COBOL a Common Denominator for Platform Independence

03 April 2009

COBOL a Common Denominator for Platform Independence

The migration of COBOL applications is a priority for companies looking to cut costs in the current economic climate.

Companies wanting to extend the often significant investment they have made into COBOL applications while setting up alternative platforms for these applications to dramatically reduce costs are not following a pipe dream. This was the clear message at the COBOL user group meeting held recently at Monte Casino in Johannesburg.

James Lemmon, founder of the Johannesburg Area COBOL Users Group (JACUG), says the meeting was themed “21st Century COBOL on the Microsoft Platform”.

The COBOL User Group, supported by MigrationWare, Microsoft and Micro Focus, was addressed by speakers from Micro Focus, Microsoft Belgium, Syspro and MigrationWare.

Lemmon, who has been involved with COBOL for over 40 years, says with over two million people involved with COBOL around the world  and $2 trillion worth of mainframe applications in corporations that house approximately 70 percent of all critical business logic and data , COBOL is here to stay.

“Much of IT’s focus in large organisations has therefore shifted to how to modernise applications created in COBOL. Many companies are using tools like Micro Focus Mainframe Express to take their COBOL development off the mainframe, while other companies are migrating COBOL applications onto alternative platforms in an emulation scenario that enables the company to continue to utilise their COBOL programs, while reaping the benefits of reduced mainframe costs,” he says.

Application Migration

Mark Warren, Micro Focus Product Management Director, pointed out that “maintaining the business” or “keeping the lights on” account for 70 percent of software development costs, 70 percent of software operating costs and 90 percent of hardware operating costs.

“The risk of change is perceived as high by IT, but the necessity of change is perceived to be high by the business” he says. “But we can’t afford to break what is already successful.”

Application migration provides the best solution for IT and business and its a solution that has mass appeal. “COBOL applications are after all the heart of the enterprise with 240 billion lines of code and 30 billion transactions every day. “It is running the world’s economy in these turbulent times.”

Warren went on to describe the working relationship between Micro Focus and Microsoft.

“On the 5th of May 2008 Microsoft and Micro Focus signed a strategic agreement to deliver a mainframe compatible development, testing and deployment environment on the Windows platform as a strategic alternative to mainframe processing for the Global 2000 customer base.”

Chris Volckerick, Sales Manager Mainframe Migrations at Microsoft Belgium, spoke about Microsoft’s push to move mainframe applications to the Windows platform.

Volckerick pointed out that “the Microsoft platform has reached a level of performance, scalability and reliability to ensure that the migration of large and critical mainframe applications is now entirely feasible.”

Microsoft EMEA have launched 40 mainframe offload migration projects since July 2008 for customers with mainframes sizes from 100 MIPs to 10,000 MIPS and a wide variety of platforms, operating systems and languages.

An example is Scandinavian Airlines, a migration project performed by MigrationWare, with support from Micro Focus, where 600 DB2 tables were moved to SQL Server. Other large scale BI migrations include Danske Bank who moved 13 TB of DB2 data and 10,000 users to SQL Server. In both cases operating costs were cut by 50 percent and elapsed time for batch jobs or online queries reduced by at least 50 percent.

Joao de Oliveira, MigrationWare sales director, elaborated on a number of migrations they have performed.

“Three of the main reasons for migrating include: seeking new opportunities; reducing the risks associated with large scale rewrites; and to survive financially,” he says. “Last year, according to Gartner, reducing the cost of IT was last in the top 10 list of CIO priorities. This moved up to the second most important priority for CIOs”

He concluded by saying that in their experience, most migrations his company has dealt with have resulted in at least a 50 percent reduction in operating costs.

Lemmon wrapped up the day saying that there is a desperate need in South Africa for a greater focus on COBOL.

“Whilst most of our largest financial institutions are dependent on very large and complex COBOL applications, the number of available skills has been declining. There is an urgent need to raise the awareness of COBOL’s importance and to start training the next South African generation of COBOL professionals,” he says.