Q & A transcript from Visual COBOL webinar #5: A developer's perspective - Eclipse & JVM

Here's a full transcript from the latest webinar in the Visual COBOL webinar series.If you have any more questions that aren't answered below, please add them as a comment to this thread.

Q: Is it possible to do the same thing as shown today in Eclipse but using visual studio? 

A: Yes. Visual COBOL’s integration with Eclipse mirrors that found with Visual COBOL for Visual Studio. Although the underlying IDE technologies are different, the capabilities are very similar. For example, within Visual COBOL for Eclipse you can write native COBOL applications, as you do today, but you can also compile COBOL applications to managed code (JVM) taking advantage of additional capabilities.

Within Visual COBOL for Visual Studio, you can also write native COBOL applications as you do today, but you also have the ability to compile your COBOL applications to managed code (.NET libraries) providing even further extensibility for your application. This is just one example, there are many others. COBOL developers can continue to develop COBOL applications as they do today, but now have access to a brand new set of tools and technologies, made available through COBOL’s integration within both Visual Studio (.NET) and Eclipse (JVM).

Key differences: Both IDEs support native code applications (.dll, .SO, .exe) but Visual Studio also supports COBOL deployment to .NET and Eclipse supports COBOL deployment to the Java Virutal Machine. Eclipse also integrates with the Development Hub to provide remote development support for Windows/Linux to Unix systems.

You might find the previous webinar recordings useful: 

Q: Does the COBOL compiler create ".GNT"s?

A: Yes Visual COBOL can create .INT and .GNT files using the command line tooling. Visual COBOL 2.1, planned for October 2012, will support creation of .INT and .GNT from within the Eclipse and Visual Studio IDE.

Don’t wait for this release to start evaluating Visual COBOL though – many applications can quite easily be moved to .DLL or .SO executables.

Q: Does Visual COBOL support Record Layout Mapping and Profiler? Can I assume all the functions in Net express are ported to Visual COBOL?

A: Yes these tools are provided within Visual COBOL. The Data Tools (Record Layout Editor, Data File Editor and Data File converter) are supplied as an add pack for use on Windows. You can download the addpack from the support line website.

Q: How is Visual COBOL for Eclipse licensed? 

A: Visual COBOL for Eclipse is licensed per named developer/user. Each developer using the product requires a license.

Q: How does it handle statically linked libraries for ORACLE SQL queries?

A: This should be fine, many customers use the Pro*COBOL pre-compiler or our OpenESQL technology within Visual COBOL to access Oracle 11g.

Q: Can we use MYECLIPSE with Visual COBOL? 

A: You should be able to update an existing Eclipse 3.7 installation using the UpdateSite files which are supplied as part of the Visual COBOL installation.

Q: Are programs that are being pulled to Eclipse in Server Express as simple as in Net Express? Or are there a few changes required before pulling to Eclipse?

A: Visual COBOL is the upgrade path for Net Express and Server Express users. The majority of applications will move into Eclipse with minimal change. Depending on what product you’re upgrading from, you may find you need to make some changes to how you build your application; these are described here and here in the upgrade guides.

Q: Are you going to offer migration tools for RM/COBOL and ACUCOBOL users too?

A: Yes. Micro Focus is currently working with several ACU pilot customers in evaluating a set of ACUCOBOL-GT migration tools designed to ease the migration effort from ACU technologies to Visual COBOL. The pilot and evaluation process is scheduled to end closer to the end of this year. We have tentative plans to provide early access to this tooling, once our testing and validation processes are complete in early 2013. If you are interested in participating in our ACU to Visual COBOL conversion pilot program, please contact either Scot Nielsen or Ed Airey for more information.

Additionally, please look out for the ACU and RM COBOL users webinar series, planned for later this year. The ACU and RM COBOL webinar series, similar to this one for Net Express and Server Express users is currently in discussion/design. More details on this webinar series will become available and provided through our online community.

Q: Does it run on LINUX as well as UNIX?

A: Visual COBOL does support Linux as well as UNIX platforms. Visual COBOL for Eclipse (for development) is supported on Red Hat, SuSe, and Windows platforms. The Visual COBOL deployment runtime (also known as COBOL Server) is available on Windows, Redhat, SuSe, AIX, HP-UX, and Solaris platforms. Oracle Linux and z/Linux will be available with Visual COBOL 2.1, in October, 2012.

Q: Does eclipse allow recompilation of multiple COBOL projects (in case a specific copybook was updated)?

A: If the copybook is part of the project, the IDE will determine if it has changed and will automatically recompile any dependent source files.

Q: How is ED licensed? Do I need a separate license for ED for .net and ED for Eclipse? Or does one license handle either ED flavor?

A: ED or Enterprise Developer is a superset of Visual COBOL. Enterprise Developer includes Visual COBOL, but also tools for IBM sub-system support, such as CICS, JCL, PL/I, etc. Enterprise Developer is also licensed per developer/user. Each developer requiring access to COBOL development (plus these sub-system capabilities) would require a license. Enterprise Developer is offered as two packages – for .NET or for Eclipse, each is licensed separately.

For more information please visit the website: https://www.microfocus.com/products/enterprise/enterprise-developer.aspx

Q: Do we receive preconfigured Eclipse or do we install Eclipse and pull down COBOL plugins?

A: In Visual COBOL, Eclipse 3.7 is installed for the user at setup, with all the Micro Focus plugins included. It’s ready to go right out of the box from a simple start menu item.

If required, the plugins are also available in their raw form in the Visual COBOL install directory (under the ‘eclipse’ sub dir) for inclusion into any existing Eclipse install.

Q: For deployment, are you talking about Enterprise Server?

A: Enterprise Developer is a completely separate product that supports mainframe development. The deployment environment for the mainframe is Enterprise Server. The Visual COBOL deployment system is called COBOL Server.

COBOL Server provides the run-time and execution environment for Visual COBOL applications created using either Visual COBOL for Eclipse or Visual COBOL for Visual Studio.

Enterprise Server is a separate runtime / deployment product. Enterprise Server provides an execution / runtime environment for Mainframe applications that have been re-hosted to a distributed environment (Windows, Linux, or UNIX). Enterprise Server is not needed, unless sub-system capabilities such as JCL, CICS, IMS, PL/I, etc. are needed.

For more information on Enterprise Server please visit the website: https://www.microfocus.com/products/enterprise/enterprise-server.aspx

Q: Is there any plan on adding a web UI WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) user interface plug-in to the eclipse product? (Obviously many exist for Java but those aren't integrated with COBOL code behind files. Within Visual Studio this is tightly integrated and when you build a web user interface all one needs to do is double click on the controls and it throws you into a COBOL code behind source file).

A: We will certainly give this consideration and would welcome any thoughts you have about the importance of such a feature. Today, this capabilitiy is provided through Java which can then easily invoke COBOL JVM applications, so you can still build websites.

Please add any more questions that you have as comments to this thread.