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The Case for Migrating from COBOL to Java

Migrating COBOL applications to modern languages like Java can be important for several reasons, including cost savings, future supportability, and more. Before diving in, however, there are a few important aspects of this change you need to consider.

First off, we need to face some obvious realities: COBOL is an older programming language that has been widely used in mainframe processing for decades. Although it is time-tested and ubiquitous in many industries, it may not support modern development practices, tools, and technologies. In fact, for many, it represents an outdated technology. As a result, finding developers with expertise in COBOL can be challenging. Most new developers are trained in modern languages like Java, making it easier to build and maintain a team if applications are modernized.

A primary reason to consider migrating legacy COBOL code to Java is the cost efficiency of maintaining that code going forward. Legacy systems, including those built with COBOL, can become expensive to maintain over time. Modernizing to Java may lead to cost savings in terms of development, maintenance, and support.

A side benefit is the improved integration and interoperability of Java code in today’s IT environments. Modern languages like Java are better equipped for integration with other systems and technologies. This is crucial in today's interconnected IT landscape where systems often need to communicate seamlessly.

Modern languages like Java are often designed to leverage contemporary hardware and take advantage of optimizations. This can result in better runtime performance, which is crucial for handling increased workloads. What’s more, they facilitate faster development times, as they typically offer more advanced development tools, libraries, and frameworks, enabling faster development cycles. This agility is crucial in responding to changing business needs and market demands.

Although these advantages are appealing, for many organizations, the perceived security advantage of proven COBOL applications is hard to leave behind. However, modern languages often come with built-in security features and are designed with security in mind. This is important for protecting sensitive data in applications, especially in industries with strict regulatory requirements like banking, finance, and others.

Where Java and other modern languages really shine is their support for development best practices. Modern languages adhere to contemporary programming techniques, making it easier to implement best practices such as object-oriented programming, design patterns, and modular development. This is especially important as the original authors of legacy COBOL applications increasingly enter retirement. Today, Java is one of the most widely used and taught programming languages. Migrating to Java can make it easier to find developers with the necessary skills and expertise.

Migrating legacy code to Java and other modern languages can also help you sustain the integrity of the systems that underpin your enterprise. Modern languages are far more likely to have ongoing support from the development community and vendors. This can provide a level of futureproofing compared to technologies that are becoming obsolete.

In summary, efforts to migrate COBOL applications to modern languages like Java are often driven by the need for improved maintainability, cost efficiency, scalability, security, and alignment with modern development practices. Such migrations allow organizations to leverage the benefits of contemporary technology and position themselves for future growth and innovation.

The LRS Big Data & AI team is well versed in modern migration technologies, leveraging generative AI to accelerate development while maintaining the principles of trust, security and compliance at its core. While moving into the future may seem like a daunting task, you are not in it alone. LRS stands ready to help you as together we work to give your existing legacy systems a new lease on life.

About the author

Larry Gant is the Director of Software Sales with LRS IT Solutions. He has over 30 years experience in Information Technology and software solutions, with a focus on automation, analytics, and security.