Welcome back Micro Focus

I'm personally delighted to welcome Micro Focus back into the market.

Micro Focus was one of the top COBOL development tool vendors of the 1980s and 1990's (and indeed a development tool that I used) before its acquisition a few years back by Merant. Last week Micro Focus became an independent company again—at a time when less than a handful of vendors are addressing the needs of the COBOL development community.

While at least 90% of technology interest, marketing, and hype is focused on the Frothy, so-called 'new' stuff—there are tens of thousands of developers who are still creating new code, and building new solutions on 'legacy' platforms, mostly written in COBOL.

Within large organizations there is still plenty of new COBOL application development s still being written. And the developers cutting this code are crying out for solid tools to help them write reusable and flexible code.

The apparent Micro Focus strategy reminds one of the smart companies that buy up old coal mines, and know that newer techniques, and better tools will enable them to make a killing from a mine that had once ceased to be profitable. The fact that no-one else thinks that a market isn't hot doesn't necessarily mean that one or two smart vendors won't be able to make a fortune in it.

The chance of success for Micro Focus hinges on changing the definition of 'legacy COBOL' from something to be resented and avoided into something to be cherished and re-used. If Micro Focus can deliver on its plans to offer tools that help developers 'renovate' existing COBOL code—opening it up to the wider world of e-commerce for example—I believe that the venture will be a surefire success.

And there'll be a bunch of COBOL developers out there who feel a good deal hipper too as they refresh and renew all that 'cherished code.'

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About the Author

Gary Barnett is IT research director at Ovum Ltd., a United Kingdom-based consulting firm.