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Leaving languages behind

Like the lumpy sofa you might have left in that apartment you moved out of, languages can lose their charms after years of use. Some HP 3000 shops moving apps to another platform would be good candidates to consider what language will be spoken in their new world.

A lot of the answer depends on who will be doing the speaking. When 3000 apps move to new environments, the software can end up being administered and developed by IT pros who don't speak a lick of COBOL, for example, or even know how to pronounce PowerHouse.

Unlike PowerHouse, COBOL isn't so costly that it sparks migration off of an HP 3000, but moving away from this business staple is sometimes seen as a nod toward the modern. A third-party compiler and debugging suite hopes to help COBOL programs become Java applications. Java is not a new promise to the 3000 community, but some ideas need years to pinpoint their promise. This latest concept means to do more than just make COBOL's appearances look more modern.

It has taken the better part of a decade, but Java is looking more ready to help HP 3000 users, so long as they're heading away from the platform. When a company says, "Web 2.0 applications can be developed entirely in COBOL,” it recharges the concept of Java. Veryant says its newest release is a COBOL compiler written in Java.

Veryant, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, is giving a Webcast tour of its isCOBOL compiler on August 12. The company says that the isCOBOL

Compiler and Runtime Environment are written 100 percent in Java. COBOL application designers can design one user interface and deploy it across many platforms, including AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, Linux, Windows and mainframe systems. Applications compiled with isCOBOL technology can even be deployed on hand held devices like PDAs or smartphones … any system supporting the Java Virtual Machine environment.

A product tour tells more at the Veryant site, where migrating 3000 shops can sign on for next week's Webcast. The company will take a sample of your COBOL code and "generate a Code Analysis Report that will tell you exactly how compatible your application is with isCOBOL APS before any investment occurs on your side."

Back in the late 1990s, when the HP 3000 had a Java Virtual Machine guru in HP's Mike Yawn, a company called Synkronix offered a Java interface tool for 3000 apps. Blue/J never took off in a 3000 marketplace that was working hard on Y2K, and Java was only proposed as a tool to make better interfaces for existing 3000 applications. But HP was so hyped about Java back then that the vendor announced a program called Visage, all about making old 3000 apps look newer.

Here's your community nine years later, looking back at the days of Hewlett-Packard Java/iX development as a fond memory of a promise unfulfilled. But none of that failure in the 3000 space should linger over Java, which proves itself over and over in IT. Given the massive penetration of COBOL in 3000 customer enterprises, perhaps Veryant's environment can help a migrating company leave behind a language considered lumpy by a new generation.