Making History By Staying Together
Reflection touchstone: a screen benchmark

Classic advice: COBOL Choices, Years Later

Five years ago on this day we ran a report from a conversion company about the lineup of COBOL choices. Just a few weeks ago, the largest provider of COBOL swallowed up Attachmate, owners of the Reflection lineup. It made the impact of the acquisitive Micro Focus on the 3000 migrator even greater.

Conversion and migration supplier Unicon Conversion Technologies had sent us a white paper that outlined decisions to enable 3000 conversions to Windows. Unicon's Mike Howard attended that year's e3000 Community Meet, which included plenty of COBOL discussion. Here's Howard's take on the COBOL choices for those headed to Windows. Much is of it is still on target.

By Mike Howard

When HP announced it was discontinuing the HP 3000, there were four main Windows COBOLs: RM COBOL, ACUCOBOL, Micro Focus COBOL and Fujitsu COBOL.

But in May 2007, Micro Focus acquired ACUCOBOL when they bought Acucorp. Shortly after they also acquired RM COBOL when they bought Liant. ACUCOBOL is very similar to RM COBOL but has more features and functions. Micro Focus immediately incorporated the RM COBOL product into ACUCOBOL and stopped selling RM COBOL. Micro Focus is now incorporating ACUCOBOL into the Micro Focus COBOL product. (Ed. The Project Meld was not completed, and ACUCOBOL is being called Micro Focus extend today.)

So today, for new Windows COBOL customers there are two COBOLs -- Micro Focus and Fujitsu. In summary, Micro Focus is an all-embracing, all-platform COBOL with excellent support, but it is expensive. Fujitsu is a Windows product with limited support but an extremely attractive price. We have found that both products are very stable and very fast in production. Both charge the same for support, 20 percent per year. The differences lie in cost of ownership vs. response time of support.

Micro Focus COBOL: This is the big COBOL player on the block. It has compilers for Windows, Unix and Linux, and has excellent support across all these platforms. It has good documentation and it also has excellent award winning customer support department that provides training courses and ongoing product support. The Windows product is fully integrated into Windows .NET (MISL code) and the Visual Studio IDE. The compiler, runtime and debugger are excellent products as is the support of relational databases. 

A new customer buys both development licenses and runtime licenses. Each programmer needs a developers license and each application server needs a runtime license. In very rough figures a developer license is $5,000 per developer and a runtime license is about $20,000 per CPU per server. So five developers would be $25,000 and a 4 CPU dual core server would count at 8 CPU’s for a runtime license cost of $160,000.00; for total cost of $185,000.
Fujitsu COBOL: This is a very good COBOL which is fully supported by the Fujitsu Corporation in Japan but sold and supported outside Japan by a small company (maybe 10 employees) in Bend, Oregon called Alchemy Solutions.  Alchemy Solutions rose from the old Fujitsu COBOL Software department – I think Fujitsu decided to close it and the department management created Alchemy Solutions with all the staff of the old department. 

Although Fujitsu has compilers for Unix (but not IBM’s AIX), this is really a Windows-based COBOL. Customer support is essentially limited to an online question submittal process; which may not sound very supportive, but the guys who provide the service do an excellent job. Support requests are normally answered within 24 hours. 

It is an excellent Windows .NET Visual Studio product and highly integrated into the .NET framework. The compiler, runtime and debugger are excellent products as is the support of relational databases. Each programmer needs a developers license, but there are no runtime charges. Developer licenses at about $5,000 per developer. So a customer with five developers would cost $25,000 for the developer licenses — but remember, there is no runtime charge of any kind.