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Mainframe’s Mainstay: Don’t Write COBOL’s Death Certificate Just Yet

Your PDA is obsolete. Dial-up connections are obsolete. Film cameras, VCRs, and pay phones — these are all obsolete. COBOL, however, is not, and it won’t be, at least for a very long time. Scads of COBOL programs have been successfully running on government and private infrastructures for decades. It’s cheap to maintain and fits nicely within cloud environments, mobile technologies, and Web applications. Here’s why you can’t write the death certificate for COBOL anytime soon.

COBOL is Still the Mainstay of Business Operations

No matter what you hear about all these sexy new language stallions, COBOL is still the most dependable workhorse around.

Internet searches and social media are some of the primary driving forces of big data, and business is extraordinarily interested in capitalizing on big data. So should they be. But COBOL still handles 200 times as many daily operations as Google and YouTube searches combined. That is a lot of handling.

About 70 percent of business operations are done by COBOL programs, including those in which stability, reliability, easy patching, and security are critical — like banking, insurance, stocks and mutual funds, payroll, pensions, and credit transactions. There simply aren’t any alternatives that can adequately handle workflow, database management, decision logic, and other operations as well.

COBOL is Tremendously Versatile

COBOL programs are currently running on almost every single hardware platform out there. COBOL plays nicely with the mainframe, and easily migrates to a cloud environment. It can be used with virtually any IDE, and integrates beautifully into applications written in other languages. COBOL also enhances wonderfully for use with web, mobile, and other modern technologies. For example, COBOL programs can be called up by Java app servers, XML directories, SOA logic, and Unicode strings. Again, none of the so-called alternatives can be easily and seamlessly substituted for the COBOL language.

COBOL is Great for Managing Data

COBOL handles databases quickly, reliably, and affordably. That’s the Triple Crown of programming languages.

As demand for larger and more complex data sets becomes essential to government, business, finance, medical science, and virtually every other endeavor on earth, databases are critical to survival. COBOL is highly preferable for database processing. It allows for lightning-quick data access, and is also more reliable and secure than any other database management option.

COBOL is Easy for Programmers to Learn

With all of this power and flexibility, you’d think COBOL would be a bear to learn, but it isn’t. Since COBOL looks so much like English, it’s not difficult at all for new programmers to pick up. COBOL is a great first language to take on, as well as the perfect addition to add to a repertoire of other programming languages. Programmers looking to increase their potential to hire on with top companies can master COBOL quickly, greatly improving their resume and maximizing their earning potential.

No, you’re not likely to get work with the latest startup development firm in Silicone Valley with nothing but COBOL skills. What you are likely to do is get a great-paying gig with a stable, reputable government agency, business firm, or other employer who has already proven they can stand the test of time by chugging along with their COBOL programs through the worst financial recessions in recent history and one of the worst onslaughts of hacking ever, among other accomplishments.

When you hear COBOL is dead, just laugh at the ignorance. Scads of other languages and techniques are likely to meet their demise before you attend COBOL’s memorial service.


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