Fujitsu Building COBOL Compiler for Intel IA-64

Moving database applications from a mainframe to a server can mean the difference between performing a two-hour transaction or an 18-hour marathon when it comes time to back up. The conflict over which to choose is often between the time constraints of the server and the cost constraints of supporting a big mainframe machine.

Intel Corp. hopes to eliminate this headache when it releases its IA-64 processor, code named Merced, next year. With an expected redesigned architecture and a promise of vast improvement in processing speed, Intel expects IT shops will be able to move some database operations to a server, and a Windows NT server to boot.

Behind the scenes, however, are the companies that develop compilers so chips, such as Merced, can speak with the applications designed for them. That task has never been as hard as it is now. One of Intel's strategic moves to improve its processor's speed was to put some of the responsibilities on these vendors' shoulders. One example is parallel processing, or when a chip processes multiple instructions simultaneously. That function is now being placed in the domain of compiler developers.

One compiler developer, Fujitsu Ltd. (, announced it was working with Intel to develop a COBOL compiler. Fujitsu's COBOL compiler for IA-64 will be available on the Microsoft Win64 and Sun Solaris for Merced operating systems.

By developing the compiler, Fujitsu can ensure that its development environment will offer an easy transition for software developers using Fujitsu's toolset on open platforms. The company will work closely with Intel so ISVs and corporate developers have access to the COBOL development environment for early application development for Merced.

Fujitsu will use its existing model of selling the compiler once to developers, who can then use it free of licensing. The company has been making compilers since 1965 and has similar offerings for Fortran and C.

As a language, COBOL has been a great investment for Fujitsu, which also sells PowerCOBOL and has started shipping Fujitsu COBOL 4.2 for Windows.

There are extensive enhancements to PowerCOBOL, a GUI form painter that codes events and methods in COBOL. There is also increased compatibility with the COBOL development product from Merant Micro Focus ( Fujitsu COBOL allows developers to take Merant Micro Focus COBOL and convert it to Fujitsu COBOL.

The language has become popular of late due to the increasing need of developers to fix Y2K bugs. Ron Langer, senior sales technical support manager at Fujitsu, says the money companies have spent on COBOL applications provide a big incentive to keep them around. In fact, Langer explains, Y2K strengthens that reasoning. Why on earth would a company change its COBOL applications to another language after all the money it spent upgrading it for Y2K?

Another benefit of continuing to use COBOL applications is there portability to other platforms. Langer says COBOL developers who follow the rules should have no problems porting to IA-64. He says it should just be a matter of recompiling and executing. Basically, do not try redefining and manipulating systems pointers such as "Usage Index" and "Usage Object Reference" items. Stick to the defined syntax for working with these items and there should be no problems, Langer says.

Intel's Merced chip is still scheduled for release in the second half of 2000. The compiler Fujitsu is developing will come out before so ISVs can begin to develop immediately.