Home > blog, CICS TS, skills > Re: COBOL is like oil?

Re: COBOL is like oil?

Corneel Booysen has raised some interesting thoughts on his blog about COBOL and whether or not it is killing CICS. Being classed in the “you young ones” category I hope I can perhaps offer a slightly different perspective, so I’ll take a stab at replying.

As a young developer, I have to say I’m pretty language neutral. I don’t really care what language I’m programming in and I’m smart enough to know that no language is perfect. What I love is innovating and creating smart solutions. How I get there is largely immaterial. Generally I will just try and choose the right tool for the job. With CICS I have quite a few choices and all of them have their own uses.

Any young developer worth their salt will pick up enough to get started with COBOL within a day to a week. Certainly reading the code isn’t going to cause too many problems, assuming your code is of reasonable quality of course.

Corneel mentions “the guy in the cubicle next to you created a new web application comprising of several class libraries using his favorite scripting language, deployed it then created a blog entry and proceeded to read up on the latest technology trends before lunch – while you were compiling for the seventh time…”. Well last time I looked you could use things like URIMAPS and DOCTEMPLATES to build a fairly sweet model-view-controller style web application. You don’t even need to download any libraries! Sure you might have to compile your application a few times but I promise you with some of the great new tooling available like RDz v7.1 the code-compile cycle is almost eliminated.

I actually believe the problem isn’t related to any particular skill shortage but a more general lack of bright young graduates that are interested in working with some of the most exciting hardware around; the mainframe. So how can we fix this? Well IBM is already putting a lot of effort into the Academic Initiative as well as developing and hosting the Mainframe Challenge. There also has to be a push from CICS customers all over the world to start marketing jobs aimed a new graduates that include basic training on the mainframe. Approaching universities and asking them if they could provide courses on COBOL and mainframes in general would also help.

I am constantly reading about skills shortages around CICS and the mainframe and yet rarely I see the community standing up and shouting about how they NEED young developers. The reason that CICS feels old is simply because the community has let itself feel old. I have another blog post coming entitled “Where are all the CICS rockstars?” but that is a question for another day. For the moment though think about this. You are not too old, you are experienced. The younger generation are not about to take your jobs any time soon so relax and enjoy having us around. We can’t match your experience and all we have in our pockets are youth and enthusiasm. You don’t have to be young to be enthusiastic and you don’t have to be young to be innovative. We are down here looking up at you waiting for you to pass on your knowledge but if all we get back is resentment then we are not going to hang around for long. One of my colleagues in our excellent service team once said to me after I had thanked him for passing on some of his knowledge to me, “Helping you, helps keep me in a job.” He understood that as long as there was energy, skills and knowledge around the product there would always be a place for him. Smart guy!

So help us to build the community. Get blogging, get networking and tell the IBM CICS team what we can do to help you. Remember that us “young ones” have feelings and all we need is a little encouragement to help us and you shine. The future of CICS is in YOUR hands so stand up and be counted as the leading innovators and experts that you are.

Categories: blog, CICS TS, skills
  1. Ian
    April 14, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I think the problem we are facing is that the pool of eligible developers is much smaller when it comes to potential mainframe programmers and systems programmer. At this point only a selected few students have access to mainframe related classes and very few even know anything about the mainframe nor do they care. They have FREE access to programming languages(C/C++, PHP, PERL, Ruby etc.), enterprise class operating systems(Linux), Transaction processors(Apache), Databases (DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL etc.). In most cases they even have access to the source code of these products and can really dig in if they want.

    There is NO entry point into the mainframe.

    Anybody can go home after work and write a piece of software to provide a service or to sell using PHP, MySQL and Apache. (That’s what I did with the CICS Community Forums]). I would have loved to do that on CICS but at what cost?

    Where is the CICS Community Edition?.

    There are a few people in the CICS community that really cares about the product and are willing to go out of there way to promote it and get the community involved it. Most people just shrug shoulders and ask “Why ?”

    Maybe our average age has something to do with it? 49.5]


  2. Chris Hodgins
    April 15, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Hi Ian,

    I agree that mainframe access is an issue. Hopefully the Academic Initiative and the Mainframe Challenge will see more students with much more access to mainframes.

    For those who don’t understand why they should get involved in the CICS community I think there are at least a few reasons.

    1) Job security – the more people involved and working with CICS, the more skills we have available and the more likely CICS customers are going to stick with CICS and the mainframe.

    2) Making work fun – us “young ones” have a nasty habit of coming up with wacky ideas, some useless, some not. Help invigorate your work place with some fresh new faces with lots of great ideas.

    3) Network with others and meet-up at conferences

    I think the age issue is just a mind-set rather than an actual limiting factor.


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