COBOL 2021 Survey

by in Application Modernization & Connectivity

How much COBOL is still out there?  This common question is one asked by many who follow the IT industry or work within an enterprise IT shop; but it has proven to be challenging one to conquer. For those working closest to this core business systems programming language, as well as research houses following this market, some have even attempted a guess…50M, 200M, or even 300M lines of code still in operation…perhaps even more.  Ed Airey, Senior Product Marketing Director for COBOL technology at Micro Focus sheds some light on this topic and outlines a new initiative aimed at better understanding the scope and scale of this long lasting programming language—COBOL.  Read on…


For over six decades, most global IT shops have built their business (and enterprise applications) using one proven programming language—COBOL.  Despite, facing many industry challenges, including the introduction of several alternatives aimed at replacing it, COBOL continues to demonstrate its enduring value for organizations invested in this technology.  As was evidenced just a year or so ago during COBOL’s 60th anniversary celebration, many within the larger IT industry convened to recognize the numerous and noteworthy achievements of this proven programming language.  Popularly positioned within most financial services, banking or insurance shops, COBOL continues to master complex mathematical calculations with precision and ease while simultaneously scaling to handle large volumes of data. However, this everyday use for COBOL does not stop there; rather it expands to nearly every industry vertical from manufacturing to mining, agriculture to aviation, tourism to tax collection, vehicle maintenance to voter registration and more. COBOL’s unique portability enables maximum flexibility and choice for many organizations and industries with a write once, deploy anywhere strategy. Now 60 years on, and with all this proven success, do we really know how much COBOL is out there?

New COBOL Research

In early 2020, Micro Focus announced the results of a global COBOL research initiative aimed at better understanding the value that this language delivers to the wider industry. Numerous insights emerged from that research including a preference for modernization over other alternatives, strategic drivers for change and trending technologies supporting innovation and integration. That research did not attempt to measure the volume and scale of COBOL applications still in active use—until now. As mentioned, many have speculated for decades on this question and it is time to better understand just now pervasive this programming language actually is.  For these reasons, and with the support of global industry research partner, Vanson Bourne, Micro Focus has commissioned a new initiative aimed solving this very issue by simplifying the complexity of an often challenging industry question.

More, Less or About the Same?

Starting today, and continuing over the following weeks, we will tackle this often-allusive answer using proven research practices and a new COBOL application survey. Examining COBOL from a perspective of platform preference, we will measure just how much of this technology is developed, tested and deployed in the marketplace.  Aimed at more technical users and practitioners, this research survey seeks to better align IT role and responsibility with the application technology it supports.  This research will measure COBOL applications, large and small, including those running on distributed, mainframe and cloud environments.  While many industry experts have rightly questioned the current COBOL statistics socialized in the media, most cannot locate a more current data-point upon which to counter those findings. Although early estimates on this research are a few months away, most IT professionals believe there is far more COBOL in the market than what we believe to be the case.  Some estimate even millions (of lines of code) more than are commonly quoted through the media. Only time will tell as this new COBOL research seeks to deliver greater insights into this topic and common question puzzling the COBOL community.

Join the Conversation

So, if you are working with COBOL applications today as a programmer, IT analyst, project manager or application owner, it is time to have your say.  Join the conversation and help shape the future of COBOL applications. Join us in helping better quantify the breadth, scape and use of this legendary programming language.  If you are working within a larger team, such as the mainframe, supporting these core business applications, share this survey with your colleagues.  Take ten minutes to answer these research questions and help us (and the community) address this important COBOL question with confidence.

Share Your View

Start your COBOL survey today.  Yes--those participating in the survey (If you opt-into sharing your contact details with us) will receive an exclusive invitation to the COBOL research results webinar with special guest, Vanson Bourne, later this year. Save your seat now and Start the survey.


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