15 years of consulting in niche markets

New CEO of Micro Focus: why COBOL is so important?


As HPE-Micro Focus "spin-merger" takes effect, MF remains ground zero for COBOL, which still runs most of the major at-scale transaction systems, such as credit-card processing and large travel logistics.


Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Micro Focus are the sums of many things. They are both veteran IT providers (HPE was founded in 1939, Micro Focus in 1976) that are amalgamations of a lot of intellectual property gained both from their own research and development and from the acquisition of other, mosty smaller, companies.

They trade in both old- and new-gen IT products and services. At this point, however, it's largely old-gen, because by and large, most of the world runs on legacy technology. We'll get to that later in this article.

Chris Hsu, the new CEO of Micro Focus who started Sept. 1 in his new role after prepping for it for the last 12 months, knows this better than anyone.


Micro Focus owns some well-known software franchises, including COBOL, Serena, Borland, Attachmate, Novell, SUSE Linux, Progress and NetIQ.

COBOL is an intriguing one. COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) was one of the earliest high-level programming languages. It was developed in 1959 at the University of Michigan by a group of computer professionals called the Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL). Since 1959 it has undergone a number of modifications and improvements.


Micro Focus long has been ground zero for COBOL, the grandaddy of programming languages.

"Forty years ago, Micro Focus had COBOL, predominately mainframe COBOL, and helped in the development of COBOL applications," Hsu said. "Today, COBOL is still one of the largest assets in the portfolio, and it's growing.

"Mission-critical applications in COBOL still run most of the major at-scale transaction systems, such as credit-card processing, large travel logistics, and so on. What Micro Focus has done is innovate in COBOL to make it mobile-accessible, cloud deployable and deployable in a distributed model."


COBOL Sales, Apps Continues to Grow in the Market

The COBOL franchise is literally three times the size it was back in 2001, Hsu said. "This has to do with the fact that they (Micro Focus) continue to make the COBOL applications accessible on newer platforms," Hsu said.

"While customers are moving some of their apps to public cloud, a lot of their business-critical apps are remaining on-premises," Hsu said, "and the data is being spread across everything. What our software does is manage and simply the complexity that customers now have to manage across a set of deployment models from mainframe to public cloud."

Hsu said his No. 1 duty at this time at the beginning of a new regime at MF is "focusing on our customers in that we don't want to disrupt our customer relationships and what they count on us to deliver. Anytime you're putting two large companies together, you have to keep everybody focused on the customer, because if you lose sight of that, then you'll have a stumble--it'll impact your revenue, your transactions, your people. That's a real problem.

"As a CEO, the No. 1 thing I have to do is getting people excited about a company that has an exciting future, and that we have a culture that they want to be connected to," Hsu said.


Keeping the Company Focused is Job No. 1

But how does a company leader get employees excited about a company that largely has roots in old-school IT, such as COBOL?

"Old software, old people--that's not a bad term," Hsu said. "We actually embrace it. Micro Focus has been around for 40 years. That COBOL software is unbelievably efficient and relevant today. HPE has had 30 years in network management and data protection.

"While we have a portfolio of things that have been around for a long time, we also have assets like Vertica, which is powering some of the world's most disruptive businesses in the world, like Uber. In security, we're protecting data workloads and the files themselves in motion, because protecting the perimeters doesn't work anymore.

"The beautiful thing about having a large, $4.5 billion portfolio of software that has everything from developer tools for the mainframe all the way to public cloud orchestration and automation tools; we actually can help our customers all the way across that entire spectrum.

"We can help them architect solutions for the future."


Source: eWeek, 2017.

Wednesday Sep 6, 2017