Companies often struggle with the question of how best to keep using their legacy mainframe COBOL applications (and the business knowledge built into them), but still keep their business agile and their costs low. Legacy modernization platform provider Heirloom Computing thinks the answer is to move the applications to the cloud on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The company said its Elastic COBOL PaaS allows companies to securely run the exact same code, only paying for the time they need in the cloud. “Legacy modernization does orient around COBOL applications, typically running on mainframes,” said Heirloom CEO Gary Crook. “But [they also run on] open systems platforms as well. It’s really the idea that you can take those high-value, trusted applications that have been running businesses—both transactionally and operationally—for decades now, and repurpose those in new ways to create unique value to the business.”

Crook created Heirloom with a team of executives from legacy modernization platform provider Micro Focus. They launched Heirloom years ago because they thought that Micro Focus needed to extend its reach into the cloud. But they claim that Micro Focus didn’t want to go there at that time.

“Before Heirloom Computing, I was the Micro Focus executive responsible for product development worldwide,” Crook said. “Around mid-2009, I had moved back to California to work on establishing a new cloud division for Micro Focus. And as things do sometimes, it didn’t go as planned.

“At that time, the executive team at Micro Focus made a decision, which was to put their whole strategic focus on growing a software testing business, which came about through two recent acquisitions they had made. One was the Compuware testing product line and the other one was Borland. Those acquisitions were made kind of early 2009.”

Crook said the Micro Focus folks decided that the strategic focus of the company going forward was going to be in the software testing business. “Consequently, myself and the other founders of Heirloom saw an opportunity then to innovate in the legacy modernization space,” he said. “Not just around the COBOL stack, but more broadly also. And that’s the reason we started Heirloom. This was no kind of negative on Micro Focus at all; I had a great time working there, as did we all. It’s a great company. But we just felt that we saw an opportunity here that they weren’t going to be addressing.”

Micro Focus’ perspective
Kevin Brearley, senior director of product management at Micro Focus, explained the company’s business goals much differently. According to him, Micro Focus bought Borland’s testing technology just to supplement its own legacy modernization efforts because of customer demand.

“[Micro Focus’] foray into the testing market is purely to support our modernization strategy,” he said. “We’re not focused on testing. Because of the modernization piece, we understand the COBOL really well. We’ve got the development tools to do it and the ability to move everything. So, to enhance that, [we] bought Borland and their testing technology just to augment that process.”