Discover COBOL modernisation for mainframe, hybrid & cloud solutions

15/01/2024 minute read Tim Jones

COBOL, originally developed in 1959, has played a significant role in shaping the software industry and continues to be widely used today. It has been the backbone of critical business systems for decades, powering high-transaction workloads and crucial functions like payroll and accounts.

It’s safe to say that COBOL isn’t going anywhere any time soon. It remains the most common procedural programming language and is widely used and supported across a myriad of platforms from z/OS to Linux. The reasons for modernising COBOL can vary as well, but tend to culminate as one or more of the following drivers:

  1. To access a larger pool of software developers: With fewer new COBOL programmers entering the market while existing experienced devs retire, modernisation can be necessary to ensure an adequate and competitive talent pool.
  2. To align with business needs: Modernising COBOL applications can allow businesses to align with current requirements across their IT estate while gaining competitive advantage.
  3. Improve performance and supportability: Upgrading from outdated dialects and leveraging modern technologies can lead to better performance and supportability of COBOL applications.
  4. Integration with modern systems: Modernising COBOL applications can ensure businesses are able to seamlessly integrate with contemporary technologies across diverse environments, enabling elevated levels of collaboration and interoperability.
  5. Reduce risk, cost, and the potential for failure: COBOL modernisation solutions from trustworthy partners like Advanced offer functional equivalence guarantees, reducing risks, costs, and potential failure associated with legacy systems that need to be modernised without impacting the function of the applications they house.

The complex realm of COBOL modernisation offers businesses a wide range of options to consider:

  • To leverage the power of mainframes with enhanced agility, companies like Progressive have successfully implemented system-wide field expansion to accommodate a rapidly growing customer base. This resulted in the removal of barriers for growth, improved continuity of key processes, easier maintenance, and enhanced data handling capabilities. Read the full case study here.
  • Hybrid cloud solutions provide a bridge between legacy systems and modern technologies. Desjardins General Insurance Group migrated from IDMS platform to Oracle, achieving significant annual cost savings, a seamless migration experience, and improved processing times. Read the full case study here.
  • Cloud migration is increasingly being adopted by companies seeking elasticity, accessibility, and agility. The New York Times transformed its legacy COBOL-based applications to Java running on AWS, resulting in a 70% reduction in operating costs. Read the full case study here.

There are several common approaches to COBOL modernisation that businesses can consider based on their specific needs and goals – including rehosting and application consolidation, but perhaps the most comprehensive is refactoring. This involves transforming the existing codebase into Java, C#, or a common dialect of COBOL to improve maintainability, scalability, and compatibility with a broader array of deployments. This process automates the code transformation. Refactoring also includes migrating legacy databases to the target environment. The ultimate goal of refactoring is to achieve the same functionality as the legacy system in a different language and RDBMS. Once refactored, applications and databases can be deployed to the mainframe, cloud, or open systems. When considering this approach, businesses should assess if they require turnkey solutions or do-it-yourself tooling to accomplish their modernisation goals.

Regardless of the path you wish to take, achieving successful COBOL modernisation hinges on partnering with experienced migration providers such as Advanced. These professionals bring domain expertise, strategic guidance, decades of experience, and technical proficiency to navigate the complexities of modernisation regardless of the source, target, and path to get between them. They mitigate risks, utilise proprietary automated tooling, provide project management support, and ensure a smooth transition to the modernised target, maximising the benefits and long-term sustainability of the entire migration process.

Advanced begins every COBOL modernisation initiative with an extensive assessment that maps the entire in-scope estate, helps narrow the scope of modernisation, and uncovers hidden business rules and potential pitfalls within.  Contact us to learn more.

Further reading