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IBM Invests in COBOL Modernization With Advanced Binary Optimization

COBOL Advanced Binary Optimization

The COBOL language may be over 50 years old, but it’s still a dominant programing language for processing the world’s most critical business transactions. COBOL applications are very much woven into our daily lives. It’s estimated that an average American interacts with a COBOL program 13 times a day Every time we use an ATM, mobile banking, book an airline ticket, access healthcare services, make a purchase online or make an insurance claim, we could be using COBOL applications to process these transactions and most of them are processed on IBM z Systems.

Today, COBOL applications process about 90 percent of global financial transactions. This amounts to over 30 billion transactions per day. There are over 220 billion lines of COBOL in production and about 5 billion lines of new COBOL code are added every year. The total investment made to these applications over the past 50 years is estimated to be worth about $2 trillion. Although it’s difficult to 100 percent validate these statistics, I do have good reasons to believe that they are true because I know for a fact that over 80 percent of IBM z System customers run business-critical COBOL applications and they are major players in the industries serving our everyday lives. More importantly, they have made huge investments in developing and modernizing these applications over many years. Therefore, it would be a formidable task for them to rewrite every COBOL application with a new programming language because both cost and risk would outweigh benefits. This is why COBOL will remain strategic and won’t go away anytime soon.

COBOL applications are a major workload on IBM z Systems. As a result, IBM is investing in delivering the most advanced compilation technology to support the COBOL language and to continue providing vanguard support for COBOL developers to maintain its reputation of being a fast, robust and future-proof programming language. The areas of focus are advanced optimization, IBM z hardware exploitation, application modernization, programming productivity and middleware support.

Advanced Optimization and IBM z Hardware Exploitation

Advanced optimization and z hardware exploitation are key to improving application performance by reducing CPU utilization and operating costs. The days when COBOL applications would automatically run faster as they moved to new z Systems hardware are over. Instead of delivering general performance increases for all applications, performance delivered by modern z/OS architecture is more workload-targeted and requires exploitation of new hardware features. Therefore, to maximize performance of COBOL applications, it’s important to stay current with compiler technology and selectively re-compile CPU-intensive parts of the application to reduce utilization. Enterprise COBOL helps improve the performance of COBOL workloads on z Systems by generating code that takes advantage of new hardware features without requiring any changes to program source.

Application Modernization

Application modernization promotes reuse of proven software assets and allows organizations to deliver new enhancements quicker with lower risk and cost. It also allows users to methodically modernize existing business-critical COBOL applications on z Systems and connect them with mobile and cloud applications. Enterprise COBOL extended the language to directly work with Java, XML and JSON. JSON is a lightweight data exchange format used by mobile applications and provides mobile applications easy access to data and the processing they need from business-critical enterprise COBOL applications.

Programming Productivity and Middleware Support

Enterprise COBOL also delivers new language features, problem determination capabilities and support for latest IBM middleware (i.e., CICS, IMS and DB2). They are key to increasing application functionality, programmer productivity and reducing development/maintenance costs.

Working Smarter

IBM Automatic Binary Optimizer (ABO) was recently introduced as a cutting-edge technology designed to optimize the performance of COBOL applications on z Systems without the need for recompiling source. It uses advanced optimization technology shipped in Enterprise COBOL. ABO optimizes compiled binaries without affecting program logic. As a result, the application runs faster but behavior remains unchanged so testing effort could be reduced. Clients normally don’t re-compile 100 percent of their code when they upgrade to new compiler or z Systems hardware levels. As a result, code that’s not re-compiled wouldn’t be able to take advantage of features in new IBM z hardware. With ABO, clients now have one more option to reduce CPU utilization and operating costs of their business-critical COBOL applications.

In today’s era of digital disruption, it’s imperative for enterprises to drive faster innovation while ensuring the stability of core business systems. If a new mobile app needs a critical change in a back-end transactional system, that system of record must be agile enough to provide those services in a timely manner. As a result, traditional green screen tools aren’t the only option for COBOL developers on z Systems. IBM provides modern development tools for developing/maintaining applications. These tools are designed and developed in conjunction with IBM compilers, z Systems hardware and IBM middleware.

Roland Koo is offering manager for Compilers with IBM, responsible for Automatic Binary Optimizer, Enterprise COBOL, and Node.js offerings on IBM Z.

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