Data: Challenge & Opportunity

Data Challenges

Researchers claim that the average smartphone user glances at their device roughly every seven seconds. Do you? It’s an impulse that each of us experiences within our daily lives, whether at the airport, the bank or the shopping mail, but also in workplace. Why is this so? Well, mobile technology has unleashed the power and desire for instant information that’s readily available to all using our device of choice. The mobile economy is underpinned by data. This quest for information, engagement or even entertainment requires instant, readily accessible access to this valuable resource and without it that same mobile experience would be well, not nearly that exciting. But the demand for data is not isolated to those searching for the latest sports scores or for that needed holiday recipe.  Business organizations have the same need to unlock the value of their business data and leverage that information to make smarter decisions leading to new market opportunity. But for many businesses, it’s not quite so simple.  There are a number of challenges that must be addressed.

Many core business systems are written in the COBOL language.  In fact, over 70% of business transaction processing is supported by COBOL technology.  It continues to be the lifeblood of core business applications in the airline, insurance, banking, manufacturing and retail industries as well as a prominent piece of public services IT infrastructure. But unlocking COBOL data is not easy.  Traditional COBOL systems utilize COBOL data files for information access and storage. Retrieving data from these systems requires a knowledge of the COBOL language but also an understanding of the application itself. This creates challenge for an organization that desires to gain real time access to data for business intelligence, analytics or reporting needs. COBOL data is not relational which makes the use of modern tools difficult for analysts and developers, alike.  Applications underpinned by COBOL data files also experience application reliability and serviceability issues. COBOL data files can and often do become corrupted which compromises business continuity and reduces application up-time. Also, even during scheduled application maintenance, application recoverability can be slower than desired. So, how can you overcome these challenges and what are the options?

Options

In an effort to gain easier access to COBOL business applications, some will utilize tools to extract, transform and load data into a new repository. Other options include mirroring the data or creating copies for analytics and data warehousing purposes. The challenge with these options is that the data, itself, is not relational nor available in real-time which means the data is immediately out-of-date. Re-writing these COBOL applications is often considered an option too in order to achieve the benefits of SQL and RDBMS.  Doing so, however, can be risky and costly to the business.  Additionally, the size of the average COBOL application codebase is large and is often measured in millions of lines of code (MLOC) which means the prospect of changing or re-writing these systems to accommodate RDBMS or SQL integration is almost unobtainable for many.  So where do we go from here?

A Better Bridge – For the Old and the New

There’s a better path to achieve the benefits of SQL and RDBMS without application code change. For business analysts and end users seeking to gain real-time access to relational data or create custom reports without the assistance of the development team, a new data modernization toolset enables you to utilize modern, off-the-shelf reporting tools such as Excel or Crystal Reports to access existing COBOL application data with ease. And for developers and technical teams seeking to utilize the power of SQL alongside modern RDBMS platforms to improve application uptime or reliability, a supplemental toolset is available to bridge existing COBOL business applications to relational database management platforms, including SQLServer, Oracle IBM DB2 and PostgreSQL.  With these solutions, organizations can unlock the power of business data, enabling all to make smarter decisions that drive opportunity and new digital business.

New Solutions

Today, Micro Focus is delighted to announce a new innovation- a set of data modernization solutions to enable analysts, developers and management teams to better align their core systems of record with modern relational database management technology. With Relativity and Database Connectors, you’ll have the ability to unlock the value of business application data and leverage the power of SQL and RDMBS to gain access to business information, improve application reliability and better manage RDMBS costs while expanding application usage. To learn more about these new and exciting tools and how to get started on your own journey to data modernization, we encourage you schedule a complimentary value profile meeting with us. During this consultation, we’ll examine your business and technical goals and help align your data modernization needs to solutions that meet your objectives. As the demand for data only continues to rise, fueled by digital business and the mobile economy, we must find new and innovative ways to leverage core business systems to unlock both the power of data and the competitive advantage that it delivers.  Click here to learn more and get started with this complimentary service offering.

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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Innovate Faster with Lower Risk at Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016

Mark Levy blogs about the upcoming Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016 with over 60 technical sessions focused on how to design, build, test, and deploy applications faster, with less risk in a repeatable, reliable and secure way. DevOps Interchange will be a great opportunity to network, get solutions for your problems and share your ideas and solutions.

Marketing and Innovation

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” Marketing is required to understand the needs of the customer and innovation is required to build the product or services that fit those customer needs.

Innovation provides competitive differentiation in the markets where you have to be consistently better and smarter at creating customers than your competitors.  Businesses have been using innovation as a competitive weapon for centuries to create value and differentiation, but only recently have businesses been using software to enable and accelerate business innovation.

Building and delivering software has always been a difficult race against time. I was a software developer for well over 10 years and I was always racing to a date. But over the last several years, that race has entered an even more challenging phase. Several market forces are at work, putting the pressure on the business to deliver business value faster, with better quality, and at a lower cost to the customer.

With the explosion of mobile, there is a newly empowered customer who is forcing the business to deliver quickly to prove out business ideas and innovations. If the business is not responsive enough, low switching costs enables the customer to easily migrate to another competitor.  Additionally, digital competition is everywhere. Firms that use software and the cloud to disrupt established markets can move faster than more traditional businesses because software-based services can evolve faster and offer the opportunity to out-innovate market incumbents.  Epic battles are already being waged across many industries between incumbents and software powered companies.

Finally, the impact of software has dramatically increased across all kinds of business. Today, business innovation is often driven by information technology, which itself demands changes to software.  Software development and delivery has to change or the business will be at risk.

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Innovate Faster with Lower Risk

Today, every enterprise IT organization is under pressure to simultaneously respond more quickly to enable business innovation, and at the same time provide a stable, secure, compliant and predictable IT environment.  IT must maintain and update the “Enterprise Software Engine” that is running the enterprise, i.e., keeping the lights on, while also providing capacity to support business innovation.  These are not mutually exclusive but actually form an integrated value chain that leverages the traditional systems of record with the customer facing systems of innovation.  These pressures have given rise to Enterprise DevOps as all enterprises must enable the business to innovate faster with lower risk.

Enterprise DevOps is all about building and delivering better quality software, faster and more reliably. IT organizations that implement Enterprise DevOps practices achieve higher IT and organizational performance, spanning both development and operations.  Technical practices such as Continuous Delivery lead to lower levels of deployment pain while speeding up application delivery and improving quality, security, and business outcomes.  The DevOps culture promotes a generative, high trust, performance-oriented culture which enables good information flow, cross-functional collaboration and job satisfaction.  This all leads to higher levels of productivity enabling business innovation with lower risk.

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Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016

This very important topic will be the main focus of Micro Focus’s first annual global user conference, DevOps Interchange 2016 , September 18-21, 2016 in Chicago, Ill.  Micro Focus’s own John Delk,  Product Group GM at Micro Focus, will kick off the conference with his “Vision 2020” look at how software development and delivery technology will change and how we must adapt and embrace it. We have also invited Gary Gruver, author of “Leading the transformation – Applying DevOps and Agile principles at scale”, to give a keynote talk about DevOps, where to begin, and how to scale DevOps practices over time in large enterprises.  With over 60 technical sessions, focused on how to design, build, test, and deploy applications faster, with less risk in a repeatable, reliable and secure way, this conference will be a great opportunity to network, get solutions for your problems and share your ideas and solutions.  I hope to see you there!

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#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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The Cloud: small step not quantum leap

Ed Airey, Solutions Marketing Director for our COBOL and mainframe products, looks at how the right technology can take the enterprise into the Cloud – and how one customer is already getting great results.

We have often used the Micro Focus blog to consider the next wave of disruptive technology; what it is and what it means for the enterprise.

We have looked at mobile technology and the far-reaching aspects of phenomena such as BYOD. Enterprise customers running mature, well-established tech have managed all of these with varying degrees of success.

The key to linking older, COBOL applications with more contemporary customer must-haves, such as web, mobile and Internet of Things apps, is using an enabling technology to help make that transition.

The Cloud is often thought of as synonymous with new companies running modern infrastructures. The default target profile would be a recent start-up using contemporary tech and delivery processes. They can set up in the Cloud and harness the power of on-demand infrastructure from the get-go.

But what about…

The enterprise, however, looks very different. Its business-critical business systems run on traditional, on-premise hardware and software environments – how can it adapt to Cloud computing? And what of business leaders concerned about cost, speed to market, or maximizing the benefits of SaaS? Where can developers looking to support business-critical applications alongside modern tech make the incremental step to virtual or Cloud environments?

Micro Focus technology can make this quantum leap a small step and help organizations running business-critical COBOL applications maximize the opportunity to improve flexibility and scale without adding cost.

Visual COBOL is the enabler

With the support of the right technology, COBOL applications can do more than the original developers ever thought possible. The advent of the mobile banking app proves that COBOL apps can adapt to new environments.

Visual COBOL is that technology and application virtualization is the first step for organizations making the move to the Cloud. A virtually-deployed application can help the enterprise take the step into the Cloud, improve flexibility and increase responsiveness to future demand. It can help even the most complex application profiles.

Modernization in action

Trasmediterranea Acciona is a leading Spanish corporation and operates in many verticals, including infrastructures, energy, water, and services, in more than 30 countries.

Their mainframe underpinned their ticketing and boarding application services, including COBOL batch processes and CICS transactions. Although efficient, increasing costs and wider economic concerns in Spain made the mainframe a costly option that prevented further investment in the applications and the adoption of new technologies.

Virtualization enables enterprises to prepare their applications for off-site hosted infrastructure environments, such as Microsoft Azure. It is a simple first stage of a modernization strategy that will harness smart technology, enabling organizations to leverage COBOL applications without rewriting current code.

Using the Micro Focus Visual COBOL solution certainly helped Acconia, who worked with Micro Focus technology partner Microsoft Consulting Services to port their core COBOL applications and business rules to .NET and Azure without having to rewrite their code.

As Acconia later commented, “We can reuse our critical COBOL application … [this was] the lowest risk route in taking this application to the Cloud. Making our core logistics application available under Microsoft Azure … has not only dramatically reduced our costs, but it also helps position our applications in a more agile, modern architecture for the future”.

And as the evidence grows that more enterprises than ever are looking at the Cloud, it is important that their ‘first steps’ do not leave you behind.

Find out more here www.microfocus.com/cloud

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DevOps – a faster voyage of discovery

Tackling IT change is adversely affected by the complexity of the application landscape. Yet, problems getting up to speed in enterprise IT systems might be a thing of the past, as David Lawrence learns in his first Micro Focus blog

Accelerating delivery starts with automating understanding

Anyone been asked to do less this year? Thought not.

Anyone been able to simplify their IT systems recently? Figured as much…

As IT teams continue their turnover, and the rate of change required to keep decades-old portfolios productive increases, the ability to mobilize and plan for change is coming into sharp relief.

Yet, as the article from CIO magazine describes, the impending shortage of COBOL programmers will complicate efforts to keep these assets productive. Moreover, the increasing IT backlog (referred to by others as “IT Debt,” for example in this 2010 Gartner report) illustrates the urgency of improving the productivity of new developers as quickly as possible. A team that has been in place for decades, and has probably created a significant proportion of the portfolio they are now maintaining, will have an easier time keeping up with the backlog than will a team of individuals who are unfamiliar with the code.

Application discovery is a necessary part of the work of a developer, or programmer, who is new to a project or to a part of the application portfolio they are unfamiliar with. Traditionally, it is a trial and error process consisting of searching through tens or hundreds of source files, deciphering cryptic comments and locating references to significant data elements. And the language of these core systems? More often than not, COBOL.

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A DevOps Approach?

The benefits of replacing error-prone manual tasks with automated tools are well understood and form the bedrock of the rationale for the DevOps initiative.

Understanding of an application is crucial not just to get the new programmer up to speed. It’s also necessary for performing due diligence and following good practice. Compliance and oversight rules in organizations I speak with mandate that the impact of a proposed change to an application in production must be thoroughly understood, and usually documented in the form of an impact analysis, before the change can be deployed to the production environment.

DevOps is about automating as much of the application lifecycle as is feasible, to shorten time to production and reduce errors and resulting delays. This includes the early stages of discovery, analysis, requirements gathering, and so on.

The traditional means of discovery and analysis  of mainframe applications is a manual, and usually unbounded task, difficult to schedule and plan.

Automating the Discovery process

If we take the DevOps perspective of seeing what could be done to eliminate application discovery – usually a laborious, manual effort – it holds that this is an activity that is ripe for automation. What if, instead of chasing through one file after another, the programmer had at his disposal, a means to quickly and accurately visualize the structure and flow of the application? Such a solution could be used to not only reduce the effort of discovery, it could also automate another crucial task: Complete and accurate impact analysis. Application updates have been known to fail in production due to an inadequate understanding of the impact of the update.

Application Discovery Benefits

Solutions from Micro Focus and other vendors help automate discovery by automatically creating a visual representation of the application. By revealing artifacts like control flow and data references in an IDE instead of through the ISPF editor, the new programmer’s task of familiarizing himself with a new application is simplified. At the same time, the capability to automatically create impact analysis reports helps move your organization further along the path to DevOps.

Better yet, the same analysis information can be provided not only at the stage of initial examination (potentially scoping out a task for others), but also at the point of change, when the developer needs to know what to change, where and why, and what impacts this will have.

Figure 1Automated analysis at the point of change
Figure 1Automated analysis at the point of change

Conclusion – Automating the Journey

The demographic trends in the IT world are helping to exacerbate the IT backlog issue. People who know these systems may have moved on. Or the task of maintenance has been sub-contracted out to a team of staff who have no familiarity with the system. The increasing velocity of business and new models of customer interaction are additional factors in adding to the workload of COBOL programmers. A solution that speeds up development activities and reduces the risk through elimination or reduction of manual steps, makes a lot of sense. Moving the organization closer to their own DevOps objectives involves automating as much as possible – starting with knowing the systems being changed, using technology such as Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer, should be seriously considered.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

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Market Attitudes to Modernization

The tried-and-trusted enterprise-scale server of choice is casually regarded as an unchanging world. Yet today’s digital world means the mainframe is being asked to do greater and greater things. Derek Britton investigates big-iron market attitudes to change.

Keeping the Mainframe Modern

A Firm Foundation

The IBM Mainframe environment has been on active duty since the mid 1960’s and remains the platform of choice for the vast majority of the world’s most successful organizations. However, technology has evolved at an unprecedented pace in the last generation, and today’s enterprise server market is more competitive than ever. So it would be wholly fair to ask whether the mainframe remains as popular as ever.

You don’t have to look too hard for the answer. Whether you are reading reports from surveys conducted by CA, Compuware, Syncsort, BMC, IBM or Micro Focus, the response is loud and clear – the mainframe is the heart of the business.

Summarizing the surveys we’ve seen, for many organizations the Mainframe remains an unequivocally strategic asset. Typical survey responses depict up to 90% of the industry seeing the mainframe platform as being strategic for at least another decade (Sources: BMC, Compuware and others).

It could also be argued that the value of the platform is a reflection of the applications which it supports. So perhaps unsurprisingly, a survey conducted by Micro Focus showed that over 85% of Mainframe applications are considered strategic.

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However, the appetite for change is also evident. Again, this holds true in the digital age. An unprecedentedly large global market, with more vocal users than ever, are demanding greater change across an unprecedented variety of access methods (devices). No system devised in the 1960s or 1970s could have possibly conceived the notion of the internet, of the mobile age, of the internet of things; yet that’s what they do have to do today – cope with this new world. Understandably, surveys reflect that: Micro Focus found two-thirds of those surveyed recognize a need to ‘do things differently’ in terms of application/service delivery and are seeking a more efficient approach.

The scale of change seems to be a growing problem that is impossible to avoid. In another survey, results show that IT is failing to keep up with the pace of change. A study by Vanson Bourne revealed that IT Backlogs (also referred to as IT Debt) had increased by 29% in just 18 months. Extrapolated, that’s the same as the workload doubling in less than five years. Supply is utterly failing demand.

Supporting this, and driven by new customer demands in today’s digital economy, over 40% of respondents confirmed that they are actively seeking to modernize their applications to support next generation technologies including Java, RDBMS, REST-based web services and .NET.  Many are also seeking to leverage modern development tools (Source: Micro Focus)

And it isn’t just technical change. The process of delivery is also being reviewed. We know from Gartner that 25% of the Global 2000 have adopted DevOps in response to the need for accelerated change, and that this figure is growing at 21% each year, suggesting the market is evolving towards a model of more frequent delivery.

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Crossroads

Taking what works and improving it is not, however, the only option. Intrepid technologists might be tempted by a more draconian approach, hoping to manage and mitigate the associated cost and risk.

Package replacements take considerable budget and time, only to deliver – typically – a rough equivalent of the old system. Both unique competitive advantage is compromised, and of course packages are available to the open market. Such an approach is known to have a 40% failure rate, according to Standish Group. Custom rewrite projects appear to be riskier still, the same report talking about a 70% failure rate and extremely lengthy and costly projects.

Worse still, reports from CAST Software suggest that Java (a typical replacement language choice) is around 4 times more costly to maintain than equivalent COBOL-based core systems. The risks of such a drastic change are clear.

Moving Ahead

Meeting future need never ends. Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s standard. Change is the only true constant. As such, the established methods of providing business value need to be constantly scrutinized and challenged. The mainframe market sees its inherent value and regards the platform as well-placed to support the future.

And to meet the demands of the digital age, the mainframe world is evolving: new complimentary technology and methods will provide the greater efficiencies it needs to keep up with the pace of change. Find out more at MicroFocus.com and / or download the white paper ‘Discover the State of Enterprise IT

Mainframe Modernization Keeps On Moving: 2.3.1 is here

Micro Focus’ commitment to customer success is enshrined in its regular drops of exciting new technology. Amie Johnson takes us through the latest mainframe product set updates, out this week.

Introduction

Micro Focus’ commitment to improving z Systems application delivery bore more fruit this week in the form of a new update to its Enterprise Product Set. For customers with strategic mainframe applications, the Enterprise Solution set helps you manage complex business workloads with an eye toward future innovation and market change.

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You Asked For It

This latest iteration of the Micro Focus mainframe delivery technology, version 2.3.1, comprises a number of new capabilities. By listening during the many dozens of mainframe modernization engagements we’re involved in at any given time, we continue to focus on the things that matter the most to our market.

Common themes emerging from the mainframe modernization projects we’ve worked on can be summarized in two simple phrases:

  •  Our client’s core mainframe applications don’t just support the business, they ARE the business. We have customers successfully running and modernizing COBOL and PL/I applications because they are the secret ingredients that make them better than the competition.
  • When it comes to addressing the changes that must be made to remain relevant and successful in today’s fierce global market, the risks associated with modernization, and the cost and time to change, must be as low as possible, but with great results.

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What’s In The Box

Let’s explore a few of the newly available capabilities in this iteration of our Enterprise Analyzer, Enterprise Developer, Enterprise Test Server and Enterprise Server products.

Extra Mobility:

As we help our customers continue to deliver incremental value through IT, making our products easy to use is vital. This is why one of the key features of this update makes web-enabling CICS applications much easier. CICS Web Services are important to mainframe customers as they look to mobile-enable their existing applications to support new business need. In 2.3.1 we have further enhanced our ability to support customers in developing, testing and deploying CICS Web Services. Additionally, using Enterprise Test Server, clients can establish multi-user testing of CICS Web Services applications, without needing to consume additional mainframe MIPS.

Well-Managed:

Whether it’s to support web or mobile users, our customers need to modernize and extend existing applications to support the latest way consumers access their services. An example of how we support this is the Micro Focus Enterprise Server for .NET, which enables our customers to deploy their COBOL applications as Managed Code.  For customers with a Microsoft-centric strategy that want to integrate their existing applications with other services, this creates the option of extending COBOL applications using other managed code languages such as C#. CICS applications in a managed code, even Cloud-based environment, is readily-accessible.

COBOL Forever:

We pride ourselves on being the best mainframe development environment, and as such compatibility with IBM’s Enterprise COBOL remains a priority. We have made enhancements in our support for Enterprise COBOL 5.2 and are currently reviewing the new functions in COBOL 6 for inclusion in a future release of Enterprise Developer.

Subsytem Support:

Mainframe compatibility is a priority for our rehost customers so in addition to the Enterprise COBOL and CICS Web Services support already mentioned we have also delivered updates to our PL/I, IMS and DB2 support to further improve our compatibility with the mainframe and reduce the requirement for application changes when rehosting to Enterprise Server.

However, the list of what to expect in this latest drop from our regular product release schedule is considerably longer. Additional functionality highlights we’ve delivered based on our customers’ needs include:

  • Faster access to application knowledge through improved usability and better performance on large Enterprise Analyzer repositories.
  • Code coverage colorization to help developers quickly identify application code that has not been executed during testing cycles.
  • Incorporation of coding standards rules into continuous integration environments enabling easier use across development teams.
  • Increased access security to mainframe resources through support for ‘pass tickets.’
  • Reduced elapsed time for batch processes through improved sorting of Fixed Block files.

Where Can I get it?

Customers that are current on maintenance for any of these products can login and download updates from the SupportLine web portal. You can also access the release notes from the Product Documentation area on SupportLine and the Enterpise Analyzer and Enterprise  “What’s new” documents from the main Micro Focus Web site.

Contact us for further information if you would like to upgrade your current product to receive this latest update.


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).

platform

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.

platform2

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

R.I.P. COBOL

Global Head of Marketing Campaigns Melissa Burns originally wrote this April Fool post on LinkedIN in 2015. A year and 17,460 views later we thought it was worth sharing again…..enjoy.

You’ve probably heard the news? COBOL is dead. It cripples the mind, and it’s finished.

Of course, a world without COBOL means an end to 70% of all business transactions.

You’re probably finding it pretty hard to get cash from your local ATM, and that’s because 95% of ATM transactions use COBOL. You’d better find a new currency.

And shopping? Well, you’ll have noticed that’s pretty hard too. Because before it’s death, COBOL used to power 80% of all point-of-sale transactions.

That mobile outage you’re experiencing is not just because of the calls everyone is trying to make in this seemingly apocalyptic situation – it’s because, before COBOL died, it connected 500 million mobile users every day.

Healthcare is struggling too – COBOL applications managed the care of 60 million patients daily.

And without COBOL enabling 96,000 vacations to be booked every day, you can forget about that holiday.

No more COBOL transactions, 250 billion lines of code down the drain. 65% of all application code kaputt. Finished. Dead.

Luckily this was just an incredibly popular April Fool from 2015. But can you imagine?!

COBOLTV

 

PL/I – 50 years young….

Relying on PL/I-based applications to tackle today’s challenges doesn’t have to be challenging. Amie Johnson checks out how the Micro Focus approach to modernization enables PL/I shops to get the most out of the rich and valuable business logic embedded in PL/I applications and support innovation.

50 years pl1

Did you know IBM shipped the first Pl/I compiler in 1966? Contemplating PL/I’s fifty-year anniversary made me wonder what fifty computer years feels like. Turning fifty in human years usually induces fear and anxiety because we’re forced to reckon with the fact that, according to today’s calculated life expectancy, we’ve lived more than half of our life. That’s intense. But, turning fifty in computer years seems dramatically more intense. Especially imagining if I were the CIO of a business relying on fifty year-old PL/I applications to compete in today’s world where the speed at which you can deliver services matters in fractions of a percentage point. Cue some uncertainty…..

As you can imagine, a fifty year old IT estate is an unwieldy array of disparate, heterogeneous systems, often woven together by a delicate fabric of dependencies and relationships. But the Intellectual Property captured within these estates contains nuggets of genuine gold. For example PL/I has boasting rights to some pretty remarkable accomplishments – from space travel to laying the foundation for the instant-price-quote economy that drives fierce competition in industries like insurance and travel.

PLi blog lunar

The truth is, there is still a sizable group of industry leading businesses using the differentiators delivered by their PL/I-based systems to compete and win today. And IBM has shipped new enhancements every year since 1999 including providing modernization capabilities that enable business-critical applications to interoperate with Java, process inbound and outbound XML documents, and work with Web services and the latest middleware.

Micro Focus too continues to invest in helping our PL/I customers by continuing to cultivate a team of PL/I talent that is unrivaled in the industry. Additionally, the latest update to the Enterprise Product Suite boasts an array of PL/I enhancements geared toward making the work of the PL/I teams more integrated.

Enterprise Developer support for PL/I now enables users to create projects on remote UNIX/Linux machines from the Eclipse IDE so developers can remotely edit, compile and debug their PL/I applications on the target machine from within the IDE running on Windows. This makes the use of development tools more consistent and the results from testing more relevant as the applications are running on the target environment.

Visual Studio-specific improvements include support for squiggles, IntelliSense, margins and error checking when editing, which improves developer productivity by making code development and problem determination easier.

And for organizations that need to consider a multi-platform environment or want to modernize their applications to take advantage of 64-bit server architecture, Enterprise Server offers improved functionality and greater language compatibility, making it easier to deploy PL/I workloads wherever the business needs them to be.

server room

CIOs today have to contend with plenty of challenges, like addressing the IT Backlog and meeting tough compliance targets while delivering new web, mobile and cloud-based services quickly. Relying on PL/I-based applications to tackle these challenges doesn’t have to be be challenging. Check out how our approach to modernization enables you to get the most from the rich and valuable business logic embedded in your PL/I applications, so you can support the business as it looks to innovate.

PLi blog