HP 3000 Becomes a Copy Cat
Fortune 500 beds down for 3000 use

COBOL offers you can't refuse

Dale Vecchio For a 50-year-old language, COBOL seems to have a lot of new options and energies lately. Especially for 3000 customers who are making migrations, the ones looking around for their next platform and language. For millions of companies around the world, COBOL is an offer they cannot refuse.

We've recently heard from Chuck Townsend, a COBOL and modernization consultant who helped launch the software vendor LegacyJ. He recalls that LegacyJ "implemented the HP COBOL syntax, the HP Intrinsics (excluding IMAGE), the HP Macro capability and you might remember the VPlus capability as well." So LegacyJ offers a COBOL for use on platforms other than the 3000. One that claims to know something about the 3000.

Then there's ACUCOBOL-GT. It was easy to believe that ACUCOBOL would decline in favor of Micro Focus COBOL, when MF bought Acucorp in 2007. But Alan Yeo of ScreenJet reminds us that:

The ACUCOBOL product is still available, and we have migrations that are still in progress with our ACUCOBOL GUI conversion for VPlus products. In fact, Micro Focus are adapting that technology as the Thin Client GUI for the Micro Focus COBOL products. Like the 3000, rumours of ACUCOBOL's death appear premature.

Now that Micro Focus owns the product, it may not be as easy to ask for ACUCOBOL by name, but the GT suite still appears for sale on the Micro Focus Web site. What's even more interesting at that MF site is a pep talk by analyst Dale Vecchio of Gartner, above. The research VP comes across as a consigliere (mob elder statesman) in a six-minute sermon about why retirements are good for IT's future. He seems to invoke that image with his comparison of IT practices and the methods of The Sopranos.

Let's be clear about why Vecchio is speaking in the 6-minute video at the Micro Focus site. (Registration required.) He's advising IT managers and directors to get busy. Gartner people like to incite. Make changes, he says, or you'll believe the same thing Albert Einstein said. "Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal," Vecchio quotes Einstein. It appears Einstein actually said something like this, but then Vecchio adds to the quote, "no good can come of it." 

(Web resources agree that Einstein said technological progress, not change. This distinction has always been the undoing of change cheerleaders like Vecchio. Progress is something the IT pros must accomplish. The analysts and vendors will only supply the change, unless you hire them for it. We'll leave it as an exercise for our readers to determine the context of the quote from Einstein, who's invoked for everything from IT to baby development videos.)

The good news, Vecchio says, is that the people in IT are retiring who believe change is no good. It's a bit naive for Vecchio to think that stubborn IT managers and CIOs are standing in the way of improvements, unless they own their companies. Change -- whether it's adopting Micro Focus COBOL instead of the ACUCOBOL solution, or embracing even wider like cloud computing or the .NET distinction -- needs to show proof of success, or it's just an experiment.

The need for proof is what keeps 50-ish IT professionals on the job when they'd rather be retired. What you know remains an asset to your company. Proven success keeps COBOL running much of the world's business computing, 50 years after the language was invented. It's hard to refuse something that's worked for this long -- if its community keeps reinventing it. If your IT efforts include care for languages and programs, like so many do, then caring about your next COBOL should be an issue to investigate.