The future of Cobol depends on its past, said a Cobol solutions provider today, as companies endeavour to transform legacy Cobol code from proprietary to open systems.
At a round table meeting, 'Cobol in Focus', chaired by Cobol solutions provider Liant Software, chief executive John Bradley said: "Very few customers are looking afresh at Cobol."
He added: "It is something we wish we could do something about, but Cobol has been dominant for so many years that we've barely scratched the surface. There are huge volumes of Cobol in closed proprietary environments that must be moved to open distributed systems. It's an enormous job."
Bradley said he gave up worrying about Cobol's anticipated decline as Liant's Cobol products continued to grow 20 per cent per annum.
Graham Harrison, director of sales for Liant, said: "We must show that Cobol can be used to create new applications, but it it's not an easy task."
Bradley said that customers' biggest questions centre on Cobol's Internet capabilities, GUIs, transaction integrity, and installation and administration. He said aligning Cobol for the Internet is "not as easy as it could be - and I'm not sure we're there yet."
Martin Brampton, chief analyst for Bloor Research, warned that Cobol is "not entirely suited to modern conceptions of software development which is about component development, graphical interfaces and event-driven programs."
He added: "There's so much of it out there that there's a big demand for Cobol skills. There's a shortage in the US, less so in the UK."
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