Trying to Transform (Part 2): the 420 million mph rate of change

Introduction

Organizations continually have to innovate to match the marketplace-driven rate of change. Readers of the Micro Focus blogsite know that I’m continually banging this drum. The issue seems relentless. Some even refer to tsunamis. But how fast is it?

An article from a recent edition of the UK Guardian newspaper attempted to gauge what the pace of change actually is, using the tried and tested motoring analogy. Here’s a quote.

If a 1971 car had improved at the same rate as computer chips, then 2015 models would have had top speeds of about 420 million mph. Before the end of 2017 models that go twice as fast again will arrive in showrooms.” Still trying to keep up? Good luck with that.

Of course this is taking Moore’s law to a slightly dubious conclusion. However, the point holds that the clamour for change, the need for constant reinvention, innovation and improvement, that’s not letting up any time soon.

The slow need not apply

But how quickly an organisation can achieve the innovation needed to compete in the digitally-enabled marketplace may depend on the IT infrastructure. Clearly, innovation is easier for funky, smaller start-ups with no core systems or customer data to worry about to drag along with them. But the established enterprise needn’t be left in the slow lane. Indeed look at some of the astonishing advances in mainframe performance and any nagging concern that it can’t support today’s business quickly dissipates.

Meanwhile, innovation through smart software can improve speed, efficiency, collaboration, and customer engagement. With the help of the right enabling technology, mainframe and other large organizations can match external digital disruption with their brand of innovation. Because innovation isn’t any one thing, and therefore the solution must be as comprehensive as the challenge. So what’s the secret to getting the enterprise up to speed? The answer for many is digital transformation.

Digital what?

OK, Digital Transformation may be neologism rather than accepted parlance, the term is common enough that Gartner get it and it has its own wiki definition:

“Digital transformation is the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society”

Our customers have told us they are trying to transform, and while they have different ideas about what digital transformation means to them, Micro Focus is very clear about what it means to us.

Digital transformation is how we help keep our mainframe and enterprise customers competitive in a digital world. It can either be tangible, like a better mobile app, a better web interface on to a core system, getting into new markets quicker, ensuring a better overall customer experience, or simply doing things better to answer the challenges posed by the digital economy.

For us, the future is a place where to keep up with change, organizations will need to change the way everything happens. And for IT, that’s Building smarter systems even faster, continuing to Operate them carefully and efficiently, while keeping the organization’s systems and data, especially the critical mainframe-based information, Secure, these are the things that matter to the CIO, not to mention the rest of the executive team.

This is the practical, business incarnation of innovation, but to us the solution is as smart as it is efficient: realizing new value from old. Squeezing extra organizational benefit through increased efficiency, agility and cost savings from the data and business logic you already own. The pace of change is accelerating, so why opt for a standing start? We suggest you use what is, quite literally, already running.

Talking Transformation

Your digital story is your own journey, but the conversation is hotting up. Hear more by joining us at an upcoming event. Taste the Micro Focus flavor of innovation at the upcoming SHARE event. Or join us at the forthcoming Micro Focus #Summit2017.

Trying to Transform

Here’s an interesting statistic. According to a report, only 61 of the Fortune 500 top global companies have remained on that illustrious list since 1955. That’s only 12%. It’s not unreasonable to extrapolate that 88% of the Fortune 500 of 2075 will be different again. That’s over 400 organizations that won’t stand the test of time.

What do such sobering prospects mean for the CEO of most major corporations? Simple – innovation. Innovation and transformation are the relentless treadmill of change and the continuous quest for differentiation. These are what an organization will need for a competitive edge in the future.

But in this digital economy, what does transformation look like?

Time for Change

Key findings from a recent report (the 2016 State of Digital Transformation, by research and consulting firm Altimeter) shared the following trends affecting organizational digital transformation:

  • Customer experience is the top driver for change
  • A majority of respondents see the catalyst for change as evolving customer behaviour and preference. A great number still see that as a significant challenge
  • Nearly half saw a positive result on business as a result of digital transformation
  • Four out of five saw innovation as top of the digital transformation initiatives

Much of this is echoed by a study The Future of Work commissioned by Google.

The three most prevalent outcomes of adopting “digital technologies” were cited as

  • Improving customer experience
  • Improving internal communication
  • Enhancing internal productivity

More specifically, the benefits experienced of adopting digital technology were mentioned as

  • Responding faster to changing needs
  • Optimizing business processes
  • Increasing revenue and profits

Meanwhile, the report states that the digital technologies that are perceived as having the most future impact were a top five of Cloud, Tablets, Smartphones, Social Media and Mobile Apps.

So, leveraging new technology, putting the customer first, and driving innovation seem all to connect together to yield tangible benefits for organizations that are seeking to transform themselves. Great.

But it’s not without its downside. None of this, alas, is easy. Let’s look at some of the challenges cited the same study, and reflect on how they could be mitigated.

More Than Meets The Eye?

Seamlessly changing to support a new business model or customer experience is easy to conceive. We’ve all seen the film Transformers, right? But in practical, here-and-now IT terms, this is not quite so simple. What are the challenges?

The studies cited a few challenges: let’s look at some of them.

Challenge: What exactly is the customer journey?

In the studies, while a refined customer experience was seen as key, 71% saw understanding that behaviour as a major challenge. Unsurprisingly, only half had mapped out the customer journey. More worrying is that a poor digital customer experience means, over 90% of the time, unhappy customers won’t complain – but they will not return. (Source: www.returnonbehaviour.com ).

Our View: The new expectation of the digitally-savvy customer is all important in both B2C and B2B. Failure to assess, determine, plan, build and execute a renewed experience that maps to the new customer requirement is highly risky. That’s why Micro Focus’ Build story incorporates facilities to map, define, implement and test against all aspects of the customer experience, to maximize the success rates of newly-available apps or business services.

Challenge: Who’s doing this?

The studies also showed an ownership disparity. Some of the digital innovation is driven from the CIO’s organization (19%), some from the CMO (34%), and the newly-emerging Chief Digital office (15%) is also getting some of the funding and remit. So who’s in charge and where’s the budget, and is the solution comprehensive? These are all outstanding questions in an increasingly siloed digital workplace.

Our View: While organizationally there may be barriers, the culture of collaboration and inclusiveness can be reinforced by appropriate technology. Technology provides both visibility and insight into objectives, tasks, issues, releases and test cases, not to mention the applications themselves. This garners a stronger tie between all stakeholder groups, across a range of technology platforms, as organizations seek to deliver faster.

Challenge: Are we nimble enough?

Rapid response to new requirements hinges on how fast, and frequently, an organization can deliver new services. Fundamentally, it requires an agile approach – yet 63% saw a challenge in their organization being agile enough. Furthermore, the new DevOps paradigm is not yet the de-facto norm, much as many would want it to be.

Our View: Some of the barriers to success with Agile and DevOps boil down to inadequate technology provision, which is easily resolved – Micro Focus’ breadth of capability up and down the DevOps tool-chain directly tackles many of the most recognized bottlenecks to adoption, from core systems appdev to agile requirements management. Meanwhile, the culture changes of improved teamwork, visibility and collaboration are further supported by open, flexible technology that ensures everyone is fully immersed in and aware of the new model.

Challenge: Who’s paying?

With over 40% reporting strong ROI results, cost effectiveness of any transformation project remains imperative. A lot of CapEx is earmarked and there needs to be an ROI. With significant bottom line savings seen by a variety of clients using its technology, Micro Focus’ approach is always to plan how such innovation will pay for itself in the shortest possible timeframe.

Bridge Old and New

IT infrastructure and how it supports an organization’s business model is no longer the glacial, lumbering machine it once could be. Business demands rapid response to change. Whether its building new customer experiences, establishing and operating new systems and devices, or ensuring clients and the corporation protect key data and access points, Micro Focus continues to invest to support today’s digital agenda.

Of course, innovation or any other form of business transformation will take on different forms depending on the organization, geography, industry and customer base, and looks different to everyone we listen to. What remains true for all is that the business innovation we offer our customers enables them to be more efficient, to deliver new products and services, to operate in new markets, and to deepen their engagement with their customers.

Transforming? You better be. If so, talk to us, or join us at one of our events soon.

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.

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2016: Leading Change

Mark Levy reports back from #DOES16 in San Francisco – is this is the year that DevOps crosses the chasm? What did he find out from the experts like Gene Kim? Read on to find out the answers and more in this fascinating blog….

Last week I attended the DevOps Enterprise Summit (#DOES16) in San Francisco which brought together over 1300 IT professionals to learn and discuss with their peers the practices and patterns of high performance IT for large complex environments. One of the first things I noticed was that the overall structure of the event was different from your standard IT event.  All the sessions over the three-day event followed an “Experience Report” format. Each session was only 30 minutes in length and each speaker followed the same specific pattern, which enabled current DevOps practitioners to share what they did, what happened, and what they learned. The event also had workshops leveraging the “Lean Coffee” format where participants gathered, built an agenda, and began discussing DevOps topics that were pertinent to their particular environment.  In my opinion, these session formats made the overall conference exciting and fast paced.

Enterprise DevOps Crosses the Chasm

One question remained a focus throughout the event: “Is this the year that Enterprise DevOps crosses the chasm?” #DOES16 seems to believe so. The main theme for this year’s event was “Leading Change”. Gene Kim opened the event by highlighting results of the latest DevOps survey which found IT organizations that leveraged DevOps practices were able to deliver business value faster, with better quality, more securely, and they had more fun doing it!  With over four years of survey data, we now know that these high performers are massively out performing their peers. The focus of #DOES16 was to provide a forum where current DevOps practitioners from large IT organizations were able to share their experience with others who are just starting their journey. DevOps transformation stories from large enterprise companies such as Allstate, American Airlines, Capital One, Target, Walmart, and Nationwide proved that DevOps is not just reserved for the start-ups in Silicon Valley.

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There were also several new books focused on DevOps practices launched at #DOES16.  Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Dubois, and John Willis collaborated to create the “DevOps Handbook”, and renowned DevOps thought leader and author Gary Gruver released his new book “Starting and Scaling DevOps in the Enterprise”. Both books focus on how large enterprises can gain better business outcomes by implementing DevOps practices at scale and in my opinion are must reads for DevOps practitioners as well as senior management.

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It’s a Journey from “Aha to Ka-Ching”

DevOps is not “something you do” but a state you continuously move towards by doing other things. it’s a journey of continuous improvement. During the event, several companies highlighted that it’s a journey of experimentation, accepting failure along the way, while also incrementally improving the way they build and deliver software. There were some excellent case study presentations. For example, Heather Mickman, Sr. Director of Technology Services at Target, has presented three years in a row and showed how a grassroots, bottoms up DevOps transformation at Target has enabled the company to enlist the support of executive management. Target was able to scale software deployments from 2-3 per day in 2015 to 90 per day twelve months later.  The Target team achieved this by aligning product teams with business capabilities, removing friction points, and making everything self-service. What’s next for Target?  Take everything to the cloud.  The journey continues.

If you want to go far, go together

Leading change was the main theme of the event and was highlighted in many different ways. For example, Microsoft discussed their new vision of enabling any engineer to contribute to any product or service at Microsoft, thus leading the change to a single engineering system. Engineers follow an “engineering north star” with the objective that dev can move to another team and already know how to work. Leading change does not just focus on new innovation. DevOps is also about innovating with your “Core”.  Walmart’s mainframe team took the lead and created a Web caching service at scale that distributed teams could leverage. While both examples show how technology is being used to move forward together, there has to be a culture that supports this type of high performance. Many sessions focused on how to build a generative culture and the leadership that is required to change people and processes.

DevOpsDriveIn

Creating a culture that supports a successful DevOps transformation is such an important topic, that I have invited Gene Kim to come on our next Micro Focus DevOps Drive-in, December 1, 2016 at  9am PST to discuss the research he conducted while developing his latest book, “The DevOps Handbook”, and techniques to build a culture of continuous experimentation and learning. Hope to see you there!

Micro Focus #DevDay doubles-down in Dallas

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

A numbers game

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

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

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

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

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

Micro Focus #DevDay

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

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

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

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

Acu #DevDay

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

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

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

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

A global community… supported globally

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

 

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

In Summary

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

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

Two product lines; one global COBOL community.

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

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

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

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

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

Micro Focus Continued Investment in COBOL and Mainframe Technologies

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

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

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

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

Mainframe Development Solution Updates

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

Highlights in this latest update include:

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

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

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COBOL Development Solution Updates

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

Highlights in this latest update include:

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

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

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

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

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We’re heading to Oracle Open World

This Ed Airey blog explains how the modern enterprise can harness technology and technique to outpace and counter the changing face of completion and achieve sustainable business agility. Ed will be at Oracle Open World discussing this further at his session: Destination Java: Take enterprise apps to JVM and the Cloud so if you’re attending don’t hesitate to find him and chat more…

Into the Future: new tools for the agile enterprise

What is the agile enterprise? Is it an organization ready to respond to new demands or business opportunity, rapid changes in the market or changes in consumer demand?  To survive-it must achieve all these goals and more. This is the new norm for 21st century business – ever increasing flexibility. But how does business obtain and keep that nimble responsiveness to change? Is there a secret ingredient to the recipe of organizations that have done so already?  To be agile is to be adaptable—to flex and shift to meet the challenges of one’s environment. Just as the chameleon adapts to his surroundings shielding itself from predators a business organization must adjust its strategy and approach to counter its competition.  For most enterprise shops this is not an easy feat. Mired in technical debt, most IT leaders struggle to manage their IT backlog alongside new business initiatives.  Addressing both requires new thinking, new tech and a new approach to enterprise modernization.

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The Case for Modernization

For organizations struggling to cope with increasing IT debt and an older enterprise application portfolio, consider the innovative path taken by a very well-known European auto-manufacturer.  For years, this organization maintained a sterling reputation for quality, performance and service.  Its aging IT infrastructure, however, now plagued with stability problems threatened its ability to both service its customers and maintain its industry prestige.

The manufacturer considered a complete replacement of its core application infrastructure but quickly realized this would be both costly and risky to business operations.  In a fiercely competitive auto market, competitive advantage was paramount and this organization couldn’t afford to lose a step to the competition by disregarding its precious intellectual property.

Modern tools and new technology was employed to modernize its core enterprise applications. Using the power of Eclipse, new and existing IT teams could quickly integrate existing enterprise applications with Java, web services and other solutions. Enterprise application deployment to the Java virtual machine (JVM) enabled future flexibility and scale to meet new business requirements and opportunity. Modern tools and a new mindset delivered fast results—all without rewriting valued application code.

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Oracle Open World #OOW16

The key to this strategy—unlock the value of IT investments. This year in San Francisco at the Oracle Open World event come and see the future of enterprise application modernization for yourself.  Explore how to easily take existing enterprise systems to new platforms including Java, the JVM, and Linux.  We’ll examine how this European car manufacturer and other businesses took their enterprise applications to modern environments using new tools, new thinking and Micro Focus’ game changing solution Visual COBOL

If you’re attending please don’t hestitate to come and visit us at our booth at the Networking Station @ Oracle Linux, Virtualization and OpenStack Showcase and please attend my sessionTake Enterprise Apps to Java Virtual Machine and the Cloud’ on Tuesday, Sep 20 at 16:00 -16:20 in the Moscone South Exhibition Hall to discuss modernization options further….

Ed

#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?

Poc1

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

DLblog

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.

wordle5

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

DLblog

 

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.