IBM has overhauled how the 50-year-old programming language COBOL runs on its System z mainframes to give COBOL apps a web-friendly facelift. Despite COBOL’s age IBM estimates that more than 200 billion lines of COBOL code are still being used across industries such as banking, insurance, and retail.
IBM is attempting to streamline development of COBOL apps for its System z mainframes with the latest release of IBM Enterprise COBOL for z/OS, its COBOL compiler for z/OS. COBOL apps using the compiler should see improved performance, with IBM claiming that in testing some applications’ performance increased by 10 to 20 percent.
The compiler should also allow COBOL software to more easily swap information with websites and apps thanks to changes in the parsing of XML, the markup language commonly used to share information over the web. The new compiler allows parsing workloads to be offloaded to specialty engines. Interoperability with Java 7 should also make it easier to integrate COBOL software with new web apps.
Improvements to UTF-8 Unicode handling will make language support easier and increased compiler limits will allow larger data items and groups of data to be handled, as well as improving application exploitation of system resources. Support for unbounded tables and groups has also been added to improve usability in defining variable length tables and groups.
A new level of z/OS System Management Facilities tracking should also reduce the administrative burden for users who implement sub-capacity tracking.IBM Enterprise COBOL for z/OS v5.1 compiler works with the latest versions of IBM Customer Information Control System (CICS), Information Management System (IMS) and DB2 software. It is expected to be released in June. More information about v5.1 is available here.
In spite of COBOL’s continued use by the enterprise, a recent survey of academics found the majority of universities do not teach the programming language on their curriculum.