At its European Cobol user conference in London last week, Micro Focus Plc told users about its future product strategy for Unix and Microsoft Corp Windows NT and unveiled plans to develop an object-oriented version of Cobol by 1995. It also demonstrated its new transaction processing monitor, MTS. Micro Focus’s modern approach to providing simple […]
At its European Cobol user conference in London last week, Micro Focus Plc told users about its future product strategy for Unix and Microsoft Corp Windows NT and unveiled plans to develop an object-oriented version of Cobol by 1995. It also demonstrated its new transaction processing monitor, MTS. Micro Focus’s modern approach to providing simple and easy-to-use Cobol compilers, debuggers and other tools has made it the market leader and a de facto Cobol standard in the industry. OEM customers for the technology and large mainframe manfacturers including Digital Equipment Corp, IBM Corp and ICL Plc have been in its pocket for the last 15 years and use the firm’s tools to develop their own Cobol applications. Last year Micro Focus reported revenues of $116m and annual compound growth of 20% 60% of sales are derived from the US, 25% from Europe and 15% from the rest of the world.
Pursuing the mission to bring Cobol kicking and screaming – and safe – into the 21st century
Micro Focus, Newbury, Berkshire, was born 16 years ago with the mission to bring Cobol kicking and screaming, if necessary, into the 21st Century and down onto Unix and personal computer systems. But it has been a hard slog, and a great chunk of the firm’s revenues still come from maintenance tools, which its says are a lucrative, but necessary evil of Cobol. Nonetheless, Micro Focus believes that all Cobol application development should be offloaded to workstations and personal computers for both mainframe and client-server application development because it speeds up development schedules, makes developers’ jobs easier and saves money. It has taken a long time, but the client-server message is getting through and the Cobol market is changing. Marc Balhechet, Micro Focus’ European Marketing manager says The nature of business has changed. Computing decisions have made it to the boardroom and directors realise they have to maximise all their computing investments to increase productivity, while streamlining costs. Cobol is a very effective way of downsizing to client-server because it’s inextricably linked with the mainframe. Cobol is probably one of the most common denominators between different hardware systems and we’re committed to providing cross-system support on as many systems as we can.
Software Development Kit is key to client-server kingdom
Key to the firm’s client-server strategy is the Micro Focus Software Development kit for 32-bit IBM OS/2, Santa Cruz Operation Inc Unix and Microsoft Corp Windows NT systems introduced last week. The tool enables developers to create 32-bit Cobol applications and migrate existing 16-bit applications to 32-bit environments. It comes with a range of 32-bit tools taken from the Cobol Workbench line including Cobol compiler, Animator graphical code debugger and an operating systems extensions execution environment. According to Micro Focus, the kit removes restrictions associated with 16-bit architecture such as 64Kb system limits and the need for segment cross coding, and provides support for a variety of mixed language applications. Cobol modules can also interoperate with different modules written in C, Pascal and PL/1, and with routines like Presentation Manager, Motif and Windows. Win.32 can be called directly from Cobol. The kit also creates Micro Focus intermediate code, native code and object code files with portability provided at the source and object levels. Code is portable across OS/2, Windows NT and Santa Cruz Unix. The kit ships this month. Meanwhile, Micro Focus is readying Cobol SQL Transparency, a gateway which enables users to access and map Cobol code in and out of relational databases including Oracle, Informix and Ingres. It is set for September launch.
Object-oriented Cobol and transaction processing loom large in Micro Focus’s lunchtime
Object technology is also an important part of Micro Focus’sCobol strategy and it is determined to design an object-oriented version of Cobol and a range of development tools by 1995. The American National Standards Institute has already com
missioned the company to develop a prototype implementation, but specifications aren’t expected to be released until 1997. ANSI Object Cobol will include features such as instantiation through class definitions, invocation of objects using a messaging protocol, class inheritance and polymorphism. In parallel with the standards body initiative, Micro Focus is working on its own object-based Cobol and already has a prototype running in the labs. A range of object-based tools are also being developed. The company hopes to roll out alpha versions of Object Cobol late next year – general availability Cobol is not expected until 1995. But is there a conflict of interest with ANSI? Raymond Obin, who heads up the object-oriented development effort, says Micro Focus will push for its version to become a de facto standard and for ANSI to adopt its complete implementation. However, if this doesn’t pan out, the company will sell the two versions side by side. If that fails, Micro Focus will provide migration paths for Micro Focus object Cobol users to ANSI Cobol. Another Another departure for the company is the introduction of its own transaction processing manager, MTS, launched last month. Micro Focus claims its system reaches beyond Unix and runs under Windows NT, IBM OS/2, CICS, and Windows and MS-DOS can access it as clients.
The driving force behind MTS was user demand, Micro Focus says. Customers who felt safe with Cobol at a mainframe level were cautious about moving all their transaction processing down to Unix. At the same time most users also want a more open environment, with access to mainframes, Unix and personal computers… MTS is practically system-independent and it’s available in a couple of months Balhechet says. Going head to head with IBM’s CICS/6000 offering, the company also provides software that can run IBM CICS applications and communication links to other transaction systems and with mainframe and networked CICS systems. Application compatibility and gateways for Unix System Laboratories Inc’s Tuxedo, NCR Corp’s Top End and Transarc Corp’s Encina will be provided in the future, and the Unix transaction processing monitor market is still wide open, Balhechet says. Development versions of MTS will be available for Sun Microsystems Inc Sparcstations in the fourth quarter. – Alison Hawkings