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Meet Cobol's hard core fans

Robert L. Mitchell | Aug. 22, 2014
These folks won't migrate. The reason probably isn't what you're thinking.

Like Ravindra, Kadlec has no intention of migrating the core systems that run the business over to a distributed computing platform. "The combination of our Cobol applications and the mainframe platform is what gives us a competitive advantage," he says.

Preparing for the inevitable
At BNY Mellon, the talent crunch is still about five years away, Brown estimates. Many of the bank's 300 to 400 Cobol programmers were hired right out of college in the 1980s and range in age from 45 to 55, Brown says. "We haven't had the big exodus yet," but as the economy picks up he says he worries that the impending wave of retirements could come sooner rather than later.

The company is working with universities and offshore resources to bring in "younger blood" and get the talent pipeline flowing. But so far, he says, it's been a slow process. Brown has been able to fill vacancies as they crop up, but in the future, retention bonuses and pay premiums may be required to acquire those scarce Cobol skills, he says.

While the types of companies using mainframes and the types of workloads on the mainframe may be evolving, Cobol and related mainframe skill sets will continue to provide jobs for the foreseeable future, says Burden. "On a macro basis I haven't seen a material decline in the amount of Cobol code that's out there." And for every program that does a migration there are still a dozen running -- and those continue to grow and evolve, he says. " I don't see that changing for a decade -- or more," he says.


What's next for zEnterprise
IBM is working to address several shortcomings of the mainframe by focusing on three key areas, says Deon Newman, vice president of IBM System z.

Analytics. IBM wants to provide more analytic capabilities on the platform to reduce the need to continuously move transactional data off the mainframe for processing. "Our customers want to use it in real-time fraud detection, upselling and cross-selling. Some of this will be on zLinux, and some on zOS," Newman says.

Mobile enablement. Java subsystems will allow enterprise applications to be "extended out onto the Web," Newman says. And that will lower some costs of doing business on the mainframe. IBM customers pay based on the number of transactions processed, but many transactions, such as balance inquiries, don't generate revenue. Mobile has greatly expanded the problem, with more than half the workload coming in from the Internet and mobile applications. So IBM recently discounted what it charges for mobile transaction charges by 60%. "That means that software pricing won't explode in the same way that mobile transactions are," he says.


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