Language Feature: COBOL

Language-feature-cobol

Todd, Software Engineer at Objektum Solutions, discusses what he has learnt about the legacy language, COBOL…

Having just started my career as a software engineer, I was only really peripherally aware of COBOL (or Cobol); my knowledge only extending so far as knowing that Cobol is a programing language and that it’s ‘quite old’. A quick search told me that Cobol is around 50 years old, which lead me to think that its use must be fairly small, probably only for a handful of mainframe applications or unimportant systems that aren’t worth migrating and probably haven’t been run for years or perhaps decades.

Now before you snort in (well deserved) derision, I’m more than happy to hold up my hands and admit that I was as ignorant as they come. Imagine my surprise then, when during the course of doing background research for the CobolExplorer, an instance of Legacy Explorer, I came across the following figures in an article about employability of Cobol developers

  • 70-75% of the business and transaction systems around the world run on COBOL
  • The average American still interacts with a COBOL program 13 times a day
  • 90% of global financial transactions are processed in COBOL

(Sources available at the foot of the linked article)

Even taking into account the age of some of the figures it was clear to me that there is a LOT of Cobol out there, much more than I would have imagined. This new revelation forced me to start wondering who exactly is maintaining all this code, and more importantly why?

A 2008 report by Forrester Research titled ‘Software and Services Data Overview’ shows that maintenance accounts for around a third of the total-cost-of-ownership of any piece of software. It isn’t obvious if that figure includes the cost associated with having to train people in the legacy systems well enough to continue maintaining/supporting them, but I’d hazard a guess that it doesn’t.

In our recent work here at the office we’ve seen first-hand that maintenance costs aren’t the only way that legacy systems can harm organisations ability to generate revenue. How many potential wellsprings of profit have been left untapped because the current system wasn’t able to handle the required changes, or people qualified to carry out the work were unavailable? If you aren’t able to engage a new audience or expand into a new area it’s certain your competitors are more than happy to do so.

Automatic extraction and reporting of business rules directly from legacy Cobol source is just one of the ways CobolExplorer is able to help your organisation save time and money when estimating and tracking your legacy migration project or simply maintaining the application.

Do you have legacy Cobol applications? Contact us today to arrange a discussion or webinar and find out more reasons that CobolExplorer is indispensable to your business.