COBOL for Mainframe Linux

Bringing a classic computer language to a hot new platform, Micro Focus International Ltd. announced its plans to port its COBOL development products to mainframe Linux distributions. Micro Focus expects to have the first version of Server Express for Linux available by September.

"We're actually porting for that environment [Linux] for the first time," says Irving Abraham, Unix product manager at Micro Focus. While Micro Focus has made COBOL products for over 20 years, this is its first stab at developing a Linux product for any hardware platform.

Abraham says Micro Focus' COBOL products take advantage of the threading capabilities of enterprise operating systems. The limited threading functionality of Linux has been an obstacle in bringing products to Linux, but IBM's implementation of Linux on the mainframe has introduced threading features unavailable in most Linux flavors.

When released, Server Express will offer Linux users an IDE, a compiler, a debugger and data-handling tools integrated into the product. Server Express includes tools for integrating COBOL applications into CICS, ODBC and other infrastructure components. Other mainframe development products from Micro Focus allow developers to write code on a PC, then upload it to the mainframe. With Server Express, developers will code directly on Linux.

Server Express already provides COBOL tools for other enterprise-class versions of Unix, including Tru64, HP-UX, Solaris 7.8 and AIX 5L. Micro Focus is currently working on its first version for Intel machines—for HP-UX on Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip. Hewlett-Packard Co. is phasing out its PA-RISC processor on its Unix servers in favor of 64-bit Intel chips.

Abraham says Linux has the potential to become a force in enterprise computing if it can shake its hacker roots. "It needs the backing of someone like IBM or Micro Focus," he says. "The standard business community doesn't like to tinker—they just want it to work."

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