Legacy applications get their names from the fact that they’ve been written many years and even decades ago. Over time, they’ve grown to a very respectable size of many millions lines of source code in order to be able to deal with all cases and situations found in real business life.
From an intellectual property standpoint, they represent a key asset : they encapsulate all the operational business expertise of the company and drive all internal (and even external) processes to manage orders and deliver products and services. They were developed via hundreds of men-years of software development. The corresponding investment amounts to tens / hundereds of millions of euros / dollars.
According to current bad economy, it not possible for most corporations to rewrite those big applications from scratch : re-investing hundreds or even thousands of men.years in such huge developments is currently impossible as they would represent again tens of millions of euros / dollars to be reinvested.
So, the best compromise is to protect the investments by keeping the functionality of the application as-is but switching the technological platforms to current standards through an iso-functional transcoding that keeps logical application structure and functions, algorithms unchanged but transcode their programming to new technologies : mostly Java and web technologies.
The switch to Java is important for programmers : it brings them the integral power of object-oriented development.
Also, it gives access to the very rich tooling (refactoring, quality assurance, testing, interactive debugging, etc.) provided by Java as a programming platform. For example, an IDE like Eclipse represents a quantum leap in productivity for mainframe programmers used to 3270 character-oriented tools. This switch is also often the opportunity of deeper and cleaner integration via some “direct linking” in Java with more recent front-end applications developed in Java after the legacy Cobol application.
Eranea’s technology is also able to generate automatically a web service interface (soap or rest) for each mainframe program, service module, transaction or batch program. This front-end will of course call the Java version of the program.
This additional openness allows legacy code and data to become accessible to other system : very often will it be leveraged by our customer to reuse a service supplied by legacy Cobol code (transcoded to Java) in a new BPMS or SOA being deployed.
Finally, Java also brings portability : “write once, run anywhere” is the famous Java motto.Eranea already made projects where target systems are linux, z/Linux, AIX, Solaris, MS-Windows, etc.
In each project, the same technology producing the same Java code was used. So, for architects, it means additional flexibility : they can choose an operating system for production systems and change tomorrow if a most suitable choice emerge.
Additionally, this portability also brings openness and flexibility: most of our customers use Linux as production platform but prefer developing on MS-Windows to respect their corporate workplace standards. It is a no-brainer from Eranea’s perspective : Java has been selected to offer this flexibility and be able to operate on various operating systems.
But, the “tip of the iceberg” after the transcoding is clearly the new interface based on a web browser. It can of course be any of them : Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, etc.
First of all, without any additional effort, the application, previously limited to “green screens” or PC emulator is now also accessible on any device hosting a brower : tablets, smartphones, TV sets, etc. Those new devices allow new usages : teleworkers, mobile workers, road warriors all get access to the services that were before limited to use by clerks at their desks.
Switching from a passive and character-oriented user interface like a terminal emulator to a feature-rich , graphical and interactive interface like a browser offers unlimited opportunities to improve the attractiveness and productivity of the application.
The first steps usually done by our customers is to replace the 3270-like CSS stylesheet that we use while migrating to minimize disturbance for end users and that provide exact same look and feel as mainframe. Customer will replace this “iso-stylesheet” by a more colorful one getting the migrated application closer to the corporate look-and-feel of other applications of the intranet. Then, they will also replace the “green screen” look-and-feel (textboxes, limited colors, etc.) of their screen definitions by usual “sexy” web widgets like radio button, date pickers, selectors, tooltips, , etc.
Eranea can help here by detecting automatically specific kinds of fields like dates, times, multiple choice selectors and replace the original textbox by the appropriate widget. Our tools allow our customers to provide quickly visible improvements to their end-users after the end of the transformation.
Really, the leverage of the web interface is essential : the entire migration is done to minimize disturbance for end users. But, when it is finished, our recommendation is to bring lots of improvements (pictures, graphics, animations, etc.) to the interface : they should rather be small in size in each new version to avoid the necessity of training but occur at fast pace to exhibit the value added by the technological transformation just achieved.
So, transcoding your Cobol /3270 application to Cobol is a real rejuvenation : it acquires potential for evolution just limited by your imagination !