New research aims to analyze how widespread COBOL is • The Register

The Open Mainframe Project’s COBOL Working Group is seeking to discover just how much the venerable programming language is still being used in the industry, and it would like your help.

Yes, the Common Business-Oriented Language may be over 60 years old, but it is still widely employed and continues to play an active role in running the global economy, according to the COBOL Working Group, which was set up in 2020 by the Open Mainframe Project to promote and support its continued use.

This was shown in a report earlier this year from Micro Focus, the UK software outfit that still does much business around support for COBOL, which found that the amount of code in daily use worldwide is somewhere in the region of 775-850 billion lines, and that 92 percent of organizations it surveyed regarded COBOL as a strategic technology.

That could be a problem as the long history of the language means that many practitioners are beyond retirement age, as The Register noted earlier this year when reporting on the launch of a new open source compiler for it.

In fact, at the start of the pandemic, the governor of New Jersey had to appeal for those with COBOL skills to come forward and help as the state’s mainframe computers struggled under the weight of requests for help from citizens.

Now it seems that the COBOL Working Group wants to find out for itself how widespread the use of the language is, and is looking to conduct its own survey in partnership with The Linux Foundation Research and the Linux Foundation Training and Certification.

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The project aims to collect continued usage statistics of the COBOL language in the IT industry, as well as assess the value of continued vendor investments in the language in order to support modern day use cases in the digital era. Another key area it aims to collect information on is current attitudes to future use-cases for COBOL applications.

According to the COBOL Working Group, it hopes to gain insights from the survey across all relevant industries and geographic regions to provide a fully representative overview of the current state of play.

Naturally, the COBOL Working Group would love it if some kind benefactors would be willing to help contribute to the funding for this project.

“We seek your support and investment to bring this exciting project – and significant brand opportunity – to fruition,” wrote the Open Mainframe Project’s Director of Program Management, John Mertic, announcing the research on the project’s blog.

The Open Mainframe Project itself was founded in 2015, with the help of IBM, to promote the deployment and use of Linux and open source in mainframe computing environments. It is managed by The Linux Foundation. ®

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