Software Development

What does the future hold for COBOL?

While technologies like .NET and Java continue to steal headlines, COBOL continues to be the backbone of mission-critical applications. What is the future of COBOL?

By Keith Mante

Although technologies such as Java and XML continue to dominate headlines, and new architectures like WebSphere and .NET gain momentum, the need to improve return on IT investment is forcing organizations to find better ways to develop, transform, and integrate their existing mission-critical COBOL applications.

Gartner has found that as much as 70 percent of the world's active business applications are written in COBOL code, growing at a rate of some 5 billion lines per year. In light of this, and considering the need for programmers to maintain post-Y2K COBOL code, a definite need for COBOL applications remains.

However, the tasks related to COBOL development are changing as legacy systems become linked to Web service applications.

Even for the most experienced IT organizations, rewriting reliable, often mission-critical, applications is just not practical or commercially viable. It's also time-consuming. A more effective solution for businesses is to leverage legacy systems already in place by porting the applications to other platforms or by interfacing legacy applications with new Web services technologies.

Businesses now depend on the advent of new application development environments to facilitate business over the Internet. The future for COBOL is standardizing applications so that the world's business applications written in COBOL will have access to the Web. Bridging the gap between traditional COBOL development and the new world of e-business and Web-enabled applications will be critical in the years to come. As a result, programmers who have COBOL and new programming language skills such as XML and Java are well placed to take a lead role in major enterprise software projects.

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