Cobol is alive and kicking in Brazil

Cobol is alive and kicking in Brazil

Summary: Organizations continue to invest in development based on the programming language despite skills shortages, says study


Programming language Cobol still represents an important part of development budgets in Brazilian IT organizations and that will continue to be the case in the coming years, according to research.

According to a study by software vendor Micro Focus that covered 370 development professionals in Brazil, some 52 percent of those polled say that Cobol is the main mainframe language utilized at their organizations.

In terms of resourced devoted to development in that programming language, 49 percent of the respondents said they write only Cobol-based code and 43 percent said their employers have teams exclusively dedicated to development in Cobol.

Looking forward, some 64,8 percent said they intend to write new Cobol-based applications in the next few years. When the subject is changes to existing applications, half of the respondents said the top two priorities were implementing web services, followed by improvements in the user interface.

Despite the need for skilled Cobol programmers in Brazil, the local market is suffering with a skills shortage, worsened by the fact that IT universities and colleges do not consider the programming language important.

Another Micro Focus study conducted with 119 coordinators of university IT courses worldwide - including Brazil - confirms this worrying trend. Some 58 of those polled believe that Cobol programming should be part of the mandatory curricula of IT course with 54 percent affirming that demand for Cobol skills will rise or maintain the current pace in the next decade.

However, out of the 27 percent of universities offering Cobol programming as part of their course curricula, only 18 percent believe that these skills are essential to their students' careers.

Topics: Software Development, IT Priorities

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  • Kobols

    I remember killing lots of Kobols in my youth, even as a first level Cleric. They're pretty weak sauce.
  • As recently as 2010

    I was talking to a high-school buddy that said he was programming in COBOL for the USPS. I guess it's not a dead language.
    • LOL!

      Perhaps but since the USPS is practically dead and continuing the hemorrhage cash, I'm not sure if you can use them as a barometer for the health of the COBOL language.
  • COBOL just keeps on going...

    Back in 1979 I started a BSc in Computing Science. We covered COBOL as one of the languages, but were told that its days were numbered. Somehow I can't see it dying off just yet! Think I need to see if I can remember how to program in COBOL, wouldn't mind a trip to Brazil ;-)

    On the same course we were shown examples of program storage, one of which was punched paper tape. This, we were reliably informed, was obsolete. Imagine my shock at my first job after graduating, having to work with rolls of the blessed stuff, both 8- and 5-hole tape. DEC always had problems servicing the paper tape punch/reader, as they didn't have many units in stores to replace ours if it failed in the PDP-11/24 we used.
  • COBOL like Latin isnt dead but has achieved archaic status

    • Archaic? It's quite possible that there are still more lines of COBOL code

      around, than for any other programming language; and a lot more lines new COBOL code get written every day, so, it's likely to still be around some 50 years from now, while other languages come and go very quickly.
  • COBOL still running

    COBOL is still running in many places across the US in accounting and billing departments.
  • Skeptical

    One always needs to be skeptical of a "study" performed by a vendor with a heavy dose of skin in the game. Micro Focus is a COBOL-specific software vendor, hence the results of their study are dubious at best, although I don't doubt that COBOL is still being used and in fact being used heavily in some areas, it is really not a language being used to develop new systems. In fact the predominate "language" being used for new systems is not a language at all (HTML5/JavaScript).
  • Cobol is alive, but I don't get the skills concern

    There are billions of lines of Cobol code running and it was a great investment as much of it was written 20+ years ago and it is still delivering value (not that much code delivers value for multiple decades). As for the lack of Cobol skills ... that's sort of silly. These days, you can do Cobol development, compile, and even interactive debug out of eclipse ... so you don't need 65 year old ISPF gurus. As for Cobol, it's one of the easiest languages. Anyone who has written C, python, perl, php, or maybe even java can figure out Cobol pretty quickly ... and if you use some of the tools that create flow UML-esque diagrams from the code, it really is not rocket science. I keep hearing these dire predictions for lack of Cobol skills, but LinkedIn is full of programmers skilled in Cobol ... and any programmer can create/maintain Cobol code. Someone please help me understand how this Cobol skill shortage is anything but hype for someone's agenda?
    Mike Casile
    • Well,

      at least it is easier than RPG II! :-D

      I learnt it at college and used it for several years.

      UML-esque diagrams? That might work for new projects, but a lot of work is support work, so you will need to know how to write (and more importantly, optimize) COBOL code. COBOL is a lovely, verbose language. I still miss the days when I was writing code. Although I did have to work on PROTOS2000, a COBOL based MRP system. That was arcane, I used to have nightmares, literally, where I'd be locked in somewhere or being chased by monsters and I was busy writing code with calls to PROTOS libraries! :-O
      • UML-esque are great for maint as well

        Teaching someone out of college how to do Cobol (using eclipse/RDz/Cobos/...) is not hard. But then comes those 10K, 20K, and 50K programs that have grown thru the decades. Getting a visual flow of the monster with sections and paragraphs as nodes on a tree ... and having easy jumping back and forth between model and code behind the model is very helpful. I am not saying Cobol is my favorite language (that would likely either be java or python) ... but doing it a good Eclipse IDE makes it a whole lot nicer.
        Mike Casile
        • I'll still

          go for DEC EDT any day of the week. ;-)
  • The US government is the biggest user.

    Large portion of the code has origins from around 1968.
    Similar can be said about MUMPS and several hospitals.