Software // Information Management
Commentary
1/16/2009
05:52 PM
Roger Smith
Roger Smith
Commentary
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Will 'Cobol In The Cloud' Lead To Unplugging Your Mainframe?

As part of the company's recently launched Enterprise Cloud Services, Micro Focus announced yesterday that it will enable enterprise Cobol apps to run on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) -- just a month after the company announced support for Microsoft's Azure Platform.

As part of the company's recently launched Enterprise Cloud Services, Micro Focus announced yesterday that it will enable enterprise Cobol apps to run on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) -- just a month after the company announced support for Microsoft's Azure Platform."We are 100% committed to being cloud agnostic and supporting customers who want to take advantage of Amazon EC2 to cut substantial costs in the coming year," said Mark Haynie, CTO for Application Modernization at Micro Focus. "To innovate in today's tough economic climate, enterprises must embrace flexibility and cost-effective modernization strategies. We will be alongside every customer as they navigate the cloud with tighter IT budgets and an increased focus on fast results."

Haynie told InformationWeek that taking Cobol apps to the cloud offers several benefits to enterprise business users, including the ability to apply the pay-as-you-use model traditionally associated with utility gas and electric power consumption to IT services (including both hardware and the business applications). This, in turn, allows CIOs and CFOs to better control their costs through hardware and software leasing arrangements -- as well as the capability of translating CapEx costs common in data centers today into OpEx costs that look better on a balance sheet. (CapEx are the costs associated with the acquisition of capital equipment such as servers, disk storage, and the associated costs of buildings, power, and cooling to operate them, while OpEx are ongoing costs for running a product, business, or system.)

Micro Focus also is extending Enterprise Cloud Services across its ISV network, allowing ISVs to leverage the cloud as a new sales channel, Haynie said. Using the company's development tools, ISVs can modernize the intellectual property in their Cobol applications by building Web 2.0 and software-as-a-service (SaaS) interfaces around them, which should allow them to hook into several growing trends on the Web, such as subscription, transaction, or even ad-based revenue models. Micro Focus' Enterprise Cloud Services even provides registration and payment systems for use by ISVs so they can charge their customers on a subscription basis.

Julian Dobbins, who handles analyst relations for Micro Focus, said the company hasn't yet announced pricing for the Enterprise Cloud Services product. "We're still working with our early adopters on this, and are looking forward to making an announcement at our Micro Focus World conference in Dallas in May."

He reiterated the business value of modernizing crucial mainframe applications to run on standardized platforms worldwide, citing the example of British retailer Tesco, which has aggressive plans for global growth that include penetration of the U.S. market beginning this year. Tesco has been working with Micro Focus to implement a "think globally and act locally" strategy, where an instance of a crucial Continuous Replenishment application (a supply chain system developed by the Tesco IT department in the United Kingdom) was migrated and replicated so it could be deployed to existing servers in specific international data centers. Dobbins said that Micro Focus' Enterprise Cloud Services represented an extension and abstraction of this migration and replication strategy "since the cloud is just another deployment platform for us."

Haynie declared Micro Focus is committed to being cloud agnostic, as well as to supporting customers who want to get their core, mission-critical applications up and running in Amazon's American and European "availability zones." He said the Microsoft Azure cloud, which is in beta, should allow deployments to 24 data centers worldwide. He also said Micro Focus planned to expand the basic guarantee of service uptime in Amazon EC2's service-level agreement from 99.5% to 99.999% ("5 nines") by running duplicate EC2 instances on Micro Focus' cluster server systems. Enterprise Cloud Services will use an enterprise's existing encryption keys, too, to secure mission-critical data while in motion (over the network) or while stored on persistent cloud storage.

According to Gartner, mainframes running Cobol apps comprise 60% to 80% of all business applications worldwide (including as much as 90% of all financial transactions), which adds up to billions of lines of Cobol code directly tied to enterprise systems and trillions of dollars of IT investment.

All that IT investment is unlikely to go up in smoke, but it may just end up in the cloud.

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