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Micro Focus Net Express Bridges COBOL and .NET

The venerable COBOL programming language still powers reams of mainframe-level applications, posing a challenge for development managers seeking a way to bridge the chasm between legacy applications and active .NET projects.

The venerable COBOL programming language still powers reams of mainframe-level applications, posing a challenge for development managers seeking a way to bridge the chasm between legacy applications and active .NET projects.

Net Express 5.0 from Micro Focus (http://www.microfocus.com) offers a bridge between the two worlds. It allows developers to reuse COBOL code within the .NET framework, instead of having to rewrite it from scratch. In many instances, businesses may want to layer a graphical interface over proven, COBOL-based business logic. Under Net Express 5.0, Visual Studio 2005 can then be used to develop and extend the legacy code.

"It takes COBOL programmers into a new environment. If you suddenly give a COBOL programmer a Java IDE or Visual Studio, that's quite a big leap," says John Billman, product manager for Micro Focus. "It provides a common environment for the deployment of COBOL and other Microsoft language-based applications. It's the same development environment across languages of the .NET framework."

About half of all organizations are still writing new COBOL code and about 15 percent of new programs are being developed with it, according to the company.

"There are still huge amounts of COBOL today. It's running well. It's doing what it's designed to do-banks, pensions, insurance and so forth," Billman notes.

Billman says it's important to keep the language relevant because of the people who make it tick: "I would say the more important factor is the fact that they've got millions of lines of COBOL inside the organization. [For] those programmers, it's not simply that they are experts in COBOL the language: it's that they understand the business functions inside the code of the language."

The current release is targeted for Visual Studio 2005 and .NET 2.0, but the company expects the solution to run under .NET 3.0 as well. Pricing varies by deployment. The product ships with the Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition package, but is compatible with higher-end editions of Microsoft's flagship IDE.
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