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Micro Focus extends ACUCOBOL future

For more than a year after Micro Focus acquired the ACUCOBOL family of products, Acu users had grave doubts about the merger. Micro Focus sold one of the most popular, competing COBOL compilers. It paid $40 million for the entire entity of Acucorp, its Extend development suite, even Acu's Chief Scientist Drake Coker. Buying your competition to gain prospects, while retiring their tools, is commonplace in the computer business by now. Just ask any of the customers whose ERP or CRM apps now belong to Infor. (MANMAN is among those put out to pasture.) Micro Focus announced Project Meld in 2008, in which two products were to do a Vulcan connection to become as one.

So it came as a surprise to the enterprise solutions community when ACUCOBOL regained its development future at Micro Focus this year. Peter Anderton of Micro Focus explained the turnabout at the e3000 Community Meet in September. "We told our customers we were merging Micro Focus and AcuCOBOL, and they told us we were daft," the Englishman said with British candor. "And we were."

Migration service suppliers had a hard time visualizing an ACUCOBOL that would survive. Mike Howard of Unicon Conversion Technologies pointed out that a customer couldn't purchase AcuCOBOL since the acquisition. Anderton said that's changing now, and his company has a roadmap available that visualizes an ACUCOBOL 9, created by Micro Focus.

ScreenJet's Alan Yeo passed along a copy of the roadmap. His product includes a module to migrate VPlus 3000 screens using the AcuCOBOL GUI, one of the strongest elements of Acu.

The roadmap also pledges loyalty to R/M COBOL, another competing product acquired by Micro Focus. Anderton's forecast for R/M sounded more pragmatic at the Meet than the language used in the roadmap.

RM/COBOL is a trusted and mature technology. Our primary objective for RM/COBOL users is to ensure that your  existing applications continue to work at their best and are fully  supported both in terms of the platforms they are available on (such  as Windows 7), and to provide the high level of user support and fixes that you have come to expect.

If you are starting a new cycle of developing COBOL or mixed  language solutions from scratch, we would recommend that you  consider one of our other product lines: ACUCOBOL which offers  the highest levels of compatibility with RM/COBOL, or Net Express/ Server Express which offer the ultimate in scope, functionality and  performance.

HP 3000 customers might recognize the "trusted and mature" label from their days reading HP's tea leaves about the 3000 futures. Not good. (HP's software products for the 3000 gained that kiss of death regularly through the 1990s, until products like Business Report Writer, Transact and Allbase 4GL became antiques.)

The news that Micro Focus will sell ACUCOBOL for new projects offers some hope for the Acu future. It might be more impressive if Acu was sold into more places than R/M COBOL shops, but that could prove to be true in the year to come. Acu doesn't have its own sales force, and it's hard to judge how many products a Micro Focus rep can peddle. (Again, there's the 3000 experience, where a consolidated HP salesforce with both MPE and HP-UX to offer sold nearly every customer on Unix. Many sales came out of the hide of healthy 3000 shops.)

But like the 3000, ACUCOBOL has unique advantages that can be spread to COBOL sites moving away from the 3000's COBOL II. Acucorp took the time to give its compiler the understanding of MPE intrinsics, because Acucorp intended to sell the product to 3000 shops as a COBOL II alternative. Micro Focus COBOL simply demands you excise these 3000 directives before you can compile and run on a new platform.

Micro Focus lives and breathes .NET architecture, though, something a Windows convert will crave to get to "Native Windows," as Howard calls his company's conversions. At the risk of being too cheery, the new map seems to extend the boundaries of COBOL choices for migration projects. You can see a road that permits a "Lift and Shift" migration using Acu, especially if Windows is not on your trail.

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