Just about everybody agrees that most mainframe applications could stand a little modernization. It’s just that nobody can seem to agree on which platforms that modernization should occur.
What everybody seems to agree on is that whatever from that modern COBOL application takes, it’s going to be running on multiple operating systems that may or may not actually be running on a mainframe.
To facilitate that process, Micro Focus recently released Enterprise Developer for IBM zEnterprise, which allows developers to use Microsoft Visual Studio or Eclipse-based Integrated Developer Environment to refresh mainframe applications that can be run on Linux for System z, AIX or x86 environments.
In addition to the mainframe component that runs zOS or Linus, the zEnterprise platform includes an integrated set of blade servers running AIX, Linux or Windows.
According to Ed Airey, product marketing director for COBOL products at Micro Focus, the cost of clearing the backlog of mainframe application modernization projects in most organizations is about $8.5 million per organization. Airey says that process would go a lot faster and cost much less if organizations were able to leverage the mass of developers that are familiar with Visual Studio and Eclipse-based IDEs.
Otherwise, organizations are going to have a difficult time finding people with mainframe application development skills because most of the people that built those applications are getting close to retirement age, says Airey. And even when they do find them, Airey adds that demand for their skills might make hiring them an expensive proposition.
For that reason, Micro Focus has also expanded its alliances with academic institutions as part of an effort to increase the pool of people that have certified mainframe skills.
Whatever the approach, IT organizations for the most part are not trying to eliminate the mainframe as much as they are trying to reduce the cost of running it by offloading applications to other platforms. The challenge is not only modernizing those applications in terms of the user experience, but also figuring out exactly how they work when the team of people that wrote them is for one reason or another no longer available.