SHARE Sacramento: Modern COBOL Development with Scot Nielsen and Michael Bleistein

How important is the programming language COBOL to modern IT environments? Estimates suggest up to $3 trillion in commerce flows through COBOL systems every single day, supporting financial transactions like mortgage servicing, deposits, check clearing and more.

Scot Nielsen and Michael Bleistein are 30-year veterans of software development and the COBOL programming language. Through their development work at Micro Focus—Scot as director of product management and Michael as principal architect—they’ve seen firsthand the critical role COBOL continues to play in the IT landscape of the world’s biggest businesses.

Modernization and education are major goals for many of these organizations. They need programmers who understand and can work with COBOL systems to build modern applications for critical services, which is why Scot and Michael will host an entire day-long SHARE Academy track at SHARE Sacramento focused on modern COBOL development. It will be an important session for any programmer that wants to stay on top of the latest developments with this cornerstone programming language.

We caught up with Scot and Michael ahead of SHARE Academy to review their track. Here’s what they had to share. And If you haven’t already, register for SHARE Academy here.

  1. You’re leading the SHARE Academy track on modern COBOL development this year—can you describe what you hope to cover in these sessions?

    We’ll cover a broad range of topics encompassing modern application development in COBOL. Some of the topics include using modern development tools, like Visual Studio and Eclipse, for COBOL development. We’ll also cover COBOL development in .NET and Java Virtual Machine, developing a COBOL RESTful web services and unit testing. The class is very much hands-on. There is no reliance on the mainframe here, as all hands-on lab exercises will be utilizing PCs.

  2. What makes COBOL an important and relevant language in modern IT environments?

    Scot: Most of us can’t go through our daily lives without interacting with a COBOL system of some kind. Whether you’re using an ATM, booking your next vacation or mailing a package, COBOL-based systems are behind more than 70 percent of all business transactions. Despite what you may have heard, COBOL systems are here to stay.

    Michael: The language capabilities have been enhanced and modernized to keep pace with modern development technologies, so that critical systems can be kept running and modernized.

  3. How do you make learning COBOL accessible to new programmers?

    Scot: Learning COBOL is a piece of cake, provided you are using the right tools. It also helps that Micro Focus makes the software freely available for anyone looking to learn COBOL in their own time, along with a comprehensive training guide.

  4. What are your thoughts on the current state of COBOL education, and the resources available to younger programmers looking to join the industry?

    Scot: IBM and Micro Focus provide excellent resources for developers to get started in COBOL. The real challenge is to shake off the perceptions that many have around the programming language and the general lack of awareness about how widely used COBOL still remains. COBOL may be old but it isn’t out of date—that’s something we hope our students will come away with. We certainly welcome Java and .NET developers—this is a great opportunity to combine their existing skills with one of the most successful programming languages of all time.

  5. What do you hope attendees walk away with?

    For COBOL developers, we want them to leave with a good picture of what modern application development in COBOL looks like on Windows and Linux systems. This is a chance to try out a lot of the industry topics you may have read about and get a sense for how COBOL can play in this space.

    For Java and .NET developers, this is a chance to see for themselves why this COBOL programming language has been so successful and how they can use their existing skills to help organizations modernize their COBOL apps and bridge the gap to Java and .NET.

Heading to SHARE Sacramento? The Modern COBOL Development track on Sunday, March 11 will help attendees develop new skills and bridge the gap between COBOL systems and Java and .NET. To reserve your spot, register here.

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