The Tsunami

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Y2K Was the Earthquake, Here comes the Tsunami…

                                                                                “What has more than
                                                                                50%      of   corporate
                                                                                America      computing
                                                                                influence and if it died
                                                                                today, it would take our
                                                                                economy with it?”

                                                                             Answer:      COBOL, yup
COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language ). Like it or hate it, it still has, according to Computing
World’s survey, more than 50% of today’s financial systems are running on this language..

More than 50 years after COBOL came on the scene; the language is still prevalent in the world's largest
corporations, where it excels at executing large-scale batch and transaction processing operations on
mainframes. The language is known for its scalability, performance and mathematical accuracy. To
underline the language's ease, it was created to make programming more accessible and business-
friendly. COBOL was also the first programming language to be based on English words and was
designed to resemble human language, rather than garbled machine code. Overall, the programming
language has been and remains a cornerstone of business-critical applications and has thrived in
multiple computing generations – including the most recent two, the “ Era,” and “Web 2.0.”

COBOL's presence is not merely present in a few niche industries, but rather over the past handful of
decades, it has infiltrated almost every key vertical industry in the US. Farms, Banks, Retail, you name it,
and COBOL is there.

For example, David Garza, president and
CEO of Trinity Millennium Group, a
software engineering firm that has handled
code transformations for large businesses
and government organizations. "Almost
every job we get has COBOL in it," he says,
and most of the calls come from
organizations that have already lost their
collective knowledge of the business logic.
At that point, he says, "it's a big risk." For
others, its more than presence, it’s the enormity of it all. For BNY Mellon, COBOL batch and transaction
processing programs on the mainframe represent an enormous investment, but the prospect of moving
this to another environment will be like herding elephants, for Gartner says it's technically possible to
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move mainframe workloads of up to 3,000 MIPS; however, BNY’s COBOL consumes 52,000 MIPS of
processing horsepower, spans nine mainframes and is growing at a 10% clip each year.2

I See The Light At The End Of The Tunnel, But It’s A Freight Train..
                                                                  However, the demise of COBOL may not have
                                                                  anything to do with the language itself, for
                                                                  COBOL has a fundamental problem, its image.
                                                                  COBOL is not perceived to be as agile as
                                                                  object-oriented languages for modern
                                                                  programming needs such as mobile apps and
                                                                  the Web. And despite COBOL development
                                                                  environments, e.g., IBM's Enterprise Cobol on
                                                                  the mainframe and Micro Focus' Visual Cobol,
                                                                  (which plays well with others, like Microsoft's
                                                                  Visual Studio development suite for .Net),
                                                                  COBOL is widely viewed as a legacy language.
                                                                  Nearly half (49%) of a recent Computerworld
                                                                  survey, said that their organizations don't use
                                                                  COBOL because the language is simply

So What, Isn’t it still out there?

Yes, but remember, cause and effect…
First, remember most of the COBOL
expertise lies in the hands of the Boomer
generation.      However, most of the
Boomers are preparing to check out of
the workforce, taking the COBOL life
blood with it. For no matter how pro
COBOL you may be, you cannot deny that
the language requires diligent expertise

                                                                to keep in the pink.

                                                                How about new blood? Well, welcome to the
                                                                end of the thought process. Remember the
                                                                image issue? College graduates with training in
                                                                COBOL are in short supply. In Michigan, for
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example, state schools that offer COBOL programming have cancelled classes due to a lack of interest.
"They can't get anyone to enroll," says Jonathan Miller, director of Saginaw County Information Systems
and Services.

What to Do?
IT executives going to do? For typically risk-adverse enterprise IT organizations, moving beyond COBOL
is a tricky proposition. These applications represent the competitive differentiation of the business. They
are the operational and transactional backbones of the business. They are the definitive manifestation
of “mission critical”. The thought of rewriting or replacing the high-value trusted business processes
embedded in these systems can induce violent shudders of apprehension.

There are choices here:

     1)    Replace
     2)    Rewrite
     3)    Rehost
     4)    Wait and Die


The choices above were what Jim Gwinn, chief information officer for the USDA's Farm Service Agency
faced. His systems (System/36 and AS/400) were running COBOL processes that governed $25 billion in
farm loans and programs. "We have millions of lines of COBOL and there's a long history of it being
rewritten," he says. "It has become increasingly difficult to change the code because of the complexity
and the attrition of the knowledge base that wrote it." That's a big problem because laws that govern
farm programs change every year, driving a need to update the code to reflect those changes. IBM was
brought in, who concluded that rewriting or rehosting them on a distributed computing platform would
be complicated and costly. But the System/36 hardware had to go, so FSA will move off of its end-of-life
mainframe systems by rewriting some of the code in Java and replacing the rest with packaged software
from SAP. They survived.


NYSE Euronext's knew that resources in COBOL developers was almost negligible at best, so their
decision to reengineer 1 million lines of Cobol on a mainframe that ran the stock exchange's post-trade
systems, was a necessity. While COBOL was dependable, it wasn't viewed as maintainable in the long
run. The need to make changes very rapidly as another key reason the NYSE abandoned COBOL. As a
result, NYSE rewrote COBOL programs that run its post-trade systems for Ab Initio, a parallel-processing
platform that runs under Linux on high-end Hewlett-Packard DL580 servers. The new environment
allows for more rapid development, and the rewrite also eliminated a substantial amount of
unnecessary and redundant code that had crept into the original COBOL programs over the years.
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Saginaw County had four million lines of highly integrated Cobol programs that run everything from the
prosecutor's office to payroll on a 46 MIPS Z9 series mainframe that is at end of life. With mainframe
maintenance costs rising 10% to 20% each year, the county needs to get off the platform quickly. But
commercial software packages lack the level of integration users expect, and they had no time and
resources to do a lot of integration work or reengineer all of the program code for another platform. So
the county is starting a multi-phase project to recompile the code with Micro Focus Visual Cobol and re-
host it on Windows servers. An associated VSAM database will also be migrated to SQL Server. They
hope more modern graphical development suite will make the Cobol programming position, which has
gone unfilled for two years, more attractive to prospective programmers. But he acknowledges that
finding talent will still be an uphill battle.

Wait and Die
Now, I know what you are thinking, well that’s not us, really? When antiquated technology is your
wheelhouse, adopting the “Wait and See” strategy will be fine, just ask Blockbuster, Tower Records,
Borders, and Harry and David…

In short, you have been warned…



So “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;”
About Rick Ricker
And IT professional with over 20 years experience in Information Security, wireless broadband, network and
Infrastructure design, development, and support.

For more information, contact Rick at (800) 333-8394 x 689

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