Two legacy systems migration companies are joining together to coax mainframe users into running their COBOL applications within Java on Unix, Linux and Windows servers.
Veryant and Clerity Solutions Inc. announced their joint venture earlier this year but plan to have a beta product ready next month that combines Veryant's conversion of COBOL applications into Java with Clerity's services and software to help mainframers get their CICS apps off big iron.
Previously focusing on the European market -- and Italy in particular -- Veryant is now trying to establish itself in the U.S. It has five customers here to go along with about 40 in Italy, none of which, however, are mainframers. Perhaps it's a surprise, but there are many COBOL applications out there that run on Unix, Linux and Windows. In many cases, they once ran on a mainframe but were ported off.
"There absolutely are," said Cameron Jenkins, executive VP at Clerity. "There are thousands and thousands. Probably hundreds of thousands, with a lot in financial services and retail.'
Industry analysts such as Gartner Inc. and vendors like IBM and Micro Focus have estimated that up to 80% of the world's business is run on COBOL, with the percentage being even higher for financial applications. So investment in them is high, even if knowledge of COBOL is low among newcomers to IT departments today. Because of that, it's crucial for some companies that they modernize their COBOL apps so the IT staff can handle them.
Meanwhile, Clerity focuses on taking CICS applications – the mainframe's online transaction processing (OLTP) engine – to Unix and Linux. Possibly their biggest case was the New York Stock Exchange, which migrated off the mainframe last year and this year onto AIX and Red Hat servers. CICS applications can be written in numerous programming languages, one of which is COBOL (others include C and Assembly). Veryant previously had no experience with CICS.
"We're looking to integrate with the Clerity Unikix product, which supports the CICS syntax," said Dovid Lubin, VP of technical operations at Veryant.
The Veryant/Clerity connection
The impetus for Veryant and Clerity to collaborate came about when Micro Focus, the largest player in COBOL application modernization, snatched up a smaller rival last year called Acucorp. Clerity had worked with Micro Focus and Acucorp before, teaming up to help users migrate off the mainframe. But with the purchase, Clerity was looking to give its users more migration options. Veryant and its Java-based approach worked out well.
"We can now facilitate mainframe migrations via COBOL that gives people a pathway to the Java technology," Jenkins said. "A lot of clients are interested in it. A lot don't know why. They just know that they want to have Java."
One of Veryant's U.S. customers, an enterprise resource planning software company based in Nashville called Softwrx, came to the Veryant software they wanted to use Java without having to let go of COBOL.
Softwrx's COBOL applications are on Linux. John Jackson, the company's president, said Veryant's isCOBOL software has been much better than the software he used previously from Acucorp.
"I love COBOL, it's my favorite language," he said. "I've been doing it since the age of 16. And I love being able to have that portability, that flexibility to take it to the GUI interface."
He said the look and feel of the software is more "aesthetic" and "appeared to work without a lot of gyration" compared with Acucorp. He also said that other tools that move legacy systems into a GUI environment don't use the servers' processors as efficiently. He explains:
"If I'm at a main menu on my application, and I call a submenu, it's not really linked to that thread," he said about other products. "It has created a new thread. I've created a different thread instead of it all being tied back to the same thread."
Softwrx plans to have the Veryant software fully deployed in the next month and a half.