Alchemy Solutions Shows Moving COBOL to .NET Isn’t Magic

A suite of legacy modernization technologies focused on migration to Microsoft .NET Framework technologies and first developed by Fujitsu Computer Systems Corp. are now available through a new company called Alchemy Solutions Inc.

Tags: Mainframe, Legacy Modernization, Alchemy Solutions, Applications, Support, NetCOBOL, Batch Applications,

A suite of legacy modernization technologies focused on migration to Microsoft .NET Framework technologies and first developed by Fujitsu Computer Systems Corp. are now available through a new company called Alchemy Solutions Inc.

Alchemy Solutions, established as a subsidiary of TMV Holdings, purchased Fujitsu's NetCOBOL legacy modernization portfolio and distribution rights outside Japan. Under the agreement, Alchemy Solutions will own, market, sell, support and enhance the .NET legacy modernization portfolio, including NeoKicks NeoBatch, NeoSort and NeoData.

Alchemy Solutions' legacy modernization software products are designed to speed the application migration process while positioning the applications for future growth. The company's support processes and policies for the Neo and NetCOBOL products will not change, officials said. The support team from Fujitsu will remain with Alchemy Solutions. Also, FCS' practice of offering free runtimes to COBOL developers will stay in effect.

"With the competitive marketplace for development languages like C#, Visual Basic and Java that do not charge for runtimes, it is only smart business to continue our practice of providing free runtimes for COBOL developers," said an Alchemy Solutions executive.

Ron Langer, Alchemy Solutions' chief operations officer and group president, told IDN that demand for mainframe-to-.NET solutions are being driven higher in three areas:

  1. To cut on-going mainframe operations costs by using .NET in conjunction with powerful multi-core server technologies
  2. Leverage .NET knowledge workers for mainframe support, as a more readily-available and less expensive alternative to COOL and other mainframe experts, and
  3. Extend and customize functionality of mainframe resources via web UIs or SOA
"Even if users have no current plans for SOA, many of our customers are moving mainframe applications to .NET simply to contain operating costs," Langer told IDN. "Mainframe usage goes up as applications get easier to use, and especially as more people are given easier access to those resources via web UI or portals. This increased activity on a mainframe drives costs up dramatically."

Langer described a study IBM conducted in the 1980s which found making mainframe applications easier to use drives up mainframe usage, which in turns drives up mainframe expenses. This equation still applies two decades later.

"That same principal is at work today with new web UIs and demands from business units for more reporting or compliance on applications." Langer said. "With our tools, we can allow users to easily leverage .NET to migrate [mainframe assets], retain their SLAs and fault-tolerant features and handle load and decrease costs."

Langer described one of Alchemy Solutions' customers wanted better reporting against mainframe transactions. "To supply those reports directly from the mainframe, the costs would have been way out of whack," he said. "Offloading reporting functions to .NET dramatically cuts costs, and allows managers to customize [reports] for internal use and compliance [purposes]."

For folks that are skeptical that .NET can handle mainframe-caliber operations, Langer has a convincing retort. "In the past few years, thanks to multi-core, we've seen dramatic improvement in server hardware and OS architectures," Langer said. "We've gone from dual-core, to now 4-core and higher. Add that CPU power to Fiber Channel, improved I/O buses, half-terabyte memory and virtualization, and you can see we're quickly getting to mainframe-caliber hardware with off-the-shelf server architectures. It's not your dad's desktop anymore."

"As the legacy modernization market grows, mainframe assets within organizations appear less flexible compared to the cost-effectiveness and agility of Windows Server-based computers," Langer added.

"There is tremendous growth potential for Alchemy Solutions. We intend to continue investing in the further development and support of the technology built by the innovation-driven legacy modernization group at Fujitsu." Information about Alchemy Solutions and its product offerings can be found at

Alchemy Solutions' Legacy Modernization, SOA Solutions
The following mainframe modernzation products are available from Alchemy Solutions, and are built around and tightly integrated with NetCOBOL.

  • NeoKicks -- Designed for bringing CICS and batch applications to the .NET environment, providing a similar system architecture while enabling the applications to take maximum advantage of the modern interfaces and technologies provided by the .NET Framework. NeoKicks enables users to convert BMS maps into ASP.NET Web pages yet preserve mainframe style keyboard input. This often allows companies to transform one of the most inflexible parts of their application architecture to a modern, agile architecture. NeoKicks integrates with Visual Studio and NetCOBOL for .NET to provide a highly productive maintenance and enhancement environment for CICS and batch applications.

  • NeoBatch - Designed as a long-term solution for bringing mainframe JCL to the Windows/.NET environment. The software executes JCL under the control of the NeoBatch Job Manager in a manner that is highly compatible with mainframe batch job execution. Users can choose to maintain their batch jobs as JCL or have them transformed to Microsoft JScript as a route to further .NET/Windows integration in the future. NeoBatch offers a catalog manager, support for generation data groups (GDGs), IEBGENR, IBR14, IDCAMS, and support for IBM's DFSORT and Syncsort commands through integration with the companion NeoSort product.

  • NeoSort - A specially packaged version of the Nsort sort program, that integrates with NeoBatch to support IBM DFSORT commands within migrated JCL jobs. NeoSort can take advantage of all the hardware made available to it - such as multiple processors, multiple disks, and memory, which enable it to deliver exceptionally fast sorts and improve performance of batch sort jobs.

  • NeoData - A package that migrates VSAM data to Microsoft SQL Server -- without rewriting legacy COBOL code. NeoData provides well-designed tools and tight integration with SQL Server to provide a highly viable route for bringing VSAM data to a modern SQL database and providing users more flexible reporting options.

  • NetCOBOL for .NET - A foundation for modernizing CICS and batch applications. Tightly integrated with Microsoft's Visual Studio, it generates standard, verifiable MSIL (Microsoft Intermediate Language) code so programs can take full advantage .NET Framework class libraries in a memory-safe manner. The integration with Visual Studio provides a highly productive COBOL development environment.

    The handover of Fujitsu's NetCOBOL portfolio shouldn't signal Fujitsu is exiting the legacy modernization market space. "We are pleased that Alchemy Solutions will continue the distribution of NetCOBOL in the global market. We are committed to continue to invest in the development of NetCOBOL and look forward to working closely with Alchemy Solutions to expand the NetCOBOL business," said Akira Yamanaka, corporate vice president, president of software unit, Fujitsu Limited.