COBOL gets hauled into 21st century

It’s well known in the IT industry that while all the cool kids might be using Java, .NET, PHP and JavaScript, the COBOL language still powers all the workhorse applications that keep banks, hospitals, phone networks and more critical applications running day in, day out. In fact, The Reg claims 200 billion lines of COBOL are still in production use, with 5 billion added each year.

But these applications aren’t maintaining themselves, and COBOL developers are becoming fewer and farther between. As such, corporations are looking to switch developers over from the newer languges to maintain their COBOL projects; unfortunately COBOL tools are stuck in the last decade.

A new set of plugins by Micro Focus aims to change that. Compatible with either Visual Studio 2010 or Eclipse, the tools provide such features as IntelliSense code auto-completion, breakpoints and watchpoints, and remote debugging. While they were there, they added compilation support for COBOL to JVM (the compiler goes straight from COBOL to Java byte code, which will execute on any JVM-capable platform) as well as .NET and Azure platforms through compilation to Microsoft’s Intermediate Language.

While I couldn’t quite stretch to their analogy with the iPhone in the developer video, it looks like an enticing prospect for developers looking to get into COBOL with a little more support from their IDE.

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