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COBOL Into the Clouds

Joining us today is Mark Haynie, CTO of Application Modernization at Micro Focus where he concentrates on legacy IT application and data reuse.

Q: Mark, does COBOL have a place in cloud computing?

A: Cloud computing is about services, not languages. Many people would tell you that you need to start learning Ruby or Python in order to use cloud technology. However, Micro Focus Enterprise Cloud Services makes it as easy for COBOL transactions to run in the cloud as easily as they run in on-premises datacenter. If you take those COBOL transactions and put a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) layer around them using Micro Focus tools, the consumer of those services will not know or care what language implemented them. It makes sense to reuse millions of lines of working code rather than identify their function and rewrite them in another language. At the end of the day, COBOL is syntax like Ruby, Python or legacy Java code. The business rules and domain experience to understand them is the most important to our kind of developers.

Q: A recent player in the cloud computing arena is Microsoft's Azure. Can you tell us a bit about it and how it fits in with COBOL, if at all?

A: We worked with Microsoft for months preparing for the Microsoft Azure platform, announced in October 2008. At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, Micro Focus demonstrated a managed .NET version of a COBOL accounting transaction running in the Azure development fabric where the COBOL keyed sequence dataset was stored under SQL Data Services. This was demonstrated after Micro Focus and Microsoft made a joint announcement on July 2, 2008, laying out our plans for a full .NET implementation of our runtime. The other big advantage is that Micro Focus Enterprise Cloud Services is cloud-agnostic. Just as Micro Focus Server (the COBOL enterprise application compatibility layer) has run on Windows, UNIX and Linux for years, we are now bringing the same level of portability to Microsoft Azure, Amazon EC2 and other public clouds.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for cloud computing in general? Security, for instance?

A: Security is one issue we’ve spent a lot of time on with Micro Focus Enterprise Cloud Services. We ensure that all user data is secure while in-motion (networking between customer and the cloud) and at-rest (stored in persistent cloud storage) encrypted under keys retained by the customers -- not Amazon, not Micro Focus. We explain that this is similar to the level of security that exists in their datacenter protected by card-key that itself contains a key in an RFID chip. Other issues are around SaaS enablement and multi-tenancy. However, since the early mainframe, COBOL has been handling these issues. The original 3270 (green screen) datastream sent state information in RESTful fashion with the transmission in what is called pseudo-conversational programming. For years, companies have separated their data and processing groups into CICS regions so they could spread out over the datacenter complex. Our Micro Focus Enterprise Cloud Services is built on our Micro Focus Server product which supports multi-tenancy.

Q: Where can readers go for more information on COBOL and cloud computing?

A: For more information on deriving business value from Micro Focus Enterprise Cloud Services, see Enterprise Cloud Services: Deriving Business Value from Cloud Computing . For technical information, see the Micro Focus Enterprise Cloud Services portal .

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