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Monday, May 30, 2011

COBOL and the CIO

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a CIO Forum here in Atlanta.  Two topics seemed to be at the top of everyone's list: cutting costs and mobile devices. 

On the cutting costs topic, almost every CIO there had a story to tell about how they were surviving in this economy.  They were doing it by reducing their costs so that they could survive on the same or smaller budgets than they had last year and the year before.  And they were expected to provide more value to the business than ever before.  Do more with less seems to be the mantra of the day.

On the mobility issue, again most of the attendees talked about how they were being pushed to provide accessibility to their corporate systems by their users/business groups for smartphones and notepad-type devices.  More and more people are plugging their own hardware into their corporate networks and expecting them to not only work, but be supported and leveraged.  As you can imagine, this is causing quite a bit of work for some and creating unique opportunities for others.

I have some good news for them.

Sounds like a job for COBOL! (this is a blog about COBOL after all *smile*).

To help with cutting costs...  why not reuse the business logic that has been captured in the COBOL code and repurpose it?  Turn those old routines into components/services  and redeploy them.  Put together a new UI, combining new features with existing processes.  It is relatively easy to do using tools like those from Micro Focus (I'm sure the other COBOL tool vendors have comparable solutions too).  Either way, reuse the existing code!  No need for those costly "green field" development projects.

One of the large insurance customers that is on your side recently did just this.  They took an old application that was written in COBOL, cut out the screen section logic, restructured the business logic as methods and classes and intermixed these routines with C# and a new Winform interface.  Within a 90 day period, they were able to do more work with a team of 5 or 6 than an entire dev team of 20+ was able to accomplish in 2 years.  Reusing existing application source saved them millions.

To help with the challenge presented by all of these new mobile devices, again, use your COBOL assets and provide your users new ways to access the information they need.  Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

While at the forum, I had the pleasure to speak with a fellow from a university down in Columbus Georgia.  He walked me through how they were providing their students smartphone apps which interfaced with their back-end applications (yes they were COBOL).  They could access their account details on their phones, their Ipads, on the college computers, etc.  For the IT team, it was nothing short of brilliant.  For the students, their reaction?  *Shrug*  They thought this was how it was supposed to work in the first place.  Go figure *grin*.

So, my message is this.  Companies are starting to figure it out.  COBOL is relevant in today's environment.  How are you making it relevant in your business?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

COBOL Didn't Blink...The Development Environment Did

Why does COBOL wear the black eye that it has been proudly wearing since the 70's? 

It is because the most common development environment people associate with COBOL is the green screen ISPF mainframe editor.  Yuck! It is still what many COBOL developers use today.

Micro Focus did make in-roads into many companies during the past 30 years, but the majority of COBOL developers are still stuck on character-based interfaces developing application code.

No one really wants to use those tools.  Go figure.  Who'd want to pet an ugly dog?  Not me. *smile*

I personally believe this is the reason that COBOL fell out of favor with the "up and coming" development world that has evolved during the last couple of decades.

The good news is there are options which allow companies to bring all of that application source forward into the same world C# and Java developers live in. 

  • COBOL that runs on the mainframe?  Duh.
  • COBOL and C# in the same application?  Sure thing. 
  • COBOL and Java living together in perfect harmony?  Yep. 
  • COBOL and VB.NET side by side?  Why not? 
  • COBOL as managed source (.NET or JVM)?  But of course.
  • COBOL in the Cloud (Azure, Amazon, etc)  Yes it runs in the Cloud!
(COBOL is the only language that does all of these things.  I bet you can't prove me wrong.)

Today you have options.  Developers can use a single IDE such as Visual Studio or Eclipse and do what needs to be done.  Today's developers are no longer tied to a specific language.  They can use what makes sense for the task at hand, mixing a bit of the old and new with no issues. 

It isn't the language that caused the blip in usage, it was the development environment.

Good news is that this has changed with Visual COBOL.  I believe COBOL will be the language of the decade for companies looking for flexibility.  Hide and watch.

This is why I don't take them to Walmart

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More Performance!

I was just informed that the upcoming webinar on May 11th being hosted by Micro Focus will be focused on COBOL and performance. And that Alex Turner will be doing the session.

Set your VCR's to record!!!! (ok, truthfully... how many of you still have VCR's? Show of hands. Uh huh. That's what I figured. And they still all blink 12:00 a.m. don't they? *grin*).

To sign up for the session, click here.

May 11th is also my mother's birthday. Happy B-day Ma!!!!

I got you a cake!