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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A week’s work experience at Micro Focus HQ

Student Matt Hudson reports back on a week’s work experience with Micro Focus at their Berkshire Headquarters in August 2016.

The Arrival

My week at Micro Focus started off with me looking upon a smallish office from the visitor’s carpark.

“Well there’s only a few parking spaces, there can’t be too many people working here…” I said to myself. Turns out I was wrong.

Upon entering the building I soon found out that looks can be deceiving; the Micro Focus HQ is quite like a TARDIS. Bigger on the inside and shaped like one too. The atrium is a sight to behold, 3 floors of office space, kitchens and meeting rooms. The centre of the building is large enough to hold several sofas, chairs, tables and a large, upside down elephant (of course).

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I spent the morning with Customer Care, looking at the ins, outs and joys of customer service. This was followed by an afternoon with Tim overviewing the International Go-To-Market Strategy Organisation (as easy to get my head around as it is to say this department name with a mouthful of crisps).

Off Site

Despite the size of the main site, it’s overflowing with busy people and space is at a premium, meaning the Recruitment team for Micro Focus are based in a small office in an industrial unit at River Park, which is where I spent my second day. Here I joined in the task of recruiting new employees to Micro Focus via the use of countless emails and interviews.

I also attempted a personality assessment given to these new employees in which I found out I was quite unstable, contrary to what I’d thought of myself beforehand. I won’t take the results to heart.

Virtual Insanity

On my third day here, I was introduced to the concept of Virtual Machines over at Development. It sounds crazy but in short, it turns out we can split up computers into lots of smaller computers. I was given a tour of the large and super-powerful computer behind Development’s virtual machines which allows them to run any version of an Operating System on their computers to allow them to test different versions of software.

In the afternoon, I took a look at Pivot tables which are a neat little thing on Excel, they give the people in Sales a nice visualisation of data. One interesting thing I thing I found out was how easily data can be manipulated by graphs and charts; a bump on a line graph can become a mountain just by changing the scale of the axis!

Hard drives are not an easy business

Day four at Micro Focus gave me a useful insight into the world of IT support. Much of my time there was spent pondering over a laptop whose hard drive had corrupted. After hours of work the IT team managed to revive the machine (although little of the original laptop was left).

Tweet Machine

My last day here was spent with Mark in Social Media Marketing. I’ve been able to write this blog about my time here, while also putting my #skills to the #test by churning out Micro Focus related tweets (the record for a work experience student is 87 apparently, I’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell of beating it).

To conclude

So after going round most of the departments here I’ve gained a good insight into the world of office jobs. It’s been exhausting due to the amount of information I’ve had to take in but very enjoyable nonetheless! Thanks to everyone who tolerated me being around, now time to get back to Twitter. #getonwithit…

Matt.

(This is me at an Airshow – not at Micro Focus!)

Matt

Software Testing: Myths vs Reality

If you’re thinking about purusing a career as a Software Tester, this blog will make good reading! One of our junior testers Karthik Venkatesh puts pen to paper to help anyone starting out on a Testing career with some expectation setting. Here’s what he’s learnt so far.

“Testing started when the human race began”!

The whole analytical brain of the human mind is about doing verification and validation before concluding anything and Software Testing is no exception to this.

Market Outlook and Future for Software Testing

  • A survey by Global Software Testing Services Market (2016-2020) research analyst predicts the global software testing services market to grow at a CAGR of close to 11% during the forecast period.
  • According to a recent report by Fortune magazine- Software testing is listed among the top 10 in-demand careers of 2015

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So aiming to pursue a career as a Tester or Quality Assurance looks like a good plan. Let’s take a look through some Myths and Realities of being a Software Test Professional:

Myths vs Reality about Software Testing

Myth-1: Testing is Boring

Reality: Testing is not boring or a repetitive task. It is like a detective’s job! Testing is a process of investigation, exploration, discovery, and learning. The key is to try new things. In reality, testing presents new and exciting challenges every day.

Myth-2: Testers do not write code

Reality: Some people may say that software test engineers do not write code. Testers usually require entirely different skill set which could be a mix of Java, C, Ruby, and Python. That is not all you need to be a successful tester. A tester needs to have a good knowledge of the software manuals and automation tools. Depending on the complexity of a project, a software testing engineer may write more complex code than the developer.

Myth-3: Testers job is only to find bugs

Reality: The job of a software test engineer is not restricted to find bugs. A tester should be more customer focused, understands how the system works as a whole to accomplish customer goals, and have good understanding of how the product will be used by the end-user. A tester has to understand the complete product architecture, how it interacts with the environment, how the application works in a given situation, and how the application integrate with all the components and work seamlessly.

Myth-4: Software testers are paid less than the developers

Reality: These days quality of the product directly effects the products’ or the brands’ reputation. So no organizations are ready to compromise on quality. Organizations are always looking forward to work with energetic testers. An efficient software tester can draw more salary than the developer of similar experience.

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Top 6 tips for Software Test Engineer starting out on their career

  1. Development and testing are moving closer to the business units and you will need to communicate and work closely as a team.
  2. To find bugs, you will need to be creative. A software test engineer needs to come up with new ideas which would help in finding bugs. Work smart as well as hard! Always find better and simpler ways to do the assigned tasks, own tasks proactively and innovate.
  3. A good tester is the one who knows the application in and out. The tester should be aware of all the components in a product and the business logic behind it. Good knowledge of the product helps to understand the importance of a feature from a business perspective so become the expert!
  4. Always want to learn more!
  5. Try to hone some skill sets such as good negotiation skills, thinking out of the box, and multi-platform skills
  6. You will need to be persuasive and explain to the stakeholders which bugs have been found and how they are likely to impact on end-users and the business.
  7. You must be a perfectionist and resilient to pressure as Testing is the typically the last gate before the product reaches into the hands of customer.

Corporations cannot hire customers, so they hire software test engineers who put products through their paces in on potential Customers behalf. So, to represent customers within a corporate – What kind of a hat would you wear – a purple hat, a yellow, a blue, or a white?

Customers have different approaches to use a product. If you consider each approach as a colored hat, a test engineer needs to wear a wide variety of hats of different colors and shapes.

Testing is a career which is built with innovative thinking – be passionate about it and be strong enough to make your own choices work! Don’t forget to read the  Micro Focus approach to Software Testing and view our  impressive range of testing Products.

Karthik

 

 

 

 

Karthik Venkatesh

#DevDay Report – so what does COBOL look like now?

David Lawrence reports back from the latest Micro Focus #DevDays and what COBOL looks like these days. With Partners like Astadia it seems like anything’s possible…..including Mobile Augmented Reality! Read on.

To most people, COBOL applications probably look like this:

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and are thought to do nothing more than this:

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These applications are likely to be COBOL-based. After all, COBOL is the application language for business. With over 240 billion (with a b) lines of code still in production, the fact is that COBOL is used in thousands, if not millions, of applications that have nothing to do with finance.

It’s called the COmmon Business Oriented Language for a reason. The reason is that it was designed to automate the processing of any business transaction, regardless of the nature of the business.

Did you realize that COBOL is also widely used by municipalities, utilities and transportation companies?

At our Nashville Micro Focus DevDay event on June 21, the audience was treated to a very interesting presentation by a major American railroad organization, where they showed us how their COBOL application inventory runs their daily operations (scheduling, rolling stock management, crews, train make up and dispatch).

Earlier in the month we heard from a client who was using COBOL applications to capture, monitor and analyze game and player statistics in the world of major league baseball.

Many attendees of our COBOL and mainframe app dev community events, DevDay, are managing crucial COBOL applications as the lifeblood of their business. From managing retailers’ stock control systems, to haulage and logistics organziations’ shipments and deliveries, from healthcare, pharma and food production organizations, to major financial service, insurance and wealth management systems.

Those applications contain decades of valuable business rules and logic. Imagine if there was a way to make use of all that knowledge, by say using it to more accurately render a street diagram.

You say “Yes, that’s nice, but I already have Google Maps.” All very well and good. But what if you are a utility company trying to locate a troublesome underground asset, such as a leaking valve or short circuited, overheating power cable?

Astadia has come up with a very interesting solution that combines wealth of intelligence built into the COBOL applications that are invariably the heart and brains of most large utilities or municipalities with modern GPS-enabled devices

DevDay Boston

I had a chance to see this first hand at DevDay Boston. DevDay is a traveling exposition that features the newest offerings from Micro Focus combined with real life experiences from customers.

Astadia, a Micro Focus partner and application modernization consultancy, visted our Boston DevDays and showed us their mobile augmented reality application which enhances street view data with additional information needed by field crews.

Steve Steuart, one of Astadia’s Senior Directors, visted our Boston DevDays, and introduced the attendees to ARGIS, their augmented reality solution that helps field engineers locate underground or otherwise hidden physical infrastructure asset such as power and water distribution equipment.

I watched as Steve explained and demonstrated ARGIS overlaying, in real time, the locations of manhole covers and drains in the vicinity of the Marriott onto a Google Maps image of the area surrounding the Marriott Hotel . .. Steve explained that ARGIS was using the GPS in the tablet and mining the intelligence from the COBOL application used by the Boston Department of Public works department to track the locations in real time, superimposed over the street view, the precise location of the network of pipes and valves supplying water to the area

Here’s a picture .. certainly worth a thousand words, wouldn’t you say?

Below you see how the Astadia‘s ARGIS Augmented Reality system sources the data of the local utility company’s COBOL application inventory to give clear visual indications of the locations of key field infrastructure components (e.g. pipes, valves, transformers) over a view of what the field engineer is actually seeing. Nice to have when you’re trying to work out where to dig, isn’t it?

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Very imaginative indeed, but at the heart of this new innovation, the important data and logic comes from, guess where? . . yes, it comes from a COBOL application. Micro Focus solutions help mine and reuse those crucial business rules locked up in our customers’ portfolio of proven, reliable COBOL applications. This will prolong their longevity and flow of value to the business. Why take all that risk and spend millions to replicate intelligence that already exists, but which has been hard to utilize effectively?

Afterwards, I spoke with Steve – Astadia’s senior director who remarked: “As long as Micro Focus continues to invest in COBOL, COBOL will continue to be relevant.”

Speaking afterwards with Micro Focus’ Director of COBOL Solutions, Ed Airey, he commented

“We are always thrilled to see how our partners and customers are taking advantage of the innovation possible in our COBOL technology to build applications that meet their needs in the digital age. Astadia’s ARGIS product is great. I’m not surprised to see how far they’ve been able to extend their application set in this way – Visual COBOL was designed with exactly that sort of innovation in mind. The only constant in IT is change, and with Micro Focus COBOL in their corner our customers are able to modernize much faster and more effectively than they realize”.

See real world applications and how they can be modernized at a Micro Focus DevDay near you. For more information on our COBOL Delivery and Mainframe Solutions, go here.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

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Start over, or with what you know?

Derek Britton’s last blog looked at the appetite for change in IT. This time, he looks at real-world tactics for implementing large-scale change, and assesses the risks involved.

Introduction

In my recent blog I drew upon overwhelming market evidence to conclude that today’s IT leadership faces unprecedented demand for change in an age of bewildering complexity. That “change”, however, can arrive in many shapes and forms, and the choice of strategy may differ according to a whole range of criteria – technical investments to date, available skills, organizational strategy, customer preference, marketing strategy, cost of implementation, and many more besides. This blog explores and contrasts a couple of the options IT leaders have.

Starting Over?

Ever felt like just starting over? The difficulty of changing complex back-end IT systems, when staffing is so tight, where the pressure to change is so high, with an ever-growing backlog – there is point at which the temptation to swap out the hulking, seething old system with something new, functional and modern, will arrive.

Sizing Up the Task

We’re sometimes asked by senior managers in enterprise development shops, how they should assess whether to rewrite or replace a system versus keeping it going and modernizing it. They sense there is danger in replacing the current system, but can’t quantify to other stakeholders why what is.

Of course, it is impossible to give a simple answer for every case, but there are some very common pitfalls in embarking on a major system overhaul. These can include:

  • High Risk and High Cost involved
  • Lost business opportunity while embarking on this project
  • Little ‘new’ value in what is fundamentally a replacement activity

This sounds a rather unpleasant list. Not only is it unpleasant, but the ramifications in the industry are all too stark. These are just a few randomly-selected examples of high profile “project failures” where major organizations have attempted a major IT overhaul project.

  • State of Washington pulled the plug on their $40M LAMP project. It was six times more expensive than original system
  • HCA ended their MARS project, taking a $110M-$130M charge as a result
  • State of California abandoned a $2 billion court management system (a five-year, $27 million plan to develop a system for keeping track of the state’s 31 million drivers’ licenses and 38 million vehicle registrations)
  • The U.S. Navy spent $1 Billion on a failed ERP project

Exceptional Stuff?

OK, so there have been some high-profile mistakes. But might they be merely the exception rather than the rule? Another source of truth are those who spend their time following and reporting on the IT industry. And two such organizations, Gartner and Standish, have reported more than one about the frequency of failed overhaul projects. A variety of studies over the years keeps coming back to the risks involved. Anything up to a 70% failure is cited in analyst studies when talking about rewriting core systems.

Building a case for a rewrite

Either way, many IT leaders will want specific projections for their own business, not abstract or vague examples from elsewhere.

Using as an example a rewrite project[1] – where in this case a new system is built from scratch, by hand (as opposed to automatically generated) in another language such as Java. Let’s allow some improvement in performance because we’re using a new, modern tool to build the new system (by the way, COBOL works in this modern environment too, but let’s just ignore that for now).

Let’s calculate the cost – conceptually

Rewrite Cost = (application size) x (80% efficiency from modern frameworks) x (developer cost per day) / speed of writing

The constants being used in this case were as follows –

  • The size of the application, a very modest system, was roughly 2 Million lines of code, written in COBOL
  • The per-day developer cost was $410/day
  • The assumed throughput of building new applications was estimated at 100 lines of code per day, which is a very generous daily rate.

Calculated, this is a cost of $6.5M. Or, in days’ effort, about 16,000.

Considerations worth stating:

  • This is purely to build the new application. Not to test it in any way. You would need, of course, rigorous QA and end-user acceptance testing.
  • This is purely to pay for this rewrite. In 10 years when this system gets outmoded, or the appetite for another technology is high, or if there are concerns over IT skills, do you earmark similar budget?
  • This assumes a lot about whether the new application could replicate the very unique business rules captured in the COBOL code – but which are unlikely to be well understood or documented today.

A well-trodden path to modernization

Another client, one of the world’s largest retailers, looked at a variety of options for change, among them modernizing, and rewriting. They concluded the rewrite would be at least 4 times more expensive to build, and would take 7 or 8 times longer to deliver, than modernizing what they had. They opted to modernize.

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Elsewhere, other clients have drawn the same conclusions.

“Because of the flexibility and choice within [Micro Focus] COBOL, we were able to realize an eight month ROI on this project – which allowed us to go to market much faster than planned.”

— Mauro Cancellieri,  Manager. Ramao Calcados

“Some of our competitors have written their applications in Java, and they’ve proven not to be as stable, fast or scalable as our systems. Our COBOL-based [banking solution] however, has proved very robust under high workloads and deliver a speed that can’t be matched by Java applications.”

— Dean Mathieson, Product Development Manager, FNS / TCS

Our Recommendation

Core business systems define the organization; they – in many cases – are the organization. The applications that provide mortgage decisions, make insurance calculations, confirm holiday bookings, manage the production lines at car manufacturers, process and track parcel deliveries, they offer priceless value. Protecting their value and embracing the future needs a pragmatic, low-risk approach that leverages the valued IT assets that already work, delivers innovation and an ROI faster than other approaches, and is considerably less expensive.

If you are looking at IT strategic change, talk to us, and we’d love to discuss our approach.



[1] We can’t speculate on the costs involved with package replacement projects – it wouldn’t be fair for us to estimate the price of an ERP or CRM package, for example.

Change – the only constant in IT?

Change is a constant in our lives. Organizations have altered beyond recognition in just a decade, and IT is struggling to keep pace. Managing change efficiently is therefore critical. To help us, Derek Britton set off to find that rarest of IT treasures: technology that just keeps on going.

Introduction

A recent survey of IT leaders reported their backlog had increased by a third in 18 months. IT’s mountain to climb had just received fresh snowfall. While a lot is reported about digital and disruptive technologies causing the change, even the mundane needs attention. The basics, such as desktop platforms, server rooms, are staples of IT on a frequent release cadence from the vendors.

Platform Change: It’s the Law

Moore’s Law suggests an ongoing, dramatic improvement processor performance, and the manufacturers continue to innovate to provide more and more power to the platform and operating system vendors, as well as the technology vendor and end user communities at large. And the law of competition suggests that as one vendor releases a new variant of operating system, chock full of new capability and uniqueness, their rivals will aim to leapfrog them in their subsequent launch. Such is the tidal flow of the distributed computing world. Indeed, major vendors are even competing with themselves (for example Oracle promotes both Solaris and Linux, IBM AIX and Linux, even Windows will ship with Unbuntu pre-loaded now).

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Keep the Frequency Clear

Looking at some of the recent history of operating system releases, support lifespans and retirements, across Windows, UNIX and Linux operating systems, a drumbeat of updates exists. While some specifics may vary, it becomes quite clear quite quickly that major releases are running at a pulse rate of once every 3 to 5 years. Perhaps interspersed by point releases, service packs or other patch or fix mechanisms, the major launches – often accompanied by fanfares and marketing effort – hit the streets twice or more each decade[1]. (Support for any given release will commonly run for longer).

Why does that matter?

This matters for one simple reason: Applications Mean Business. It means those platforms that need to be swapped out regularly house the most important IT assets the organization has, namely the core systems and data that run the business. These are the applications that must not fail, and which must continue into the future – and survive any underlying hardware change.

Failing to keep up with the pace of change has the potential of putting an organization at a competitive disadvantage, or potentially failing internal or regulatory audits. For example, Windows XP was retired as a mainstream product in 2009. Extended support was dropped in 2014. Yet it has 11% market share in 2016 source, according to netmarketshare.com (add the link). Therefore, business applications running on XP are, by definition, out of support, and may be in breach of internal or regulatory stipulations.

Time for a Change?

There is at least some merit in considering whether the old machinery being decommissioned would be a smart time to look at replacing the old systems which ran on those moribund servers. After all, those applications been around a while, and no-one typically has much kind to say about them except they never seem to break.

This is one view, but taking a broader perspective might illustrate the frailties of that approach –

  • First, swapping out applications is time-consuming and expensive. Rewriting or buying packages costs serious money and will take a long time to implement. Years rather than months, they will be an all-consuming and major IT project.
  • Questionable return is the next issue – by which we mean we are swapping out a perfectly good application set, for one which might do what is needed (the success rate of such replacement projects is notoriously low, failure rates of between 40 and 70% have been reported in the industry) And the new system? It is potentially the same system being used by a competitor.
  • Perhaps the most worrying issue of all is that this major undertaking is a single point in time, but as we have already stated, is that it is a cyclical activity. Platforms change frequently, so this isn’t a one-time situation, this is a repeated task. Which means it needs to be done cost-efficiently, without undue cost or risk.

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Keep on Running

And here’s the funny thing, while there are very few constants in the IT world (operating systems, platforms, even people change over time), there are one or two technologies that have stood the test of time. COBOL as a language environment is the bedrock of business systems and is one of the very few technologies offering forward compatibility to ensure the same system can work from the past on today’s – and tomorrow’s – platforms.

Using the latest Micro Focus solutions, customers can use their old COBOL-based systems, unchanged, in today’s platform mix. And tomorrow too, whatever the platform strategy, those applications will run. In terms of cost and risk, taking what already works and moving it – unchanged – to a new environment, is about as low risk as it can get.

Very few technologies that have a decades-old heritage can get anywhere close to claiming that level of forwards-compatibility. Added to which no other technology is supported yesterday, today and tomorrow on such a comprehensive array of platforms.

The only constant is change. Except the other one: Micro Focus’ COBOL.

Platform3[1] Source: Micro Focus research

For those about to code – we salute you!

The #COBOLrocks TechCasts are good to go. But what are they, why should you care – and do they rock? Our #COBOLrock journalist, #Rockin’ Mel Burns, has the skinny….

I think the word ‘rocking’ is used too often and in the wrong places. Rocking could mean anything and don’t bother asking Google. But the #COBOLrocks TechCasts rock. And this blog explains why.

So what makes something rock? Adding hashtags to random words doesn’t make them rock. #FlatTire. #Toothache. #MichaelBolton. Does application development rock? Maybe not. So – can COBOL really rock? Hmm. ‘Alright! A 40-year-old COBOL banking application! Lemme hear you say yeah!’ Hmm again.

But suppose you used that same code to create something really ‘out there’ that performed way beyond what the original programmers imagined? How would you feel if you could show the world what innovation really looks like – and all you needed to know was how to do it?

It’s not about the app

The #COBOLrocks TechCasts are six, weekly, technical webinars that last for 30 minutes each. That’s not especially rocking. But it’s not what they are. It’s what they help you do.  You could…

  • Open the door to application modernization. (That kind of rocks.)
  • Take a decades-old application to mobile.
  • Reuse COBOL code to create a fresh new UI. (Closer to rocking.)
  • Boost efficiency with an integrated development toolset. (Ooh. Rocky.)
  • Enhance the COBOL developer experience with a modern IDE.
  • Free you to do the innovative stuff you actually like doing. (Boom! We have rock.)

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What rocks?

So, for COBOL application developers it’s not the TechCasts themselves that kick you-know-what.  It’s the doors they open and the opportunities they offer.

This rocks

The bottom line is that for devs, rocking is all about bringing new functionality to the old but gold. It’s about showing what you can do and achieving way more than the original coders could have imagined.

Because for all their great riffs, Deep Purple were no help in modernizing COBOL applications and Keef can’t make your life easier by enabling you to do things better and faster.

So sign up for the #COBOLrocks TechCasts, post your questions on Twitter using @MicroFocus and the #COBOLasks hashtag, or ask the Micro Focus community and let’s get your COBOL applications rocking like Saturday night, every day of the week.

#MFSummit2016: product roadmaps and Tube maps

In the digital economy, our customers are contending with unprecedented user demand and an explosion of information to supply. We’re helping them build, operate and secure core IT services by building bridges between what works today and what is needed tomorrow. Here’s a personal reflection of my time at #MFSummit2016 in London.

To reach Prince Philip House, the venue for the inaugural Micro Focus customer conference, I had the choice of six different Tube lines. No wonder frequent users talk about the ‘complexity, cost and confusion’ of the London Underground.

Those problems end for most commuters when they get to work. For many of our customers, that is when they begin. As I explained in my keynote speech, innovation is both the culprit and the solution.

Recent disruptive technologies, including web, Cloud and mobile, are increasing opportunity and complexity in equal measure. Streamlining a process or delivering a new IT service, expanding core platforms, embracing new application technology, overhauling user interfaces, implementing new security controls … they all improve the customer experience while confusing the picture for the organisations.

Harry Beck knew how to express complicated systems in an attractive, linear way. So we drew inspiration from his finest work to map the scale of the complexity, cost and confusion facing our customers.

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Platform alteration?

But these are only the known knowns. Like the London Underground, new lines are inevitable. So our first post-merger, cross-portfolio conference was a good opportunity to assess the challenges and set out our strategy to scale them. It was, after all, a summit.

Much of today’s business innovation is driven by consumer demand for the rapidly-evolving supply of information. These days we are all IT consumers with heightened expectations around access to refined information wherever we are, from our preferred device.

Meeting that demand adds to the complexity of already convoluted processes and the creation of confusing, disparate, heterogeneous systems. The cost is a given. These elements makes delivering effective innovation increasingly difficult just as demand is increasing.

But it can be done. Micro Focus enables its customers to innovate faster with lower risk by enabling them to embrace new technology while building on what already works, in essence bridging the old and the new.

So what does that mean for our customers? Put simply, we have assembled a portfolio focused on three primary capabilities; to build, operate and secure business-critical systems of applications and infrastructure.

MFsolutions

Our promise to customers is that they can innovate faster with lower risk. That means building the applications that meet the needs of the business today and tomorrow, operating data centers and business services with the best balance of cost, speed and risk and securing their data against the latest threats.

In summary

In his pre-conference blog, Andy King’s promise to delegates is that a visit to #MFSummit2016 would put them in a better position to navigate the challenges of business and IT change. The message seems to have resonated.

“As an application modernization consultant, I fully agree with the Micro Focus “bridging the old and the new” vision. Their Build technology is especially impressive and helps us deliver greater value, more quickly, to our customers”, Mike Madden, Director, Legacy IT.

RollsRoyce

SHARE-ing is caring

SHARE began as the first-ever enterprise IT community user group back in 1955 and is still going strong. The upcoming San Antonio event looks certain to be another great success. Here’s a sneak preview of the event and agenda.

SHARE

Since 1955 SHARE has provided education, networking opportunities and influence for the Enterprise Information Technology Community. It’s still voluntary and for 61 years its mission has remained steadfast; at its core it’s all about professional networking, Mainframe technology, education, professional growth and growing a strong community of like-minded technologists. And just like Mainframe technology, it’s moved with the times – check out the cool new look website complete with Social Media integration and you’ll see what I mean.

SHARE new look

The Dev is in the detail. Mainframe and COBOL AppDev

As proud members of the Mainframe and COBOL community Micro Focus has maintained a steady presence at SHARE events over the years. We’re now a bigger company that boasts SUSE Linux in our portfolio but does that make the event any less important for us? Absolutely not –both Micro Focus and SUSE will be at upcoming San Antonio event in March.

SanAntonio

We’ve spoken a lot recently about the digital age and how (and often contrary to popular perception) this is underpinned by so-called ‘legacy’ technology. SHARE provides a great opportunity to explore modern Enterprise computing challenges and how the mainframe world continues to meet them head on. This year SHARE has its own dedicated DevOps track, signalling the importance of this discipline as a topic in the ongoing Mainframe debate.  My colleague Ed Airey is looking forward to hosting his DevOps session ‘The Dev is in the detail: Appdev, DevOps and the IBM Mainframe’ and hopes to see many delegates join in to discuss how that discipline is shaping up. In his own words Ed explains: “We always look forward to the SHARE event as a highlight in the mainframe calendar. We are delighted not only to participate in the sessions and the exhibition hall, but also to present our mainframe solution to the SHARE community. Our focus this year on DevOps is in step with growing interest in this topic from the SHARE delegates”

Skills, Education, Rockhopper and Emperor

IT Skills too will be high on the agenda, after all Skills and Education is a core SHARE mission that we jointly spoke about on an IT skills webinar recently.  This year as a bigger Micro Focus we are particularly excited to be going as the value of Linux for enterprise workloads and new app innovation is sure to be the talk of the town.

Linux, at SHARE, has become a consistent topic of interest for its delegates.  IBM’s recent LinuxOne announcement and continued investment in Linux systems will certainly capture attention as well.  The SUSE team will be highlighting their recent capabilities including expanded enterprise grade scalability for core applications. For Enterprise IT shops interested in understanding how to implement Linux for new Mainframe app innovation, SHARE San Antonio won’t disappoint.

mainframe techies

Is it just for the Mainframe and COBOL Developer community?

Absolutely not.  The increasingly popular EXECUforum takes place for industry and commercial executives to come together, discuss key challenges and solutions, and share experiences too. IT Decision makers, Analysts and visionaries will all be there discussing challenges like Big Data, Analytics, Mobile, Skills, Productivity and the highly relevant DevOps methodology.  Micro Focus panellist Derek Britton comments; We are delighted to join the EXECUforum discussion panel this year. Our clients are driving towards DevOps as a means for improved application delivery, and we are helping them in a variety of ways to accelerate their implementation. We are only too pleased to be part of the discussion at SHARE”

San Antonio here we come…

We’re hoping many of our Mainframe and COBOL friends will be going too. Our brilliant #DevDay events are an ongoing testament to the value that face-to-face events bring to the Enterprise Tech community. Please stop by our booths to say hello to the Micro Focus and SUSE team who will be very keen to hear about your experiences. We’d also be honoured to see you at our sessions:

Our SUSE specific sessions:

What’s New with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for z Systems (see session details and add to your agenda here)

SUSE Manager at Large Scale (see session details and add to your agenda here)

DevOps specific sessions:

The Dev is in the detail: Appdev, DevOps and the IBM Mainframe (see session details and add to your agenda here)

DevOps:  Cultural Mindset (see the EXECUForum agenda here)

See you there, whether you’re planning to attend for a day, or the whole week…..

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10 ways to boost COBOL application development

What would really make a difference to your working life as a developer? Faster coding? Better productivity? Easier ways for new developers to work with unfamiliar languages? Perhaps all of these. Here are 10 ways that Micro Focus Visual COBOL application development tool can really help make your job easier and faster, with fewer errors and much higher productivity.

What do COBOL developers want?

1.    Faster coding

If you want the job done quicker, you need the right appdev tools to make it happen. You can’t go wrong if your toolset is designed specifically to give the best COBOL experience. Combine them with Visual Studio and Eclipse to maintain, develop and modernize your COBOL apps. These two IDEs set the benchmark for software development. You’ll be more productive than you’ve ever known.

Editing code in Visual Studio, with Visual COBOL 2015 Editor
Editing code in Visual Studio, with Visual COBOL 2015 Editor

2.    Fewer coding errors

Compile errors often happen because of missing or incorrect punctuation, and misspellings. These kind of mistakes are far too easy to make, aren’t they? Background compilation makes it easier to avoid typos, as it immediately picks up on them so you can correct as you compile. Goodbye to hundreds of errors, hello to cleaner code.

Eclipse enhanced error markers and copybook dependency view
Eclipse enhanced error markers and copybook dependency

3.    Create modern user interfaces

Need to build an attractive, modern UI? It’s easy with COBOL. You can develop a .NET WPF or Java Swing application, and use the speedy design tools in Visual Studio and Eclipse. You can quickly deliver a new mobile application user interface using existing COBOL code, by working with HTML-5 design tools. Create your own here.

Create your own mobile service with our AirMiles Calculator demo
Create your own mobile service with our AirMiles Calculator demo

4.    Easier Object Oriented development

COBOL now has a rich set of Object Oriented (OO) extensions that are ideal for OO development and interfacing to your current procedural code. This means you can work in .NET or the Java Virtual Machine without having to write all your OO code in Java or C#. Learn more about OO programming with this infographic.

5.    Faster codebase search

Finding where to make a change in code can sometimes take ages. Developers get more done if they can search the codebase faster. As well as quick find and a regular expression search across your source files, you can benefit from context sensitive search, which tells you where a field is referenced or modified – all at the click of button. See how easy it is. Take our interactive screen test now to see COBOL development before and after, in Windows or Unix. Take screen test now

COBOL Source Information output from Visual Studio showing all occurrences of file IO usage within a program
COBOL Source Information output from Visual Studio showing all occurrences of file IO usage within a program

6.    Speedier number crunching

You can now use COBOL inside the same popular toolset that so many developers use. This means Java or .NET developers will have a much easier time picking up COBOL. It can take just a matter of hours. After that, you’re likely to create some converts as others see how good the COBOL engine is at crunching reams of data.

7.    Predicts what you’re typing

When you’re dealing with many lines of code in your COBOL apps, it’s sometimes difficult to remember field names and sections – you could have hundreds to choose from. With an easy to use tool which predicts what you’ve started typing, it doesn’t matter if you can only remember part of a data name.

8.    Shorter lines of code

.NET and Java already include vast frameworks of code you can reuse in your own app, saving you time and trouble. Need to display a message box, perform date arithmetic or display a localized message? What might have taken pages of code before, you can now do in just a few lines.

9.    Evolves to keep up with the latest

COBOL is still around for a very good reason. Application development teams must bring apps bang up to date with industry standards and this can be done easily with the right application development tools. With rich OO extensions, and XML, SQL and Unicode features, your team will be able to adhere with minimal effort.

Modern COBOL development in Eclipse
Modern COBOL development in Eclipse

10.    Works with other languages

Visual Studio and Eclipse support dozens of different languages from open source to mainstays like C++, Java, VB.NET and C#. When you’re working in .NET or the JVM, you can debug COBOL and any other language simultaneously.

Boost your productivity today with a free trial

Can’t wait to make your life easier and boost COBOL application development? Take your free 30-day Micro Focus Visual COBOL trial. All you need to do is click the link below and complete the form. You can choose from 4 Visual COBOL product trials:

  • Visual COBOL for Visual Studio
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – Windows®
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – SUSE
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – Red Hat

Download now and discover Visual COBOL’s easy-to-use developer toolset. Try now.

Hungry for more? See Reveal a more youthful side to your COBOL code – 12 ways to make it happen here

In the mainframe world, 13 into 16 does go

2015 was a busy year for big blue. Derek Britton ruminates over the last 12 months’ major events and industry chatter in the mainframe world, as we look forward to 2016 being another exciting year.

I’ve enjoyed the recent spate of articles and blogs from the team at Compuware, talking about the mainframe in an entertainingly assertive way (see here for examples). Many of us in the mainframe community share the passion and belief in the mainframe as the enterprise class IT server of choice. Indeed the positioning of the IBM z13 as the enterprise class server at the heart of the digital economy has considerable merit.

Elsewhere in the press, studies from a variety of sources (including BMC, Compuware, Syncsort and Delphix) reveal ongoing support for and usage of the mainframe environment.

CIOz13

While the mainframe environment is derided by some, not least those that would benefit from clients moving to an alternative environment, not all industry commentators follow that line.

The fanfare greeting the z13 last year was remarkably positive (an example from Motley Fool here) – IBM’s mainframe revenue results have followed that positive direction. Later in the year we were treated to more excitement with the release of the LinuxOne range of IBM mainframe-based Linux servers, and the recommitment to the Open Mainframe Project (with the help of SUSE).

Linuxfound

In recent months the mainframe has recieved some upbeat and well-considered press. SD Times ran an excellent review of the mainframe world – “Are mainframes still road worthy” which talked about a buoyant, positive market (though not without its challenges). More recently still was the Forbes article, penned by Adrian Bridgwater. In this article, the premise that the mainframe is in some way outmoded (the title calls this out immediately – “How to rescue a dead mainframe programmer”) is explored and debunked. Citing some recent software announcements, the article explores two of the key focus areas for the mainframe community right now. Notably Skills and DevOps.

On skills, the challenges were clearly identified – “all the older guys who knew … mainframe systems … are retiring”. This creates an issue when, as it goes on “existing mainframe server systems are … well suited to large-scale datacentre … environments”, and therefore need to be sustained and evolved.

The article then infers that resolving the reliance on older tooling may play its part. Micro Focus agrees wholeheartedly, such that this is less of an issue than IT leaders might fear. Antiquated technology is hard to find staff to use, yet needn’t be a problem. Modern mainframe development technology is readily available which provides the same environment for mainframe teams as is being used by other developers. This unified approach provides potential cross-pollination between various development teams and has been successfully adopted by Micro Focus customers looking to extend their supply of skilled mainframe talent. One organization now has an average mainframe developer age of 26 as a result of their Micro Focus investment.

Micro Focus’ overall approach to the Mainframe and COBOL skills question is outlined here.

DevOps3

The other subject of the Forbes article and topic du jour: DevOps. You can’t move for DevOps discussions right now. At the next SHARE event in March 2016 –a barometer for the psyche of the mainframe world – the event now has its own DevOps track: “DevOps in the Enterprise”. As you would expect Micro Focus will be there and presenting our own DevOps session).

Vendors have arrived at the DevOps party at various times. Compuware are mentioned in the Forbes article as “empowering”, according to CEO Chris O’Malley, “Agile DevOps teams to master the mainframe”. Such facilities – in a genuine agile environment – present integration needs across a variety of 3rd party tools (not just those mentioned in the article). However any steps forward in integration and support between mainframe-centric tooling and DevOps technology is a step in the right direction. Micro Focus’ support, within its Enterprise product set, a range of agile tools, including its own Borland range (Atlas, Silk, AccuRev, StarTeam), plus Jenkins, Sonar Source etc. Integration with Endevor, SCLM or Changeman on the mainframe, takes that mantra further. Our customers are using such facilities today as the central hub for their DevOps-based mainframe delivery processes.

What this means, in simple terms, is that the challenges facing mainframers in the move to an agile process – poor interoperability, lack of productivity, inflexible testing capability, insufficient collaboration, low overall delivery velocity, inefficiency – stand a real chance of being fixed to create a meaningful improvement in throughput and flexibility. Learn more about how that happens here.

SUSELinuxOne

Bridgwater concludes with the forward-thinking label, “Agile mainframes”. And with the right skills and technology available, which they most certainly can be; he’s right. You can see it for yourself at SHARE or join us at a DevDay this year to witness the power of agile COBOL app development from Micro Focus.