I know that this blog is supposed to be primarily about DB2, but I like to sneak in mainframe-related topics from time to time. And I read a great article today in Computerworld that I want to share with you. The article, titled Confession of a COBOL Programmer, talks up the need for COBOL coders. Just like with other mainframe technologies, as the baby boomers retire there is an insufficient supply of newbies available to step in and continue the care and feeding of the COBOL legacy.
I've written briefly about COBOL before, in my Data Management Today blog. COBOL is still all over the place and in no danger of dying off. According to the Computerworld article, 75% of the world's businesses data is still processed in COBOL, and about 90% of all financial transactions are in COBOL.
Yet there is a lingering perception "out there" that COBOL is dead (or at least dying). And as far as graduating seniors and new programmers are concerned, COBOL ain't cool! New programmers don't want to learn it and most universities don't teach it in their computer science or information science curricula. Just like the mainframe (which is alive and well, too), COBOL is ignored and a big problem is developing.
Analysts at Gartner estimate that there are 180 billion lines of COBOL code in existence and about 90,000 COBOL programmers. To convert all of that to something else "each programmer will require 100,000 hours to complete the conversion of 2 million lines. That works out to 12,500 eight-hour workdays. If we figure 250 workdays per year (though it’s unlikely any Cobol programmers are settling for just two weeks of vacation per year), these guys should be done in 50 years."
Who knows, when I retire (sometime in the far-off future) maybe I'll hang up a shingle and offer my services as a COBOL coder... after all, that is what I started out doing right out of college (all those years ago)...