Cobol's Batch Advantage

For some applications, Cobol can’t be beat, says Mark Crego, chief architect at Accenture. During one project, he wrote a script to translate information from a government payroll system for job cost reporting. The environment included midrange systems, a relational database, an extract, transform and load (ETL) tool, and a data warehouse. “We were running a 13-hour processing window. The result was just too painful,” he says. Then a Cobol programmer looked at the job. “He extracted that into a flat file and used an old-fashioned sort and was able to process the entire thing within a 20-minute period. I was blown away,” Crego says.

Mainstream tools for data warehousing and ETL are fine, if a bit expensive, Crego says, “but when it comes down to bare-bones performance, there’s nothing that beats a disciplined approach using sorting technology that Cobol is good at managing.” For many Accenture customers, though, Cobol is a hard sell. “I would talk to clients, and they would get that twisted look on their face when I said we used Cobol,” he says.

Not everyone gives Cobol the performance edge. Steven Hirsch, vice president of technology support at NYSE Group, says the exchange’s batch processing, which already runs faster after moving off the mainframe and being recompiled to run on Windows Server, will improve by an order of magnitude once the firm rewrites its Cobol programs in C. “Knowing how our trading engines run in C, a single thread of C could do this much faster,” he says.

Related Blogs and Opinion:

  •  Robert L. Mitchell: Cobol not so procedural after all

  •  Sound Off: Cobol versus Java and C#

  •  Robert L. Mitchell: How they learned to stop worrying and love Cobol

  •  Martin MC Brown: 10 programming languages to learn

  •  Shark Tank: Think Global, Act Loco

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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