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The OpenText Dev Day Roadshow last month was a chance for newly acquired Micro Focus customers to get some idea if what the new company will be like. On the whole, it seems like business as usual, in the short/medium term at least, although some of the organisational structures have still to bed in.
Micro Focus Enterprise Suite promises to provide scale-able, flexible application delivery for the modern mainframe and, as far as I can see, it delivers on this promise. Basically, Enterprise Server provides a rich IDE for mainframe application development and can emulate the mainframe on any mainstream Cloud platform (which could include cloud on the mainframe, of course). It supports VS code extensions, Enterprise Developer Eclipse on Linux, has .NET Core support, provides host access for Cloud, supports AWS Azure, and Google Cloud. It comes with a BANKDEMO repo on git and also a security hardening guide. That last is good, because you can’t just assume “mainframe levels of security” even on the mainframe, unless you manage security, let alone achieve them on distributed systems.
Micro Focus says that “Moving mainframe workload to the cloud is now mainstream” and it is providing what you need to run and maintain heritage COBOL and PL/1 applications in the new Cloud environment. I was impressed by the presenters at Dev Day, who were, in the main, young COBOL enthusiasts who had come into OpenText/Micro Focus as new recruits without much IT experience and been trained. That is more or less how I got into IT some 46 years ago and being properly trained, rather than teaching myself on the job and picking up bad habits, has stood me in good stead ever since.
I like COBOL. It may be a bit verbose for some developers, but it really is a “business-oriented” language, which makes for easier validation of business outcomes. It has not stood still: modern COBOL has object-oriented capabilities and integrates well with other developer platforms. Moreover, it is one of the most portable of languages – if your platform has a COBOL compiler (and almost all do) your COBOL program will probably run OK. Read more about modern COBOL here. After acquiring Micro Focus, OpenText now has a rich COBOL portfolio, which it needs because there are some 800 billion lines of COBOL out there, 8x more than there are stars in our galaxy (according to a survey Micro Focus made in 2022). Most of these COBOL applications are strategic and just over half of the users think that COBOL usage will increase over the coming year. Almost three quarters of these people prefer modernisation as a business strategy, so heritage modernisation will be a good business opportunity for the new merged company.
OpenText also has a rich portfolio of host connectivity products, but, in our opinion, perhaps its most useful product (in the modernisation space) is a COBOL analyser, which provides modernising developers with insight into what they have and its business value and takes the risk out of business change. It also helps you deal with the aging workforce problem, by restoring lost knowledge and developing new application expertise – although we would also recommend making (rewarded) knowledge transfer part of your retirement and exit procedures.
Having a drink with the OpenText people after the Dev Day, and renewing acquaintance with people from some of my old workplaces, was very rewarding. I remain optimistic about the incorporation of Micro Focus into OpenText. It seems like a good match, without too much overlap, even from the practitioner viewpoint.