As for the stock exchange's trading systems, they're all built with proprietary NYSE Euronext software. "There's no Big Iron or Cobol," Hirsch explains. "There's been no use of mainframes in the trading environment for many years."
Rehosting: Lift and Shift
When it comes to hiring new Cobol programmers, Jonathan J. Miller, director of information systems and services for Saginaw County, Mich., is struggling. "We've lost our systems programming staff," he says. And like many government IT organizations that have suffered from budget cuts, he doesn't have much to offer those in-demand Cobol programmers.
Generous government benefits packages used to attract candidates even though salaries were lower than they are in the private sector. Now, he says, "our pay hasn't increased in eight years and benefits are diminished." The county has been forced to contract with retired employees and outsource Cobol maintenance and support to a third party -- something that just 18% of Computerworld survey respondents said they're doing. (See the full survey results here.)
The Cobol brain drain is becoming critical for many government organizations, says Garza. "It's a high-risk problem in many countries [Trinity Millennium is] doing work in. The people have retired. Even the managers are gone. There's no one to talk to," he explains.
Saginaw County found itself hemmed in by the complexity of its Cobol infrastructure. It has 4 million lines of highly integrated Cobol programs that run everything from the prosecutor's office to payroll on a 46 MIPS Z9 series mainframe that is nearing the end of its life. With mainframe maintenance costs rising 10% to 20% each year, the county needs to get off the platform quickly.
But commercial software packages lack the level of integration that users expect, and Miller's team doesn't have the time or resources to do a lot of integration work or to re-engineer all of the program code for another platform.
So the county is starting a multiphase project to recompile the code with Micro Focus Visual Cobol and rehost it on Windows servers. An associated VSAM database will also be migrated to SQL Server. Miller hopes that the more modern graphical development suite will make the Cobol programming position, which has gone unfilled for two years, more attractive to prospective applicants. But he acknowledges that finding talent will still be an uphill battle.
A Legacy Continues