COBOL AT 60: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

3

Digital Disruption

1

Vanson Bourne, jabtechus.com/hello-world/

The technical innovators’ work surrounds
us. They are building API and microservice
capabilities, developing new language
choices like Python, R, Ruby and JavaScript.
Entrepreneurs are trialing blockchain, digital
currencies and DLT for nances. New
use cases are being tested using articial
intelligence (AI) and robots to automate
everything. But new doesn’t mean progress
for all. Organizations are facing unprecedented
competitive pressure, and the evidence is there.
Only 12% of the Fortune 500 from this decade
had survived on that list since the 1950s. Adapt
or perish. Back to Darwin. It really is as simple
as that.

Like ripples in a pond, disruptive change
radiates out, affecting everything. IT systems
are not immune, but some, regardless of
circumstance, must not fail. They are too
important, strategically or nancially, to be
swapped out, cut loose and replaced by
something else. The portents are not good.
Based on a 2014 survey of 3,300 IT decision
makers from mid-size to enterprise-size
businesses in 24 countries for EMC, Vanson
Bourne found that data loss and downtime
cost enterprises more than $1.7 trillion in the
last 12months.1

Such business-critical systems are often
written using business-centric, more
established technologies. The platforms
might be mainframes or other robust servers,
whether Linux, UNIX, Windows or the cloud.
The data layer either reliable, rapid at-le
structures like VSAM or industrial strength
databases like Db2. Transaction monitors?
CICS, IMS. The application language? Never
really any debate. COBOL: reliable, ubiquitous,
trusted, oft-misunderstood, yet fantastically
successful. And in 2019, with 85% of all
applications regarded as “strategic,” COBOL
quietly goes about its business of adding to 60
years of active service within the IT industry.

So while the waves of change threaten to
swamp some, core business systems written
in COBOL continue to provide the functionality
many organizations rely on. But what about
what’s next? Ticking over isn’t moving
forward. And as we’ve established, risk-averse
enterprises view their applications as too
important to waste and too valuable to fail.
The good news is that the bedrock can also be
a springboard. These systems are extremely
well-placed to launch low-risk innovation. So
pragmatic IT leaders are delivering new user
experiences, business facilities and competitive
differentiation by innovating, enhancing and

88

%

FIRMS IN THE 1955 FORTUNE 500

THAT ARE GONE (AS OF 2014)

—American Enterprise Institute

$

1.7

TRILLION

COST OF DATA LOSS AND DOWNTIME

TO ENTERPRISES IN THE LAST

12MONTHS

—Vanson Bourne