Have you fixed your view?

Confused? You have been

We’ve all heard of 20:20 vision. The ultimate in clarity. Ironic then perhaps that 2020 is rapidly becoming the year for confusion and chaos and that we’re all secretly begging for 2021 to make haste. Not only have world events created an unprecedented situation, but also the sheer scale of the impact has produced a flurry of confusion.

Back in the real world?

Even the relative confines of the world of IT, things have been difficult. One report suggested parts of the industry badly needed more COBOL programmers, only for later reports to re-state a different interpretation of the issue. Subsequent press only served to muddy the situation.

Many reports cite the overwhelming, and inevitable nature of cloud adoption. I can think of many use cases and entire industries where that evidently not true. Conversely, we also the mainframe is the one and only choice for enterprise computing and it would be almost heresy to consider anything else. Again, I am not convinced. As TechRadar recently reported, “Despite the emergence of cloud computing, though, the mainframe market is alive and well – which means COBOL is alive and kicking too.”

Speaking of which, here’s another of those confusing claims: COBOL needs to go to Java.

It really does not. Or rather, if that’s what you need to do, it already did. COBOL running as Java is already here. You can build Java Byte Code out of COBOL. You can run COBOL under the JVM, if you wish. If you want to build new Java apps or front ends, and connect to COBOL logic – sure, and you do not need to convert all that COBOL (which is notoriously time-consuming and inexact) just to take advantage of a Java component.

As mentioned by CIO.com, “Savvy IT organizations are enhancing and integrating their core systems to provide new user experiences, business facilities, and competitive differentiation”. You can view COBOL as a library of reusable value that IT can leverage, through a variety of means. (Oh, want to refactor COBOL business rules as services? Go right ahead).

In reality, there are mainframe shops that are steadfastly committed to the Z box, yet for whom the cloud is their primary technology investment right now. They need some additional flexibility to support a new line of business innovation. Conversely, some are headlong into a cloud-first strategy but know all too well that the core mainframe workload needs to stay around, because that’s where all the valuable apps and data resides. Smart CIOs are pragmatists, not purists.

Assume the position!

Taking a position before the discussion, drawing the line in the sand before the tide turns, where the battle lines are drawn before the presence of the enemy is known, are risky calls to make.

There is a natural tendency to want to have a belief system that can handle any situation. That pre-configures a number of semi-truths in the mind, ready to deal with whatever the question might be. Such belief systems will judge one form of technology as somehow superior to another, one way of working as better, one particular strategy as more advanced, and therefore appropriate, than another. The trouble with that is how to you know that your pre-determined answer is going to be correct for the next question when you do not know what it will be. It means you aren’t really preparing to listen. “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking,” Bernard Baruch.

The trouble with a fixed view shows bias. Bias is not sound judgment, or sound business sense.

“The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.” ― Brooks Atkinson

Take a Step Back – What are you trying to do?

Look at Steven’s thought-provoking discussion around when to choose LinuxONE. Answer? Not all the time. But there WILL be moments when it surely fits the bill perfectly. Similarly, look at the vast range of use cases where the mainframe will be the superior and smartest choice for enterprise computing. Look also then at how AIX, Linux and the Cloud will add flexibility and breadth to the IT ecosystem, to model and support a diverse and evolving business.

Look also at how Python, or Java will have to continue to support new use cases, and yet how COBOL, CICS, Db2 and JCL will inevitably have to offer the bedrock backend for the foreseeable future. As COBOL Cowboys’ Bill Hinshaw summarised, “COBOL is running the world because it’s very stable.” Look also at how the COBOL community has re-energized since the turn of the year.

Look how those points of technology, and how they will change, grow and spread, as the organization accelerates towards a digital future. Let the needs of the business, now and next, drive those decisions. Look at what is working and make it work even better, even smarter. In a word, modernize.

So, do you have a fixed view, or did you fix your view? Be clear on that.

Editors Note

This blog was written by Derek Britton from Microfocus.  He is an all-round good guy and also happens to be a fellow Brit.  Definitely check him out on Twitter here.

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