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Transforming Mainframe Apps - From Tired to Wired

Micro Focus Contributor
Micro Focus Contributor
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Hi there.  Please let me introduce myself.  I’m Misty Decker.  I am new here at Micro Focus but I’ve been a mainframer for almost 30 years.  I started my career at IBM thinking it would be for only a few years but I changed my entire career plan when I saw for myself how powerful mainframes are, how important this technology is (it's actually running our world) and just how misunderstood it could be! 

My life had a new mission:  to help innovate this amazing mainframe platform and make sure the world gave it the respect it deserves. Incidentally the mainframe scene is actually thriving today but this isn't often talked about openly.

The times they are a changing

I took the job here at Micro Focus in part because Derek Britton can be very convincing and because I'm convinced Application Modernization is the key to improving the reputation of the entire mainframe ecosystem. If you’re curious about my reasons for this massive IBM to Micro Focus career-change read my personal blog on LinkedIn.

One of the fastest ways to make me angry is to say “Mainframes are dead” or “COBOL is the reason for our system failure”.  Last April for example, the New Jersey State Governor announced that COBOL was the reason they couldn’t handle in the pandemic related growth of unemployment claims. That statement set off a firestorm of uninformed articles by IT reporters who clearly hadn’t done a bit of research.  'Angry Misty' emerged on Twitter 😠:


The point everyone always seems to miss is that COBOL itself is only programming language. Problems usually occur in the application itself or the supporting infrastructure.  I actually feel sorry for all those poor COBOL applications.  They’ve spent years quietly running the business without issue, never complaining and always delivering. Then as the business requirements change and IT innovations come along, they’re left out of the discussion - neglected and forgotten.  Those COBOL applications are capable of so much more, but they're not given the chance and even insulted about their age 😂!



COBOL applications deserve so much more respect than they are given.  They do the real work of real business; they make the payments, ship the packages, and make the reservations.  The Micro Focus “Legendary not Legacy” mantra perfectly sums up the value of these applications and captures how essential they are to the very core of business.  Neil Fowler did a great job of explaining the concepts of Modernization in his article “A Time to Modernize.” By the way it's not just Micro Focus and it's leaders that think so, Application Modernization is occuring as a key theme for many other companies and analysts too.

Many of these applications were written when the underlying technology was very different from today's Digitally Transformative world.  The promise that any application written for the mainframe will continue to operate on the latest hardware unchanged is both a strength of this platform and an Achilles heel.  This extreme backward compatibility means that the value of the original investment can be retained without many of the expensive updates required by other IT architectures with almost every single release.  That also means that it’s easy for these extremely reliable applications to go unseen, potentially atrophying while the world changes around them.

Tired or Wired?

In the spirit of a Tired/Wired internet meme, let’s take a quick look at what COBOL applications that have become a little 'Tired' 😴 can get themselves Wired with a little Application Modernization magic from Micro Focus.pic3.JPG

Giant, monolithic COBOL applications made sense years ago when IT was simpler, but businesses today need to be flexible enough to quickly deploy new functions in a way that Microservices enable.  Micro Focus offers tools and a process to convert existing COBOL applications into Microservices as part of your broader Digital Transformation (DX) strategy.


Too many times, companies relied on improving the performance of their applications by simply purchasing new hardware.  The smarter way is to update the application, processes and infrastructure to ensure the IT adapts to what the business needs.  The Micro Focus Application Maturity Model helps clients to understand the parts of the business that need modernizing.


Businesses changed much more carefully and slowly in the old days and the IT dev processes matched that pace.  In today’s world, the business needs to adjust to market changes rapidly and the IT applications have to adjust just as quickly.  To understand how  DevOps can be deployed across all platforms in a large enterprises read our handy guide and there's a fantastic SD Times article all about that here.


In the earliest days of IT, applications were specific to the hardware it ran on and the code needed to be rewritten before it could run elsewhere.  The Hybrid IT systems of today demand that applications are portable.  Micro Focus technology enables the same COBOL application to run on mainframe hardware, X86 distributed infrastructures and the cloud, unlocking true portability and all the benefits of a hybrid environment.Pic7.JPG

It was fashionable to rewrite existing applications in a new programming language, but those 'rip and replace' projects have repeatedly failed leaving an unwelcome wake that can be counted in billions of dollars. Strategic Modernization focuses on enabling business goals without throwing out the existing investment those COBOL applications represent.

endless modernization.png

So does a shiny, bright, “wired” future await your 'legacy' COBOL apps?


Find out how you can start your Digital Transformation journey in the safe hands of the undisputed market leader in the game by heading to our Application Modernization resources. With 40 years of experience we know what we are doing, and if you have any questions at all please feel free to find me right here on Twitter to talk more.

Watch this space, I'll be back soon.

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