Who still uses COBOL?
One source lists more than 25,300 companies as still using COBOL, about 0.8% market share. Another estimates that 200 billion lines of COBOL code are still active, and that 90% of Fortune 500 companies, most notably big finance, insurance companies, airlines and retail point-of-sale systems rely on COBOL.
A 2017 Reuters study lists 43% of banking systems still use COBOL, while COBOL applications still power more than 65% of enterprise software and 70% of business transaction processing, including 95% of ATM swipes. One live government system is 60 years old.
Created for transaction processing, COBOL applications help run payroll programs, manage government pension funds, operate banking systems, manage hotel bookings, book airline tickets, and much more. Estimates largely agree COBOL systems support more than $3 trillion in daily commerce.
COBOL is a domain-specific, or specialist, language. In this case, the specialism is business programming. It is this specificity, portability, and the relatable syntax that has helped keep the COBOL story going.
Why do enterprises still use COBOL?
COBOL persists for many equally valid reasons. One is that nothing is as flexible or reliable as COBOL. Banks, for example, need complete accuracy. COBOL outperforms Java in that respect. Another is that many of biggest enterprises in the world use core applications written in COBOL, and intervention is too risky, or expensive. COBOL’s enduring usefulness in a constantly changing digital world provide the combination of continued innovation and reliability which are IT necessities.
As recently as 2012, the IT group at the Bank of New York Mellon had to tend to 112,500 different COBOL programs – 343 million lines of code.
We put a survey at the heart of COBOL at 60. We asked pollsters Vanson Bourne to assess current COBOL use, its strategic importance for business, and the likely future of the world’s most enduring programming language. You can download the full results of the survey, or view a survey summary doc this way and watch a recorded webinar where we explore, and celebrate, the COBOL’s continued relevance, use cases and prevalence.
In 2008, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia announced a $580 million AU plan to replace its core banking platform. The job took more than five years, cost more than $1 billion AU ($749.million US). The third reason is that integrated development environments (IDEs) the software development tools where developers write, build, test, and debug mainframe programs. These solutions, such as Visual COBOL, can modernize COBOL applications to support future innovation, making replacement unnecessary.
Is COBOL still relevant?
Micro Focus, IBM, Fujitsu and GnuCOBOL are the leading vendors of COBOL compilers. While a lack of skilled COBOL programmers is widely touted as an issue, there are solutions, including Visual COBOL Personal Edition (PE).
Visual COBOL PE integrates with Microsoft Visual Studio and Micro Focus Visual COBOL for Eclipse to enable COBOL application development on the most popular integrated development environments.
This portability, the means to move core applications and systems from where they are to the platforms that will best support future innovation, that form a key plank of many digital transformation strategies.
For example, COBOL applications’ portability make them a natural fit for virtual and cloud deployment, most notably off-site hosted infrastructure service providers, including Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services.
Other mainframe modernization plays will be different. Mainframe to cloud is just one option; physical to virtual is another. Others may want to embrace open source by taking their UNIX operating system to Linux. The key is to look where the market is going; new platforms such as Docker, automation through Kubernetes; maybe .NET, JVM, Windows, zLinux, AWS, Azure, or GCP is where you want to be.
The point is COBOL, enabled by Micro Focus tools, is not an anchor holding you back, it is the launchpad for future innovation.
These tools bridge the gap between established technologies that have served the enterprise well, and innovation to support the business going forward. Using Visual COBOL, enterprises can harness the flexibility of the cloud, and improve responsiveness to future demand, while enabling efficient infrastructure management.