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More COBOL than meets migration's eye

KOBOL HP 3000 managers had it easy when they used MPE to develop apps. Nearly all of the work was done in COBOL, and the only COBOL with any serious use was HP's COBOL II. Now there's work to be done in choosing a replacement compiler, but there's more than just one flavor of Micro Focus or the new generation of AcuCOBOL to select.

For one thing, open source has made COBOL a fresh choice. Speedware started doing business in selling COBOL-IT. Although that product name is unfamiliar to 3000 sites, the technology leadership is pretty well known. COBOL-IT is run by former Acucorp managers. They've taken the OpenCOBOL source code, which is controlled by the General Public License (GPL) like most open source tools, and applied some nifty extensions to the compiler.

The GPL terms mean that the COBOL-IT work has to be made available to OpenCOBOL users. COBOL-IT, which has been integrated into Speedware's AMXW solution, is a commercial open source solution. That means that it is the support and the ongoing improvements you license, not the software. COBOL-IT is a free download.

There's an even more mature open source solution for non-MPE COBOL, one crafted by a former 3000 developer. From The Kompany, have a look at KOBOL.

Shawn Gordon, who wrote many an Inside COBOL column for the NewsWire, started up The Kompany to latch on to the then-nascent surge of open source and Linux tools.

We had originally designed Kobol with support for the HP version of the COBOL standard but hadn't really decided what we were going to do with it. We started getting a lot of inquires about our ability to support the HP version and so we decided to release it as an optional plug in.

While this plug in is oriented towards people migrating from the HP 3000, there is one very cool extension to COBOL that HP made, and that was their macros. Macros allow you to make predefined code that can take replacement parameters, it is extremely useful, and mostly self explanatory, you can see an old article written by [Gordon] on the topic and some interesting uses of it here. You might want this plug in just to get access to the macros, they are extremely powerful and help make for some modular, reusable code.

Long ago (well, nine years) KOBOL was built to generate true multi-platform executables -- you just have to do it on the target platform. The result of this is that there are no expensive run-time costs associated with KOBOL as there are with most commercial COBOL environments.

The product has an integrated IDE for code development and project management, syntax highlighting, integrated compiler with status window, integrated CVS support, sophisticated text editor, and code completion. The MPE-COBOL flavors are processed using the plug in. The compiler works with Linux, Windows and even OS X from Apple.

"We do still sell it," Gordon reports, "and we do consulting gigs with it." And he would like to be able to marry it to a fine, but deceased, programming editor. "One thing I'd like to do is integrate it with the Programmer Studio IDE, but the WhisperTech guys [who created Programmer Studio] seem to have disappeared entirely."