of platform options and unrivaled performance.” (me! That’s Ed Airey, Micro Focus and you can find me on Twitter)

Right. “It is always our priority to bring together the best in class experience for our application development and management teams. With support for Visual COBOL we have taken our user experience to the next level by providing a well-integrated, seamless development and deployment of COBOL apps to our enterprise-grade platform. ” (Kasturi Mohan, IBM)

Learn more about IBM TXSeries for Multiplatforms V8.2 here and start your journey to innovation with Micro Focus Visual COBOL from here.

Ed

Federal Breaches and COBOL – the OPM Hack Explained

Micro Focus Product Marketing Director Ed Airey explains the high profile OPM hack. Was COBOL really to blame?

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently experienced the largest U.S. governmental data breach potentially exposing the personal data of up to 18 million current and former federal employees exposed. To explain the reason behind the breach, many have pointed the finger at COBOL, the venerable programming language. Critics maintain that because the programming language was written decades ago, attackers were able to find and exploit vulnerabilities into the OPM’s systems.

However, even the strongest army base is at risk when the doors are wide open. Similarly, the security measures and access methods to core government systems and data, as the metaphorical gatekeepers, must be up to the task of protecting the prized possessions inside.

Why the Government, and Many Other Organizations, Use COBOL

People have a tendency to believe that what’s new should be the best solution. It’s time to set the record straight; the most likely candidate for ongoing success in terms of IT capability, are the systems that work today, and have done so for years. So while COBOL isn’t a new concept, it is an unrivalled technology in terms of running core systems.

There is good reason why COBOL has been in active use for core business systems, across many platforms, for five decades. The U.S. Federal Government has billions of lines in COBOL in current use, because these applications are reliable and suit the government’s needs. Without these systems, it would be very difficult for government agencies to deliver on their individual mission.

Outside of the U.S. government, the use of COBOL is even more pervasive with over 200 billion lines of COBOL code across many vital financial insurance industries as well as retail, logistics and manicuring organizations to name a few. In fact, COBOL is responsible for two-thirds of global IT transactions.  COBOL’s longevity is due to its unrivaled ability to adapt to technological change.  Few languages over the past six decades have continually adapted to meet the demands of digital business and modern technology.

Addressing the Real Issues

While data encryption and multi-factor authentication are important security considerations, the broader IT security question is more significant. After all, even if data is encrypted, but poorly secured, attackers can still steal it. So the real question we should ask after a breach is not what programming language an organization was using, but rather what security protocols and measures did the organization employ to prevent unauthorized access in the first place? All applications require robust infrastructure security.  Without it, all systems are at risk, regardless of their age.  Here are a few specific questions any organization should ask before and after a security breach:

  • Does my organization follow proper password best practice, or are passwords too simple?
  • Do our users have the appropriate amount of access, or do some have unnecessary administrative rights?
  • Do we have identity and access management (IAM) processes in place that monitor user activity and alert us of suspicious behavior?

If members of an organization cannot answer these questions confidently, there are security gaps that need addressing immediately. These issues affect peripheral systems—web, client, server and other user interface systems that enable access to back end data. Attackers typically look for these frontend vulnerabilities in order to gain access to the backend applications, systems and data. Poor security practices leave the metaphorical front door open, giving attackers access to the whole house.

In short, whether an organization uses Java or COBOL is irrelevant if the organization’s security protocols and practices are lacking.  This was indeed the case at OPM.  Inspector General McFarland noted in his Capitol Hill testimony that OPM has failed to act on the recommendations of his office to modernize and secure its existing IT infrastructure.  McFarland further commented that such failures were likely the cause of this breach.

OPM1

Modernizing COBOL systems to meet new challenges

COBOL’s proven reliability and longevity are misinterpreted as signs that it has not evolved to support modern IT requirements or is deficient in some other way. U.S. Federal CIO Tony Scott has even suggested that the government needs to “…double down on replacing these legacy  systems.” Replacing COBOL, however, is not the answer and will undoubtedly introduce many more challenges to a government IT organization struggling to presently keep pace with modern tech advances. The smarter move is to innovate from a position of strength; which COBOL provides.

Modern COBOL technology delivers the trusted reliability and robustness that it did in 1960 but with the ability to connect to modern technologies and architectures including cloud, mobile, .NET, and Java, as well as the latest hardware platforms from the z13 mainframe to the latest incarnations of Windows, UNIX and Linux. By supporting and integrating with the latest platforms and digital technologies, IT can rest assured and get on with the business of implementing more pressing concerns such as implementing appropriate security strategies for their evolving systems.

Given the seemingly increasing digital threat our IT systems face, it’s critical that IT leaders provide a more responsive, flexible and integrated management system to secure these mission critical applications from unauthorized use.  Modern COBOL offers simple solution to the OPM security breach and an opportunity to significantly improve its existing security infrastructure.

Ed

 

 

 

 

Orginal Article written by

Ed Airey

Amie Johnson

Derek Britton

Lucky for some: z13 Launches today

Micro Focus is an IBM Partner and virtually all of our technology complements the legendary IBM Mainframe. We’re understandably very excited about the z13 news from IBM. Here’s why by Derek Britton.

IBM today announced a new generation of Mainframe, the z13, which should help businesses globally do more – more powerfully, more mobile-accessibility. more securely & more efficiently than ever before.

The Mainframe of today is very different to the Mainframe that launched 51 years ago this year –less power consumed, less environmental impact and less total cost of ownership to name a few massive benefits, as IBM continues to invest and innovate to support the growing needs of today’s economy.

And it is very much a digital economy: “The z13 is designed to handle billions of transactions for the mobile economy.  Only the IBM mainframe can put the power of the world’s most secure datacenters in the palm of your hand,” said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president, IBM Systems.

Chris Livesey, Micro Focus CMO, comments “As a long term IBM partner, Micro Focus have provided innovative enterprise development and test software for the IBM mainframe environment over many years. IBM z13 is the industry leading business execution environment for enterprise application workload where scalability, performance and extensibility are core requirements for successful IT service delivery. Micro Focus is delighted to support the latest generation of IBM mainframe technology innovation, the z13”.

For more insights, you can find the IBM press release here.

A Solid Foundation

The IBM release builds on a long heritage of innovation, of course. 50 years of it in fact. Last year we helped celebrate the 50th birthday of the IBM Mainframe, as well as having provided a whole range of support to our mainframe customers.

We’ve explored way of helping mainframers get ahead of the compliance game, tackle their growing IT backlog, deliver more value from their mainframe Outsourcing agreements, and offered new solutions to improve end-user efficiency and green screen modernization.

And we’ve taken our message on the road. Our Developer Days running across North America – often in conjunction with IBM – are spreading in popularity, geography and frequency (see the latest schedule here and drop in to see how efficiently we can help your application modernization efforts when we’re passing). #DevDay0

We take pride in attending the frequent #mainframedebate on Twitter, we have our own dedicated Mainframe50 account and hands on hearts – delivered over 20 ‘Mainframe’ themed blogs in the past 12 months.

Mainframe50press

Best of Friends

If the mainframe is the mainstay production engine of choice for business, then COBOL is its application language of choice. Micro Focus has a rich 39 year heritage with COBOL as our mainstay. And speaking of history, amazing Grace Hopper’s 107th Birthday was cheered and we’re supporting a movie being created about her stellar contribution to IT, which will doubtless feature some of the very first mainframes.

GoogleDoodle

Over the years we’ve built truly outstanding Enterprise products to help IT shops modernise their ‘legacy’ estates in a pain and risk-free way, which themselves are complementary to the mainframe hardware and systems provided by IBM.  Recently, IBM endorsed Micro Focus’ application development technology for IBM mainframes, Enterprise Developer.

In April 2013, Greg Lotko, former VP and business line executive, IBM System z, said, “We are continually working with our technology partners to help our clients maximise the value in their IBM mainframes and this latest innovation from Micro Focus is a great example of that commitment.”

More is More 

We see the opportunity to leverage the mainframe to deliver more business value as better than ever, whether it’s helping someone understand the enterprise application estate they have ignored for years as it just keeps working, right through to Mainframe development and testing solutions. From taking the 1st modernisation steps and making mainframe interface users more effective, to ensuring that our networks still communicate the volumes and speeds we now demand, Micro Focus is truly in this game. COBOL of old still runs the world today, COBOL of old can be COBOL of new, as modern as the new z13.

Yesterday Deon Newman from IBM announced ‘we’re ready’ pre-System z13 launch. Governments, Federal agencies, FSS concerns, insurance companies, travel and transportation companies, educational establishments  – whoever you are – if you have invested in this brilliant technology in the past and would like to bring it into the future – we’re more than ready too!

Have a point of view about the new mainframe? Let us know!

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Untangling the web: modernizing complex legacy application systems

Kadi Grigg from Micro Focus introduces the Enterpise Analyzer product and dicusses the critical role ‘application intelligence’ tooling can play in complicated Federal legacy application modernization projects.

Modernizing complex legacy application systems

For the past six months, the trade press has been busy talking about a variety of government agencies’ data consolidation initiatives, the need to update the DoD’s MOCAS application and the issues around the launch of healthcare.gov.

However, amid the idle chatter of federal IT acquisition strategy, one thing remains clear: the modernization of mission-critical, so-called legacy systems is key to furthering the success of many federal agencies.  But after years of editing, modifying and staff turnover the portfolio of business applications has become a tangled web of 1’s and 0’s. While they meet economic, commercial, operational, and technical challenges of the agency, the longer these programs have been in use, the more complex these systems have become.

So the question becomes, how do I modernize a system that is rich in undocumented complexity?

tangledweb

Prior to making changes, the key to unlocking complexity lies in understanding the application environment. Agencies must understand and appreciate how the current applications operate to avoid the creation of a primary obstacle – that is, determining what to change and how to change it.

I have noticed that many agencies in the federal space are purchasing tools based not only on the usefulness of the product, but more importantly the longevity. This is perfectly understandable in a climate of cost-cutting and high-profile IT failures. So what can tick all those boxes?

Where to start: Enterprise Analyzer

Enterprise Analyzer represents the smart choice. Not only is it a great tool to use in an application development scenario, but also in application maintenance mode. Enterprise Analyzer is the foundation for your application modernization, mapping out your entire IT environment.

If you think about it, Enterprise Analyzer (EA) is like a blueprint for a house. It tells you where the walls should go, where the electricity wires and the plumbing should run. Of course, there are other blueprints at your disposal. But do you really want to build a house with misplaced wiring, slanted walls, or poorly-designed rooms due to vague plans? If you don’t I recommend an investment in EA for the modernization of your IT mission-critical applications and their ongoing maintenance.

It certainly acts as a blueprint in the application maintenance scenario, making it easy to find portions of code you may need to update due to regulation or other regular maintenance routines.

A variety of vendors within the market space offer tools that provide the capabilities to run reports and provide analysis at surface level only. By this I mean that their tooling is limited in depth and cannot demonstrate to the developer the potential impact across the application of a single change in code.

Developers working with Enterprise Analyzer begin by mapping the applications. This provides a solid foundation – but understanding does not stop at tabular and graphical visualizations. With this solution the developer can access application decomposition analysis, systems analysis that provides insight into applications and their subsystems inter-relationships, field change analysis and much more.

Using a mature tool such as Enterprise Analyzer enables developers to locate specific instances of code or undertake simple tasks, such as locating certain directories. It is these features that help to increase developer efficiency by 40%.

For the budget-conscious Federal agency, then, the question is not so much why use Enterprise Analyzer, as why not…?

Learn more

Enterprise Analyzer is all about discovery, and finding out more about the inner complexities of your application portfolio. The journey begins here – by learning more about Enterprise Analyzer itself. We have created a number of useful assets to assist you. This whitepaper, this demo and this product overview are all good starting points. Or find me on Twitter if you want to talk more.

 

 

Are you trapped by your legacy system?

Let’s start with the basics…

How many of you reading this, feel trapped by a system that was created in the 1980s or earlier? How many of you feel that it is a necessary evil that you have to deal with day in and day out?

Here’s my next question: why? Why do you feel trapped by your legacy system? This is always the first question to my federal clients and their answer is always the same: “Our business runs on this system and without it we would not be in business.” This answer always surprises me because there are life rafts out there that can rescue you from what seems like an endless battle for survival.

Legendary. Not Legacy.

First of all, I would like to take the time to explain that here at Micro Focus, we do not view our customers’ ‘legacy’ systems as legacy. Personally, I feel this word has an extremely negative connotation and that it’s an incorrect term for the system. I would challenge you to think of it as legendary, in the sense that it maintains a company’s code that enables them to have a competitive advantage over other companies within that business sector. These legendary systems are “the core of my business,” as most North American clients would adamantly state.

COBOL is the predominant language within these complicated and intricately woven applications that are the lifeblood of many major corporations, government agencies, and numerous other companies ranging in a variety of sizes. COBOL seems to have acquired a negative connotation, which I think is because the maintenance of this vital system is often so overwhelming that organizations cannot even begin to think about innovation. Think about it: we’re talking about government systems that decipher what your taxes are, what your Medicaid payout is, social security benefits, etc. But really, how can you even begin to think of innovation when you spend all of your time just maintaining a static system?

Make the change.

This is where the thinking needs to change. COBOL, in case you didn’t know, processes more transactions daily than there are Google searches. It’s an important language that supports many mission critical applications. COBOL, for many industries, was seen as a highly portable, agile, readable, and robust language that could create a secure application. However, with advances in technology and the creation of new languages, COBOL has now taken a back seat and is seen as a far less popular language to develop in. Sometimes, businesses even choose to take on a rewrite (75% of these fail) or choose to buy a commercial off-the-shelf package that gives some, but not all the functionality they had with their homegrown COBOL application.

COBOL Infographic
COBOL Infographic

Shake things up.

Breathe. You can get back your freedom. What if there was a solution in which you could repurpose your COBOL code and integrate it with a modern language? Hard to imagine, right?

The truth is, Visual COBOL can enable you to do just that. You no longer have to struggle using an old hard-to-read system. Visual COBOL delivers the next generation of developer tools for the COBOL developer. In using industry standard IDEs, Visual Studio and Eclipse, you can now repurpose your COBOL application and integrate it with your choice of Java or .NET. However, what I find to be more remarkable about the solution is the ability to not only increase a developer’s efficiency when coding but the fact that it can help tear down the walls between different teams of developers. I mean how many times have you seen the COBOL developers sit in a different section from the Java guys or the C# guys? Well that no longer has to happen. You can all sit together and use the modern IDEs to gain better team collaboration and communication.

COBOL cuts costs

Cost is often another driving factor that keeps the legacy system as is. However, through modernization of these COBOL applications, Visual COBOL helps you to deploy your application to a wide variety of more cost effective platforms such as UNIX, Linux, and the Cloud. Instead of going through a rewrite, Visual COBOL enables you to retain your business logic and create a more modern application without losing the competitive edge the business logic provides. This cuts out the extensive cost of a rewrite or a package solution.

To conclude, I’d like to challenge you to think about your options. I challenge you to see the vitality in these legendary core government applications and the ways you can repurpose them into a modern and agile application of the 21st century. Do you want to keep maintaining a legendary system that you feel you have to deal with? Or, do you want to transform a system that has been running your business since the 1980s into a system that will continue to help grow your business and innovation far into the future?

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