Volume 5, Number 27 -- July 15, 2008

Micro Focus Acquires Liant for COBOL and PL/I Tools

Published: July 15, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Well, from the looks of things, the market for COBOL compilers and related tools to extend COBOL applications to the Web is coming down to three big players--IBM, Micro Focus, and Fujitsu and a few smaller ones--Envyr, Infinite Software, LegacyJ, and Veryant. We’re down to six players because late last week, Micro Focus continued its acquisition binge and bought Liant Software.

Liant, which is based in Austin, Texas, is the creator of the RM/COBOL compiler and toolset, which allows mainframe and AS/400 COBOL applications to be ported over to Unix, Windows, and DOS (yes, DOS) servers. The company is also the creator of the Open PL/I compiler and runtime environment, which allows PL/I applications written for mainframes and minicomputers (often decades ago, often for machines that are currently not sold any more). Because Micro Focus already has its own COBOL compilers as well as those from Acucorp, which it acquired in May 2007, the company stressed that this Liant deal was really about having PL/I tools. But it is also about not letting COBOL tools fall into the hands of an existing or potential competitor. Liant has an installed base of 5,000 customers worldwide, many of them independent software vendors that have used its tools to port mainframe and midrange applications to Windows and Unix platforms. These customers sell software that doesn't look legacy, but as far as their addiction to Liant's COBOL and PL/I runtimes are concerned, they are just as hooked as any legacy customer is.

Micro Focus is paying $5 million in cash for Liant and expects to book a $2 million restructuring charge relating to the acquisition. The company did not provide a revenue figure for Liant's business, but did say that Liant had gross assets worth $2 million and a loss before taxes of $400,000 for the year ending in December 2007. Micro Focus says that Liant will be fully merged into Micro Focus over the next few weeks, and will take three months to do a full product review to address product duplications. The company stressed that no matter what course it chooses for the future product roadmaps, existing products will continue to be supported "for the foreseeable future" and that Liant's products will still be available for purchase. The Liant name will be ditched, of course, but so far, RM/COBOL and Open PL/I are right there on the Micro Focus site, beside all the other tools the company sells.


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