No obits for COBOL, while we're around: MicroFocus

14th April 2010
No obits for COBOL, while we're around: MicroFocus
The COBOLators are here! MicroFocus executives Ashish Masand, Joachim Herschmann, Mark Warren, Mark Conway and Nav Saini, at the Microsoft TechEd launch pad for the company's new releases, in Bangalore, April 12 ( IndiaTechOnline photo)

New products integrate with Visual Studio 2010 to simplify applications development and testing.

Anand Parthasarathy speaks to visiting MicroFocus execs, Godfathers to COBOL, on the sidelines of Microsoft's TechEd 2010 conference in Bangalore.
Enterprise Application Testing and Management solutions provider, MicroFocus, is somewhat in the position of American humorist Mark Twain, who, reading his own obituary while trekking in Europe, sent a telegram to the home newspaper concerned: ‘…Rumours of my death are an exaggeration’.
The UK-based company, has had to often remind customers that COBOL – or Common Business Oriented Language, one of the first computer languages written in a language close to English, rather than in a machine code of numbers and letters – is still very much alive and well, five decades after it first came into use. “We are committed to a COBOL-centric strategy. It is our heritage and the foundation of our future success. From COBOL, we are helping our customers embrace new technologies such as Java, .NET and Web services ensuring that COBOL enjoys the role of first-class citizen in the new world”, they say.

And earlier this week, executives from the UK and Germany centres of MicroFocus were present in strength in India – possibly one geography where they don’t have to keep explaining that COBOL is not dead: As we said on this page in our 50th anniversary tribute to COBOL creator, Rear Admiral ( US Navy) Grace Hopper a year ago,  it was Indian expertise in the language that made this country famous as the place to come to, if you wanted to avoid the Y2K problem at the turn of the century...Indian outsourcing was born out that reputation for being home to large numbers of COBOL whizzes.

"We estimate that there are at least 30,000 COBOL programmers in India, says Nav Saini, Tech Services Manager, MicroFocus -- and the number is expected to grow rapidly to 50,000".
In fact MicroFocus Net Express, the COBOL developers' tool has seen over 2000 free downloads from India – and most of them are by individual programmers, not corporate, he adds.

World-wide, some 2 million are still known to be working on COBOL. Legacy applications maare generally perceived to be so much baggage. But for MicroFocus, it is opportunity: as recession tightens budgets, corporates see the value of extending the life of applications written in COBOL, suggests Mark Conway, UK-based Director of Development.

Which is why Product Management Director, Mark Warren makes an almost heretical suggestion: "It’s still a canny plan to study COBOL… in fact, it makes a useful addition to those who are proficient in Java or C#."

The company has pegged the event to announce four new product releases to coincide with the global launch of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. ( see our separate story).

The products, Micro Focus Visual COBOL, Micro Focus Silk4Net, Micro Focus DevPartner Studio and Micro Focus Analyzer Express, enable customers to develop, analyze and test for the highest quality code, greatly simplifying the tasks and challenges faced by application developers. ( details can be found on the Micro Focus Visual Studio webpage:  ) 

“We are excited to launch our next generation developer tools in India. These new Micro Focus products, closely integrated with VS2010, will enable our customers, global application development centres & testing factories in India, to deliver higher quality solutions with increased productivity & efficiency”, says Ashish Masand, MicroFocus Country General Manager – India

- April 14 2010