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COBOL market 3 times larger than previously estimated - survey

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Wed 9 Feb 2022

According to a global survey, COBOL is viewed as strategic by 92% of respondents, and the amount of COBOL code in daily use increased significantly to 775-850 billion lines. 

Micro Focus has shared the commissioned results of a global, independent market survey, showcasing an unprecedented amount of COBOL code in use and a large market opportunity for application modernisation. Following last year's research report, this year's results show the global COBOL application footprint continues to grow. Most respondents intend to modernise their applications and support the cloud by the end of the year.

"As organisations look to deliver on IT strategies through modernisation and digital transformation initiatives, the findings of the latest COBOL survey demonstrate the continued importance of COBOL for application modernisation and business change," says Micro Focus director of COBOL product marketing, Ed Airey.

Eight hundred billion lines of code reinforces the importance and continued investment in this trusted core business system technology. The significant volume of COBOL application code in the marketplace represents remarkable value for organisations and requires ongoing investment as part of a larger modernisation strategy," he says.

"For IT leaders supporting core business systems, COBOL application modernisation lies at the heart of digital transformation," he adds.

The global survey was produced by Vanson Bourne, a global research and analysis company. It asked COBOL-connected architects, software engineers, developers, development managers, and IT executives from 49 countries to determine and calculate the volume of COBOL application code running production systems and the strategic importance of COBOL applications to their business, future application roadmaps, planning, and resources.

"For this year's survey, Vanson Bourne set out to gather data from the IT community on COBOL's continued relevance, in addition to getting a better picture of just how much COBOL is currently out there in use," says Vanson Bourne senior research consultant, Jimmy Mortimer.

"Whether this increase in code is externally driven or motivated by new technology or business transformation initiatives, it's clear that the importance and volume of COBOL in use continues to grow each year."

Key findings of the Micro Focus COBOL survey include:

  • Global COBOL code volume hits new highs: More than 800 billion lines of code running on production systems and in daily use, far exceeding any previous estimates.
  • The direction is continued growth: Nearly half of the survey's respondents expect the amount of COBOL in use at their organisation to increase in the next 12 months. Furthermore, last year's research report showed that over half of respondents (52%) expect their organisations' COBOL applications to remain for at least the next decade, with more than four in five expecting that COBOL will still be in use when they ultimately retire, creating a need for continued COBOL investment and modernisation for next-gen developers.
  • COBOL remains strategic for organisations: 92% of respondents say their organisations' COBOL applications are strategic, with future IT strategy and application portfolio alignment with new technology listed as the critical drivers for COBOL modernisation.
  • Modernisation of COBOL applications is the preferred path forward: Instead of a rip and replace approach, 64% of respondents intend to modernise their COBOL applications, and 72% of respondents see modernisation as an overall business strategy.  
  • Cloud is the primary technology driving application modernisation: When asked about their company's plans for COBOL and the cloud in 2021, 43% of the survey's respondents say their COBOL applications do and will support cloud by the end of the year. In addition, 41% say that new business projects require integration with existing COBOL systems.

Along with this Micro Focus COBOL survey, recent research shows that application modernisation must be continuous and evolving to meet the changing needs of today's business climate. Digital transformation demands a comprehensive yet flexible and adaptive strategy to improve results and accelerate time to value. 

Micro Focus has over 45 years of experience in modernising business-critical applications and was recently announced as a key partner in the AWS Mainframe Modernization service. It commissioned this new report on COBOL's usage as part of its regular market analysis program.

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