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LzLabs launches product to move mainframe COBOL code to Linux cloud

TechCrunch TechCrunch 5/07/2016 Ron Miller

Somewhere in a world full of advanced technology that we write about regularly here on TechCrunch, there exists an ancient realm where mainframe computers are still running programs written in COBOL.

This is a programming language, mind you, that was developed in the late 1950s, and used widely in the ’60s and ’70s and even into the ’80s, but it’s never really gone away. You might think it would have been mostly eradicated from modern business by now, but you would be wrong.

As we march along, however, the pool of people who actually know how to maintain these COBOL programs grows ever smaller by the year, and companies looking to move the data (and even the archaic programs) to a more modern platform could be stuck without personnel to help guide them through the transition.

That’s clearly a problem and LzLabs, a Swiss startup, saw a huge opportunity here. “The skill shortage in terms of maintaining the code that runs on the legacy mainframes has become acute. It’s become a huge problem finding the people to keep these going,” LzLabs CEO Mark Cresswell told TechCrunch.

To help solve that problem, Lz has come up with a remarkable solution called Gotthard that helps these companies tease out the various bits of data, executables, configuration files and so forth from the hornet’s nest of code written all those years ago. It then places these various pieces in a container and moves them lock, stock and barrel to a cloud platform running Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

It’s not a coincidence that today’s announcement comes after another one last winter at the CeBIT Technology Fair in Germany, where the company launched what it calls the first software defined mainframe and announced partnerships with Red Hat and Microsoft (who themselves announced a partnership around the same time to bring RHEL to Azure).

The company is not claiming their tools will allow some sort of instant solution. It’s going to be a long-haul type of job. They hope to partner with third-party systems integrators who can work with their customers to do the grunt work required to prepare the content for transfer.

Today’s announcement is about building on that original announcement and providing tools for these companies running legacy mainframe applications to ease that transition to the extent possible. It’s still likely to be long and painful process regardless, but at least there are some tools now to help ease that journey.

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