Micro Focus Announces COBOL for Mainframe Linux

Classic computer language and hot new platform

Bringing a classic computer language to a hot new platform, Micro Focus International Ltd. announced its plans to port its COBOL development product to mainframe Linux distributions.

The announcement came Tuesday at IBM Corp.’s PartnerWorld conference in San Francisco. Micro Focus expects to have the first version of Server Express for Linux available by September of this year.

“We’re actuallyporting for that environment [Linux] for the first time,” says Irving Abraham,Unix product manager at Micro Focus. While Micro Focus has made COBOL productsfor over twenty years, this is its first stab at developing a Linux product forany hardware platform.

Abraham says MicroFocus’ COBOL products take advantage of the threading capabilities ofenterprise operating systems, and the limited threading functionality of Linuxhas been an obstacle in bringing products to Linux. IBM’s implementation ofLinux on the mainframe has introduced threading features unavailable in mostLinux flavors.

When released, Server Express will offer Linux users an IDE, a compiler, debugger, and data-handling tools integrated into the product.Server Express includes tools for integrating COBOL apps into CICS, ODBC and other components of the infrastructure. While Micro Focus’ mainframe development products allow the developer to code on a PC, then upload to the mainframe, developers will code directly on Linux with Server Express.

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

Abraham says MicroFocus is considering taking the product to Linux on other hardware platforms,but “Threading is the biggest barrier,” he says.

Server Express isnot the first COBOL compiler for Linux. The TinyCOBOL and CobolGCC open-sourceprojects have worked to bring COBOL to Linux, but are not consideredenterprise-class compilers today.

Abraham says Linuxhas the potential to become a force in enterprise computing if it can shake itshacker roots. “It needs the backing of someone like IBM or Micro Focus,” hesays, “The standard business community doesn’t like to tinker – they just wantit to work.”

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.