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Mainframe Applications: A story told in Q&As

by in Application Modernization

The IBM Systems Magazine-hosted event, Shaping the Future of Mainframe Business Applications, assessed the latest #COBOL research in the context of the mainframe community. This blog reviews the main talking points and the top community questions to map what the future may hold for this legendary programming language.

Following the celebration of COBOL turning 60 years of age, the COBOL and mainframe technology story enters a new phase. Fueled by recent events, media coverage, and government IT outages, global IT leaders are assessing their relationship with COBOL. So, Micro Focus commissioned fresh global research by pollsters Vanson Bourne and this webinar included expert commentary by Jimmy Mortimer of Vanson Bourne, and Micro Focus product strategy guru, Derek Britton.

COBOL Survey Highlights

Good news for IBM Z users in the report—more than 93 percent of respondents see their mainframe business applications as “strategic to the business”, proof of the growing alignment between business and IT to match accelerating digital demands. Indeed, 71 percent see modernization as the preferred path forward, and 63 percent plan to modernize their mainframe applications in the next year. 

Encouragingly, more than 80 percent believe COBOL will be an active part of enterprise IT for quite some time yet. The proof is in the responses to the queries raised in the Q&A session.

Question #1:

How will COBOL modernization work with DevOps/Agile methodologies, and with what tools or technologies must COBOL and the mainframe integrate with to support business needs?

Many respondents indicated they could, or would, take advantage of new methodologies and technologies; 40 percent said their organizations were already undergoing process modernization by adopting either agile and/or DevOps practices. Another 48 percent said they are using DevOps practices for their COBOL applications, with 70 percent using Agile. Jimmy Mortimer, Vanson Bourne

Question #2:

Are organizations using the cloud as a data storage facility, or are they moving entire applications? 

There is no data specifically focusing on this, although 31 percent indicate their organization is/would be moving COBOL applications to the cloud as deployment technology option. JM

Enterprises are already using hybrid strategies, embracing cloud technology alongside the mainframe. This way they leverage the core IP in their core systems, while using new, cloud-enabled channels to reach new markets. The business will consider its strategy for growth, cost management and innovation in determining the workloads to be moved or replicated to the cloud. Derek Britton, Micro Focus

Question #3:

Does COBOL’s strategic importance vary between industries?

Ninety-three percent overall, and unsurprisingly, 96 percent of finance sector respondents consider their organizations’ COBOL applications “strategic”. Software vendors (ISVs) are not far behind at 94 percent, with respondents from the services sector and other IT organizations at 92 percent. Public sector respondents at 88 percent were the only other sector to respond with a meaningful percentage. JM

Question #4:

Some COBOL systems are decades old; the low average would indicate the introduction of net new code. On average, how much new code is being added?

While I do not have a specific figure for new COBOL code, we know 37 percent will increase their COBOL application portfolio/codebase this year. JM

The need to improve levels of COBOL code will increase as organizations modernize, and expand their test and test automation strategy. In many ways, this is a cause-and-effect scenario. DB

Question #5:

Can the mainframe ever be completely migrated onto the cloud?

The market view is clear. Fifty nine percent of executives recognize the mainframe as a platform for growth, while 45 percent of them say cloud is a priority. While the mainframe remains strategic, it is unlikely the business would move the full mainframe workload to any platform, including the cloud. However, less strategic workloads could shift to the IBM Cloud, Linux on Z, LinuxOne, IBM Power or alternative platforms to suit specific market use cases or improve efficiencies. This is less about technology, and more about how IT supports current and future business need. DB

Question #6:

Can cloud match the throughput and batch processing capabilities of a "traditional mainframe?”

Mainframe workload characteristics of reliability, accessibility, security, and performance translate well to a target cloud deployment. Leveraging the current IBM Z environment feels logical for large, enterprise-scale applications needing mission-critical availability. Moving or replicating other workloads to the cloud may give IBM Z users more flexibility to create additional production headroom, new application testing resources, and expanded development capacity. The short answer is ‘it depends on an organization’s needs today, and into the future’. DB

Question #7:

How important are COBOL web services in modernization strategies?

The survey proved that organizations want a cross-system, hybrid IT integration strategy that integrates mainframe applications with cloud-based technology initially, and Java-based applications as a secondary consideration. Many organizations view this as an imperative for increased competitiveness and operational efficiency in the marketplace. DB

Read On

Learn more about Micro Focus modernization. Replay the webinar. Join the COBOL Facebook user group. Check out the other application modernization webinars.