But What About COBOL?

Don’t run away, you are in the right place There is something about business intelligence in here. Attending this week’s ASUG and SAP Sapphire events was a tremendous experience for me. Great discussions and learning opportunities on mobility, in memory computing, and SAP BusinessObjects Event Insight. Despite all that, one of the more interesting conversations that happened to me was on the flight home.

I started a conversation with an Italian fellow sitting next to me who shared he was in Orlando for a sales conference. He revealed that he was a software sales guy for a vendor that specializes in COBOL (I’ll leave the vendor nameless to protect the innocent). Wow. I barely know how to spell COBOL.

OK- truth be told, I learned a little about it in college in COBOL 101 (it is what you have to deal with when you do not go with a Computer Science major). A few things immediately came to mind that I was really excited to be able to ask him.

But what about the aging COBOL work force?
It must be true. Look at SAP Sapphire. All the cool kids are looking at hip languages like .NET, Java, and even….gasp…Objective C . Don’t get me wrong. I have worked on some awesome teams that were HEAVY COBOL shops loading massive quantities of data. But as a rookie out of college working on BusinessObjects, I noticed a much different demographic of individual on the COBOL dev team. Again, amazing people but from a bit different generation (if you are reading this I still love you guys). So “what happens to COBOL as those folks start to retire?” was my point blank question. He actually shrugged. Obviously, this has occurred to them. He made reference to the fact that they have sought to continue to evolve with the industry and make connectors for .NET and Java to play better with the other programmers. Interesting… But I still do not know many shops proactively looking go bang out new mainframes or Winders boxes running COBOL.

So what else can you do to innovate?
The conversation got a little awkward here again. Fresh off of the conference high, I looked at him and said point blank “COBOL is often closely associated with moving large amounts of data. Get on the in-memory bandwagon while you can. Be innovative. Give shops with seemingly perceived “old” technology a fresh capability.” Sure, it competes with other ETL tools that have a sexy visual IDE, but who doesn’t want to bang out a little code here and there? If large shops are still heavily invested in mainframes have a simple way to adopt solutions for large data like HANA, it’s a way to renew interest

We didn’t talk for hours or anything of the sort. However, it was an engaging conversation and an interesting perspective from someone that is closely tied to a technology. Further, it was interesting discussion which highlighted that is likely going to see a continual increase in specialists/consultants that are high $ that can maintain COBOL platforms while the size of that resource pool shrinks.

One thought on “But What About COBOL?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.