Is Java the next COBOL?


In our mania for the new, it’s easy to overlook just how extended the “old” stays with us. Take COBOL, for example. The venerable programming language turns 60 this thirty day period and, as Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has prepared, could very well “outlive us all.”

Indeed, COBOL provides a great example of the correct speed of development within just our business, while most likely also offering some clues as to what tomorrow’s COBOLs will be. Java and SQL, any individual? Or possibly Python?

COBOL the workhorse

Most people today looking through this submit weren’t born in 1959, the yr Mary Hawes arrived up with the idea for COBOL (Common Enterprise-Oriented Language), which Grace Hopper (and other folks) went on to formalize and boost. Hawes’ intention, as Vaughan-Nichols reminds us, was to build “an English-like vocabulary that could be made use of across diverse personal computers to accomplish primary small business responsibilities,” a genuine vendor-neutral language.

Although COBOL’s heyday petered out in the 1980s, it proceeds to power 70 per cent of world transaction processing devices, in accordance to Micro Target (the business that maintains COBOL), in an job interview with Vaughan-Nichols. Pulled money from an ATM? You ended up utilizing COBOL. Paid out a home finance loan? COBOL. Known as a call middle? Yep, that was COBOL, too. Even scheduling your holiday pretty much certainly depends on COBOL.

COBOL has allegedly been expiring for a long time, nonetheless 220 billion traces of COBOL reside on in the mainframes of our life. According to Lero, a computer software engineering study center, COBOL transactions dwarfed Google queries by 200x in 2014. Will Google ever capture up?

COBOL is more than some dotard dwelling in a mainframe pensioner’s flat. In addition to becoming simple to examine, the language has stored up-to-day with its neighbors. Now COBOL integrates with Docker containers and Java, though jogging in the cloud or on Linux or Windows, or on just about any where on anything. It’s a remarkably transportable language that enables builders to concentrate on producing their apps when COBOL takes treatment of the intricacies of the underlying working process.

Today, the major hazard to COBOL is that it is getting more challenging and tougher to locate competent programmers. The language may possibly have a long time a lot more to dwell with us, given the value and threat of replacing COBOL-centered systems with alternate options, but that doesn’t necessarily mean builders are escalating up dreaming of producing their 1st COBOL program. It’s a dilemma, but not one particular I purpose to clear up listed here in this article. (Sorry!)

As a substitute, examining the 60-12 months history of COBOL bought me wondering about today’s languages that could turn into the “COBOLs” of tomorrow. That is, what are the languages/technologies that will nevertheless be puttering around beneath the hood of a vast array of tomorrow’s tech?

Tomorrow’s COBOL right now

It is tricky to forecast the future, of program, but there are sturdy conditions to be produced for SQL, Python, and Java. Dave Kellogg has for years referred to as SQL the new COBOL. That might be accurate in terms of longevity and the notion that it’s out-of-date, but the parallel in the end peters out. There is just just one COBOL. For all its pretenses of standardization, SQL speaks a unique dialect dependent on the databases service provider. Although that hasn’t kept SQL from sticking all-around (and it will assuredly continue to be appropriate for many years to occur), it doesn’t pretty come to feel like a COBOL kindred spirit.

Undoubtedly not in the same way Java does.

Java, like COBOL, is relatively simple to study and create. Also like COBOL, Java has managed its modernity. Every single time Java seemed like it was fading, a little something has perked it up. According to Brian Leroux, Android is surely partly accountable for [Java’s] ongoing relevance.” A little bit later, large information revived Java further. As Nitin Borwankar has highlighted, “Java gained [a] next wind due to Hadoop and the complete information science ecosystem together with Hive, HBase, Spark, Cassandra, Kafka, and JVM languages this sort of as Groovy and Clojure. All of that is not going away anytime shortly.”

Certainly, as with COBOL, 1 of the most important motives we’re very likely to see Java etched on our headstones is because, as Jonathan Eunice writes, it’s “deployed deeply and widely in essential apps, producing it worthy of systematic critique.” The much more enterprises embed Java into their most mission-important applications, the a lot less likely it is to be ripped and replaced for modern options. The charge and possibility mitigate in opposition to performing so.

In like fashion, Python might properly prove its remaining ability. To Lauren Cooney’s intellect, Python will endure due to the fact it’s a “GSD [get stuff done] language vs. a interesting language.” It’s “not extravagant.” It “just will work.” Importantly, like Java, Python is ever more foundational to fashionable information science, among other issues, which may possibly nicely prove to be the transactional workloads of tomorrow that undergird fiscal systems (which, as talked about, is a massive reason COBOL stays great now).

Nearly anything else? Properly, there is the not-so-tongue-in-cheek response that perhaps COBOL is the upcoming COBOL. As Andrew Oliver puts it, “Years ago I claimed Java is the COBOL of the future. Everybody seemed at me surprisingly. I think it is the future.

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