COBOL - Past, Present and Future by etssetcf


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          COBOL - Past, Present and Future
          With legacy re-use firmly back on the strategy map, Julian Dobbins, Micro Focus,
          believes the time is right to recognize the role COBOL has to play.
              Industry speculation on the                    will be slow and lack innovation.                   rate of some three to five billion                  with little modification to the
          decline of mainframe skills has                    Also, and with some consider-                       lines of code a year, should have                   core logic. Put simply, “if it ain't
          once again focused attention on                    able irony, reports of packaged                     received such negative publicity                    broke, don't fix it”. There is
          the business world's reliance                      solutions successfully replacing                    over the years.                                     rarely a compelling business jus-
          on older computer languages,                       bespoke legacy systems only add                         First and foremost is the fact                  tification to replace an entire
          often questioning their ability to                 fuel to this perception - despite                   that the original definition of                     application, simply because of
          run the IT systems of the 21st                     the fact that many of these pack-                   the language was created in the                     its programming language. Why
          century. Much of this criticism is                 ages have COBOL at their core.                      late fifties, well before all mod-                  place an entire enhancement
          inevitably directed at COBOL,                                                                          ern operating systems, current                      schedule on hold for months or
          despite (or perhaps because of)                       Grace Hopper,                                    hardware platforms or program-                      years simply to produce a carbon
          its widespread and on-going use                                                                        ming models existed. To think of                    copy in another language?
          in some 75 percent of all busi-                       COBOL's creator, is                              such a language as having a role                        As a result of the short-sight-
          ness transactions worldwide.                          attributed with                                  to play in today's highly inte-                     ed view management often
          You might be forgiven for think-                                                                       grated, fast-moving, real-time                      takes towards IT, organizations
          ing that this simple statistic                        saying “I've always                              business world has previously                       have failed to maintain a suffi-
          should enhance its reputation                         been more interested                             seemed far-fetched.                                 cient level of investment in lega-
          rather than diminish it, but until                                                                         And this would be a reason-                     cy applications and platforms to
          very recently this has not been                       in the future than in                            able view if COBOL had re-                          ensure that they continue to
          the case.                                             the past”, and this                              mained still for all those years,                   provide a cost-effective and flex-
              The majority of COBOL code                                                                         or had been designed without                        ible base for IT to build upon.
          originated on mainframes, often                       philosophy has stood                             any thought for the future.                         This has led to a lack of business
          as part of applications first                         us in good stead.                                But neither is the case. Grace                      value and to high-profile opera-
          developed more than ten years                                                                          Hopper, COBOL's creator, is                         tional inefficiencies.
          ago. Close links to such a plat-                                                                       attributed with saying “I've                            But this has nothing to do
          form, so widely perceived as                                                                           always been more interested in                      with language. The value of an
          costly, inflexible and in decline,                      Analysts now acknowledge                       the future than in the past”, and                   application is a result of its fit to
          have brought a degree of guilt                     the importance of leveraging                        this philosophy has stood us in                     the business, not of its coding.
          by association for the program-                    the unique investment organiza-                     good stead, as the language has                     The language and the develop-
          ming language. And despite the                     tions have made in legacy appli-                    moved from standard to stan-                        ment tools available to support
          post-Y2K shift in emphasis                         cations while updating their                        dard, embracing the needs of                        it are more than capable of
          towards the re-use of legacy                       underlying IT infrastructure (see                   each new computing genera-                          delivering upon contemporary
          assets, and a current under-                       footer). We now see that busi-                      tion.                                               requirements, with support for
          standing of the inherent risks in                  ness decisions are leading the                                                                          XML, Web services, and Java
          major rewrite strategies, nega-                    way toward a future where                           “One accurate                                       interoperability. Smart IT organi-
          tive attitudes still remain.                       COBOL technology has a lengthy                                                                          zations recognize this and invest
              Application Providers who                      and considerable role to play in                     measurement is                                     accordingly.
          have built a business around the                   supporting the provision of key                      worth a thousand                                       Ultimately, though, as Grace
          re-use of existing applications                    business services into a contem-                                                                        Hopper is also credited with say-
          and skills have not been immune                    porary IT infrastructure.                            expert opinions.”                                  ing, “one accurate measurement
          to such negative perceptions.                           Having arrived at a point                                                                          is worth a thousand expert opin-
          A potential customer's confi-                      where the mood is slowly shift-                                                                         ions”. Perhaps it is time the
                                                                                                                     --- Grace Hopper
          dence in the functionality and                     ing once more in legacy's favor,                                                                        industry paused to reflect on
          business fit of a vendor's soft-                   it is interesting to go further and                                                                     COBOL's on-going contribution
          ware can sometimes be under-                       consider why it is that one lan-                       Second is the fact that all                      to the world of business, and
          mined upon hearing that it is                      guage, responsible for so much                      those vital business transactions                   take that as the true measure of
          partly written in COBOL - as if                    of today's business computing,                      written in COBOL are still run-                     its worth as a contemporary lan-
          suggesting that the application                    and with a continued growth                         ning, and have been for decades                     guage.

            Legacy as an asset – Just Show Me

            People from Mark Twain’s adopted state of Missouri are fond of     July 4, 2005, Computerworld, “Love that Legacy” by Gary H. Anthes   June 8, 2004, eWeek, “Micro Focus Unveils Legacy-to-Web
            saying “Show Me”, when given purported statements of fact.          Software” by Jeffrey Burt
            Natural skeptics, most Missourians are, giving rise to the nick-   frames/story/0,10801,102863,00.html?source=NLT_ES&nid=102 ,1759,1608628,00.asp
            name “The Show-Me State”. Don’t believe legacy is an asset quite   863
                                                                                                                                                   Nov. 2003, The Butler Group. “COBOL Life Expectancy Extended”
            yet? Perhaps some further reading material may make a believer
                                                                               Dec. 2004, OVUM, Inc. “Legacy Renewal: A Strategic IT Imperative”
            out of the Missourian in all of us.


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