* Posts by Derek Britton (Micro Focus)

4 posts • joined 8 Mar 2012

Mainframe staffing dilemma bedevils CIO dependents

Derek Britton (Micro Focus)

Victims of their own success

Mainframe systems are victims of their own success when it comes to long term skills planning. No-one could have forseen the longevity of core business applications, usually COBOL-based, when they were first devised decades ago. Now, that long-term success and value needs a longer-term resourcing model that - probably - outstrips any previous skills or people plans put in place.

We saw that concern with Y2K, but core IT skills supply and demand issues are no stranger to the public domain. Recent government initiatives to get kids coding and get more STEM graduates are all examples of a wider concern over future specialist technical skills in industry. Mainframe COBOL guys are just another incarnation of that. Compuware's O'Malley also knows that his organization, as well as IBM, Micro Focus and others are investing in both technology and academic partnerships to build a more robust longer-term supply of skilled coders who understand mainframes and COBOL systems alongside other technical abilities. Indeed, Micro Focus has recently launched a program all around the IT skills question but with a more upbeat perspective on how long term technical resource planning can be tackled. See www.microfocus.com for more information.

Retiring greybeards force firms to retrain Java, .NET bods as mainframe sysadmins

Derek Britton (Micro Focus)

Application Value is Key

Many banks’ mainframe systems run on applications that hold business logic captured in millions of lines of COBOL code. Irrespective of IT strategy, what most of those systems have in common is a heritage of providing immeasurable business value. Those systems and applications, in one sense, are the business.

While those who know how to code in COBOL are becoming far fewer and, as the article mentions, are already reaching retirement age, this doesn't equate to a skills gap. Recent incarnations of tooling for mainframe COBOL systems provide a much richer and more unified environment enabling a far broader pool of developers to tackle core system tasks. Using Eclipse or Visual Studio IDEs, COBOL application development, even for mainframe systems, can be streamlined to be as rapid and responsive as today’s organizations need.

It’s also great news that big companies are training Java and .NET graduates to build the next generation of developers, yet this education should start earlier. A recent Micro Focus survey found that a huge 73% of academics running IT courses at universities around the globe do not include COBOL programming as part of their curriculum. The industry as a whole needs to consider the continued demand for skills for the systems that continue to run organizations. A growing number in academia are recognizing this and putting COBOL back on the syllabus, but others need to follow suit.

Tackling broader concerns around IT complexity, slow delivery cycles and new architectural strategies need also to be addressed simultaneously, as issues surrounding perceived inflexibility, constraints on delivery speed and return all conspire to negatively impact the reputation of mainframe systems. Technology that de-mystifies complexity and accelerates the delivery cycle alleviates a number of concerns and will help salvage the reputation of those systems within the business.

Derek Britton (Micro Focus)

IBM gives a cloudy outlook for COBOL

Derek Britton (Micro Focus)

good news

This announcement from IBM further demonstrates significant ongoing investments being made by the leading COBOL technology vendors, to support and enable the continuing evolution of the market for the most trusted enterprise application development technology. This can only be good news for the COBOL world at large.

Targeting the vast global mainframe COBOL application development community, Micro Focus recently launched Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise. The solution offers both on and off mainframe development, integrates simply with existing z/OS workflows and tools, and supports the major z/OS sub-systems, all from within an Eclipse-based IDE. By providing a full z/OS development system that can reside on, say, a zEnterprise zBX partition, Micro Focus enables z/OS application teams an efficient development and unit testing solution that fully harnesses the power and flexibility of zEnterprise.

Coupled with the anticipated performance improvements of z/OS COBOL apps as mentioned by IBM here, a highly productive and high performance future awaits new generations of core mainframe COBOL systems delivery.

See http://www.microfocus.com/products/enterprise/enterprise-developer.aspx

Java won't curl up and die like Cobol, insists Oracle

Derek Britton (Micro Focus)

Alive and kicking - and for good reason

One thing is certain, COBOL is far from dead and remains highly relevant for today’s enterprise applications. COBOL runs over 70% of the world’s business, with more transactions processed daily by COBOL business applications than Google searches made. And with billions of lines of new code written each year, all evidence points to a continued reliance on core COBOL systems.

A recent IT study addressed code quality specifically between two application development languages – Java and COBOL. The study introduced the concept of technical debt to this discussion and its growing impact on today’s business. Addressing such technical debt, the average cost per line of code was projected to be £2.31. The cost to address Java quality issues, per line of code, was £3.47 compared to the cost of COBOL quality issues which was £0.80. With respect to cost and impact to business application quality, Java was well over 4 times more expensive than COBOL.

When tackling technical debt impact, the absence of sound technical architecture and planning is one reason for the increased number of code quality issues with Java. COBOL doesn’t suffer from this challenge as it has been vetted for over 30 years in enterprise organisations. Moreover, it possesses key attributes of portability, robustness, ease-of-use and “future-proofing” (thanks to vendor investments). In this regard, COBOL becomes a less risky option for business due to its prevalence within IT over the last half century, and can be the lowest-cost option to providing new business value. Importantly, COBOL continues to provide the horse-power processing needed by front-end applications built in Java, and modern tooling allows the COBOL and Java programmer to collaborate better than ever.

With more and more IT decisions being made for business reasons, COBOL’s place in the future looks as likely now as it ever did.


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022