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COBOL to Java/C# - Comparison of Approaches

Pros and Cons of Business Rule Exctraction, Modelling tools, Auto-translations

There are many advantages in moving old COBOL applications to Java. The purist development teams will always argue the best technical solution would be to rewrite the application. But at what cost is that path justifiable? Are such project successful? What is the path which offers the most predictable outcome (cost, risk, maintainability of the target). Does size of the application matter (Smaller applications more suited to one approach, larger ones more suited to other approaches).
We come across organisations which follow all different paths. Here is what I've learned.


Gradual COBOL to Java migration: one piece at a time

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Gradual COBOL to Java migration: one piece at a time - when a big-bang approach won't do.

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How To Manage COBOL to Java/C# Projects

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How To Managing COBOL To java/C# Projects

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MicroFocus Rehosting vs SoftwareMining Translation to Java or C#

Why moving to new technology is a better option

Re-hosting vs Translation – 10 reasons for choosing a good translation to Java/C# over MicroFocus Rehosting solutions.

  • Maintenance - COBOL developers are getting close to retirement age. All new developers know java and C#
  • Technology – moving to java or C# opens up the system to all kind of newer technologies: from open-source code coverage, documentation tools, performance optimizers, databases, and so on
  • Integration: Much easier to integrate Java / C# applications with other applications
  • Data-Migration (KSDS/VSAM to SQL Databases – where each COBOL field maps to an SQL Column)
  • Data-Migration – Sequential files to can be migrated to MS-Excel Spreadsheet format,
  • Data-Mining: Moving Indexed/KSDS data files to SQL databases opens up the system to host of data-mining tools
  • Costs – translation has no associated runtime costs
  • Free of COBOL legacy – in a good translation, the generated code does not require in-depth familiarity with COBOL.
  • Performance – generated code should avoid COBOL emulations where possible. For example, where possible it remove GOTOs, and REDEFINES and un-necessary formatting such as COMP-3.
  • Welcome to 21st Century ! (Well, I had to say something very positive at the end :)
Of course, that just my views !

Mainframe Apps on mobile phone

Accessing Mainframe Apps from Mobile phone

My company (www.softwaremining.com) translates COBOL applications to Java and C#.
Recently we were asked if it was possible to access the java translation of a mainframe application from mobile phones. The answer was yes off-course. Since the CICS BMS, or COBOL Display screens are translated to HTML, they it can be accessed from any cell-phone with a good browser - although the screens will be a bit on the small side. The new system however does new JSP or ASP screens to be simply plugged in without having to alter a single like of the business logic. This would allow a new screen to be designed specifically for cell phones.
Of course no one will expect the Data-Entry department to use the new cell-phone centric pages for their work. But if the cell phone centric site is merely another interface to the existing migrated application, well, it could be utilized as a public facing ecommerce site. For example, if the original application is related to Personal-Tax, a user may login using his cell-phone, name and id fields to be auto populated (and made invisible to save on screen real-estate), certain features disabled (e.g. search for other users, and etcetera.) and then the user allowed to enter his own data.
I know there will be area’s which will require careful consideration (e.g. security), but the ability to open-up the existing applications to a wider audience must be enticing!

What did NASA Find on Mars? Evidence of COBOL modernization gone wrong?

This week there has been numerous news articles about NASA having made a historical find on planet Mars. I wonder what this could be! As this is a “legacy Modernization” forum, I keep my guesses/ humour only to related technology issues – such as Martian “equivalent” of Y2K, COBOL resources, never ending Business Rule-Extraction validations, and so on.

We know there is no life on Mars. But maybe there once was. Did NASA find evidence of a failed Martian's Environmental Control System - perhaps caused by :

  • The new IT guys moved the application from Mainframe & Unix boxes to run on an iPhone / iPad (sounded like a good idea at the time)
  • computer never auto-rebooted from Blue-Screen of Death.
  • Y2K project didn’t finish in time
  • The ERP implementation of the system was abandoned after $200 Billion (see previous post)
  • The management waited too long, all legacy resources had left deciding before modernization project started
  • The move from a procedural system to a rule / inference engine based one, well, it took a lot longer than envisaged
  • The support Telephone line's automated options went on too long (for help with loss of atmosphere press 21 followed by # key, for help with … )
  • They moved the system to a (methane?) cloud, but it dissipated
  • the Modernization Patent Wars killed all projects. (don't worry, SoftwareMining is safe should similar problems start here on earth. Phew :) )

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Replacement of 200 Legacy System with a single ERP get cancelled after $1Bill

An article in Computer world magazine reports on Air Force scraps massive ERP project after racking up $1 billion in costs. The system was meant to replace some 200 legacy systems.
According to the article, Oracle ERP was supposed to be used to replace the 200 Legacy systems containing business logic which have evolved over many years. I have no doubt that Oracle ERP is a very good and competent system - and most of the difficulty would have been the merge of the business logic from 200 dispersed systems.
I wonder what went wrong. Was it difficult to extract the business rules, was merging them the issue, was the system simply too big for anyone to master ???
Manual rewrite of legacy system is a large software project, the kind which have a tendency to go over time and budget. Hence the argue goes that an automated translation, (one which can generate high quality translation) is a lot less risky than a "manual project", and have a better chance of completing within budget and on time.
But this time, they weren't rewriting the whole thing, but using an established ERP system. I guess the same argument applies.

COBOL developers, Guns and Viagra

COBOL website bypasses Viagra Ads and goes straight to Funeral Plan Ads! Ouch!

A recent article in The Economist - on Guns finishes off by saying:

… most NRA convention-goers in St Louis were white men over the age of 40—a segment of the population on the decline. The classified sections in NRA magazines such as American Rifleman feature, besides all the weaponry, advertisements for gardening equipment andViagra.
I found that funny & amusing, until I saw an advert for Funeral Plans on MainFrame COBOL website. Ouch. (if it isn't there the first time - "refresh" the page several times and it will appear).

For a while some have argued COBOL is still going very strong whilst others argue it is a dying language. I think it is fair to say there is still a lot of it out there, but it is long since it is used in new software developments. Ie most of the COBOL developers merely maintain and extend existing systems.

OK, most of the cobol expertise is now held with middle aged people (my age) - and so I would understand if there were Viagra Ads on COBOL websites, but Funeral Plans? really? it is a little premature isn't it!

PS - Would you please click on the "Like" button at top of the page if you like this post. Thanks :)

COBOL Jobs for iPhone/iPad Developers

.. or iPad Development for COBOL developers

A large portion of corporate system remain in COBOL language – and there appears to be a mixed reviews on how organizations continue to maintain these. On one had, Robert L. Mitchell in Brain Drain article on computerworld notes that there is problems hiring COBOL people, but then the responses from COBOL developers is there aren’t that many COBOL positions available!!!


IT Problems in UK banking, RBS Glitches – Govenor of BOE Calls for Inquiry

Was this the result of outsourcing 1000 jobs to india? or were there other issues?

The UK Banking market is highly concentrated, with just five big consumer banks. Their sheer size means that even a mundane problem could cause a systemic crisis or a bank run. More reason for UK bankng system to undergo revamp ...


Business Rule Extraction - Flood or Sued

Why was Relativity sold so cheap !!

Filter out info which appearts to be unimportant & leave doors open to getting sued. Don't filter out anything - and flood of the information can kills the usefulness and project !


COBOL programmer salaries up by 43% in 1 year

What does this mean for legacy systems?

See IT Job Watch site.  Here is my ideas on the reasons for this increase ...


Microfocus's increasing license costs & Legacy Modernization

Increased licensing costs is hastening the move away from COBOL

Legacy Modernization focus is changing faster from Rehosting to translation - thanks to the ever increasing Microfocus license costs.


Happy 50th Birthday to COBOL

Rest in Peace

People get very religious about Computing languages. C# vs Java, VB vs Delphi, C++ and LISP. But quite frankly, I somehow never expected developers to treat COBOL as a religion: No object-orientation (not one which has been accepted or used), no exception handling, and allowing lots of bad practices: GO-TOs, REDEFINES ...


COBOL Business Rule projects are large projects

Lets do the job properly

Question is how bigger would the project become if they migrated to “maintainable” Java first? Would they have to migrate the whole thing – or just parts which is destined to be re-written as rules? Depending on the COBOL platform (IBM, ESQL, UNISYS – DMS-II, ….), it is possible to have part of the system in Java and leave the rest COBOL ...


Business Rules in Legacy Modernization

COBOL Rules for Documentation or Rules for rete-type inference engine

Here at SoftwareMining, we get two types of interest in Business rules. In the first instance there are projects who simply want to re document the system or re-produce a functional specification for the purpose of rewrite. The 2nd set of interest is from organizations who would like to re-implement their system within a “rule-based” system. This COBOL rule-systems is the topic of my dicussion today.

James Taylor, writes an interesting blog on "Modernizing COBOL with business rules" ...


COBOL Re-host vs COBOL Translation (to Legible Java or C#)

(Lets hope re-hosters keep their test routines, they'll be needed again)

Recently there has been a lot of activity in the Re-hosting world, as evident in quarterly reports of MicroFocus as well as the big rehosting companies.

But why would anyone rehost as oppose to translate? lets look at the pros and cons of each solution ...


Is COBOL Dead? or will there be COBOL code on starship Enterprise?

In the 60's, the list of companies in the Fortune 500 was so stable that it took 20 years for a third of them to change. Now it takes only four years (source: The Economist). There is a lot of pressure for businesses are to remain competitive.

Will COBOL survive such business needs? ...


Oracle takeover of Sun

Now Oracle will be competing with IBM and HP in Server Market

Surely this is good !!! If IBM had bought Sun, the big players in Server market would have been IBM and HP only.

I read that Sun's list of open-source Software (Java and MySQL) was a major factor in influencing the purchase ...