Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Enterprise COBOL Conundrum

Enterprise COBOL is both a liability and an asset. There's tangible value hidden in the code.

See https://github.com/slott56/looking-at-cobol  

I've tweaked the presentation a little. 

The essential ingredients in coping with COBOL are these:

  • Use something like Stingray Reader to parse COBOL DDE's and process the data in the native format.
  • Analyze the Job Control Language (JCL) to work out the directed acyclic graph (DAG) that leads to file and database updates. These "master" files and databases are the data artifacts that matter most. This is the value-creating processing. There aren't many of these files. 
  • Create a process to clone those files, and write Python data access modules to process the data. This is a two-way process. You'll be shipping files from your Z/OS world to another server running Python. In some cases, files will need to come back to Z/OS to permit legacy processing to continue. 
  • Work backwards through the DAG to understand the COBOL apps that update the master files. These can be rewritten as Python apps that consume transactions and update master files/databases. Transfer transaction files out of Z/OS to a server doing the Python processing. Either update a shared database or send updated master files back to Z/OS if there's further processing that needs an updated master. 
  • Continue working backwards through the DAG, replacing COBOL with Python until you've found source files for the transactions. Expect to find transaction validation programs as well as transaction analytics or reporting. The validations are useful; the analytics and reporting can be replaced with simpler, more modern tools.
  • When there's no more legacy processing that depends on a given master file or database, then the Z/OS can be formally decommissioned. Have a party.

This is relatively low risk work. It's high value. The COBOL code encodes enterprise knowledge. Preserving this knowledge in a more modern language is a value-maintaining exercise. Indeed, the improved clarity may be a value-creating exercise.

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