Why It's Important to Modernize COBOL Systems for Improved Performance and Supportability
4 min read
Topic:Legacy System Modernization
One of the most important things to understand about your business' technology is that it's supposed to empower your people to do more with less.
Investing in IT isn't something you do for the sake of it. It's a step you take because it enables your workers to be more productive and more collaborative. It lets them capitalize on opportunities to do better work on a daily basis. It makes it easier for them to forge those pivotal relationships with your clients. It does all of this and more, all at the exact same time.
But unfortunately, many of those business systems that you and your people rely on are still running COBOL - which at this point is a six decade old technology. Yes, COBOL (which stands for Common Business Oriented Language) was originally designed with business use specifically in mind - but the needs of a business in 1959 vary greatly from the needs of a business in 2021.
Equally concerning is the fact that many of these systems are incredibly costly to maintain because of their age. Likewise, companies have few - if any - resources that they can draw from with legitimate COBOL experience because it's so hard to find anyone with intimate knowledge of this antiquated programming language. If you do find a consultant who can meet your COBOL needs, they can pretty much name their price - putting you at something of a disadvantage as far as leverage is concerned.
These are just a few of the many, many reasons why it's important to modernize your COBOL systems. Even going beyond the headaches you'll help relieve, doing so will also bring with it benefits in terms of improved performance and supportability that you need to be aware of moving forward.
Why Your Decision to Modernize COBOL System Applications is One Worth Making
Even going beyond the fact that COBOL applications cannot be made to work over the Internet, one of the biggest reasons why you want to migrate from COBOL to a more modern platform comes down to the fact that it's just difficult to find people with the expertise necessary to program and maintain the software. In a lot of situations, you're typically dealing with older database technologies like DB2 - something that modern developers have little to no first-hand experience with.
Because of the age of COBOL, you're also likely dealing with systems that are running on old and outdated hardware - which itself brings with it an increased risk of hardware failure. Older hardware often requires costly maintenance contracts with your original supplier, meaning that you're paying an incredible amount of money simply to support something that’s getting older by the day.
COBOL applications are also often difficult - if not outright impossible - to integrate with your other business systems. This will almost always create frustrating data silos where key information is trapped in one area of your business, unable to flow freely to the people who may need it elsewhere. Employees can't get their applications to "talk" to one another simply because they were never really designed to do it in the first place. Then, they spend so much time coming up with frustrating and time-consuming workarounds that they have less time to devote to those tasks that actually need their attention.
But most importantly, there are simply more modern languages and software development platforms out there that can handle more complex modern problems - like the kinds you're tasked with solving on a daily basis. COBOL isn't just difficult to maintain - it's also needlessly complicated to expand. All of these are issues you can eliminate almost immediately simply by switching to a more modern software development platform.
Migrating From COBOL: Your Overview
Thankfully, migrating from COBOL to a newer platform isn't nearly as difficult as you may be fearing. You can start by using your existing application as a model for the functionality of your new one, building a system that implements those same features by way of a platform that also offers enhanced web capabilities and more.
The process itself begins by first selecting the technology that you plan to migrate to. Obviously, there's no "one size fits all" approach to this because not all businesses are created equally. Having said that, in most cases organizations choose platforms like ASP.NET and a more modern database technology like SQL Server.
Once those decisions have been made, you can then hire a development company with expertise in developing modern applications with modern database technologies. They'll take the time to learn as much about your business as possible, all so that you end up with an application that meets your needs and that finally frees you from the restrictions of COBOL that you really shouldn't have been dealing with in the first place.
The Benefits of Migrating From COBOL
Making the decision to finally free yourself from the shackles of COBOL brings with it a number of core benefits, all at the exact same time. Primarily, most organizations enjoy the fact that they are now free to develop absolutely whatever is needed for their business with virtually no limitations to speak of. Not only that, but these modern solutions are finally capable of connecting to the rest of the world via the Internet as well.
Not only that, but this entire situation creates more opportunities to finally implement the types of business enhancements that were simply unavailable to you before. In the past, you had to think about key business decisions within the context of COBOL's natural limitations - often forcing you to let opportunities pass you by. Now, you're free to capitalize on them in a way that can also help create a significant competitive advantage for yourself in your industry.
Likewise, the more modern applications that you're left with can now be run on faster hardware for significant performance gains. They can even be cloud-based for infinite scalability, and to make those applications available from any device, at any time. Access to the data contained within those applications can now be made available 24/7/365 if a mobile-friendly user interface is developed.
But most importantly, you now have a significantly larger labor pool to draw from to help maintain and expand your system as-needed. If something breaks, you don't have to worry about where you're going to find the talent to fix it. If your business needs change, you won't have to spend massive sums of money finding someone who can help support you in your new direction. Modern systems bring with them modern developers - which for many organizations is the most crucial benefit of all.
At the end of the day, businesses need to understand that there is no time like the present to make the investment to migrate their COBOL applications to more modern platforms with expanded capabilities. This isn't just about embracing "the latest in modern technology" just for the sake of it. This will literally bring them forward by six full decades, allowing them to capitalize on all the improved technology benefits that have debuted since COBOL was originally released in the 1950s. But it will also make their applications more scalable and secure while allowing them to support any business process, which is exactly the type of rock-solid foundation you need to empower the next decade of your organization's success and beyond.
To learn more about modernizing COBOL systems for improved performance and supportability, download our eBook titled "Legacy System Modernization 101 - Your Guide for Success."