Code Modernization: Focus on COBOL

Enormous amounts of COBOL code have been created and relied upon for decades. It really is the bedrock of early computing. But now, ancient COBOL systems are challenged because the original assumptions under which the code was written are no longer valid. COBOL was designed as a robust business language to handle batch oriented database operations in an ACID environment. Today, these vital systems, including financial, security, transportation, and healthcare solutions continue to run. But access is changed, processing requirements have changed, and the availability of coders to understand, maintain, and augment the systems diminishes year-by-year.

Transformation and modernization for COBOL systems can present extraordinary problems due to age of the systems, differences between code variants, and the huge number of lines of code that may be involved in these vast and long maintained systems. Transformation of COBOL requires a general approach that leads to effective conversion with the possibility of meeting unknown requirements in the future.

TSRI has a long history a long and successful history in transforming COBOL code into modern languages such as C++, C# and Java. Experience with code modernization is of the utmost importance since there are substantial structural changes required due to differences between languages. Despite these differences a programmatic approach can provide a rapid and robust result. TSRI uses its JANUS Studio® toolset to create identical performance in delivered code. We review potential changes and boost customer confidence through a Transformation Blueprint that provides a visual comparison of incoming code and the transformed result. Once the base issues have been sorted out the transformation process is largely automatic and unbelievably quick. The TSRI toolset can transform about 2 million lines of COBOL to Java, C# or C++ in about an hour. There are efficiency gains as well. After re-factoring, an essential part of the transformation process, code reductions may be as much as 30 to 44 percent in the delivered product.

While TSRI has a wide experience of over 130 critical code modernization projects, specific COBOL transformations are found in Department of Defense work as well as work for companies such as Boeing and Raytheon with large COBOL systems needing a refit to the present age. One example is the US Air Force Weapon System Cost Retrieval System (WSCRS) which was written in COBOL and run on and Amdahl platform with a flat file database. The system required modernization and TSRI transformed 100% of the COBOL into C++, partitioning the system into business logic and database tiers to allow for an eventual database upgrade. The original flat file database was preserved but a data manipulation tier was automatically introduced to provide independent data manipulation, allowing for eventual upgrade to a relational system. TSRI's toolset automatically generated 100% of the C++ code using of the original COBOL as a template.

Another COBOL transformation was of the National Endowment for the Arts administrative systems. The National Endowment had several unique 27-year-old legacy financial systems written in Wang VS COBOL and designed to run on the Wang VS operating system with a Wang DMS database. These were high quality systems that provided administrative support, grant application, financial management, and congressional reporting for the NEA in managing nearly $200 million in federal money.

The NEA system consisted of three major subsystems and made extensive use of Wang VS OS subroutines. TSRI provided modernization as well as system integration. Transformation required a seamless transition into a modern platform -independent C++ system using a Microsoft SQL server. Moreover, the NEA demanded that all system enhancements and modernizations meet congressional reporting mandates. Prior to deployment, the Windows C++ system was tested in parallel with the legacy Wang system through standard fiscal year processing cycles.

Another system was the Department of Defense Activity Address Directory (DOD AAD) which TSRI transformed in conjunction with work by STG Inc. The DOD AAD system ran on HP-UX system using a combination of VT100 escape sequences for direct screen and keyboard I/O, supported by platform specific extensions to standard COBOL. The COBOL source contained embedded SQL screen displays that were tightly interleaved with the business logic.

TSRI resolved issues in the DOD AAD project in code transformation, refactoring, data manipulation, and within the Graphic User Interface itself. The transformation of DOD AAD code from COBOL into C++ was accomplished with 100 percent automation. All HP UX SQL calls were transformed into ODBC compatible SQL and into an ODBC manipulation layer. This provided the application with database independence and separated database access from business logic. The partitioning was achieved through automatic refactoring to satisfy stringent DTIC architectural requirements.

TSRI is able to transform and modernize a multitude of languages. In the COBOL sector this includes Unisys, Wang, IBM, Nonstop, MicroFocus and other types of COBOL-based language as well as mainframe JCL, Assembly, EasyTrieve and others supporting code. TSRI also offers a platinum warranty for COBOL transformation that the company will fix for free any errors that are specific to transformation and not latent defects in the original source code. This is important in driving customer confidence in the transformation process.

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