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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A classic never goes out of style

Die digitale Transformation von Geschäftsprozessen sowie die Modernisierung und Optimierung der IT- Infrastruktur lassen die Rufe nach der Ablösung des Mainframe lauter werden. Zudem haftet dem “Dino” der IT ein zunehmend negatives Image an: zu teuer, zu unmodern, zu unflexibel. Doch Fakt ist auch, dass Cobol Anwendungen immer noch großen Einfluss auf unser tägliches Leben haben. Die Flugbuchung, die Sitzplatzreservierung im ICE, das Bezahlen bei Zalando, Amazon & Co. -am Ende ist es fast immer COBOL-Code, der involviert ist. Es stellt sich also die zentrale Frage: Wie kann man bestehende Geschäftsmodelle samt vorhandenen Geschäftsregeln und Applikationen in neue Systeme einbringen, die flexibel, dynamisch und web-orientiert sind? Martin Reusch liefert Antworten…

Vor fast 125 Jahren wurde das Unternehmen Coca Cola in Atlanta gegründet. Trotz des auch für ein Unternehmen stattlichen Alters, ist die Coca Cola alles andere als angestaubt und unmodern. Für Coca Cola, dem Getränk in der unverwechselbaren, bauchigen Kontur-Glasflasche oder der rot-weißen Dose  gelten anscheinend nicht die Regeln des Alterns. Sprachforschern zufolge ist Coca-Cola heute das zweitbekannteste Wort der Welt nach „Okay“, es ist die wertvollste Marke der Welt, denn  Coca Cola ist das auch heute noch das Erfrischungs-Getränk Nummer 1 und das trotz  immer neuer Brausegetränke. Anderes Beispiel – Mythos Porsche 911, seit über 50 Jahren das Herzstück der Marke Porsche. Der erste 911 wurde 1963 auf der IAA in Frankfurt vorgestellt und ist seitdem einfach geblieben, auch wenn das heutige Modell längst nicht mehr mit dem ursprünglichen Original zu vergleichen ist. Denn Porsche hat es stets verstanden, dieses einzigartige Modell durch intelligente Ideen und Technologien, welche Performance, Alltagstauglichkeit, Sicherheit und Nachhaltigkeit verknüpften, immer weiter zu modifizieren.

Auch in der IT gibt es vergleichbare Klassiker. Großrechner, besser als Mainframe bekannt, oder COBOL die Programmiersprache für viele Businessanwendungen, existieren ebenfalls seit Anfang der 60er Jahre. Doch die während ein Klassiker wie der Porsche 911 heute ein Mythos ist und mit positiven Charakteristika wie Wertbeständigkeit, Stilistik und Dynamik verbunden wird, haftet dem Mainframe und seiner beherrschenden Programmiersprache COBOL in der Öffentlichkeit ein zunehmend negatives Image an: die Systeme und Applikationen gelten als veraltet, unmodern, unsicher und deswegen als zu risikoreich, sie aufrechtzuerhalten. Diese eher abwertende Sichtweise wird zudem begünstigt durch neue Technologieansätze wie Big Data, Cloud Computing, Mobile- und Sozial Business Technologien. Trotz des vermeintlichen negativen Stigma verwenden aber nach einer aktuellen Schätzung von IBM immer noch rund 55 Prozent aller weltweiten Enterprise-Anwendungen bei Banken und Versicherungen in der einen oder anderen Weise einen COBOL-Code. Geld am Automaten abheben oder überweisen, bei Amazon, Zalando oder eBay einkaufen – am Ende ist es fast immer COBOL-Code, der die Kontostände ausgleicht. Die Flugbuchung, die Sitzplatzreservierung im ICE etc. – ohne dass wir es merken, haben der Mainframe und seine COBOL-Anwendungen immer noch großen Einfluss auf unser tägliches Leben.

Wachsende Probleme durch Digitale Transformation

Nicht zu leugnen ist aber auch, dass die IT-Industrie gegenwärtig einen rasanten Wandel durchläuft, bei dem gerade die digitale Transformation von Geschäftsprozessen sowie die Modernisierung und Optimierung der IT- Infrastruktur bezogen auf neue Technologietrends wie Mobility, Social Business und BYOD eine zentrale Rolle spielen. Auch wenn die Mainframe-Umgebung als operationskritische Plattform hierbei nach wie eine Rolle spielen kann, stellt die Einführung agiler Entwicklungsmodelle und steigende Anforderungen an die Flexibilität der Hardware bestehende Konzepte vor Probleme, denn an der der stetigen Wartung, Aktualisierung und Weiterentwicklung von systemrelevanten Mainframe-Applikationen führt auch sowohl aus technischer als auch fachlicher Sicht kein Weg vorbei.

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Viele der Themen sowie der damit verbundenen Herausforderungen sind nicht neu, schließlich beschäftigen sich die IT-Branche  seit der Entwicklung des Internets vor 20 Jahren bereits mit dem Prozess der Digitalisierung und den Folgen, die sie hervorruft. Neu ist hingegen ist die Geschwindigkeit, mit der die teils disruptiven neuen Technologien wie Mobility und Connectivity, Cloud Computing, Sozial Media und Big Data Analytics, neue Geschäftsmodelle, Prozesse und Wertschöpfungsketten entstehen lassen. Bedenkt man dann noch, dass ehemalige Start-ups wie Amazon, Google, Spotify, ebay oder booking.com, die ohne die Zwänge historisch gewachsener Unternehmenskulturen und Strukturen agil neue Geschäftsmodelle in einem etablierten Markt platzieren und als branchenfremde Unternehmen in die Märkte der etablierten Platzhirsche eindringen, wird schnell klar, dass die Letztgenannten und ihre IT-Abteilungen unter starkem Zwang stehen, ihr unternehmerisches Handeln zu überdenken, und ihre bestehenden Geschäftsmodelle den sich verändernden Erwartungen, Bedürfnissen und Verhaltensschema der Kunden anzupassen und weiterzuentwickeln.

Zwangsläufig stellt sich dabei dann immer wieder die zentrale Frage: Wie kann man bestehende Geschäftsmodelle samt vorhandenen Geschäftsregeln und Applikationen in neue Systeme einbringen, die flexibel, dynamisch und web-orientiert sind?

Die Unternehmensführung erwartet von der IT, dass die Business Applikationen nicht mehr isoliert voneinander ablaufen, sondern das Produktion, betriebliche Abläufe und Kunden in einer einzelnen, integrierten Lösung in die Wertschöpfungskette eingebunden werden. Die Fertigung möchte spezifisch auf den Kundenwunsch abgestimmt produzieren, das Marketing will personalisierte Produktempfehlungen abgeben und viele Unternehmen bereiten sich zudem auf die Herausforderungen durch die Industrie 4.0 vor, die beispielsweise vorausschauende Wartung ermöglicht. Dazu müssen allerdings die unterschiedlichen Backend-Systeme wie die Kundendatenbank und das Enterprise Resource Planning, die Analyse-Tools im Marketing und das SAP miteinander verknüpft sein.

In vielen Unternehmen hingegen ist die IT ist im Laufe der Jahre zu einer technologisch heterogenen Applikationslandschaft herangewachsen, die zwar immer wieder aktualisiert, ergänzt und erweitert – mit den unterschiedlichsten Technologien – von COBOL, Microsoft VB, Java oder C# bis hin zu Standardpaketen wie SAP. Doch eben diese verschiedenen Technologien verhindern oftmals den Aufbau eines integrierten Systems. Es existiert ein Mosaik an Applikationen mit einer Vielzahl von Anwendungen, Datenbanken und komplexen Schnittstellen, die Prozessstörungen verursachen können.

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Revolution vs. Evolution – welcher Ansatz ist der Richtige?

Wie modernisiert man nun also seine Applikationslandschaft – verfolgt man den revolutionären Ansatz mit einer kompletten Neuentwicklung oder der Einführung von Standardapplikationen, oder ist eine evolutionäre Anwendungsmodernisierung der eigenen Individualsoftware der bessere Weg?

Die radikale Lösung mit einer kompletten Neuentwicklung einer über Jahrzehnte gewachsenen Kernapplikation, die einen Millionenwert an fachlicher Businesslogik darstellt? Dazu fehlen selbst Banken die Zeit und die Ressourcen, außerdem sind mit einem solchen Vorgehen viele Risiken und immense Kosten verbunden. Der Umstieg z.B. auf ein neues Core-Banking System im Bankenbereich kann ohne weiteres Kosten im zweistelligen Millionenbereich Bereich nach sich ziehen, angesichts immer knapper werdender IT-Budgets und wachsendem Zeitdruck keine wirkliche Alternative.

Eine wesentlich kostengünstigerer und auch sicherer Weg ist die Anwendungsmodernisierung unternehmenskritischer Applikationen, bei dem dank einer evolutionären Vorgehensweise nicht nur der Wert der Anwendung erhalten wird, sondern diese kontinuierlich mit der geforderten Flexibilität und Agilität weiter entwickelt und optimiert wird.

Aufgrund unterschiedlicher Modernisierungsansätze, sollten zunächst die Ziele, die man erreichen will, genau formuliert werden:

  • Kosteneinsparungen

Durch einen Umstieg auf kostengünstigere Plattformen und den Einsatz von Open-Source-Technologien lassen sich Betriebskosten signifikant reduzieren – in der Spitze um über 70 Prozent.

  • Produktivität & Time-to-Market

Mithilfe moderner Entwicklungsumgebungen und entsprechender Tools (bspw. Versions- Test- und Releasemanagement) kann die Produktivität gesteigert und gleichzeitig das Risiko minimiert werden. Das fördert eine schnellere Umsetzung neuer Ideen und stellt die Akzeptanz der Nutzer sicher.

  • Wiederverwendbarkeit & Zukunftsfähigkeit vorhandener COBOL Anwendungen

Operative Betriebsrisiken minimieren sich z.B. in Bezug auf Know-how, Technologie, Sicherheitslücken und Kosten. Aktuelle technologische Standards schaffen darüber hinaus die Basis für eine schnelle Reaktion auf neue Anforderungen (z.B. Regulatorik).

Entscheidet man sich für die Modernisierung der Infrastruktur, ist im Falle von auf dem Host betriebenen Anwendungen oft ein Rehosting der Applikationen sinnvoll. Beim Rehosting verlagert man die Anwendung(en) auf eine andere kostengünstere Plattform in der dezentralen Welt (UNIX, Linux oder Windows), ohne Änderung der Funktionalität. Der Kern der Enterprise-Applikationen bleibt grundsätzlich erhalten, also die Business-Logik, wie sie beispielsweise in COBOL- oder PL/1-Code implementiert ist.

Möchte man einen ganzheitlichen Ansatz realisieren, um eine bessere Zusammenarbeit der einzelnen Bereiche (Entwicklung, Qualitätssicherung, Operating) zu erreichen und so die Qualität, die Effizienz und den Software-Entwicklungszyklus für den Mainframe verbessern, so ist die Realisierung einer DevOps Strategie für MainframeUmgebungen der richtige Ansatz. Eine solche Strategie hilft, die Fehlerquote bei neuen Produktversionen zu verringern, die Bereitstellung neuer Anwendungen zu beschleunigen und den Zeitraum für das Beheben kurzzeitiger Störungen zu minimieren.

Ist die Wiederverwendung der bestehenden Geschäftsregeln und Anwendungen in neuen Systemumgebungen der dezentralen Welt, die flexibel, dynamisch und web-orientiert sind, das Ziel, muss die COBOL-Softwareentwicklung vom Komfort aktueller integrierter Entwicklungsoberflächen (IDEs) wie Visual Studio oder Eclipse profitieren. Der größte Vorteil liegt aber wahrscheinlich in der Möglichkeit, innerhalb einer einzigen IDE COBOL-Legacy-Code mit neueren, etwa in Java geschriebenen Projekten zusammenzubringen. So werden hybride Lösungen möglich, bei denen beispielsweise das COBOL-Backend mit einem Java-, RCP- oder Web-Frontend kombiniert werden.

In den kommenden Wochen werden wir hierzu verschiedene Szenarien der Anwendungsmodernisierung und ihre Vorteile näher erläutern.

The choice is yours – #DevDay drivers

The Micro Focus DevDay roadshow continues to attract large crowds. David Lawrence attended our latest shows to learn why it remains the must-see event for the COBOL community

#DevDay draws in the crowds

With hundreds of attendees over the past 12 months, Micro Focus DevDays continue to pack them in. Last  week’s events in New York and Toronto were no exception. This blog uncovers why so many of the global COBOL community attend our event.

We spoke with application developers from institutions, large and small, looking for solutions to build on, maintain, extend and adapt their inventory of business-critical COBOL applications to meet new business needs or opportunities. These customers view COBOL as fundamental to their respective business strategy and operations, not just for today, but into the future. These clients have, by and large, seen how extending and adapting their current proven and reliable COBOL solutions delivers more value faster, and with less risk than other strategies.

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Skilling up

One attendee we spoke with came to DevDays because of increasing new business demands on his application portfolio. This person has been looking to increase his COBOL staff to meet them. He had advertised for COBOL programmers, but it seemed there were none to be found in his market. So, he is changing his approach, and has now decided to bring in a skilled C# or Java developer and train them in-house on COBOL.

We suggested the expediency of putting these new staff members in front of a modern IDE for COBOL, one which looks and feels like the modern IDEs available for Java or C#, and is supported for both Eclipse and Visual Studio environments. Micro Focus Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer fit the bill nicely. These modern IDE’s offer advanced automation features, such as configurable, panel-based layouts, wizards, and a context sensitive editor, and, a seamless interaction with modern managed code environments (Java and/or .NET). They will be entirely familiar to those from a Java or .NET background.

Coincidentally, that topic was covered in the afternoon session which showed Micro Focus’ solutions for mainframe developers:  Enterprise Analyzer and Enterprise Developer. We heard from C# programmers who found that by using Enterprise Developer as their IDE they were productive in COBOL in less than a week.

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Go OO – ­and fast

In response to a question about working with object-oriented solutions, the audience was treated to a live demo by Micro Focus’s own Mike Bleistein. Using the standard capabilities of our development tools, Mike built an interface to a traditional relational database, using an older COBOL application. Mike used our object oriented COBOL classes to create a simple mortgage rate query application with a modern user interface, which made it more accessible and more easily used than the ‘green screen’, text-based implementation it would replace.  Such a transformation takes an hour for a simple application, a fraction of the time it would take to take to do this by hand.

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Banking on the latest capabilities

Another attendee, a major international banking client, uses our mainframe development technology. They wanted to identify a path towards implementing the latest release of our Enterprise Developer product. This release offers a more efficient Eclipse-based environment which will integrate into their existing Eclipse environment. In addition, this customer is also seeking ways to establish a more available and easily managed mainframe test environment, which is another of the Micro Focus enterprise technology offerings.

Opening up Open Systems

A developer whose organization builds and operates core COBOL systems under UNIX, said their reason for attending DevDay was driven by market demand. Their challenge is simple – how can their core business service be made available across new internet and mobile interfaces? Establishing a modern, digital interface for their clients is vital. Our experts showed the Micro Focus Visual COBOL technology, which does just that, providing insight in to how that challenge can be met, fast, at low risk.

Technology choices

We spoke with an independent software developer. Devising a new application, the developer has been exploring a range of modern development technologies for building the right ‘front end’. But when we asked them about the core business processing, they confessed “That’s a no brainer – it has to be COBOL – it’s the best tool for the job”. DevDay showed them live examples of how COBOL and newer technologies can integrate and co-exist in today’s platforms.

Micro Focus – the COBOL guys

So, what are we saying here? Simple – a great many organizations, all facing unique challenges, keep turning and returning to COBOL, and Micro Focus technology, to resolve their issues.

Micro Focus continues to invest over $60 million annually to support just about any COBOL environment our customers have run in the past and present, or will run in the future. It was great to meet many of them this week in New York and Toronto. Here’s to many more #DevDay events.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

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The true cost of free

There always exists the low-cost vendor who offers something for free to win market share. In enterprise IT, it is worth examining what free really means. Derek Britton goes in search of a genuine bargain

Introduction

IT leaders want to help accelerate business growth by implementing technology to deliver value quickly. They usually stipulate in the same breath the need for value for money. The pursuit of the good value purchase is endless. No wonder then that vendors who offer “use our product for free” often get some attention. This blog looks at the true cost of ‘free’.

Measuring Value

We all use desktop or mobile apps which, if they stopped working – and let’s face it, they do from time to time – wouldn’t really matter to us. We would mutter something, roll our eyes, and re-start the app. That’s not to say that people aren’t annoyed if they’ve not saved some important work when their application stops, but typically the impact is nothing more than a briefly disgruntled user.

But if an application is doing something critical or stategically important for an organization, then it is higher up on value scale. For example, an ATM application, savings account, package or logistics, money transfer, credit check, insurance quote, travel booking, retail transaction.  What if it went wrong? What if you also needed it to run elsewhere? What value would you put on that? Vitally, what would happen to the organization if you couldn’t do those things?

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Get it for free

Application Development tooling and processes tend to incur a charge, as the link between the technology and the valuable application is easily determined. However, there is required additional technology to deploy and run the built applications. Here, the enticement of a “free” product is very tempting at this stage. After all, why should anyone pay to run an application that’s already been built? Many technology markets have commoditised to the point where the relative price has fallen significantly. Inevitably, some vendors are trying the “free” route to win market share.

But for enterprise-class systems, one has to consider the level of service being provided with a “free” product. Here’s what you can expect.

Deployment for free typically offers no responsibility if something goes wrong with that production system. Therefore internal IT teams must be prepared to respond to applications not working, or find an alternative means of insuring against that risk.

A free product means, inevitably, no revenue is generated by the vendor. Which means reinvestment in future innovations or customer requirements is squeezed. As an example, choice of platform may be limited, or some 3rd party software support or certification. Soon enough an enticing free product starts to look unfit for purpose due to missing capability, or missing platform support.

Another typical area of exposure is customer support, which is likely to be thin on the ground because there is insufficient funding for the emergency assistance provided by a customer support team.

In a nutshell, if the business relies on robust, core applications, what would happen if something goes wrong with a free product?

An Open and Shut Case?

Consider Open Source and UNIX. In a time when UNIX was a collection of vendor-specific variants, all tied to machinery (AIX, Solaris, HP/UX, Unixware/SCO), there was no true “open” version for UNIX, there was no standard. The stage was set for someone to break the mould. Linus Torvalds created a new, open source operating system kernel. Free to the world, many different people have contributed to it, technology hobbyists, college students, even major corporations.  Linux today represents a triumph of transparency, and Linux, and Open Source is here to stay.

However, that’s not the whole story. It still needed someone to recognize the market for a commercial service around this new environment. Without the support service offered by SUSE, Red Hat and others, Linux would not be the success it is today.

Today, major global organizations use Linux for core business systems. Linux now outsells other UNIX variants by some distance. Why? Not just because it was free or open source, but because the valuable service it provided organizations with was good value. But people opt to pay for additional support because their organizations must be able to rectify any problems, which is where organizations such as SUSE and Red Hat come in. Linus Torvalds was the father of the idea, but SUSE, Red Hat (and their competitors) made it a viable commercial technology.

Genuine return

Robust, valuable core applications will require certain characteristics to mitigate any risk of failure. Such risks will be unacceptable for higher-value core systems. Of course, many such systems are COBOL-based. Such criteria might include:

  • Access to a dedicated team of experts to resolve and prioritize any issues those systems encounter
  • Choice of platform – to be able to run applications wherever they are needed
  • Support for the IT environment today and in the future – certification against key 3rd party technology
  • A high-performance, robust and scalable deployment product, capable of supporting large-scale enterprise COBOL systems

The Price is Right

Robust and resilient applications are the lifeblood of the organization. With 4 decades of experience and thousands of customers, Micro Focus provides an award-winning 24/7 support service. We invest over $50M each year in our COBOL and related product research and development. You won’t find a more robust deployment environment for COBOL anywhere.

But cheap alternatives exist. The question one must pose, therefore, is what does free really cost? When core applications are meant to work around your business needs – not the other way around, any compromise on capability, functionality or support introduces risk to the business.

Micro Focus’ deployment technology ensures that business critical COBOL applications that must not fail work whenever and wherever needed, and will continue to work in the future;  and that if something ever goes wrong, the industry leader is just a mouse click away.

Anything that is free is certainly enticing, but does zero cost mean good value? As someone once said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”.

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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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.

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

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

Introduction

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

The only constant is change

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

Today’s need: skill and speed

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

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

There is space for you at #DevDay

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

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A universe of technology

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

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

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

You – at the controls

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

#DevDay: Future AppDev takes off

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

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Touching Down Near You Soon

United States

Canada

Brazil

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

Visual COBOL new release: Small point. Big deal

The latest iteration of Visual COBOL is a minor point release that could make a big difference to how our customers manage their business application portfolios. Solutions Marketing Director Ed Airey explains more

As my colleague Derek Britton recently pointed out, IT must adapt to help customers to meet the challenges of change. We get that. That is why every new iteration of Visual COBOL has enabled owners of COBOL applications to innovate.

They create new products from long-established IT assets and Visual COBOL 2.3.1 continues the narrative for those running COBOL on Windows or UNIX or Linux.

For Micro Focus it signals a further commitment to future-proofing the core applications that run the business. For our customers it offers more options to deliver the products their customers demand and dealing with change, both planned and unplanned. But what does that mean? And how does the new version help?

Platform alteration

The increasing pace of change is driving the need to innovate faster and IT is the key to delivering it. Whatever the end product, it must be delivered cost-effectively. For some organizations, that means changing operating systems and platforms. The freedom of open source, personified by Linux, offers new options and freedoms.

IBM recognize the new direction, hence their investment in Linux on Power and LinuxOne. These systems offer the robustness and performance of proven enterprise systems – up to 30bn transactions per day and 100 per cent uptime – and the option for continual innovation.

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A new version for a new profile

Visual COBOL now supports systems running Linux on Power (LOP). More details here.  This new Linux capability is an incremental move that for some organizations could represent a sea change.

It’s a step forward reflected in another Micro Focus product update for mainframers. As this latest blog explains, the mainframe solution is also now at Enterprise 2.3.1.  So great news for friends of Big Blue who can now access the same tools and capability.

Visual COBOL has been in the open systems space for some time. It already supports SUSE Linux, but the move to LOP represents a new opportunity for owners of COBOL applications to utilize the power of flexible platforms offering ‘new project’ innovation and modern development options. VC1

So why is this significant?

For the modern IT enterprise, this move further consolidates the alignment of important entities.

COBOL’s resilience is well-documented. Micro Focus continues to invest millions of R&D dollars and future educational support in COBOL. The developer-driven #COBOLrocks Tech cast series open the door to new opportunities for those at the front line of application development. Aligning that potential with the flexibility of Linux extends the potential for innovation through application modernization.

It also further consolidates the relationship between IBM and Micro Focus. Our customer share a similar profile–enterprise, large in scale, core business systems–and their investment in Linux on Power gives those organizations with COBOL applications, powerful options to embrace future change.

One solution for every environment

Micro Focus supports platform choice. Which is why the new incarnation of Visual COBOL means that any environment can be customized to offer future flexibility, whatever the profile.

While LOP enablement is the stand-out feature of 2.3.1, Visual COBOL brings the same level of innovation and modernization to other processors. Languages are the same–Java was recently called out as, potentially, sharing COBOL’s resilience. No problem. Visual COBOL delivers unrivaled flexibility across your choice of modern language, platform or architecture. .

See what this means for your business applications – discover the depth of potential for application innovation in your organization–check out the Visual COBOL solution brief to learn more about this unique, flexible technology.

For those about to code – we salute you!

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

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

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

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

It’s not about the app

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

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

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What rocks?

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

This rocks

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

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

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

#MFSummit2016: product roadmaps and Tube maps

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

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

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

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

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

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Platform alteration?

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

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

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

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

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

MFsolutions

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

In summary

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

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

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