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Partnership gives Cobol .net extension

The threat to Cobol from Web services has been weakened through a partnership between Micro Focus and Microsoft, writes Eric Doyle.

The deal means that Net Express, Micro Focus' environment for developing Cobol applications for Windows, Linux and Unix platforms, will now also have extensions for Microsoft .net.

Tony Hill, chief executive of Micro Focus, said the aim is to make Cobol as easy to use as Microsoft's C# and Visual Basic languages. He is not revealing how much the partnership deal has cost the company.

Gary Barnett, research director at Ovum, said, "The Cobol development tools market has been sorely overlooked. I have many clients that are still building Cobol applications, and which want tools to help them embrace new business models, notably e-commerce, without having to go through the costly and perilous process of rip and replace."

To become part of Microsoft's burgeoning Visual Studio portfolio of languages will entail developing a compiler to translate Cobol code into the Intermediate Language at the core of Microsoft's Common Language Runtime execution environment.

Using Intermediate Language means that code written in different languages can be more easily combined natively rather than having to create a wrapper around the Cobol code.

John Billman, Net Express product manager at Micro Focus, claimed users will be able to move their business logic and significant portions of their other Cobol code directly into .net.

Micro Focus expects to ship the .net-enabled Net Express by June 2003 and an early adopter scheme will be introduced in December.
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