COBOL’s future lies in the clouds

Alex Handy
July 1, 2009 —  (Page 1 of 2)
It's been 50 years since the initial specifications of COBOL were laid out, yet the future remains bright for the venerable programming language. With mainframes making a comeback, Linux taking over for Unix, and a new generation of fearless developers waiting in the wings, COBOL might just make it through the next 50 years with the help of .NET and the coming move to the clouds.

Despite its age, COBOL isn't vanishing. A recent survey by software company Micro Focus claimed that the average American still interacts with a COBOL program 13 times a day. That includes ATM transactions, ticket purchases and telephone calls.

Alan Rodger, senior research analyst at the Butler Group, compared COBOL’s heritage with that of the internal combustion engine, and he insinuated that the language's widespread use would propel it into the future.

“COBOL can be thought of as IT’s equivalent to the ubiquitous power source of automobiles—both technologies enabled the human population to benefit in many ways from new possibilities," said Rodger.

"COBOL has been the prevalent language for developing business applications throughout the greater part of five decades. Systems and applications written in COBOL remain in widespread use within the vertical sectors that spend some of the world’s largest IT budgets, such as finance, government, manufacturing and telecoms, as well as numerous others."

Mickey Rosen, a sales representative with Alchemy Solutions, learned COBOL in 1968. Now he sells solutions to corporations looking to modernize their infrastructure. He said that .NET is often used to either replace or wrap COBOL applications.

“The biggest area I'm seeing a trend [in] now is moving applications from big mainframes to the .NET platform. I never would have thought that was possible," he said.

"I never would have thought Microsoft Windows applications could compete with the performance of an IBM mainframe, but the reality I've seen is [that] the performance is dramatically better off the mainframe than on."

Rosen also said that COBOL might hang in for the long haul simply because many old COBOL programs still work well in a hands-off environment. “There's a lot of code out there in use in a lot of companies," he said.

Related Search Term(s): cloud computing, COBOL

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