There is common question being asked by many in the programming world. That question is Is COBOL dead?
In spite of the years of criticism and all the predictions that some new language will soon replace COBOL, COBOL continues as a language of business data processing.
Although C and Java have become significant languages over the past seven years, there is no question that COBOL is still a language of business data processing.
COBOL has been an integral part of the market for nearly thirty years. There are an estimated 20 billion lines of COBOL code currently in use and a vast range of experienced COBOL programmers.
There is no question that COBOL should remain as the central language in curriculum designed to prepare students for entry-level jobs in data processing. This assertion contradicts an unfortunate trend. Recent surveys have shown that the number of schools teaching COBOL is declining
Colleges, educators, and others with an interest in data processing education must take advantage of every opportunity available to make the case for continued COBOL education. Certainly the newer software development tools will grow in their importance, but they will not cause COBOL to vanish in the foreseeable future.
There is another side of the question that you also must look at; there is no growth in COBOL careers. Companies are no longer undertaking any kind of new development using COBOL, but still have a need for maintenance programmers. Insurance companies, banks, and large firms that have legal reporting requirements that change every time the Government’s mind changes about what data it wants, still need their COBOL people to keep their legacy systems humming. And, having invested hundreds of millions of dollars into that legacy code, they have a hard time cost justifying throwing it all away now.
COBOL is still used in many companies that reside here in Buffalo. The company that I work for uses COBOL in order to keep track of shipping, jobs that are still in process, and the also use it for it quality assurance for when they are audited. While they do use COBOL, there are no future plans to expand their COBOL database to handle other parts of their company. This is true for many companies all through out the world. They have invested much time and money into their COBOL systems that will remain but not expand.
Legacy COBOL programmers now need to change their skills. Some are looking to learn relational databases such as ORACLE or SYBASE, (who own the market for RDBMS technology), to round out their mainframe programming skills. Even DB2 is a good choice, when combined with UNIX and PC based technologies.
I agree that COBOL is not dead, but that it has plat towed. While the system does work well for its purpose, there are many new languages that can do much more and are easier to implement. Oracle has become a growing language in the database world. Many of the new companies such as Xerox are looking to use oracle instead of COBOL. Not only that, but there are more people have taken an interest in using other languages such as C++, Java, and SQL besides COBOL. I think in about ten years we will see less and less of COBOL, and more of the other languages that are more widely used.