IBM looks to modernize Cobol

IBM is looking to modernize Cobol applications by bridging its mainframe-oriented Cobol and WebSphere products to Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) and service-oriented architectures.

The company will unveil new versions of its Enterprise Cobol and WebSphere Studio Enterprise developer products on Monday.

Improvements in Cobol could extend the life of Cobol applications, which IBM officials said account for more than 200 billion lines of code in use worldwide. With Version 3.3 of Enterprise Cobol, the language can be extended to Web applications, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and HTTP, according to IBM.

In Enterprise Cobol Version 3.3, programmers working with IBM's z/OS can generate outbound XML from a Cobol data structure and interoperate with EJB, said the company.

"In the previous version [3.2], we had support for handling inbound XML" to parse it and give access to events, said Jim Rhyne, a distinguished engineer in IBM's software group. Version 3.3 adds the ability to generate XML and hand it off to other applications, he said.

Developers can write EJB in Cobol 3.3 on WebSphere z/OS, which is the mainframe version of the WebSphere application server. "In effect, what this allows [developers] to do is create reusable components and use those components in [different] environments," such as in a batch application or in a CICS application, he said. The Cobol compiler replaces manual coding to the Java Native Interface through automatic generation of JNI code that Cobol uses to communicate with Java.

"The main benefit is it allows customers to reuse code that they have without having to duplicate it in Java," Rhyne said. EJB can perform functions such as accessing information in databases or making risk calculations in insurance applications.

Also featured in the new release of Enterprise Cobol is the debugging of Cobol mixed with other types of application code. In addition, Version 3.3 supports the latest release of DB2 Universal Database, which is Version 8.

WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer 5.1.1 features integrated development environment capabilities for both Java 2 Enterprise Edition and Cobol development. The product supports service-oriented architectures in that SOAP-based access can be developed for mainframe applications. A mainframe system, for example, could be linked to a Windows program.

Also in the new release, WebSphere applications can communicate with CICS applications without having to separately buy WebSphere Studio Application Developer Enterprise Integrator, according to IBM officials.

The release also has enhanced capabilities for z/OS connectivity and queue management and developer support for Host Access Transformation Server, said IBM.

This story, "IBM looks to modernize Cobol" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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