Changing COBOL to Java line through line may appear to be an easy strategy to mainframe modernization, however enterprises that cross that path will be unable to completely get away COBOL’s clutches, professionals say.
COBOL remains to be a mainframe staple greater than six many years after its inception, however COBOL programming abilities are briefly provide. Mainframe modernization and shifting apps to the cloud can provide enterprises get right of entry to to a bigger pool of device builders versed in more moderen languages. However sooner than cloud migration can occur, COBOL in most cases will have to be rewritten in a contemporary language comparable to Java.
Such conversions are difficult on account of the device developer scarcity — and as the ensuing Java will retain some COBOL options, because of this enterprises won’t ever be capable to absolutely sever their ties to COBOL, stated Jason Bloomberg, founder and president at analyst company Intellyx.
COBOL-to-Java conversions lead to JOBOL — a portmanteau that describes Java code with COBOL syntax. Whilst JOBOL is technically legitimate Java code, it leaves the unique device structure in position and preserves COBOL semantics, requiring builders to regard the Java as regardless that it have been COBOL, Bloomberg stated.
“The issue, due to this fact, is partially because of the developer ability set, however even probably the most senior builders would have a difficult time with line-by-line transformed COBOL,” he stated.
The JOBOL conversion downside
Although an organization has skilled builders on board, COBOL and Java’s incompatible atmosphere and translation hurdles make for difficult translations, stated Nick Twyman, senior director of software engineering at Truss, a device building corporate.
As an example, when builders do a like-for-like translation between COBOL knowledge varieties and kinds in Java, they run into semantic variations in how they behave in edge instances comparable to integer overflow, he stated. Overflow occurs when builders attempt to retailer values which are out of doors the variety of the variable’s allowed worth.
Tom Taulli, device developer and creator of Trendy Mainframe Building: COBOL, Databases, and Subsequent-Technology Approaches, concurs that the 2 languages are difficult to translate.
“It is not unusual for the legacy code to have unorthodox approaches, comparable to with GO TO statements,” he stated, regarding the COBOL remark this is an unused however reserved key phrase in Java — because of this it cannot be used as an identifier for any program components.
David GarthePresident, Gravyware
In step with Twyman, COBOL-to-Java idiosyncrasies produce “stilted” Java code that does not put across its intent to trendy programmers. The result’s opaque code this is onerous to care for.
Some other downside builders come upon is a loss of complete documentation of an software’s capability, stated David Garthe, president of affiliate marketing online company Gravyware. An software may well be previous and up to now changed through many builders, with orphaned capability inflicting code bloat, he defined.
“I have discovered that almost all corporations will know which spaces they use probably the most, however can not say for sure the entire purposes and whether or not they are going to be wanted,” Garthe stated. “So sooner than those initiatives even start, maximum of them are in hassle since builders could also be operating on code spaces that can by no means be utilized by an finish consumer.”
Dearth of COBOL abilities worsens conversion woes
In a super international, corporations may just rent builders who’re skilled in each COBOL and Java programming, however this is tricky, partly as a result of there are few such folks available on the market, Bloomberg stated.
In step with Taulli, it is difficult to search out COBOL programmers as a result of lots of them are retiring. “This has put enterprises in a tricky bind — and that is spurring extra modernization efforts,” he stated.
Compounding the issue is that even a number of the few builders who’ve COBOL abilities, the quantity prepared to paintings in COBOL could also be restricted, so an undertaking would most probably want a big funds to search out best skill prepared to do the paintings, stated Tyler Martin, vp of skill provide at Toptal, a device building outsourcing company.
Even if huge salaries are introduced, builders nonetheless may no longer leap on the trap of upper pay.
“Many builders that know [COBOL] have no longer labored with it for years and like not to paintings with it sooner or later,” Martin stated. “What we incessantly listen from builders is that rising their very own abilities and dealing on state of the art initiatives are a more potent incentive than monetary repayment.”
Long term for COBOL conversion seems to be bleak
Garthe, who has in depth revel in with on-premises to cloud migrations, hasn’t ever been in a position to transform a legacy app to a more moderen language line through line.
“Maximum languages do not in reality paintings that approach, however we have now surely attempted however,” he stated.
Twyman has confronted identical difficulties.
“We now have no longer had a lot good fortune with a naive line-for-line strategy to changing COBOL code, who prefer a rewriting, which captures the unique intent and behaviour in additional idiomatic code,” he stated.
At best possible, Twyman stated, builders may just use line-by-line translations as a coarse start line to pick out code from, however it’s no exchange for figuring out and modeling the underlying trade processes and intent in the back of the unique code.
Intellyx’s Bloomberg cautions that although an undertaking is a success at changing COBOL to Java, the ensuing JOBOL implies that enterprises will have to proceed to coach builders on COBOL.
“But when you will require ongoing COBOL abilities, why no longer simply keep at the mainframe?” he stated.