BPER Banca, one of Italy’s largest banks, has migrated about 30 services from its mainframes to a Linux environment with tools from LzLabs and technical and business support services from CWS. The applications chosen for the first phase of migration control BPER’s front end customer portals, used to manage its retail banking account access.
COBOL has hit the news in 2020 in unexpected ways. In November, popular longform story aggregator Longform.org led with a prominent piece on the “code that controls your money” — “COBOL is a coding language older than Weird Al Yankovic. The people who know how to use it are often just as old. It underpins the entire financial system,” wrote Clive Thompson.
Earlier in the year, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy drew international media attention with a plaintive request for help knocking the back-end systems powering New Jersey’s emergency care system into shape: “Literally, we have systems that are 40 years-plus old, and there’ll be lots of postmortems,” he said, as New Jersey ran into issues modernising the system . And one of them on our list will be how did we get here where we literally needed COBOL programmers?” Murphy told the world.
The COBOL skills gap is neither as extreme nor as straightforward as you might imagine. Here’s what companies can do to keep their COBOL systems running, and what would-be COBOL developers should know before taking the plunge.
Early in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, the New Jersey state government had a very specific IT staffing need—and it got a lot more publicity than hiring moves usually get. The recently passed CARES Act had added $600 to weekly unemployment payments nationwide, but New Jersey’s archaic unemployment software, written in COBOL, couldn’t incorporate the extra money without reprogramming, and there was nobody on staff capable of doing the job.
The challenges organizations face with legacy systems are not in fact a result of COBOL, or any other programming language; the language is just a syntax for expressing business rules. A programming language like any other which anyone can learn.
So why are so many organizations – including the state governments of New Jersey, Kansas, Connecticut and Colorado – experiencing such issues with legacy applications written in COBOL? I argue that the problem is not with COBOL itself, but with the arcane mainframe environment the programmers must inhabit to maintain the programs.
Following its North American expansion, LzLabs has joined Google Cloud’s partner advantage program as a tech ally for mainframe emancipation aims.
Zurich-based software company LzLabs says as a partner it can provide customers with the option to rehost and “incrementally modernise” mainframe applications with its Software Defined Mainframe (LzSDM) running on Google Cloud’s platform.
Mark Cresswell, CEO, LzLabs, states: “Through relationships with cloud providers such as Google Cloud, we are enabling these customers to become cloud-native at their core.”