COBOL market: Three times larger than expected

Sicherheit (Pexels, allgemeine Nutzung)[German]Good job persepectives for experts who still learned COBOL as a programming language in the 1960s and 1970s. In a recent survey, Micro Focus, a provider of enterprise software, examined the market opportunities for application modernization of COBOL code. The surprising result: the market for COBOL appears to be three times larger than previously expected. And it is not foreseeable that COBOL applications will be replaced in a hurry.


The results of a global, independent market survey by Micro Focus show that an unprecedented amount of COBOL code is in use. Ninety-two percent of respondents said their company's COBOL applications are of strategic importance. Among these, future IT strategy and adapting the application portfolio to new technologies were cited as the main reasons for COBOL modernization. This represents remarkable market opportunities for application modernization. The Microso Focus research confirms that a large proportion of respondents prefer a modernization strategy rather than a replacement ("RIP-and-replace" approach). 

COBOL still strategically important

Interesting to me is the core data that came out of the survey. According to the survey, COBOL continues to be considered strategically important by 92 percent of respondents. However, it is also clear that the volume of COBOL code has increased considerably and currently amounts to between 775 and 850 billion lines. In addition, German survey respondents are more likely to report that a higher proportion of their workload is running on a secondary platform (45 percent on average, compared to 37 percent for the overall average). Here are the main findings:

  • The worldwide COBOL code volume is reaching a new high: The more than 800 billion lines of code running on production systems and used every day significantly exceed all previous estimates.
  • The trend is upward: Almost half of the survey participants expect COBOL use in their company to increase over the next twelve months. At the same time, according to last year's report, more than half (52 percent) expect COBOL applications to remain in their organizations for at least the next decade, with more than four out of five respondents even believing that COBOL will still be in use when they retire. This creates a need for continued COBOL investment and modernization for next-generation developers.
  • COBOL remains strategically important to companies: 92 percent of respondents confirmed that their company's COBOL applications are strategically important, with future IT strategy and adapting the application portfolio to new technologies cited as the main reasons for COBOL modernization.
  • Modernizing COBOL applications is the preferred way forward, with 64 percent intending to modernize their COBOL applications rather than a "rip and replace" approach, and 72 percent seeing modernization as an overarching business strategy.
  • The cloud is the most important technology in application modernization: When asked about their company's plans for COBOL and the cloud in 2022, 43 percent of respondents say their COBOL applications will support the cloud by the end of the year. In addition, 41 percent state that new business projects will require integration with existing COBOL systems.

Regarding methodology, Micro Focus states that under the direction of Vanson Bourne, an international research and analysis firm, architects, software engineers, developers, development managers and IT executives familiar with COBOL from 49 countries were asked to identify and calculate the amount of COBOL application code running on their production systems. They were also asked about the strategic importance of COBOL applications to their organizations, future application roadmaps and plans, and their development resources. Micro Focus, commissioned this new report on COBOL usage as part of its regular market analysis program.

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