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11/9/2007
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IBM Rejuvenates Legacy Systems With Rational Tools

IBM Rational Developer for System z v7.1, IBM Rational Business Developer Extension v7.0, and IBM Rational Transformation Workbench v3.1 all target Cobol developers.

For years it's been known that Cobol developers were hard to retrain as object-oriented C++ or Java style programmers. IBM is trying to make it easier for them to transition into modern times, but it's had to introduce a new language to enable them to do so.

IBM Rational Developer for System z v7.1, IBM Rational Business Developer Extension v7.0, and IBM Rational Transformation Workbench v3.1 are a set of recently announced tools for modernizing Cobol applications and the mainframe environment

The Transformation Workbench is "a Cobol parser that looks for components" in old spaghetti code Cobol applications that have been changed many times over many years. By being able to identify a business function buried in the application, the workbench makes it easier to reorganize a legacy application into services.

Once identified, the code in a Cobol application can be worked on with Rational Developer for System z to be converted into a service component, said David Locke, director of Rational offerings marketing in an interview. The tool hides the complexity of middleware and enables connections to legacy data sources.

The Business Developer Extension offers a new language, Enterprise Generation Language or EGL, which Locke said could be learned in place of C, Cobol or IBM's aging PL/1 third generation languages. EGL is an object-oriented language, with some object-oriented complexities, such as garbage collection, being performed in background without requiring the developer to know how to do it himself. Once an application is built in EGL, developers can decide whether they want it compiled as a Java or a Cobol application, says Locke.

The mainframe modernization tools are being offered as part of IBM's $100 million commitment made in 2006 to simplify the mainframe environment. The tools "allow the Cobol developer to be more successful in modern times" without forcing him to relearn his programming habits in order to produce object-oriented code, Locke says.

"Most Cobol developers still work in a text editor mode. There's no syntax checking or debugging. Writing in Cobol and writing in Java is like night and day. It's such a different way to think," he says.

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