Still not dead: Visual COBOL 8.0 relies on Linux and legacy code

Still not dead: Visual COBOL 8.0 relies on Linux and legacy code

Marble, stone and iron break – but our COBOL doesn’t: The British software company Micro Focus has released Visual COBOL 8.0 and the Enterprise Suite 8.0. Innovations include tools for developing COBOL and mainframe applications in Microsoft Visual Studio 2022, in Visual Studio Code and Eclipse. Version 8.0 allows development based on Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). COBOL applications should now be able to be modernized with .NET 6 and made available in Windows and Linux environments.

Visual COBOL 8.0 can access modern, relational databases and the COBOL applications can be moved to scalable cloud architectures. According to Micro Focus, the current release is compatible with the mainframe modernization service announced by AWS in early June 2022 and offers connection to the usual public cloud providers such as Azure, AWS and Google Cloud.

Enterprise Suite 8.0 includes a Linux-based version of Enterprise Developer for Eclipse, enabling development and deployment pipelines on all supported x86 Linux distributions. For PostgreSQL, it includes new host options that ensure compatibility, and the new version aims to speed up serving DB2 data to PostgreSQL and AWS Aurora. The suite also includes embedded host access for the cloud TN3270 emulator, providing a browser-based, zero-footprint client. The emulator is included with the Enterprise Developer and Server products.

The vendor’s software enables IT teams to modernize COBOL and mainframe applications for cloud deployment and digital use. Existing applications written in COBOL can thus continue to operate. The British rely on stability and announce that future updates will ensure the use of core business systems in COBOL (and on the mainframe) for many years to come. In addition to the software, they offer customer support for deploying COBOL applications in containers and in the cloud.

A spring 2022 survey by Micro Focus revealed that the market for COBOL modernization is significantly larger than previously thought. The fact that COBOL was able to save itself into the present is probably due to the fact that it is complicated and expensive for companies to replace established and historically grown systems. Companies such as IBM, Micro Focus and Compuware offer COBOL products and have relied on migration scenarios in recent years and updated the design of the graphical user interfaces. The language still appears to be pervasive in businesses such as banks and some government agencies, and despite celebrating its 60th birthday in 2019, it appears to be unkillable. COBOL applications continue to be modernized rather than replaced.

Micro Focus has been providing software for the modernization of applications, processes and infrastructure for over 40 years and is considered a specialist for the programming language COBOL, which has now passed its 60th birthday. IT professionals sometimes joke that COBOL developers are mostly to be found in the charnel house (it’s probably not that bad, active COBOL programmers regularly speak up in the Heise forum).

COBOL has been absent from the regular curriculum of IT departments for some time. In certain industries, COBOL knowledge is still necessary – however, those who are actively familiar with it (among the actively employed) are becoming fewer for reasons of age. The mismatch between curriculum supply and demand has repeatedly been a topic of conversation for years. In the course of the corona pandemic, the 60-year-old programming language COBOL was in greater demand, especially in the USA, due to its continued widespread use in public authorities, and the demand for programmers with knowledge of this actually outdated and closely related to the spread of IBM mainframe systems 1970s-related language rose. At that time, experienced COBOL programmers had to be brought out of retirement.

Professionals with knowledge of the language are in demand because of numerous legacy applications, including in the financial sector. Four years ago, according to Reuters, more than 40 percent of banking systems in the US were still based on COBOL, and for transactions via ATM swipes, as much as 95 percent were based on COBOL code. The language tends to still be relevant in government agencies that bought mainframe systems from IBM in the 1970s, such as the US employment offices. COBOL applications are even being pushed to the cloud, so the programming language should continue to play a role for the next two decades.

Further information about the release can be found in the blog entry. More detailed information about Visual COBOL 8.0 is available on the Micro Focus website, and Micro Focus has set up a dedicated website for Enterprise Suite 8.0. Otherwise, an association called “COBOL Cowboys – Professionals for Legacy COBOL Systems” is a contact point for emergencies.

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