#Winning with COBOL – The IT Debt Battle

Post Author: Ed Airey

Java, Objective-C, Python, Ruby, COBOL, PL/I, etc., etc., etc – there are enough language choices out there today to make an application developer’s head spin.

What is truly the best option for enterprise business applications?

Some choose Java, others C#, while other developers continue to use more traditional choices such as COBOL or PL/I.  Is there a clear choice for business and which language choice fosters higher code quality? A recent study by Cast Software shows COBOL is the clear winner when it comes to application cost, quality and health. I, of course, agree (as seen in my recent video blog).

Cast did something interesting: they put a monetary value to code quality. Using the concept of IT debt and its growing impact on today’s business (technical debt is estimated at $500B and growing), Cast projected the average cost per line of code at $3.61.

Where does COBOL fall on the spectrum?


The cost to address Java quality issues, per line of code, was $5.42 compared to the cost of COBOL quality issues, which was $1.26. With respect to cost and impact to business application quality, Java was more than 4.3 times more expensive than COBOL.

The Bottom Line: Given the higher cost, should you shy away from Java?  The simple answer is no. Business clearly needs the continued flexibility of choice and freedom for application development and delivery.

There are application quality challenges ahead for all organizations.  Putting a solid action plan in place to address these issues will help your organization win the IT debt war. The question remains, how will you arm yourself to battle the cost of application health?

*The CRASH Report – 2011/12 (CAST Report on Application Software Health)

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