SOA Talk

Jun 24 2011   3:56PM GMT

COBOL programmers now deploying Java apps

James Denman James Denman Profile: James Denman

COBOL developers and Java developers have long been at odds. Lately it seems like the Java folks are winning the fight. Many COBOL shops have given in and closed shop, or jumped fence into the Java or .NET camps. Now even some of the COBOL stalwarts, whose COBOL programs do still hold some advantages over the more popular Web-based development languages, are admitting that they can’t stay COBOL (or at least not just COBOL) forever.

Larry Turley, the president of Ron Turley & Associates Inc (RTA), explains that right now his people are nearly 100% COBOL, but eventually he thinks it will switch over to mainly Java. Maybe not during his time as president at the company, but it will likely happen.

In the meantime, Turley and his COBOL developers are finding success implementing Java functionality with a COBOL modernization platform—isCOBOL Evolve from Veryant—that lets them write their code in COBOL, but deploy their apps in Java. RTA had been using ACUCOBOL as their development platform for over 20 years, but when that company was acquired by Micro Focus, some of the changes made them feel it would be better to take a look at what other options were available.

According to Turley, there aren’t that many options for PC developers using COBOL. There’s still a lot of support for the mainframe and midrange folks, but when it comes to a strictly PC-based clientele—which is RTA’s bread and butter—there’s just not much support.

COBOL does not have a reputation for being as Web-friendly as Java or .NET languages. So it follows that there’s a lot more focus on these newer languages. And even a 30+ year veteran of the COBOL wars like Turley has to admit that being Web-enabled is a huge advantage in today’s application development environment. In fact, building Web-based applications is the single biggest factor driving Turley’s decision to start deploying in Java.

According to Turley, Web services are definitely going to be a piece of that. He says that, “The hope is that we will have a lot of service-based interactions. Some of those will have to be developed as we go.” He plans to build out Web services as clients need them for particular purposes and use those experiences to build a library of practical reusable Web services.

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