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    Why COBOL Programmers/Developers are in Demand in 2024?

    Searching for professional COBOL developers, in the 21st century, might give off this feeling that you’re chasing for something less mainstream, right?

    But here’s an inside story: COBOL programming language, despite being a 90’s brainchild, is very much alive and running – because of its support for business-critical applications.

    Given the abundance of modern programming languages you may wonder, do I stick to COBOL or replace it with a new-age programming language such as Python or Java?

    Your decision rests on your specific business needs.

    Robert Glass, an American software engineer, and writer, identified 3 ways COBOL is excellently suited for business programming rather than general purposes –

    • COBOL AS400 programming stands out in handling diverse data sets, mixing strings, floating-point, integer, and decimal types, required for intricate business programs and databases.
    • COBOL’s true decimal data types guarantee precise financial calculations, prominent for accounting systems
    • IBM COBOL programming efficiently manages extensive external record-structured data, promising flawless business-oriented data management.

    Thus, COBOL is a purpose-built language that excels at transaction processing with a remarkable amount of resiliency.

    Before you decide on anything, here are some interesting facts about COBOL programming language.

    • 27,000+ new global companies adopted iSeries COBOL, with the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy being the top customers – as per 6Sense.
    • There are over 220 billion lines of COBOL programming code and 1.5 billion are written each year, which includes the code that powers 80% of in-person financial transactions. – according to Forbes.
    • Interestingly, COBOL was trending on Twitter, as New Jersey officials recognized their reliance on a 40-year-old computer system, overwhelmed by a surge in unemployment claims due to the coronavirus crisis. The state immediately sought after COBOL programmers to address the challenge, emphasizing the constancy of the 60+ year-old programming language in critical government operations.
    • The top industries leveraging COBOL AS400 are :
    1. 1. Insurance
    2. 2. Consulting
    3. 3. Engineering
    4. 4. Banking and Finance
    5. 5. Transportation System
    6. 6. Software Development

    The matter of fact is, that as long as there are companies and leaders who believe in the legacy system and choose to rely on the robustness these systems bring to business, COBOL programming language and COBOL programmers will stay in demand.

    Next, let’s explore what makes this language special even in the modern business landscape.

    COBOL & COBOL Programmers/Developers are Relevant Today

    To define, COBOL an acronym for Common Business-Oriented Language is an object-oriented, imperative, and procedural computer programming language designed by IBM specifically for business purposes.

    COBOL programming language is mainly used in private and government institutions for administrative functions.

    Also, the language is used in legacy applications like IBM iSeries, for large-scale batch and transaction processing.

    Let Us Take You to the History of COBOL Programming

    CODASYL introduced COBOL to the world in 1959 and it was primarily developed for the US Department of Defence (DoD) to develop a portable programming language solely for data processing.

    There was a rampant adoption of this language which was further standardized in the year 1968.

    The makers of COBOL didn’t stop there.

    Till today, the COBOL programming language has been adjusted 4 times with the latest version named ISO/IEC 1989:2014.

    Interesting, right?

    Even with the introduction of various programming languages, the unique capabilities of this fifty-sixty-year-old language remain unparalleled.

    COBOL programmers are still accountable for processing more than 70% of business transactions worldwide – as per IBM.

    That’s the beauty of this g(old) programming language – AS400 COBOL has endured and continues to thrive because of its remarkable security, reliability, and transactional performance.

    But with time, the popularity of COBOL has decreased, and experienced COBOL developers, who were once in high demand, have also retired.

    Despite Rich History, Why COBOL Is Not Very Popular Today?

    There are multiple reasons behind the downward trend in COBOL’s popularity.

    1. 1. The emergence of modern and more versatile programming languages.
    2. 2. The students wouldn’t take up the programming language and the schools wouldn’t add it to their curriculum.
    3. 3. The COBOL programmers started to migrate to new platforms, and codes were re-written in modern languages- causing talent shortages.

    Does this mean that the COBOL programming language for AS400 systems have come to an end?

    Absolutely, not!

    The above-stated facts signify the new-found emergence of COBOL AS400 for the niche domain of business programming.

    The question here is not COBOL vs modern programming languages but the strategic utilization of COBOL’s capabilities on your IBM applications.

    However, most of the COBOL programmers are still there to maintain existing applications.

    This supports the fact that – although COBOL programing and COBOL developers may not be popular today, it doesn’t mean that they are not available.

    So, if you are looking for COBOL programmers to maintain, upgrade, or enhance your IBM systems, there are new-age AS400 COBOL developers who bring a blend of both traditional expertise and modern perspective to efficiently meet your business programming requirements.

    “But with the talent shortage, where do I find an iSeries COBOL programmer for my AS400 application development and maintenance needs?”, you may ask.

    Looking for skilled COBOL developers?

    You find them at the same places you find other software developers.

    However, for a more reliable approach to finding COBOL AS400 developers, consider partnering with the IT agencies that specifically deal with AS400 IBM technologies.

    They bring you a ready-to-deploy team of talented COBOL programing professionals who possess all the skills you need in a reliable team and resolve IBM-related issues in your business.

    Now as you are aware of the answer – is there a demand for COBOL programmers, let’s look at the key roles of the AS400 application developer.

    What COBOL Programmers/Developers Do?

    An AS400 COBOL developer develops applications and deploys codes on the IBM iSeries AS400 mainframe computers using the COBOL programming language.

    Their role includes –

    • Coding COBOL Programs
    • Ensure The Code Integrity
    • Fine-Tuning Db2 SQL Queries
    • Perform Regular Technical Analysis
    • Testing COBOL Programs and Fixing Errors
    • Maintaining and Designing COBOL Applications

    In many use cases, COBOL programmers take input from XML, JSON, and CSV, compute the data, and store it in a database like DB2.

    They would also do computing for reporting purposes using data from DB2 and send the output in the form of a document file.

    The COBOL inputs stay as an application in databases, just like JAVA applications on its server.

    Like any other developer, the COBOL developers sit happily in front of their Visual Studio and deploy codes on the IBM iSeries AS400 mainframes.

    As a COBOL programmer, if their codebase contains ten, a hundred, or a thousand codes, they will think of re-writing the whole code.

    But not to forget that digging documentation from a couple of decades is not an easy task.

    When in need of a COBOL developer, prioritize candidates who can balance – new-age skills such as Cloud computing, database management, and application integration along with iSeries COBOL programming code instead of seeking candidates with proficiency in COBOL only.

    Are you still thinking about COBOL’s relevance in this advanced technological landscape? Dive into why COBOL continues to lead in this dynamic world of programming.

    Why is iSeries COBOL Relevant Despite Technological Advancements?

    COBOL has been a foundation for business and transaction applications for over a decade now.

    Are you thinking why hasn’t anything better replaced COBOL yet?

    To unwind this, we need to understand how COBOL was brought into operations and how it paddled the era of computing for various industries.

    Created in 1959, COBOL was born in the era of custom-tailored programming languages; the computing era where programming languages were written for a specific purpose.

    For banks, insurance companies, and government institutions it was a deal of high-cost consumption to join the computing age.COBOL developers

    You can imagine the amount required to create a new programming language to suit their personalized systems, huge right?

    This created a demand for a Universal Business Language to run business operations smoother and faster.

    Grace Hopper, the mother of COBOL programming, pioneered the universal business programming language that could function across business systems.

    Since 1997, there hasn’t been a successor that could carry the massive batch processing as sturdily as COBOL.

    Despite that, replacing billions of lines of COBOL and the cost involved is unimaginable.

    Today, businesses worldwide run over 220 billion lines of code written in COBOL. It seems practically exhaustive to replace each of the business programs with a modern language without disturbing the core structure.

    In comparison to today’s modern programming languages – iSeries COBOL programming language is different in various ways and has certain limitations –

    • It doesn’t allow vibrant memory allocation.
    • No programmer wants to write a compiler code in COBOL.
    • It doesn’t allow easy access to low-level features of the OS.
    • The most common forms of the AS400 COBOL programming language can’t use recursion.

    In modern business terms, COBOL is a domain-specific programming language and is limited to business domains and programming.

    Moving on, let’s explore what sets COBOL apart from modern programming languages in the modern business world.

    How is COBOL Different than Other Languages?

    If you’re looking for rational developers for iSeries and enjoy the perks of common languages such as C, C++, Java, etc., then COBOL is a completely different form of programming language.

    It differs from typical general-purpose language and doesn’t perform tasks that are commonly performed in high-level programming languages.

    Knowing that COBOL was introduced before UNIX and C saw the light of day, it isn’t surprising that its foundation is laid differently.

    As the name describes, COBOL (Common Business-oriented Language), was invented for business applications.

    Have a look at the list, which highlights the primary difference between COBOL programming language and modern-day languages:

    • In a single file, COBOL codes can be very long.
    • Data items are defined with a picture statement.
    • Like COBOL, there is no parametrized functioning.
    • Datatypes (int, float, double) are absent in COBOL.
    • OOP was introduced in COBOL in the year 2002 only.
    • All data items or variables are global, as COBOL calls them.
    • COBOL programmers don’t provide splitting code across various channels.
    • Language codes are divided into different divisions (Data, Identification, Environment, and Procedure).

    Stating the uniqueness of the COBOL language from other languages, are you wondering where is AS400 COBOL being used in the 21st century?

    Industries Demanding COBOL Developers/Programmers?

    Top Industries using COBOL

    COBOL is used in various industries. Have a look at some significant industries:

    • Software Development Companies
    • Banks & Financial Institutions
    • Engineering Institutions
    • Transportation System
    • Government Agencies
    • Insurance Companies

    Despite the widespread usage of COBOL, a question persists in the minds of new-age AS400 users and decision-makers, such as yourself – Is it wise to rely on COBOL or move on with trending modern languages?

    Let’s explore.

    Should You Hire a COBOL Programmer in 2024?

    Even though modern programming languages appear to be young developers’ first choice, the world needs more languages to work on.

    Why?

    Because different languages are better at handling different tasks.

    For example – COBOL is good at processing financial data & number crunching, while Java and C are effective for front-end UX.

    The programming languages must fit the purpose, and according to the nature of the problem, there should be a language to use.

    So, why are modern business leaders, such as yourself, looking for COBOL programmers instead of writing applications using modern languages?

    Well, there is no harm in staying updated with the modern-day business languages but when it comes to the security & robustness of applications, COBOL is the safest bet that business leaders prefer to take, even after 60 years.

    Also, giving a thought to replacing COBOL with trending, modern language isn’t harmful but dreadful enough to execute due to certain factors.

    Such as

    • ROI triggers
    • The number of resources taken into consideration
    • On top of all, the training costs to get the things right.

    These select few factors are enough to lose the replacement appeal for any business leader.

    With the increasing number of retired COBOL programmers besides the ones who are on their way to retire, at times it gets difficult to source COBOL talent for your development project.

    Embarking on AS400 COBOL programming comes with its set of challenges. Let’s tap into the hurdles you may encounter.

    Existing Challenges with COBOL

    Among the various challenges around COBOL, here are a select few challenges that are becoming a pain in the neck, for IT leaders such as you, on a serious note.

    One and the most important challenges that COBOL programmers face today is maintaining billions of lines of code. About 220 billion lines of COBOL are in use, today and you know how voluminous and complex it becomes when it’s about maintaining the code without disturbing the business functions.
    COBOL programming language

    The next challenge is from the business perspective. Wherein it’s a challenge for businesses that are operating on a system built upon COBOL, it’s an added advantage for the limited-edition COBOL programmers of new and old times to increase their worth.

    To build a business software upon COBOL or maintain the current one, in itself has become a challenge with the increasing number of retired COBOL programmers and the ones who are about to retire.

    55 is the average age of a COBOL programmer.

    And let’s accept the fact that the number of new programmers who are willing to learn and adapt COBOL is very negligible.

    Additionally, about 70% of universities do not include COBOL in their curriculum anymore.

    After discussing the history, facts, and figures, let’s explore the COBOL AS400 objectives you as the business leader could focus on fulfilling.

    What are the Goals COBOL Users Are Focusing on and You Should Too?

    1. Many tech leaders leveraging COBOL on AS400 systems are aiming to modernize their legacy applications to satisfy modern technological standards.

    2. The IT leaders are integrating newer solutions and technologies such as cloud computing and mobile applications with their COBOL applications.

    3. Considering the modern cyber security landscape, business leaders are implementing advanced security measures such as access control and encryption to protect valuable data.

    4. Considering the aging workforce of COBOL developers, IT leaders, such as yourself, are investing in training new developers in the COBOL programming language, documenting legacy code, and undertaking knowledge transfer initiatives.

    Sounds overwhelming?

    While there may be something comforting about the old COBOL code, a forward-thinking approach is the key to your AS400 system’s future success.

    As a solution, either invest in training your existing staff or partner with an external COBOL AS400 partner or service provider to avail the ready-to-use expertise of a professional COBOL programmer.

    They become an extension of your IT team and expedite the process for you,

    Don’t forget to ponder upon the cost of delay for not taking a decision sooner.

    Final Thoughts about COBOL Programming and COBOL Programmer

    IBM iSeries is a wonderful machine, and along with a modern programming environment, building applications on COBOL is not a waste of time and resources.

    This niche-serving business programming language is not dying and far from dead although the number of its lines of code is reciprocally related to the number of COBOL developers.

    Conclusion

    In a world where IT continues to power the business environment, the longevity of IBM iSeries services and the need for COBOL programmers in today’s business environment is increasing.

    COBOL programmers and IBM iSeries services are here to stay for long.

    As demand will grow for non-agile and innovative systems, it will be challenging to bring any other technology onboard that can merge with the existing setup.

    That’s why COBOL is the best choice even for the new-age business leaders. And when dissenters continue to challenge the existence of IBM iSeries services, the COBOL programmers will keep proving their worth.

    If you have any queries regarding the iSeries services or need COBOL programmers for your project, feel free to connect with Integrative Systems at [email protected].

    Integrative Systems is an US-based IBM iSeries consulting services provider and an IBM Silver Business Partner having served for more than twenty years in this field.

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