Friday, March 27, 2009

Cobol Call for Help

Calling out to sys admins for some COBOL / NCR Unix help.  I inherited an older NCR WorldMark 4300 box at my current employer running a customzed COBOL application that was replaced by SAP before I began there.  The issue comes from the old regime that setup, programmed and maintained the system up and left / retired right after SAP and before my time.  Little / none of the legacy data was transfered into SAP (what a great idea!).  So I'm left with a technology and hardware dinosaur that houses some valuable historic information (both from an intellecutual and auditory standpoint).

I'm no COBOL guy.  There I said it.  The system is documented well enought that I have a copy of the datafiles, sources, and file descriptors, but in the event the old hardware lets the smoke out, I'm still left in a very uncomfortable situation.  I've been searching for COBOL database file convertors with some limited success and wanted to ping anyone out there for addition knowledge on the old environment / conversion tools (-> SQL Server) / migration paths.  

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Anonymous said...


did you ever get this issue solved or are you still looking for a solution ?

steve said...

The worldmark 4300 is just a pentium server (admittedly 11+ years old), but still... not like it's an old mainframe.

It seems like you have many options:
1: (simplest if you have the necessary cobol tools) find the source of the cobol program(s) that read the data file(s) and just have them read every record and dump it to a fixed-width file that you then import using standard sql tools.
2: Find the data files and a small perl script to do the same thing (assuming they are flat files and no cobol strangeness (e.g., packed decimal)).
3: "ColdClone" the system into a vmware box and stop worrying about a hardware failure.
4: Copy the data files and source code as-is to modern hardware and license a current cobol development environment.
5: "print" every possible report to disk files then use "monarch" (or similar) to import into SQL.

JeffHengesbach said...

Wow thanks for the comments! In response to your suggestions:
1) Possible but lots of work and no expertise is available in-house to pull it off
2) The files aren't flat :/
3) I like this but I think the OS is limited on hardware support and would work well in a VM. If you know otherwise I'd be eternally grateful.
4) Again refer to answer #1
5) Ouch don't even want to think of the hours of labor involved.

There is business value in the system so spending money is not out of the question, but I can't help but think there is a (very)low cost solution. The box isn't setup with RAID which is the biggest pitfall considering most of the hardware is "common" and could be found for replacement.

steve said...

I'll stick with #1 or #3 as your most viable. If you don't have the in-house expertise for #1 then that's what consultants are for (if you're willing to spend money). #3 is likely to work as the 'devices' vmware exposes are fairly generic, unless there is some fancy graphics card or some kind of other add-on card that is required. And of course if you already have vmware and cold-clone licensed then the price is right.

Rene said...

I've been working for more than 25 years with NCR Software (Cobol/Unix). In Switzerland, ncr systems are still in use and there are more than 100 clients with this os (which is quite a lot for Switzerland).

Probably I can help you, but to get a proper solution source programs, libraries and data files are needed.

Please let me know if your problem still exists.

(Sorry for my English; my mother language is German)