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Extending COBOL to .NET and Java

COBOL remains a standard in business computing, but those who provide it need to keep extending that standard with flexible features. Among the major providers of COBOL for the migrating 3000 customer, Acucorp did its work long ago to build a compiler most like the MPE/iX environment. The vendor began to build its products for the 3000 before HP announced it would leave the community. Acucorp set out to build a COBOL creation environment to replace COBOL II on an HP 3000.

That work began six years ago, so the product needed to keep evolving to draw the attention of a community in transition. This week Acucorp rolled out the 7.2 version of extend, its family of compiler, SQL preprocessor, thin client and development environment. The latest version connects COBOL developers with their counterparts in the worlds of .NET and Java.

Acucorp's David Thompson, chief solutions architect, says the company added an API and compiler options to interface with .NET and Java because customers have projects underway using that language or architecture. COBOL business systems — the ones that customers like banking and asset ISV CASE moved to HP-UX — needed a way to connect to Java and .NET without the need for code to call the COBOL programs.

This extend version brings Acucorp's customers into other environments as well. The family gets its first SQL pre-compiler, AcuSQL, to let developers in the Linux environment retrieve data from MySQL. The MySQL database, free except for whatever support you buy along with it, is also popular in the Windows environment and on some Unix systems.

Support of Linux outside the US is growing even faster than Stateside. Germany has mandated that its government applications be written to Linux, according to Thompson, and South American markets have embraced Linux as well.

Lots of other SQL databases have pre-compilers of their own, Thompson added, software that Acucorp recommends customers use. A database vendor can optimize a pre-compiler for COBOL better than any compiler maker, he explained. But since MySQL is an open source solution, Acucorp stepped up to create its own pre-compiler. AcuSQL is an add-on, separate-charge module of extend.

extend version 7.2 also has a free sort utility included. Acusort performs sorts and mreges on any binary, line sequential or Vision file from the command line or control file. Acucorp says the feature makes it easier for developers migrating from other COBOL environments — where they might have a favorite standalone sort tool — to step into the ACUCOBOL-GT development system.

Plenty of HP 3000 shops want to move their COBOL apps, rather than adopt a new package. They usually ponder between AcuCOBOL and MicroFocus COBOL, according to Thompson. "The major difference between us, in the customer's eye, is that there's way less of a degree of change moving to AcuCOBOL," Thompson said.

That's evidence that Acucorp has been studying the 3000 customer's use of COBOL longer than the competition. Minimizing change could be a welcome byproduct of any migration.