After understanding the number of COBOL programmers who maintain the 100 billion lines of legacy code, it makes it even more interesting to find out how it still surviving even after 50 years. The main reason COBOL was used was due to its portability. The software ran on mainframe environments like MVS, VSE, Z/OS, CICS, and IMS. It ran on AS/400, Windows and many flavors of UNIX. Most of the code was shared between all the platforms; after all, how many languages/technologies really came after COBOL and how many have succeeded? And how many survived?
One should realize that IT is not the ONLY thing for an enterprise. It is about the business, and not just IT. One way of hiding the COBOL and mainframe code was to write some screen wrapper APIs for the older systems to make the front end applications look good. If you can't maintain it, at least ‘hide it’ is the concept, as it may not matter who works behind the scenes.
Who are the main users of these applications? Considering consumers from the top industry verticals, users can broadly be classified as end users and business users. End users can be the customers of these industries, while the customer service or the support staff supporting the end users are business users, who are very much part of the business. If we take banking industry, the end users are the customers who access the account information or transaction summary/details, credit card and bill payments, money transfers, deposits etc. When we know for sure that these users are not the ones who access these details on the mainframe, who else will? Probably the business users in the banks are accessing it. Similarly in the insurance industry, the end users are the ones who access their account online. So the modernization of most of these screens will have an impact only on the business users and not really on the end users. Can the ROI be really justified for a decent application where there are any end users outside the enterprise?
From the desk of CIO
Recently there was a schedule maintenance modernization proposal for a logistics-based client, written on mainframe technology. There were a few scheduler-related screens on CICS being maintained on an IMS database by a just a couple of operators. It isn’t really worth replacing these with new web-based screens with additional features for US$100,000-$200,000. CIOs have to justify prioritizing these projects and the modernization effort they put in for the ROI.
I will cover the next generation of developers supporting mainframe in my next blog.
Illustrations – Vishwesh Bhat
Graphics – William Ebenezer and Vijay Sathyavaradhan