For those about to code – we salute you!

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

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

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

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

It’s not about the app

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

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

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What rocks?

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

This rocks

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

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

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

New horizons or same old scene?

We’ve now had a few days to settle into the new year, but as we take down the festive decorations and look at our business imperatives for 2015, is anything different in enterprise IT? This blog glances at the current picture of global technology, where so much seems like it is changing, but a lot appears to remain the same.

So is that the case? Well, yes and no. While the world appears to rotate ever faster each year and the pace of change in technology is at unprecedented levels, organizations the world over continue to rely on tried and trusted technology to run their most cherished business systems. Yet, the notion that ’tried and trusted‘ equates to ’staid and unchanging‘ is far from reality.

We’ve now had a few days to settle into the new year, but as we take down the festive decorations and look at our business imperatives for 2015, is anything different in enterprise IT? This blog glances at the current picture of global technology, where so much seems like it is changing, but a lot appears to remain the same.

So is that the case? Well, yes and no. While the world appears to rotate ever faster each year and the pace of change in technology is at unprecedented levels, organizations the world over continue to rely on tried and trusted technology to run their most cherished business systems. Yet, the notion that ’tried and trusted‘ equates to ’staid and unchanging‘ is far from reality.

The Mainframe is New?

IBM will shortly be unveiling a new product range, illustrating once again the continued investment and commitment to mainframe technology and their enterprise customers. Forrester’s Richard Fichera suggests to readers that their “current large mainframe workloads will be with [them] for the long-term”, reflecting the findings of the ninth annual mainframe survey from BMC, “2014 Annual Mainframe Research Results: Bringing IT to Life Through Digital Transformation”. The findings were clear: the mainframe remains part of the long-term business strategy and continues to shape the future of IT, according to 91% of respondents.

COBOL: Practically Popular

Underpinning all this is the enterprise application technology of choice, COBOL.  Yes, COBOL. One of the key barometers of usage and interest, the TIOBE index shows COBOL at a lofty 13th position in their global language rankings for January 2015 – an all-time high, by our estimates. It certainly represents a rise as a key “indicator of the popularity” of the COBOL language, now in its 56th year. We at Micro Focus are delighted, but not surprised: our own experience tells us that COBOL remains the language of choice for critical enterprise applications the world over. It is as suited for core business systems today as when it was first conceived.

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Looking Ahead

Back to thoughts of the year ahead. Industry analysts typically can’t resist the temptation to predict how the IT world will look in the year ahead. 2015 is no different. Many commentators agree on the continued rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential to impact on our daily lives; the continued expansion and proliferation of mobile technologies and the rising belief that, in a maturing digital market, this is now the ‘age of the application”.

One industry observer, IDC, predicts the following trends in disruptive technology for 2015:

  • Nearly one third of total spending will be focused on new technologies such as mobile, cloud and big data
  • Wireless data will be the largest ($536bn) and fastest growing (13%) segment of telecom spending
  • Spending on the greater cloud ecosystem (public, private, enabling IT and services) will reach $118bn (almost $200bn in 2018), $70bn ($126bn in 2018) of which will be spent on public clouds
  • Worldwide spending on big data-related software, hardware, and services will reach $125bn.

While none of these are new phenomena, the scale of their predicted rise certainly is. Indeed, these volumes of expenditure only serve to cement the belief in the enormous market potential of what is still relatively new technology. The revolution is upon us.

We’re all socialites now

As of 2014, around 1.8bn internet users have accessed social networks; 170 million from the United States. Social media seems to reach beyond the trivialities of consumer use. Perhaps more interestingly, big business seems to be embracing it as a genuine business tool, too. Organizations including the Bank of England are using Twitter and Facebook to help test the market. Similarly, a Facebook application, ‘Link, Like, Love’, enables American Express cardholders to link their cards to a dashboard of deals from the likes of Whole Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts and Virgin America. Five million ‘Likes’ suggest that other companies may follow this route.

The CIO is dead, long live the CIO

The jury is still out on who IT leadership will collaborate with, and behave, in supporting the business. As Ian Cox explains on CIO.com this month, “CEOs are under pressure to move their business into the digital world” and that “more of them will look to their CIO for help in leading the transformation. And that will need to be a different type of CIO if they are to make a success of digital”.

In his particularly lucid piece, What can the CIO expect?, he goes on to mention the continued challenge of CIO and CMO teamwork, but offers a positive conclusion “There is no war between the CIO and CMO”.

Hear, hear. Instead, the right technology can deliver for all parties. It doesn’t even have to be brand new…

Find out for yourself how Micro Focus supports innovation through smart technology by dropping us a line, and discover for yourself why COBOL remains the enterprise application language of choice at a forthcoming Developer Day event, soon.

#DevDay0

www.microfocus.com

ps. The definition of the TIOBE index can be found here.

Is COBOL still the same old animal?

It’s a question we hear a lot. And for those of you familiar with COBOL, you’ll know that the answer is ‘far from it’. In fact, just like any other business critical programming language, COBOL is continually updated, modified and enhanced to keep up with the fast-pace of demands which the industry puts on it. You can read more about that in our blog, ‘Can IT face the future, living with the past?’.

Is COBOL still the same old animal?

Watch our latest video to find out. If you like it, please share it with your family, friends and social networks.

The next generation

Visual COBOL 2.2 is the latest update to our existing COBOL product and will be released on Friday, November 15. If you’d like to hear more about the latest release, join our webinar and hear from the Product Team.

Register here: http://online.microfocus.com/VisualCOBOL2.2

Recycling core assets – does your future lie in the past?

People have always tried to recycle – to get something new out of what’s gone before, right? The same applies in IT, where good ideas, technology or applications are retained and reused many times in different ways.

So how does this ethos fit with the Micro Focus message of offering our customers innovative, new ways of ‘doing’ and ‘seeing’ things? Easy. Because while we’re all about constantly improving our tools and creating products that no-one else in the market yet provides, the concepts are not new at all. Let me explain.

My blog will look at how ‘recycling’ core assets – as opposed to replacing or rewriting – is the most fit-for-business approach to bringing ‘legacy’ mission critical systems into the future. New from old.

Why bottles are like business systems

Every year, hundreds of millions of tonnes of used plastic bottles are shredded and similarly destroyed before being reborn as brand new products. While shredding is a little extreme, Micro Focus is all for ‘recycling’ mission-critical business systems and software to bridge the gap between old and new. Because to put it bluntly, companies that don’t recycle generate a lot of garbage.

When businesses replace their ‘legacy’ applications, either with new packages or systems, the old system gets dumped. Now, fast-forward 12 months and functionality from the old system is loaded into a shiny, new mobile-enabled system. So now that system gets dumped for an upgrade. The metaphorical skip is filling up as the IT budget and customer base begin to drain away. The business isn’t getting what it needs to deliver – but it is picking up fines and bad press.

Image problem

We’ve banged this drum before. The negative perception of ‘legacy’ systems, where ‘proven and established’ is confused with ‘out-of-date’, remains an issue. But organizations embracing recycling are efficient and productive. They channel IT budget towards future growth and innovation. They don’t have piles of disused computer parts laden with capital investment. They extract maximum value from what they have by creating something new.

The ‘recycling’ analogy also applies to business-critical software applications: keep what works and update what doesn’t. Recycling your investment equals zero risk of mess, work is more productive and the business evolves in sync with market demands.

Micro Focus – the recycling centre

Micro Focus understands how reusing and modernizing what you already have can get you fit for the future. And we have the right tools for the job. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is the smart and simple way to modernize, develop and maintain mainframe applications. Why not try it?

Micro Focus Visual COBOL is where COBOL systems go to new platforms, such as  .NET, Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and the cloud, as well as UNIX, Windows and Linux, without changing a single line of code. Recycle your current investments and create new opportunities. Go on. Give it a go.

So, while your competitors struggle with expensive, time-consuming rewrites and baffling new equipment, your time-proven system – and fine-tuned business applications – is primed to deliver the innovation you need for the future. So before you head for the trash, think of the cash …

 

The Development Manager’s conundrum: Do even more, with less. Faster

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Sound familiar? We’ve heard this from so many of our customers. They are trying to tackle the seemingly impossible – increase innovation to supply customer demand, while maintaining what already exists. To push the boundaries while keeping the lights on. This blog highlights the challenge and suggests an answer. Because we believe that Development Managers responsible for delivering COBOL applications really can do more, with less – and faster.

(For the purpose of this blog, I’m focussing on COBOL applications built on distributed environments such as Windows, Unix and Linux – but if your COBOL applications are on the mainframe, then take a look at this blog[m1] ).

 The Development Manager’s Enigma

COBOL is modern and agile. Discuss. Well, it will be if it can resolve the two fundamental application development challenges that our customers are talking about. They are:

1.      Keeping the lights on

We’re told that the majority of resource is needed just to keep the wheels turning. Maintenance of existing applications is a must, and there is a major backlog to make application improvements.  According to Gartner, the overall cost of ‘IT debt’ is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2015. Forrester cites that 70% of IT budgets are spent on maintenance tasks. Big bucks, big problem.

2.      Delivering innovation

Staying in business is all about keeping up with industry trends. It’s a must. Doing nothing is going backwards. Tech-savvy consumers are forcing the adoption of new technologies such as cloud, mobile and new IT architecture.  If businesses refuse to embrace these technologies, their customers will look elsewhere.  And they won’t be back.

Doing one without the other is not enough. So, the two challenges are essentially one: Keep the lights on and deliver innovation.

It’s your choice

Typically, there are four approaches to addressing these challenges:

1. Do nothing

Carrying on as normal has some merit. No action, no risk. But if you aren’t able to keep up now, then it won’t provide you with the step-change in business agility that you need. Inertia and performance don’t mix.

2. Rewrite

Many customers tell us they consider rewriting their applications in another language. However, this is timely, costly and high risk – with as many as 75%[1] of all rewrite projects failing. Keep looking.

3. Replace

Another favourite is replacement with an off-the-shelf package. It might sound appealing for a quick fix, but what happens to the decades of business intelligence and IP built up in your existing applications? You might lose competitive advantage. Additionally, our experience tells us that approximately 40%[2] of replace projects are cancelled.

4. Revamp

Naturally, this is the option that we advocate in most situations. Revamping means reusing your existing investments – your people, your processes and your existing applications – to create a new, improved environment. Because COBOL is modern and agile, it enables a fresh approach to how you build and deliver. This is the key to addressing the Development Manager’s enigma.

Maintain and innovate

COBOL is modern and agile. Still don’t believe me? Here are a few examples from our customers who have tackled these challenges, and with great results.

Addressing the COBOL skills shortage is one of the first hurdles – development teams often work in siloed development environments, broken down by programming language or the tools they use, which can inhibit application development. Using Visual COBOL, c# programmers at Nationwide Insurance were productive within 1 hour, simply because they were developing COBOL applications in Visual Studio, a modern IDE with which they were familiar. (Visual COBOL can also be developed in Eclipse).

Because traditional COBOL can be developed and maintained in modern environments, development efficiencies are also a key benefit. Using Visual COBOL, OM logistics saw a 30% improvement in efficiency.

These skills and efficiency enhancements mean your team can spend less time fighting the backlog, and more time innovating to supply consumer demand. But how can COBOL help you innovate and embrace disruptive technologies?

Well, because COBOL is modern and agile, you can deploy COBOL applications onto the latest platforms and newest technologies. Here are some great examples where our customers have done just that:

  • The Treasury of the Republic of Cyprus saved €250k per year taking their existing COBOL application to HTML5 to deliver a mobile web application.
  • Acciona Trasmediterranea saved 70% of IT costs and reduced time to market by 25% taking their existing logistics application to the cloud.
  • Zucchetti, a Human Resource application provider embraced modern IT architectures to speed up the adoption of .NET and JVM for COBOL application deployment.

Clearly most innovations are possible – it’s just a matter of finding the skill and resource to be able to deliver them.

Now do you believe me?

So – are you converted? I hope you can see that COBOL is both modern and agile. That it can deliver development efficiencies of up to 30% and reduce time to market by 25%.

What do your COBOL applications do and how could you modernize yours? If you want to learn more, take a look at how many of our customers are already delivering innovative solutions with modern and agile COBOL: www.microfocus.com/cobolcustomers

zEnterprise series part 2 of 5: Achieving Top Marks in Development Efficiency

Application development plays a complex, vital role in mainframe IT organizations and an efficient development process is key in delivering improvements to the business. This blog – the second of five – examines the issues organizations face and how a contemporary approach can improve efficiency and productivity, unite development teams and put YOU in control.

Application development plays a complex, vital role in mainframe IT organizations and an efficient development process is key in delivering improvements to the business. This blog – the second of five – examines the issues organizations face and how a contemporary approach can improve efficiency and productivity, unite development teams and put YOU in control.

The need for productivity

Application development isn’t just about edit, compile, debug and test. It’s a lot more complex, and involves a range of tools such as configuration management and databases. For programmers to work efficiently and productively, this workflow must be modeled and integrated into a single development experience. If developers have to return to the mainframe, productivity may be compromised.

There are a number of efficiency related issues that mainframe development teams face in the development cycle. These can be tackled effectively with the right technology:

  1. Use of different programming languages and tools across the development organization
  2. Late identification of bugs extending the testing cycle and consuming key mainframe resources
  3. Limited choice of operating systems and a development environment which is reliant on the mainframe
  4. The harder an environment is to learn, the harder it is for new users to adopt
  5. Complexity of integrating tools and processes into the existing development environment.

Stepping up: meeting mainframe development challenges head-on

Micro Focus can address these issues with its innovative technology, Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise, helping organizations to achieve top marks in development efficiency and productivity. Let’s look at each in turn.

  1. Developer collaboration through common tooling
    The lack of collaboration between an organization’s new and experienced developers is an increasing hindrance. But it’s not just about trying to merge new skills with old. It’s also about enabling them all to use what they are familiar with so they can share the same processes too.Java users for instance may know Eclipse inside out, but they have never seen COBOL.  Bringing COBOL under the Eclipse IDE demystifies mainframe development, as it provides a familiar environment for cross training in COBOL. This encourages a strong focus on syntax rather than tools. COBOL developers however, know the language just fine, but come from an older-style interface and have little appreciation of the new Eclipse IDE.By ensuring the same application compilation and execution within Eclipse, and by making the development environment more productive and powerful, the change for the COBOL developer is both simple and rewarding. Unifying development across teams this way creates a larger more flexible resource pool and – at the same time – more productive, collaborative developers.

    IBM SCLM integration into the IDE

  2. Enabling application quality early on
    Mainframe application quality cannot be compromised. Bugs must be identified and fixed during the unit test stage to shorten the development cycle. Access is available to advanced testing tools including full control of a GUI debugger, just in time and core dump debugging and a full unit test environment running under Windows. These help developers reduce the overwhelming backlog of work – and the reliance on precious mainframe resources.

  3. Flexibility makes life easier
    Developers can now maximize the productivity gains of an Eclipse-based development environment by having the choice of development either directly on the mainframe or on Windows with no reliance on the mainframe, all from a single IDE. Supporting a choice of operating systems offers a level of flexibility which is increasingly important to many organizations.
  4. Technology meets efficiency
    Easy customization of the Eclipse-based user interface allows familiar development workflows, tools and mainframe configuration management to be rapidly woven into the Eclipse-based development process. This, alongside an intuitive graphical interface, means existing mainframe developers – and even newly-qualified programmers – can efficiently adopt new tools and an organization’s development process.

  5. The right tool for the job: Eclipse
    With graphical tools and tightly-integrated mainframe configuration management, developers can work on or off the mainframe with full access to tools and projects – all from the same environment.

Customizing the IDE to develop on and off the mainframe


Better, faster, easier

The recent launch of Micro Focus Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise has enabled faster delivery of new zEnterprise business functions. Now, customers can build their own fit-for-purpose core applications. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is part of the wider Enterprise product set, which addresses the IT strategy and application modernization needs of IBM mainframe shops. Now, so-called legacy systems are reinvigorated and fully integrated into the modern IT landscape.

This ground-breaking technology meets known obstacles to efficiency head-on and boosts mainframe application delivery. It lowers costs, removes bottlenecks and accelerates innovation.

That’s not all: one eye on the future
Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is a landmark product in a constantly evolving IT landscape. It  provides an open environment which is more accessible to new talent. It unifies enterprise development across the COBOL, Java and .NET development communities. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is a launchpad for new mobile or cloud-based enterprise initiatives. It’s where your organization ’smartens up’ and looks towards long term innovation and development efficiency.

Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is available now. It’s battle-ready to unite disparate developer skills through the customization of the development environment. Quite simply, this technology puts YOU in control.

Our white paper A Step Change in Development Efficiency gives more detailed information about how Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise tackles the challenges discussed in this blog.

To read the first blog in this series, click here.

The legacy myth

A problem by definition

Shut your eyes. Think of what the word legacy means to you. Anyone seeing a Grandfather clock or similar? Chances are you’re getting a picture of something outdated and archaic, handed down by a predecessor. That’s where you and the dictionary part company.

First things first
While the entry in Collins includes the standard ‘gift of … property by will… received from an ancestor’ line, there’s a more interesting definition. ‘A typically beneficial product from the past.’ Hold that thought. We’ll come back to it shortly.

Until the Games themselves started, ‘legacy’ was probably the buzzword of the Summer of 2012  – namely, lots of worries about what we’d do with the Olympic infrastructure when the competitors moved on. There were concerns about whether we would be left enriched or bankrupted by what was handed on to us.

Which brings us neatly back to the point of this blog – and a lot of what you’re going to read in the next two – that is, what the term ‘legacy’ means within IT. And whether it’s correct.
Put simply, the word ‘legacy’ denotes software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace. It refers to older IT systems and outmoded software or platforms. It’s an undeniably negative connotation, condemning entire IT estates with suppositional, biased views and untested hypotheses.

It gets worse
Another source uses even more evocative language: “Legacy systems utilize outmoded programming languages, software and/or hardware …. no longer supported by the vendors.” Other choice words include, “expense, effort and potential risk” when moving “data and key business processes to more advanced and contemporary technologies[1].”

Techopedia isn’t in the legacy fan club, either. “Legacy … refers to outdated computer systems, programming languages or application software … used instead of available upgraded versions[2].” A legacy system can be problematic due to compatibility issues, obsoletion or lack of security support. What a statement!

This attitude pervades much of the thinking among the enterprise community. ‘Problematic’ has somehow evolved to be ‘catastrophic’, says Businessdictionary.com: they see legacy as being an “Obsolete computer system that may still be in use because its data cannot be changed to newer or standard formats, or its application programs cannot be upgraded.”[3]

In summary, if you have a legacy system then you’ve got computer landfill.
Now, some of this is fair. Processes and terminology that are no longer relevant can confuse programmers and no-one is pretending that ‘legacy’ and ‘cutting edge’ systems are interchangeable or easily confused. To go further, most of us would like to always have the most advanced technology at our disposal, and be ready to just move on to the Next Big Thing as soon as possible.

Wait a minute…
Don’t give up on it just yet. The reality is that most organizations use legacy systems to some extent. The word has a markedly different meaning in the modern IT context. Wikipedia says, “A legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program[4]”. So it’s old. OK. That’s fine. So is the Boeing 747 and no-one’s complaining about that.

Let’s remember the Collins definition of legacy – the beneficial product from the past. Maybe the problem is the word ‘old’ and, more specifically, the fact that ‘legacy’ and ‘old’ are used interchangeably when they are not. We live in an ageist society that is especially tough on technology. Unless a car is lucky enough to be a classic, it’s just old. Standing still equates to going backwards. So – anything old must be regressive, right?

Maybe not. Non-technical executives are pretty comfortable with their ‘old’ mainframes, viewing legacy systems as ‘tried and true technology’, despite their antiquarian composition. Even as NASA powered down their last mainframe, they were remarking how good it was. This is essentially because these things really work (and executives tend to like that). So it’s not really about age. It’s about their incompatibility with modern programs, systems – and current attitudes.

So the answer is: modify.
There’s no need to introduce risk and increase cost by replacing your core (legacy) system, says technology guru Chad Fowler, “Even in the case of software, ‘legacy’ is an indication of success.” Some bits work, some don’t. So, keep what’s good, replace what isn’t and lo and behold, your legacy is sitting at the heart of your business, doing everything it should once again. Not old, just….re-tuned.

So what’s our point?
We believe that perception is everything. Free the word legacy from its negative connotations and you can look at your, er, more established assets as just that – assets. Because if they are managed correctly, are run with the right applications and are seen as part of a solution, not a problem, then your so-called “legacy system” can underpin your future, not be confined to your past. What you do with that Grandfather clock is up to you.

Next time: The story continues: the great and good comment on where the word legacy came from – and the trouble it has caused us.

Co-authored by Helen Withington, Derek Britton and Steve Moore


[1] http://financecareers.about.com/od/informationtechnology/a/legacysystems.htm

[2] http://www.techopedia.com/definition/635/legacy-system

[3] http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/legacy-system.html

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legacy_system

How popular is COBOL today?

The Tiobe Index has just published its results for September 2012.

The headline “no change”. I beg to differ.

Tiobe have been compiling statistics on programming languages for nearly a decade. Every month they publish a table of the top 100 programming languages ranked by popularity.

Their benchmarking is simple; how much internet content exists for any given programming language. They determine the amount of content using a simple search term across a variety of search engines “+ <programming language> programming” and tally up what they find.

It’s no surprise to see Java and C regularly battling for top spot but where do you think COBOL is placed in the rankings?

For quite some time, despite the pervasive use of COBOL within business computing, the language remained relegated to somewhere in between the 50 to 100 bracket. Languages in this section of the rankings have a tiny fraction of the overall share, often considered niche or domain specific.

But something interesting has been happening over the past 2 years outside of the top 20. COBOL has steadily progressed its way up through the rankings and out of the 50+ group. 47, 40, 35, 30, 28 and this month, 25.

Has the popularity of COBOL suddenly escalated over the last 2 years? Perhaps — let us know what you think?

What this may indicate is a renewed interest in existing COBOL systems. Whether that be from modernization discussions, Twitter conversations, LinkedIn groups, our Community site and forums, increased job openings for COBOL developers and much more.

Whatever the impetus, COBOL programmers are making their presence felt.

Platforms! Platforms! Platforms!

In this blog Scot Nielsen, Product Manager for the COBOL Solution at Micro Focus, talks about one of the key reasons for the success of COBOL applications and in doing so, highlights some of the new features coming in the next release of Visual COBOL 2.1.

COBOL applications have formed the nucleus of core IT systems for several decades, providing the basis for new systems and central to innovation. How have COBOL applications been able to offer such enduring value to the businesses that rely on them when so many technologies have failed to live up to expectation?

Those of us in the know need little in the way of reassurance about the continued relevance COBOL systems play on the global IT stage. The industry at large has perhaps had a slightly harder time accepting this but the evidence is indisputable and even the most vocal disbelievers have finally come to terms with this simple fact, COBOL is at the heart of most of the world’s business systems.

How this has come to be has been blogged by Derek Britton in his series of articles about key traits of COBOL, traits that have made COBOL the most successful programming language of all time. One of these traits is portability, discussed here in Derek’s blog on this topic.

To understand the significance that the portability of COBOL applications has played for business applications, one need only review the list of platforms Micro Focus has supported COBOL application deployment:

Operating systems, manufacturers, processors – a union that defines the medium of deployment.

For business with COBOL systems, this portability helps secure investments made years ago, continue to pay dividends many years hence; as COBOL applications once created on the mainframe, now find themselves powering .NET, JVM and Cloud deployment.

Arguably, the language of COBOL is in itself inherently portable with data types and structures that enable developers to write applications that can be ported to new platforms with minimal or indeed, no change; with this, minimal cost to the business and accelerated delivery cycles. Underpinning this portability has always been the Micro Focus COBOL runtime system, the technology that delivers a common execution environment for COBOL applications, irrespective of platform.

Whilst the picture above for today’s platforms may look a little less chaotic, platforms continue to evolve and will always remain fundamentally important to the service Micro Focus provides you, giving you freedom and choice of deployment. That’s why in Visual COBOL 2.1, we’ve added support for new platforms, Oracle Linux, Redhat and Suse linux on z/Series and Solaris 11 on Intel and SPARC processors – just part of our commitment to the future success of your IT systems.

Visual COBOL 2.1 will be released later this year.